Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Child soldiers of South Sudan

In South Sudan there are still 19,000 children in armed forces, with boys trained to fight and girls taken as 'wives'.

by Andreea Campeanu
Yambio, South Sudan - On the red, dusty ground in Yambio, under a large mango tree, a group of 30 girls and boys, some wearing military clothes and some with guns next to them, sit in the shade eating biscuits while waiting for the start of the ceremony to release them from the army.
The US ambassador and other guests are coming from the capital Juba to attend the event. 
They are part of the 900 children released from the armed forces in South Sudan in 2018, the country with one of the largest number of child soldiers in the world. The ceremony consists of them symbolically taking off the military clothes, and receiving blue UNICEF labelled notebooks and schoolbags.
According to the UN, there are still 19,000 children in armed forces in South Sudan, a number contested by the army. "We have concerns about the figures published by UNICEF. We don't know how they came up with those numbers. Now, it's true that some other groups that were integrated into the SPLA had child soldiers among them. But our policy is clear: we don't want child soldiers," said Lul Ruai Koang, the spokesperson for the South Sudan's People Defence Force (former SPLA). "We gave their names to UNICEF. In Pibor or Yambio, they have been demobilised. We facilitate the process. After, it's their responsibility to help them."
Many of the children in the ceremony have already returned to their communities before the official release. They received medical screenings, counselling and psychosocial support as part of their rehabilitation , and some were assisted to return to school, while others received vocational training. Their families were also provided with food assistance.
But across South Sudan and in refugee camps outside the country, there are children and youth who left or escaped from the armed forces but received no assistance and have not been through a rehabilitation programme. Depending on age, boys are either used as porters, cleaners, or are trained to fight. Girls are often taken as "wives", and often return in their communities with children.
"We see depression, anxiety. They have intrusive thoughts that come back. That can be triggered by something happening, but of which they have no control. That can affect their functionality," says Rayan Fattouch, mental health specialist working in Yambio with Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF).
MSF is medically screening the children who were associated with armed groups. Part of it is the mental health aspect. They are dealing with children and young adults who are facing "moderate to severe trauma".
"The child needs to feel embraced by his community. And that can change from one community to another, depending on the experiences they have been through. They have their own trauma," said Fattouch.

UN criticises Rohingya deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh

Conditions in Rakhine state ‘not yet conducive’ for return of refugees, says UNHCR
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Rohingya refugee children at a camp in Cox’’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photograph: 
Rehman Asad/Barcroft Images

UN officials have condemned a deal struck between Myanmar and Bangladesh to tart repatriating Rohingya refugees, with the UN refugee agency confirming they have not been consulted about the plan.
Bangladesh and Myanmar government officials announced this week they had struck a “very concrete” repatriation deal for the return of the 720,000 Rohingya refugees who fled a brutal military crackdown in August 2017, which would begin by “mid-November”.
Myanmar officials said on Wednesday they had verified 5,000 Rohingya refugees so far, with the “first batch” of 2,000 to be repatriated in the next month.
However, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN secretary general, António Guterres, said the deal had taken the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) by surprise.
“To be clear … UNHCR, which is in lead on the issues of refugees, was not consulted on this matter,” said Dujarric at the daily press briefing given by the secretary general’s office.
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Chris Melzer, the UNHCR’s senior external officer based in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, reiterated this, saying: “UNHCR was not a party to that agreement.
“We would advise against imposing any timetable or target figures for repatriation in respect of the voluntary nature and sustainability of return,” added Melzer. “It is unclear if refugees know their names are on this list that has been cleared by Myanmar. They need to be informed. They also need to be consulted if they are willing to return ... It is critical that returns are not rushed or premature.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been living in cramped refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar for more than a year after fleeing rape, murder and arson in Rakhine state at the hands of the Myanmar military.
The Myanmar government signed an agreement with the UNHCR in June that they would work with the UN to create “safe and dignified” conditions for the return of the Rohingya to Rakhine, including guaranteeing security, freedom of movement and pathway to citizenship. None of these assurances have been made by the Myanmar government so far and the UNHCR has only been given restricted access to Rakhine state.
“For UNHCR, the conditions in Rakhine state are not yet conducive for a return to Myanmar,” said Dujarric. “And, at the same time, we’re seeing Rohingya refugees continue to arrive from Rakhine state into [Bangladesh], which should give you an indication of the situation on the ground.”
Bangladesh has handed Myanmar a list of 24,342 refugees whom they have cleared for repatriation, but details of the logistics and precise date of the repatriation are unclear. The issue of consent and possible forced repatriation has also been raised, with Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar saying they were fearful of going back and had never been asked whether they wanted to return.
Myanmar officials, including Myint Thu, the permanent secretary at Myanmar’s ministry of foreign affairs, visited the camps in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday and were greeted by hundreds of Rohingya protestors who held placards demanding citizenship and security. “We are here to meet with the people from the camps so that I can explain what we have prepared for their return and then I can listen to their voices,” said Myint Thu.
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Safiullah, who like many other Rohingya uses one name, was among the refugees who met the Burmese members of the Bangladesh-Myanmar joint working group at Kutupalong refugee camp on Wednesday.
“The Burmese officials said to us that around 4,600 Rohingya refugees would be taken to Myanmar,” said Safiullah. “The first bunch, around 2,300, would be allowed to return now. The remaining half would return at a later stage, they told me. The returnees have to spend three days in a transit camp inside Rakhine before they are taken to another camp which will be their new home.”
He had asked whether the Rohingya would be able to return to their own villages and get back their confiscated land and other properties but “the Burmese officials did not give me an answer”.
“I will not return to Myanmar even if the authorities enlist me for repatriation. I am sure this is the view of almost all Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh,” he said.
Some observers have described the announcement as politically motivated by the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, ahead of the general election which will be held at the end of December. While Bangladesh initially welcomed the refugees fleeing the military crackdown, a year on their presence has become a politically contentious issue, and there is increasing pressure on Hasina to start their repatriation as soon as possible.
Suktara Begum, a Rohingya refugee woman who spoke to Myint Thu on his visit to the camps, said: “They came to meet us today simply because of pressure from the international community. They have not taken one step to meet our demands in so many months. They are not serious about our return to our homes. We do not trust them.”

