Friday, August 18, 2017

Burma covers up its systematic abuse of a minority group

IN FEBRUARY, the United Nations released a report detailing the Burmese government’s human rights abuses against the long-suffering Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state — abuses that likely amounted to crimes against humanity. Burma should have responded by allowing U.N. investigators into the country and creating accountability mechanisms to prevent further violations. Instead, a government inquiry has concluded that there is “no evidence of crimes” and that “people from abroad have fabricated news claiming genocide had occurred.”
On the contrary, there is considerable evidence to suggest that systematic human rights violations have occurred in Rakhine. The Rohingya have long been denied citizenship and pushed into ghetto-like conditions. This persecution escalated last year, when Burmese security forces conducted a scorched-earth campaign in the state amid widespread reports of mass rape, torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings. The government has also restricted the movements of Rohingya people, imposing curfews and contributing to extreme food shortages. Nearly 90 people have died since the violence erupted last year, while an estimated 65,000 have fled Rakhine.
Burma’s response was to establish an investigative commission that lacked credibility from the outset. The 13-member committee was headed by former military leader and current Vice President Myint Swe and included no Rohingya representatives. According to reports from civil society, its investigators used sloppy research methods, browbeat villagers and ignored complaints.
It is becoming increasingly clear that Burma’s partially democratic government bears many similarities to its autocratic predecessor: It is overly sensitive to criticism, repressive toward minorities and willing to go to great lengths to protect the military. The international community should take note and renew calls to allow a U.N. fact-finding mission to visit the country. Congress should rethink the idea of expanding American military ties with Burma or, at the very least, consider imposing a vetting process and human rights benchmarks for any further military engagement. The United States has long championed democracy in Burma; the commission’s announcement proves this fight is not over yet.

Myanmar army and Rakhine’s cruelty on Rohingya fishermen in Rathedaung

The news below is from the Arakan Times:
A fisherman and his two young daughters of Thingannet village of ThinTaungPyin union of Zay Di Pyin of Rathedaung, Arakan State were inhumanely tortured by Myanmar army and Rakhine extremists while they were catching fishes in the river today, 18 August 2017.
The victim has been identified as Mohamed Tayoub (33), son of U Nur Mohamed and his two young daughters of the village.
According to our correspondent report, the victim is a fire wood seller by his profession. As he was unable to go to forest for fire wood due to fear of arrest and torture by army, he has stopped going to wood.
Since his family was about to starve, he along with his two young daughters went to the river beside his village to catch fish to sell in the market to buy food for his family with the money.
There, some army personnel went and caught him along with his two daughters while they were catching fish and took them to the ThazinMyaing Rakhine village where they were cruelly tortured to critical injury by army and Rakhine extremists.
There is no place left on their body where they did not receive injury of assault. Now their physical condition is stated to be deteriorating following inhumane torture of military and Rakhine miscreants. They have no financial ability for better treatment for their injury.
Now the Rohingya are completely cripple and can’t work for their livelihood due to attack of military and Rakhine extremists in the area for which the villagers are facing acute food crisis, says a resident.

Deadly South Asia floods affect 16m people

More than 16 million people have now been affected by seasonal flooding across a swathe of South Asia, say aid officials.
The floods in Nepal, Bangladesh and India are thought to have killed about 500 people and are expected to worsen.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says it is becoming one of the worst regional humanitarian crises in years.
There are growing concerns about food shortages and disease.
Martin Faller, IFRC's deputy regional director, said more than a third of Bangladesh and Nepal were flooded, while about 11 million people across four northern Indian states were also affected.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced.
"This is fast becoming one of the most serious humanitarian crises this region has seen in many years, and urgent action is needed to meet the growing needs of millions of people affected by these devastating floods," Mr Faller said in a statement.
"Millions of people across Nepal, Bangladesh and India face severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood waters."
Bangladesh, where flood levels are already at a record high, is expected to be further hit as swollen Indian rivers flow down through it in the coming days.
Save the Children Director Mark Pierce said the situation there was "extremely desperate".
"The sheer volume of water is also making it really difficult to access some of the communities most in need."
Nepal's Red Cross Society said food crops there had been wiped out, as floods hit major farming and agricultural land in the south.
"We fear that this destruction will lead to severe food shortages," said Secretary General Dev Ratna Dhakhwa.
Further heavy rain has been forecast across the region in the coming days, worsening the flooding and making it harder to reach those affected.
Save The Children's India manager, Murali Kunduru, told Reuters that while the monsoon rains come annually, "this year is particularly severe".

Bannon - the messenger and executor of hatred - is out

Donald Trump fired Steve Bannon. But Bannon still won
by  Chris Cilliz

(CNN) President Donald Trump dumped chief strategist Steve Bannon on Friday, ending weeks of speculation that just such a dismissal was in the works.
The decision will be met with jubilation within the Republican establishment, who viewed Bannon with a mixture of loathing (for his assaults on them as the head of Breitbart News) and fear (for his influence over Trump.)
That joy could well turn to ashes in their mouths. (Shouts to Tyrion Lannister!) Why? Because although Bannon won't work in the White House any longer, his worldview and mindset have been adopted almost in toto by the one person whose opinion matters in this White House: Donald John Trump.
Bannon became a formal adviser to then-candidate Trump on August 17, 2016. But, his influence on Trump's thinking far pre-dates that.
The two men met via conservative activist David Bossie in 2011 when Trump was mulling the possibility of running for president in 2012.
As far back as July 2015, Trump was tweeting favorably about Bannon -- and Breitbart. "@BreitbartNews is much smarter than sleepy eyes @chucktodd @nbc Thanks to Steve Bannon & real reporters," Trump tweeted on July 21, 2015. Five days earlier Trump tweeted out a praiseworthy Breitbart piece written by Bannon headlined "TIME TO GET TOUGH: Trump's Blockbuster Policy Manifesto."
Remember, too, that Trump has openly admitted he lacked any set policy views prior to his decision to run for president. He had been a Democrat and an independent before announcing that he would run for president in 2016 as a Republican. His entire interaction with politics had been transactional; he wanted to curry favor with politicians, so he gave them money. It was entirely un-ideological.
Breitbart -- and Bannon in particular -- gave Trump a policy architecture on which to frame his beliefs. That's not to say that Bannon alone is responsible for Trumpism.
But it is to suggest there was a fated convergence between Bannon and Trump. At a time when Trump was looking for the words and policy proposals to shape his loosely-formed ideas, Bannon and Breitbart were there to supply them -- by the ink barrel.
Bannon didn't invent Trump. But he amplified him -- bigly.
  • Trump's suspicion of globalism -- as evidenced by his decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate accords -- is a hallmark of Bannonism.
  • Trump's hard line on immigration -- legal and illegal? A belief long voiced by Bannon and his fellow nationalists.
  • Trump's hatred for the media? That distrust for the mainstream media was the driving force for Andrew Breitbart's decision to start a conservative news site with his name on it years ago. Here's what Bannon said about the press earlier this year: "It's going to get worse every day for the media. If you think [the press] are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken." He's also called the press "the enemy" and "the opposition party."
  • Trump's "both sides" defense of Charlottesville? Bannon has long insisted that the left is just as violent -- if not more so -- than the right. And he's also shown a willingness to push the rhetorical boundaries on race. Following the controversy over Trump's "both sides" remarks on Tuesday, Bannon told The New York Times: "Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can't get enough of it."
If there is a connective tissue to the beliefs Trump has espoused in the White House, it's a disdain for and rejection of political correctness. While that comports with Trump's natural instincts -- he has always viewed himself on the outside looking in, mocked by elites who won't accept him -- the full flowering of Trump's nationalist-tinged populism can be traced directly back to Bannon.
Trump had the seeds. Bannon watered them and made sure they got enough sun. The full bloom Trump you've seen over the last week is because of what Bannon did over the past several years -- inside and outside of Trump's inner circle.
Speaking of Trump's outer circle: Don't assume that simply because Trump has fired Bannon as his chief White House strategist that their relationship is over. Trump is someone who loves to call on all sorts of people -- inside and outside the White House -- for advice. And, as Trump supporter and former Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston noted on CNN on Friday afternoon: "Trump and Bannon believe in the same things."
Bannon may be gone from the White House. But his influence won't be disappearing any time soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our Fight Against Fascism

