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What the Controversial Conservative American Conference in Hungary Tells Us About the New Far-Right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 7:37pm in

Out of the shadows and into the mainstream, Sian Norris examines the line-up of right-wing politicians and far-right activists at a controversial conference in Hungary

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Babies, birth-rates and the Bible.

A week after a killer targeting black Americans in Buffalo cited the 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory in his manifesto, that same conspiracy was going mainstream in Budapest – as the conservative, religious and far-right gathered in Hungary’s capital to strategise, network and celebrate.

Top-billing at the US-based Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself, but eclipsing even the host was a video link talk from former US President Donald Trump – the leader most responsible for normalising white supremacy in American politics over the past decade. 

The line-up was a who’s who of the modern far-right in politics and in media.

Turning Point USA’s Jack Posobiec, the far-right US blogger who has used antisemitic symbols and promoted the fabricated 'Pizzagate' conspiracy theory which smeared prominent Democrats as child abusers, closed the conference.

There was Matthew Tyrmand, board member of Project Veritas – the far-right group funded by US dark money and known for its entrapment techniques of progressive organisations.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was on the list – recently accused of normalising the Great Replacement conspiracy. 

British readers may not recognise the name, but Zsolt Bayer was also in the line-up – the TV talk show host who has referred to Jewish people as “excrement” and to Roma people as “animals” and used racist epithets to describe black people. 

Alongside the provocateurs were far-right politicians from parties such as the Brotherhood of Italy, as well as Italy’s Lega, Spain’s Vox, France’s Rassemblement Nationale and, of course, Fidesz – Hungary’s leading party known for its attacks on Muslims, people seeking asylum, the LGBTIQ community and the free press. 

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Making an appearance from the UK was ‘Mr Brexit’ Nigel Farage, who joined via video link. Conservative and Reform UK party donor George Farmer was a confirmed speaker, alongside his wife, Candace Owens. The latter was formerly in charge of communications at Turning Point USA and dubbed in the programme as “the favourite influencer of Donald Trump”. 

Farmer donated £45,000 to the Conservative Party and an additional £5,000 to Conservative MP Ben Bradley before switching allegiance to Reform UK – donating £200,000 to the artist formerly known as the Brexit Party. His father, Sir Michael Farmer, is the Conservative Party’s biggest donor, having given more than £6 million since 2010. 

Sir Michael Farmer now sits in the House of Lords alongside chair of the Office for Students, Lord James Wharton – who also spoke at CPAC Hungary. His presence on the same day as Bayer has raised questions about the Conservatives' commitment to antisemitism and anti-racism – but perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. This is a party which chairs a Council of Europe group packed with political representatives of the far-right parties present at CPAC. 

An Agenda for Europe

That CPAC has become a gathering for antisemites, racists and conspiracists was clear from the inclusion of men like Trump, Bayer and Posobiec. 

But alongside them was the growing influence of white Christian nationalism – with representatives from the anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ and anti-divorce organisations that once made up 'Agenda Europe' – the shadowy network that linked anti-rights actors across the region. 

There was Grégor Puppinck from the European Centre for Law and Justice – the European arm of the American Centre for Law and Justice which has campaigned against abortion and equal marriage. Puppinck told the conference: "Without fatherhood there cannot be any lasting fatherland." 

Puppinck was a prominent member of the Agenda Europe network, as was Poland’s ultra-Catholic legal charity Ordo Iuris. Its President Jerzcy Kwaśniewski spoke at CPAC. 

In 2016, Ordo Iuris drafted a total ban of abortion in Poland and supported moves to increase abortion restrictions in 2020. It is currently running a campaign to monitor compliance with the abortion laws in Poland’s hospitals. At least three women have died since January 2021, when the law was tightened, after being refused life-saving reproductive healthcare.

Patryk Jaki, a Polish MEP who hosted a screening of an anti-abortion film and who has spoken of the importance of the family to build a “strong Poland”, was another speaker. 

Opening the programme was Miklós Szánthó, of the Centre for Fundamental Rights – a Hungarian organisation that serves as a Government mouthpiece for its anti-LGBTIQ agenda. Little surprise that Szánthó was on a bill with Ordo Iuris – the two organisations signed a cooperation agreement in February 2021. The Centre had four speakers on the line-up.

The prominence of speakers at CPAC who push an anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ and white Christian nationalist agenda tells us something interesting and disturbing about the 'culture war' issues being waged by the modern far-right. 

It is a movement that has folded white supremacy with male supremacy – that pits as its enemies black people and migrant people, alongside feminists, anti-racist campaigners and LGBTIQ people.

It wants to ban abortion, remove civil rights from black and ethnic minority people, and roll-back progress to a time when LGBTIQ people simply weren’t supposed to exist.

It believes that women should be submissive to men, and that men should have supremacy in the household and the state. Its members want to end protections against gender-based violence. 

We have known this for years. Throughout the 2010s, Agenda Europe and its members strategised on how to roll-back women’s rights – from abortion and domestic abuse protections, to political participation and access to public space. They campaigned against equal marriage and dreamed of an end to legal divorce. Its members lobbied their national governments and the European Union to stymie progress on LGBTIQ rights, although not always successfully. Conservative strategists and donors played their part. 

But what makes CPAC interesting – and disturbing – is how what once happened in the shadows is now happening in the mainstream.

Conservative peers are no longer embarrassed to share a stage with racists and antisemites. US and European anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ politicians and actors are coming together to pat each other on the back and share tips on how to reverse human rights.

The fascistic natural order strategised by Agenda Europe in the 2010s came to a conference centre in Budapest – and world leaders were there to wave it in. 

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To Times of Israel Writer, Apartheid is OK, Sympathy for Palestinians “Loathsome”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 3:20am in

JERUSALEM – Zionists like to admonish Palestinians by saying that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. But, according to Zionist talking points, Palestinians missed several opportunities when Israel was willing to graciously “give” them pieces of their own land. Moreover, it is alleged that Palestinians have missed so many of these great opportunities that they have no one to blame but themselves for their misfortunes.

 

Blaming the victims

A piece by Richard Cravatts published in the Times of Israel, and later republished in other publications, is a particularly asinine example of this admonition. In his piece, “An Open Letter to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Your Fellow Travelers,” Cravatts writes: “Millions of Palestinian refugees [have been] created by your people’s repeated rejection of offers of statehood – in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, and other occasions….”

Blaming the Palestinians for the ongoing tragedy of the refugees is not only callous but as outrageous as blaming the victims of the Holocaust for the horrors of the Nazis. I can testify that I have heard more than one Zionist claim that the Jews whom the Nazis killed had it coming because they did not heed the call of the Zionists. Had the Jews of Europe come to Palestine to steal and live on other people’s land, the Nazis would have spared them, a theme found throughout Yoav Shamir’s 2009 documentary, “Defamation.”

The claim that Palestinians are prone to missing opportunities is one of the most common Zionist lines, and they still use it because it works – because unfortunately there exists such a lack of knowledge regarding the history of Palestine that Zionists can loudly proclaim that “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity!” and go unchallenged. Another iteration of this claim is, “If only the Palestinians had the foresight to accept Zionist offers, or at least offers that the Zionists were agreeable to, things would have been so much better for them.” “Them” being the Palestinians.