Photo of a Rohingya child

By Guy Birchall

THESE stunning images are the cream of the crop from this years Siena International Photo Awards.
The snaps in this gallery have been whittled down from over 48,000 entries from some of the world's finest photographs.This year's winning photo showed Asmat Ara, a Rohingya girl on her first morning in a Burmese refugee camp, shedding a tear after witnessing hellish violence
From the fragility of human innocence to the majesty of nature all of life on Earth has been captured in the breathtaking photos.

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This years winner showed a tearful Rohingya refugee on the morning after her first night in a camp in Burma having fled appalling violence.
Also shown is tiger mauling a deer and an apocalyptic lightning storm over a volcano.
The contest, now in its fourth year, allows submission in a range of categories including: Journeys and Adventures, The Beauty of Nature and Sports in Action.

UN investigator briefs Security Council on genocide in Myanmar

UN investigator briefs Security Council on genocide in Myanmar (Burma)

On 24 October the Chair of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM), Marzuki Darusman, briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the Mission’s recent report. Darusman described the situation in Rakhine State as a “human rights catastrophe that was foreseeable and planned” and said that violations described in the report “undoubtedly amount to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, threatening the peace, security and well-being of the world.” The FFM report found that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states and that operations against the Rohingya population in Rakhine had “genocidal intent.”

Due to the opposition of some UNSC members to the briefing, it was necessary for a procedural vote to be held in order for it to proceed. Nine UNSC members – Côte d’Ivoire, France, Kuwait, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States – voted in favor of holding the briefing. Three members opposed the briefing (Bolivia, China, Russia), and another three abstained from the vote (Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan).

Held on the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the UN, Darusman’s briefing marked the first time that a UN Human Rights Council-mandated investigative mechanism directly briefed the UNSC on a country-specific situation and highlighted mass atrocity crimes that demand urgent action.

Acting on recommendations provided by the FFM, the Security Council should now refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and impose targeted sanctions on those generals with command responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. An international arms embargo should also be imposed on Myanmar’s military.Inline image
Photo Source: VOA News
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        Photo Source: Reuters

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fascism in India Alive and Kicking

UP Chief minister, Yogi Adityanath said he respected the judiciary and understood the constitutional constraints. (Express photo)
Not ruling out the option of promulgating an ordinance to construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday said even if the issue could not be resolved by consensus, there were other options to explore.
Adityanath, however, maintained that he respected the judiciary and understood the constitutional constraints, a day after the Supreme Court ignored the UP government’s demand for early hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi title suit.

“The issue should be settled as soon as possible as the responsibility of maintaining law and order in the state is on us. Though consensus remains the best solution, there are many other ways to thrash it out,” the CM said.
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered listing of appeals before an “appropriate bench” in the first week of January 2019 to fix a date for hearing while observing that “we have our own priorities”.

Adityanath said the majority community expected an early verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi title suit while claiming that “justice delayed is justice denied”. “If justice is given in time, it is appreciated but when delayed it is equivalent to injustice,” Adityanath tweeted.
The demand by Hindutva outfits urging the Narendra Modi government to take the ordinance route to facilitate early construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has grown only louder after the SC order. While the RSS said the temple “should be built immediately” and the Centre “should bring legislation to remove the obstacles”, the VHP stated the “wait for the temple cannot be eternal”.