"“Our civilization’s” ongoing genocide against indigenous groups and the violently enforced systematic oppression of Black Americans notwithstanding, the US government – of which Trump is now Commander-in-Chief – has a storied and bloody history of assassinating foreign heads of state precisely because, democratically, a body of citizens or voters “seeking pluralism” elsewhere in the world had commenced down an antifascist political path that did not suit Washington’s interests," writes 

The Story of Charlottesville Was Written in Blood in the Ukraine

"What is the character of racist right-wing politics today? Is it the crazed white supremacist who plows into an anti-fascist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA or can it also be the assurance by Lindsay Graham that an attack against North Korea would result in thousands of lives lost…. but those lives will be “over there”? -  asks Ajamu Baraka who is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. To read his article, click here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Saudi Arabia's missing princes by Reda El Mawy

In the last two years, three Saudi princes living in Europe have disappeared. All were critical of the Saudi government - and there is evidence that all were abducted and flown back to Saudi Arabia… where nothing further has been heard from them.
Early in the morning on 12 June 2003, a Saudi prince is being driven to a palace on the outskirts of Geneva.
His name is Sultan bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, and the palace belongs to his uncle, the late King Fahd. It's the king's favourite son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd, who has invited him to breakfast.
Abdulaziz asks Sultan to return to Saudi Arabia - where he says a conflict over Sultan's criticisms of the Saudi leadership will be resolved.
Sultan refuses, at which point Abdulaziz excuses himself to make a phone call. The other man in the room, the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh al-Sheikh, leaves too and after a few moments masked men rush in. They beat Sultan and handcuff him, then a needle is plunged into his neck.
Unconscious, Sultan is rushed to Geneva airport - and carried on to a Medevac plane that is conveniently waiting on the tarmac.
Such, at least, is Sultan's account of the events, as told to a Swiss court many years later.
Among Sultan's staff, waiting at a Geneva hotel for him to return from his breakfast appointment, was his communications officer, Eddie Ferreira.
"Progressively, as the day went on the silence became deafening," he remembers. "We couldn't reach the security team. That was the first real alert. We tried to contact the prince; there was no response, no answer."
Then, in the afternoon, two unexpected visitors arrived.
"The Saudi ambassador to Switzerland came in with the general manager of the hotel and quite simply just told everybody to vacate the penthouse and get out," Ferreira says. "The prince was in Riyadh, our services were no longer required, and we could leave."
What had Prince Sultan done that could have led his family to violently drug and kidnap him?
The previous year he had arrived in Europe for medical treatment, and started giving interviews critical of the Saudi government. He condemned the country's record on human rights, complained about corruption among princes and officials, and called for a series of reforms.
Ever since 1932, when King Abdulaziz, known as Ibn Saud, founded Saudi Arabia, the country has been ruled as an absolute monarchy. It does not tolerate dissent.
Prince Turki bin Bandar was once a major in the Saudi police, with responsibility for policing the royal family itself. But a bitter family dispute over a contested inheritance landed him in prison, and on his release he fled to Paris, where, in 2012, he began posting videos on YouTube calling for reform in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis reacted as they had with Prince Sultan, and tried to persuade Turki to return. When Ahmed al-Salem, the deputy minister of the interior called, the prince recorded the conversation and posted it online.
"Everybody's looking forward to your return, God bless you," says the deputy minister.
"Looking forward to my return?" replies Turki. "What about the letters your officers send me? 'You son of a whore, we'll drag you back like Sultan bin Turki.'"
The deputy minister replies reassuringly: "They won't touch you. I'm your brother."
"No they're from you," says Turki. "The Ministry of Interior sends them."
Turki went on publishing videos until July 2015. Then, sometime later that year, he disappeared.
"He called me every month or two," says a friend, the blogger and activist Wael al-Khalaf.
"Then he disappeared for four or five months. I was suspicious. [Then] I heard from a senior officer in the kingdom that Turki bin Bandar was with them. So they'd taken him, he'd been kidnapped."
After a long search for news of Turki, I found an article in a Moroccan newspaper, which said that he had been about to return to France after a visit to Morocco, when he was arrested and jailed. Then, following a request from the Saudi authorities, he was deported with the approval of a Moroccan court.
We don't know for certain what happened to Turki bin Bandar, but before he disappeared he gave his friend Wael a copy of a book he'd written, in which he had added what may be a prophetic note.
"Dear Wael, these statements are not to be shared unless I am kidnapped or assassinated. I know I will be kidnapped or they will assassinate me. I also know how they abuse my rights and those of the Saudi people."
Around the same time as Prince Turki vanished another Saudi prince, Saud bin Saif al-Nasr - a relatively minor royal with a liking for Europe's casinos and expensive hotels - shared a similar fate.
In 2014 Saud began writing tweets that were critical of the Saudi monarchy.
He called for the prosecution of Saudi officials who'd backed the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi the previous year.
Then, in September 2015, Saud went further.
After an anonymous Saudi prince wrote two letters calling for a coup to remove King Salman, Saud publicly endorsed them - the only royal to do so. This was tantamount to treason, and may have sealed his fate.
A few days later, he tweeted: "I call for the nation to turn the content of these letters into popular pressure." Then his Twitter account went silent.
Another dissident prince - Prince Khaled bin Farhan, who fled to Germany in 2013 - believes Saud was tricked into flying from Milan to Rome to discuss a business deal with a Russian-Italian company seeking to open branches in the Gulf.
"A private plane from the company came and took Prince Saud. But it didn't land in Rome, it landed in Riyadh," Khaled says.
"It turned out Saudi intelligence had fabricated the entire operation," he claims.
"Now Prince Saud's fate is the same as Prince Turki's, which is prison… The only fate is an underground prison."
Prince Sultan, being higher up the royal pecking order, was shuttled between prison and house arrest. But his health was also deteriorating, so in 2010 the royal family allowed him to seek medical treatment in Boston, Massachusetts.
What he did from the safety of his US exile must have horrified the Saudis - he filed a criminal complaint in the Swiss courts, accusing Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd and Sheikh Saleh al-Sheikh of responsibility for his 2003 kidnap.
His American lawyer, Clyde Bergstresser, obtained a medical record from King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, where Sultan was admitted on 13 June 2003, which indicated that a tube had been placed into his mouth to help him breathe while anaesthetised, and that one side of his diaphragm was paralysed - presumably as a result of the assault.
For the first time a senior Saudi royal was launching a criminal complaint, in a Western court, against another family member.
But Bergstresser says the Swiss authorities have shown little interest in the case.
"Nothing has been done to pursue what occurred at the airport," he says. "Who were the pilots? What were the flight plans when these planes from Saudi Arabia arrived? This abduction occurred on Swiss soil and one would think that there would be an interest in finding out how that occurred."
In January 2016, Sultan was staying at an exclusive Paris hotel when, like Saud bin Saif al-Nasr, he was tempted on to an aeroplane.
He was planning to visit his father, also a well-known critic of the Saudi government, in Cairo, when the Saudi consulate offered him and his entourage of about 18 - including a personal doctor and nurses and bodyguards from the US and Europe - the use of a private jet.
Despite what had happened to him in 2003, he accepted.
Two members of the entourage explain how events unfolded. Both prefer to remain anonymous.
"We pulled on to the tarmac and in front of us was a huge airplane, with... it had the country of Saudi Arabia written on it," says one.
"It was a little eerie because there were a lot of crew members on board. All of them were male," says the other.
The plane took off with in-flight monitors showing it was bound for Cairo. But two-and-a-half hours into the flight, the monitors went blank.
Prince Sultan was sleeping in his room, but he woke up about an hour before landing. He looked out of the window, and appeared anxious, the former members of his staff say.
As it dawned on the passengers that they were about to land in Saudi Arabia, Sultan started banging on the cockpit door and crying for help. A crew member ordered the prince's team to stay in their seats.
"We looked out the window and we just saw a bunch of people get out with their rifles slung over their chest and surrounded the plane," says one of the members of his entourage.
The soldiers and cabin crew dragged Sultan from the plane. He was screaming at his team to call the US embassy.
The prince and his medics were taken to a villa and put under armed guard. On the plane the others waited nervously. They were later taken to a hotel, held for three days without passports or telephones, then allowed to fly to a destination of their choice.
Before they left, a Saudi official, who the prince's staff recognised as one of the "flight attendants" on the plane, offered an apology.
"He told us that we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that he was sorry for the inconvenience," one of them says.
The other adds: "I wasn't inconvenienced - I was kidnapped. I was held against my will in a country that I did not choose to go to."
It was an astonishing situation. Together with Prince Sultan, about 18 foreign nationals had been kidnapped, taken to Saudi Arabia, and held by the Saudi military.
There has been no news of Prince Sultan since these events.
I asked the government of Saudi Arabia to respond to the allegations in this film. It declined to comment.
Meanwhile Prince Khaled, still exiled in Germany, worries that he too will be forced to return to Riyadh.
"There were four of us family members in Europe. We criticised the family and its rule in Saudi Arabia. Three of us were kidnapped. I'm the only one left," he says.
Could he be next on the abduction list?
"I'm convinced. I've been convinced for a long time. If they could do it, they'd have done it by now. I'm very cautious, but it's at the price of my freedom."

