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Devilled Whitebait

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 17/07/2022 - 9:45am in

1 ½ pounds whitebait
Ice cubes
Flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lard, for frying
Cayenne pepper
Lemon wedges

Put whitebait to firm in a shallow bowl with ice cubes and a little water. Just before frying, spread fish on a clean tea cloth to dry. Place on paper liberally dusted with well-seasoned flour and dredge with more flour; place in a wire basket, a portion at a time, and shake off surplus flour. Then plunge the basket into very hot lard and fry quickly for 3 to 5 minutes, shaking basket continually to keep fish apart while cooking. Lift basket from fat and shake well before transferring fish to paper towels to drain. Place whitebait on a heated serving dish in a warm oven and repeat until all the whitebait are fried. Season with freshly ground black pepper and cayenne, and serve with lemon wedges. Serves 4 to 6.

Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., 36 Park Stree, London W1 © Robert Carrier, 1968

Insalata de Funghi e Gamberi (Mushroom and Prawn Salad)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 03/07/2022 - 6:59pm in

Preparation time: 1 ½ hours (including time for marinating)
Cooking time: no cooking
To serve: 4

You will need:

6 oz. firm white mushrooms
1 cut clove garlic
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
ground black pepper
4-6 oz. shelled prawns (U.S. shrimps) or cooked scampi
1 teaspoon salt
fresh parsley

Wash and dry the mushrooms. Remove stalks and slice caps finely. Rub a basin with a cut clove of garlic and in it mix the oil, lemon juice and 2 shakes of pepper. Add the mushrooms, mix thoroughly with the dressing and set aside in a cold place for at least an hour. Just before serving add the salt. To serve pile the prawns (U.S. shrimps) in the centre of four individual plates and arrange the mushrooms all around. With scissors snip a little parsley over the prawns (U.S. shrimps).

©Shufunotomo Co., Ltd., Japan 1968 English text © The Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. 1968

Anger at lockdowns in China fuels dissent against the regime

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 4:32pm in

After two months of total lockdown, some semblance of normal life has started to return for most of the 28 million people who live in Shanghai, China’s largest and richest city.

However, the Shanghai lockdown was just one—the most important—of many.

Through March and early April, at least 23 major cities, with a combined population of 193 million people, implemented full or multi-district lockdowns. These included Shenzhen, home to 12 million people on the border with Hong Kong and the centre of China’s computer, smartphone and hi-tech industries; Dongguan, the nearby manufacturing powerhouse, home to another ten million people; Changchun, the capital of Jilin province with nine million people; and Shenyang, the capital of northeast Liaoning province and former capital of the Manchu empire.

This wave of lockdowns was driven by rapidly rising COVID infections, which were testament to the unsustainability of the Chinese government’s “dynamic zero COVID” policy.

The world has long known that the Omicron variant is so contagious that a single infection, if unchecked, can spread to literally millions of people in a few months.

The Shanghai government tried to contain COVID by a strategy of targeted lockdowns and selective restrictions on people’s movements. By late March, cases were rising, but the high vaccination rate in Shanghai meant that no-one had died, and there were limited cases of severe illness.

Despite this, the government announced on 28 March that it would lock down the entire city for a week. That day 50 symptomatic and 3450 asymptomatic cases were recorded. Over the following two weeks, despite the near total lockdown, daily new infections rose and peaked at 3590 symptomatic and 25,173 asymptomatic and took six weeks to decline enough for the lockdown to be lifted.

There are still significant restrictions on people’s ability to move around.

Lockdown and repression

The experience of the Shanghai lockdown was horrendous. Millions of people found themselves confined to their apartments. Not only were they unable to go to work or school, they were prohibited from going outside to buy food or other essentials, or to get medical attention.

The Shanghai government seems to have been completely unprepared. People waited weeks for food deliveries, and these were small and the contents of the food packages quite random. Some would get a few eggs, noodles and some green vegetables, others entirely different food.

This official incompetence led millions of people to use social media apps to organise their own food supplies, banding together to order large quantities directly from shops and warehouses.

People who tested positive and their family members were forcibly taken to makeshift hospitals which were often little more than camp beds in large warehouses, with no medical attention.

There were nightmare stories of people dying because the hospitals refused to admit anyone who failed to present a negative COVID test; of children who tested positive being separated from the rest of their family, their whereabouts unknown; and of a 13-year-old who was forced to look after himself for 66 days because his parents had been locked down in Shanghai.

The temptation in the western media has been to use these stories to reinforce a narrative of China’s government as a heartless, totalitarian monster. They ought to reflect on the similarity between the experience of many in Shanghai and the experience of people living in the public housing towers in Melbourne who also found themselves suddenly locked into their apartment buildings with no food or medicine, and no information. It wasn’t just in Shanghai that people were told to ring numbers where no-one answered the phone.

Resistance

This trauma has also sparked moments of resistance and self-organisation. In Shanghai, residents in some areas fought police and neighbourhood party committee-members, while hundreds of thousands came out on their balconies at night banging pots and pans in protest at being locked up without food and other essentials.

The severity of the Shanghai lockdown also sparked a series of student protests in Beijing in mid-May when faced with new COVID restrictions. At the China University of Political Science and Law, hundreds of students rallied, their mobile phone flashlights turned on, demanding the right to go home.

At Peking University, students moved to more direct action when steel fences were set up to keep them locked in their dormitories while academics were allowed to leave campus. In both cases, the university administrations backed down. At a student rally at Beijing Normal University, where in-person classes were cancelled and students required to stay in their rooms to study online, some chanted slogans associated with the peasant uprising of 209BC. The spirit of revolt is never far from the surface in China.

Even where city administrations have avoided total lockdowns, there have been severe restrictions on people’s ability to move about. Measures have included the shutting down of public transport and allowing just one member of a family to shop for food once a week. In Shanghai many factories were allowed to reopen during the lockdown, provided they used a “closed loop” system. This required workers to live and sleep in the factory and not go home until the lockdown ended.

One of the most striking features of China’s series of lockdowns is how often city administrations have made the same mistakes, despite two years of experience on what can go wrong, and two years to prepare.

Complaints about lack of food, of being denied urgent medical care, of family separation, of bureaucratic cruelty were widely publicised during the first lockdown, in Wuhan in early 2020. Yet when the major industrial city of Xi’an was locked down in December 2021, there were also complaints of a lack of food and difficulties accessing health care.

It is reported that the surge in COVID cases that led to the Shanghai lockdown was caused by the virus circulating through the air-conditioning system in a quarantine hotel.

The economic cost of the 2022 lockdowns has been staggering. Shanghai is at the centre of a large proportion of Chinese manufacturing and is its greatest transport and export hub.

Production of manufactured goods has been disrupted across the country as the making of components has been stopped and freight severely disrupted. Around the world, businesses that import from China have faced massive shortages and delays getting orders.

Economic growth in China is predicted to fall to around 4 per cent, one of the lowest rates since the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, and that figure assumes the lockdowns succeed, and that the central government launches another massive stimulus program.

Very little of this trauma was necessary. The Chinese government claimed that without lockdowns, sick people would overwhelm the health system and up to a million would die.

Those dire predictions merely reflected the failure of the regime to vaccinate older people, and people with underlying medical conditions, who are the people most likely to experience severe illness or to die.