Urging the people not to lose patience and join hands in the positive efforts being made in the direction, the CM said, “We respect all the saints and seers and honour their concerns. In this interim transitionary phase, the holy men should boost positive efforts to strengthen peace and harmony in the country,” Adityanath said.

Brazil, Fascism and the Left Wing of Neoliberalism

With Jair Bolsonaro’s electoral victory in Sunday’s runoff election for president of Brazil, a global resurgence of the radical right is indisputable. Mr. Bolsonaro is a particularly ugly representative of this movement, both politically repressive and culturally intolerant. The question being asked in the bourgeois press is: what psychological malady is taking hold that could persuade voters to elect such a person?
The framing poses the resurgence as inexplicable, as the result of the fundamental flaw of democracy: the voters. A litany of failures is redistributed downward. Because Mr. Bolsonaro is politically repressive and culturally intolerant, the electorate must want political repression and cultural intolerance. Because Mr. Bolsonaro is a gender bully and homophobic, voters must be gender bullies and homophobic.
Missing from explanations of the rise of Mr. Bolsonaro is that for the last decade Brazil has experienced the worst economic recession in the country’s history (graph below). Fourteen million formerly employed, working age Brazilians are now unemployed. As was true in the U.S. and peripheral Europe from 2008 forward, the liberal response has been austerity as the Brazilian ruling class was made richer and more politically powerful.
Graph: Brazil entered recession in 2008 along with much of the rest of the world in the global financial crisis. It re-entered recession in 2012 in what turned into the worst economic downturn in the country’s history. The liberal response, sponsored by Wall Street and the IMF, was a decade of austerity. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve.
Since 2014, Brazil’s public debt/GDP ratio has climbed from 20% to 75% proclaims a worried IMF. That some fair portion of that climb came from falling GDP due to economic austerity mandated by the IMF and Wall Street is left unmentioned. A decade of austerity got liberal President Dilma Rousseff removed from office in 2016 in what can only be called a Wall Street putsch. Perhaps Bolsonaro will tell Wall Street where to stick its loans (not).
Back in the U.S., everyone knows that the liberalization of finance and trade in the 1990s was the result of political calculations. That this liberalization was/is bipartisan suggests that maybe the political calculations served certain economic interests. Never mind that these interests were given what they asked for and crashed the economy with it. If economic problems result from political calculations, the solution is political— elect better leaders. If they are driven by economic interests, the solution is to change the way that economic relationships are organized.
Between 1928 and 1932 German industrial production fell by 58%. By 1933, six million formerly employed German workers were begging in the streets and digging through garbage looking for items to sell. The liberal (Socialist Party) response was half-measures and austerity. Within the liberal frame, the Depression was a political problem to be addressed in the realm of the political. Centrist accommodation defined the existing realm. Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933, the pit of the Great Depression.
In Brazil in the early-mid 2000s, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula, implemented a Left program that pulled twenty million Brazilians out of poverty. The Brazilian economy briefly recovered after Wall Street crashed it in 2008 before Brazilian public debt was used to force the implementation of austerity. Dilma Rousseff capitulated and Brazil re-entered recession. Rousseff was removed from power in 2016. Hemmed in by Wall Street and IMF mandated austerity, any liberal government that might be elected would meet the same fate as Rousseff.
In Italy in the 1920s, repayment of war debts from WWI led to austerity and recession that preceded the rise of fascist leader Benito Mussolini. In Germany, payment of war reparations and repayment of industrial loans limited the ability of the Weimar government to respond to the Great Depression. Liberal governments that facilitated the financialization of industrial economies in the 1920s were left to serve as debt collectors in the capitalist crisis that followed.
Since 2008, the fiscal structure of the EU (European Union) combined with wildly unbalanced trade relationships led to a decade of austerity, recession and depression for the European periphery. In the U.S., by 2009 Wall Street was pushing austerity and cuts to Social Security and Medicare as necessary to fiscal stability. The consequences of four decades of financialized neoliberal trade policies were by no means equally shared. Internal and external class relations were made evident through narrowly distributed booms followed by widely distributed busts.
With the presumed shared goal of ending the threat of fascism:
The ideological premises behind the logic that claims fascists as the explanation of fascism emerge from liberalism. The term here is meant as description. Liberalism proceeds from specific ontological assumptions. Within this temporal frame, a bit of social logic: If fascists already existed, why didn’t fascism?  The question of whether to fight fascists or fascism depends on the answer. The essentialist view is that characteristics intrinsic to fascists make them fascists. This is the basis of scientific racism. And it underlies fascist race theory.
The theory of a strongman who exploits people who have a predisposition towards fascism is essentialist as well if receptivity is intrinsic, e.g. due to psychology, genetics, etc. Liberal-Left commentary in recent years has tended toward the essentialist view— that fascists are born or otherwise predisposed toward fascism. Unconsidered is that non-fascists are equally determined in this frame. If ‘deplorables’ were born that way, four decades of neoliberalism is absolved.