Charlottesville violence: America - diminished and dismissed

The article below is written by , who is a 
I've just returned to Washington after a few weeks in Europe. In 20 years of living in the US, I've never returned to a country so dispirited, nor so dismissed.
I include in that the anti-Americanism that surrounded the invasion of Iraq and the trauma of the financial crash.
Back in 2004 and 2008 Americans were by and large united, or at the very least they were not so angrily divided. One might think that the sight of swastikas on American streets would indeed unite the country in unwavering purpose. Not so.
The country is so mired in political division that even Nazi symbols have become political symbols some can live with if they feel that condemning them would give succour to their opposition.
And the man running the country is actively widening that divide.
There's little point parsing the rationale of President Trump's defence yesterday of the "fine people" who took part in the white supremacist march in Charlottesville. I doubt he himself was even trying to make a reasoned case.
I suspect that rant of a press conference was driven more by his sense of personal grievance - his anger at being attacked over his initial response to Charlottesville - than by his views on race.
But Mr Trump's failure to unambiguously and repeatedly condemn those far-right, racist groups gives them oxygen and strikes a blow at the heart of American identity.
American prides itself on being centrist, on not having the European tendency of flirting with extremist groups.
Respected veteran political commentators have often told me that the US always gravitates to the centre ground. It sure didn't look like that in Charlottesville - ask Germany, or Italy, or Spain.
And if America is going to become just another country, albeit with a lot more weapons, no wonder the world is revising its opinion.
The degree to which Americans talk about themselves as a special, unique country has often struck me as a little grandiose. You don't hear the French, or Brits, or Australians talk about themselves that way - though they may well feel it.
But perhaps it takes the loss of that uniqueness to make us realise how real it was and how much the world relied on it.
This summer I spent time in the UK, France and Spain.
In all three countries, leaders are trying to figure out how to get by without American leadership on critical issues like climate change and trade, while the general publics increasingly see the US as a non-entity.
It's not even seen as a joke, people are saddened by America's diminished global status.
Europeans have long had a complicated and somewhat insecure relationship with the US, part admiration, part jealousy, part irritation. But this year the reaction in Europe to America felt different.
Continental Europe is feeling more confident, the economy is doing better and far-right groups have been defeated at the ballot box. Even Britain's decision to withdraw from the EU doesn't get much attention - Brexit is old news in France and Germany.
That newfound confidence, mixed with America's clear dysfunction, does indeed create a sense of dismissiveness.
For many Europeans, indeed many foreigners, Trump is a spectacle, a reality show on steroids. But that's about the sum of Europe's interest in America right now.
Mr Trump's approval ratings are slipping fast. The overwhelming majority of Americans are appalled by all that the hideous scenes in Charlottesville represent.
Nothing is getting done in Congress. No wonder Americans are feeling disheartened.
No wonder the world is figuring out how to get things done without their global superpower.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

ARNO press release on the latest human rights crisis in Myanmar

The Rohingyas of Myanmar are the most persecuted people on earth. Here below is a press release from its national organization, ARNO.
Stop military crackdown, conduct an independent inquiry into the killings of 8 Mros

Arakan Rohingya National Organisation strongly condemns the gruesome killing of 8 Mro villagers in the jungle close to Kaingyi Rakhine settler village in southern Maungdaw, Arakan/Rakhine State, on 3 August. 
It is deplorable that some news media, including BBC Burmese section, have deliberately pinned the blame on the Muslim Rohingya or alleged Muslim terrorist group, although the common talk among the people is that the murders were carried out by drug dealers, following serious quarrel among them, where some Mros and Kaingyi villagers are said to have been involved. Certain social media talk of the involvement of Myanmar security forces in the incident particularly upon discovery of empty bullet shells by the Mro villagers usually used by the Tatmadaw.  So far there is no evidence to determine who the real culprits are. 
However, we express our grave concern over the sudden deployment of an army battalion to Rohingya majority region of northern Arakan State imposing curfew and instilling fear in the Rohingya civilian population. There is also widespread panic of the repeat of last year military atrocities as reports emerge of atrocities including torcher, looting and extortion by the soldiers in some places. 
Capitalizing the Mro murder, on 9 August a group of Rakhine politicians led by ANP leader firebrand Dr. Aye Maung met with Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other military top brass raising false security alarm whereat the military deployment was made. We caution that this conspiracy of the Rakhine leaders, in league with the powerful military, aims at exterminating the Rohingya population is a boomerang for the Rakhine people. 
Moreover, on 9 August, the UN issued a “precautionary security notification” to the approximately 300 international NGO and UN workers in Arakan, warning of an escalation in violence by the Buddhist population. 
We welcome the statement of UN rights expert Yanghee Lee that “the government must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine state”.  
We demand that the Government of Myanmar stop the ongoing military crackdown, protect all the civilian population irrespective of their religion and ethnicity, and to conduct forthwith an independent inquiry into the gruesome killing of the 8 Mro people and bring the culprits to justice.  

For more details, please contact:
Australia: Dr. Hla Myint +61-423381904
Bangladesh: Ko Ko Linn: +880-1726068413
Canada: Nur Hasim +1 -519- 5725359
Japan: Zaw Min Htut +81-8030835327
U.K. Ronnie: +44-7783118354
USA: Dr. Habib Ullah +1-4438158609

US cities ramp up removal of Confederate statues

To read the news, click here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville and the Bigotocracy

Michael Eric Dyson is the author of “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America” and a contributing opinion writer. He writes, "The late, great Gore Vidal said that we live in “The United States of Amnesia.” Our fatal forgetfulness flares when white bigots come out of their closets, emboldened by the tacit cover they’re given by our president. We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump."
"This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures."
"President Lyndon Baines Johnson once argued, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Dyson's latest article on bigotocracy of America can be read by clicking here.