Anyone familiar with the Zionist talking points has heard the claim that the Palestinians “missed opportunities” so they have no one to blame for their lot but themselves. In a recent lecture I gave in southern California, a Palestinian student asked me how to reply to this argument. His question was specifically about the Zionist accusation that Palestinians rejected the Two-State Solution.

 

An outright lie

We will set aside the fact that this is an outright lie for a moment. We will not get into this issue in-depth, only to say that in fact, since the 1970s, the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO) has been the only party striving to achieve a Two-State Solution and that their willingness to make this enormous sacrifice cost them a great deal and made things worse for Palestinians the world over.

This argument typically comes from Zionists who live in the United States or the U.K. and who think it is OK that Israel has taken all of Palestine. They never admonish Israel for annexing the Syrian Golan Heights or East Jerusalem. They have no issue with Israel’s building entire cities on Palestinian land. This accusation comes from Zionists who believe Israel has a right to colonize all of historic Palestine.

Israel has a right to do this because, so they tell us, Jewish people around the world may (or may not) be related to a tribe that resided in Palestine some two or three thousand years ago. They tell us that this tribe, called the Hebrews, which may or may not have any historical connection to modern-day Israel and the Jewish people, is the reason it is OK for the modern State of Israel to commit unspeakable crimes against an entire nation.

 

Legitimizing the oppressor

What is implied in the admonitions by Zionists is that Zionism and the colonization of Palestine by Zionist Jews are legitimate and that the Palestinians refuse to accept this legitimacy. However, these admonitions present us with opportunities to raise a larger question. The question that ought to be asked is: Why in the world would Palestinians accept any offer by their colonizers? Why would any colonized nation accept anything but the total defeat of their colonizers and oppressors, especially considering that these “offers” fail to include the liberation of all of historic Palestine?

The answer is that there is no reason. The attempts at partitioning and slicing Palestine have all been part of a strategy meant to legitimize the violent Zionist takeover of Palestine and delegitimize the Palestinian rejection of it.

The aforementioned senseless, mindless Zionist propaganda piece starts by addressing Rep. Tlaib as follows:

On May 16th, you and some other members of The Squad, including Representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, McCollum, and others, introduced a loathsome resolution, H. RES. 1123, which had as its purpose “Recognizing the Nakba and Palestinian refugees’ rights” and to “commemorate the Nakba,” the catastrophe you assign to Israel’s creation, “through official recognition and remembrance.” According to your baleful resolution, the Nakba not only took place at Israel’s founding “but [refers] to an ongoing process of Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land and its dispossession of the Palestinian people that continues to this day.”

In this typical Zionist propaganda piece, Cravatts calls the proposed legislation to recognize the Nakba “loathsome.” Amnesty International recently published a report accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid — a crime so heinous it is designated as a “crime against humanity.” Interestingly, the writer does not find those who commit the crime of apartheid loathsome, only the legislation recognizing the victims of the crime.

What is loathsome, however, is that the United States is complicit in the crimes against the Palestinians. It is loathsome to live in the United States and to justify, explain and provide cover – thin as it may be – for the brutal regime that has been tearing Palestine apart for over seven decades. And it is loathsome to stand by and applaud as the state of Israel continues to brutalize an entire nation while the world, and Israeli society, look the other away.

Feature photo | Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Amjad al-Fayyed, 17, killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, May 21, 2022. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post To Times of Israel Writer, Apartheid is OK, Sympathy for Palestinians “Loathsome” appeared first on MintPress News.

UN Warns of ‘Total Societal Collapse’ Due to Breaching of Planetary Boundaries

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 1:58am in

A landmark report by the United Nations concludes that ‘global collapse’ is becoming more likely. But was it watered-down before being published?

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When the United Nations published its 2022 'Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction' (GAR2022) in May, the world’s attention was on its grim verdict that the world was experiencing an accelerating trend of natural disasters and economic crises. But not a single media outlet picked up the biggest issue: the increasing probability of civilisational collapse.

Buried in the report, which was endorsed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, is the finding that escalating synergies between disasters, economic vulnerabilities and ecosystem failures are escalating the risk of a "global collapse" scenario.

This stark conclusion appears to be the first time that the UN has issued a flagship global report finding that existing global policies are accelerating toward the collapse of human civilisation. Yet somehow this urgent warning has remained unreported until now.

The report does not suggest that this outcome is inevitable or specify how close to this possibility we are. But it does confirm that, without radical change, that’s where the world is heading.

Planetary Boundaries

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework are a set of social, economic, legal, political and institutional measures to reduce “disaster risk and losses” – both involve targets to 2030 which the world is in danger of failing to meet.

That failure, however, is directly linked to the rate at which human activities are interfering with natural systems, in particular, ‘planetary boundaries’.

The planetary boundaries framework was developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in 2009 to provide what it calls a “science-based analysis of the risk that human perturbations will destabilise the Earth system at the planetary scale”. This framework identifies a range of nine key ecosystems which, if pushed passed a certain threshold, will dramatically reduce the “safe operating space” for human habitation.

The report notes that at least four of the nine planetary boundaries now seem to be operating outside the safe operating space.

While land system change and climate change are in a zone of “uncertainty with increasing risk” of overstepping the safe operating space, the report says, biochemical flows and ‘novel entities’ (“new engineered chemicals, materials or organisms and natural elements mobilised by human activity such as heavy metals”) have “far exceeded" that space.

However, the situation is likely to be worse than acknowledged in the UN's report.

Byline Times revealed last summer that, according to Professor Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, two more planetary boundaries – ocean acidification and freshwater use – would probably by then also be “transgressed”, meaning that we are breaching six out of nine planetary boundaries. If we continue to cross boundaries at this rate, it is possible that we cross almost all of them before 2030.

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Don’t Look Up

According to the UN 's report, “the human material and ecological footprint is accelerating the rate of change. A potential impact when systemic risks become cascading disasters is that systems are at risk of collapse”.

Yet, although the risk of systemic collapse is discussed at different points in the report, the “global collapse” scenario did not receive extensive elaboration. Instead, the report makes reference to a separate ‘contributing paper’ published by the UN’s Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

That paper, 'Pandemics, Climate Extremes, Tipping Points and the Global Catastrophic Risk – How these Impact Global Targets', offers an in-depth scenario analysis of global collapse risks based on how human activities are transgressing planetary boundaries.

The paper is authored by Thomas Cernev, a researcher at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. It finds that the continuation of 'business as usual' and a failure to invoke drastic policy changes means that human civilisation is moving inexorably toward collapse.

“From the scenario analysis... it is evident that in the absence of ambitious policy and near global adoption and successful implementation, the world continually tends towards the global collapse scenario,” it says.

Four Pathways – Three Lead to Collapse

Thomas Cernev’s paper identifies four potential pathways ahead. Yet only one of them, "stable Earth", involves the achievement of global targets under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Sendai Framework. All the others are heading toward collapse.

“In all of these scenarios except for 'stable earth', the achievement of global targets and accompanying frameworks is negatively impacted," the report states. "Furthermore, in the absence of change, scenarios 'Earth under uncertainty' and 'Earth under threat' tend towards that of 'global collapse'.”