The problem of analogy, the question of what fascism is and how European fascism of the twentieth century bears relation to the present, can’t be answered in the liberal frame. The rise and fall of a global radical right have been episodic. It has tied in history to the development of global capitalism in a center-and-periphery model of asymmetrical economic power. Finance from the center facilitates economic expansion until financial crisis interrupts the process. Peripheral governments are left to manage debt repayment with collapsed economies.
Globally, debt has forced policy convergence between political parties of differing ideologies. European center-left parties have pushed austerity even when ideology would suggest the opposite. In 2015, self-identified Marxists in Greece’s SYRIZA party capitulated to the austerity and privatization demands from EU creditors led by Germany. Even Lenin negotiated with Wall Street creditors (on behalf of Russia) in the months after the October Revolution. In a political frame, the solution from below is to elect leaders and parties who will act on their rhetoric.
The practical problem with doing this is the power of creditors. Debtors that repudiate their debts are closed out of capital markets. The power to create money that is accepted in payment is a privilege of the center countries that also happen to be creditors. Capitalist expansion creates interdependencies that produce immediate, deep shortages if debts aren’t serviced. Debt is a weapon whose proceeds can be delivered to one group and the obligation to repay it to another. The U.S. position was expressed when the IMF knowingly made unpayable loans to Ukraine to support a U.S. sponsored coup there in 2015.
Fascist racialization has analog in existing capitalist class relations. Immigration status, race and gender define a social taxonomy of economic exploitation. Race was invented decades into the Anglo-American manifestation of slavery to naturalize exploitation of Blacks. Gender difference represents the evolution of unpaid to paid labor for women in the capitalist West. Claiming these as causing exploitation gets the temporal sequence wrong. These were / are exploitable classes before explanations of their special status were created.
This isn’t to suggest that capitalist class relations form a complete explanation of fascist racialization. But the ontological premise that ‘freezes,’ and thereby reifies racialization, is fundamental to capitalism. This relates to the point argued below that the educated German bourgeois, in the form of the Nazi scientists and engineers brought to the U.S. following WWII, found Nazi racialization plausible through what has long been put forward as an antithetical mode of understanding. Put differently, it wasn’t just the rabble that found grotesque racial caricatures plausible. The question is why?
Propaganda was developed and refined by Edward Bernays in the 1910s to help the Wilson administration sell WWI to a skeptical public. It has been used by the American government and in capitalist advertising since that time. The idea was to integrate psychology with words and images to get people to act according to the desires and wishes of those putting it forward.
The operational frame of propaganda is instrumental: to use people to achieve ends they had no part in conceiving. The political perspective is dictatorial, benevolent or otherwise. Propaganda has been used by the American government ever since. Similar methods were used by the Italian and German fascists in their to rise to power.
Since WWI, commercial propaganda has become ubiquitous in the U.S. Advertising firms hire psychologists to craft advertising campaigns with no regard for the concern that psychological coercion removes free choice from capitalism. The distinction between political and commercial propaganda is based on intent, not method. Its use by Woodrow Wilson (above) is instructive: a large and vocal anti-war movement had legitimate reasons for opposing the U.S. entry into WWI. The goal of Bernays and Wilson was to stifle political opposition.
Following WWII, the U.S. brought 1,600 Nazi scientists and engineers (and their families) to the U.S. to work for the Department of Defense and American industry through a program called Operation Paperclip. Many were dedicated and enthusiastic Nazis. Some were reported to have been bona fide war criminals. In contrast to liberal / neoliberal assertions that Nazism was irrational politics, the Nazi scientists fit seamlessly into American military production. There was no apparent contradiction between being a Nazi and being a scientist.
The problem isn’t just that many committed Nazis were scientists. Science and technology created the Nazi war machine. Science and technology were fully integrated into the creation and running of the Nazi concentration camps. American race ‘science,’ eugenics, formed the basis of Nazi race theory. Science and technology formed the functional core of Nazism. And the Nazi scientists and engineers of Operation Paperclip were major contributors to American post-war military dominance.
A dimensional tension of Nazism lay between romantic myths of an ancient and glorious past and the bourgeois task of moving industrialization and modernity forward. The focus of liberal and neoliberal analysis has been on this mythology as an irrational mode of reason. Missing is that Nazism wouldn’t have moved past the German borders if it hadn’t had bourgeois basis in the science and technology needed for industrial might. This keeps the broad project within the ontological and administrative premises of liberalism.
This is no doubt disconcerting to theorists of great difference. If Bolsonaro can impose austerity while maintaining an unjust peace, Wall Street and the IMF will smile and ask for more. American business interests are already circling Brazil, knowing that captive consumers combined with enforceable property rights and a pliable workforce means profits. Where were liberals when the Wall Street that Barack Obama saved was squeezing the people of Brazil, Spain, Greece and Portugal to repay debts incurred by the oligarchs? Liberalism is the link between capitalism and fascism, not its antithesis.
Having long ago abandoned Marx, the American Left is lost in the temporal logic of liberalism. The way to fight fascists is to end the threat of fascism. This means taking on Wall Street and the major institutions of Western capitalism.