White-Power Movement Showing Its Strength

Jamelle Bouie is Slates chief political correspondent. His article in the is shared below.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia—The proximate reason for Saturday’s Unite the Right event, a demonstration of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, was to “defend” the city’s memorials to Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Earlier in the year, city officials voted to remove the statues, which were erected in the early 20th century as monuments to white supremacy. For many residents of today’s Charlottesville, the statues were a blight—fraught objects that anchored racist propaganda in the city’s geography.
That move brought a backlash. Republican Corey Stewart nearly won his party’s nomination for governor on a pledge to protect these statues, leveraging Confederate nostalgia to surprising success. A local white supremacist, Jason Kessler, organized against removing the statues, bringing his supporters to bear on City Council. The Ku Klux Klan joined the protest against the city, gathering in defense of the statues last month. Unite the Right, which Kessler helped organize, was part of that reaction. But it wasn’t just that.
 None of the (mostly) men who came to Charlottesville wore masks or hoods. They didn’t on Friday night when they marched to the University of Virginia carrying torches and attacking counter-protesters, and they didn’t on Saturday, when they gathered in downtown Charlottesville with weapons, Confederate flags, and Nazi paraphernalia. They weren’t just unafraid; they were proud—proud to stand for racial hatred, eager to intimidate those opposed them.
Yes, the proximate reason for Unite the Right was to defend the city’s Confederate memorials, but the actual reason was for the marchers to show their strength as a movement.
You can argue easily that they failed. Hundreds came to march in support of white supremacy, but they were outnumbered by thousands of residents who turned out to oppose the rally. The rally was scheduled to last for five hours, but it was over after 15 minutes; police cleared the park when it was clear the demonstrators were angling for a fight. By the afternoon, the streets of downtown Charlottesville were controlled by cops and counter-protesters, and the white supremacists had either retreated to a different park or left entirely.
But this argument doesn’t quite stick. Yes, the Nazis and white supremacists retreated from their initial stand, but that didn’t stop a man who appeared to be one of their number from using a car to kill one counter-protester and injure 19 others. Yes, they were outnumbered on the ground, but they received tacit support from a White House that refused to condemn them by name. In their initial statements, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions condemned “hatred” and “violence” without naming the actual perpetrators, an abrupt shift away from their typical penchant for bluntness and clarity. And when speaking to the press, Trump accused “many sides” of fomenting violence, equivocating at a moment when white supremacists had just terrorized an American city. He even seemed to back their defense of Confederate memorials, asking all Americans to “cherish history.”
No, the white supremacists who came to Charlottesville couldn’t secure physical space in the city. But they can still claim a kind of victory. They revealed the extent to which they can threaten and intimidate with a certain amount of impunity. Compared with protests in places such as Ferguson, Missouri—where largely peaceful protesters were met with snipers, armored vehicles, and riot police—the response in Charlottesville was tame, with armed white supremacists facing restrained and measured law enforcement.
More importantly, they revealed the extent to which they hold political influence, such that the president of the United States refused to condemn them outright. The men who gathered under Unite the Right made clear that they saw Trump as an ally to their cause. And if Trump’s equivocation is any indication—if his unwillingness to name and shame the worst kind of racism is any sign—then that feeling is mutual.

The Real Meaning of “On Many Sides"

On Saturday afternoon, neo-Nazis; white nationalists; and open-carrying, camo-wearing militia members combined forces at a Charlottesville, Virginia, rally to “Unite the Right.” This congregation of white people who love the president of the United States and hate racial, ethnic, and religious minorities chanted “blood and soil” and extended their arms in stiff salutes. The rally culminated in the death of at least one person when the driver of a gray Dodge Challenger plowed through a crowd of counter-protesters, seemingly with the intent to maim and injure.
On Nov. 19, 1863, as the Union and Confederate armies waged a war to determine whether black people were property, President Abraham Lincoln stood up at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and articulated his vision of what the United States should be. He called for a promise that “these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
On Aug. 12, 2017, Donald Trump stood up at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and All Lives Matter’d a Nazi rally. “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Trump said. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.”
He then said those three words again—“On many sides”—as if to emphasize that this throwaway phrase was in fact the only bit of his short speech that he truly believed in. He did not talk about white supremacy, and he did not note the prevalence of racist chants. The troubles in Charlottesville, the president said, were everyone’s fault. Or, to put it another way, nobody in particular was responsible than anyone else for what happened in Virginia this weekend. Not the president. Not the party that enabled him. Not even those who idolize Adolf Hitler.
Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacist violence, coming on the heels of his silence in the aftermath of last week’s mosque bombing in Minnesota, is just the latest affirmation of his fundamental immorality. The president’s racist, anti-Semitic, Muslim-hating acolytes heard the words Trump didn’t say on Saturday. They know they have an ally in the White House, a man who will abet anyone who abets his own hold on power.
As a candidate for office and now as president, Trump has made it very clear who his friends are. When Joe Scarborough said in 2015 that Vladimir Putin “kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” Trump answered “that our country does plenty of killing, too.” Call it moral relativism or whataboutism or false equivalence. So long as an atrocity is perpetrated by someone who’s said nice things about Donald Trump, it’s not really an atrocity.
“It’s been going on for a long time in our country,” Trump said on Saturday, speaking of the “hatred, bigotry, and violence” on display in Charlottesville. “Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”
There was no reason for him to invoke Obama, except that there is always a reason to invoke Obama. The politician who rose to prominence by casting doubts on the legitimacy of the first black president would have you believe that he himself is blameless for whatever unnamed, mysterious force may be dividing this country. Or, if Trump is to blame, then so is the 44th president, and so are the counter-protesters who took to the streets of Charlottesville to tell a band of white supremacists that they may represent what the country has been but will never embody what America should be. The counter-protesters, those marching for the proposition that all men are created equal—they’re apparently part of the problem, too. “On many sides,” Trump said. “On many sides.”
On a day that called for the president to take a stand, he instead made a perverse call for unity. “I love the people of our country,” Trump said at the end of his Bedminster Address. “I love all of the people of our country. We’re going to make America great again. But we’re going to make it great for all of the people of the United States of America.”
The neo-Nazis in Charlottesville heard that call, and so did the posters on the Daily Stormer. “On many sides,” Trump said. These are not anodyne words. They are dangerous ones. On Saturday, the president had the chance to tell the nation what it is he does and doesn’t believe in. That’s exactly what he did.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Why I Cannot be a Zionist: an Open Letter to Emmanuel Macron

