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Is the European Union Qualified to Broker Peace Between Israel and Palestine?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 7:31am in

In theory, Europe and the United States stand on completely opposite sides when it comes to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. While the US government has fully embraced the tragic status quo created by 53 years of Israeli military occupation, the EU continues to advocate a negotiated settlement that is predicated on respect for international law.

In practice, however, despite the seeming rift between Washington and Brussels, the outcome is, essentially, the same. The US and Europe are Israel’s largest trade partners, weapon suppliers and political advocates.

One of the reasons that the illusion of an even-handed Europe has been maintained for so long lies partly in the Palestinian leadership itself. Politically and financially abandoned by Washington, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has turned to the European Union as its only possible saviour.

“Europe believes in the two-state solution,” PA Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, said during a video discussion with the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on October 12. Unlike the US, Europe’s continued advocacy of the defunct two-state solution qualifies it to fill the massive gap created by Washington’s absence.

Shtayyeh called on EU leaders to “recognize the State of Palestine in order for us, and you, to break the status quo.”

However, there are already 139 countries that recognize the State of Palestine. While that recognition is a clear indication that the world remains firmly pro-Palestinian, recognizing Palestine as a State changes little on the ground. What is needed are concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable for its violent occupation as well as real action to support the struggle of Palestinians.

Not only has the EU failed at this, it is, in fact, doing the exact opposite: funding Israel, arming its military and silencing its critics.

Listening to Shtayyeh’s words, one gets the impression that the top Palestinian official is addressing a conference of Arab, Muslim or socialist countries. “I call upon your Parliament and your distinguished Members of this Parliament, that Europe not wait for the American President to come up with ideas … We need a third party who can really remedy the imbalance in the relationship between an occupied people and an occupier country, that is Israel,” he said.

But is the EU qualified to be that ‘third party’?  No. For decades, European governments have been an integral part of the US-Israel party. Just because the Donald Trump administration has, recently, taken a sharp turn in favour of Israel should not automatically transform Europe’s historical pro-Israel bias to be mistaken for pro-Palestinian solidarity.

Last June, more than 1,000 European parliamentarians representing various political parties issued a statement expressing “serious concerns” about Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century and opposing Israeli annexation of nearly a third of the West Bank. However, the pro-Israel US Democratic Party, including some traditionally staunch supporters of Israel, were equally critical of Israel’s plan because, in their minds, annexation means that a two-state solution would be made impossible.

While US Democrats made it clear that a Joe Biden administration would not reverse any of Trump’s actions should Biden be elected, European governments have also made it clear that they will not take a single action to dissuade – let alone punish – Israel for its repeated violations of international law.

Lip service is all that Palestinians have obtained from Europe, as well as much money, which was largely pocketed by loyalists of Abbas in the name of ‘State-building’ and other fantasies. Tellingly, much of the imaginary Palestinian State infrastructure that was subsidized by Europe in recent years has been blown up, demolished or construction ceased by the Israeli military during its various wars and raids. Yet, neither did the EU punish Israel, nor did the PA cease from asking for more money to continue funding a non-existent State.

Not only did the EU fail to hold Israel accountable for its ongoing occupation and human rights violations, it is practically financing Israel, as well. According to Defence News, a quarter of all of Israel’s military export contracts (totaling $7.2 billion in 2019 alone) is allocated to European countries.

Moreover, Europe is Israel’s largest trading partner, absorbing one-third of Israel’s total exports and shipping to Israel nearly 40% of its total import. These numbers also include products made in illegal Jewish settlements.

Additionally, the EU labours to incorporate Israel into the European way of life through cultural and music contests, sports competitions and in a myriad other ways. While the EU possesses powerful tools that can be used to exact political concessions and enforce respect for international law, it opts to simply do very little.

Compare this with the recent ultimatum the EU has given the Palestinian leadership, linking EU aid to the PA’s financial ties with Israel. Last May, Abbas took the extraordinary step of considering all agreements with Israel and the US to be null and void. Effectively, this means that the PA would no longer be accountable for the stifling status quo that was created by the Oslo Accords, which was repeatedly violated by Tel Aviv and Washington. Severing ties with Israel also meant that the PA would refuse to accept nearly $150 million in tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA. This Palestinian step, while long overdue, was necessary.

Instead of supporting Abbas’ move, the EU criticized it, refusing to provide additional aid for Palestinians until Abbas restores ties with Israel and accepts the tax money. According to Axios news portal, Germany, France, the UK and even Norway are leading the charge.

Germany, in particular, has been relentless in its support for Israel. For months, it has advocated on behalf of Israel to spare Tel Aviv a war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). It has placed activists, who advocate the boycott of Israel, on trial. Recently, it has confirmed the shipment of missile boats and other military hardware to ensure the superiority of the Israeli navy in a potential war against Arab enemies. Germany is not alone. Israel and most European countries are closing ranks in terms of their unprecedented military cooperation and trade ties, including natural gas deals.

Continuing to make references to the unachievable two-state solution, while arming, funding and doing more business with Israel is the very definition of hypocrisy. The truth is that Europe should be held as accountable as the US in emboldening and sustaining the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Yet, while Washington is openly pro-Israel, the EU has played a more clever game: selling Palestinians empty words while selling Israel lethal weapons.

Feature photo | A boy rides a bicycle by a graffiti in Belgrade, Serbia,, Sept. 7, 2020. The European Union warned Serbia and Kosovo that they could undermine their EU membership hopes by moving their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem. Darko Vojinovic | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

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Protests Against Greed and Inequality Are Spreading Like Wildfire Through Latin America

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 4:52am in

With attention fixed on this week’s events in Bolivia, you would be excused for not realizing that much of the rest of the region has for weeks also been ablaze in the flames of protest.