Did the Saudis Bury Jamal Khashoggi’s Body Facing Mecca?

I knew just what Jamal Khashoggi’s murder really meant in the context of the Middle East last week when I realised just who I’d have to call to explain it to me. Whom would I telephone to learn what was going on? Why, of course, I’d call Jamal Khashoggi. And that’s why his murder is so important. Because he was, as he knew, a lone and important Arab journalist who did not listen – not any more — to His Master’s Voice. And that, of course, was his problem.
This disgusting, dangerous, frightening, dirty murder – and don’t tell me a man of 60 who dies in a “fistfight” with 15 men isn’t murder – shows not just the Saudi government up for what it is, but it shows us up for what we are, too. How come we keep falling in love with Arab states – Israel does this, too – and then cry out with shock when they turn out to be extremely unpleasant and very violent?
To answer this question, there are already several clues. Trump’s initial reaction that the Saudi story was “credible” – when it clearly was not – was a start. Then the murder became “the worst cover-up in history”. It was the quality of the murder that was troubling him, you see. These chaps didn’t know how to cover their tracks. He had already blurted out that he didn’t want to give up US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. We had our own beloved prime minister referring to Jamal’s gruesome murder as a “killing”, rather than a murder. Then – and this was indicative because it was not contradicted – we had Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, referring to the murder as a “huge and grave mistake”. “MISTAKE”. Let me repeat that. MISTAKE!
Al-Jubier, the former Saudi ambassador in Washington who was once reported to have himself been the intended victim of a would-be murderer in the US, was lecturing the press a year ago on how in its war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia “abides by international humanitarian law”. But not, it seems, by international diplomatic law. But hold on a minute. Al-Jubier – and I used to know him quite well many years ago – is a very eloquent and well-educated man. His English is flawless. When he used the word “mistake”, it was not a mistake. What he meant – what I think he meant – was that Jamal Khashoggi should not have been killed.
Jamal should not have become involved in that famous “fistfight”. Something went wrong. Perhaps the killers misunderstood their task. Rendition wasn’t supposed to end in murder. Perhaps a friendly chat got out of hand. They didn’t know their own strength. Before they knew it, Jamal, well, he walked into their fist. Or the fist of one of them. They made a “mistake”. And for that reason, we can forget about the 15 man hit team, not to mention Jamal’s lookalike who strides out the back of the consulate – apparently in Jamal’s own clothes, for heaven’s sakes – and then later apparently tosses the same shirt, trousers and jacket into the garbage. And forget about the forensic scientist and the mysterious black van. And the initial two-week denial – which was self-evidently a bald and total lie from the first day. And this is a MISTAKE?
We shouldn’t, of course, have been surprised. The “mistake” was this week downgraded to a regrettable “incident” by a Saudi minister at the international business conference in Riyadh where the large number of western companies have downgraded their representation from CEOs to smaller CEOs. Mohammed bin Salman – did you see him beaming at his guests and joshing with King Abdullah of Jordan? – is squeaky clean, we have to believe. Untouchable. Innocent. As pure as the driven snow etc. But after his vile war in Yemen, his arrest of the most important princes and lucrative nabobs in Riyadh, his kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister and his assault on Qatar – demanding the closure of Al-Jazeera (which, of course, is much enjoying the current farrago) – should we be surprised if Mohammed bin Salman has got himself mixed up in, well, something that got out of hand, even if we’re told he didn’t at the time know anything had got out of hand or that anything had happened? A mistake, for example. If the Yemen war can get out of hand – can even turn out to be a mistake – well, what can you expect will happen when a bunch of thugs are flown into Istanbul in Saudi jets? I did, by the way, love the touch that they flew in to separate Istanbul airports. That really put the Turks off the scent, didn’t it? Not perhaps the worst cover-up in history. Certainly a mistake.
And you’d have to note, wouldn’t you, the repulsive and hypocritical outpouring of anger by our brave and moral western leaders at Jamal’s murder. They’ve been tut-tutting for two years about the Yemen war, making excuses for it, selling arms for it and avoiding personal responsibility for it, and it’s quite obvious that they care far, far more about Jamal’s death than about the 5,000 civilians who have been killed in the Yemeni conflict. What is a child’s death worth or the killing of guests at a wedding party compared to Jamal’s murder? I guess that we can always find excuses for Yemeni casualties – “collateral damage”, “human shields”, “full investigation”, etc – but Jamal’s murder was just too obvious, too packed with lies, too thug-like. We – rather like the Crown Prince, May His Name Be Praised – ran out of excuses. Heavens above, what would we do if we discovered that the infamous knife – always supposing there was a knife and that Jamal was dismembered – was made in Sheffield?
Naturally, we all hope Jamal was not dismembered. If Adel al-Jubier doesn’t know and if the cupboard-opening Saudi consul doesn’t know – and since he’s safely back in Riyadh, we aren’t going to find out – and if Mohammed bin Salman doesn’t know – which he can’t know, can he, because he knows nothing about this atrocity – then we can all hope that Jamal was given a solemn and dignified Muslim burial with all the correct prayers said for his soul and his body buried – secretly, of course – shrouded and on its right side and in the direction of Mecca, the Holy city of which Mohammed bin Salman’s father, the King, is officially the Protector.