Here below is an open letter to Macron from Shlomo Sand.
As I began reading your speech on the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv round-up, I felt grateful toward you. Indeed, in the light of the long tradition of political leaders, both Left and Right, past and present, who have denied France’s participation and responsibility in the deportation of Jewish-origin people to the death camps, I was grateful that you instead took a clear position, without any ambiguity: yes, France is responsible for the deportation, yes there was anti-Semitism in France before and after the Second World War. Yes, we must continue to fight all forms of racism. I saw these positions as standing in continuity with the courageous statement you made in Algeria, saying that colonialism constitutes a crime against humanity.
But to be wholly frank, I was rather annoyed by the fact that you invited Benjamin Netanyahu. He should without doubt be ranked in the category of oppressors, and so he cannot parade himself as a representative of the victims of yesteryear. Of course, I have long known the impossibility of separating memory from politics. Perhaps you were deploying a sophisticated strategy, still yet to be revealed, aimed at contributing to the realisation of an equitable compromise in the Middle East?
I stopped being able to understand you when, in the course of your speech, you stated that “Anti-Zionism … is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.” Was this statement intended to please your guest, or is it purely and simply a marker of a lack of political culture? Has this former student of philosophy, Paul Ricoeur’s assistant, read so few history books that he does not know that many Jews or descendants of Jewish heritage have always opposed Zionism, without this making them anti-Semites? Here I am referring to almost all the old grand rabbis, but also the stances taken by a section of contemporary orthodox Judaism. And I also remember figures like Marek Edelman, one of the escaped leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, or the communists of Jewish background who took part in the French Resistance in the Manouchian group, in which they perished. I also think of my friend and teacher Pierre Vidal-Naquet and of other great historians and sociologists like Eric Hobsbawm and Maxime Rodinson, whose writings and whose memory are so dear to me, or indeed Edgar Morin. And finally I wonder if you seriously expect of the Palestinians that they should not be anti-Zionists!
Nonetheless, I suppose that you do not particularly appreciate people on the Left, or, perhaps, the Palestinians. But knowing that you worked at Rothschild Bank, I will here provide a quote from Nathan Rothschild. President of the union of synagogues in Britain, he was the first Jew to be named a lord in the United Kingdom, where he also became the bank’s governor. In a 1903 letter to Theodor Herzl, the talented banker wrote that he was anxious about plan to establish a “Jewish colony”; it “would be a ghetto within a ghetto with all the prejudices of a ghetto.” A Jewish state “would be small and petty, Orthodox and illiberal, and keep out non-Jews and the Christians.” We might conclude that Rothschild’s prophecy was mistaken. But one thing is for sure: he was no anti-Semite!
Of course, there have been, and there are, some anti-Zionists who are also anti-Semites, but I am also certain that we could find anti-Semites among the sycophants of Zionism. I can also assure you that a number of Zionists are racists whose mental structure does not differ from that of utter Judeophobes: they relentlessly search for a Jewish DNA (even at the university that I teach at).
But to clarify what an anti-Zionist point of view is, it is important to begin by agreeing on the definition of the concept “Zionism,” or at the very least, a series of characteristics proper to this ter. I will endeavor to do so as briefly as possible.
First of all, Zionism is not Judaism. It even constitutes a radical revolt against it. Across the centuries, pious Jews nurtured a deep ardour for their holy land, and more particularly for Jerusalem. But they held to the Talmudic precept intimating that they should not collectively emigrate there before the coming of the Messiah. Indeed, the land does not belong to the Jews, but to God. God gave and God took away again; and he would send the Messiah to restore it, when he wanted to. When Zionism appeared it removed the “All Powerful” from his place, substituting the active human subject in his stead.
We can each give our own view on the question of whether the project of creating an exclusive Jewish state on a slice of land with a very large Arab-majority population is a moral idea. In 1917 Palestine counted 700,000 Arab Muslims and Christians and around 60,000 Jews, half of whom were opposed to Zionism. Up till that point, the mass of the Yiddish-speaking people who wanted to flee the pogroms of the Russian Empire preferred to migrate to the American continent. Indeed, two million made it there, thus escaping Nazi persecution (and the persecution under the Vichy regime).
In 1948 in Palestine there were 650,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arab Muslims and Christians, 700,000 of whom became refugees. It was on this demographic basis that the State of Israel was born. Despite that, and against the backdrop of the extermination of the European Jews, a number of anti-Zionists reached the conclusion that in the name of avoiding the creation of fresh tragedies it was best to consider the State of Israel as an irreversible fait accompli. A child born as the result of a rape does indeed have the right to live. But what happens if this child follows in the footsteps of his father?
And then came 1967. Since then Israel has ruled over 5.5 million Palestinians, who are denied civil, political and social rights. Israel subjects them to military control: for part of them a sort of “Indian reservation” in the West Bank, while others are locked up in a “barbed wire holding pen” in Gaza (70% of the population there are refugees or their descendants). Israel, which constantly proclaims its desire for peace, considers the territories conquered in 1967 as an integral part of the “land of Israel,” and it behaves there as it sees fit. Thus far 600,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers have been moved in there… and this has still not ended!
Is that today’s Zionism? No!, reply my friends on the Zionist Left — which is constantly shrinking. They tell me that we have to put an end to the dynamic of Zionist colonisation, that a narrow little Palestinian state should be created next to the State of Israel, and that Zionism’s objective was to establish a state where the Jews would be sovereign over themselves, and not to conquer “the ancient homeland” in its entirety. And the most dangerous thing in all this, in their eyes, is that annexing territory threatens Israel’s character as a Jewish state.
So here we reach the proper moment for me to explain to you why I am writing to you, and why I define myself as non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, without thereby becoming anti-Jewish. Your political party has put the words “La République” in its name. So I presume that you are a fervent republican. And, at the risk of surprising you: I am, too. So being a democrat and a republican I cannot — as all Zionists do, Left and Right, without exception — support a Jewish State. The Israeli Interior Ministry counts 75% of the country’s citizens as Jewish, 21% as Arab Muslims and Christians and 4% as “others” (sic). Yet according to the spirit of its laws, Israel does not belong to Israelis as a whole, whereas it does belong even to all those Jews worldwide who have no intention of coming to live there. So for example, Israel belongs a lot more to Bernard Henri-Lévy or to Alain Finkielkraut than it does to my Palestinian-Israeli students, Hebrew speakers who sometimes speak it better than I do! Israel hopes that the day will come when all the people of the CRIF (“Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France”) and their “supporters” emigrate there! I even know some French anti-Semites who are delighted by such a prospect. On the other hand, we could find two Israeli ministers close to Netanyahu putting out the idea that it is necessary to encourage the “transfer” of Israeli Arabs, without that meaning that anyone demanded their resignations.
That, Mr. President, is why I cannot be a Zionist. I am a citizen who desires that the state he lives in should be an Israeli Republic, and not a Jewish-communalist state. As a descendant of Jews who suffered so much discrimination, I do not want to live in a state that, according to its own self-definition, makes me a privileged class of citizen. Mr. President, do you think that that makes me an anti-Semite?

Myanmar sends hundreds of troops to Rakhine state

Myanmar has sent hundreds of soldiers to beef up security in northwestern Rakhine state after a recent spate of killings, military sources said on Friday, fuelling fears of yet more violence and instability in the troubled region.
Muslim-majority northern Rakhine was plunged into violence last October when Rohingya Muslim insurgents allegedly killed nine police, setting off a brutal counteroffensive beset by allegations of rape, killings and torture by government troops.


"This development, which reportedly took place yesterday, is a cause for major concern," said Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
"The government must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine State," she said in a statement issued in Geneva.
United Nations investigators who interviewed some of the nearly 75,000 people who fled to neighboring Bangladesh last year said troops probably committed crimes against humanity.

Click here to read the latest development in the Rakahine state of Myanmar.

Settler school built on private Palestinian land

"Aerial footage reveals that part of the campus of a school in the West Bank settlement of Efrat was built on privately owned Palestinian land. The footage was obtained and analyzed by a civil-society organization that monitors land ownership in the West Bank," writes Uri Blau in the Ha'aretz.
"Donations to Ohr Torah Stone, the organization that runs the school, which make up a part of its budget, are tax deductible in the United States, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Recent renovations to the portion of the grounds of Derech Avot School that is on Palestinian land were paid for by the Education Ministry, the Efrat local council and Ohr Torah Stone education network. Ohr Torah Stone was founded in 1983 by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. Its first institution was the Neveh Shmuel Yeshiva high school, also in Efrat.
Ohr Stone established a religious school for girls (ulpana in Hebrew) in the nearby settlement of Alon Shvut. It now operates high schools in Jerusalem as well as other institutions, including hesder yeshivas, where students combine religious study with service in the Israeli military."
 To read the article, click here.

Terrorism for Profit

Here is the link to an interesting article on terrorism by Robert Koehler.

The Fall of Benjamin Netanyahu by Uri Avnery

Click here to read Uri Avnery's latest article on Netanyahu.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

CNN fires pro-Trump commentator Jeffrey Lord for tweeting a Nazi salute

CNN has fired contributor Jeffrey Lord after the commentator tweeted a Nazi salute, the cable news channel said on Thursday.
"Nazi salutes are indefensible," a CNN spokesperson said in an email statement. "Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network."
Lord, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, made the remarks during an online spat with Angelo Carusone, the president of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters.
Lord had written a column for the conservative blog the American Spectator accusing Carusone and Media Matters of being "fascists" because of the organization's efforts to get advertisers off Fox News program hosted by Sean Hannity.
Carusone tweeted that his last name was misspelled in the headline, to which Lord responded: "Sieg Heil!"
Jeffrey Lord tweeted a Nazi salute at the president of the liberal media watchdog Media Matters on Thursday. Source: Screenshot/Twitter
In a series of tweets following the use of the Nazi salute, Lord said he was "mocking Nazis and fascists" with the Nazi salute. He also repeatedly accused his critics of being fascists, or of supporting fascists.

