Hundreds of Israelis rally for Gaza following the “Great Return March”

April 3, 2018

In +972 magazine*, Joshua Leifer reports that some 300 Israelis protested along the Gaza border last Saturday in solidarity with the Great Return March demonstrations in Gaza that began a day earlier.

The organizers of the Gaza return march had said explicitly that the protest was meant to be nonviolent. But even before the march began Israeli security forces launched a public campaign describing it as a violent, Hamas-sponsored event. The Israeli army’s chief of staff announced the deployment of 100 snipers, and Israeli generals warned ahead of time that there would be Palestinian casualties.

The Israeli solidarity protest was organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace. Founded in November 2000, after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, CWP today is a leading voice in the Israeli peace movement, bringing together women from a wide variety of identities and groups. CWP is committed to ending the occupation and creating a more just society, while enhancing women’s inclusion and participation in the public discourse.

On Friday, Israeli troops killed at least 15 and wounded 1,400 demonstrators taking part in the first day of the “Great Return March,” 45 days of protests and events planned to mark 70 years since the Nakba. On the Gaza side of the border fence, Israel forces reportedly wounded 25 Palestinian demonstrators on Saturday, though the Israeli army did not report a single injury among its troops.

“I don’t know what to say. There was no justification for what they did to us,” Hasan al-Kurd, one of the organizers of the Gaza return march, said after the protest ended on Friday. “I saw children and entire families standing more than half a kilometer from the fence and they still shot at them. Why? What threat do children standing hundreds of meters away pose to tanks and armed soldiers?”

*+972 Magazine is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. The collective is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and we oppose the occupation. However, +972 Magazine does not represent any organization, political party or specific agenda. Its name is derived from the country telephone code shared by Israel and Palestine. Read the full article here: https://972mag.com/following-deadly-march-hundreds-of-israelis-rally-for-gaza/134256/

 

 

 

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Pope Francis’ Easter message – summary and link to full text

April 3, 2018

On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis implored the world to seek out solutions to its geopolitical conflicts.

Excerpts from Ana Campoy’s summary:

He first addressed the “beloved and long-suffering land of Syria” in his traditional Urbi et Orbi (“to the City and the World”) address. “May the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course”.

Then he asked that the warring parties respect humanitarian laws and open access to the country so aid could be delivered to the millions of Syrians whose lives have been ravaged by civil war.

The Pope cast a blessing on the rest of the Middle East, too, “so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence.”

In addition, he addressed conflict in South Sudan, pleading that the world “not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children!”, and Venezuela, where he hoped for “a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it.”

Francis also offered a blessing for those trying to ratchet down tensions in the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea’s current leaders are set to meet at the end of April for the first time; US president Donald Trump has said he will sit down with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un by May, saying:

“May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment.”

We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism. May the peace of the risen Lord heal wounds in South Sudan and open hearts to dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon leave their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.

We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions under way may advance harmony and peace within the region. May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.

We pray for the fruits of new life for those children, who as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not “productive”.

We also implore fruits of wisdom for those who have political responsibilities in our world, that they may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.

The love of God “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty” (Easter Proclamation).

Happy Easter to all!

 

 

The full text of the pope’s 2018 Sunday Easter address: https://qz.com/1242396/on-easter-sunday-pope-francis-doled-out-blessings-to-syria-and-other-geopolitical-hotspots/

 

 

 

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FT reader suggests ‘NATO – just STOP’!

February 4, 2018

 Anti-Russian propaganda escalates

Just one example: there were warnings about “huge” Russian wargames in September, raising alarm among the credulous. A briefing by Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that Russia “has used big military exercises as a disguise or a precursor for aggressive military actions against their neighbours”, citing Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014.  The British Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, said the exercise was “designed to provoke us” and appeared to accept the estimate of 100,000 troops.

But Zapad-17 offered nothing more alarming than footage of Vladimir Putin observing the exercises through binoculars and a report that three people had been injured when a Russian helicopter accidentally fired on spectators.

The numbers forecast as 100,000 were put by all observers at between 10,000 and 17,000. Russia pointed out that their given numbers had been accurate and international borders had been respected.

Is this briefing done to strengthen the case for NATO expenditure and expansion?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and several Western European nations to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. When that was dissolved in 1991, NATO decided to expand eastwards, though newly declassified documents confirm that – as Rodric Braithwaite, former British Ambassador to the Soviet Union, recounted in March 5, 1991 – British foreign minister Douglas Hurd and British PM John Major assured the Soviet leader that NATO would not expand eastwards.

