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UK Labour Party’s Hiring of Former Israeli Spy Completes the Post-Corbyn Transformation 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/02/2021 - 8:37am in

Jeremy Corbyn’s successor as the UK’s opposition party leader (LOTO), Keir Starmer, has stated unequivocally that the embattled former head of the opposition will not return as a Labour MP, despite being reinstated as a member of the Party following his controversial ouster, which was driven by what many have called a concerted smear campaign branding him an anti-Semite and thwarting his bid to become Prime Minister.

After winning 52% of the vote, Starmer is now poised to jettison any perceptions of an anti-Jewish Labour Party and restore “trust” with the UK’s Jewish community, which exited the Party en masse during Corbyn’s tenure. A self-declared Zionist, the new LOTO is already facing criticism for quickly abandoning one of the central tenets of his campaign, but is standing firm on the matter of committing the Party to Israel.

Starmer’s links to the apartheid state are well-known and his successful run was bankrolled by prominent Israeli lobbyist Trevor Chinn, who also funded three other Labour MPs that played a key role in the promotion of the campaign against Corbyn and paved the way for Starmer’s rise to the Party leadership. Described as a man who “ascended to the front bench almost as soon as he entered parliament,” Starmer’s relative obscurity seems at odds with the historic moment this Labour party seems to be entering as calls for radical reform to the UK’s constitution are becoming louder in the wake of the recently unveiled Brexit deal.

Given Starmer’s “laser focus” on securing 10 Downing Street for Labour in 2024 and the critical messaging such a goal will require as Britain moves out of the EU, it is also noteworthy that Starmer’s office has hired a ‘former’ Israeli spy and Unit 8200 alumnus, Assaf Kaplan to oversee the Party’s social media operation. As reported by Asa Winstanley for The Electronic Intifada, Kaplan joined the UK’s opposition’s head office soon after Starmer’s election in December 2020.

 

The mercenary

Kaplan’s official title is Social Listening and Organizing Manager and, as such, is tasked with profiling target audiences. In this capacity, he will be honing in on who the opposition party’s audience is, how they feel about the party and what they want. While social listening, itself, is a new trend in brand marketing, its principles have deep roots in the Israeli military’s Unit 8200, where Kaplan served from 2009 to 2015.

Known as an incubator for numerous Israeli cybersecurity and digital surveillance startups that go on to join the private sector to provide related services to target dissidents around the world, like the infamous NSO Group and Black Cube, Unit 8200’s reputation for using state-of-the-art spying technology to repress, surveil and assassinate Palestinians follows anyone associated with the shadowy IDF spinoff factory.

The Unit’s murderous practices against the Palestinian people was exposed by a former member in 2014, who described the horrific lengths to which the Israeli state goes to make life a living hell for Palestinians through covert information gathering used to murder women and children in Gaza under the guise of fighting terrorism. “A significant part of our objectives are innocent people, not at all connected to any military activity,” writes the IDF whistleblower, revealing that he would often seek information about targets’ “difficult financial situation, sexual preferences, a person’s chronic illness or that of a relative, and necessary medical treatment”, which would be used to serve the “agendas of certain politicians.”

This kind of experience is sure to come in handy for Kaplan in his post at Labour Party headquarters, whose background includes knowledge of “digital monitoring platforms” and “human analysis” relating to Israeli elections. Together with his new boss’s recent history of using social media to execute a purge of purported “anti-Semitic” elements within the party, Kaplan should fit right in.

 

Starmer’s Purge

Beginning with Jeremy Corbyn, a life-long advocate for Palestinian rights who was banished from the center-left party for vacillating on the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s code of conduct, the campaign to root out pro-Palestinian voices within the party counted with the active participation of Keir Starmer.

Together with other party officials, Starmer played a leading role in the purging of eleven Labour party members, who had been tagged as anti-Semitic by an influential Jewish organization called Board of Deputies of British Jews or BoD, whose one-time president – Lord Rothschild – had a certain letter addressed to him from the King of England, which came to be known as the Balfour Declaration and led directly to the creation of Israel.

Starmer and company used the tweets of Rebecca Massey, a leading pro-Corbyn activist, to expel her from the party. The BoD had called attention to her social media posts and relayed their concerns that these “demonized Israel” and bordered on anti-Semitism. Denials by Starmer that he played any role in her expulsion and that of ten others at the behest of the BoD, were nonetheless disproved by confidential documents released in May 2020, that showed Starmer had met with the Jewish Labour Movement – a BoD affiliate – the day of Massey’s expulsion pursuant to a recommendation to expel her and ten others, which did occur later that evening.

 

Sacrificial Lamb

The UK is entering a pivotal time in its history as the pandemic crisis meets head on with the implementation of a Brexit deal, that is still opposed by a large segment of the population. Add to this the prospect of 3 million immigrants from Hong Kong rushing to take advantage of Boris Johnson’s British National Overseas (BNO) visa program as China declares it will not recognize the special passports, and you have a recipe for high drama in the coming months and years for the UK.

Perhaps an ideal scenario for those intent on remaking the British constitution, which is mostly coming from the centrists within the party and all those who would like to see all “the good stuff from the discredited EU and its institutions”, while leaving behind all “the rubbish.” What exactly the ‘good stuff’ is and what it is not, remains to be decided

What is clear is that the UK Labour Party has no intention of letting this ‘crisis go to waste’ and by bringing in an Israeli mercenary spy to take control of the all-important dimension of social media, which played a significant role in Brexit’s victory, Starmer is signaling Labour’s commitment to sacrifice human rights in Palestine for a shot at 2024.

Feature photo | Britain’s Labour party leader Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post UK Labour Party’s Hiring of Former Israeli Spy Completes the Post-Corbyn Transformation  appeared first on MintPress News.

With Anti-IMF Candidate Surging in Polls, Ecuador’s Moreno Flies To DC Amid Talk of Suspending Election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/02/2021 - 5:41am in

Polls show socialist, anti-imperialist candidate Andrés Arauz to be the clear frontrunner in Ecuador’s presidential elections slated to take place this Sunday, February, 7. Some even suggest the 35-year-old might receive double the votes of his nearest competitor in the first round of voting. Yet it now appears that the greatest danger to Arauz is not his rival candidates, but the threat of authorities canceling the election to prevent his victory.

International groups are flying in to monitor the contest, scheduled for February 7, with some calling for increased involvement of regional bodies like the Organization of American States (OAS). However, given its role in the far-right military coup in Bolivia in 2019, it is far from clear whether they would improve or hinder the process. Formed in 1948 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the body has consistently allied itself with U.S. foreign policy directives, permanently suspending Cuba from its members in 1962. Since then, it has often been used to legitimate American intervention in the region.

Only adding to the worries that a Bolivia-style coup might be imminent in Ecuador is current president Lenín Moreno’s decision to spend his final few days in office not in his homeland, but in Washington, D.C., where he has been meeting with senior members of the new Biden administration, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and OAS chief Luis Almagro, who is currently under investigation for his part in Bolivia’s coup.

Rafael Correa, president of the country between 2007 and 2017, raised the alarm on social media, warning that the National Electoral Council of Ecuador is meeting to discuss suspending the elections because of Arauz’s imminent victory, while Moreno’s trip to Washington is an attempt to get official approval for the plan.

“The OAS and Ecuador’s neoliberal president are looking to suspend elections so as to cling on to power and stop the coming victory of the Correa left. In Bolivia, a similar plan failed after the August general strike proved that the coup regime could not withstand an uprising,” wrote MintPress’ Ollie Vargas from Bolivia.

 

Arauz: anti-poverty, anti-imperialism, anti-IMF

The youthful Arauz is a disciple of Correa. Indeed, he chose Correa as his running mate before the move was blocked by the National Electoral Council. If Correa returns to Ecuador under the current administration, he will be immediately imprisoned on corruption charges. Unlike Moreno, who received billions of dollars from the organization, Arauz has promised to rid Ecuador of the IMF, an organization he sees as predatory and a tool of the United States. He is also proposing to greatly increase public spending, raise taxes on the wealthy and increase capital controls on money leaving the country. He aims to continue Correa’s anti-poverty and anti-imperialism drives, suggesting he will reconnect with other leftist governments like Bolivia and Venezuela and seek a more amicable relationship with China. Thus, it is clear why both the IMF and U.S. government would wish to see his victory stalled or prevented.