Why they hate free speech? by L. Ali Khan

Arab rulers across the Middle East detest free speech. The demand that Al- Jazeera close its operations is no surprise. Al-Jazeera (which means the island) offers talk shows, documentaries, and news in Arabic, the language of the region that reaches more than 350 million Arabic-speaking people from Mauritania to Yemen. Headquartered in Doha, Qatar, a native Arab land, Al-Jazeera has adopted an iconoclastic motto “opinion and the other opinion.”
For most Arab rulers, there is always only one opinion, the opinion of the government, and for them all other opinions are false, alien, and subversive. This commentary analyzes why Arab rulers are hostile to free speech, particularly the home-grown free speech, emanating from within the region, in Arabic dialects and metaphors, by Arab intellectuals, analysts, and critics.
Historical Tradition
For centuries, the Arab rulers are used to reverence, hand-kissing, and bowing. The Arab rulers, be they military officers, kings, emirs, or presidents, share a similar concept of leadership. They truly believe in their hearts that they are the men-in-authority chosen with divine will. They cherish an automatically presumed self-concept of being noble, just, and sagacious. Witness how General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian martinet, who overthrew a democratically-elected government, smiles with condescending wisdom. Such men as sovereigns (and there are no women Arab rulers) are not open to free speech.
Also historically, the Arab rulers have been tolerant of foreign criticism but not of internal dissent. Even today, the Arab rulers tolerate the non-Arab opinions broadcasted by the BBC, Voice of America, Press TV (Iran), or any other foreign outfit because the Arab rulers rely on an overarching paradigm that the foreigners, including Europeans, Americans, and Iranians, brood ill-will against the glorious Arab civilization that once dominated the world for centuries and gifted the world with the religion of Islam. They dismiss the Europeans as colonists, they deride the Americans as Islamophobes, and they scorn the Iranians as Shias, who are corrupting the true message of Islam that only the Arab rulers understand and have been ordained by Allah to preserve.
Al-Jazeera offers internal dissent, which is interpreted as baghyan (rebellion). The real-time reporting that deviates from the official truth, the “unfavorable” documentaries, and intellectual ruminations, aired in various shows at Al-Jazeera, all are seen as internal threat to political order that the Arab governments have imposed without the will of the people. Unintendedly, for that is the fallout of free speech, Al-Jazeera challenges the historical narrative of infallible Muslim rulers who can do no wrong.
In Arab countries, banning Al-Jazeera is seen as the right thing to suppress fitna (mischief), another convenient concept that the Arab rulers frequently invoke to arrest journalists, lash critics in public, and execute intellectuals and scholars. In Egypt, for example, Hassan al-Banna was assassinated in 1949, Sayyid Qutub was hanged in 1966, as both scholars were seen as the purveyors of fitna. President Morsi, elected in 2012, is in prison accused of terrorism and faces capital punishment. Egypt, the most prominent Arabic speaking country, has blocked or banned Al-Jazeera in cahoots with U.A.E, and Saudi Arabia. All are determined to eliminate fitna (fake news, lies, and terrorism) that Al-Jazeera allegedly promotes.
Distortions of Islam
The Arab rulers, the self-appointed defenders of “true religion,” defame Islam as the peoples of the world gather the impression that Islam is hostile to democracy and free speech. Even though the majority of Muslims, living in Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, India, Pakistan, and many other nations, are non-Arabs, the world continues to associate Islam with the Arabs, particularly with Saudi Arabia, where the prophet is buried and where the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic. Despite the expansion of Islam in all continents, what the Arab rulers do or say have significant bearing on the image of Islam for non-Muslims.
Even Islamophobia in the West is a distorted reaction to the Middle Eastern customs that have little to do with the teachings of Islam. Seeing that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, seeing that the leaders of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State hailed from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iraq, and seeing the failed efforts to bring democracy in Arab countries, non-Muslims of the world construct a view of Islam rooted in misogyny, terrorism, and tyranny. The opposition to Shariah in the United States has everything to do with what the Americans witness in the Middle East.
Outside the Middle East, Islam has a different ethos. Consider Pakistan, a country carved out of India in the name of Islam. Only a few days ago, the Supreme Court disqualified a democratically elected prime minister, the highest political office in the country—an unthinkable event in the Arab heartland. In Pakistan, hundreds of newspapers and TV channels are determined on a daily basis to find faults with every aspect of the government and opposition. Although Pakistan has suffered military interventions, free speech has remained vibrant for most of its history. In this country, no credible paradigm paints the ruler as noble, wise, or appointed by Allah. Rulers are seen fallible and replaceable. Sometimes, the military generals get away with murder but this impunity is never associated with the dictates of Islam. In fact, even supporters of military generals advocate equality under the norms of Islamic justice.
Arab rulers detest free speech because they obtain and retain political power without the will of the people. They see free speech as a threat to the unrepresentative form of government they institute. The convenient labels of baghyan and fitna, mentioned in the Qur’an, are arbitrarily invoked to suppress legitimate criticism and dissent. The label of terrorism is also convenient to eliminate opposing viewpoints. The proposal to shut down Al-Jazeera reflects how the Arab rulers build their castles in sand that cannot tolerate the winds of free speech.