China’s scientists were able to rapidly develop reasonable vaccines to limit the harm done by COVID. But the government prioritised the vaccination of working-age people. Production and profits were their priorities.

When they did decide to allow over-60s to get vaccinated, they excluded people with health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, exactly the people who needed to be prioritised.

So, while the overall vaccination rate in China is nearly 90 per cent, 17 per cent of over 60s remain unvaccinated—that’s around 48 million people—and around half of those over 80 years of age have still not received two doses of a vaccine. Only 20 per cent of over-80s have had a booster, and three doses of Chinese vaccines have been found to be very effective.

There are other obstacles to vaccinating older Chinese people. A large proportion live in small towns and villages, and vaccinating them requires more resources and determination, and a willingness to patiently convince people of the benefits of vaccination. These qualities have been noticeably absent in many city administrations.

And there is great resistance among many of the elderly to getting vaccinated. A series of vaccination, drug and food safety scandals have left many suspicious of vaccines. And these scandals have helped fuel conspiracy theories on social media.

Regime discredited

Alongside the trauma suffered by tens of millions of people, confidence in the regime has also been dented.

Shanghai residents sharing their experiences of the lockdown with others in the same apartment complex found their discussions censored and their phones flooded with messages extolling the correctness of the government’s strategy and declaring the total support of the population for it.

Everyone in China knows there is censorship and dishonest propaganda from the government, but experiencing this censorship themselves, and collectively, allowed them to mutually realise and collectively understand the degree of regime’s dishonesty.

One reporter commented that her neighbours were discussing whether or not the government’s propaganda about its rule in places like Xinjiang and Tibet might be similarly dishonest.

In a thousand different ways, confidence in the regime has been fractured during the lockdowns. So, news of health officials committing suicide because of the mistreatment of sick people was spread widely before being censored.

Perhaps the most egregious abuse came in the central city of Zhengzhou. Four small banks are on the brink of bankruptcy, having used various scams to raise capital, promising high returns. The people who thought they were simply depositing cash with the banks have been protesting for weeks.

To punish them and stop their protests, the local administration changed the status of their health apps from Green to Red, suggesting they had come from a COVID infected area. In many places, a green status on your health app is essential to go to shops, catch public transport and even to be allowed to be outside your home. These people suddenly found they couldn’t go anywhere, and couldn’t understand why their health app status had changed.

Within days there was a widespread social media furore which even involved respectable legal scholars, and the central government moved to order an investigation.

Lockdowns are not some neutral public health strategy for our collective benefit in a pandemic. They rest on all the coercive powers of the state designed to keep us under control. They deny ordinary people the right and ability to make sensible decisions about their own circumstances, and impose harsh, blanket rules on everyone, creating extreme trauma for some, even to the point of death.

Lockdowns amplify all the incompetence and inhumanity of the bureaucracy because they impose this on everyone who lacks the power to demand special treatment. In China, a few of the worst excesses have been successfully challenged by protest and resistance.

But either way, the only positive achievement of the lockdowns—for all the trauma and disruption—has been to delay the wider spread of the virus. And it will spread.

In early June, as the lockdown was being lifted in Shanghai, there was a new outbreak, this time in the capital, Beijing. It was reportedly caused by a single, infected individual going to a popular bar, Heaven Supermarket, and passing it on to over a hundred others, who in turn spread the virus to their close contacts, leading to nearly 300 infections among nearly 10,000 close contacts living in 14 of the 16 districts of the city.

Just as they did in the West, lockdowns revealed the class divisions in Chinese society. They have amplified all the incompetence and inhumanity of the bureaucracy. In a sign of hope for the future, in China, a few of the worst excesses of bureaucratic power have been successfully challenged by protest and resistance.

By Phil Griffiths

The post Anger at lockdowns in China fuels dissent against the regime appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Prawn Fritter

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/06/2022 - 6:51am in

INGREDIENTS:-
1 ½ lbs. prawn (shelled, thin thread of gut removed)
Oil for deep frying

Seasoning:-
½ tsp. salt

Batter:-
6 tbsps. flour
4 tbsps. cornstarch
2 tsps. baking powder
2 tbsps salad oil
½ tsp. salt
⅓-½ cup water

METHOD:-
1) Wash prawns with salt water, then rinse again with cold water. Drain, and dry with cloth.
2) First cut 3 slits across the underside of the prawns, then cut a slit at the back of the prawns, removing the thin thread of gut.
3) Season prawns with salt, then dredge with a little flour.
4) Mix batter well and let it stand for 30 minutes.
5) Dip prawns in batter, then deep fry in hot oil (370F) until golden brown. Serve hot with Worcestershire sauce or catsup.

(Copyright Reserved) Printed in Hong Kong.

Big Oil Is Suing Countries To Block Climate Action

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/06/2022 - 8:31pm in

Big Oil Is Suing Countries To Block Climate Action

Fossil fuel investors are adopting a bold new legal tactic in response to efforts to limit global warming: They are going to private international tribunals to argue that climate change policies are illegally cutting into their profits, and they must therefore be compensated. Now governments are scrambling to figure out how to not get sued for billions when enacting climate policies.

Termed “investor-state dispute settlement” legal actions,  such moves could have a chilling effect on countries’ ability to take climate action. Consider this case from 2017: Nicolas Hulot, France’s environment minister at the time, drafted a law that sought to end fossil fuel extraction in the country by 2040. In response, Vermilion, a Canadian oil and gas company, threatened to use such a settlement provision to sue the French government. In the end, the French law was watered down to allow new oil and gas exploration even after 2040.

When these legal actions move forward, the results tend to benefit oil and gas interests. A recent report on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) actions found that when such cases were decided on by their merits, fossil fuel investors emerged victorious 72 percent of  the time — earning, on average, $600 million in compensation.

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According to a paper published in Science last month, more ISDS claims could soon be coming. That is because of the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), a 30-year-old international energy agreement that has been ratified by 50 countries, mostly in Europe. The treaty calls for “fair and equitable treatment” of investors and “payment of prompt, adequate and effective compensation” in case governments take over their assets — clauses that fossil fuel investors could use to threaten ISDS legal action against new climate regulations.

Discussions are ongoing in Europe to “modernize” the ECT to take climate goals into account. But recently, Pascal Canfin, chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee, announced that the negotiations haven’t been productive and that the ECT will likely “continue to be used by investors to sue states taking climate action.” Now, Canfin is calling for all European Union countries to mount a “coordinated exit” from the treaty.

Laura Létourneau-Tremblay, a doctoral research fellow at University of Oslo working on international investment law, explained that if states have to compensate fossil fuel companies under ISDS provisions for transitioning away from fossil fuels, it could “prevent governments from taking ambitious climate actions… [There are] real concerns as to whether the ECT is compatible with the net-zero energy transition.”

The potential for fossil-fueled ISDS actions are also baked into U.S. trade deals. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, includes stipulations of “fair and equitable treatment” of foreign investments, which could be used to thwart ambitious climate agendas.

The strategy is already being used in response to some of the United States’ biggest recent climate victories. After President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline on his first day in office, TC Energy, the Canadian company behind the project, sued the U.S. government. Citing a “responsibility to our shareholders to seek recovery of the losses incurred due to the permit revocation,” the company claimed $15 billion in damages.