Ecuador IMF Protest Photo of the day

A man holds an anti-IMF sign depicting Lenin Moreno as a vulture at a protest in Quito, July 16, 2020. Dolores Ochoa | AP

“Arauz will win unless they steal it from him,” said Professor Steve Ellner, managing editor of the journal Latin American Perspectives. “After all, Correa had a 60% favorable rating when he left office. Moreno is completely discredited, and [conservative candidate Guillermo] Lasso has been around too long to be considered a new face for business in politics — and in addition is associated with global capital.”

 

Ecuador’s tug of war

Serving for ten years, Correa was the first president in modern history to be re-elected in Ecuador and presided over a period of remarkable tranquility for the often politically chaotic nation. In his time in office, he managed to reduce poverty by 38% and extreme poverty by 47% while also doubling social spending. Economic and political independence were key themes of his rule, too. He renegotiated the government’s share of the nation’s substantial oil revenues from 13% to 87%, hitting foreign energy corporations’ bottom lines hard. He also ejected all American troops from the country and forged regional ties with other like-minded neighboring nations. Ecuador also offered asylum to a number of Western dissidents, among them Wikileaks cofounder Julian Assange.

Correa’s vice-president, Moreno was elected on the express promise to carry on his legacy. However, almost immediately, he reversed most of his predecessor’s economic and political stances, inviting the IMF back in the country and moving closer to the U.S. Poverty and unemployment grew again. He also presided over one of the most inept COVID responses seen worldwide. On orders from the IMF, he had previously slashed public health budgets by 36% and expelled hundreds of Cuban doctors in an effort to please the Trump administration. As a result, the country was overwhelmed by COVID-19, with images of bodies being left in the streets for days going viral worldwide.

“The situation in Ecuador is very fucked up. I don’t even have the means to [explain in] English all of what’s happening. The new Minister of Health is an incredible idiot. Coronavirus or not this country is in big trouble with this wildly incompetent government,” said MintPress contributor and Quito resident Camila Escalante.

Economic issues are the primary concern for voters in this election, with 32% identifying poverty and 25% unemployment as their key worries. The country’s poverty rate jumped from 25.7% in December 2019 to 58.2% in June 2020, with extreme poverty quadrupling over the same period. A second issue is the ongoing COVID crisis, the latest chapter of which revolves around vaccines meant for public hospitals being diverted to private clinics in affluent areas, a scandal that has already been dubbed “vaccines for the elites, cardboard coffins for the rest.”

Arauz’s two closest rivals for the presidency are Guillermo Lasso, a 65-year-old banker and former Coca-Cola executive who has a strong following among the country’s upper-middle class and 51-year-old indigenous leader Yaku Pérez. Pérez came to national attention after leading protests against Moreno’s austerity measures in 2019. However, he has distanced himself from the left. When asked to comment on Arauz’s plan to give $1,000 to one million Ecuadorian mothers who are heads of their households, he replied that he opposed the idea because they would “probably spend it all on beer that same day.” Both trail Arauz in the polls, meaning that he could achieve outright victory in one round of voting, a rare achievement in a multi-party democracy. However, given the plots brewing, Arauz may have more to fear from the U.S. and his own election authorities than from his political rivals.

Feature photo | Andres Arauz, candidate for the Union por la Esperanza party, UNES, greets supporters during a rally in Salcedo, Ecuador, Jan. 31, 2021. Dolores Ochoa | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post With Anti-IMF Candidate Surging in Polls, Ecuador’s Moreno Flies To DC Amid Talk of Suspending Election appeared first on MintPress News.

America’s Half a Century of War in Somalia Comes to an End. Sort Of

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 7:37am in

Like so many of the conflicts around the world today, the ongoing war in Somalia dates back to the proxy wars between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. With the latter now a historical relic, American involvement in the East African nation has continued under the guise of the “war on terror,” in order to maintain a geopolitical edge in the Horn of Africa.

In December of 2020, the Trump administration announced the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Somalia, sparking concerns from factions within the Somali military that have grown to rely on American troops and training in the country’s endless civil war.

The move has come under intense criticism from pro-interventionist media like Foreign Affairs magazine, who urged the Biden administration to “recommit” to fighting al-Shabaab militant force, which has emerged as the main focus of resistance after decades of foreign interference in the African nation. Listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department since 2008, al-Shabaab is part of a broader coalition of interests fighting for regional independence that includes factions within the Somali government and national security forces.

Far from a capitulation, the pull out of U.S. troops from Somalia is little more than a part of a redeployment operation to move American forces to other parts of East Africa. AFRICOM spokesman Air Force Col. Chris Karns admitted that a “limited force presence will remain” in the country and, as evidenced by the continued U.S. airstrikes conducted after the withdrawal of 700 to 800 troops – on pace to exceed those of previous years – any illusions that the United States has any intention of retreating should be put to rest.

 

A cold beginning

The Federal Republic of Somalia is one of four countries located in what is generally referred to as the Horn of Africa, a vital artery for global commerce since the nineteenth century. As the source of the Nile river, its proximity to Middle East oil fields, and Indian Ocean trade routes, the Horn of Africa has long been the target of colonial powers Britain and France, as well as fascist Italy during World War II.

American involvement didn’t begin in earnest until well after the war when Somali independence in the 1960s brought British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland under one flag and arbitrary territorial demarcations left large swaths of ethnic Somalis dispersed on the edges of the new country, fueling a tug of war between Soviet-led Eastern bloc countries and the U.S. to bring these groups under their influence. The Somali-Soviet arms deal of 1963 cemented the Russian’s advantage. The Soviets seemed to gain an even greater hold on the burgeoning African nation after the military coup of 1969 executed by far-left nationalists led by General Siad Barre, spurring major U.S. military aid to neighboring Ethiopia resulting in regular armed clashes between the two.

Matters deteriorated for American interests in 1975 when a military coup in Ethiopia installed a Marxist group known as DERGUE to power, deposing the U.S.-backed regime of Emperor Haile Selassie and further opening the door to Soviet influence in the region. This turn of events would become a watershed moment for U.S. policy in the region as it began providing military and economic assistance to Said Barre’s socialist government.

Somali children run alongside a U.S. Marine M-1 Abrams tank during an armored patrol in north Mogadishu, Somalia, Jan. 26, 1993. (AP/Mark Duncan)

Somali children run alongside a U.S. M-1 Abrams during an armored patrol in north Mogadishu, Jan. 26, 1993. Mark Duncan | AP

The so-called Ogaden War between Ethiopia and Somalia, launched by Barre in 1977, broke relations between the Somali regime and the Soviet Union, which struck a deal with Fidel Castro to bring in 5,000 Cuban troops to back their Ethiopian ally, resulting in the defeat of Said Barre’s army and the beginning of the end of détente between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

In 1979, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan would set the stage for Operation Cyclone; a CIA program initiated by President Jimmy Carter to finance Afghan resistance groups known as mujahedeen. The longest-running covert operation in American history has funneled over $20 Billion over the years to arm and train these groups and, despite its widely-recognized success in defeating the Soviet incursion, its aftermath has created a “Frankenstein” that continues to dominate U.S. policy in the Near East and which plays a central role in the Somalian civil war, which has devolved into a full-fledged regional conflict.

 

Box office hit

Thanks to Hollywood, many Americans are familiar with snippets of one of the United States’ biggest failures in Somalia since it started redoubling its efforts to impose its will in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a movie titled “Black Hawk Down,” the story of how 18 American troops were shot out of the sky by Somali warlords omits most of the relevant details

Under an initiative called Operation Restore Hope, the administration of George H.W. Bush and the United Nations in an ostensibly humanitarian mission sent 30,000 Belgian troops to Somalia in order to create a “secure environment for eventual political reconciliation” in the wake of a war-induced famine that had claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The mission quickly flipped into a military operation that fomented the rise of Somali warlords as the “peacekeeping” troops began persecuting local clan leaders and exacerbating tensions. Bush’s successor, Bill Clinton, expanded the “mission” and escalated the conflict in the civil war that overthrew the exiled government of Said Barre.