Despite this assurance, expansion continued, with Albania, Croatia, Montenegro as the latest recruits. Roger Boyes, Berlin correspondent to The Times, warns that NATO’s expansion eastward needlessly provokes Russia and must stop growing if it wants to survive. Sardonically, Small People Against Big Government published this map:

He sees Turkey’s plans to buy a Russian-made S-400 missile defence system that cannot be integrated into NATO’s radar network – and the consequent training of Turks by Russia – as a serious problem for the alliance. Boyes believes that the Turkish president should observe its membership conditions or leave the alliance, losing nuclear weapons from the Incirlik base, new F-35 jets, training of Turkish soldiers and intelligence sharing.

Take seriously Putin’s fear of encirclement and end the process of NATO enlargement

Boyes concludes: “The correct response to Putin, then, is a paradoxical one. It doesn’t mean shelving rigorous sanctions policies against Putin, and it doesn’t mean we should recognise his illegal annexation of Crimea.  It is to take seriously his fear of encirclement and end the process of Nato enlargement . . . to stay credible a defence alliance has to live within its means, stay alert and regain the will to act. That has to be better than the present enfeebled ambiguity”.

Dr Harlan Ullman, described as the principal creator of “shock and awe”, fears that Vladimir Putin is turning this concept against NATO and “understands well how to rattle us” but adds that “Mr Putin has no intent of starting a war or invading any NATO member”.

In the Financial Times he deplores “relatively tiny deployments of military forces to central and eastern Europe that will still not be complete for months” adding that “While these token forces may reassure Nato allies, it is unlikely that Mr Putin is impressed”.

He prescribes a variant of shock and awe to defend ”the easternmost allies”: providing large numbers of anti-aircraft and anti-armoured-vehicle shoulder-fired missiles and local forces that would make any incursion very costly. Ullman also believes that assigning a US or UK Trident or French ballistic missile submarine to NATO would be a significant signal, as Russia has a ‘shorter-range nuclear numerical advantage’.

Though both conclude that Russia has no aggressive intentions towards NATO they could go further and heed the advice of an FT reader to STOP:How about just stopping to provoke the Russians? Stop your ‘colour’ revolutions in Russia’s backyard, stop trying to roll NATO’s (Washington’s occupation forces for Europe) tanks on Russia’s doorstep and stop any economic warfare”.

 

 

 

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Ireland protests: the EU Talking Peace – Preparing for War

January 26, 2018

As noted on this website, Ireland has a traditional policy of military neutrality defined as non-membership of mutual defence alliances, but in the midst of the ongoing controversy regarding Brexit and the fate of the Irish border, a very significant move by the Cabinet has gone almost unnoticed. This is the decision to give the go-ahead for Ireland to take part in EU plans for closer cooperation on ‘security and defence’ matters.

This plan, to establish permanent structured cooperation, is known as PESCO:

“Article 42 (6) of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) according to which those “Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a “view to the most demanding missions” shall establish permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) within the Union framework” – read more here.

The Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA), and the Peoples’ Movement are organising a Conference on PESCO in Dublin on Saturday 17th February 2018, 12pm-5pm.

PESCO is justified under the catch-all excuse of combating the growing threat of terrorism, and comes with the ritual assurance that this poses no threat to Ireland’s traditional and highly-regarded policy of neutrality.

One of the consequences of joining PESCO is that Ireland would be asked to increase spending on weapons and military affairs, requiring a leap in defence spending from the currently planned €946 million for 2018 to an estimated €3 billion+ annually by 2020, constituting a further abandonment of our traditional non-aggressive foreign policy.

The single greatest action that Ireland can take to combat terrorism is to withdraw the facilities of Shannon airport from the US military for use in their wars of aggression, wars which have played a major part in increasing the global terrorist threat in the first place. Read more here.

Demonstrators have held regular marches to protest the use of Shannon Airport by the US military: read more here.

Rather than joining military structures which proclaim the efficacy of military ‘solutions’ to complex political problems the experience of Ireland’s history should be used to offer solutions to such problems through dialogue and negotiation.

With the ever-increasing numbers of homeless people on Irish streets – and unprecedented numbers of refugees seeking safety on European shores, many forced from shattered homes as a result of Western-backed wars and weaponry – it is scandalous that the government plans to spend more money on militarism, further destabilising an already impoverished and war-weary world.

Opening address:
Ardmhéara Mícheál MacDonncha

Contributions from:
Lynn Boylan MEP, Lave K. Brock, People’s Movement, Denmark, Dr. Karen Devine, Luke Ming Flanagan MEP, Seamus Healy TD, Senator Alice Mary Higgins, Gino Kenny TD, Eamon Ryan TD

The Mansion House, Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Conference on PESCO

Saturday 17th February 2018, 12pm – 5pm

 

 

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The journey into world disorder: 14 years later – a downward spiral?

