Monday, January 28, 2019

UNICEF Boss to Myanmar: Enact Kofi Annan's Recommendations on Rohingya Crisis

The head of the U.N. children's fund urged Myanmar on Monday to implement the recommendations of a panel on the Rohingya crisis led by former U.N. head Kofi Annan, saying it had yet to create conditions right for the return of refugees from Bangladesh.
Speaking at a forum in the capital, Naypyitaw, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said children from the Rohingya Muslim minority, a persecuted and mostly stateless community from Buddhist-majority Myanmar, were living "a precarious and an almost hopeless existence" in camps in neighboring Bangladesh.
About 730,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state, in western Myanmar, since a military crackdown in 2017 after Rohingya insurgents attacked security posts, U.N. agencies estimate. Tens of thousands remain behind in Rakhine, where they are subjected to restrictions on movement and have limited access to health care and education.
Fore said Myanmar's "commitment" to enacting the recommendations of Annan's committee — which include ensuring freedom of movement and access to education — would help mend the lives of suffering children.
"We urge the government to seize this moment and translate this potential into reality for all children," she said on the first visit by a UNICEF head in decades. "Taking these steps will also go a long way towards creating the right conditions for the return of refugees from Bangladesh."
The Annan commission was created by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2016 to find long-term solutions to deep-seated ethnic and religious divisions in Rakhine.
But implementation of its recommendations has been beset by crises and setbacks.
A day after the panel issued its report in August 2017, Rohingya insurgents launched attacks on security forces, provoking a military crackdown the U.N. investigators described as "ethnic cleansing" with "genocidal intent." Myanmar denies the charge.
In mid-2018, a Myanmar minister told Western diplomats that eight of Annan's recommendations — including one that asks authorities to take steps to amend the 1982 citizenship law that had rendered the Rohingya stateless — were problematic and could not be immediately fulfilled.
The commission's recommendations included points urging the government to "immediately expand primary education to the communities in northern Rakhine state, and intensify efforts to ensure that teachers assigned to Muslim villages resume their work, including by providing adequate security when necessary."
It also called on authorities to "ensure that all children in the state have access to education in Myanmar language" and that the tertiary education access is expanded.
In August, UNICEF warned of what it described as a "lost generation" of Rohingya children, with half a million in refugee camps in Bangladesh facing dangers including disease and floods and those still in Myanmar lacking access to proper education.
"We urge that the necessary steps are taken to enable their safe, voluntary and dignified return back to their homes where their rights are respected and they can once again live peaceably with their neighbors," said Fore.

Myanmar Army Returns to Loot Homes  
After Exchange of Gunfire in Northern Rakhine Village, Myanmar Army Returns to Loot Homes
image.pngA Myanmar family displaced by fighting between government troops and the Arakan Army take shelter at a displacement camp in Kyauktaw township, western Myanmar's Rakhine state, Dec 23, 2018.
Myanmar soldiers and rebel Arakan Army troops exchanged fire for four hours Monday morning near Ohn Chaung village in restive Rakhine state’s Rathedaung township, with soldiers returning with border guards later in the day to search and loot homes, residents said.

Fighting between the two forces intensified in northern Rakhine following deadly coordinated attacks by Arakan fighters on police outposts in neighboring Buthidaung township on Jan. 4, though it remains unclear what prompted the skirmish in Ohn Chaung village, they said.
“We didn’t even have our breakfast when the fighting started,” said a resident who declined to be named out of fear for his safety, adding that government troops began shooting into the village at 8 a.m. with small and heavy weapons.
“We are in big trouble,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “We don’t know why they were shooting like that. Some villagers have fled. Those who live near the creek fled by boats to the other side, but we were not able to flee.”
In the evening, military and Border Guard Police (BGP) officers searched houses in the village and took residents’ jewelry, money, and mobile phones, the villager said.
Those who sought safety in nearby villages are afraid of returning home because the military and BGP are still conducting searches of the roughly 80 houses in the community, he said.
“Locals said the military unit stationed near Thamee Hla village went to the conflict area to help their comrades,” said Tin Maung Win, a lawmaker who represents the Ratheduang constituency in the regional parliament and is currently visiting the township.
“People are frightened,” he said. “They are worried with thoughts of what could happen to them when the government army comes to their village again.”
Thamee Hla village raid
Myanmar soldiers raided Thamee Hla village on Saturday, looting gold, jewelry, cash, and mobile phones from villagers, ethnic Rakhine lawmakers told the online journal The Irrawaddy.
Regional lawmaker Than Naing, who visited the village to talk to residents, said on social media that only 10 of the community’s 84 homes had not been hit by artillery fire, The Irrawaddy said.
Two women from Thamee Hla were also wounded by artillery shells, and a seven-year old child was injured by artillery explosion near his home.
The boy was sent to Sittwe General Hospital, but had to be transferred to the medical facility in the commercial city Yangon because his condition had not improved, locals told RFA.
It was later reported on social media that the boy had succumbed to his injuries, though RFA could not confirm this.
Thamee Hla villager Aung Win told Than Naing that army soldiers took about a quarter pound of jewelry while holding all residents inside a school building without food or water from Saturday morning until Monday evening, The Irrawaddy said.
Than Naing and another lawmaker said they would file complaints with evidence with relevant authorities, including the office of Myanmar military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun denied that the raid took place, it said
Residents injured
After a mine exploded and hit a military column near Thamee Hla in north Rathedaung on Jan. 26, the government army began clearance operations in the village, injuring villagers in the process, residents said.
Three men were treated at Rathedaung Hospital on Sunday because of the injuries caused by government soldiers, they said.
“Government troops came into the village shooting at random,” said Maung Win Hlaing, who sustained a head injuring from beatings by soldiers. “They called us to come out of our houses, and then beat us. They kicked our heads and foreheads, and we got injuries from the kickings.”
“They later untied us around 4 p.m. and brought us to where other villagers were gathered,” he said. “We could go back home around 7 p.m.”
The Arakan Army (AA) confirmed the clash near Thamee Hla village on its website and accused government troops of committing rights violations against civilians, including detaining villagers at the school, beating up some of the men, and arresting but later freeing two residents, according to the The Irrawaddy report.
The AA also said it has documented other rights abuses committed by military troops in northern Rakhine and will officially lodge complaints with the International Criminal Court in April, it report said.
When RFA contacted Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun from the Myanmar military’s information team to ask him about hostilities in the two locales, he said he could not confirm Monday’s clash, adding that if government soldiers had committed any human rights violations on Jan. 26, action would be taken against those responsible if there was concrete evidence against them.
“We have our procedures to investigate step by step if we receive a complaint,” he said. “We have to investigate according to military discipline and the administrative system.”
“We will do what we have to do if we receive a report,” he said. “We don’t ignore any complaints from people. We investigate cases whether they are true or not and take action as needed.”
About 13 civilians have been injured in hostilities between government forces and the AA since early January, locals said. The total number of casualties from both sides could not be confirmed.
The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a statement Monday putting the number of displaced civilians from fighting in Rathedaung, Buthidaung, and Ponnagyun townships at 5,200 as of Jan. 25.
Authorities have blocked travel to some of the conflict areas, preventing humanitarian and development work in the region, the statement said.
The government military in December declared a four-month cease-fire in five of its command zones, except for Rakhine state, in an effort to get armed rebel groups to come to the negotiating table and try to end ongoing hostilities.
The AA is fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine state.