Somalia US Troops 1993

A US Marine confronts a Somali trying to enter the port of Mogadishu without ID, Jan. 21, 1993. Dave Caulkin | AP

General Mohamed Farah Aideed, a popular opposition leader and chairman of the United Somali Congress, was targeted by the U.S.-led foreign interventionists by enabling rival warlords to capture towns controlled by the General’s allies and ordering his arrest. This action turned the U.N.’s peacekeeping force into a common enemy, leading to their withdrawal from the country as Aideed’s men went on the attack. In response, Clinton deployed American soldiers to capture Aideed and his lieutenants. The infamous operation that led to the death of 18 U.S. troops and hundreds of Somalis memorialized in the aforementioned film, was a “snatch-and-grab” mission to capture two of Aideed’s lieutenants in the capital city of Mogadishu.

The operation involved 160 troops altogether, along with 19 aircraft and 12 vehicles. Known since as the Battle of Mogadishu, local militias trapped the invaders in an 18-hour firefight and downed two American Black Hawk helicopters, with international news outlets carrying images of dead American soldiers being dragged through the streets. Faced with such a public humiliation, Clinton stopped the mission and pulled U.S. forces out in March 1994.

After this debacle, the U.S. opted to keep a low profile in Somalia and in 2001 began extensive covert operations in the African nation. The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) took the lead in surveillance, reconnaissance, assault, and capture operations, which continued until 2016 and has resulted in the killing of hundreds of al-Shabaab militants, the main target of the operations.

In 2011, President Obama began deploying Reaper drones to the region, which have become a staple in America’s imperial wars, adding to the massive inventory of bombs and bullets that are still killing thousands of innocent civilians without a shred of accountability.

 

A legacy of blood

A case can be made that what has been called the civil war in Somalia has only ever been a relentless campaign by foreign countries to control a geographical area, that is vital to the functioning of their global commercial interests. The exploitation of any vague national sentiment their agents can muster by throwing money and guns at one faction or another is only a means to an end and.

As proven by the U.S.’ decades-long backing of a declared socialist like Said Barre and the current crusade against the “Islamic terrorist” militant groups they created in the 1970s, the ideological justifications driving much of the political rhetoric is as empty as an exploded mortar shell.

US airstrike Somalia

A vehicle destroyed by US airstrike in Jamaame, Somalia, January 20th, 2021. Morad News via Airwars

Last Friday, January 22, barely one week after the withdrawal of American troops, 189 al-Shabaab fighters were massacred by the U.S.-backed Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF). The strike was coordinated with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which partners with CIA agents that “operate unilaterally in the country” as part of the spy agency’s counterterrorism program in Somalia.

Despite Joe Biden’s campaign promise to “end forever wars,” the incoming U.S. administration is unlikely to modify its policy towards Somalia. In fact, some are already calling for the president to reverse Trump’s decision to remove troops, which further reveals the withdrawal to be not much more than a political parlor trick, as even arch-neocon policy wonks at the American Enterprise Institute understand that enough of the groundwork has been laid to continue the U.S.’ bloody legacy in the region, take or leave a few boots on the ground.

Feature photo | A still from footage of a US airstrike on Kunya Barrow, January 1, 2021. Photo | AFRICOM

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post America’s Half a Century of War in Somalia Comes to an End. Sort Of appeared first on MintPress News.

#STANDWITHISSA: Issa Amro Stood Against Israel’s Settler State and is About to Pay a Heavy Price

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 6:55am in

Occupied Hebron — “Israel wants to steal our history. They want to focus only on one small part of the history and ignore all the rest,” Issa Amro told me in an interview for the “Miko Peled Podcast,” (also available at Mikoeled.com). Issa was talking about why Israeli settlers are so keen to take over Tel Rumeida, a hill overlooking the city of Hebron. It is a hill that contains an archaeological and historical gold mine. Not because it contains actual gold, but because along with the ancient olive trees that have been alive and have sustained people who lived in Hebron for thousands of years, it contains proof of an ancient civilization and continuous life that goes back thousands of years.

 

Violent extremist take over

The city of Hebron has the misfortune of having been invaded by extreme religious Zionist settlers. These are settlers who have a very particular reading of Biblical stories and are extremely violent and uncompromising. Their hate for Palestinians knows no bounds and like other Zionists, these settlers have no regard for the actual historical significance of the city of Hebron, but only see it in terms of their narrow, fanatic reading of the Old Testament.

Zionists in general, and the Zionist settlers in Hebron, in particular, feel that Old Testament stories represent history and completely disregard the fact that archaeological evidence points in a different direction. They interpret the archaeology in a way that satisfies their greed, their bigotry, and their desire to take the city away from its rightful inhabitants, the Palestinians of Hebron.

These fanatic settlers serve an important role within the larger Zionist takeover of Palestine. The method that Zionists have always used in order to take over land, even before the state of Israel was established, was to send young ideological zealots who are willing to use violence to forcibly take over Palestinian land. Then, they send in the military and claim that the area is a military base or is required for military use. Then the military leaves and invites settlers back to create a permanent settlement.

A portion of Tel Rumeida has already been taken over by settlers, but they will not be content until the entire Hill is in their hands. One man has made it his mission in life to make sure that this does not happen. This man, Issa Amro, was recently convicted by an Israeli military court of a list of charges that read like a textbook of civil disobedience. While he is yet to be sentenced, sentencing is expected to take place on February 8, 2021. There is reason to believe he will be serving time in an Israeli military prison. His only crime is that he dared to stand up to the vicious violence of fanatic Zionist settlers and the Israeli Army which is at their service using the tool of civil disobedience and non-violent resistance.

 

“I’m going to murder you Issa Amro!”

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to take a few friends to visit Hebron. We met with Issa and he was kind enough to give us a tour of the city, the city in which he was born and now can only walk along roads in which he, as a non-Jew, is permitted to walk. It just so happens that the house in which he was born has been closed off by the Israeli army and Issa cannot access it.

As we reached a point in the city where non-jews (or rather Palestinians) are not permitted to walk, we saw a soldier standing and next to him a young settler who could not have been more than 14 years old. The boy looked at Issa and said to him in Hebrew, “Issa,  I am going to come and murder you one of these days.” He repeated this statement and then turned to the soldier and they gave each other a high-five. That is the environment in which Issa and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have to live because of the Zionist occupation of Hebron.

 

Saving a house in Hebron

Anyone familiar with the Israeli occupation in Palestine and the violence of the settlers and the Israeli military would find the following story impossible and unthinkable, however, Issa Amro was able to pull it off.

One house that was strategically placed on Tel Rumeida, and from which one can see the entire Old City of Hebron, was about to be taken over by settlers. It had gone through the process of the military takeover and was then handed over to settlers. Issa managed to find the Palestinian owner of the house and rent it from him legally. It had cost Issa agony, arrest, detention, endless interrogations, and required the intervention of hundreds of activists from around the world, but in the end, Issa was able to salvage the house from the settlers and establish a center from which he runs one of the most effective grassroots operations in Palestine, Youth Against Settlements (YAS).

Tel Rumeida Hebron

Miko Peled, left, with Issa Amro at YAS Center in Tel-Rumeida, Hebron. Photo | Miko Peled

The work of Issa Amro and Youth Against Settlements includes documenting human rights violations by the army and settlers. Their work also includes organizing creative nonviolent actions, establishing and renovating community spaces such as a community center, kindergarten, woman empowerment center, and the beginnings of a cinema for which Issa may go to jail. Palestinians in Hebron are constantly at risk of forced displacement, and empowering this community in the most vulnerable areas through home repair, protective presence, and distributing charity is a crucial part of the local grassroots activism of Issa and the YAS.

 

Sentenced for civil disobedience

After a trial that has lasted several years and finally ended late in 2020, a military judge, Lt. Colonel Menahem Lieberman, himself is a religious Zionist settler who emigrated from the United States and has close ties to the settler community in Hebron, found Issa guilty of six out of the 18 counts of which he was charged. The indictment with 18 charges was presented in summer 2016, roughly three weeks after a campaign to establish a cinema in Hebron began.

THE CHARGES – CONVICTED:

  • First count – assaulting a public servant
  • Fifth count – participating in a rally without a permit
  • Eight count – participating in a march without a permit
  • Tenth count – obstructing a soldier
  • Seventeenth count – participating in a march without a permit
  • Eighteenth count – participating in a march without a permit

Between the time that this is published and February 8, at which time the judge will rule regarding sentencing, there is still time to act in order to help Issa Amro.

For information regarding the campaign please visit the Friends of Hebron where you can publish photos of yourself holding a sign in support of Issa, publish a video statement telling why you believe Issa Amro should go free. You can also call or email elected officials and reach out to your community centers, activist groups, local charities, religious organizations, and churches to request they release statements in support of Issa and contact your local elected and unelected officials.