This will not have been easy to accomplish if Jamal was indeed chopped up by our favourite forensic scientist and taken to the consul’s home or a forest – the Turkish version – for a secret burial. But then again, maybe, on the way to the forest – if it was a forest – the burial party thought that, given the piety of their country, let alone their faith, he really should be given a Muslim funeral. By that stage, however, they would have realised that they might have committed a “grave and terrible mistake”. Under Islamic law, a mutilated body must be sewn up before being placed in a shroud. Did they sew Jamal up? And put him in a shroud?
Of course, it sticks in our craw that the man who has been leaking every detail of Jamal’s appalling death – the Sultan Erdogan himself has imprisoned up to 245 journalists and between 50,000 and 60,000 political prisoners – should be reaping the benefits of this ghoulish and terrible story. Well, at least he doesn’t chop them all up, claim they walked out of prison almost as soon as they were incarcerated and then admit that he doesn’t know where their bodies are.
And yes, this murder is going to affect Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Syria – and Israel, which was sighing with affection for Mohammed bin Salman – and, of course, Trump, but let’s go back to that first question. How come the “good guys” turn out to be bad guys? How come those nice, moderate leaders who guarantee the “stability” of the Middle East – and naturally I’m including the Saudis in this – turn out to be so horrible. Not the people. I’m talking about the autocrats and dictators and kings and princes and venal tyrants to whom we smile and grovel and fawn and kneel.
We now all love the “moderate” and “stabilising” regime of President/Field Marshal Sisi of Egypt. But who now remembers the young Italian Cambridge University student Giulio Regeni, tortured with knives for a week and murdered — only two years ago – and dumped on a Cairo roadside? The Italians suspected Sisi’s cops did the deed – there was even a case of a CCTV camera not working. How these things always seem to happen at the wrong (right) moment. Egyptians know the name of the chief suspect among the cops. Perish the thought, said the regime. So Rome and Cairo have made up and Italian tourists arriving in Egypt are not bothered about the 40,000 or 50,000 or 60,000 political prisoners rotting in Egypt’s jails. Regeni’s body had stab wounds. Funny how sharp-edged instruments seem to find favour with Arab regimes.
Who recalls how we first loved Muammar Al-Gaddafi when he deposed King Idris of Libya and then hated him when he helped the IRA and then loved him when he gave up the nuclear facilities he didn’t understand and was kissed by Tony Blair, after which we helped in the rendition of Gaddafi’s opponents so they could be tortured in the Libyan dictator’s death prisons. Let us not even mention Saddam Hussein, whom we supported in his war with Iran – even when he used chemical weapons – until he invaded Kuwait and then supposedly possessed weapons of mass destruction and was eventually overthrown by us and executed.
Then there’s Bashar al-Assad, feted in Paris on Bastille Day, the face of modern Syria whose father massacred up to 20,000 in the 1982 Hama uprising, and then accused of the death of more than half a million in a Syrian civil war in which countless thousands were killed by both the regime and by the Islamists armed and paid for by – yes – Saudi Arabia. If the Assad regime was synonymous with hanging, ISIS brought the crucifixion posts to Syria. And the beheading blocks. Sharp-edged instruments again. Of course, the Saudis deny all this. For it’s as unthinkable for Saudis to support a death cult as it is unthinkable for the same government to send a death squad to Istanbul.
They would never commit such a terrorist act – or mistake – any more than they would execute their enemies en masse in Saudi Arabia itself. After all, the chopping off of the head of the Saudi Shia religious leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (and 46 others) occurred before Mohammed Bin Salman was Crown Prince. So did the British Aerospace scandal of millions in backhanders over the al-Yamamah weapons deal – which the British police investigated until the cops’ questions were closed down when Tony Blair knelt to Saudi pressure and put an end to such an inconvenient enquiry.
Yup, it’s about money and wealth and power – and because all these folk were kept in power by the folly and lies and corruption and hypocrisy of our own political leaders. Let our satraps get away with Croesus-like corruption and mass murder, and what do you expect? We made them, sustained them, supported them, kissed them, loved them. What’s an invasion or two between friends? Isn’t Saudi Arabia vital to our UK security – that was supposedly one of the reasons why we dropped the al-Yamamah investigation – and we’ll hear it again from Saudi Arabia’s lackeys in Britain in the coming days and weeks. What would happen if we Brits didn’t get all this information about Islamist terror from the Saudis? Well, let’s hope they wouldn’t send 15 chaps to Heathrow, including a forensic scientist.
Jamal Khashoggi knew all about power and danger. Almost a quarter of a century ago, he turned up at my hotel in Khartoum and drove me into the Sudanese desert to meet Osama bin Laden – whom he met during the Afghan-Soviet war. “He has never met a western reporter before,” he said as we sped past ancient Sudanese pyramids. “This will be interesting.” Khashoggi was indulging in applied psychology. How would bin Laden respond to an infidel? Though woe betide anyone who thought that Khashoggi’s round spectacles and roguish sense of humour was a sign of spiritual laxity. He called bin Laden “Sheikh Osama”. I first met Khashoggi in 1990 and last spoke to him on the phone from Beirut to Washington a couple of months ago.
Even when he was an adviser to the Royal Family and an editor and journalist in Saudi Arabia, he spoke about the “facts of life” as he would call them. Talking privately, he would dismiss all rumours of a palace revolution in the Kingdom. But he always talked about the cynicism and venality of the western powers who propped up the Arab regimes and then destroyed them if they did not obey, of how Arabs in general were not a free people. Which is true. And maybe what he would have repeated to me if I could have talked to him before that “mistake” occurred in Istanbul. Dead men, however, don’t talk. And the Saudis must be mighty pleased about that.