Davos: end of a political love affair?

Analysis: The theme of this year’s forum was ‘Globalisation 4.0’, a reference to the social disruption of automation. But as Ben Chu explains, ordinary people around the world are still grappling with globalisation’s earlier versions.

No Theresa May. No Donald Trump. No Emmanuel Macron. No Xi Jinping. No Narendra Modi. No Justin Trudeau.

Davos 2019 was notably light on the political leader front.

Together these no-show leaders represent countries that account for around half of the global economy and 40 per cent of the planet’s population.

True, there were specific reasons for most of the major non-appearances at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps.

Theresa May has the parliamentary Brexit stand-off to contend with. Donald Trump is mired in government shutdown politics. Macron has the Gilets Jaunes protests and terrible poll ratings to grapple with. Xi is dealing with a rather alarming growth slowdown in China.
Yet there’s always a domestic crisis somewhere in the world, always a reason for some leader or other to pull out. But to lose such an array of political heavyweights will have been a blow to the forum’s founder, Klaus Schwab, who introduces the top politicians personally in the main hall in a style that even a medieval courtier might have considered over the top. Yes, the new far-right Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, came to Switzerland. But that will have been scant consolation.

Political leaders have generally turned up in Davos to make the case for inward investment. And that’s what Bolsonaro did, albeit rather unconvincingly.

They have generally seen the potential benefits of foreign investment as outweighing the potential political cost of appearing at such a conspicuous festival of wealth and elitism.

Yet we live in an age of populist anger. Has the cost-benefit analysis now changed? Is staying away now safer than going?

George Osborne was a Davos devotee in his time as chancellor, never passing up a chance to get snow on his shoes. And he returned again this year in his new capacity as a newspaper editor, giving a television interview, framed by those white peaks, in which he described MPs flirting with no-deal Brexit as like players of Russian roulette.

Never mind the argument, the reaction to Osborne’s comments focused on where he was saying it from. This was widely seen as an own goal for the soft Brexit cause. Didn’t we have here an out-of-touch “globalist”, a “citizen of nowhere”, trying to thwart Brexit on behalf of his rich friends?

A Davos radio interview with Roland Rudd, the wealthy business PR man and chair of the People’s Vote campaign (not to mention brother of Amber), was similarly received. So was Tony Blair’s sermon from the Alps on the need for a new referendum. “Are Blair, Osborne and Rudd secret agents of the Leave campaign?” goaded the Guido Fawkes website.

The toxic Davos meme wasn’t just a British phenomenon. Canada’s Trudeau stayed away this year after getting criticised at home for the £400,000 cost of his appearance last year.

Of course, Davos has always been more about business than politics. And Professor Schwab and his team can take some comfort from a typically strong representation from the worlds of commerce and finance. Tim Cook of Apple went for the first time, with the gay CEO even lunching with the homophobic Bolsonaro. Perhaps a Davos unification to stand alongside Mandela and De Klerk and Arafat and Peres.

The theme of this year was something called “Globalisation 4.0”, a reference to the social disruption of automation and artificial intelligence. But it’s globalisation 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 that’s causing dissatisfaction: low taxes on the wealthy, de-industrialisation, the erosion of social safety nets, weak wage growth, high inequality. These are not new challenges.

In this sense, perhaps the most telling moment of the conference came when the multi-billionaire Dell founder Michael Dell was asked on a panel about the recent suggestion from the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that top US marginal tax rates should be raised to 70 per cent.