In Costa Rica, the neoliberal coalition government of Carlos Alverado attempted to force through a $1.75 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. As has been its modus operandi this year, the organization offered the money attached to a host of free-market changes, including tax changes, cuts to public services, and privatization of state-owned assets, something Alverado was more than happy to do.

Yet the people of Costa Rica clearly did not consent to the measures, launching a weeks-long general strike that paralyzed the country. Taking to the streets, they shut down dozens of the country’s principal transport arteries, fighting with many of the nation’s 30,000 strong police force.

The rebellion has resulted in a victory for the protesters, as Alverado announced the cessation of IMF negotiations.

 

Colombia

Meanwhile, a little south in Colombia, the country is today heading into the second day of a national strike, with the country’s highly organized teachers’ union FECODE announcing a 48-hour work stoppage in opposition to conservative president Ivan Duque’s plans to reopen schools and other educational institutions with few protective measures, despite a COVID-19 pandemic raging through the country, killing between 100 and 200 people daily. The teachers join students, trade unions, and a host of other organizations in collective action against Duque’s government.

There is a wide range of grievances on display. Indigenous protesters are out in great numbers, demonstrating against the Duque administration’s treatment of them. Others are protesting against the country’s appalling human rights record. Colombia has long been the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist. Four more indigenous leaders were killed on Monday and Tuesday, with two narrowly escaping death. Their murders are rumored to be a retaliation for the mobilizations in Bogota, as thousands have traveled to the nation’s capital to voice their displeasure.

 

Chile

Much of Chile was ablaze this time last year, with citizens attempting to force the conservative government of Sebastian Piñera (the country’s richest man) to concede a vote on the country’s outdated, fascist-era constitution. The initial spark for the nationwide action was a hike in Santiago’s subway fares in order to subsidize private transport companies, but soon snowballed into much more. “It is an outrage that nearly 30 years since the end of the dictatorship, Chile should still have this Pinochet-era constitution in place,” founder and co-editor of Alborada Magazine Pablo Navarette told MintPress last year.

Chile’s referendum will take place on Sunday, with opinion polls suggesting that the people will overwhelmingly vote for change. The country has seen weeks of protest, some turning violent. Earlier this month, a police officer was filmed throwing a 16-year-old protester off a bridge, where he was left face down in the water with serious injuries. At the weekend tens of thousands of Chileans gathered in central Santiago to mark the one year anniversary of the protests that began the process of change, and to rally support for a “yes” vote this Sunday. They were met with force by the police, the resulting violence forcing the closure of at least 15 metro stations.

 

Haiti

Meanwhile, in Haiti, U.S.-backed President Jovenal Moise is facing fresh waves of near-continuous protest, ever since he canceled elections and began ruling by decree. This weekend saw new demonstrations in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, blocking roads and calling for Moise’s resignation. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, injuring many.

However, none of these protests have been given much attention at all in the Western press, who prefer to concentrate on demonstrations happening in enemy nations against adversarial governments. The 2019 protests in Hong Kong, for example, were given over 50 times the amount of coverage in The New York Times and CNN than the far deadlier and longer-lasting Haitian uprising.

 

Bolivia

Those out on the streets this week will no doubt draw inspiration from the events in Bolivia, where the government of Jeanine Añez suffered a catastrophic electoral defeat on Sunday at the hands of the grassroots Movement to Socialism (MAS) party. Añez, who came to power in a coup in November, insisted she was merely an “interim president.” Despite this, she postponed elections three times, while brutally suppressing organized resistance to her rule. However, a week-long general strike paralyzed the country in August, forcing Añez to concede to elections in October. Despite constant intimidation, the MAS won a resounding victory, setting the stage for the return of democracy to the Andean nation.

2020 has been an extremely turbulent year for the people of Latin America. While the region has suffered greatly thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, organized protest once again offers hope that a better world is possible. And with the Bolivian example fresh in their minds, the people might truly believe it is within their grasp.

Feature photo | Fire from a molotov cocktail explodes in front of police as a police vehicle shoots water at protesters who marched against the commemoration of the discovery of the Americas, organized by Indigenous groups demanding autonomy and the recovery of ancestral land in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 12, 2020. Esteban Felix | AP

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Protests Against Greed and Inequality Are Spreading Like Wildfire Through Latin America appeared first on MintPress News.

Defense Sectary Visits Hawkish Atlantic Council to Announce US Troop Buildup on Russia Border

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 4:12am in

Tags 

News, Germany, Russia

The United States was supposed to be sending thousands of troops home from Germany. But Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced yesterday that they would instead be redeployed eastwards, right on the Russian border in some cases, supposedly to deter “growing Russian and Chinese threats.”

“It’s common sense,” the senior Trump administration official said. “You don’t need to be Napoleon or MacArthur to look at the map and realize that the further east you are, the more reassurance you could provide for those allies and partners on the frontlines—whether it’s in the northeast, it’s the Baltic states, Poland, just due east of Germany, or in Bulgaria and Romania in the southeast along the Black Sea.” Thus, for the U.S. government, the “frontline” against an “aggressive” Russia includes countries that until recently were a part of the Soviet Union and that sit directly on Russia’s border. In July, Trump announced the impending withdrawal of thousands of U.S. armed forces from Germany (a country it has militarily occupied since World War Two).

Esper was speaking at the Atlantic Council, an influential think tank started as a NATO cutout organization funded by Western governments, Middle Eastern dictatorships, weapons companies like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing, as well many of the world’s largest corporations such as Goldman Sachs, BP, and FedEx.

The administration’s plan to ramp down the U.S. military presence from 36,000 troops to 24,000 was met with overwhelming hostility in Washington when it was first announced in July; the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives even included an amendment to its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to block funding for any withdrawal. Both Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and CNN described the idea as Trump’s “gift to Russia,” while Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez claimed that “champagne must be flowing freely this evening at the Kremlin.” Thus, the news of a change of course will likely be greeted warmly in “resistance” circles.