Gaza's drinking water spurs blue baby syndrome

Gaza - The unshaven doctor with circles under his eyes enters the children's ward at Al Nassar hospital in Gaza City. It's a Thursday evening, almost the weekend. The ward is bleak and eerily quiet, but for the occasional wail of an infant.
At each cubicle, sectioned off by curtains, it's a similar image: A baby lies alone in a bed, hooked up to tubes, wires and a generator; a mother sits in silent witness at the bedside.
Dr Mohamad Abu Samia, the hospital's director of paediatric medicine, exchanges a few quiet words with one mother, then gently lifts the infant's gown, revealing a scar from heart surgery nearly half the length of her body.
At the next cubicle, he attends to a child suffering from severe malnutrition. She lies still, her tiny body connected to a respirator. Because electricity runs only four hours a day in Gaza, the baby must stay here, where generators keep her alive.
"We are very busy," the overwhelmed doctor says. "Babies suffering from dehydration, from vomiting, from diarrhoea, from fever." The skyrocketing rate of diarrhoea, the world's second largest killer of children under five, is reason enough for alarm.

In Pictures: Gaza water crisis worsens

But in recent months Dr Abu Samia has seen sharp rises in gastroenteritis, kidney disease, paediatric cancer, marasmus - a disease of severe malnutrition appearing in infants – and "blue baby syndrome", an ailment causing bluish lips, face, and skin, and blood the colour of chocolate.
Before, the doctor says, he saw "one or two cases" of blue baby syndrome in five years. Now it's the opposite - five cases in one year.
To read the full text of the news report, click here.

PLO Suspends Recognition of Israel

Jason Ditz       
The Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has moved to fully withdraw from the Oslo Accord on Monday, announcing that they are ending their commitment to the deal, and halting all security coordination with Israel.
Halting security cooperation with Israel is a huge move, and it also comes with an announcement that the PLO will withhold recognition of the State of Israel, until such time as Israel agrees to recognize the State of Palestine.
The 1993 Oslo Accord was intended to increase cooperation during a brief transition period leading to Palestinian statehood. With Israel’s far-right leadership having long insisted that the Palestinians will never have an independent state, many in the PLO have argued that security cooperation was just making the permanent Israeli occupation cheaper and giving them legal cover to do things in violation of international law in the occupied territories.
The collapse of the Oslo Accord could greatly increase the cost of the occupation for Israel, because under international law they are obliged to provide certain specific services to the Palestinians, and if the PLO is no longer voluntarily providing them with foreign donated funds, they’ll be on the hook to do it themselves.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A message from Dr. Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

Hate is killing us - not just people, but America itself. 
  • A white supremacist killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg last Saturday
  • Another white supremacist murdered two Black customers in a Jeffersontown, Kentucky grocery store after failing to attack a predominantly Black church minutes before the attack
  • These killings happened in the same week that 12 bombs were sent to CNN, and leading Democrats, including former United States Presidents Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

Thank God that all of the culprits were caught. Law and order is still intact.