“Name a country where that’s worked, ever,” shot back Dell.

The answer, calmly supplied by an economist sitting next to Dell, was: “The United States.” The top US rate was well over 70 per cent in the 30 years after the Second World War and these were also decades of strong and socially inclusive growth. That history is apparently news to the billionaires of Davos.

Davos attendees tend to be comfortable focusing on new problems; problems that seem to require technical, rather than political or redistributive, solutions. But millions of people around the world are more interested in older problems. While the Davos blind spot remains, one senses that the World Economic Forum’s political toxicity levels will not soon drop.

Pompeo, Hypocrisy and War


On January 2 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Brazil,  and his Department noted that in discussions with Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo they “highlighted the importance of working together to address regional and global challenges, including supporting the people of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua in restoring their democratic governance and their human rights.” Pompeo declared that the US and Brazil “have an opportunity to work alongside each other against authoritarian regimes.”
From this we gather that Pompeo is a strong advocate of democratic governance and will always make it clear that the United States supports unfortunate people living in countries having “authoritarian regimes.”  It is apparent he must believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
Unfortunately it transpired that Pompeo is a selective supporter of democracy and freedom of religion, because after he left Brazil and went to the Middle East he voiced vigorous support for despots who rule countries in a manner that is undeniably authoritarian.
In a speech in Cairo on January 10 Pompeo threatened Iran and declared that “Nations are rallying to our side to confront the regime like never before. Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, and Jordan have all been instrumental in thwarting Iran’s efforts to evade sanctions.”  It must be gratifying for him that these nations have joined the US in its crusade against Iran, three of them being hereditary monarchies and one run by a non-regal martinet.
Oman, for example, is “an absolute monarchy by male primogeniture. The Sultan, Qaboos bin Said al Said, has been the hereditary leader of the country since 1970.” Freedom House notes that “The regime restricts virtually all political rights and civil liberties, and imposes criminal penalties for criticism and dissent . . . Political parties are not permitted, and the authorities do not tolerate other forms of organized political opposition.”
In Jordan “the monarch holds wide executive and legislative powers, including the appointment of the prime minister and all seats of the senate. The monarch approves and dismisses judges; signs, executes or vetoes all laws; and can suspend or dissolve parliament.”
The leader of Kuwait, the Amir, according to the CIA Factbook, is “chosen from within the ruling family, confirmed by the National Assembly;  the prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the Amir.”  In this autocracy, according to Human Rights Watch, there are “no laws prohibiting domestic violence or marital rape . . . a man who finds his mother, wife, sister or daughter in the act of adultery and kills them is punished by either a small fine or no more than three years in prison.”
Pompeo wants “democratic governance and human rights” in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.  Why not in Oman, Jordan and Kuwait?
The only one of Pompeo’s countries not ruled by a supreme monarch is Egypt, whose president is Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who “was elected in May 2014, almost a year after he removed his elected predecessor, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, from office in a coup.” Sisi “won a second four-year-term in March 2018 against a sole minor opposition candidate. Human rights lawyer Khalid Ali and former prime minister Ahmad Shafiq withdrew from the race, and the former armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan was arrested.”
In his warmongering anti-Iran, anti-Syria speech Pompeo announced that his visit to Egypt was “especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian, coming so soon after the Coptic Church’s Christmas celebrations” and visited the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ and the Al-Fattah Al-Alim mosque where he praised Egypt’s “freedoms here in this houses [sic] of worship, these big, beautiful, gorgeous buildings where the Lord is clearly at work.”
He ignored Amnesty International’s statement that in Egypt “the authorities continued to violate the right to freedom of religion by discriminating against Christians.”  His own Department recorded that last year “Irrespective of religion, authorities also did not apply equal protection to all citizens and sometimes closed churches, in violation of the law, according to multiple sources.”
The bigotry of the Egyptian regime and its clerics was epitomised on January 13 when Al Azhar University which is responsible for “a national network of schools with approximately two million students” expelled a female student for being hugged by a male friend. The scandal was revealed in a video clip which “showed a young man carrying a bouquet of flowers kneeling before a young woman and then hugging her in what appeared to be a marriage proposal.” According to a University spokesman this violates “the values and principles of society”.  There was not a word from Pompeo, that self-declared admirer of Egyptian places of worship where “the Lord is clearly at work.”
Pompeo continued his tour of the region, and next day, as he landed in Saudi Arabia,  the Egyptian regime announced that for the seventh time it had extended its state of emergency which “allows authorities to take exceptional security measures, including the referral of terrorism suspects to state security courts, the imposition of curfews and the confiscation of newspapers.”  This would be supported in Saudi Arabia where, as chronicled by Freedom House, the “absolute monarchy restricts almost all political rights and civil liberties. No officials at the national level are elected. The regime relies on extensive surveillance, the criminalization of dissent, appeals to sectarianism, and public spending supported by oil revenues to maintain power. Women and religious minorities face extensive discrimination in law and in practice.”
This discrimination was highlighted by the New York Times on January 13 when it published an Op-Ed by Alia al-Houthlal that implored Pompeo to ask Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman to release her sister, the women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Houthlal, who is imprisoned in Riyadh.  Ms Alia al-Houthlal wrote that her sister had been tortured in prison, and that a close associate of bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani, who has been named in connection with the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi [brutally killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year], was present at several torture sessions.
The Times reported that Pompeo began his conversation with bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, by saying “I want to talk to you about a couple of places we’ve been. We think we learned a lot along the way that will be important going forward.” There was no mention of the torture of Loujain al-Houthlal or any other gross violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia where the regime continues to “repress peaceful activists and dissidents, harassing writers, online commentators and others who exercised their right to freedom of expression by expressing views against government policies.”
There was none of that embarrassing stuff. It was all skated over, with Pompeo saying only that “we spoke about human rights issues here in Saudi Arabia – women activists. We spoke about the accountability that – and the expectations that we have. The Saudis are friends, and when friends have conversations, you tell them what your expectations are.”
Pompeo’s expectations include joint action with the Saudi regime and other Middle East autocracies to “counter Iranian malign influence,” which he regards as an even higher priority than “working against authoritarian regimes” in Latin America, which Washington is determined to dominate. Pompeo’s objections to authoritarianism are highly selective, for in his Cairo speechhe confined himself to describing Iran “malevolent,” and “oppressive” while denouncing “Iranian expansion” and “regional destruction,”  which is a trifle ironic, coming from a Secretary of State whose military devastated Iran’s neighbours, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pompeo’s ethical approach is decidedly ambiguous and his moral flexibility would attract the admiration of a trampoline gymnast. His Cairo speech was titled “A Force for Good: America’s Reinvigorated Role in the Middle East,” but it is apparent that reinvigoration is confined to plans for destruction of Iraq, in which Washington will be assisted by Pompeo’s allies — the Middle East’s authoritarian regimes and the psychotic John Bolton.