The matter has become so pressing that on May 10, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental organization comprising largely high-income countries that works on trade and economy, held a conference to discuss “the overriding importance of confronting the climate crisis,” including how to ensure investment treaties “do not hamper legitimate regulation in the public interest.”

Big Oil Is Suing Countries To Block Climate Action

LEVER LIVE REPLAY: What’s The Matter With The Democrats?

On the first episode of our new weekly live show, David Sirota and Lever reporters went deep into why Democrats seem to be on the verge of an electoral disaster — and listeners called in live to ask questions.

Listen To The Replay Here

“Litigation Terrorism”

ISDS clauses were first added to international treaties in the 1980s and 1990s. Historically, the main aim of treaties with ISDS clauses was to protect economic interests of foreign investors, explained Ladan Mehranvar, a legal researcher at Columbia University’s Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment. Therefore, noted Mehranvar, “They were never designed to promote a state’s climate or human rights obligations towards other rights holders.”

Under ISDS provisions, when a dispute arises between foreign investors and the countries in which they have investments, the matter is taken to an arbitration tribunal, which is a panel of judges jointly chosen by the parties involved.

Experts have criticized such international arbitration tribunals’ lack of transparency. Silvia Steininger, a research fellow working on international law and arbitration at Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, explained that the ability for affected people like local communities to give witness statements in such cases is “very limited and often denied.” Additionally, the parties to each case can decide to keep the results of the arbitration under wraps, further limiting public scrutiny and accountability.

The background of the people who usually act as judges in these three-arbitrator tribunals also raises concerns. “Arbitration is a very lucrative practice,” said Steininger, pointing out that arbitrators are generally “private business lawyers, whose socialization prioritizes economic interests before other public concerns, such as human rights or the environment.”

This state of affairs, noted Steininger, has resulted in “an elite group of approximately 50 arbitrators who are regularly appointed” to most cases.

These arbitration tribunals’ decisions are final — there is no option for appeal.

ISDS provisions, in other words, allow foreign companies to bypass local courts, which can hold them accountable to local laws and regulations, and instead sue governments in international arbitration tribunals, where they have a say in the selection of judges and are not bound by local laws. Governments, meanwhile, cannot sue foreign companies under ISDS — they can only file counters to claims brought against them.

No wonder, then, that the threat of ISDS actions has led to what is routinely described as “regulatory chill.” Governments have shied away from amending laws or imposing new regulations on foreign companies when there’s a possibility of expensive legal proceedings and major payouts. Joseph Stiglitz, an economist and Nobel laureate, has called this state of affairs “litigation terrorism.”

“The threat of facing such very expensive arbitration proceedings, including possible damage payments of millions or even billions of U.S. dollars, restricts the policy space of host states to impose regulations or amend laws which might impact investment activity,” Steininger said. “Governments are so fearful that foreign investors might sue them before an arbitral tribunal that they decide not to impose any policy changes, even when they would be necessary… to safeguard human rights or protect the environment.”

A recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report recognized such realities, specifically pointing out how fossil fuel companies use ISDS to “block national legislation aimed at phasing out the use of their assets.”

For years, ISDS clauses have been creating major problems for countries around the world. In Australia, Wikileaks found that ISDS clauses were allowing foreign firms to demand compensation from the government in response to the passage of policies related to public health, the environment, and other matters. In Pakistan, meanwhile, one 2019 ISDS lawsuit over a “sweetheart deal” offered to a mining firm riddled with allegations of kickbacks and bribery cost the country $5.8 billion, at a time of deep economic distress and nationwide strikes.

Progressive lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) have long crusaded against ISDS provisions in American trade deals. In a 2017 letter to a U.S. trade representative, Warren wrote that ISDS provisions “give multinational corporations special rights to challenge American laws in corporate courts… a free pass to ignore our rules and bypass our courts.”

Sanders, meanwhile, highlighted examples of the havoc caused by ISDS clauses during the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral trade agreement pushed by the Obama administration. That included the tobacco giant Philip Morris suing Uruguay under ISDS over its cigarette labeling requirements, and Veolia, a French transnational company, suing Egypt for, among other things, increasing workers’ minimum wages.

The case against Uruguay was so ridiculous that it was spotlighted in an episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight in which he introduced an anthropomorphic cartoon “Jeff the Diseased Lung” to represent the tobacco company. The show even put the cartoon up on billboards in Uruguay.

The ISDS provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership played a key role in Congress’ failure to ratify the TPP. The trade agreement’s proposed ISDS expansion was met with widespread concern across the political spectrum, with those on the left opposing it because of the additional power it would have handed multinational corporations and foreign investors to wreak havoc on public health and the environment, and those on the right opposing the idea of allowing international tribunals to overturn U.S. law.

Later, on the 2020 campaign trail, Biden told the United Steelworkers he opposes including ISDS clauses in trade agreements, arguing that they allow “private corporations to attack labor, health, and environmental policies.”

Over the years, some progress has been achieved in reforming ISDS provisions. In 2018, NAFTA was renegotiated to remove ISDS clauses between the U.S. and Canada, and the clauses were scaled back between the U.S. and Mexico.

The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law is currently looking to reform ISDS mechanisms. At these discussions, delegations have proposed “radical changes” to the current investment arbitration system, according to Yanwen Zhang, a PhD candidate working on investment law reform at University College London.

For instance, Brazil suggested the inter-State dispute resolution approach as an alternative, as opposed to the current system where private investors can sue governments while some non-governmental organizations like ClientEarth and Public Citizen are advocating moving away from ISDS altogether.

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“It Boils Down To Just Political Will”

ISDS provisions have become a key weapon for fossil fuel companies looking to increase production in the climate change era or, at the least, claim damages for not being allowed to do so.

Chevron, the American oil and gas giant, has actively lobbied for the inclusion of ISDS provisions in E.U.-U.S. trade deals, noting they are a deterrent against environmental protections.

The fossil fuel industry accounts for 20 percent of all ISDS arbitrations, making it the most litigious industry, according to a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a think tank working on climate and sustainability. And within the fossil fuel industry, the oil and gas sector accounts for 92 percent of the cases.

The fossil fuel industry’s fondness for ISDS actions could prove increasingly costly. The new Science paper on the matter found that if all governments canceled oil and gas projects according to net-zero recommendations made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in May 2021, nations around the world could face total damages ranging from $60 to $234 billion.

The brunt of these claims could fall on countries in the Global South such as Mozambique and Guyana, which currently have high-value oil and gas projects under discussion for foreign investment. This arrangement is not surprising, said Mehranvar at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, since she says the ISDS system was “designed to work in favor of capital of which the Global North is the source and against resource-rich and economically disadvantaged states of the Global South.”

Ultimately, taxpayers would bear the cost of such lawsuits. A January 2020 report by Openexp found that if the ISDS mechanism in the ECT was used to protect fossil fuels until 2050, it could result in fossil fuel payouts totalling more than $1 trillion. This amount is more than what is needed over the next 10 years to finance the European Green Deal, which aims to cut European emissions by 55 percent by 2030.

Ultimately, ISDS provisions in trade deals like the ECT could end up making the global transition to renewable energy much more expensive.

According to a new study published in Nature, the oil and gas industry is facing $1 trillion in losses due to oil and gas reserves left stranded from climate-related policy changes. Those losses would likely increase if nations continue to expand oil and gas supplies — such as the Biden administration is now looking to do in order to decrease reliance on Russian fossil fuels — and the additional stranded drilling assets could be used to launch more ISDS cases.