Anyone wanting to help out is also encouraged to reach out to writers, journalists, celebrities, professors, and notable community members and ask them to make public statements or write editorials about the case. Friends of Hebron is also circulating a petition you can sign and send to others.

The risk of losing invaluable historical monuments and forgetting the rich history of Palestine is real. Doing what we can to prevent that is our responsibility as people of conscience for future generations. The first step is to stand with Palestinians like Issa Amro.

Feature photo | Palestinian activist Issa Amro, center, celebrates his release from detention, in the West Bank city of Hebron, Sept. 10, 2017. Nasser Shiyoukhi | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post #STANDWITHISSA: Issa Amro Stood Against Israel’s Settler State and is About to Pay a Heavy Price appeared first on MintPress News.

Africa’s Last Colony: UN Must Hold Long-Overdue Vote for Self-Determination in Western Sahara

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 2:02am in

Following nearly 100 years of colonization by Spain, and 45 years of brutal occupation, settler colonialism, exploitation of natural resources, and ethnic cleansing by Morocco since 1975, the people of the Western Sahara have been pushed to the brink of war. On Nov. 10, Morocco broke through a United Nations buffer zone and launched a military operation in the Sahrawi town of Guergerat on the border with Mauritania. This act of belligerence effectively ended a 29-year ceasefire brokered and monitored by the United Nations, igniting the Indigenous population to resume its armed liberation struggle in self-defense. On Dec. 10, Morocco announced that it was normalizing relations with Israel, to which the United States delivered a tandem quid pro quo: it recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara and announced the sale of $1 billion in drones, Apache helicopters and precision-guided weapons to Morocco.

Morocco’s most recent act of war is viewed by the POLISARIO Front — the Sahrawi people’s government-in-exile in Rabouni, Algeria — as the last straw in a long list of aggressions and transgressions aimed at annihilating their culture, human rights and struggle for self-determination as recognized and upheld by international law. The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, or MINURSO, was established by Security Council Resolution 690 in 1991 to allow the Sahrawi people to choose their fate in accordance with the settlement proposal accepted by both Morocco and the POLISARIO. An additional 24 UNSC resolutions have been predicated on this resolution aimed at implementing a fair and impartial voter registration process, as well as Resolution 380 in 1975 deploring Morocco’s movement into the territory.

These actions on the part of Morocco and the United States are in contravention to international law and its conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which safeguards the right to freedom and self-determination. In 1965, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 2072 requesting Spain to “take all necessary measures” to decolonize the territory. Following Spain’s announcement that it would withdraw from the territory in 1975, the International Court of Justice affirmed the right of the people of the Western Sahara to self-determination. King Hassan II of Morocco responded to the court’s announcement with a national radio proclamation that a Maseerah or “march to reclaim Moroccan Sahara” would take place, which mobilized 350,000 Moroccans to immediately pack up and move to the territory, with successive waves of relocation occurring ever since.

In 1984, the Organization of African Unity accepted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or SADR, as a member state. Morocco, a founding member of the OAU, then withdrew in protest for 33 years — rejoining in 2017 as a means to gain political and economic leverage.

Core to the MINURSO Mission’s mandate was the establishment of an identification commission led by pairs of Sahrawi Shaykhs (tribal leaders) from each clan, who were approved by both Rabat and Rabouni to determine the authenticity of those applying to register to vote in the referendum.  Unfortunately, the referendum to determine whether Africa’s last colony was to become independent or incorporated into Morocco has never occurred. This is in spite of the fact that the U.N. peacekeeping mission has been in operation for 29 years. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently renewing the MINURSO mandate for another year, with the pledge to send yet another personal envoy to the region after the post had been vacant since May 2019. Initially set for January 1992, the referendum has been repeatedly stalled by Sahrawi objections to persistent and sustained efforts by Morocco to present its nationals as Sahrawi tribal members. In 1995, the voter identification process requisite to the referendum was suspended and has been stalemated ever since.

In the meantime, Morocco has successfully “Moroccanized” the Western Sahara since 1975, similar to Israel’s 72 years of Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine. For the past 29 years, under feigned compliance with the MINURSO mandate, the Kingdom has continued its settler colonial project effectively changing the demographics of the territory. According to Mulay Ahmed of the Sahrawi Association in the United States, the Western Sahara’s population of nearly 700,000 has been ethnically adulterated to include 400,000 Moroccans incentivized by housing subsidies to move south from Morocco to El-Aioun, Smara, Boujdour, Dakhla and other cities. “These predominantly ethnic Berbers are different from the nomadic Sahrawis,” he said, whose origin traces back to the Arabian Peninsula following two waves of migrations in the 9th and 13th centuries. Apart from sharing the Maliki School of Islam as their religion, Sahrawis and Moroccans differ dramatically in language, culture, food, dress and affinity to the desert and the Western Sahara’s exquisitely beautiful sand dunes. In fact, because of the relative isolation of the Sahrawi people in the western Sahara Desert for centuries, they have maintained a cultural purity and their dialect is regarded as the closet to classical Qur’anic Arabic.

In addition to changing the facts on the ground ethnically, Morocco’s brutal occupation is characterized by violent suppression of dissidence and of the nonviolent protests of Indigenous Sahrawis. Arrests, incarceration, torture, disappearances, abuse and economic apartheid have resulted in ethnic cleansing and the exodus of some 200,000 to Algeria, Mauritania, Spain, France, the United States, Canada and Latin America. In this regard, the U.N. presence in the region under the auspices of conducting a referendum is likened to the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine National Authority in 1993, whereby a partial deal was struck which left out the status of Jerusalem and right of return of Palestinians in exile — while illegal settlement-building increased exponentially and Israel began construction of its apartheid border wall.

In his famous statement on South Africa before the Special Committee Against Apartheid at U.N. headquarters in New York in 1990, the late anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela said:

We also take this opportunity to extend warm greetings to all others who fight for their liberation and their human rights, including the peoples of Palestine and Western Sahara. We commend their struggles to you, convinced that we are all moved by the fact that freedom is indivisible, convinced that the denial of the rights of one diminishes the freedom of others.”

Western Sahara

Polisario freedom fighters prepare tea in the Western Sahara region of Tifariti, May 20 2008. Daniel Ochoa de Olza | AP

As is the case with Israel’s appropriation of internationally-recognized Palestinian lands after the Oslo Accords, and in contravention to that historic peace agreement, Morocco has sabotaged the referendum process. At the same time, the United Nations in general, and Security Council in particular, have been mute as Morocco has accelerated the breadth and scope of its colonial project with the assistance and blind eye of two permanent members of the Security Council: the United States and France. Morocco has devoted $20 billion to its strategic objective of securing the Western Sahara, and its primary arms suppliers include the United States, with a 53 percent share, followed by France with 44 percent.

The United Nations has never taken a firm and clear position around Western Sahara or used all the mechanisms at its disposal to check Moroccan violations, transgressions and belligerence, such as the invocation of Chapters VI and VII of the U.N. Charter to support negotiations between Morocco and the POLISARIO, as if they are two equal parties, or to implement sanctions.

According to Mohamed Brahim of the Sahrawi Association in the United States, “the U.N. is unable or unwilling to force Morocco to respect the referendum, particularly due to the presence and influence of the United States and France — two allies on the Security Council with vested geopolitical and financial interests in the Western Sahara’s great resources.”

The territory is rich in phosphates, fish, uranium, salt, minerals, sand and potential off-shore oil drilling. The world’s longest conveyor belt, which can be seen from space, runs 61 miles (98 kilometers) from the mining town of Bukraa to the port of El-Aioun in occupied Western Sahara.

This stacking of the decks in favor of Morocco by the United States goes back decades. In 1975 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told President Gerald Ford that he hoped for “a rigged U.N. vote” affirming Moroccan sovereignty over the territory. Successive administrations of both parties have supported the Kingdom, which has since 2019 purchased billions of dollars’ worth of American weapons. The Clinton Foundation has secured $12 million in donations from King Mohammed VI and private Moroccan corporations, after which Secretary of State Hillary

Clinton encouraged Morocco to abandon the U.N.-sponsored referendum in favor of a negotiated settlement with the POLISARIO. Doing so would have had the effect of relegating Sahrawi leadership to a Moroccan puppet regime, as many Palestinians now view the Palestinian Authority as pandering to Israel post-Oslo.