Silence of the Lambs: The Case of Marzieh Hashemi

In the wake of the outcry after the abduction and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi—in a foreign country and under the directive of a rogue Crown Prince—one would think the threshold to condemn the detention of an American journalist in the United States without charge or trial would be quite low. Unfortunately, it has proven to be nearly insurmountable.
Marzieh Hashemi, a US citizen and anchorwoman of Iran’s English-language news station, PressTV, had been held under these circumstances for 10 days beginning shortly after her arrival to St. Louis Lambert International AirportJan. 12 to work on a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement. She was finally released, again without charge, on Wed Jan. 23.
Hashemi was purportedly an alleged material witness in an as-yet unspecified investigation. She was forced to remove her headscarf and offered pork to eat, both against the tenets of her religion, before being transferred to Washington, D.C. to an unknown location.
As such, the muted response of those organizations whose primary purpose is to stand for press freedoms and human rights and against religious intolerance was rather remarkable.
The Committee to Protect Journalists “expressed concern” in their statementon the situation but simultaneously found it necessary to add that, “Iran routinely jails journalists” as if to provide pretext for the US to do likewise.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the self-proclaimed largest US Muslim civil rights advocacy organization, called onthe Department of Justice to merely “explain” why an American citizen living in Iran was deprived of her religious and due process rights. Indeed, CAIR’s national executive director politely asked law enforcement officials to just “clarify” the matter.
The incarceration of Hashemi was nowhere to be found on the Reporters Without Borders action page. Even the American Civil Liberties Union was seemingly mum on the case despite its salient “No Charges? No Trials? No Justice” articleon Indefinite Detention.
The FBI and federal officials confirmed Hasehemi was not accused of or charged with any crime although little else is being said. The allowance that a witness may be so held if they are considered a flight risk, unwilling to respond to a subpoena or testify in a criminal proceeding of vital importance is more properly debated in legal circles (never mind that the myriad of legal experts routinely appearing on the various US cable news channels have not said anything on Hashemi but had the time to speak at length about CNN’s Jim Acosta’s ban from White House press briefings). However, the circumstances of Hashemi’s detention, that she is employed by an Iranian television station and in the context of the bellicose rhetoric adopted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisory John Bolton against Iran, made her confinement more than suspect.
Regardless of the legal ramifications and precedent set, the silence of groups and organizations regarding her ill-treatment and custody set an equally dangerous one. It highlights what little courage it takes to condemn atrocities committed abroad by foreign governments yet the mistreatment of an American journalist on domestic soil by US authorities will go unchecked.
It is this duplicitous, timid, half-hearted-to-absent response which requires “explanation” and “clarification” for us all.