How a Free Syrian Army Unit Uncovered the Rebels’ Israeli Connection

QUNEITRA, SYRIA—Ahmad Kaboul has big shoes to fill. Earlier this summer, his childhood friend and commanding officer of the Golan Brigade, Majed Hamoud, was killed by Jabhat Al Nusra, Syria’s al Qaeda affiliate, which now goes by the name Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.
Founded as one of the dizzying array of fighting units in Syria’s six-year civil war, the genesis of the Golan Brigade was one of the most remarkable. The brigade was established in 2014 by Syrian fighters who had defected from the Free Syrian Army rebel group after they made a shocking discovery: their unit had been coordinating with the Israelis.
After switching sides to support the Syrian government, they witnessed the Israeli military providing direct air cover for attacks launched against them by Al Qaeda. The Israelis even tried to kill Majed on several occasions before Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, Nusra, finally did him in.
This July, I met veterans of the Golan Brigade and heard their stories. They painted a picture of the war that stood almost entirely at odds with the dominant narrative of the conflict spun out in Western mainstream media. And this is perhaps why they have received so little attention.
The Golan Brigade is one of four battalions that comprises Syria’s National Defense Forces (NDF), a coalition of paramilitary groups formed in mid-2012 to recruit and organize non-soldier citizens who wanted to fight as volunteers against the armed insurgency that was overrunning the country. Those who joined come from all backgrounds, including retired military personnel, young men who weren’t eligible for conscription because they were the only son in the family, and even a dentist.
Ahmad was Majed’s right-hand man and now he is his replacement. He’s 28, but looks 22. With his shy demeanor and soft eyes, it’s hard to believe he now leads a brigade of over 300 fighters.
The defectors
Majed, the founding leader of the Golan Brigade, was a former bodybuilding champion who defected from the Syrian army in 2011 due to mistreatment from his superior officers. “He was angry about the corruption in the Syrian army,” Majed’s father told me at a Golan Brigade outpost in Majed’s hometown of Khan Arnabah, located by the separation fence with Israel.
Majed joined the FSA out of spite and encouraged other guys from his village to do the same. Ahmad had also been dealing with mistreatment by his superior officers after being injured by shrapnel at the T4 oil pipelines near Homs where he was stationed. Ahmad told me he defected to the FSA out of anger and because he was caught up in the revolutionary fervor sweeping the region at the time.
For two years Majed and Ahmad fought against the Syrian Army in an FSA unit called Liwa al-Mutassim Bilaa. They launched attacks in the towns and villages that run along the separation barrier with the Israeli occupied side of the Golan Heights. But over time Majed and Ahmad became disillusioned with the corruption and shadiness they witnessed among the loose coalition of FSA divisions they fought alongside. The last straw came when they discovered the FSA’s relationship with the Israelis, which included logistical, military and medical aid.
“At first we didn’t know about it. But then the Israelis offered to open a gate for us at the Israeli fence for Khan Arnabah. Majed confronted the FSA guys who were working with the Israeli officers in Beir Ajam and he immediately told them that we won’t deal with anyone cooperating with the Israelis. The rebel groups tried to assassinate him at this time. We didn’t have any other choice, so we decided to come back to Khan Arnabah and contacted the reconciliation committee there.”
Khan Arnabah reconciled with the government in 2014. It's one of dozens of Syrian towns that were held by the opposition but ultimately chose to reintegrate into the Syrian state.
Since as far back as 2012, the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the peacekeeping mission responsible for monitoring the 1974 ceasefire line between Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights, has documented dozens of interactions between Israeli and Syrian insurgents. It is also an open secret that the Israelis have been providing medical treatment to insurgents, including al Qaeda and possibly ISIS fighters, in Israeli hospitals and then sending them back into battle against government-controlled areas.
According to an investigative report by journalist Nour Samaha, Israel has dramatically expanded its support to include “facilitating cross-border travel for residents into Israel , regular deliveries of food, clothing, construction equipment and educational materials, airstrikes on pro-government positions and the establishment of an Israeli-backed opposition faction in rebel-held southern Syria.”
Soon after learning of Israel’s involvement with the FSA, Majed struck up a relationship with the head of the National Defense Forces, who had been reaching out to Syrian army defectors in an attempt at reconciliation. The leader of the NDF, who asked not to be named, told me he became very fond of Majed. For eight months the two communicated over the phone, building up a trusting relationship. It wasn’t easy. Majed’s brother had been imprisoned by the government and the NDF leader’s brother had been killed in an ambush by the FSA. But with time they grew close and after intense negotiations with the security apparatus, Majed decided to defect from the FSA and join the NDF as head of the Golan Brigade in Khan Arnabah.
“It was the first real reconciliation in the whole Syrian conflict. It was completely organic,” said the head of the NDF.
They created four battalions. Majed was the leader of the first battalion which was responsible for the towns of Khan Arnabah and Jeba. And he convinced many of those in his FSA faction, around 40 people, to defect with him to the NDF. They all received amnesty from the government. Majed’s main argument was that they were duped, that this wasn’t a real revolution and that foreign hands were behind the FSA, with the most unacceptable being Israel’s. As young men from the Golan, an area of Syria that remains occupied by Israel, Israel’s support for the FSA was particularly objectionable. About ten people remained with the FSA and were absorbed by other opposition units, recalled Ahmad.  The Golan Brigade has since swollen to around 300 people in Majed’s battalion and some 1,500 overall.
ISIS headquartered on Israel’s border, Israeli air support for Al Qaeda
The Israelis tried to kill Majed on at least two occasions in targeted airstrikes but failed, according to Golan Brigade militiamen. What the Israelis couldn’t accomplish, Al Qaeda did.
In June, a Syrian member of Jabhat al Nusra from the Daraa neighborhood of Nawa, Mohammad Abdul Hamid al Mitheab, followed Majed into the office of one of his colleagues. Wearing an army uniform and a backpack filled with explosives, the attacker blew himself up, killing Majed.
Those I spoke with who knew Majed expressed affection for him, describing him as charismatic, tough and extremely persuasive. People in Khan Arnabah referred to him in terms reserved for superheroes. His fellow militiamen reminisced about him constantly.
“He was a good guy, a true leader,” the NDF commander said. "That’s why Nusra targeted him. They thought if they killed Majed, the city and our forces would collapse. They were wrong."
Five days after Majed’s death, Nusra launched an attack on Medinet al Baath, or Baath City, in cooperation with FSA units. The Israelis provided air support for the Al Qaeda-led offensive, striking at Syrian army and NDF forces and equipment during the battle, suggesting direct coordination with the jihadist groups.
“This is the first time the Israelis helped Nusra openly,” said the NDF commander.
The battle was fierce and lasted around 10 days, with the NDF and Syrian army repelling the attack.
“We lost count of how many times the Israelis have attacked us,” said Ahmad. “They killed two of our soldiers last year. They confuse us and the Syrian army with Hezbollah.”
According to senior sources in the Syrian army, Hezbollah does not have a military presence in the Golan. Hezbollah has a light presence in the Damascus countryside near Quneitra, but that’s it. But the Israelis insist otherwise and have openly stated their preference for al Qaeda at the Golan border over Hezbollah or anyone allied with them, including the Syrian government.  
Meanwhile all of Nusra’s command centers and bases are located at the border between Syria and the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan. I’m told there is a Nusra hospital located next to the barrier beside the U.N. command center in the ceasefire zone between the Israeli and Syrian forces. “We can’t attack there because we don’t have precision weaponry. We can’t risk hitting the U.N. command,” says a senior Syrian army source, showing me a map of the area.
Guiding me through the different colors on the map, he continued, “Nusra controls about 15 kilometers of territory along the separation fence in Quneitra all the way to west Daraa, where there is some mixed control between Nusra and the FSA. ISIS controls the Yarmouk triangle. Al Yarmouk valley, where the Yarmouk river flows, is entirely controlled by ISIS. The jihadist group’s leaders are headquartered in Jamla, nearly 300 meters from the Israeli border. How do you want to convince me that Israel is not supporting them?” he asked.
The black flag behind the green flag
According to the NDF leader, the de-escalation agreement implemented in southern Syria is holding in Quneitra between the Syrian government and the FSA. Nusra, however, has continued to launch attacks.
“Where there is Nusra, there is no de-escalation,” he said. “The main players in Syria are the Russians and Americans. The agenda to destroy Syria was planned by the American government, so when the Americans and Russians reach an agreement, we can see the results on the ground. The FSA attacks that we faced in 2012 and 2013 have stopped 100%. There are no attacks from the so-called Free Syrian Army against our bases or military checkpoints. Now we are only fighting ISIS and Nusra,” he said.
“The main thing I want to explain to you, all this revolution, the FSA logic from the beginning was based on Wahhabism and takfirism [an extremist theological doctrine that enables Muslims to brand other Muslims as infidels and sanctions violence to punish their heresy]. But it was hidden behind this green flag. America and Israel want to support that, but they can’t do it openly under the black flag, so they need this green flag to facilitate their support,” he said.
“They always claim that the Syrian government is sectarian. How come we are sectarian? Yes, the president is Alawite. And his wife is a Sunni from Homs. The minister of defense is a Bedouin Sunni. The minister of Interior is a Sunni. The foreign minister is a Sunni. The head of intelligence in Syria, which oversees all intelligence, is a Sunni from Damascus. Why is America selling a lie that our government is sectarian?”
He went on to stress that the Golan Brigade represents the diverse social fabric of a country whose minorities are estimated at 30 to 40 percent of its mostly Sunni population. “You can find Sunnis, Alawites, Druze and Christians in this brigade. One battalion is led by a Sunni, another by an Alawite, another by a Christian. That’s why we’re strong. Go to the other side. Can you find an Alawite or Christian?” he asked.
As for the Israelis, “they are still playing a dirty game. When you are supporting Nusra at your border and let them put their tanks at the demarcation fence with the flag of Nusra, you are playing with fire,” he warned.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Myanmar Buddhist forces surround Rohingya village

The news below is from the Arakan Times:
Myanmar government forces aided by Rakhine extremists of the area have seriously targeted the innocent Rohingya residents and have been surrounding the Zay Di Pyin Rohingya village of Northern Rathedaung, Arakan State since 8 August 2017.
Tense situation has been prevailing in Zay Di Pyin and the Rohingya residents are unable to move for their survival since the armed forces of Myanmar and the Rakhine extremists have been besieging the village tightly, according to our correspondent report.
The Rakhine extremists backed by Myanmar security forces are equipped with swords, machetes, lances, knives and spears around the Rohingya village, Zay Di Pyin where they have targeted the Rohingya to kill at a time.
They are looting away the cattle and valuable belongings of Rohingya such as engine boats and destroying houses of Rohingya in cooperation of police forces where most of the members in police department are Rakhine.
Moreover, the BGP along with Rakhine extremists entered Rohingya village, Auk Nan Yar (Razarbil) and arbitrarily arrested Abdu Sukkur (43) son of Motiur Rahman as a leader of Rohingya community including six other Rohingya men with him.
Hearing the arrest of Sukkur and six others, the Rohingya villagers rushed to the spot and tried to protest the arbitrary arrest of innocent men where the police responded with gun fire toward the crowd. Five Rohingya received critical bullet injuries following gun shots and more other Rohingya were arrested again.
The injured victims were identified as Mv Abdu Sukkur (40) son of Motiur Rahman, Mohamed Younus (24) son of Nur Alam, Basir Ahamed (20) son of Moahmed Hasan, Sayed ullah (14) son of Karim Ullah and Abdu Subahan (17) son of Sayed Ullah.
The arrestees were known as Rahmat Ullah (30) son of Amir Hamza, Amir Hussain (41) son of Rahmat Ullah, Naser Ullah (20) son of Noor Mohamed and Khair Hussain and Khari Rahman of Auk Nan Yar.
Now the Rohingya residents are in terror and facing acute food crisis since the police imposed movement restriction on them and the Rakhine are also surrounding the village with sharp weapons to kill the Rohingya if get out of their village.
The Rakhine extremists might swoop on them with the help of police and conduct genocide as 2012 genocidal acts, says a Rohingya from the village.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Are we Egypt? by Tom H. Hastings