Therefore, the most direct way for governments of wealthy nations to avoid being entangled in such expensive lawsuits is to stop promoting fossil fuel expansion in the first place.

“Delaying climate action by giving out new permits [for oil and gas expansion] increases both the risk of exceeding 1.5 celsius of warming and of ISDS cases being launched,” said Kyla Tienhaara, Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment at Queen's University in Canada, and lead author of the new Science paper.

Tienhaara added there are “a whole range of actions governments could take” to limit fossil fuel projects and decrease the threat of ISDS lawsuits. But, she added, at the end of the day, “it boils down to just political will.”

Editor's Note: This story was developed as part of a journalism residency program at Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany

Our news organization relies on readers pitching in to support our journalism. If you like this story, please support our work.

Big Oil Is Suing Countries To Block Climate Action

Saengseon gwa Seu-Jeon (Fried White Fish and Prawns)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 27/05/2022 - 8:23am in

4 servings

You will need
¾ lb. white meat fish fillets, cut into thin slices
8 prawns, shelled and deveined, with tail retained. Cut lengthwise and open out.
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons flour, sifted
pinch of salt
a little pepper
3 tablespoons sesame oil
Vinegar Soy-Sauce

Sprinkle salt and pepper over fish and prawns. Dredge with flour, dip in beaten eggs and brown both sides lightly in sesame oil.

Serve hot with Vinegar-Soy Sauce.

Vinegar-Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
dash of monosodium glutamate
a little lemon juice

Mix all ingredients well.

© Shufunotomo Co., Ltd., Japan 1974

Sri Lanka protests show alternative to poverty and racism amid economic collapse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 1:14pm in

Sri Lanka has been rocked by weeks of mass demonstrations and a general strike, following its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

The prices of food, fuel and medicines have skyrocketed amid chronic shortages, massive queues and inflation of 40 per cent. The lack of foreign exchange means that the country cannot pay to import basic items.

The protests have already forced the resignation of one set of government ministers. Protesters are demanding the complete exit of the Rajapaksa family, who have dominated Sri Lankan politics since 2005. Their rule has been marked by corruption, failed investments and austerity for the poor.

Gotabaya Rajapaska was elected president in 2019 after ramping up Sinhalese chauvinism. He criticised the previous government for being “too accommodating” towards Tamils and Muslims, and capitalised on deadly terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday 2019.

He appointed his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who ran the country during the final stage of the civil war against the Tamils, as Prime Minister—and two other brothers as ministers. Mahinda was forced to resign and had to be rescued by police after crowds stormed his official residence.

Days of clashes after pro-government thugs attacked a protest camp on the Colombo seafront left nine people dead and more than 300 injured.

During COVID, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry collapsed and remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad plunged. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also hit hard, with both countries important trading partners.

Sri Lanka has begun to default on foreign loans of over $51 billion.

Gotabaya is flatly refusing to step down. He has appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe, widely seen as a stooge of the Rajapaksas, as the new Prime Minister.

His solution to the crisis is to further squeeze workers and the poor, calling on the population to “prepare to make some sacrifices”. He is preparing to impose IMF austerity measures, announcing the privatisation of SriLankan Airlines.

Working class unity

The struggle has the potential to not only bring down Gotabaya but to challenge the oppression of the Tamils or other minorities. Building working class unity is also crucial because race and religion have been used so often to undermine resistance from below in the past.

The protests have already seen unprecedented cross-community solidarity. Buddhist monks and Christian nuns have joined protests, while during Ramadan dozens of Muslim protesters gathered at the protest camp to break their fasts. One Muslim woman’s placard read, “You divided us to come to power. Now we are uniting to send you home.”

Sinhalese make up 75 per cent of the population and for decades the country has been dominated by extreme Sinhalese nationalism.

Discrimination and a succession of racist pogroms against Tamils saw thousands murdered and led to the armed Tamil Tiger rebellion. Their effort to establish a separate Tamil state was defeated in 2009 after a brutal civil war.

At least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the war alone.

Sri Lanka remains as militarised as ever, with defence spending 12.3 per cent of Sri Lanka’s budget. The military presence in Tamil areas in the north is still overwhelming.

Both the smaller Muslim community and Indian Tamils from the tea plantation highlands have joined the protests. However, the larger Sri Lankan Tamil minority have been relatively quiet.

On 4 April there was an impressive mass demonstration at Jaffna University that united Tamil and Sinhala students. Shocked, local authorities promptly closed the university.

But the official Tamil leadership has failed to recognise the opening the uprising has created. Some have even discouraged participation.

There is doubtless distrust among the Tamils against the Sinhalese majority as a result of decades of oppression. Many Tamils still hope for a separate state.

But the new movement shows the possibility of winning Sinhalese workers away from the ethnic supremacist politics promoted by their rulers.

Sinhalese and Tamil workers have a common interest in fighting the ruling class politicians who benefit from corruption and exploitation at their expense.

In an encouraging development, Tamil civil society recently expressed its support for the protesters and condemned government repression, while calling on the movement to “liberate itself from Sinhala supremacy”.

On 18 May, Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims in the capital Colombo joined the first ever public ceremony to remember those killed in the 26-year civil war.

In modern Sri Lankan history, this is an almost unprecedented opportunity to build a working class movement across ethnic and religious divides to make sure ordinary Sri Lankans do not pay the costs for ending the economic crisis.

By Mark Goudkamp

The post Sri Lanka protests show alternative to poverty and racism amid economic collapse appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/05/2022 - 11:00pm in

Khalid Salman by the graves of his sister and her children, who were among the twenty-four Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines in the 2005 Haditha massacreTown council leader and lawyer Khalid Salman by the graves of his sister and her children, who were among the twenty-four Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines in the 2005 Haditha massacre, Haditha, Iraq, 2011

There is the war, and then there is the war about the war. Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine is being fought in fields and cities, in the air and at sea. It is also, however, being contested through language. Is it a war or a “special military operation”? Is it an unprovoked invasion or a human rights intervention to prevent the genocide of Russian speakers by Ukrainian Nazis? Putin’s great weakness in this linguistic struggle is the unsubtle absurdity of his claims—if he wanted his lies to be believed, he should have established some baseline of credibility. But the weakness of the West, and especially of the United States, lies in what ought to be the biggest strength of its case against Putin: the idea of war crimes. It is this concept that gives legal and moral shape to instinctive revulsion. For the sake both of basic justice and of mobilizing world opinion, it has to be sustained with absolute moral clarity.

The appalling evidence of extrajudicial executions, torture, and indiscriminate shelling of homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, and shelters that has emerged from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and from the outskirts of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy gives weight and urgency to the accusation that Putin is a war criminal.* By late April, the UN human rights office had received reports of more than three hundred executions of civilians. There have also been credible reports of sexual violence by Russian troops and of abductions and deportations of civilians. According to Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, by April 21 Russia had committed more than 7,600 recorded war crimes.

Yet the US has been, for far too long, fatally ambivalent about war crimes. Its own history of moral evasiveness threatens to make the accusation that Putin and his forces have committed them systematically in Ukraine seem more like a useful weapon against an enemy than an assertion of universal principle. It also undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court (ICC).