Why More Americans Are Breaking Their Silence on Israel

Most folk outside the United States – and until this month, most Americans – won’t have heard of Michelle Alexander. She’s a civil rights lawyer and academic and has written a book called The New Jim Crow, and a few months ago The New York Times took her on as a regular columnist. Like millions of black – and white – Americans, she’s a devotee of Martin Luther King Jr.
And last week, she began her op-ed in the Old Gray Lady of record and one-time conservatism with a long and admiring tribute to the black, Christian, nonviolent civil rights campaigner who, just a year before his 1968 assassination, decided he must speak out about the disaster of the Vietnam war.
He had been told to soft-pedal the conflict which had by then cost the lives of 10,000 Americans, but which was still supported by the political establishment. So even though he would be falsely accused of being a communist, he chose to break his silence.
So far, so good. But last week, Alexander chose to “break” her own silence. Not about racism in the US or about second-class citizenship or Trump, but about the Palestinians.
For not only did she reiterate King’s belief that Israel must return parts of its then newly conquered territories – East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Golan – but she launched into a long, eloquent, rather patronising, self-indulgent but courageous condemnation of Israel’s outrageous treatment of the Palestinians.
Like King, she had been silent on “one of the great moral challenges of our time” – along with the US congress, civil rights activists and students – but further silence on Israel and the Palestinians, she decided, would be “betrayal”.
If they had been wise, Israel’s friends, supporters and lobbyists in America might have held their peace. After the election of Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to congress – both supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel – the state’s comrades-in-arms might have dismissed Alexander as a parvenu, a hitherto respected scholar who had tried to advance her social status by adopting the Palestinian cause in King’s shadow with neither the knowledge nor political support to sustain her. But no.
The sky fell. She was “vicious” in her views, wrong on facts, potentially antisemitic, a “strategic threat” to Israel itself. Her article was “dangerously flawed”, an “error-ridden rant” that ignored Palestinian violence and terrorism. It was a sign of just how shaken Israel’s friends have become in an America that is breaking the old taboo on US-Israeli relations and Washington’s permanent acquiescence in Israel’s illegal colonisation of Arab land that even that old artillery-piece Alan Dershowitz was trundled out onto his Harvard battlements to take aim at “one of the most biased, poorly informed and historically inaccurate columns about the conflict between Israel and Palestine ever published by a mainstream newspaper”.
Like one of those magnificent iron cannons which tourists are expected to admire on ancient fortress walls, Dershowitz hurled forth barrage after barrage at Alexander. She condemned the bulldozing of Palestinian homes “without mentioning that these are the homes of terrorists who murder Jewish children, women, and men”. She bemoaned casualties in Gaza “without mentioning that many of these casualties were human shields from behind whom Hamas terrorists fire rockets at Israeli civilians”.
But this sort of gunfire is now regarded as so inaccurate that Americans – especially in the Democratic Party – are beginning to ask themselves just what is really going on in Israel and the occupied Palestinians lands.
Not once in his own rant did Dershowitz mention the massive Israeli Jewish colonisation project which is stealing land from Arab Palestinians for Jews and Jews only on the West Bank.
Is the boycott and divestment campaign against Israel which Alexander supports – along with congresswomen Tlaib and Omar – really “delegitimising” Israel, as her critics claim? Or is Israel delegitimising itself by confiscating land which does not belong to it?
The real reason for all the battlefield smoke, of course, has less to do with Alexander’s robust if occasionally cringe-making assault on Israeli injustice towards Palestinians as it does her scholarly background as a black civil rights worker who might understand what injustice really means, and the dangerous fissures appearing within the Democratic Party over America’s automatic, uncritical, all-appeasing and fearful support for Israel.
It’s easy to accuse a white American of being an antisemite for “breaking the silence” over US-Israeli shenanigans; quite another to condemn a black American without giving the impression that such condemnation is not itself racist.
And just read what Alexander actually wrote. If the US is to honour King’s message and not merely the man, she insisted, “we must condemn Israel’s actions: unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations. We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements.”
Americans should question “the US government funds that have supported multiple hostilities [sic] and thousands of civilian casualties in Gaza, as well as the $38bn the US government has pledged in military support to Israel”.
There are the usual mistakes, of course. Gaza is – technically – no longer “occupied” since Israel closed its settlements there in 2005.
But since the Gaza Strip is under economic and military siege, its land and sea borders sealed, its territory at the mercy of Israeli bombs and shells each time Hamas fires its real but inaccurate rockets into Israel – often in retaliation for Israeli raids into Gaza itself – it’s nitpicking to claim that this does not constitute a form of occupation.
As Alexander added, “we must not tolerate Israel’s refusal even to discuss the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as prescribed by United Nations resolutions” without mentioning that these were unbinding UN General Assembly resolutions and that few Palestinians inside the West Bank and Gaza – let alone in the vast Palestinian diaspora – really believe that the 1948 refugees and their descendants will “return” to property inside what is now Israel.
The host of critics, in Israel as well as the US, who now assault the latest taboo-breaking liberal American academic probably do realise just how serious Alexander’s op-ed could turn out to be.
They complain that infinitely worse assaults on human rights have occurred in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, Kurdistan. True. But Israel’s role as an American ally changes such equations. The Syrians, the Iraqis, the ocean of Arab dictators and their torturers, the Russians in Ukraine and the Turks in Kurdistan do not claim to represent us, except insofar as they all now trumpet their apocalyptic battle against “world terror”.
But the Israelis say they are just like us, that they represent our values of democracy and freedom, that they are upholding our freedoms, that Israel and America must be inseparable. And then they treat the Palestinians with brutality, deny their nationhood, steal and colonise their lands – and expect us to shut up.
The very blackmail which has been historically used against US politicians, diplomats, journalists and academics – that they are “antisemitic” if they dare to express their outrage at Israel’s actions – is one of Alexander’s targets. The fear engendered by the Canary Mission website, which lists pro-Palestinian students and professors, and local US legislation that can deprive American citizens of their livelihood if they choose to boycott products from a foreign country called Israel, is causing real anger.
That’s why attempts to ram through new legislation against boycott movements is being opposed by Bernie Sanders and his colleagues. The “silence” which Alexander is breaking on the Middle East represents the very threat to American free speech which Sanders – whether or not he’s a presidential candidate in 2020 – has identified.
Yet now we’ve reached another weird precedent in the efforts of Israel’s supposed friends to silence Alexander. For many of them are now telling her what Martin Luther King would have said if he were alive today. He was a Zionist, they tell her. He would repudiate her views. So a black woman academic must now be told how she should interpret the thoughts and example of her own iconic and inspirational black leader.
And if the brave and liberal members of America’s Jewish community who condemn Israel are regularly smeared as “self-hating Jews”, what does that make Alexander?