But rising hate, fear, and anger must concern us all. 

And election time is the action time! Translate your anger into energy to restore check and balance to our government.

Action Items
  • Write a message of love and solidarity to “Tree of Life” Synagogue from you individually and from your organization: 5898 Wilkins Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15217
  • GOTV (Get Out The Vote)
    • Vote early. This is the best way to vote! Learn: Vote early. Vote by Mail.
    • Call 25 persons every day to vote
    • Use the next Juma Khutba in your community to mobilize the whole neighborhood to vote
  • Call your local candidates after checking their website to ask the following:
    • Have they condemned these attacks?
    • Are they calling it an act of terrorism?
    • Ask them to condemn racism in all forms including, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia
    • Ask them for their position on white supremacists
    Talking Points
    America is talking about these incidents. We must join the conversation and help connect the dots. 
    • We must all work to save our democracy. Trump supporters and opponents must both stick to civil discourse
    • Dehumanization of immigrants and minorities must stop. All three of the terrorists in the incidents this week were hateful of the “Other”
    • Demonization of political opponents is responsible for this violence
    • The late Senator John McCain was right in refusing to demonize former President Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential election campaign. That was civil
    • The synagogue attacker railed against a Jewish refugee advocacy group, saying it was bringing ‘evil Muslims’ into US
    • Rhetoric against refugees and immigrants has been rising since Trump’s Muslim Ban and “Build a Wall” campaigns
    • The suspect who sent 12 bombs to Democratic politicians was a Trump-supporting Republican who had demonized his political opponents, plastering pictures of his targets on his van

    Thinking Points
    • Political violence is connected with political rhetoric. It can be from all sides. Although the current attackers are pro-Trump, the first victims of political violence in the Trump era were Republicans. In June 2017, a Bernie Sanders supporter fired on them during a baseball game. In worse situations, when law and order is weak, it can lead to civil wars or genocides
    • President Trump did not start this hate, even if he has made it worse. And it will not go away with him
    • Scholars believe it will take a generation or two before America frees itself from rising fear, hate, and anger
    • We must, therefore, develop coalitions with organizations you can ally with to liberate America from fear, hate, and anger
    • The hate which started toward Muslims in the post-9/11 world is now finding new targets
    • Synagogues are not the only houses of worship targeted for attack. The Kentucky attacker first tried to kill people in a Black church, and white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine worshippers in a Black church in North Carolina in June 2015; in Texas alone, more than 15 mosques have been attacked in the last five years
    • Unlike Muslims who are under constant attack by Islamophobes, one does not often hear public criticism of Jews. So why were they attacked? Here is why:
      • Jews, by and large, support policies that favor immigrants and refugees
      • Anti-Semitism thrives among white supremacists. It is rooted in fascination with Nazi Adolf Hitler’s beliefs
      • Historically, Jews have been the classic target of hate in Christian societies because of the belief that that Jews killed Jesus. Muslims do not believe that
      • Although Christian theology has moved away from blaming Jews today, this belief remains in the white supremacist fringes of America
      • Go beyond interfaith dialog with liberal churches to include conversations with Conservatives and Christian Evangelicals. In the World Parliament of Religions, I intentionally invited conservatives on a common cause and it opened many other doors.
      • Liberals must humanize Conservatives and Evangelicals

    May God give comfort to the families of those who have been killed in these terrorist attacks this week. May He bless us with patience to see the humanity of those we disagree with or oppose. May God open our hearts toward neighbors. And may He open hearts of our neighbors towards us.
    Abdul Malik Mujahid
    P.S. Remember that Islamophobia is a term that was coined in America. It has put a name to the kind of hate and rhetoric which wiped out all Muslims from the Central African Republic, resulted in the genocide of Rohingyas in Burma, sent three million Uyghurs to Chinese concentration camps, and led the Indian government to strip four million Indian Muslims of citizenship. They were all authorized and demonized, called foreigners, terrorists, and accused of trying to impose Sharia. We must understand that it is our responsibility to fight hate in America, as minorities in other parts of the world suffer when hate is normalized here.  
    P.P.S. And please remember to speak out against war. The cycle of war-terror-hate teaches us to hate and dehumanize each other.