More recently, in 2018, the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and last month announced that it was opening a consulate in Dakhla in occupied Western Sahara. Both moves were made in flagrant disregard and contravention of international law pertaining to the status of these territories, and taken while claiming to be a neutral arbiter in both regions.

Regarding the United States’ carte blanche sale of $11.3 billion in weapons to Morocco since 2019, its recent move to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara reframes and relegates the brutal occupation to a situation of civil unrest and insurgency rather than international war — something for which the United States could be held in check by Congress or accountable by the U.N. for aiding and abetting.

“It is hard to tell where Morocco is going to use these weapons. There is now an open war between the Sahrawi army and the Moroccan army,” said Ambassador Sidi Omar, Representative of the POLISARIO Front at the U.N. in New York, when asked if Morocco would use these weapons against the Sahrawi resistance movement and refugee camps in Algeria. “Since the bulk of the Moroccan army is stationed in occupied Western Sahara, it is likely that the weapons will be used in the ongoing war against the civilian population.”

Western Sahara refugee camp

A Sahrawi woman walks through the Smara refugee camp near Tindouf, south-western Algeria, March 4, 2016. Toukik Doudou | AP

Sahrawi civilians, in should be noted, have patiently and in good faith practiced nonviolent civil disobedience for 29 years, while in full cooperation with the U.N. mandate for a referendum. What is certain, Omar added, is that “the continuation of the armed conflict in Western Sahara will have dire consequences on peace and stability in our region.”

Like Palestine, Western Sahara is confronted with a great power imbalance, although its liberation struggle resonates with civil society across Africa, the Middle East and beyond. The longstanding occupation by Morocco has ongoing local and regional repercussions, which can explode at any time to become an international imbroglio fueled by superpowers, proxy wars and multi-billion-dollar arms sales.

In such a scenario, it is likely that purveyors of these weapons — including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Atomics and the French weapons consortium MBDA — will continue to profit directly while bolstering the military industrial complex creating American and French jobs.

In spite of this bleak scenario, the Western Sahara, Morocco and the region do not need to engage in war. According to Mohamed Brahim of the Sahrawi Association in the United States, the solution is simple. “Hold the U.N. referendum once and for all. Let the Sahrawi people and their legitimate representatives decide their future.” He hopes that the incoming Biden administration will reverse the decision to recognize the Western Sahara as part of Morocco. “However,” he said, “what is more likely is that the military industrial complex and Israeli lobby will convince him otherwise.”

Feature photo | Members of the Polisario Front mourn the death of their leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz during his funerals in the Rabouni refugees camp, south western Algeria. Sidali Djarboub | AP

This article was originally published at Waging Nonviolence and was reprinted with the author’s permission.

Susan H Smith is director of operations at the Fellowship of Reconciliation and founding member of the International Sanctuary Declaration campaign. A former United Nations employee and Islamic school principal, she has experience providing humanitarian relief to refugees in the Western Sahara, Algeria, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Greece and the United States.

The post Africa’s Last Colony: UN Must Hold Long-Overdue Vote for Self-Determination in Western Sahara appeared first on MintPress News.

It’s Still Early, but Signs Point To an Israel-First Biden Presidency

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/01/2021 - 8:13am in

Now that the Democratic party is in power in America and controls both the executive and legislative branches of government, they would do well to listen to what young people have to say about the Democratic agenda regarding Israel and Palestine. During a panel discussion that I hosted before the elections that can be found on the “Miko Peled Podcast” or at Mikopeled.com, a panel of young American voters from different backgrounds and different ethnicities discussed what they thought about the Democratic platform regarding this vitally important issue.

 

Young Voices

These young voters are fully aware that as they join the workforce and pay taxes, close to 4 billion dollars of their hard earned tax dollars go to Israel each and every year. These young voters talked about the fact that the Democratic party stands behind Israel 110%, that their track record going back to the Obama-Biden era is troubling, to say the least, and that Obama-Biden gave Israel the largest foreign aid package in the history of foreign aid packages.

One of the panelists brought up the fact that Kamala Harris had declared unconditional support for Israel regardless of what Israel did, completely ignoring Israel’s human rights violations. This panelist also said that this demonstrates that Harris is spineless because she bows to the Israeli lobby. Another speaker said that the Democratic party had aided and abetted war crimes committed by Israel and that the Democratic party’s policies, or rather the lack of a clear policy attitude towards the Palestinian issue, is inexcusable.

 

Female activists speak up

Other voices that the Biden Administration might want to listen to are female activists who work and live and what is called 1948 Palestine, in other words, among Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. Another panel that I hosted, and can also be found on the “Miko Peled Podcast” and on Mikopeled.com, was with female Palestinian activists who reside and work in Palestine itself. Their comments regarding Israel’s treatment of Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship were as follows, “we are second-class citizens by law.” Referring to the Israeli nation-state law which elevated the status of Israeli Jews and their rights in occupied Palestine.

“Our language has been reduced from being one of the official languages of this country to just another language that is spoken,” again referring to the nation-state law which downgraded the status of the Arabic language. Then they added a statement that was perhaps the most painful of them all, that “Palestinian citizens are seen and are treated as a demographic threat.” One has to wonder what it means about a country that considers its own citizens who happen to be of a different religion and a different background to be a demographic threat, in the twenty-first century.

“We Face discrimination in all aspects of life,” said one of the activists, and she continued, “when it comes to budgets, when it comes to resources given to the Palestinian municipalities, and on top of that, the poorest of the poor within Israel are Palestinians.” “In fact,” she continued, “65% of the Palestinians citizens of Israel live below the poverty line.”

There are historic towns, particularly in the Naqab region, towns that preceded the establishment of the state of Israel and which the state of Israel refuses to recognize. These towns are known as “unrecognized towns” and within these towns, over 100,000 Palestinian citizens of Israel reside. “The unrecognized towns have no access to  water, electricity, education facilities, roads, or medical facilities.”

Israel has enacted policies in the Naqab region whereby only Jewish settlers are permitted to engage in agriculture. In fact, Israel provides incentives for Israeli Jews to settle in the region and engage in agriculture work. The Palestinian Bedouin community,  on the other hand, which is traditionally an agricultural community, is forbidden from engaging in agriculture and land cultivation. Traditionally this community raised livestock and knows how to use the resources of this mostly desert region in order to cultivate crops. However, Israel has mandated that they must remain in their townships and poverty-stricken cities and that they are not permitted to engage in agriculture, except as cheap labor for Israeli Jewish settlers. We should remember that the Palestinian Bedouin community of the Naqab are also citizens of the state of Israel.

 

Does Biden know?

The problem is that the voices of activists at the grassroots level rarely reach the halls of power. Will Secretary of State Anthony Blinken ever hear what Palestinians are saying? Will people in the Biden administration ever pay attention to the voices of young Americans who are involved in activism and care about human rights issues? What will it take for people to realize that support for Zionism is just as bad, or perhaps even worse, than support for the Proud Boys?

Secretary of State Blinken says he believes that Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel and that the U.S. embassy should remain there. Does he realize, however, that right-wing religious zealots who are today in positions of power and are likely to gain more power in the upcoming elections plan to destroy more and more of historic Palestinian Jerusalem in order to accommodate their obsession with their own mythology?

One has to wonder what Secretary of State Blinken will say, and indeed what President Biden will say when they realize that they allowed radical right-wing religious Zionist zealots to destroy the glorious Arab, Muslim and Christian history of Jerusalem? Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel gave an enormous boost to the most radical and violent elements within the state of Israel and the destruction of these two iconic monuments is part of their agenda.

As the leader of the radical right, Naftali Bennett gets closer and closer to the prime minister’s chair in Tel Aviv, the radical right-wing religious zealots get closer and closer to destroying the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, two monuments that have crowned Jerusalem for over 1,000 years. One has to wonder how long it will take before any American politician realizes Zionism is toxic and that it has been poisoning Palestine with racism, violence, and hatred for close to 100 years.

Even as American politicians choose to deny that Israel is a racist state and choose to reject the Palestinian call to impose boycotts, to divest, and to place sanctions on the state of Israel, the egregious violations of international law and human rights abuses continue. Furthermore, the state of Israel enacts deeper and more severe anti-Palestinian policies throughout the entire country. Right-wing groups terrorize the countryside, the military and the police engage in the destruction of homes, destruction of communities, and the abuse of Palestinians everywhere.