South Sudanese fear leaving UN protected camps despite peace

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Tracing his fingers over the metal fencing at a United Nations protected site in South Sudan’s capital, Nhial Nyuot Nhial hung his head as he contemplated going home after years of civil war. “At the moment it’s impossible for someone to leave,” he said.
The 33-year-old is among tens of thousands of people who are still sheltering in such camps across the country, the legacy of an unprecedented decision by a U.N. peacekeeping mission to throw open its doors to people fleeing war.
Nhial has been in the Juba camp since 2014, shortly after the country erupted in fighting. A fragile peace deal signed between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar in September has brought little comfort. Like many in the camps, Nhial still fears for his life and refuses to leave.
What began as a temporary experiment is looking more like a permanent refuge for more than 190,000 people living in squalor in the six U.N. protected sites. Now the U.N. has pushed for the camps to close, amid warnings by the international community that rushing the process could re-ignite violence among ethnic groups.

To read more, click here.

India tests ship-borne air defense system

India successfully tests ship-borne air defense system created with Israel

In latest trial of the jointly produced Barak 8 maritime interceptor, Indian Navy fires surface-to-air missile at low altitude target The Indian Navy conducted a successful trial of the maritime Barak-8 interceptor on Thursday, in the latest test of the joint Indian-Israeli missile defense system, the Indian Defense Ministry said. The Barak-8, also known as the Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM), was fired from the INS Chennai at an incoming target flying at a low altitude, India said.
“The missile destroyed the target with a direct hit. All the mission objectives have been met,” the country’s defense ministry said in a statement. The Barak-8 was developed by IAI in collaboration with Israel’s Defense Ministry, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization, the navies of both countries, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, IAI’s Elta Group, and local industries in India.
India, which has longstanding territorial disputes with neighbors China and Pakistan, has signed several big-ticket defense deals since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.
It has been moving away from relying on traditional ally Russia for military hardware and in recent years, India has deepened its ties to Israel, diplomatically and militarily.
Last year, IAI won a $777 million contract with India to supply a maritime version of the Barak-8 missile defense system.
The deal was signed with Indian state-owned company Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), which serves as the main contractor in the project.
Israel is a major defense supplier to India, selling an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year.
Last year, the two countries signed a military deal worth nearly $2 billion, which includes the supply over several years of medium-range surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology.

China wants to eradicate Islam inside its borders

Xi's China is proving to be a state where bigotry is becoming a signature policy. View the links below to see some examples of its bigotry against Islam:

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Malaysia Scraps $20 Billion China-Backed Train Project

Malaysia has cancelled a $20 billion rail project financed by China, a minister said Saturday, citing high interest costs for the government’s decision as he offered the clearest statement that one of Beijing’s largest One Belt, One Road infrastructure initiatives would be scrapped.

Kuala Lumpur, China’s biggest trading partner in Southeast Asia after Vietnam, has pushed back against Chinese dominance in its economy since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad returned to power after a stunning electoral triumph in May last year, stalling billions of dollars of contracts.

To read the full article by By Ali Nufael  click here:

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The fake icon - Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi was once a global icon who was admired by many, including me. We all hoped that once elected she would make a difference for good for all the people of Burma. Instead, she proved to be a sub-human, monster or a she-devil. She was a fake, a DOB.
Here is the link to an article by Reuters reporters:

The Uyghurs – Detained in their own land

By Habib Siddiqui

Imagine that you are living in a country where most of your family members are now detained in mass detention camps where they face inhuman torture including waterboarding! You ask – why? Well, according to the government, as an ethnic and religious minority your family members are perceived as potential threats to the law and order of the country. You ask – isn’t such a racist discriminatory practice against someone born into a family that is not part of the majority ethnic group? What happened to all those rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What about the international laws prohibiting such crimes against a people? Isn’t our state a member of the United Nations? Did not our government ratify such laws and are expected to live by such binding articles?

No, you won’t get any satisfactory answer from the Chinese (PRC or the People’s Republic of China) government on a plethora of such vital questions, if you are a Turkic-speaking Uyghur (also spelled Uighur). Uyghurs of today’s Xinjiang province (formerly East Turkestan) in far northwestern part of China are victims of a brutal government policy of forced subjugation or elimination. They are targeted for mass detention simply because of their ethnicity and religion that is different from those of the majority Han Chinese. Nearly a million of them are now caged in mass detention camps in their native land, which came under full control of the Chinese only in 1949 when Mao Zedong came to power. [Before the annexation of their native land the Uyghurs had a distinct and rich history of their own. Their major cities Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and Kashgar (Kashi), an ancient center of trade on the historic Silk Road near the border between Russia and China, were famous trading cities in the medieval times.]

While, we may hesitate to use the term ‘genocide’ yet for what the Uyghurs are facing these days inside China, but the signs are all too evident to recognize early signs of an ethnic cleansing. It’s ugly and nothing to feel good about Xi Jinping’s China. The testimonies of detainees who have passed through these centers, that Amnesty International claims are being run like wartime concentration camps, are replete with reports of torture including waterboarding, electrocution and force-feeding. According to eyewitnesses, the situation is so horrific that some of the detainees have even committed suicide, which is forbidden in Islam. The Chinese government has incarcerated everyone from professors, journalists, comedians, editors and poets to nursing mothers, children, the elderly and even the terminally ill inside these detention centers.