The paper explains that, by adopting a systems analysis, it is possible to see how “the crossing of one planetary boundary systematically results in the crossing of others”. They are crucial to providing a ‘safe operating space’ for human societies to develop within a stable earth system, “with the passing of these boundaries subsequently, and most likely resulting in societal destabilisation and potential GCR events”.

Global Catastrophic Risk (GCR) events are defined as those leading to more than 10 million fatalities or greater than $10 trillion in damages.

The paper’s worst-case global collapse scenario is described as the result of multiple planetary boundaries being breached, increasing the likelihood of GCR events that set in motion a sequence of economic and political breakdowns, which further drive ecological collapse processes.

In this scenario, “total societal collapse is a possibility”, the paper warns.

“This scenario presents a world where planetary boundaries have been extensively crossed, and if GCR events have not already occurred or are in the process of occurring, then their likelihood of doing so in the future is extreme," the paper says. "In this scenario, global targets have most likely not been achieved, and the resulting collapse of society in this scenario means that the future achievement of any global targets is unlikely, and total societal collapse is a possibility. Disaster risk reduction has not been successful and disasters are common, with disaster events as well as GCR events such as pandemics increasing.”

It goes on to suggest that, in such a scenario, without policy changes designed to mitigate risks and make the global system more resilient and adaptable, "the crossing of planetary boundaries is likely to exacerbate GCR risk, with large and complex environmental feedback loops leading to further environmental and social collapse" and that "depending on the extent of the crossing of the planetary boundaries and the severity of any GCR events that may have occurred, policy interventions that are not drastic are unlikely to improve society and a reactive policy approach will need to be taken".

That scenario leads to extremely limited international cooperation, in turn creating a higher risk of global or environmental conflict as the environment degrades, “with potential forced migrations of people from uninhabitable areas that in turn has the potential to heighten GCR by making events such as a pandemic or nuclear war more likely”.

While the global collapse scenario represents the worst-case, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that we can see signs of it emerging today. Of greater concern is that the two other scenarios explored by the paper still tend toward this worst-case scenario.

In the earth under threat scenario, “planetary boundaries have been crossed past a safe limit, or there is a large degree of uncertainty as to humanity’s position relative to the boundaries with strong suspicion and evidence of some if not all having been crossed”. We appear to be either very close to reaching this point, or have already reached it.

The UN paper adds: “Whilst GCR is low and GCR events are unlikely to occur, the complex feedback loops that operate between the planetary boundaries are likely to increase the likelihood of GCR events occurring in the near future.”

The paper argues that political and global instability will be exacerbated by “a quickly degrading environment” which could further “drive conflict and hinder future progress towards achieving global targets. In this scenario, the world is on a path towards a global collapse scenario, where GCR events are occurring unless considerable preventive and reactive policy interventions that are ambitious are globally adopted and successfully undertaken”.

Even in the Earth under uncertainty scenario, where “planetary boundaries have not been extensively crossed, or there is a high level of uncertainty as to humanity’s position relative to the boundary”, we would still be in a position where “GCR risk is high, with the likelihood of a GCR event being extreme or a GCR event having already occurred or in the process of occurring”.

Avoiding Collapse

Despite the potential to achieve some global targets and international cooperation, the paper concludes that only further ambitious policy changes can “ensure that development targets are achieved and the world is not pushed towards a Global Collapse scenario”.

The paper states: “The scenario analysis undertaken illustrates a dangerous tendency for the world to tend towards the Global Collapse scenario,”

Although “reactive” policies are necessary to mitigate existing risks, the paper calls for a focus on “preventive” policies to build greater system resilience and to avoid further crossing planetary boundaries.

In particular, it calls for “the creation of a planetary boundaries goal” in the next version of the SDGs adopted after 2030, along with “the incorporation of GCR into the targets”.

A Diluted Narrative?

As I had found in 2017 as a researcher at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, the process of global societal collapse is likely to accelerate as a self-reinforcing feedback loop between human system destabilisation (HSD) and earth system disruption (ESD).

In this feedback loop, earth system disruptions – in this case, triggered by breaching of planetary boundaries – destabilise social, political and economic institutions. This, in turn, inhibits successful policy responses to ESD, leaving the planet vulnerable to further ESD outbreaks.

The result is a feedback effect in which HSD and ESD occur in an amplifying cycle with the potential to culminate in a dramatic loss of complexity in the human system – what might be defined as a collapse.

The UN Global Assessment Report, and its contributing paper by Thomas Cernev, offer scenarios that are consistent with this process – but it is not clear whether any of these scenarios have actually begun, only that currently the world is tending dangerously toward them.

No precise timescales are identified in the documents and neither the UN nor Cernev have responded to requests for comment from Byline Times.

But there are reasons to suspect that a collapse process has already started, even if it is still possible to rein in.

A senior advisor to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and contributor to the Global Assessment Report who spoke to Byline Times on condition of anonymity, claims that the GAR2022 was watered-down before public release.

The source said that the world had “passed a point of no return" and "I don’t feel that this is being properly represented in UN or media as of now”.

“The GAR2022 is an eviscerated skeleton of what was included in earlier drafts,” they claimed.

The UN GAR2022 is a landmark document. It is the first time that the United Nations has clearly underscored the impending risk of “total societal collapse” if the human system continues to cross the planetary boundaries critical to maintaining a safe operating space for the earth system.

Yet, despite this urgent warning, not only has it fallen on deaf ears, the UN itself appears to have diluted its own findings. Like the fictional film Don't Look Up, we are more concerned with celebrity gossip and political scandals, seemingly unable – or unwilling – to confront the most important challenge that now faces us as a species.

Either way, these UN documents show that recognising the risk of collapse is not about doom-mongering, but about understanding risks so we can make better choices and avoid worst-case outcomes. As the report acknowledges, there is still much that can be done. But the time for action is not after 2030. It’s now.

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Long Marginalized, the Right of Return is Once Again a Palestinian Priority

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 6:23am in

The Nakba is back on the Palestinian agenda.

For nearly three decades, Palestinians were told that the Nakba – or Catastrophe – is a thing of the past. That real peace requires compromises and sacrifices, therefore, the original sin that has led to the destruction of their historic homeland should be entirely removed from any ‘pragmatic’ political discourse. They were urged to move on.

The consequences of that shift in narrative were dire. Disowning the Nakba, the single most important event that shaped modern Palestinian history, has resulted in more than political division between the so-called radicals and the supposedly peace-loving pragmatists, the likes of Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. It also divided Palestinian communities in Palestine and across the world around political, ideological and class lines.

Following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, it became clear that the Palestinian struggle for freedom was being entirely redefined and reframed. It was no longer a Palestinian fight against Zionism and Israeli settler colonialism that goes back to the start of the 20th century, but a ‘conflict’ between two equal parties, with equally legitimate territorial claims that can only be resolved through ‘painful concessions’.

The first of such concessions was relegating the core issue of the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees who were driven out of their villages and cities in 1947-48. That Palestinian Nakba paved the way for Israel’s ‘independence’, which was declared atop the rubble and smoke of nearly 500 destroyed and burnt Palestinian villages and towns.

At the start of the ‘peace process’, Israel was asked to honor the Right of Return for Palestinians, although symbolically. Israel refused. Palestinians were then pushed to relegate that fundamental issue to a ‘final status negotiations’, which never took place. This meant that millions of Palestinian refugees – many of whom are still living in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, as well as the occupied Palestinian territories – were dropped from the political conversation altogether.