Even though it is still early, it already seems that when it comes to policy regarding the Middle East and Iran, the Biden Administration, just like the Trump Administration before it, will be taking orders from the Israeli government.

Feature photo | Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not seen, give joint statements in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. Debbie Hill | Pool via AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post It’s Still Early, but Signs Point To an Israel-First Biden Presidency appeared first on MintPress News.

Blowback: Trump’s Sanctions on Yemen Are Already Backfiring

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/01/2021 - 5:30am in

HAJJAH, YEMEN, NEAR THE SAUDI BORDER — “We thought that aid from the U.S. would feed our children, not that American sanctions would see them dying from hunger,” a Yemeni father who wished only to be called J. A. from the border city of Abs near Saudi Arabia told MintPress.

The only income J.A. has to feed the twenty family members under his care is the money transfer that comes in at the end of every month. He receives 500 Saudi riyals from his expatriate son in Saudi Arabia who works in a laundromat. That money, though, will no longer be able to make it to Yemen as exchange companies are canceling foreign remittances to the country amid sanctions imposed by the outgoing Trump administration. ”Either we die by a U.S. bomb or U.S. sanctions, it is the same, is this the America that everyone dreams of?” J. A. asked.

The last-minute decision by the former Trump administration to designate Ansar Allah as a “foreign terrorist organization” has sparked concern from the thousands of Yemeni families that depend on remittances sent home from relatives working abroad, which represent millions of dollars annually. According to J.A, the repercussions of the designation have already started to harm his family, who is powerless as money exchanges and banks in the Saudi city where his son works have refused to transfer money to Yemen, arguing that Abs is under the control of Houthis (Ansar Allah).

Sources in Sana’a, including Houthi officials, charities, banks, and exchange shops, told MintPress that international banks, exchange shops, and firms have already ceased participating in commercial or financial transactions with Yemenis, including those exempted for humanitarian transactions, due to the fear of triggering U.S. sanctions.

 

Popular resistance

Despite being a staunch opponent of Ansar Allah, J.A. took to the street on the highway road linking Hodeida and Hajjah to protest against the sanctions. There, thousands of residents, including Ansar Allah supporters, sympathizers as well as those at odds with the group, carried banners reading “America is the mother of terrorism!” Protesters shouted “Who is killing the Yemeni people?” while others retorted, “America!”

Like the residents in the border city of Abs, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis took the streets in 17 major cities including Sana’a, Hodeida, Hajjah, and other cities to show support for Ansar Allah and reject the designation of the movement as terrorists. They called on President Biden to end support to the Saudi-led coalition and reverse the decision they say punishes a nation reeling from war and a blockade imposed by Washington’s allies in the region.

The protests drew crowds from across all parties and workers, including engineers, farmers, and civil defense. Doctors and aid workers wore their uniforms and marched side by side with money changers, business owners, civil society organizations, and local relief organizations. Most religious groups in Yemen, including Shafa’is, Zaydis, and others, as well as most major national parties, were also among the protests.

In Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, hundreds of thousands gathered at Bab al-Yemen carrying Yemeni flags and holding banners. While others gathered in front of the shuttered U.S. Embassy, raising their fists up as they chanted slogans against former U.S. President Donald Trump. Some tore American flags while others trampled on them with their feet.

Yemen Sanctions

A massive crowd of Houthi supporters rally against the United States in Sanaa, January 26, 2021. Khaled Abdullah } Reuters

In Hodeida, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi was the keynote speaker at a rally where he delivered a sermon to hundreds of thousands of protesters. “We are not afraid of Americans, and our nation is standing firmly in the face of threats and aggression,” he said. Al-Houthi called on Biden to impose an embargo on sending weapons, warplanes, and logistical support to Saudi Arabia and its allies instead of designation a political movement fighting against a foreign invasion as terrorists. The Biden administration for its part recently suspended arms sales to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE and rolled back some sanctions on the Houthis but did not remove the terrorist designation imposed by the Trump administration.

Yemenis at home were not demonstrating alone. Dozens of rallies were held by Yemeni expatriates and foreign activists in cities like Washington DC and San Francisco, Hamilton in Canada, Britain, Austria, Italy, and other countries. A virtual demonstration was also held by more than 250 organizations around the world. All called for an end to the war, a lifting of the blockade, and the cancellation of U.S. sanctions. To many of the protesters who spoke to MintPress, the designation exposes Washington as a belligerent actor that has knowingly harmed them for the past six years under the pretext of fighting Iranian influence and returning the ousted president Hadi to power, arguments that have been repeated by the Houthis since 2015, when the war began.

Yemen Sanctions

A soldier stands guard over a protest against the US decision to designate the Houthis a terrorist organization in Sanaa, Jan. 25, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

The massive demonstrations in Yemen coincided with the international day of action, a day in which more than 230 anti-war and humanitarian organizations from 17 countries across the world including the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Finland, India, Netherlands, Chile, Sweden, Spain, South Korea, Switzerland, and Yemen came together to call for an end to the war.

The organizations demanded in a statement that their governments immediately “stop foreign aggression on Yemen; stop weapons and war support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; lift the blockade on Yemen and open all land and sea ports; and restore and expand humanitarian aid for the people of Yemen.”

 

Blowback

Major General Khaled Baras, the Head of the Southern Movement, one of the many groups that participated in the National Dialogue held in 2014, said in the wake of the massive demonstrations that the U.S. decision lacks logic when tens of millions of defenders of their homeland are accused of terrorism. “Ansar Allah are not terrorists. We as southerners reject this decision. The former American administration accused millions of Yemenis of terrorism and with them tens of millions of supporters and defenders of the homeland. This is ridiculous,” he said.

Experts warn that the U.S. designation could not only sabotage the peace in the war-torn country but could seriously imperil the U.S.’s diplomatic credibility and its prospects to play any mediating role in future negotiation talks to end the war or the release of foreign captives, including Americans held on charges of spying or participating in the war. Any realistic settlement would also have to include the Houthis, no matter how irritating that may be to Washington and its Gulf allies.

Regardless of the wide popularity of Ansar Allah among Yemenis, reflected in part by the large demonstrations which took place on January 25 due to their outsized role in the resistance against the Saudi war, almost 80% of Yemenis live in areas under Houthi control, including the country’s capital Sana’a and the major port of al-Hodeida. And at least 80% of the population – 24.1 million people – require humanitarian assistance, more than half of them facing starvation. Consequently, the U.S. sanctions will inevitably push more Yemeni civilians closer to famine.

Officials in Sana’a who spoke to MintPress remain defiant and say the sanctions will not affect them. They argue that they already have elements operating in other capitals like Tehran and Muscat and that the designation will only increase their popularity internally and acquaint them to other countries facing U.S. aggression, such as “China and Russia.”

Feature photo | Houthi supporters hold posters as they attend a demonstration against the United States over its decision to designate the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization in Sanaa, Yemen, on Jan. 25, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

The post Blowback: Trump’s Sanctions on Yemen Are Already Backfiring appeared first on MintPress News.

With Likely Victory of Andrés Arauz, Ecuador Will Join Latin America’s Anti-Imperialist Surge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 6:06am in

If the country’s polls are to be believed, Ecuador is set to become the latest Latin American nation to move away from the United States and elect a strongly progressive, anti-imperialist government. Successive public opinion studies have shown Andrés Arauz of the Unión por la Esperanza coalition holding a commanding lead over his rivals, with some suggesting he may receive double the votes of his nearest challenger.

In 2018, Mexico voted in its first leftist president in decades. One year later, Argentina returned to progressive hands with the election of Alberto Fernández. Perhaps most remarkably of all, Bolivians managed to turn back the U.S.-backed coup against Evo Morales last year, electing Morales’ finance minister, Luis Arce in October. Added to that are the failed attempts by the Trump administration to dislodge socialist governments in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Meanwhile, far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is currently under fire from all sides for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis and has his popularity plunge.

The youthful Arauz is an economist by trade, and a disciple of Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador from 2007 to 2017 and the only Ecuadorian leader in modern history to be re-elected. Arauz, still only 35-years-old, served as Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent at the tail end of the Correa administration and initially wanted to select the former president as his running mate. However, Correa was banned from politics by a court presided over by his rival and current president, Lenín Moreno. He now lives in exile in Belgium, the country of his wife’s birth.