Lately, the Xi’s government has announced a five-year plan aimed at "Sinicizing" Islam to make it "compatible with socialism". Activists, however, warned that this campaign would gradually lead to a total eradication of Islam - with which some 23 million Chinese still identify in the country.

Thanks to the Chinese government propaganda, the Uyghurs are perceived as trouble makers by most Han Chinese and as such, are told that these ‘terrorists’ must be restrained and ‘reeducated’ or ‘reprogramed’ to accept the new reality in China that has no room for dissension, dialogue and debate. Not surprisingly, the frustrated Uyghurs who increasingly find themselves cornered against the wall and are denied the rights to their culture, plus the political and economic windfalls that have hitherto benefitted the Han settlers to their mineral-rich region have sometimes reacted violently by attacking Han settlers and the trigger-happy police with knives.

As we have seen elsewhere, ethnic riots do not occur in vacuum.  If the young Uyghurs, a minority group comprising roughly half the population of Xinjiang province, had not lost trust in the state and its institutions it is difficult to accept that such riots could have occurred.

Mao’s successors have resorted to Sinicization (i.e., Hanification) of the region. They have changed the demography of the region by settling Han Chinese from other parts. They have curtailed the region’s millennium-plus-years old rich Muslim culture and are practicing widespread religious repression against the ethnic Uyghurs. Authorities have banned “abnormal beards,” religious names for children, fasting during Ramadan and restricted attending weddings and funerals. They have conducted forced abortion on Uyghur women. They have closed down Qur’anic and Uyghur language schools to cut down their Islamic and cultural ties with other Muslims. Because of the Mandarin-based educational policy of the state, the Uyghurs can’t pass and find jobs in their own land. Their intellectuals are imprisoned and anyone talking with visitors from outside, esp. foreign reporters and human rights group, are suspected of being disloyal, and often risk prison times.  Police question them on the street, demanding to know where they’re going and why. Metal detectors, facial scanners and document checks are routine. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, even in some public restrooms. “In one Uighur mosque, I counted 40 of them,” writes Peter Martin for the who recently visited Xinjiang. During his entire stay, he could not hear a single call of prayer (adhan) from any mosque.

In essence, the once dynamic region in the Silk Road that woke up for centuries with the adhan heard from the minarets has been turned into a police state where Uyghurs are afraid to speak with anyone or even call adhan for believers to gather and pray together.

The communist party-state has institutionalized unfathomed discrimination based on Uyghur’s distinct religion, habitus, physiognomy, language culture and socioeconomic status. In so doing, they have only widened the gap between the Han settlers and the indigenous Uyghurs. It developed Xinjiang as a penal colony, as a nuclear testing ground and dumping ground for radioactive wastes (that is responsible for unusually high birth defects and mortality rate amongst the inhabitants) and as a buffer against invasion, and as a supplier of raw materials and living space for an overpopulated country.

Apparently, none of the strong-arm tactics and gross disregard of the frontier territory and its native people is working and thus, now Xi and his brutal regime is experimenting with its latest criminal policy of mass detention in “political training centers,” heavily fortified buildings that were likened to the reeducation camps of the Mao Zedong era. Associated Press has reported that Uighurs were forced to disavow their Islamic beliefs, praise the communist party and endure solitary confinement. Former detainees told Human Rights Watch they were jailed without hearings, shackled and beaten mercilessly. Observers have compared the camps to Soviet Gulags, and in a May 20, 2018 editorial, the Washington Post wrote: “All who believe in the principle of ‘never again’ after the horror of the Nazi extermination camps and Stalin’s gulag must speak up against China’s grotesque use of brainwashing, prisons and torture.”

In August 2018 the United Nations called upon China to end the detention, but government officials denied the existence of the camps. How long can the criminal regime of Xi Jinping deny what is so obvious and well-known?

While one can understand Xi’s loftiest goal of transforming China as one of the world’s great powers one cannot excuse his gross violations of human rights. Although Xinjiang represents just 1.5 percent of China’s population of 1.4 billion and 1.3 percent of its economy, the Alaska-sized Muslim-majority region borders eight countries and sits at the geographic heart of Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative and serves as a crossroads for a railway link to London and a route to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan, where China is financing a $62 billion port and transportation corridor called the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor). It’s a trillion-dollar plan to finance new highways, ports and other modern infrastructure projects in developing countries that will connect them to China’s markets and put them in China’s debt for decades to come.

Xi’s authoritarian regime has spent vast sums of money to building up cities in Xinjiang to attract companies and fuel economic growth in the relatively poor region. Concerns about PRC’s diabolical crackdown policy of the Uyghurs and lawlessness in Xinjiang, however, don’t appear to be reassuring investors. Almost no foreign companies have located there, and the region’s economy slowed last year.

Although China sees that as a temporary setback, unless Xi changes his criminal – apparently the most intense – campaign of coercive social reengineering since the end of the Cultural Revolution and stops its ethnic cleansing crimes against the minority Uyghur Muslims, and instead focuses in nation-building through integration that benefits all (including minority Muslims and Christians) he will be forced to live with the failed Soviet and Balkan experience. Is that outcome a desirable one for the PRC and its president who has already been dubbed as the “world’s most dangerous opponent” of open societies?