When the world watched Egyptians bravely gather en masse in Tahrir Square in Cairo in January 2011 to Arab Spring Hosni Mubarak out of office, we were mightily impressed and most of us cheered the nonviolent resistance.
The western press lionized the Egyptian military as it seemed to support the uprising and the generals kindly offered to run the country on an interim basis. Sure enough, there was an election eventually, Mohammed Morsi won, and the military handed over power.
For a minute.
Then we saw the military not-so-kindly grab power, ousting the elected Morsi and General Sisi ordered mass arrests and torture of dissident pro-democracy Egyptian activists.
Now, a few short years since the US calmly watched democracy betrayed badly by the Egyptian military, the US press is valorizing the military officers who are starting to snap some discipline into the most chaotic, dysfunctional, investigated White House this senior citizen has ever observed, at least since the months leading up to Richard ‘I am not a crook’ Nixon’s resignation.
To read more of the article by Tom H. Hastings who is a faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice, click here.

“Dunkirk”: a Whitewashed Version of History That Ignores the Bravery of Black & Muslim Soldiers

History has always been abused by the victors to propagate for their glory, sometimes distorting and exaggerating facts. Here below is an article by veteran journalist Robert Fisk who shows how the history about Dunkirk has fallen into that familiar trap.
In my mother’s family scrapbook, there is a tiny box camera snapshot of a very young Robert staring at the Luftwaffe-smashed “mole” leading out to sea from the port of Boulogne – sixteen years after British troops evacuated under fire in May 1940 as their comrades stood on the beaches of neighbouring Dunkirk. In the photograph, the right-hand side of the Boulogne jetty remains, in dilapidated, post-war France, just as it was when British soldiers scrambled aboard the last ships to Britain, the concrete, right-hand side of the mole collapsed into the sea, just a few old hawsers showing where it stood.
I remember that when our car ferry docked from Dover, passengers still had to “walk the plank” across a bridge of duckboards suspended above the water with ropes on each side to cling onto above another bombed-out part of the jetty. A day later, my father drove our Austin up to Dunkirk to see the famous beaches. It was a grey, cold day and the sand was grey and there was some unrecognisable, rusting junk along the promenade and several of the old beach hotels were still under repair. That was it. History had passed this way and the Brits had returned to other beaches 250 miles further west four years later and Hitler killed himself and we dropped atoms bombs on Japan and, by the time I reached Dunkirk, we’d lost soldiers in Korea and the poor old French were just starting their doomed war to hold onto Algeria.
From time to time, during our drive towards the German border that dank summer holiday, there were road bridges still under repair – the war had only ended eleven years earlier – and squads of French soldiers guarding them would stand up and cheer when they saw the little Union flag my father had fixed to the front of our Austin. “Don’t wave to them, fellah,” he would admonish me. “They let us down and surrendered.” So the anti-French contempt briefly witnessed in Christopher Nolan’s new film – as a British officer refuses to allow French troops to join the evacuation – was nothing new in cinematic history. My Dad, who’d fought in France towards the end of the First World War, still felt the betrayal of the country he’d risked his life for when it capitulated to the Germans in 1940, less than three weeks after the last British – and French – soldiers had left Dunkirk.
The Brits had already been softened up to hate their French allies by General Mason-Macfarlane, who gave an off-the-record briefing to journalists in London on 28 May 1940 in which he told them to blame French troops for the demise of the British Expeditionary Force; reporters ran “exclusives” next day – no sources, of course (as usual) – precisely reflecting the words of the general.
Mason-Macfarlane was, I suppose, a Farage of his time. In the decades to come, British historians would denigrate French troops in 1940 as drunkards and cowards although they also wrote of the looting and binge drinking by the Brits in Dunkirk town – a theme clearly hinted at in the magnificent five-and-a-half minute Dunkirk beach “take” in Joe Wright’s Atonement. Intriguingly, there were more French soldiers – shooting their horses, marching with discipline to the beaches, one of them dying in a London hospital – in Wright’s film, in which Dunkirk was only an episode, than in Nolan’s epic.
Much has been made, inevitably in The Guardian, of Nolan’s failure to acknowledge the presence of Muslim troops at Dunkirk – Muslim Indian Commonwealth soldiers (from what is now Pakistan) and, of course, Algerian and Moroccan regiments in the French army. Atonement did contain a black British soldier in the retreat to Dunkirk although no photographs appear to exist of black UK troops in 1940 France – and Leslie Norman’s much older Dunkirk movie, which premiered two years after I first visited the beaches, contained no black soldiers – John Mills’s companions in the retreat to Dunkirk were all white – although in the film French civilians risk their lives to help save British troops. Of course, even in this early stage of the Second World War, ethnic minority British citizens did show enormous courage – one of the bravest ARP men during the Blitz was black, although we have yet to see a film about him.
Disgracefully, the post-war Moroccan and Algerian governments declined – until very recently – to honour their soldiers who fought in the French army against the Nazis. Arab nationalism counted for more than anti-fascism in post-independence Algeria. The French film Indigènes – released in the UK as Days of Glory – recalled the bravery of Algerian soldiers fighting the Nazis after the Allied landings in southern France, and the racism of their French white comrades. As one of the North Africans lies wounded, praying the words of the Quran, he is executed by a German soldier. Intriguingly, the post-independence Muslim nations who deleted their Second World War history – fighting the Japanese as well as the Germans – reflected the First World War amnesia which afflicted the post-independence republican Irish who, until recently, had no time for their men-folk who died on the Somme, at Gallipoli and Passchendaele in British uniform.
A justly cynical revue of Nolan’s Dunkirk by Francois Pédron in Paris Match points out, correctly, that 18,000 French troops paid with their lives to hold the Dunkirk perimeter and 35,000 were made prisoner – almost 140,000 French soldiers were rescued from Dunkirk – but that not only do the victors write history. Filmmakers write the “history” too, Pedron wrote. He is right. The true story of the Algerian and Moroccan units has still to be filmed. It would make a terrifying drama. The Germans threw raw meat into the prison cages of Algerian and African troops – to show cinemagoers how they fought for the food and tore it to pieces like animals. Algerians were massacred by the Nazis on racial grounds – an act which strongly supports the suspicion of some intellectual Arabs today: that Hitler, after destroying the Jews of Europe and the Middle East, would have next turned his exterminating fury against their Semitic Arab brothers.
But of course, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem sought exile in Hitler’s Germany and exhorted Muslims to support the Nazis and thus allowed Israel forever to equate the Arabs with Nazi Germany – even though Arab Palestinians dead lie in the Commonwealth graveyard at El-Alamein alongside Jewish Palestinians. How do you explain this on film? If the French can be humiliated in the latest Dunkirk, what chance for Muslims? Or black soldiers? No wonder Farage urged us to watch Nolan’s movie. The Brits in 1940 were, at last, alone. It took another generation to create a Europe in which there would be no more international slaughter. 72 years of peace. And now we are committing Dunkirk all over again.