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Correa, still a popular figure inside the country, reduced poverty by 38% and extreme poverty by 47%, while doubling social spending, particularly in education, health, and housing. He was able to do this by defaulting on odious debt, ignoring mainstream economists’ advice to keep taxes on the wealthy low and increasing the government’s share of the country’s oil revenues from 13% to 87% — much to the chagrin of foreign energy corporations.

Correa was also part of a continent-wide move to the left, a wave of progressive, anti-imperialist presidents elected in the time frame, a movement that included Lula da Silva in Brazil, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and Néstor Kirchner in Argentina. Under Correa’s leadership, Ecuador expelled the United States military from the country, insisting they could only return if they granted his country a base in Florida. He also offered asylum to Western dissidents like Julian Assange.

His vice-president, Lenín Moreno was elected in 2017 on a promise to carry on his legacy. Almost immediately, however, Moreno performed a 180-degree turn on policy, pulling Ecuador out of a number of regional alliances with other progressive anti-imperialist countries and renewing close ties to the U.S. It wasn’t long before poverty and inequality in Ecuador began to rise and Moreno was agreeing to substantial loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), reversing Correa’s oil policy and opening the country to foreign exploitation once more. At the same time as this was happening, the left appeared to be waning across the region. In 2016, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party was impeached, a chain of events that eventually led to Bolsonaro’s rise. Meanwhile, conservative billionaire Sebastian Piñera won Chile’s 2017 presidential election. 

Arauz has promised to reverse Moreno’s spending cuts and cease business with the IMF. “We don’t see any sense in continuing with the current programme the IMF has with the Moreno government,” he told the Financial Times. “Firstly because the quantity of resources is too small and secondly because the conditionality associated with it is absolutely counter-productive for Ecuador’s growth and development needs.” Instead, he will increase public spending to counter the negative effects of the pandemic, raise taxes on the wealthy and increase capital controls on rich individuals taking their money out of the country. If foreign capital is necessary, he has stated he will negotiate with development banks in China. 

Ecuador was hit extremely hard by the coronavirus, in part because of Moreno’s decision (encouraged by Washington) to expel around 400 Cuban doctors on the eve of the pandemic. Some opinion polls have found the current president’s popularity to lie in the single digits.

Economic issues are the primary concern for voters in this election, with 32% identifying poverty and 25% unemployment as their key concerns. Ecuador’s poverty rate jumped from 25.7% in December 2019 to 58.2% in June 2020, with extreme poverty quadrupling over the same period.

Most polls identify Arauz’s closest challenger as Guillermo Lasso, a 65-year-old banker, and former Coca-Cola executive popular with the country’s wealthier class. An anti-communist, he was a member of the right-wing Christian group Opus Dei and came second in the 2017 presidential election, running on a neoliberal platform. However, in recent weeks, Lasso has been fading, and some polls show 51-year-old indigenous leader Yaku Pérez in second. Pérez came to prominence in the nationwide protests against Moreno’s austerity measures in 2019 but has also distanced himself from Correa and socialism.

“Arauz will win unless they steal it from him,” wrote Professor Steve Ellner, managing editor of the journal Latin American Perspectives. “After all, Correa had a 60% favorable rating when he left office. Moreno is completely discredited, and Lasso has been around too long to be considered a new face for business in politics — and in addition is associated with global capital.”

However, the left has been under considerable pressure during the campaign, not least the banning of Correa from holding office. 10,000 Ecuadorians who live in Venezuela, generally considered to be a progressive group, are in the dark about whether they will be allowed to participate, despite the fact that voting is mandatory for all citizens.

The 2010s were a dark decade for the continent’s left-wing groups. However, a victory in Ecuador would underscore the dawning of a new era in the region the United States calls its “backyard.”

Feature photo | Andres Arauz, the presidential candidate for the political coalition National Union for Hope, UNES, flashes a number one finger sign as he leaves a press conference, in Quito, Ecuador, Jan. 13, 2021. Dolores Ochoa | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post With Likely Victory of Andrés Arauz, Ecuador Will Join Latin America’s Anti-Imperialist Surge appeared first on MintPress News.

Despite His Attempt to Tie MAGA to Anti-Semitism, Biden Will Preserve Trump’s “Israel First” Legacy 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 4:59am in

The cantankerous end to the turbulent Trump presidency has imbued the incoming administration with a halo of bright expectations by simple virtue of the disastrous four years that precede it. Like a stand-up feature act that follows an opener’s bombed set at a comedy club, the Biden-Harris duo takes center stage with an easy advantage that requires only the slightest effort to win over a disappointed crowd.

When it comes to Israel, Biden has his work cut out for him. On the foreign policy front, the Biden White House will be pushed to restore Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known more commonly as the Iran nuclear deal, among other initiatives that began while he served as vice president. Israeli human rights activist Miko Peled detailed this and many other policies scrapped by the Trump administration in an editorial for MintPress last fall, that the new president will likely be called on to reverse.

Nevertheless, any change that Biden makes to U.S. policy in Israel is unlikely to deviate from Trump’s in any meaningful respect. The controversial move of the American embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem ­– a tacit acknowledgment of Israel’s primacy in the occupied city – will remain in place, while the undoing of other anti-Palestinian actions, such as the de-funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), is already being challenged by Jewish leaders before the new administration commits to any change in that regard.

In addition to specific policy approaches, broader issues threaten to muzzle support for the Palestinian cause and stand in direct contradiction to any ostensible rapprochement Biden might undertake and undermining any real progress in the fight to curb Israeli state violence against Palestinians, not to mention dangerous implications for free speech around the world.

 

A definition for all seasons

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), founded in 1998 by former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson to uphold the tenets of the “Stockholm Declaration,” has become the flagship organization in regards to the implementation of Goebellian restrictions on critical speech against the apartheid state. Originally described as a ‘task force,’ the intergovernmental association put forth a “working definition of Anti-Semitism” in 2016, which all 34 member nations have adopted in some official capacity.

The U.S. State Department had been using a classification of Anti-Semitism since 2010 and updated it to the IHRA’s version in 2016 as a “non-legally binding” definition. In 2019, Trump issued an executive order applying the definition to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which requires the Department of Education to consider an “individual’s actual or perceived shared Jewish ancestry or Jewish ethnic characteristics” when reviewing violations under Title VI. The move was hailed by the ADL and former members of the Obama administration but derided by pro-Palestinian rights groups, who charged that the codification of the IHRA’s “working definition” violated free speech on college campuses and targeted the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has built a solid opposition against Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and Gaza.

Even Kenneth Stern, lead author of the “working definition,” voiced disagreement over the EO’s intention, accusing rightwing Jews of weaponizing the terminology. An example of how such laws will serve to marginalize the voice of Palestinians and any other group or individual who falls on the ‘wrong side’ of the debate manifested itself in a controversy over an N.Y.U. seminar hosted on the video platform Zoom, after a pro-Israel student group called on the private platform to take the seminar down after the group’s leader, Javier Cohen, discovered the participation of Palestinian activist, Leila Khaled, who is a member of a Palestinian group tagged as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Any illusions that Biden will push back against the IHRA’s definition, or Trump’s EO, is belied by the Biden campaign’s clear promises to the Jewish community in which Biden ties the specter of anti-Semitism directly to the creation of a “domestic terrorism law that respects free speech and civil liberties.”

In fact, the impetus for the so-called domestic terrorism law is one of the two most significant challenges to the idea that President Biden will do anything other than continue Trump’s pro-Israel policies. Ostensibly motivated by the events of January 6, the disillusioned masses of Trump supporters are being framed as the first scapegoats in a protracted implementation of a legal framework that allows states to target American citizens, led by Obama-era neo liberals since 2017. Together with the ubiquitous Israeli lobby in Washington D.C., Biden would have to betray his own class and political sponsors to become the champion of Palestinian self-determination some in the media are portraying him to be.

 

The base and the lobby

The Trump administration’s strong ties to the settler state and its far-right leadership dovetailed with his so-called ‘alt-right’ base, which see Zionist policies as serving their own quasi-religious, patently racist goals. But, in the wake of Trump’s defeat, many of his staunchest supporters, adherents of the QAnon LARP, and disparate MAGA types, have been left reeling, posing a potentially explosive political challenge to the incoming Biden administration.