 

A new arms race

Even during a worldwide pandemic that has destroyed the economy, the U.S. government is strong-arming its allies, NATO and non-NATO alike, into rearming for a potential global war against both Russia and China. Esper presented the United States as a protector nation, unfairly having to pay for the defense of other countries. “To overcome the increasingly complex threats in the 21st century and defend our shared values, there can be no free riders to our common security,” he said, adding that it was imperative that other states “share the burden” and increase their military spending to at least two percent of their gross domestic product “as the floor.” “We also expect them to be ready, capable, and willing to deploy when trouble calls. And we expect them to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in confronting Chinese bad behavior and Russian aggression,” he added.

What is this Chinese and Russian aggression? Esper noted an increased Chinese military presence in the South China Sea, where throughout the summer, the U.S. has also been expanding its footprint. U.S. warships have been patrolling as close as 41 nautical miles from the Chinese coast. He pointed to the Russian presence in Ukraine (a country the U.S. is also flooding with weapons) as justification for the “defensive” action of sending thousands of troops mere miles from Russia itself.

Esper also called for a wholescale “modernization” of the military and the arms industry, which, he claimed, had too many restrictions on it regarding foreign sales, meaning the West’s “asymmetric advantage” was at risk. But, as many have explored previously, “modernization” is a favorite political euphemism used when wanting to discuss or promote a new arms race.

 

Who is the Atlantic Council?

The Atlantic Council is an increasingly influential body whose board of directors is a who’s who of American state power. From war planners like Henry Kissinger to Bush administration officials like Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, army generals like David Petraeus and Wesley Clark, and former CIA directors such as Leon Panetta, Michael Chertoff, and Robert Gates, the organization is as close to a representation of the so-called “deep state” as is possible to get.

The Council has also been the driving force behind many of the most hawkish RussiaGate stories in recent years, putting out a series of widely cited reports claiming that virtually every political party in Europe not representing the established political center is secretly controlled by Vladimir Putin. From Labour and UKIP in Britain, Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece to the Five Star Movement in Italy, all, according to Atlantic Council reports, are the “Kremlin’s Trojan Horses.” These reports have provided the basis for much of the most breathless stories regarding Russia since 2016.

The Council is also in charge of curating Facebook’s news feed, deciding which sources are high quality and newsworthy, and which sources are fake news, and are taken down from the site. Since around 40 percent of Americans (and similar numbers across the globe) get their news from Facebook, the partnership with an organization like the Atlantic Council is as close to worldwide state media censorship as is likely to be achieved in the modern era. Yet few even know about this connection at all, nor how much of an influence the group has over modern media.

 

War drums

Throughout 2020, President Trump has used China as a method of deflecting attention away from his own response to the coronavirus pandemic, which, as of October 21, has claimed the lives of over 226,000 Americans. Trump has constantly condemned China for its response and labeled COVID-19 as the “Wuhan China Virus” or similar.

Democrats have largely decided to attack Trump on the right on the issue, however, with both parties claiming the other’s leader is in the pocket of Beijing. As a result, the public’s view of China has reached a new low, with only 22 percent of Americans expressing a positive view of the world’s most populous state, and 73 percent holding a negative opinion.

Polls are currently not looking good for Trump. Yet Joe Biden’s campaign team has strongly hinted at increased conflict with both Russia and China if their candidate is to win in November, suggesting that, when it comes to foreign policy, war is a bipartisan issue.

Feature photo | US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper with Atlantic Council CEO Frederick Kempe to discuss alliances and partnership in US national security, October 20, 2020 in Washington D.C. Marvin Lynchard | DoD

Alan MacLeod is a 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. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post Defense Sectary Visits Hawkish Atlantic Council to Announce US Troop Buildup on Russia Border appeared first on MintPress News.

From Assassinations to Sanctions: Emergency Powers and the Rise of the Imperial Presidency

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 1:42am in

On the eve of the 2020 election, no American president has enjoyed more unrestrained power than Donald J. Trump, who has inherited decades of policies and legislation that have given the American head of state the ability to suspend all constitutional rights and habeas corpus for its own citizens, carry out assassinations, torture prisoners and impose sanctions on sovereign nations, to name just a few of the 120 discretionary emergency “powers” the office currently has at its disposal.

Trump has invoked emergency powers, at least, eight times during his administration. Simply declaring an emergency makes all sorts of constitutional violations possible. Depending on which sphere of political power requires a form of executive intervention, the president has a bevy of “emergency” options at his disposal beyond the reach of Congress or any other mitigating factors. His decision to assassinate Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, was one such example where the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force, also known as the War Powers Act, was cited as a legal justification for the general’s murder.

The War Powers Act is but one of many legal “emergency power” dispositions increasingly afforded to the office of the presidency. A recent article by Andrew Cockburn in Harper’s Magazine highlights a little-known set of documents drafted by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel called presidential emergency action documents or PEADs, which detail the actions a president is unilaterally entitled to take in the event of a declared emergency. These include all the constitutional violations mentioned above as well as a president’s prerogative to “seize control of the Internet” among other measures.

PEADs have been kept from the American public, but are common knowledge among critical White House staff and other government officials. According to Cockburn, PEADs have been gradually accumulating over the years as an “integral part” of the Continuity of Government or COG program; an emergency plan hatched deep in the bowels of the post-war state to protect the edifice of power, which established a shadow government and other ’emergency powers’ justified by the threat of nuclear annihilation, incessantly propagandized during the Cold War; the ultimate emergency from which all others would spring to pave the way for the incremental concentration of power in the executive.

 

Mein Führer, I can walk!

At the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Love the Bomb,” the crippled Nazi character after whom the movie is named, miraculously regains his ability to walk just as a nuclear conflagration engulfs the world. Fascism thrives when panic and fear reign supreme, allowing critical circumstances – whether real or manufactured – to justify the evisceration of civil liberties and human rights.