If it were not for the continued social and cultural activities of the refugees themselves, insisting on their rights and teaching their children to do the same, such terms as the Nakba and Right of Return would have been completely dropped out of the Palestinian political lexicon.

Palestinian refugee

A family warms themselves by a fire during cold weather in a slum on the outskirts of a Gaza refugee camp, Jan. 19, 2022. Khalil Hamra | AP

While some Palestinians rejected the marginalization of the refugees, insisting that the subject is a political not merely a humanitarian one, others were willing to move on as if this right was of no consequence. Various Palestinian officials affiliated with the now-defunct ‘peace process’ have made it clear that the Right of Return was no longer a Palestinian priority. But none came even close to the way that PA President Abbas, himself, framed the Palestinian position in a 2012 interview with Israeli Channel 2.

“Palestine now for me is the ’67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever … This is Palestine for me. I am [a] refugee, but I am living in Ramallah,” he said.

Abbas had it completely wrong, of course. Whether he wished to exercise his right of return or not, that right, according to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, is simply “inalienable”, meaning that neither Israel nor the Palestinians themselves, can deny or forfeit it.

Let alone the lack of intellectual integrity of separating the tragic reality of the present from its main root cause, Abbas lacked political wisdom as well. With his ‘peace process’ floundering, and with the lack of any tangible political solution, he simply decided to abandon millions of refugees, denying them the very hope of having their homes, land or dignity restored.

Since then, Israel, along with the United States, has fought Palestinians on two different fronts: one, by denying them any political horizon and, the other, by attempting to dismantle their historically enshrined rights, mainly their Right of Return. Washington’s war on the Palestinian refugees’ agency, UNRWA, falls under the latter category as the aim was – and remains – the destruction of the very legal and humanitarian infrastructures that allow Palestinian refugees to see themselves as a collective of people seeking repatriation, reparations and justice.

Yet, all such efforts continue to fail. Far more important than Abbas’ personal concessions to Israel, UNRWA’s ever-shrinking budget or the failure of the international community to restore Palestinian rights, is the fact that the Palestinian people are, once again, unifying around the Nakba anniversary, thus insisting on the Right of Return for the seven million refugees in Palestine and the shattat – Diaspora.

Ironically, it was Israel that has unwittingly re-unified Palestinians around the Nakba. By refusing to concede an inch of Palestine, let alone allow Palestinians to claim any victory, a State of their own – demilitarized or otherwise – or allow a single refugee to go home, Palestinians were forced to abandon Oslo and its numerous illusions. The once-popular argument that the Right of Return was simply ‘impractical’ no longer matters, neither to ordinary Palestinians nor to their intellectual or political elites.

In political logic, for something to be impossible, an alternative would have to be attainable. However, with Palestinian reality worsening under the deepening system of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, Palestinians now understand that they have no possible alternative but their unity, their resistance and the return to the fundamentals of their struggle. The Unity Intifada of last May was a culmination of this new realization. Moreover, the Nakba anniversary commemoration rallies and events throughout historic Palestine and the world on May 15 have further helped crystallize the new discourse that the Nakba is no longer symbolic and the Right of Return is the collective, core demand of most Palestinians.

Israel is now an apartheid state in the real meaning of the word. Israeli apartheid, like any such system of racial separation, aims at protecting the gains of nearly 74 years of unhinged colonialism, land theft and military dominance. Palestinians, whether in Haifa, Gaza or Jerusalem, now fully understand this, and are increasingly fighting back as one nation.

And since the Nakba and the subsequent ethnic cleansing of Palestinian refugees are the common denominators behind all Palestinian suffering, the term and its underpinnings are back at the center stage of any meaningful conversation on Palestine, as should have always been the case.

Feature photo | An elderly Palestinian man sits outside his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza, June 20, 2020, on World Refugee Day. Khalil Hamra | AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Long Marginalized, the Right of Return is Once Again a Palestinian Priority appeared first on MintPress News.

Controversial Firm Linked to Rishi Sunak Among Those Allowed to Set ‘Global Anti-Corruption Agenda’ by World Economic Forum

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 6:45pm in

Dimitris Dimitriadis digs into the scandals linked to a number of firms participating in a flagship global anti-corruption initiative

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has cast a shadow over this year’s G20 summit – with delegates staging walk-outs in protest at Russia’s participation – a group of companies with controversial track-records are being allowed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to “set the global anti-corruption agenda” and possibly influence global discussions from the sidelines.

The WEF’s Partnership Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) describes itself as the “leading business voice on anti-corruption and transparency” and brings together some 90 companies that “actively shape the B20 policy agenda”. The B20 is a select group of businesses that delivers proposals to the G20, the world’s 20 richest countries.  

However, several members of PACI – the same initiative that touts its role in promoting efforts to tackle global corruption – have faced scandals and significant public scrutiny, while others are controlled by states with poor human rights records. 

Saudi Basic Industries Corporation and Saudi Telecom Group are both majority owned by the Saudi state, which recently executed 81 people in one day. But they both get a seat at the table of PACI – the “principal CEO-led platform in the global anti-corruption arena” and one of the WEF’s “strongest cross-industry collaborative efforts” – a boon to their reputations and credentials. 

Also among PACI’s signatories is Infosys, an Indian multinational IT company which is backed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, and which was shamed by Western media into pulling out of Russia after the invasion. In response to the scrutiny, Infosys, which reportedly has strong historical ties to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, said that it was “urgently closing its Russia operations”. 

Commodity trading and mining giant Glencore, whose UK subsidiary was recently charged by the Serious Fraud Office with seven counts of bribery in connection with its oil operations, is also listed as a PACI member. While the company has condemned the invasion of Ukraine, it continues to hold substantive interests in Russia including a stake in aluminium and hydropower group EN+ from which it concluded “there is no realistic way to exit” at the moment. In its latest annual report, Glencore says “we actively participate in PACI”, adding that it has incorporated its guidelines into its business. 

Oil major TotalEnergies, another PACI member, was recently criticised by climate activists for being too slow to announce that it would phase-out of Russia, lagging behind its rivals, and for its refusal to stop purchasing Russian gas. The company has denied any accusations of complicity in the conflict, adding that it has condemned the invasion and that it will “ensure strict compliance with current and future European sanctions”, as it gradually suspends its activities in Russia. 

A recent sustainability report from TotalEnergies states that it is “exposed to corruption risks due to its presence in certain countries that have a high perceived level of corruption according to the index drawn up by Transparency International” and that it applies a principle of zero tolerance of corruption for all its employees and suppliers, while also encouraging a culture of speaking up among its workforce. 

TotalEnergies has also faced scrutiny from green groups and a probe over an alleged conflict of interest involving its chief executive, Patrick Pouyanné, and Ecole Polytechnique. This came after the prestigious university voted to allow TotalEnergies to build a research and innovation centre on its Saclay campus – a decision that complainants including the French arm of Greenpeace, anti-corruption group ANTICOR, and La Sphinx alleged was unduly influenced by Patrick Pouyanné, France's TotalEnergies CEO, who is also on the university board. 

Pouyanné has denied the allegations, saying that the launch of the research centre pre-dates his position as a member of the university board and that there had been no “crossover” between his two roles. 