There have long been two ways of thinking about the prosecution of war crimes. One is that it is a universal duty. Since human beings have equal rights, violations of those rights must be prosecuted regardless of the nationality or political persuasion of the perpetrators. The other is that the right to identify individuals as war criminals and punish them for their deeds is really just one of the spoils of victory. It is the winner’s prerogative—a political choice rather than a moral imperative.

Even during World War II, and in the midst of a learned discussion about what to do with the Nazi leadership after the war, the American Society of International Law heard from Charles Warren, a former US assistant attorney general and a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian of the Supreme Court, that “the right to punish [war criminals] is not a right conferred upon victorious belligerents by international law, but it flows from the fact of victory.” Warren quoted with approval another eminent American authority, James Wilford Garner, who had written that “it is simply a question of policy and expediency, to be exercised by the victorious belligerent or not.” “In other words,” Warren added, “the question is purely political and military; it should not be treated as a judicial one or as arising from international law.” As the Polish lawyer Manfred Lachs, whose Jewish family had been murdered by the Nazis, wrote in 1945, this idea that the prosecution of war crimes is “a matter of political expediency” would make international law “the servant of politics” and “a flexible instrument in the hands of politicians.”

It is hard to overstate how important it is that the war crimes that have undoubtedly been committed already in Ukraine—and the ones that are grimly certain to be inflicted on innocent people in the coming weeks and months—not be understood as “a flexible instrument in the hands of politicians.” They must not be either shaped around or held hostage by “policy and expediency.” This is a question of justice. Those who have been murdered, tortured, and raped matter as individuals, not as mere exemplars of Putin’s barbarity. The desire to prosecute their killers and abusers stems from the imperative to honor that individuality, to restore insofar as is possible the dignity that was stolen by violence.

But it is also, as it happens, a question of effectiveness. If accusations of Russian war crimes are seen to be instrumental rather than principled, they will dissolve into “whataboutism”: Yes, Putin is terrible, but what about… Instead of seeing a clean distinction between the Western democracies and Russia, much of the world will take refuge in a comfortable relativism. If war crimes are not universal violations, they are merely fingers that can point only in one direction—at whomever we happen to be in conflict with right now. And never, of course, at ourselves.

Even before Putin launched his invasion on February 24, the Biden administration seems to have had a plan to use Russian atrocities as a rallying cry for the democratic world. That day, The New York Times reported that “administration officials are considering how to continue the information war with Russia, highlight potential war crimes and push back on Moscow’s propaganda.” This was not necessarily cynical—Putin’s appalling record of violence against civilians in Chechnya and Syria and plain contempt for international law made it all too likely that his forces would commit such crimes in Ukraine.

But this anticipation of atrocities, and deliberation about how to make use of them, underlines the administration’s perception of the accusation of war crimes as a promising front in the ideological counterattack against Putin. As early as March 10, well before the uncovering of the atrocities at Bucha, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the BBC that Russian actions in Ukraine “constitute war crimes; there are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified…in any way whatsoever.”

A week later, and still a fortnight before the first reports from Bucha, Biden was calling Putin, in unscripted remarks, a “war criminal.” At that point, he in fact seemed a little unsure about the wisdom of making the charge—initially, when asked if he would use the term, he replied “no,” before asking reporters to repeat the question and then replying in the affirmative. Significantly, Biden was responding not to ground-level assaults by Russian troops on civilians but to the shelling of Ukrainian cities. This may perhaps explain his hesitancy: civilian casualties from aerial assaults by drones, rockets, and bombs are a sore subject in recent US military history.

Having crossed the line and made this charge directly, Biden had little choice but to raise the stakes when the terrible images from Bucha were circulated. First, on April 4 he went beyond deeming Putin a criminal by calling specifically for him to face a “war crime trial.” Then on April 12 he pressed the nuclear button of atrocity accusations: genocide. “We’ll let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies [as genocide], but it sure seems that way to me.” He also referred to an unfolding “genocide half a world away,” clearly meaning in Ukraine.

Biden did so even though his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, had told a press briefing on April 4:

Based on what we have seen so far, we have seen atrocities, we have seen war crimes. We have not yet seen a level of systematic deprivation of life of the Ukrainian people to rise to the level of genocide.

Sullivan stressed that the determination that genocide had been committed required a long process of evidence-gathering. He cited the recently announced ruling by the State Department that assaults on the Rohingyas by the military in Myanmar/Burma constituted genocide. That conclusion was reached in March 2022; the atrocities were committed in 2016 and 2017. The State Department emphasized in its announcement that it followed “a rigorous factual and legal analysis.”

It is obvious that no such analysis preceded Biden’s decision to accuse Putin of genocide. When asked about genocide on April 22, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “No, we have not documented patterns that could amount to that.” Biden’s careless use of the term is all the more damaging because, however inadvertently, it echoes Putin’s grotesque claim that Ukraine has been committing genocide against Russian speakers in Donbas.

The problem with all of this is not that Biden is wrong but that it distracts from the ways in which he is right. This overstatement makes it far too easy for those who wish to ignore or justify what the Russians are doing to dismiss the mounting evidence of terrible crimes in Ukraine as exaggerated or as just another battleground in the information war. In appearing overanxious to inject “war criminal” into the international discourse about Putin and making it seem like a predetermined narrative, the US risked undermining the very stark evidence for that conclusion. By inflating that charge into genocide, it substituted rhetoric for rigor and effectively made it impossible for the US to endorse any negotiated settlement for Ukraine that leaves Putin in power: How can you make peace with a perpetrator of genocide? Paradoxically, it also risked the minimization of the actual atrocities: If they do not rise to the level of the ultimate evil, are they “merely” war crimes?

What makes these mistakes by Biden truly detrimental, however, is that the moral standing of the US on war crimes is already so profoundly compromised. The test for anyone insisting on the application of a set of rules is whether they apply those rules to themselves. It matters deeply to the struggle against Putin that the US face its record of having consistently failed to do this.

On November 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha, members of the First Division of the US Marines massacred twenty-four Iraqi civilians, including women, children, and elderly people. After a roadside bomb killed one US soldier and badly injured two others, marines took five men from a taxi and executed them in the street. One marine sergeant, Sanick Dela Cruz, later testified that he urinated on one of the bodies. The marines then entered nearby houses and killed the occupants—nine men, three women, and seven children. Most of the victims were murdered by well-aimed shots fired at close range.

The official US press release then falsely claimed that fifteen of the civilians had been killed by the roadside bomb and that the marines and their Iraqi allies had also shot eight “insurgents” who opened fire on them. These claims were shown to be lies four months later, when Tim McGirk published an investigation in Time magazine. When McGirk initially put the evidence—both video and eyewitness testimony—to the marines, he was told, “Well, we think this is all al-Qaeda propaganda.”

This was consistent with what seems to have been a coordinated cover-up. No one in the marines’ chain of command subsequently testified that there was any reason to suspect that a war crime had occurred. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani, the battalion commander, was later charged with dereliction of duty for failing to properly report and investigate the incident. Those charges were dismissed. Charges against six other marines were dropped, and a seventh was acquitted. Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, who led the squad that perpetrated the killings, was demoted in rank to private and lost pay, but served no time in prison.