The American national security state that developed in the post-war period has found one ’emergency’ after another to drive through policies and legislation that serve its interests. The office of the president is the logical target for a vast military industrial complex that needs to steer clear of Congressional oversight or public scrutiny in order to maintain control over its hugely profitable and immoral war enterprises.

After the tumultuous 1960s, which exposed many of the darkest secrets of the American national security apparatus and all of its murderous tentacles, the establishment experienced an existential crisis as powerful, grassroots social movements emerged to put real pressure on the governing elites to answer for their actions and find remedies for patently unequal rights in America. The anti-war movement, along with the revelations of the Church Committee, Watergate, and the extent to which presidents had used so-called emergency powers to circumvent Congress and the constitution, shed the pretense of democracy.

A futile effort to curb presidential emergency powers by the Special Committee on the Termination of the National Emergency in the early 1970s, which Frank Church co-chaired, was soon followed by an expansion of these powers in the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) of 1977, enabling the president to declare national emergencies based on very broad criteria of “extraordinary circumstances.”

 

The style council

The IEEPA allows whoever is in the Oval Office to unilaterally and without evidence of wrongdoing, impose sanctions on entire countries or single individuals. The law has since been used as the framework for other emergency authorization protocols, such as the legal device used by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to freeze any American’s bank account without any meaningful explanation.

It was this piece of legislation that George W. Bush used as a basis for Executive Order 13224, which blocked the assets of terrorist organizations. These same powers were enhanced in provisions of the Patriot Act, itself another piece of ’emergency’ legislation. Bush was the first president to actually implement the shadow government proscribed in the COG procedures after September 11, 2001.

There are currently more than 30 active declared “emergencies,” many of which go back decades. In the opening paragraph of the report issued by Church’s Special Committee on the Termination of the National Emergency, the authors conceded that “a majority of Americans alive today have lived all of their lives under emergency rule.” This sobering conclusion is far more relevant today, almost 40 years later, when each subsequent administration has done its part to expand the president’s authority. None more so than Barack Obama, who dramatically expanded presidential emergency powers with two executive orders in 2012, which decreed almost monarchical powers over the whole of U.S energy and transportation infrastructure, domestic resources like food and water, the authority to force citizens to “fulfill labor requirements for the purposes of national defense” and the takeover of private communications networks by DHS.

All of these and more powers are currently in the hands of Donald Trump, whose style may rub some people the wrong way. But, they won’t be rescinded by the next administration. Indeed, now that the office of the presidency is a de facto dictatorship, style is really all that’s left.

Feature photo | President Donald Trump points to a supporter as Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 19, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. Ross D. Franklin | AP

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

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Don’t Vote for a Psychopath: Tyranny at the Hands of a Psychopathic Government

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 1:15am in

Tags 

News, Psychology

Politicians are more likely than people in the general population to be sociopaths. “I think you would find no expert in the field of sociopathy/psychopathy/antisocial personality disorder who would dispute this… That a small minority of human beings literally have no conscience was and is a bitter pill for our society to swallow — but it does explain a great many things, shamelessly deceitful political behavior being one.”—Dr. Martha Stout, clinical psychologist and former instructor at Harvard Medical School

Twenty years ago, a newspaper headline asked the question: “What’s the difference between a politician and a psychopath?

The answer, then and now, remains the same: None.

There is no difference between psychopaths and politicians.

Nor is there much of a difference between the havoc wreaked on innocent lives by uncaring, unfeeling, selfish, irresponsible, parasitic criminals and elected officials who lie to their constituents, trade political favors for campaign contributions, turn a blind eye to the wishes of the electorate, cheat taxpayers out of hard-earned dollars, favor the corporate elite, entrench the military industrial complex, and spare little thought for the impact their thoughtless actions and hastily passed legislation might have on defenseless citizens.

Psychopaths and politicians both have a tendency to be selfish, callous, remorseless users of others, irresponsible, pathological liars, glib, con artists, lacking in remorse and shallow.

Charismatic politicians, like criminal psychopaths, exhibit a failure to accept responsibility for their actions, have a high sense of self-worth, are chronically unstable, have socially deviant lifestyles, need constant stimulation, have parasitic lifestyles and possess unrealistic goals.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Democrats or Republicans.

Political psychopaths are all largely cut from the same pathological cloth, brimming with seemingly easy charm and boasting calculating minds. Such leaders eventually create pathocracies: totalitarian societies bent on power, control, and destruction of both freedom in general and those who exercise their freedoms.

Once psychopaths gain power, the result is usually some form of totalitarian government or a pathocracy. “At that point, the government operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups,” author James G. Long notes. “We are currently witnessing deliberate polarizations of American citizens, illegal actions, and massive and needless acquisition of debt. This is typical of psychopathic systems, and very similar things happened in the Soviet Union as it overextended and collapsed.”

In other words, electing a psychopath to public office is tantamount to national hara-kiri, the ritualized act of self-annihilation, self-destruction and suicide. It signals the demise of democratic government and lays the groundwork for a totalitarian regime that is legalistic, militaristic, inflexible, intolerant and inhuman.

Incredibly, despite clear evidence of the damage that has already been inflicted on our nation and its citizens by a psychopathic government, voters continue to elect psychopaths to positions of power and influence.

Indeed, a study from Southern Methodist University found that Washington, DC—our nation’s capital and the seat of power for our so-called representatives—ranks highest on the list of regions that are populated by psychopaths.

According to investigative journalist Zack Beauchamp, “In 2012, a group of psychologists evaluated every President from Washington to Bush II using ‘psychopathy trait estimates derived from personality data completed by historical experts on each president.’ They found that presidents tended to have the psychopath’s characteristic fearlessness and low anxiety levels — traits that appear to help Presidents, but also might cause them to make reckless decisions that hurt other people’s lives.”

The willingness to prioritize power above all else, including the welfare of their fellow human beings, ruthlessness, callousness and an utter lack of conscience are among the defining traits of the sociopath.