Gatekeepers

Yara International, a state-backed Norwegian fertiliser producer, was caught up in one of the country’s highest-profile corruption scandals after it acknowledged in 2014 that it had paid bribes to officials in India and Libya and was fined $36 million by Norwegian authorities.

Prosecutors originally accused four of its former top executives, including its CEO, of paying the bribes, but only its former chief legal officer was convicted and received a seven-year sentence by an appeals court. The others were acquitted. In addition to being a PACI signatory, Yara International is a WEF strategic partner

A spokesperson for the company said that the case referred to is more than a decade old and does not reflect the firm and what it stands for today, adding that since the scandal Yara has worked on “strengthening knowledge, attitudes and systems (routines and regulations) to prevent the recurrence of such an event”. 

PACI says that it is driven by the “needs” and “interests” of member companies. 

Other signatories include Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras), a state-run oil Brazilian oil major which in 2018 agreed to pay the US Department of Justice, Securities Exchange Commission and Brazilian authorities a total of $853.2 million to end a long-running corruption probe following which the company “successfully rejoined PACI”.

Since then, the company says it has “finally turned the page” and has a “robust control system and anti-corruption measures that go beyond those required by law”. 

In 2019, Standard Chartered, another PACI member, was ordered to pay US and UK authorities £842 million to settle allegations that it had breached sanctions against several countries including Iran. The bank, which is listed as a ‘gatekeeper’ – a special subgroup of PACI signatories that are “strategically positioned to prevent or interrupt illicit financial flows” – was also fined more than £21 million in 2020 separately for allegedly breaching sanctions against Russia. 

The WEF initiative states on its website that members gather at “bi/annual meetings to discuss business integrity while looking at progress in terms of implementation of collective action on anti-corruption.” It also boasts that PACI gets to “actively shape the B20 policy agenda”. 

According to its website, PACI last year “co-chaired the taskforce under the Italian presidency, representing the business voice on anti-corruption towards the G20”. It also “continues to act as a networking partner of the B20 for the 2021-2022 term under the Indonesian presidency” which refers to this year’s G20 summit. 

Meanwhile, the summit, which is still in progress, has seen finance ministers from various countries including the US walk out of a closed-door session when a Russian official began delivering his remarks – a move that was made in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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Shireen Abu Akleh and Israel’s War on Journalism, with Lina Abu Akleh

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/05/2022 - 1:23am in

 
The MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.

The cold-blooded killing of Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month has made headlines around the world. An Israeli sniper shot the veteran Al Jazeera journalist in the head while she was reporting on their raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Shireen’s niece Lina Abu Akleh first heard of the news from her father, who phoned her early in the morning to tell her Shireen was injured. Today, Watchdog host Lowkey speaks to Lina about her aunt’s work, legacy, and the ongoing war against the press.

“I never expected that she was in a critical condition, let alone have to hear from her colleague that ‘your aunt is a martyr now.’ Those five minutes were the most difficult of my entire life. I don’t think it will get worse than that,” she told Lowkey, recounting her ordeal. “But the support from everyone has been very comforting. The love and respect that everyone has shown her and us is something we will forever be thankful for.” A native of Jerusalem, Lina previously worked for the Palestinian Counselling Center and as a research assistant at the University of San Francisco.

Having reported on the Israeli occupation for two decades, Shireen was one of the most recognizable faces in the region. Her colleagues at Al Jazeera described her as a “trailblazer who gave voice to Palestinians,” and someone who became a “household name across the Arab world for her bold coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Lina enjoyed a very close relationship with her aunt, seeing her as a role model, her best friend and a second mother. “She always found the bright side of life, despite its tragedies,” she told Lowkey, revealing that the fame never got to her head. “She was very humble,” she added.

“My heart aches beyond words,” Lina wrote on the day of the murder, adding, “I will make sure that your legacy lives on. You are an icon, my hero, my Angel. Rest in power.”

Abu Akleh’s funeral became a national event attended by thousands. Israeli forces, who had raided her home hours after they shot her, stormed the funeral, beating mourners and pallbearers alike. This attack was whitewashed as a mere “clash” in much of the Western press – a fact that caused a storm of public outrage and considerable pushback. Thus in her life Abu Akleh exposed the reality of the Israeli occupation, and in her death she exposed the media’s complicity in Apartheid.

Lowkey was keen to note that Abu Akleh’s killing was far from a one-off event. “The crime that was carried out against Shireen is an extension of the wider war against journalism, which Israel pursues in many different ways,” he said, adding:

The same way that Shireen was killed (despite the fact that she was clearly identified as a journalist) is not dissimilar to the way that Yasser Murtaja was killed when Palestinians in Gaza were attempting to fulfill their right of return under UN resolution 194. Yasser was wearing the word “Press” across his chest when he was shot by an Israeli sniper.”

Lowkey also noted that Israel has killed 55 journalists since 2000 and injured at least 144 since 2018 alone. Between 10 and 15 Palestinian journalists are in Israeli jails or prisons at this moment. Thus, “This war against confrontational journalism has been long-running,” he said.

Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times.

The post Shireen Abu Akleh and Israel’s War on Journalism, with Lina Abu Akleh appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: No Way Out but War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 4:53am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism. No high speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.

The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the US debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the US GDP of $ 24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military, $ 813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.

We are paying a heavy social, political, and economic cost for our militarism. Washington watches passively as the U.S. rots, morally, politically, economically, and physically, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and other countries extract themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions. Once the U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, once there is an alternative to SWIFT, it will precipitate an internal economic collapse. It will force the immediate contraction of the U.S. empire shuttering most of its nearly 800 overseas military installations. It will signal the death of Pax Americana.

Democrat or Republican. It does not matter. War is the raison d’état of the state. Extravagant military expenditures are justified in the name of “national security.” The nearly $40 billion allocated for Ukraine, most of it going into the hands of weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, is only the beginning. Military strategists, who say the war will be long and protracted, are talking about infusions of $4 or $5 billion in military aid a month to Ukraine. We face existential threats. But these do not count. The proposed budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in fiscal year 2023 is $10.675 billion. The proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is $11.881 billion. Ukraine alone gets more than double that amount. Pandemics and the climate emergency are afterthoughts. War is all that matters. This is a recipe for collective suicide.

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

None of these opposition forces, which did not reverse the permanent war economy but curbed its excesses, now exist. The two ruling parties have been bought by corporations, especially military contractors. The press is anemic and obsequious to the war industry. Propagandists for permanent war, largely from right-wing think tanks lavishly funded by the war industry, along with former military and intelligence officials, are exclusively quoted or interviewed as military experts. NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a segment May 13 where officials from Center for a New American Security (CNAS) simulated what a war with China over Taiwan might look like. The co-founder of CNAS, Michèle Flournoy, who appeared in the “Meet the Press” war games segment and was considered by Biden to run the Pentagon, wrote in 2020 in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. needs to develop “the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours.”