In his memoir Call Sign Chaos (2019) the former general James Mattis, who took over as commander of the First Marine Division shortly after this massacre and later served as Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, calls what happened at Haditha a “tragic incident.” It’s clear that Mattis believed that at least some of the marines had run amok:

In the chaos, they developed mental tunnel vision, and some were unable to distinguish genuine threats amid the chaos of the fight…. In the moments they had to react, several Marines had failed, or had tried but were unable, to distinguish who was a threat and who was an innocent. I concluded that several had made tragic mistakes, but others had lost their discipline…. The lack of discipline extended to higher ranks. Specifically, it was a gross oversight not to notice and critically examine a tragic event so far out of the norm. I recommended letters of censure for the division commander—a major general—and two senior colonels.

Mattis nowhere uses phrases or words like “war crime,” “massacre,” “atrocity,” or “cover-up.” He was determined, too, to exonerate the lower-ranking soldiers who participated in the violence at Haditha that day. “You did your best,” he reassured them, “to live up to the standards followed by US fighting men throughout our many wars.”

How does the “tragic incident” at Haditha differ from the murders of civilians by Russian forces in Ukraine? There are some important distinctions. Unlike in Russia now, the US had media organizations sufficiently free and independent to be able to challenge the military’s account of what happened. It had elected politicians who were willing to condemn the atrocity—in 2006, for example, Joe Biden suggested that then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld should resign because of Haditha. Senior military commanders, including Mattis, were obviously repelled by the atrocity. Putin ostentatiously decorated the Sixty-Fourth Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade for its “mass heroism and courage” after that unit had been accused by Ukraine of committing war crimes in Bucha. There was no such official endorsement of the First Marine Division. These differences matter—false equivalence must be avoided.

Yet uncomfortable truths remain. One of the most prestigious arms of the US military carried out an atrocity in a country invaded by the US in a war of choice. No one in a position of authority did anything about it until Time reported on it. No one at any level of the chain of command, from senior leaders down to the soldiers who did the killings, was held accountable. And such minor punishments as were imposed seem to have had no deterrent effect. In March 2007 marines killed nineteen unarmed civilians and wounded fifty near Jalalabad, in Afghanistan, in an incident that, as The New York Times reported at the time, “bore some striking similarities to the Haditha killings.” Again, none of the marines involved or their commanders received any serious punishment.


American army staffers organizing stacks of German documents to be used as evidence in prosecuting war crimes at the Nuremberg Trial

Charles Alexander/US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C./NARA

American army staffers organizing stacks of German documents to be used as evidence in prosecuting war crimes at the Nuremberg Trial, Nuremberg, Germany, 1945–1946

Perhaps most importantly, nothing that happened in these or other atrocities in Iraq or Afghanistan changed the way that deliberate acts of violence against foreign civilians are presented in official American discourse. The enemy commits war crimes and lies about them. We have “tragic incidents,” “tragic mistakes,” and, at the very worst, a loss of discipline. When bad things are done by American armed forces, they are entirely untypical and momentary responses to the terrible stresses of war. The conditioning that helps make them possible, the deep-seated instinct to cover them up, and the repeated failure to bring perpetrators to justice are not to be understood as systemic problems. Nowhere is American exceptionalism more evident or more troubling than in this compartmentalizing of military atrocities.

The only way to end this kind of double standard is to have a single, supranational criminal court to bring to justice those who violate the laws of war—whoever they are and whatever their alleged motives. This idea has been around since 1872, when it was proposed by Gustave Moynier, one of the founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross. It seemed finally to be taking shape in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, when a statute for an international criminal court was drafted by a committee of the General Assembly of the UN. This effort was, however, stymied by the USSR and its allies. In the 1990s the combination of the end of the cold war and the hideous atrocities committed during the breakup of Yugoslavia and in Rwanda gave the proposal a renewed impetus. This led to the conference in Rome in June and July 1998, attended by 160 states and dozens of nongovernmental organizations, that finally adopted the charter for the ICC. This statute entered into force in July 2002, and the ICC began to function the following year.

Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, one (China) opposed the adoption of the ICC’s statute. Two (the United Kingdom and France) supported it and fully accepted its jurisdiction. That leaves two countries that ended up in precisely the same contradictory position: Russia and the US. Both signed the Rome statute—Russia in September 2000, the US three months later. And both then failed to ratify it. Putin, presumably because of international condemnation of war crimes being committed under his leadership in Chechnya, declined to submit it to the Duma in Moscow. George W. Bush effectively withdrew from the ICC in May 2002, following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and his declaration that “our war against terror is only beginning.”

The US then began what Yves Beigbeder, an international lawyer who had served at the Nuremberg Trial in 1946, called “a virulent, worldwide campaign aimed at destroying the legitimacy of the Court, on the grounds of protecting US sovereignty and US nationals.” Against the backdrop of the “war on terror,” Congress approved the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (ASPA) of 2002, designed to insulate US military personnel (including private contractors) from ICC jurisdiction. The ASPA placed numerous restrictions on US interaction with the ICC, including the prohibition of military assistance to countries cooperating with the court. Also in 2002, the US sought (unsuccessfully) a UN Security Council resolution to permanently insulate all US troops and officials involved in UN missions from ICC jurisdiction. In late 2004 Congress approved the Nethercutt Amendment, prohibiting assistance funds, with limited exceptions, to any country that is a party to the Rome statute.

These attacks on the ICC culminated on September 2, 2020, when the Trump administration imposed sweeping sanctions on Fatou Bensouda, a former minister of justice in Gambia, who was then the ICC’s chief prosecutor, and Phakiso Mochochoko, a lawyer and diplomat from Lesotho, who heads a division of the court. The US acted under an executive order that declared their activities a “national emergency.” The emergency was “the ICC’s efforts to investigate US personnel.” Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, denounced the ICC as “a thoroughly broken and corrupted institution.”

A year ago, the Biden administration lifted these sanctions against Bensouda and Mochochoko, saying they were “inappropriate and ineffective.” But the US did not soften its underlying stance, which is that, as Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, put it,

we continue to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations. We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel.

In principle, this hostility to the ICC is rooted in the objection that the court is engaged in an intolerable effort to bind the US to a treaty it has not ratified—in effect, to subject the US to laws to which it has not consented. If this were true, it would indeed be an unacceptable and arbitrary state of affairs. But this alleged concern is groundless. The ICC does not claim any jurisdiction over states—it seeks to prosecute individuals.

This distinction was vital to the Nuremberg Tribunal, which stressed that “crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.” Moreover, the US is already a party to the treaties that define the crimes the ICC is empowered to prosecute. The ICC follows the precedents and practices of international criminal tribunals that the US enthusiastically supported and participated in: the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II, and the courts established in the 1990s to prosecute those responsible for atrocities in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. If the ICC is illegitimate, so were those courts.

The brutal truth is that the US abandoned its commitment to the ICC not for reasons of legal principle but from the same motive that animated Putin. It was engaged in aggressive wars and did not want to risk the possibility that any of its military or political leaders would be prosecuted for crimes that might be committed in the course of fighting them. That expediency rather than principle was guiding US attitudes became completely clear in 2005. The US decided not to block a Security Council resolution referring atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan to the ICC prosecutor. (It abstained on the motion.) It subsequently supported the prosecution at the ICC of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and the use by the Special Court of Sierra Leone of the ICC facilities in The Hague to try former Liberian president Charles Taylor for crimes committed in Sierra Leone.