January 23, 2018

Extracts from the introduction*: Martin Bell writes

“This is a time for storm warnings if ever there was one. Some of those storms, of war and terrorism, are already breaking over us. We worry ourselves to bits about little and local issues ­footpaths, flight paths, career paths and the like, as if the conditions of peace and freedom, on which our societies depend for their normal functioning, are natural entitlements, which can safely be taken for granted  . . .

It is when war becomes a local issue that we really will have something to worry about. And it is worth remembering that in the end war always is a local issue, claiming individual lives in specific places. It is the trench or cellar or street or field where its victims, soldiers or civilians, breathe their last. It is the pilot who says, `I didn’t know who was there. I really didn’t care. You fall totally into execute mode and kill the target‘ . . .

“If we don’t blow ourselves into oblivion the quest for regime change, or whatever other military adventures attract our leaders, and if we don’t continue to go to war for its own sake, then future generations will look back on life in the Western democracies at the start of the twenty-first century, at least until 11 September 2001, as a sort of golden age, or fools’ paradise – depending on the strength of the hostile forces ranged against us.

From where I have been and what I have seen, my antennae tell me that the fools’ paradise theory is very much nearer the mark. The Second Gulf War, an exercise of raw power that applied the values of the Wild West to the relations between states, has sharpened the edge of the argument . . .

“We share with creatures who are in every respect less destructive than we are. With a few exceptions, the fiercest predator or venomous reptile kills only one at a time, for food or in self-defence, and is benign in relation to man.

“We kill our own more than any other species on earth, and we do it to the point of genocide. In the ratio of civilian to military casualties, the wars in the collapsed states of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have mocked the Geneva Conventions and victimized the innocent to an unprecedented degree.

“Weapons of mass destruction proliferate – and not only those in the hands of sovereign or rogue states. A passenger jet flown into a skyscraper is as much a weapon of mass destruction as a nuclear warhead. So is a sea mine rolled downhill into a village, or a 500 pound aircraft bomb bolted to a rocket and fired into a crowded city centre, or a mortar bomb aimed at a market place. These are not imagined examples. I have seen their effects at first hand  . . . 

“The Cold War was safer than this . . .

“Our way of life is defended by new and ever more ingenious ways of death. The sole remaining superpower seeks out its enemies and blasts them with the firepower of its missiles, drones, long-range bombers and carrier-based aircraft. By answering terror with counter-terror, it bids for the status of the world’s most hated nation. Too bad about the collateral damage and the needless taking of life. The higher the warplanes fly, the harder it is for their pilots to distinguish between a friend and a foe, an allied and an enemy reconnaissance vehicle (Iraq), a tank and a tractor (Kosovo), a terrorist cell and a wedding party (Afghanistan). The mark of Cain is upon us . . .

Language is another casualty

“When we speak of degrading an enemy’s assets, what we actually mean is killing people – the unarmed and the armed, the innocent and the guilty, blown to bits in the same high-explosive inferno. The same applies to `blue on blue’ or ‘friendly fire’ – the code for attacking our allies. Power and ignorance, like officers and maps, are a dangerous combination . . .

“The United Nations, the last best hope of mankind, is a forlorn cave of winds on New York’s First Avenue – invoked (when it is convenient to do so and bypassed when it isn’t

“The most vital issues of war and peace are resolved in something close to a state of anarchy. The rule of international law is whatever the White House, with an obedient echo from Downing Street, says that it is in the New American Century. ‘If we need to act we will act,’ said President Bush, `and we don’t need the approval of the United Nations to do so’ . . .

The war in Iraq, waged without a specific or sufficient United Nations mandate, was the sort of imperial enterprise that, in the sweep of history, belonged more to the nineteenth than the twenty-­first, century. It was gunboat diplomacy, conducted not with ships’ cannons, but with all the weapons of mass destruction that at the science of the new millennium can procure . . .

Our media, which should be informing us, are instead turning out the light and joining the stampede from reality in the blind and mad pursuit of commercial advantage, of profit without honour.

“The culture of celebrity, like an army of ants, has colonized the news pages both tabloid and broadsheet . . . Television is the god that failed . . . It has not yet become the worst that it can be, but it is working hard on the project and is still on a downward trajectory. Just when you think it has hit the bottom, it finds new depths to plumb.

“The outcome is that it serves us less as a window on the world than as a barrier to it. Its screen is only a screen in the original sense – something that blocks our view of what lies on the other side of it . . . and then, because we find these things strangely unreal (and they have already been censored by the `good taste brigade’ of broadcasting to stop them upsetting us too much), we take refuge in `reality TV’ and the bromides of Big Brother.

“Our reach has exceeded our grasp. Something is seriously out of joint. We are left with no heroes, but only celebrities. We need a survival strategy, but seem to lack enough of what it takes to put one together: understanding, courage, compassion, common sense, connectedness, care for each other, steadiness under fire and memory. 