When our own government no longer sees us as human beings with dignity and worth but as things to be manipulated, maneuvered, mined for data, manhandled by police, conned into believing it has our best interests at heart, mistreated, jailed if we dare step out of line, and then punished unjustly without remorse—all the while refusing to own up to its failings—we are no longer operating under a constitutional republic.

Instead, what we are experiencing is a pathocracy: tyranny at the hands of a psychopathic government, which “operates against the interests of its own people except for favoring certain groups.”

Worse, psychopathology is not confined to those in high positions of government. It can spread like a virus among the populace. As an academic study into pathocracy concluded, “[T]yranny does not flourish because perpetuators are helpless and ignorant of their actions. It flourishes because they actively identify with those who promote vicious acts as virtuous.”

People don’t simply line up and salute. It is through one’s own personal identification with a given leader, party or social order that they become agents of good or evil.

Much depends on how leaders “cultivate a sense of identification with their followers,” says Professor Alex Haslam. “I mean one pretty obvious thing is that leaders talk about ‘we’ rather than ‘I,’ and actually what leadership is about is cultivating this sense of shared identity about ‘we-ness’ and then getting people to want to act in terms of that ‘we-ness,’ to promote our collective interests. . . . [We] is the single word that has increased in the inaugural addresses over the last century . . . and the other one is ‘America.’”

The goal of the modern corporate state is obvious: to promote, cultivate, and embed a sense of shared identification among its citizens. To this end, “we the people” have become “we the police state.”

We are fast becoming slaves in thrall to a faceless, nameless, bureaucratic totalitarian government machine that relentlessly erodes our freedoms through countless laws, statutes, and prohibitions.

Any resistance to such regimes depends on the strength of opinions in the minds of those who choose to fight back. What this means is that we the citizenry must be very careful that we are not manipulated into marching in lockstep with an oppressive regime.

Writing for ThinkProgress, Beauchamp suggests that “one of the best cures to bad leaders may very well be political democracy.”

But what does this really mean in practical terms?

It means holding politicians accountable for their actions and the actions of their staff using every available means at our disposal: through investigative journalism (what used to be referred to as the Fourth Estate) that enlightens and informs, through whistleblower complaints that expose corruption, through lawsuits that challenge misconduct, and through protests and mass political action that remind the powers-that-be that “we the people” are the ones that call the shots.

Remember, education precedes action. Citizens need to the do the hard work of educating themselves about what the government is doing and how to hold it accountable. Don’t allow yourselves to exist exclusively in an echo chamber that is restricted to views with which you agree. Expose yourself to multiple media sources, independent and mainstream, and think for yourself.

For that matter, no matter what your political leanings might be, don’t allow your partisan bias to trump the principles that serve as the basis for our constitutional republic. As Beauchamp notes, “A system that actually holds people accountable to the broader conscience of society may be one of the best ways to keep conscienceless people in check.”

That said, if we allow the ballot box to become our only means of pushing back against the police state, the battle is already lost.

Resistance will require a citizenry willing to be active at the local level.

Yet as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if you wait to act until the SWAT team is crashing through your door, until your name is placed on a terror watch list, until you are reported for such outlawed activities as collecting rainwater or letting your children play outside unsupervised, then it will be too late.

This much I know: we are not faceless numbers.

We are not cogs in the machine.

We are not slaves.

We are human beings, and for the moment, we have the opportunity to remain free—that is, if we tirelessly advocate for our rights and resist at every turn attempts by the government to place us in chains.

The Founders understood that our freedoms do not flow from the government. They were not given to us only to be taken away by the will of the State. They are inherently ours. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.

Until we can get back to this way of thinking, until we can remind our fellow Americans what it really means to be free, and until we can stand firm in the face of threats to our freedoms, we will continue to be treated like slaves in thrall to a bureaucratic police state run by political psychopaths.

Feature photo | Editing by MintPress | Artist Unknown

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

The post Don’t Vote for a Psychopath: Tyranny at the Hands of a Psychopathic Government appeared first on MintPress News.

Justice Department Has No Legal Authority to Interfere in 2020 Vote Counts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 4:34am in

The attorney general and Justice Department can issue pro-Trump propaganda, but not reject or seize ballots, nor interrupt the locally run election process. Continue reading

The post Justice Department Has No Legal Authority to Interfere in 2020 Vote Counts appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

With an Eye on Nearby Iran, Israeli Weapons Fuel the Violence in Azerbaijan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 7:25am in

The latest iteration of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has already claimed the lives of dozens of people, had been largely forgotten by the world before hostilities reignited in September. Only the collapse of the Soviet Union was able to bring about the end of the last war between these entrenched enemies in the 1980s and 1990s. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, the still contested region claimed under international law by Azerbaijan and de facto controlled by its ethnic Armenian majority has fallen under a new spell of violence thanks in large part to external actors vying for a larger war with another neighboring country: Iran.

Three weeks ago, a dispute over a piece of territory in the Caucasus Mountains erupted into a hot war between the two former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, sending civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh to seek cover in their basements from the aerial drone strikes raining death and destruction from above.

In a video analyzed by Franceinfo, a 1K Orbiter “kamikaze” drone was found intact on the streets of the ethnically-Armenian enclave near the Azeri-Armenian border. As its moniker implies, this class of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is so named because once its operators lock onto a target on the ground the UAV dives into them with an explosive charge.

The drone was developed by leading Israeli unmanned aerial systems (UAS) company Aeronautics Defense Systems, which has a manufacturing plant in Azerbaijan since 2011. The discovery of the drone’s use by Azeri forces in the disputed border region has highlighted the pivotal, yet largely underreported, role that Israel is playing in this conflict, giving the Azeri army a decided advantage against the overmatched Armenians.