Calls to censure, deplatform, and otherwise banish Trump’s right-wing base have proliferated since the Capitol riots and made good by a number of powerful private corporations, such as Twitter and Facebook, which launched a purge of conservative accounts on their social media platforms. More troubling manifestations of these kinds of fascistic crackdowns have escaped the purely virtual realm with companies like Airbnb applying similar criteria to deny lodging reservations to individuals considered problematic and, more recently, the payment processing giant PayPal booting customers as a result of their political views or affiliations.

In Biden’s “Plan Of Friendship, Support And Action” for the Jewish community, the rhetorical ties between anti-Semitism and Trump’s base is made explicit, citing the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville in 2017 as a “resurgence of anti-Semitism” and, significantly, claiming it was the very reason that he decided to run for president.

 
The dystopian implications cannot be overstated. Moreover, officially sanctioned definitions of hate speech like the IHRA’s classification of Anti-Semitism, advances a specific legal framework to restrict any and all criticism of Israel and its persistent violations of human rights against the Palestinian people, the dispossession of their land, and outright murder of women and children by the IDF.

Given that much of Trump’s base has been overtly and tacitly linked to Anti-Semitic sentiment, it is not in Biden’s political interest to downplay these associations. In fact, it is likely that his administration will lean into such claims as a result of the declared aims of Democratic Congressmen and women to bring forth legislation to address “domestic terrorism” motivated by the MAGA-inspired “insurrection” at the Capitol.

On the foreign policy side of the spectrum, Biden is more likely to follow through on some of the expected rollbacks of Trump’s heavily pro-Israeli policies. But, these are unlikely to go beyond the most symbolic gestures, while leaving the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the long-standing Israel-U.S. relationship intact.

Biden, after all, has declared himself to be an avowed Zionist and maintains a good rapport with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other important Israeli lobby groups in the United States. In 1986, Biden famously proclaimed that it was “about time we stop apologizing for our support for Israel,” declaring that if the apartheid state didn’t exist to protect American interests in the region, “the United States of America would have to invent [it].”

 
In a 2019 televised interview on PBS, Biden’s commitment to rhetoric over effective policy in the Middle East was made clear. Asking about the suggestion by some Democrats that the United States should consider cutting off military aid to Israel over its illegal settlements in the West Bank, Biden replied that doing so would be a “tragic mistake” despite claiming that he “opposed Israel’s settlement policy.” Other than stating that as vice president he had made his views on the matter “crystal clear to the Israelis,” he nevertheless concluded by reaffirming the idea that actually applying any pressure to bring about a change in Israeli policy was “absolutely preposterous,” and “beyond [his] comprehension [why] anyone would do that.”

The same goes for his stance on BDS, which the president characterized as “wrong” before an audience at AIPAC headquarters in 2016. A senior advisor further underscored Biden’s alignment with the powerful Israeli-American lobbying firm, confirming that the administration would “stand up forcefully against [BDS],” and would “Absolutely” defeat the movement’s efforts to denounce Israel’s violations of international law.

Regardless of the red and blue propaganda that is central to American politics, a pattern emerges when it comes to the perennial policies and the long game of the permanent American state – a feature which is most salient in terms of its relationship with Israel. Biden will continue one of the hallmarks of the Trump presidency by supporting the policy of normalization of Arab states with Israel – a policy he directly commits to in his “Plan” for the Jewish community, finishing the work started by Jared Kushner to cement a cordial bond between Saudi Arabia and Israel, exposing the duplicity of the American two-party system by coddling two of the worst human rights abusers on the planet.

Feature photo | An Israeli electronics store employee looks at a wall of televisions broadcasting Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Ashkelon, Israel, Jan. 20, 2021. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Despite His Attempt to Tie MAGA to Anti-Semitism, Biden Will Preserve Trump’s “Israel First” Legacy  appeared first on MintPress News.

Robert Malley for Iran Envoy: A Test Case for Biden’s Commitment to Diplomacy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 2:34am in

President Biden’s commitment to re-entering the Iran nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA—is already facing backlash from a motley crew of warhawks both domestic and foreign. Right now, opponents of re-entering the deal are centering their vitriol on one of the nation’s foremost experts on both the Middle East and diplomacy: Robert Malley, who Biden might tap to be the next Iran envoy.

On January 21, conservative journalist Elli Lake penned an opinion piece in Bloomberg News arguing that President Biden should not appoint Malley because Malley ignores Iran’s human rights abuses and “regional terror.” Republican Senator Tom Cotton retweeted Lake’s piece with the heading: “Malley has a long track record of sympathy for the Iranian regime & animus towards Israel. The ayatollahs wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected.” Pro regime-change Iranians such as Mariam Memarsadeghi, conservative American journalists like Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, and the far-right Zionist Organization of America are opposing Malley. Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed opposition to Malley getting the appointment and Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a close advisor to the prime minister, said that if the U.S. reenters the JCPOA, Israel may take military action against Iran. A petition opposing Malley has even started on Change.org.

What makes Malley such a threat to these opponents of talks with Iran?

Malley is the polar opposite of Trump’s Special Representative to Iran Elliot Abrams, whose only interest was squeezing the economy and whipping up conflict in the hopes of regime change. Malley, on the other hand, has called U.S. Middle East policy “a litany of failed enterprises” requiring “self-reflection” and is a true believer in diplomacy.

Under the Clinton and Obama administrations, Malley helped organize the 2000 Camp David Summit as Special Assistant to President Clinton; acted as Obama’s White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf region; and was the lead negotiator on the White House staff for the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. When Obama left office, Malley became president of the International Crisis Group, a group formed in 1995 to prevent wars.

During the Trump years, Malley was a fierce critic of Trump’s Iran policy. In an Atlantic piece he coauthored, he denounced Trump’s plan to withdraw and refuted critiques about the sunset clauses in the deal not extending for more years. “The time-bound nature of some of the constraints [in the JCPOA] is not a flaw of the deal, it was a prerequisite for it,” he wrote. “The real choice in 2015 was between achieving a deal that constrained the size of Iran’s nuclear program for many years and ensured intrusive inspections forever, or not getting one.”

He condemned Trump’s maximum pressure campaign as a maximum failure, explaining that throughout Trump’s presidency, “Iran’s nuclear program grew, increasingly unconstrained by the JCPOA. Tehran has more accurate ballistic missiles than ever before and more of them. The regional picture grew more, not less, fraught.”

While Malley’s detractors accuse him of ignoring the regime’s grim human rights record,  national security and human rights organizations supporting Malley said in a joint letter that since Trump left the nuclear deal, “Iran’s civil society is weaker and more isolated, making it harder for them to advocate for change.”

Robert Malley Feature photo

Robert Malley (center) seated with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat at Camp David in July. 2000. Sharon Farmer | White House

Hawks have another reason for opposing Malley: his refusal to show blind support for Israel. In 2001 Malley co-wrote an article for the New York Review arguing that the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian Camp David negotiations had not been the sole fault of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat but included then-Israeli leader Ehud Barak. The U.S. pro-Israel establishment wasted no time accusing Malley of having an anti-Israel bias.

Malley has also been pilloried for meeting with members of the Palestinian political group Hamas, designated a terror organization by the U.S. In a letter to The New York Times, Malley explained that these encounters were part of his job when he was Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group, and that he was regularly asked by both American and Israeli officials to brief them on these meetings.

With the Biden administration already facing opposition from Israel about its intent to return to the JCPOA, Malley’s expertise on Israel and his willingness to talk to all sides will be an asset.

Malley understands that re-entering the JCPOA must be undertaken swiftly and will not be easy. Iranian presidential elections are scheduled for June and predictions are that a hardline candidate will win, making negotiations with the U.S. harder. He is also keenly aware that re-entering the JCPOA is not enough to calm the regional conflicts, which is why he supports a European initiative to encourage de-escalation dialogues between Iran and neighboring Gulf states. As U.S. Special Envoy to Iran, Malley could put the weight of the U.S. behind such efforts.

Malley’s Middle East foreign policy expertise and diplomatic skills make him the ideal candidate to reinvigorate the JCPOA and help calm regional tensions. Biden’s response to the far-right uproar against Malley will be a test of his fortitude in standing up to the hawks and charting a new course for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Peace-loving Americans should shore up Biden’s resolve by supporting Malley’s appointment.

Feature photo | Robert Malley | Public Domain

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ariel Gold is the national co-director and Senior Middle East Policy Analyst with CODEPINK for Peace.

The post Robert Malley for Iran Envoy: A Test Case for Biden’s Commitment to Diplomacy appeared first on MintPress News.

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