It is also feared that this repugnant campaign of mass detention of Muslims is set to expand, as the regional governments within PRC with sizeable Muslim populations are dispatching officials to detention centers in Xinjiang with the explicit aim of learning to and adopting the same criminal measures.

It is important for the international community to condemn the Chinese ethnic cleansing crimes against the minority Uyghur and demand a release of all those detained immediately. If Xi’s authoritarian regime fails to comply then the international community should adopt a “Global Magnitsky Act” to sanction Chinese officials that are complicit in the human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang. The freezing of assets and exclusion from banking systems overseas are within the power of concerned governments.

It is equally important for all the developing and third world countries where China has invested heavily in recent years that they use such as a point of strategic leverage and encourage Beijing into compliance with international human-rights norms and stop its horrendous crimes against the Uyghur.

For China to be great again, it must earn the respect and trust of the world community by respecting the human rights of its minorities to live and prosper as equals. It simply cannot afford to behaving like a rogue state that arrogantly sees the Soviet Gulags and Nazi Concentration Camps as models to copy.

Set the Uyghurs free now, Mr. Xi. Otherwise, history will treat you the same way it has treated despots like Hitler and Mussolini, and many others that followed their inglorious trail.

Brace for Impact: Global Financial Crisis May be Just Around the Corner

                     Author: Jean Perier        

The cyclical nature of the world economy, when every single decade ends in a major meltdown of the world financial results in a number of experts predicting a global crisis to take place in 2019.
Everyone remembers the crisis of 2008, from which the West hasn’t fully recovered as production levels across the Western states still remain below the level shown in 2007. For the point of view of an impartial bystander, it’s rather hard not to point out that most countries would be borrowing cheap money at breathtaking rates in a bid to stimulate consumer spending. The problem of a wealthy lifestyle some still enjoy these days on borrowed funds is that it doesn’t solve any issues, it just delays the inevitable. In the end, all the printed money will flow back down to the stock market and the bubble starts to deflate. And where do we go from here? The only thing the West is still producing these days are shale hydrocarbons and even those are hardly profitable.
Of course, some businesses will go bankrupt, which will in turn trigger an aftershock of even more bankruptcies. Then the behind-the-scenes firefighters will start covering the whole mess with even more cheap money. Sadly, this time around Europe won’t be able to trim the fat, as there’s none left. AS for the US, it’s been desperate to get one last breath before getting submerged underwater with zero interest rates. And again, over the last couple of years Trump would start trade wars left and right, as if there was no tomorrow. It seems that this time we are about to learn just how deep the rabbit hole goes.
The word “crisis” itself is Greek and can be loosely translated as “the turning point” or “judgment day.” The crisis is the price all of us are about to pay for investing the money we don’t own in depreciating asset that we don’t really need or want. It would be naive to think that the rich will become poorer during the crisis, as the crisis itself is nothing but a tool for the redistribution of capital.
As a matter of fact, the World Bank is convinced that should expect a new global financial crisis to come upon us in the nearest future. This was stated in the report titled Global Economic Prospects, Darkening Skies, which states that the year 2019 may easily become a turning point to the world economy against the backdrop of the slowdown of the world economy.
Today, there are too many factors that can make the matters even worse than they are now. Of course, the leading among those is the over unpredictability of the Trump administration as it’s seems a bit too willing to turn its back on the previous international commitments of the United State, be it the unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, hints that the US will abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or threats to impose new economic punishment on those players who prefer to agree to disagree with the crumbling hegemon.
According to Stratfor, the great power rivalry with China and Russia pushes the United States to downgrade its military commitments in Africa and the Middle East.
It’s been pointed out that a decade ago Beijing was in no position to claim the role of world leader, thus challenging the US. But these days things are different, as China is full of determination and economic power, and it will be satisfied with the place of the second world economy. There’s no telling who till take the upper hand, but this rivalry creates preconditions for a perfect storm.
Yet another factor is the the Fed’s raising key rate for the first time since 2014. This means that money becomes more expensive. Thus, the Fed is preparing to become a beneficiary of the crisis, along with those powerful and wealthy people who will be buying bonds at about half the price at the height of the crisis.
It’s hardly a secret that during the global crisis salaries are slashed in half, while price tags in stores are rising, employees are being laid off, housing prices are falling, loans are getting more expensive. But this time around we may as well add public widespread public disobedience, riots, mass looting, revolutions and military conflicts plunging a number of continents into chaos.
It’s been pointed out that the era of largely uncontested US primacy fades. Тhe so-called international order based on the so-called rules has been thrown into turmoil. Instruments of collective action, such as the United Nations Security Council are undermined, while those of collective accountability, including the International Criminal Court have all but lost all credibility.
For the year ahead of us, various political experts predict a rapid exacerbation of differences between the United States, China and Europe and Russia. The already dire situation in such countries as Yemen, Afghanistan and Ukraine can rapidly go from bad to worse. We can expect the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel launching military aggression against Iran, due to the continuing deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. Things don’t look any better for Africa and Latin America too.
It didn’t take long for trade wars, cyberattacks, shifting defense strategies and arms races to convince the world that this is the new and uncomfortable global reality. However, the main danger of today’s age of uncertainty is that the race to the bottom may turn out to be a long one.
Jean Périer is an independent researcher and analyst and a renowned expert on the Near and Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.