In addition, Turkey’s clear support of the Azerbaijani state leaves the majority Christian nation of Armenia up against the two biggest regional powers aside from Russia, which five days ago called on both parties in the conflict to respect a second cease-fire agreement brokered on October 10, 2020, in Moscow. The truce was supposed to come into force on Saturday, but heavy artillery fire, missiles, and drones continued to fall in the conflict zone on Sunday, with both sides blaming the other for violating the tentative armistice. The religious nature of the conflict’s origins helps to disguise the active participation of outside interests that are intent on stoking it for their own geopolitical purposes.

 

Black gold in Baku

Control over natural resources underpins virtually every single military conflagration in the twentieth century and many of raging across the world at the start of the twenty-first. The escalating conflict in the Caucasus is no exception, despite the ostensibly religious motives some would like to ascribe to the parties involved.

While Muslim-majority Azerbaijan might seem like a natural enemy of majority Christian Armenia, at its core, the conflict unfolding in northern Eurasia is one that harkens to the very first oil well that was discovered in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. Baku was the center of the black gold universe on the eve of World War I before Israel even existed as a state and just as Lord Balfour was on the verge of penning the infamous Balfour Declaration, which would eventually lead to its creation.

Today, the apartheid state obtains 40 percent of its oil from Baku, leaving little to the imagination about its interest in the regional conflict. In order to protect those interests, Israel has become one of Azerbaijan’s largest arms suppliers in recent years, providing up to 61 percent of all Azeri arms imports this past year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Claims made last week by an aide to the Azerbaijani president belittled Armenian condemnations of Israel’s role as “exaggerated” after the Armenian foreign ministry recalled its ambassador to Israel over the weapons sales. As if to underscore the Azeri official’s disingenuous statement, an Israeli high court dismissed a call by human rights activist Elie Joseph to halt arms sales to Azerbaijan two days later, citing a lack of evidence.

 

A powder keg

The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh could easily devolve into a wider war between far more powerful actors, like Turkey and Russia. The latter has a defense treaty with Armenia, while the former’s relationship to the oldest Christian country in the world is beset by its historic refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide – the systematic mass murder and expulsion of Armenians from what was still the capital of Ottoman Empire during and after World War I.

Signs that the conflict is heading in the wrong direction are becoming more noticeable. On Friday, October 16, Russia announced that its navy was beginning military exercises in the Caspian Sea to the north of Baku. Meanwhile, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian said on Saturday that he is ready to travel to European headquarters in Brussels to confront NATO over Ankara’s actions, which include funneling mercenaries from Syria to Azerbaijan.

More importantly, Iran could also be dragged into a larger war and could hold the key to unraveling Israel’s geopolitical motivation for their significant involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Iran shares a common cultural heritage with Armenia, despite religious differences, and counts the Christian nation as a strategic partner.

One day before the second cease-fire was supposed to take effect, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry accused Armenian forces of launching rocket attacks into Iranian territory as a provocation, which led the Iranian Foreign Ministry to issue a statement clarifying that “aggression against our country’s territories by any party” in the conflict would not be tolerated.

Feature photo | A man fences off a tail of a multiple rocket after shelling by Azerbaijan’s artillery during a military conflict in Shushi, outside Stepanakert, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Oct. 18, 2020. Photo | AP

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

The post With an Eye on Nearby Iran, Israeli Weapons Fuel the Violence in Azerbaijan appeared first on MintPress News.

Council for European Studies conference, June 2021

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 4:04am in

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News, research

Call for Papers: Panel on the politics of Universal Basic Income. What role for activism(s)? This Call for Papers (CFP) is interested in empirical studies that look at the social and political processes related to the growing interest in universal basic income (UBI), including recent pilot tests and experiments, their design and implementation, either at […]

A Historical Reckoning: Oxford Study Challenges Israel’s Claims Concerning Palestinian Refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/10/2020 - 10:10am in

There needs to be a fundamental change in the way Palestinian refugees are seen, no longer as victims but as people with rights who are entitled to shape their own destiny. This assertion is made in a new study whose importance cannot be overstated.

According to international law, Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes and land and receive restitution and compensation for their suffering and personal and communal losses. Furthermore, the State of Israel, which is responsible for Palestine’s ethnic cleansing, must pay for the repatriation, the rehabilitation, and the rebuilding that the return will necessitate. A thorough understanding of why millions of Palestinians live as refugees and what international law says about their situation is critical, and a recently published study sheds unprecedented light on the Palestinian refugee issue.

Palestinian Refugees in International Law” (2nd Edition), by Francesca P. Albanese and Lex Takkenberg, was published in May 2020 by Oxford University Press. It is a comprehensive body of work on the Palestinian refugee issue, and its importance cannot be overstated. This study sets the record straight on what caused the refugee crisis, provides vital statistics and fills in crucial pieces of information regarding what international law says regarding Palestinian refugees.

The study states at the outset that, “At the time of publication, the unresolved exile of Palestinian refugees has entered its eighth decade.” Some refugees are third or even fourth generation, and they account for “the largest group of refugees globally.” Furthermore, it says, “theirs is the most protracted refugee situation in modern history.”

 

Background

The original mass ethnic cleansing campaign of Palestinians by Zionist forces took place from 1947 to 1949. Although ethnic cleansing and internal displacement of Palestinians by Israel continued well into the 1950s, and in fact, continues to the present day, the ethnic cleansing campaign of 1947-1949 is what brought about the destruction of Palestine as it had been known for centuries. That campaign was responsible for the emergence of what the study calls “one of the largest and most protracted refugee crises of all times.” The majority of these refugees and their descendants, third and even fourth generation, are registered as ‘Palestine refugees’ with UNRWA and are commonly referred to as 1948 refugees.

The Palestinians who were exiled from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in 1967 are commonly referred to as “displaced persons” or “1967 refugees.” Their fate and status under international law are similar to that of the 1948 refugees. Still, different terminology is used regarding them because of the status of the land from which they were displaced – the Kingdom of Jordan, which at that point was an independent state. Each year, the United Nations General Assembly passes a separate annual resolution focusing specifically on them.