This American support was welcome, but it has been almost as damaging to the ICC as the outright hostility of the US had been. It suggested that in the eyes of the US, the only real war crimes were those committed by Africans. To date, the thirty or so cases taken before the ICC all involve individuals from Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, or Uganda. This selectivity led the African Union to label the ICC a “neo-colonial court” and urged its members to withdraw their cooperation from its prosecutions. However false the charge, it is easy to see how credible it might seem when the US has alternately endorsed the legitimacy of the ICC in prosecuting Africans and called the same court corrupt and out of control when it explores the possibility of investigating war crimes committed by Americans.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than forty member states of the ICC, most of them European but also including Japan, Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica, formally asked the court “to investigate any acts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide alleged to have occurred on the territory of Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards.” The ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has begun to do this. Crucially, though Ukraine is not itself a party to the ICC, it had already accepted the court’s jurisdiction in relation to war crimes on its territory, first in 2014 and again in 2015, the second time “for an indefinite duration.”

It is Ukraine’s choice that the ICC be the body that investigates and prosecutes Russian atrocities against its people. This means that if there is to be any prospect of bringing Putin and his accomplices to justice for murder, rape, and torture, it must lie with the ICC. The “war crime trial” that Biden called for on April 4, if it were ever to be possible, could be conducted only at The Hague.

The Biden administration knows this very well. On April 11 Charlie Savage reported in The New York Times that officials are “vigorously debating how much the United States can or should assist an investigation into Russian atrocities in Ukraine by the International Criminal Court.” But the administration is simultaneously spreading a fog of vagueness over this very question. In his April 4 press briefing Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said, “Obviously, the ICC is one venue where war crimes have been tried in the past, but there have been other examples in other conflicts of other mechanisms being set up.” He promised that “the appropriate venue for accountability” would be decided “in consultation with allies and with partners around the world.” Yet all of those significant allies are members of the ICC, and the most important of them, Ukraine, has specifically given the court the job of trying to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Why continue to avoid this obvious truth? A yawning gap has opened between Biden’s grandiloquent rhetoric about Putin’s criminality on the one side and the deep reluctance of the US to lend its weight to the institution created by the international community to prosecute such transgressions of moral and legal order. It is a chasm in which all kinds of relativism and equivocation can lodge and grow. The longer the US practices evasion and prevarication, the easier it is for Putin to dismiss Western outrage as theatrical and hypocritical, and the more inclined other countries will be to cynicism.

It has been said repeatedly since February 24 that if the democracies are to defeat Putin, they must be prepared to sacrifice some of their comforts. Germany, for example, has to give up Russian natural gas. What the US must give up is the comfort of its exceptionalism on the question of war crimes. It cannot differentiate itself sufficiently from Putin’s tyranny until it accepts without reservation that the standards it applies to him also apply to itself. The way to do that is to join the ICC.

—April 28, 2022

The post Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes appeared first on The New York Review of Books.

As Ramadan Ends, Israeli Provocations Seem Aimed at a Religious War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 2:40am in

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM, PALESTINE — On the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at least 42 Palestinians were injured when Israeli police raided al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said. With nearly 300 Palestininians injured in the last two weeks at al-Aqsa compound, this year’s Ramadan in Palestine has been marked by bloodshed once again. 

Since the start of Ramadan on April 2, human rights organizations have monitored a significant increase in violence against Palestinians. Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq has documented a worrying trend “in killings, excessive use of force, settler colonial violence, attacks on holy sites and worshippers, and collective punishment measures against Palestinians, including widespread raids, arbitrary arrests, and movement restrictions.” 

According to Al-Haq’s information, the Israeli army has killed 17 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in April. Since Al-Haq’s publication, Israeli forces fatally shot 18-year-old Ahmad Fathi Masad in the head during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp this week. 

 

Uptick in religious violations

Israeli police raids on al-Aqsa compound have become routine this month, with the PRCS noting the majority of injuries were to the upper areas of the body. Israeli forces have used rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades against Palestinian worshippers at al-Aqsa

In recent weeks, Israeli forces have also broken the iconic stained-glass windows of al-Qibli Mosque, the main mosque in the compound, and have attacked Palestinian journalists, children, women and the elderly at the holy site.

Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister for Religious Endowments Sheikh Hatem al-Bakri told MintPress News that Israel’s actions at al-Aqsa compound are in violation of international regulations, UNESCO resolutions and religious traditions. 

In 2016, UNESCO, the UN’s world heritage organization, adopted a resolution decrying Israeli violations at al-Aqsa including restricting access to Muslim worship and storming of the compound by Israeli forces and extremists. 

“Israel is not respecting religious treaties at all, instead using their privilege of power to enact these policies,” al-Bakri said, emphasizing how the Jordanian Ministry of Waqf has full jurisdiction over the holy site. “And because of our weaknesses, we cannot run any military confrontation with Israel. We have to just witness what’s happening.”

Israeli police are not the only ones violating the sanctity of al-Aqsa. This month, the Jewish festival of Passover coincided with Ramadan. Jewish extremists used the holiday season to storm the compound and pray at the site more frequently. On April 17, Israeli forces shut Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron to Muslim worshippers for two days. That following Tuesday, hundreds of Jewish settlers stormed the mosque to perform Talmudic rituals in celebration of Passover. The Israeli army also erected military barricades surrounding the area of the mosque to facilitate the settlers’ movement. The director of the mosque, Ghassan Al-Rajabi, said the closure was a continuation of “Zionist authorities’ attempts to dominate and occupy the mosque.”

In 1994, Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Muslim worshippers at Ibrahimi Mosque during Ramadan. Following the massacre, Israel divided the holy site into Muslim and Jewish sections, with Muslim access cut to 40%.

Last year, Israel authorities initiated excavation works at the mosque in order to install an elevator there. A Palestinian petition against the settler project was rejected by Israel’s Supreme Court on the grounds the elevator’s purpose is to ensure greater disability access. However, Palestinans stress the plan isn’t humanitarian in its purpose, instead giving cover for an attempt to confiscate land and further Judaize the mosque. 

Sheikh al-Bakri, who is also a preacher at Ibrahimi Mosque, said Israel’s tightened security measures around the religious site suggest a more sinister intention. “Israel has been trying to control that site through converting it from a place for worshipers to a military zone,” al-Bakri said. “All of the events that have been happening around that site make us believe that Israel is trying to turn the Muslim praying side into a synagogue.”

April saw an escalation against Palestinian Muslim and Christian worship as well. According to documentation from the Jerusalem Governorate, on April 23 Israeli forces prevented hundreds of Palestinian Christians from reaching the Church of Holy Sepulcher to celebrate the “Holy Fire” ceremony on the eve of Orthodox Easter.

Minister al-Bakri said Israeli violations against some mosques in Jerusalem have occurred this Ramadan, but emphasized the main offenses against Islam have been at the al-Aqsa and Ibrahimi mosques. 

“If Israel is violating these two big sites, then they can violate every site in the country,” al-Bakri said. “And we keep saying that if Israel is violating al-Aqsa, it’s violating every single Palestinian.”

 

Israel seeking a religious war 

As the end of Ramadan nears, Israeli police have banned non-Muslims from entering al-Aqsa compound for the last ten days of Ramadan. According to Jerusalem Governorate statistics, about 3,670 Jewish settlers invaded al-Aqsa Compound during the Passover holiday.

Amid the spike in Jews praying at the site, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid asserted Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo at al-Aqsa Compound. 