The handful of anti-militarists and critics of empire from the left, such as Noam Chomsky, and the right, such as Ron Paul, have been declared persona non grata by a compliant media. The liberal class has retreated into boutique activism where issues of class, capitalism and militarism are jettisoned for “cancel culture,” multiculturalism and identity politics. Liberals are cheerleading the war in Ukraine. At least the inception of the war with Iraq saw them join significant street protests. Ukraine is embraced as the latest crusade for freedom and democracy against the new Hitler. There is little hope, I fear, of rolling back or restraining the disasters being orchestrated on a national and global level.  The neoconservatives and liberal interventionists chant in unison for war. Biden has appointed these war mongers, whose attitude to nuclear war is terrifyingly cavalier, to run the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the State Department.

Since all we do is war, all proposed solutions are military. This military adventurism accelerates the decline, as the defeat in Vietnam and the squandering of $8 trillion in the futile wars in the Middle East illustrate. War and sanctions, it is believed, will cripple Russia, rich in gas and natural resources. War, or the threat of war, will curb the growing economic and military clout of China.

These are demented and dangerous fantasies, perpetrated by a ruling class that has severed itself from reality. No longer able to salvage their own society and economy, they seek to destroy those of their global competitors, especially Russia and China. Once the militarists cripple Russia, the plan goes, they will focus military aggression on the Indo-Pacific, dominating what Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, referring to the Pacific, called “the American Sea.”

You cannot talk about war without talking about markets. The U.S., whose growth rate has fallen to below 2 percent, while China’s growth rate is 8.1 percent, has turned to military aggression to bolster its sagging economy. If the U.S. can sever Russian gas supplies to Europe, it will force Europeans to buy from the United States. U.S. firms, at the same time, would be happy to replace the Chinese Communist Party, even if they must do it through the threat of war, to open unfettered access to Chinese markets. War, if it did break out with China, would devastate the Chinese, American, and global economies, destroying free trade between countries as in World War I. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Washington is desperately trying to build military and economic alliances to ward off a rising China, whose economy is expected by 2028 to overtake that of the United States, according to the UK’s Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The White House has said Biden’s current visit to Asia is about sending a “powerful message” to Beijing and others about what the world could look like if democracies “stand together to shape the rules of the road.” The Biden administration has invited South Korea and Japan to attend the NATO summit in Madrid.

But fewer and fewer nations, even among European allies, are willing to be dominated by the United States. Washington’s veneer of democracy and supposed respect for human rights and civil liberties is so badly tarnished as to be irrecoverable. Its economic decline, with China’s manufacturing 70 percent higher than that of the U.S., is irreversible. War is a desperate Hail Mary, one employed by dying empires throughout history with catastrophic consequences. “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable,” Thucydides noted in the History of the Peloponnesian War.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

The All-Volunteer Force, by limiting the pool of available troops, also makes the global ambitions of the militarists impossible. Desperate to maintain or increase troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military instituted the stop-loss policy that arbitrarily extended active-duty contracts. Its slang term was the backdoor draft. The effort to bolster the number of troops by hiring private military contractors, as well, had a negligible effect. Increased troop levels would not have won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the tiny percentage of those willing to serve in the military (only 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans) is an unacknowledged Achilles heel for the militarists.

“As a consequence, the problem of too much war and too few soldiers eludes serious scrutiny,” writes historian and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich in After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed. “Expectations of technology bridging that gap provide an excuse to avoid asking the most fundamental questions: Does the United States possess the military wherewithal to oblige adversaries to endorse its claim of being history’s indispensable nation? And if the answer is no, as the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suggest, wouldn’t it make sense for Washington to temper its ambitions accordingly?”

This question, as Bacevich points out, is “anathema.” The military strategists work from the supposition that the coming wars won’t look anything like past wars. They invest in imaginary theories of future wars that ignore the lessons of the past, ensuring more fiascos.

The political class is as self-deluded as the generals. It refuses to accept the emergence of a multi-polar world and the palpable decline of American power. It speaks in the outdated language of American exceptionalism and triumphalism, believing it has the right to impose its will as the leader of the “free world.” In his 1992 Defense Planning Guidance memorandum, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued that the U.S. must ensure no rival superpower again arises. The U.S. should project its military strength to dominate a unipolar world in perpetuity. On February 19, 1998, on NBC’s “Today Show”, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave the Democratic version of this doctrine of unipolarity. “If we have to use force it is because we are Americans; we are the indispensable nation,” she said. “We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future.”

This demented vision of unrivaled U.S. global supremacy, not to mention unrivaled goodness and virtue, blinds the establishment Republicans and Democrats. The military strikes they casually used to assert the doctrine of unipolarity, especially in the Middle East, swiftly spawned jihadist terror and prolonged warfare. None of them saw it coming until the hijacked jets slammed into the World Trade Center twin towers. That they cling to this absurd hallucination is the triumph of hope over experience.

There is a deep loathing among the public for these elitist Ivy League architects of American imperialism. Imperialism was tolerated when it was able to project power abroad and produce rising living standards at home. It was tolerated when it restrained itself to covert interventions in countries such as Iran, Guatemala, and Indonesia. It went off the rails in Vietnam. The military defeats that followed accompanied a steady decline in living standards, wage stagnation, a crumbling infrastructure and eventually a series of economic policies and trade deals, orchestrated by the same ruling class, which deindustrialized and impoverished the country.

The establishment oligarchs, now united in the Democratic Party, distrust Donald Trump. He commits the heresy of questioning the sanctity of the American empire. Trump derided the invasion of Iraq as a “big, fat mistake.” He promised “to keep us out of endless war.” Trump was repeatedly questioned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Putin was “a killer,” one interviewer told him. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump retorted. “You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump dared to speak a truth that was to be forever unspoken, the militarists had sold out the American people.

Noam Chomsky took some heat for pointing out, correctly, that Trump is the “one statesman” who has laid out a “sensible” proposition to resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The proposed solution included “facilitating negotiations instead of undermining them and moving toward establishing some kind of accommodation in Europe…in which there are no military alliances but just mutual accommodation.”

Trump is too unfocused and mercurial to offer serious policy solutions. He did set a timetable to withdraw from Afghanistan, but he also ratcheted up the economic war against Venezuela and reinstituted crushing sanctions against Cuba and Iran, which the Obama administration had ended. He increased the military budget. He apparently flirted with carrying out a missile strike on Mexico to “destroy the drug labs.” But he acknowledges a distaste for imperial mismanagement that resonates with the public, one that has every right to loath the smug mandarins that plunge us into one war after another. Trump lies like he breathes. But so do they.

The 57 Republicans who refused to support the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, along with many of the 19 bills that included an earlier $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, come out of the kooky conspiratorial world of Trump. They, like Trump, repeat this heresy. They too are attacked and censored. But the longer Biden and the ruling class continue to pour resources into war at our expense, the more these proto fascists, already set to wipe out Democratic gains in the House and the Senate this fall, will be ascendant. Marjorie Taylor Greene, during the debate on the aid package to Ukraine, which most members were not given time to closely examine, said: “$40 billion dollars but there’s no baby formula for American mothers and babies.”

“An unknown amount of money to the CIA and Ukraine supplemental bill but there’s no formula for American babies,” she added. “Stop funding regime change and money laundering scams. A US politician covers up their crimes in countries like Ukraine.”

Democrat Jamie Raskin immediately attacked Greene for parroting the propaganda of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Greene, like Trump, spoke a truth that resonates with a beleaguered public. The opposition to permanent war should have come from the tiny progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which unfortunately sold out to the craven Democratic Party leadership to save their political careers. Greene is demented, but Raskin and the Democrats peddle their own brand of lunacy. We are going to pay a very steep price for this burlesque.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

The post Chris Hedges: No Way Out but War appeared first on MintPress News.

The Assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh: Who Gave the Order?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 3:30am in

JENIN, OCCUPIED PALESTINE – Israel’s announcement that it will not pursue an investigation into the killing of famed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was not surprising. The specific reasons it gave to justify the decision make little difference. However, one thing is certain: It is highly unlikely that the killing of a journalist like Shireen Abu Akleh was the decision of a lone soldier or a commander on the ground.

Abu Akleh was well known and well respected. She was clearly identifiable as a non-combatant and a journalist who posed no threat to Israeli forces. She had been in similar situations before and knew how to take the necessary precautions, including wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest. She had to be shot by a well-trained sniper, and their identity must be known to the Israeli authorities.

There had to have been an order or, at the minimum, approval given by the highest levels of the Israeli defense apparatus, as high as the minister of defense or even the prime minister, before the sniper could execute this assassination. Then, in a pretty transparent attempt to cover up the assassination, Israel pretended to want to conduct an investigation and demanded that the Palestinian Authority, which conducted the autopsy, hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh.

Quoting an Israeli military official, The Times of Israel reported that “[t]he Israeli military has identified a soldier’s rifle that may have killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.” However, it continues to claim that “it cannot be certain unless the Palestinians turn over the bullet for analysis.” The attempt to deceive is ever-so-obvious in this statement. Since it had to have been a sniper who aimed and then took the shot, there can be no doubt who pulled the trigger.

 

Palestinian militants?

The British paper The Guardian recently wrote, “Abu Aqleh [sic] was killed during an arrest raid by an Israeli commando unit on Palestinian militants.” Statements like this demonstrate the larger problem. The Israeli commando raids have no justification and are responsible for countless deaths of Palestinian civilians. Framing Palestinian fighters – defenders of their camp, their city and their people – as “militants,” and the Israeli invaders as “commandos,” immediately places the blame on the Palestinians and justifies the Israeli attack, thus justifying every Israeli raid.

Palestinian youth aim weapons

Palestinian youth aim weapons at occupying Israeli troops in Jenin, May 13, 2022. Majdi Mohammed | AP

This framing, typical in the media, allows the constant, never-ending killing of young Palestinians by Israel to go on uninterrupted. It begs the question: How many Palestinians need to die before the reporting is honest and Israel is forced to stop the killing?

Every so often, an event causes people to lift their heads and acknowledge that Israel went too far and that maybe something needs to be done. When Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered, there was a moment like that. When, a few days after the killing, her funeral procession was brutally attacked by Israeli forces, that was another such moment. But these moments are few and far between.

And these moments, even when they do come, do not last very long and yield no real results. Sometimes a letter is sent by a member of U.S. Congress; sometimes a few statements are made demanding an investigation into what took place. Then people move on and forget, and the flow of Palestinian blood – mostly young, promising men – continues unabated.

The roll of names of young Palestinians killed by Israel is too long to list; and, besides, by the time you try to write it down, more are added. The ages vary, but many are under 21. The images of weeping parents and siblings – sometimes a wife and a child, if they were old enough to marry – continue to flow as though this were some unavoidable, unpreventable curse.

In an open and frank interview I recently conducted with veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, he speaks of his frustration with the Israeli media and the Israeli audiences that consume it. “The media doesn’t want to report, and the consumers don’t want to know,” Levy passionately exclaimed.

 

Toeing the line

When the Israeli press report on a killing, they never fail to toe the government line, so the Palestinian is always a terrorist or part of a violent riot. He or they, as the case may be, had to be dealt with, and the courageous Israeli fighters did so. From time to time, to demonstrate just how professional the Israeli forces are, they are shown in action. Images are shown of these forces entering a refugee camp, which, as of late, they have often been doing, particularly in the northern part of the West Bank.

Israel brings in several battalions of commando units, Shabak secret-police units, or anti-terrorist forces, all heavily armed and wearing the best communication and protection equipment in the world, and equipped with unlimited amounts of ammunition. Israeli forces also have the best-trained medics, the finest first-aid capabilities, and helicopters ready to evacuate an injured soldier speedily. Once evacuated, an injured Israeli soldier receives the finest medical care in modern, well-equipped facilities.

Israeli raid

Israeli forces raid a home in Jenin, May 13, 2022, the day of Abu Akleh’s funeral. Majdi Mohammed | AP

All of this to face a few young Palestinians armed with little more than M-16s. The Palestinians have no helmets, no bulletproof vests, possess limited amounts of ammunition, and risk a very high possibility of getting injured or killed. A Palestinian wounded in battle does not have access to the same level of emergency medical care as the Israeli forces. Not even remotely. Palestinian ambulances, if they can even make it to the scene, are poorly equipped, and medical facilities are far and are rarely equipped well enough to deal with severe injuries.

 

Life goes on

On the Israeli side, life goes on as though nothing significant happened. Watching the news makes Israeli society numb. Clashes, Palestinians killed, the coalition government facing yet another crisis, Netanyahu may or may not be close to returning to the prime minister’s chair; who knows. From time to time, an Israeli settler or an officer is killed, their name is mentioned in the news, and people cry for a few days and forget. Settlements are being built – so many thousands in the Naqab, thousands more in east Jerusalem – and people of Msafer Yota in the South Hebron Hills are being forced off of their lands, but this is all normal, nothing to worry about. Israelis travel overseas for vacation and go out to cafes and restaurants — new ones open daily. One has to try them all.

Feature photo | Mourners carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in Jerusalem’s Old City, May 13, 2022. Mahmoud Illean | AP

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post The Assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh: Who Gave the Order? appeared first on MintPress News.

‘I Do Not Even Know What Justice Is For Me’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 2:27am in

Ignatius Ivlev-Yorke and Chris York meet the widow of a man killed in cold blood by a Russian soldier given a life sentence by a Ukrainian court

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The Ukrainian widow of a man gunned down in cold blood by a Russian soldier said last week that she would like to see his killer spend the rest of his life in prison. Today, a court in Kyiv granted her wish.

Twenty-one-year-old Vadim Shishimarin has been sentenced to life imprisonment, showing no emotion as the verdict was read.

Speaking to Byline Times after the verdict was handed down, Kateryna Shelipova said the court “gave him what he deserved” and “thank god it’s over”. Asked if she was happy with the outcome, she paused and sounding less than convinced, said: “Well, yes.”

Kateryna met Oleksandr Shelypov at a wedding in 1980. He was the best man and she was the maid of honour. They immediately hit it off but had to wait two years until he came out of the army before they married in 1982. They would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary later this year, with their son and two granddaughters, in their home village of Chupakhivka.

But the unimaginably horrific events of 28 February now mean that this will never happen.

Home to little more than 2,000 people, Chupakhivka sits on the bank of the Tashan river in Sumy province, 290km due east of Kyiv and just 70km from the border with Russia.

Four days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, on 28 February, Russian soldiers entered the town. One of those soldiers was 21-year-old tank-unit sergeant Shishimarin.

The day had begun badly for his unit. A friendly fire incident the night before meant that a small convoy, of which Shishimarin was part, was tasked with evacuating the wounded men when it came under fire from Ukrainian forces. Shishimarin and four other soldiers stole a car and began to drive through Chupakhivka.