 

Refugee rights

Suffering a violent assault on their lives and property and suddenly deprived of protection by the government of Mandate Palestine of which they were citizens, Palestinians became stateless refugees. They were admitted into neighboring countries on what many expected would be a temporary basis. However, one could argue, as I do, that this expectation stemmed from a serious misunderstanding of the objectives and influence of the Zionist movement.

“For historical and political reasons Palestinian refugees enjoy a distinctive regime made up of specific norms and institutional arrangements different from those for other refugees.” This reality has affected the protection Palestinians  deserve as refugees and often leaves them “excluded from the rights and standards of treatment afforded to other refugees.” In other words, Palestinian refugees are internationally recognized yet subject to a distinctive institutional regime compared to other refugees around the world. The distinction stems from special arrangements the UN had to make for them in 1948, seeing that the newly established Zionist state would not allow them to return.

One of the common mistakes people make regarding Palestinian refugees’ rights is the belief that securing rights in their host countries, including citizenship, will somehow undermine their claims towards Israel. This belief, according to this study, “must be put to rest.” In fact, the study goes on to state that for the rights of Palestinian refugees to be realized, the Palestinian community needs to make a paradigm shift, and international and regional diplomacy needs to provide a level of support “that has hitherto been largely lacking.”

Furthermore, the physical and political fragmentation that has befallen the Palestinian people and the diversity of legal frameworks and actors responsible for them have become features of their experience and misfortune. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way Palestinian refugees are seen, “not the victims of a failed political process, but as people with rights, entitled to shape their own destiny.”

 

Identity and numbers

“Today, out of over thirteen million Palestinians globally, about eight million are refugees.” 5.5 million are registered as ‘Palestine refugees’ with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency or (UNRWA) in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.

The study estimates that some 1.5 million Palestinians are currently dispersed outside Arab countries, and their status and documentation make them statistically invisible and, therefore, difficult to track. As a result of their dispersal, Palestinian refugees’ identity is often hyphenated: Palestinian-Jordanian, Palestinian-Syrian, Palestinian-American, Palestinian-Iraqi, etc. It should be noted that for most Palestinians, long-term residence in host countries has not resulted in the protection afforded through citizenship.

Palestinian refugees

Palestinian refugees gather in the Bekaa refugee camp outside of Amman, Jordan, Oct. 28, 1970. Photo | AP

Another little known fact revealed repealed in this study is that since the late 1960s, more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees have been ejected from Arab countries, creating enormous challenges, including the need to seek asylum again in another country. What is worse is that the UN General Assembly did not confer a mandate to care for them. They are not included as a registered refugee population by UNRWA and do not receive comprehensive assistance from the agency.

 

A demographic issue

What has become known as the “demographic issue” is code for a Zionist obsession to establish a Jewish majority in Palestine – a territory that until then 1948 had a large Arab majority. This has been a pressing issue for Zionist leadership since the early years of the British Mandate. Still, despite British support for the Jewish national project and the waves of Jewish migration to Palestine since the late nineteenth century, at the end of 1947, Palestine’s Jewish population was only one-third of the total population of Palestine.

Britain facilitated Jewish migration to Palestine and turned hundreds of thousands of Jewish migrants from Europe into Palestine Mandate citizens. “The Citizenship Order of August 1, 1925, extended full citizenship rights to all Turkish (Ottoman) subjects habitually resident in Palestine.” This included the original 729,873 Ottoman citizens of Palestine, of whom the vast majority were Palestinian Arabs.

By 1946, the population of Palestine was estimated at 1,846,000. This included 1,203,000 Palestinian Arabs and 608,000 Jews. In the 30 years of British control over Palestine, the Jewish population grew over 30 percent compared to an average of 10 percent growth during the final 20 years of the Ottoman Empire, a time period already marked by increased Jewish immigration.

The idea of forcing the Arab Palestinians out of Palestine through expulsion and transfer had become ingrained in the Zionist leadership mindset very early on. As early as the 1930s, the Jewish Agency had established a Population Transfer Committee which devised schemes to remove the Palestinian population “by securing land for them in neighboring states, or by having Britain remove them.” During 1948, several Transfer Committees were set up by the Jewish Agency, and later the Israeli government to “facilitate the exodus.”

By the time the armistice agreements were signed in 1949 between the new State of Israel and its Arab neighbors, only 15 percent of Palestine’s pre-1948 Arab population remained in the area that would become Israel.

 

Criminalizing return and confiscating property

The State of Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948. By June of that year, the Israeli government had decided to bar refugees from returning. In 1952, Israel passed the Nationality Law, which effectively excluded over two-thirds of Palestinian Arab citizens from retaining citizenship in British Mandate Palestine, a land that was still their own country.

In 1954, Israel passed the ‘The Prevention of Infiltration Law,’ which effectively criminalized the return of Palestinian refugees. Soldiers who saw “infiltrators,” a term used to describe any Palestinian attempting to return to their home or lands, were authorized to shoot them on sight. Those who were caught and not killed on the spot were imprisoned and expelled again.

This was not merely motivated by Zionist cruelty but also by greed.

The wealth that Palestinians left behind “was strategic to the emerging State of Israel.” Palestinians left behind huge tracts of farmland, tools, livestock, shops, factories, houses of worship, private homes, financial assets, and personal belongings. Produce from fields and orchards was also left behind, with large citrus fruit stores waiting to be exported for hard currency.

Moveable property was sold by Israeli authorities. The government even leased abandoned stone quarries and sold cactus fruit from abandoned fields. “Beyond this monetary gain, control of the refugees’ property allowed Israel and the Jewish Agency to cheaply settle hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants who began pouring into Israel after 1948.”