“Muslims pray on the Temple Mount [what Israel calls al-Aqsa Compound], non-Muslims only visit. There is no change, there will be no change,” Lapid said during a press conference

Yet Jordan, which has custodianship over the site, disagreed. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry warned in a statement that Israel is taking “targeted steps to change the historical and legal situation in the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” specifically condemning Israeli forces for raiding the area and allowing Jews to pray at al-Aqsa Compound. 

Jewish extremists often argue that denying Jewish prayer at al-Aqsa Compound is an obstruction of freedom of worship, given the area is deemed the holiest site in Judaism.  

“Al-Aqsa is only for Muslims,” PA Deputy Governor of Jerusalem Abdullah Siam told MintPress News, in response to accusations of religious discrimination. He suggested the current status quo has pushed Israel to take the site through force. 

Al-Bakri also agreed that al-Aqsa is strictly for Muslim worship. 

But Jewish extremists who spout claims of religious discrimination ignore the stark political element at play, Israeli journalist and activist Haggai Matar said. “[T]here are no equals in Israel-Palestine,” Matar wrote in +972 Magazine. “[I]t is Israel that has created a system of apartheid wherein … Jewish supremacy over Palestinians is guaranteed, maintained, and entrenched by law and by force.”

Just before the start of Ramadan, Israeli parliament member and leader of the far-right Jewish Power Party Itamar Ben-Gvir toured al-Aqsa Compound, escorted by police. This wasn’t his first incursion, and Minister al-Bakri said such provocative, politically-charged tours are how the Israeli government attempts to stabilize its fragile coalition. “Through these practices, [the government is] trying to get political acquisitions,” al-Bakri said. “The government of [Prime Minister] Naftali Bennett is weak, and in order for them to keep going, they have to encourage settlers to do more raids so as to win from that situation.”

Yet ultimately, Israel’s ongoing violations against Muslim worship, al-Bakri said, are “leading the area to a religious war between Islam and Judaism.” “We always say that our main problem is not with Judaism as a religion, but with the occupation,” al-Bakri said. “Although Israel has been using Judaism to shape its occupation.”

 

Ramadan violence on repeat

As they were last year, tensions in Palestine have been at a maximum high during Ramadan. 

In May 2021, violence erupted into a war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic faction governing Gaza. Israel’s 10-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip left 256 Palestinians dead, including 66 children. Media pundits and experts have feared this Ramadan may reach last year’s deadly levels. 

For Minister al-Bakri, the atmosphere in Palestine is always volatile during Ramadan because Israel encourages a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. “Three months ago, Israel started talking in the media about a potential escalation, while the Palestinians hoped for a quiet month,” al-Bakri said, highlighting the number of Palestinians killed recently as meeting Israeli predictions. “Israel has been preparing the area for a potential problem by repeating these crisis slogans.”

Younes Arar, director of international and public relations and media for the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, suggested the large number of Palestinians flocking to Jerusalem during Ramadan is part of why the holy month is a tense time — emphasizing how the restrictions on freedom of movement add to the provocations. “Israel uses this month to humiliate Palestinians, as much as they can,” Arar said. “Especially at the doors of al-Aqsa Mosque, knowing how much this situation is sensitive for Palestinians.”

Feature photo |

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post As Ramadan Ends, Israeli Provocations Seem Aimed at a Religious War appeared first on MintPress News.

The West prepared to let Ukraine horror drag on

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 2:35pm in

Millions around the world are watching events unfold in Ukraine with horror. Thousands dead, millions displaced, cities razed.

Russia should halt its invasion and withdraw its troops. But Western leaders are showing no interest in stopping the war.

Earlier, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky proposed that Ukraine would not join the NATO military alliance, which could have provided the basis for a ceasefire.

But instead of leaping at the opportunity, our leaders made it clear that they want the war to go on.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan put it bluntly, telling a US television host: “Our policy is unequivocal that we will do whatever we can to help Ukraine succeed …

“What we want to see is a free and independent Ukraine, a weakened and isolated Russia, and a stronger, more unified, more determined West,” he added. “We believe that all three of those objectives are in sight.”

It’s a reminder that this is a proxy conflict pitting the US and its allies against Russia, with the Ukrainian people as victims of the rivalry between the two imperialist power blocks.

The US wants to exhaust Russia, whose economy is already modest: fractionally bigger than Australia’s but with six times the population.

This would allow the US to reassert its dominance over Europe and send a message to its main global rival, China, that it can still call the shots—a point Scott Morrison has also been keen to make.

The likelihood that previously neutral Sweden and Finland will join the NATO military alliance is a boost for this strategy.

Specific

Following Russia’s withdrawal from around the capital Kyiv, Zelensky is now arguing that, with Western arms, Ukraine can win. He has withdrawn the idea of Ukraine staying out of NATO.

Hours before meeting US secretary of state Antony Blinken and US defence secretary Lloyd Austin in Kyiv during Orthodox Easter, Zelensky declared: “We are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons.”

For its part, Russia now plans to annex the eastern and southern provinces of Ukraine, creating a land corridor to the Russian minority territory of Transnistria in Moldova.

The West’s verbal aggression has been backed by a massive flow of armaments.

In Kyiv, Blinken and Austin announced almost $1 billion in military financing for Ukraine and 15 allies.

This is on top of eight instalments of military aid provided by the US since Russia invaded two months ago at a cost of $4.7 billion.

Initially, the US provided items such as anti-tank missiles, rifles and ammunition, worried about provoking Russia by arming Ukraine too heavily.

Ian Brzezinski, a former head of NATO policy at the Pentagon, told the Financial Times that the US was now providing heavy weapons. “It is a very clear and profound shift.”

Recent US support includes 72 howitzers, 72 armoured vehicles to tow them, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 120 drones.

Britain has already sent 4800 anti-tank missiles and plans to send another 6000.

And Australia has been quick to add to this, most recently sending 20 Bushmaster armoured vehicles—organised in days while flood victims in NSW and Queensland were left without support.

Resistance

The US and its allies want to avoid direct conflict with Russia, which is why they have refused to implement a no-fly zone or send forces to Ukraine (although Britain now has military trainers on the ground).

But the West will continue to arm Ukraine even as the war drags on for potentially months or years.

If our rulers have no interest in stopping the war, it makes resistance to the warmongers by workers even more important.

Airport workers in Italy refused to load a cargo plane when they discovered that “humanitarian aid” for Ukraine consisted of weapons, ammunition and explosives.

As their union put it: “We strongly denounce this real fraud, which cynically uses the ‘humanitarian’ cover to continue to fuel the war in Ukraine.”

In Belarus, which neighbours Ukraine and whose dictator is a Russian ally, rail workers sabotaged signalling equipment to prevent the transport of military supplies.

In Greece, rail workers refused to transport US tanks destined for Ukraine from the northern port of Alexandroupoli.

Their union declared: “No participation of our country in military conflicts in Ukraine, which are committed in the interests of the few at the expense of the peoples.”

The likes of Biden and Morrison accept death and destruction as the necessary cost of maintaining military and economic power.

To stop the war, we need to build a movement that rejects the Russian invasion but is also completely opposed to the NATO war machine and its Australian ally that are fuelling it.

By David Glanz

The post The West prepared to let Ukraine horror drag on appeared first on Solidarity Online.

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