“What follows is a journey through the new world disorder Better fasten your seat belts. This could be a rough ride.”

 

 

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*THROUGH GATES OF FIRE – A journey into World Disorder, by Martin Bell, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003


Korea: a welcome development

January 3, 2018

A fence decorated with ribbons carrying messages calling for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, South Korea

The government of South Korea has invited Pyongyang to talks about participating in next month’s Winter Olympics in a swift response to proposals by Kim Jong-un  to improve relations.

Removing negative remarks the news is that Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul’s unification minister in charge of inter-Korean relations, has proposed a meeting on January 9.between high-ranking government officials of the two nations at the border village of Panmunjom, the only portion of the Korean demilitarized zone where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face.

“We hope that the South and North can sit face to face and discuss the participation of the North Korean delegation at the Pyeongchang Games as well as other issues of mutual interest for the improvement of inter-Korean ties,” Cho Myoung-gyon said, “We think that the suspended inter-Korean communication channels should be immediately restored.”

Two Sisters monument on the outskirts of Pyeongyang. The two women symbolize the two Koreas and the desire for reunification.

Kim Jong-un emphasised the importance of improving relations between the two Koreas and referred to the possibility of direct talks between the two sides. He said: “The North and the South should promote bilateral contact . . . to remove mutual misunderstanding and distrust.”

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, ordered his staff to act on Mr Kim’s offer of dialogue “Improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue are not separate from each other,” Mr Moon said, adding that South Korea would consult its allies ahead of any talks.

Mr Kim also expressed interest in sending a delegation to the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month

North and South Korea have occasionally collaborated in sporting occasions, sending a joint team to an international table tennis tournament in 1991 and marching under a shared flag, though with separate teams, at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

Kim added: “The Winter Olympic Games will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation’s prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. We are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures.”

 A peace statue at the 3rd of 4 tunnels

 

Will reunification – the hope of many – symbolised above, be realised one day?

 

 

 

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US-based Human Rights Foundation’s ultimate aim: to use ‘soft power’ to bring down the North Korean regime

December 31, 2017

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The USA’s use of soft power has been effective with many worldwide, presenting an illusion of a free society (‘liberating minds’) and reinforcing a consumerist culture and the political regimes which collude with it.

On this site in 2015 there was an account of soft power – money and commodities poured from the United States into the Middle East. In the name of normality and freedom, all but the strongest young people are being remade in the image of the Western consumer whereas hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone.

One actor in the North Korean soft power drive is the Human Rights Foundation, whose approving Wikipedia entry emphasises its insistence on ‘economic freedom’. In Central and South America and the Middle East it has paved the way for the overthrow of regimes which would not play that game.

In North Korea jeans and pop music, though still part of the scene, have been supplemented by hydrogen balloons packed with DVDs, dollar bills and propaganda leaflets. Drones now drop USB flash drives full of news bulletins and documentaries aim to counter NK’s state propaganda with that of the United States; American movies and television shows to spread pro-Western sentiment were called “flash drives for freedom”. See Business Insider’s  informative account of this, published last year.

With the help of defectors USB-sticks are smuggled through towns on China’s border with North Korea and sold in the flourishing black market for goods and information. The Human Rights Foundation “has financed balloon drops of pamphlets, TV shows, books and movies over a course of several years”.

Its founder Thor Halvorssen, according to Joakim Mollersen a Norwegian economist and journalist, also set up the Oslo Freedom Forum whose  story, he says in some detail, is one  of US right-wing sponsorship, lack of transparency and “heroes of human rights” involved in supporting serious human rights violations.

State propaganda is ardently supplemented by this foundation which paid for a balloon drop of 10,000 copies of an edited version of the movie The Interview, and North Korea’s move towards becoming a denuclearized ‘democracy’, following its leader’s assassination.

In 2014, HRF hosted the world’s first hackathon for North Korea at Code for America’s offices in San Francisco. According to the Wall Street Journal, “about 100 hackers, coders and engineers gathered in San Francisco to brainstorm ways to pierce the information divide that separates North Korea from the rest of the world.”

For objective information about North Korea see http://www.nkeconwatch.com/

Alex Gladstein, HRF’s chief strategy officer calls this an ‘information war’ – the only way to inspire change: ”a third way . . .to liberate minds  . . . Given the history of Eastern Europe, I hope that people can think about the potential of information rather than reckless conflict and provocation and totally failed diplomacy”.

These soft power illusions of American normality, freedom and prosperity are confidence tricks. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young people have been led, by soft power, to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, are extremes of economic inequality, youth unemployment, high cost housing, military aggression, pollution, gun slaughter, child abuse, violent pornography, and inequality.

 

 

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