Kateryna Shelipova. Photo: Ignatius Ivlev-Yorke

Meanwhile, already used to the sounds and routines of the war, Oleksandr and Kateryna took shelter in their home. Over a freshly prepared lunch of tomatoes, cucumber and sausage last week, Kateryna went over what happened the day her husband was killed.

“I don’t know what day of the week it was, but it was the 28 February," she told Byline Times. "There were tanks on the street that night. We hid in the cellar and he sat on the stairs all night and read. In the morning, he told me ‘I’m very cold, I’ll go to bed for a bit'. 

“While he slept, I made breakfast. When it was ready, I woke him up and told him to come eat. He said ‘let it cool down a bit, I’ll lie for a tad longer’. Later, he got up and ate breakfast and told me a tank had been blown up during the night – we didn’t know whose. ‘I’ll go and have look’ he said. I told him not to go but he said ‘it’s fine, everyone is looking so I’ll go’. He took his bicycle and left. 

“And then... I was in the yard and I heard the burst of a machine gun. I went in the house and told the girls 'girls, something is happening. Someone is shooting. Either our guys or the Russians, I heard a machine gun’. We stayed inside for a bit and then I went to get water from the well. As soon I came out the house, I heard more shooting, much closer this time. I opened the gate and looked out – and there it was, the barrel of a machine gun. I quickly shut the gate and leaned against the fence.”

At this point, Kateryna didn’t know who, if anyone, had been shot. But she did see who had fired. Pointing to a photo of Shishimarin, she said: “Yes. The little one. Him, yes. I’m sure it was him, I don’t know if he noticed me, but I saw him clear as day. They were driving past just as I peered out from the gate. They were driving slow, the car had flat tyres – they had taken a civilian car from someone.”

Kateryna said she stood there for five minutes before going back into the house.

“I told the girls I heard shots right next to the house, but I had no idea what had been shot at," she said. "I went into the house and said ‘girls, my gramps has been gone for a long time. I'll call him, I wonder where he is. There’s shooting going on here, and he’s not home’. I didn’t even stop to think that it could have been him who had been killed.

"Then I went outside. I came out the gate and saw… they’d shot him in the head. His brains were splattered all around. I started to scream, the neighbours ran up, but... well, he’d been shot in the head.” 

During the trial, Shishimarin told the court that an officer sitting in the front of the car they were in had ordered him to shoot Oleksandr, but that he had hesitated. It was only after another soldier shouted at him, saying that he could give away their positions, that he released a volley of bullets from his rifle. Why did he do it? “So that [the soldiers] would leave me alone”, he would later tell the court. Oleksandr was killed instantly.

Kateryna asked Shishimarin during the trial what he had felt towards her husband when he shot him. “Fear,” he answered.

“He was just talking to a friend on the phone,” Kateryna told Byline Times of Oleksandr's last movements. “A friend called him, he pulled out the phone, they started to speak, the friend told me at his funeral. Then shots were fired, and the line went dead. I guess they saw the phone in his hands and shot him. Perhaps they thought he was reporting their positions to someone.

"The soldier who killed him said the commanding officer had ordered him to shoot. Well, say you had to shoot, but why shoot a person – why couldn’t you have missed?”

Kateryna is struggling with her feelings towards the man who killed her husband. On the one hand, she sees a young boy caught up in a tragic war. On the other, she sees a soldier in an army committing unspeakable atrocities on her country, her people and her family.

“I do not even know what justice is for me," she said. "I would like him to get life imprisonment, but... even after he does the time, he’s not a person anymore. I hope he gets the punishment he deserves, and that's it. 

“I feel sorry for him, as a child. Very. He’s a young, green child. But then I saw what they did in Bucha, in Hostomel, in Mariupol... there is no excuse for them. No, I do not forgive them. It is important that he is found guilty. They committed a very great atrocity. You can't forgive them for that. We have forgiven so much already.

“I believe that soldiers should fight with soldiers – not civilians, not children. And the children, so many children have died. Are they to blame for this? Of course not. I also have two granddaughters. God forbid that something... No, it's unforgivable.”

Even before his life sentence was handed down, there was talk that Shishimarin could be exchanged for Ukrainian prisoners of war – something Kateryna supports. 

“It’s not for me to decide, but I would like to see him exchanged for our boys," she told Byline Times. "If we can get even one of our boys back, then that’s a life we have saved.”

Regardless of Shishimarin’s fate, Kateryna Shelipova now has to rebuild her life without the person she has shared it with for more than four decades. All this in the shadow of the ongoing war, suffering and hardships inflicted upon Ukraine by Russia’s invasion.

Asked what she will do now the trial is over, she said: “I will live on slowly, day by day, waiting for victory.”

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Boris Johnson Refuses to Join Canada in Sanctioning Alexander Lebedev

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 10:14pm in

Canada has sanctioned Johnson's associate, the former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev, who it says is one of the "key members of President Putin’s inner circle", reports Adam Bienkov

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Boris Johnson is refusing to impose sanctions on the Russian oligarch and former KGB officer Alexander Lebedev, despite one of the UK's closest allies identifying him as as a key member of "President Putin’s inner circle".

The Canadian Government announced on Friday that it had imposed sanctions on Lebedev, who they said was among those who had "directly enabled Vladimir Putin’s senseless war in Ukraine".

In a statement justifying the sanctions, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, said that "the Putin regime must, and will, answer for their unjustifiable acts."

Alexander Lebedev is the father of Johnson's close friend Evgeny Lebedev, who owns the Evening Standard and Independent newspapers.

Asked by Byline Times on Monday whether the UK would be joining their ally in sanctioning Alexander Lebedev, Johnson's spokesman said they would not comment on the "different judgement" taken by Canada.

"It’s not for me to comment on a different judgement of a different country," Johnson's spokesman said, before adding that "we will, and have taken significant action against Putin’s inner circle."

Johnson has met with Alexander Lebedev on multiple occasions, including at a party held by his son Evgeny in his Italian villa.

In 2018 the then Foreign Secretary left his security detail behind in order to attend the event, held just days after a Nato meeting to discuss Russia's poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the UK.

Johnson ennobled Alexander's son Evgeny in 2020, despite warnings by the UK's security services.

Multiple reports suggest that MI6 initially advised against Lebedev's appointment due to concerns about Alexander Lebedev's suspected links to Putin.

As Byline Times first reported, this advice was changed following a private meeting between Evgeny Lebedev and Johnson, of which no minutes were kept.

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Alexander Lebedev and Evgeny Lebedev. Photo: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy

The Prime Minister recently refused to comply with a vote by MPs ordering him to release details of the advice he received from the security services against placing Evgeny in the House of Lords.

The Labour Party accused the government of a "cover-up" for refusing to release the information.

Correspondence revealed by Byline Times earlier this year showed how Evgeny Lebedev built a close relationship with Johnson over the course of a decade.

The letters show that Lebedev lobbied Johnson to support a new Russian arts festival while he was Mayor of London, which he said had “substantial support from the Russian Government”.

Johnson, who attended dozens of dinners, parties, drinks and meetings with Lebedev during that period also told the newspaper proprietor that he would “thrilled” to secure his support.

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