“The gap between such properties and their original owners/holders was further widened by the transfer, through ‘purchase agreements,’ to the Israeli Development Authority, and subsequently to the Jewish National Fund, for administration.” These Zionist institutions made it impossible for properties – both movable and immovable – of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced Palestinians to be restored to their rightful, legal owners.

In addition to severing the links between the land and its original owners, Israel transformed the territory to benefit its own economic growth. “By 1950, the Custodian had become the largest landlord in Israel.” It had acquired the legal authority to allocate Palestinian property to incoming Jewish immigrants.

In the 1950s, Absentee Property Laws consolidated the seizure of absentee properties and their transfer to the State of Israel for  exclusive benefit of the Jewish population. Absentee property played a huge role in turning Israel into a viable state. It allowed Israel to take over farms and urban homes of Palestinians and populate them with Jewish newcomers from Europe and Arab countries. Jewish kibbutzim and agricultural settlements began the process of expropriating the land of both refugees and that of the Palestinians who remained in what became Israel. Palestinians who remained had no choice but to work for the same Israeli owners who had stolen their land.

Palestinian refugees

A bulldozer clears land in Palestine to be used by Jewish Yemeni farmers, Sept. 4, 1950. Photo | AP

These enormous tracts of good, arable land were now held by the state and were used by Jewish settlements and individual farmers to grow crops and vegetables. Vacant Arab homes were used to accommodate immigrants. With time, emptied Palestinian villages were either transformed or destroyed. Some were turned into parks and forests; others were used for cultivation and development. “All these measures steadily rendered the possibility of a return of the refugees ever more remote.”

Israel and Zionist spokespeople worldwide like to claim that the Jews came to an empty, barren land and made it bloom. This study makes it clear that they came to an already prosperous country and stole its riches.

 

The report of the UN Mediator for Palestine

One would be remiss to discuss Palestinian refugees without mentioning the contributions and indeed sacrifice of the UN Mediator to Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte. Bernadotte was a Swedish diplomat, who after successfully negotiating the rescue of some twenty thousand prisoners from Nazi concentration camps (more than half of whom were Jewish), was asked to take on the role of Mediator for Palestine. He visited the country several times and presented several reports.

Count Bernadotte presented his first report regarding the refugees to the United Nations on September 16, 1948. The report describes his efforts to obtain an agreement from the Provisional Government of Israel for a phased return of refugees. This study clearly states that “attempts at finding a diplomatic solution were unsuccessful because of the firm stance of the Provisional Government of Israel against the return of the refugees.” Bernadotte’s report underscored that:

The right of innocent people, uprooted from their homes by the present terror and ravages of war, to return to their homes, should be affirmed and made effective, with assurance of adequate compensation for the property of those who may choose not to return.”

The Palestinian refugees ‘right’ to return and to be adequately compensated is recurrent in his report, notwithstanding the views expressed by the Provisional Government of Israel. The right of return was considered by Bernadotte to be among the most basic premises for the settlement of the conflict. The following passage of his report still resonates today:

No settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged … It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine, and, indeed, at least offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees.”

The Mediator not only stressed the right of the refugees to return but also made clear that those rights be affirmed rather than established. This reflected the prevailing consensus regarding the norms of international law when dealing with refugees.

Bernadotte also made it clear that,

The right of the Arab refugees to return to their homes in Jewish-controlled territory at the earliest possible date should be affirmed by the United Nations, and their repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation, and payment of adequate compensation for the property of those choosing not to return, should be supervised and assisted by the United Nations.”

Count Bernadotte

Count Bernadotte, left, speaks with the Syrian leaders at a UN Security Council meeting on July 13, 1948. Photo | UN Archive

Bernadotte’s advocacy for the Palestinian refugees and his claim that Jerusalem – by then occupied and subjected to a thorough ethnic cleansing campaign – should come under international control and not Zionist control could not be tolerated by the Zionist government in Palestine. On September 17, 1948, one day after he submitted his progress report, Folke Bernadotte was assassinated in a terrorist attack by members of a Zionist militia.

The terrorists acted on an order to get rid of Bernadotte, and although it was later claimed that the assassins were part of a fringe extremist group and that the central provisional Zionist government formally condemned the assassination, there is little doubt that the entire Zionist established was complicit in Bernadotte’s murder.

Although the assassins were well known and had even given interviews, none were ever brought to justice. One of the people known to have been directly involved in the assassination was Yitzhak Shamir, though he was not a part of the terrorist squad that committed the murder. Shamir went on to serve in many important Israeli government posts, including Prime Minister.

 

Resolution 194

The UN General Assembly accepted Bernadotte’s recommendations when it adopted Resolution 194, and as a result of his death, established the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP), which took over the main functions of the Mediator. Concerning refugees, the resolution states that the General Assembly:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

Following Israel’s refusal to comply with the Mediator’s request to allow refugees to return to their homes, in paragraph 11, the General Assembly stressed that it,

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations.

The work of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) was completed in 1964. According to this study, records in the Commission’s archives reveal that it determined the worth of the Palestinian refugees’ privately owned land was 204,660,250 British Palestine pounds, equivalent to $9.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.

The study also states that the Commission’s estimates are considered to be “incomplete and conservative,” yet are the most methodologically accurate ones made to date. “Beyond land losses, a compensation regime should also consider movable property losses, disturbance allowance (representing the loss of income until a refugee could re-establish himself/herself), ex-gratia payment representing a general compensation for hardship, and reintegration costs.”

In August of 1961, at the U.S. government’s suggestion, the Commission appointed Dr. Joseph E. Johnson as a special representative. Johnson’s overall estimate of the amount owed to Palestinian refugees for compensation was $1.377 billion U.S. dollars in 1962. This is equivalent to $22.975 billion in 2019. All of this is for the refugees of 1948 only.

Resolution 194 is one of the most widely reaffirmed resolutions in UN history. This study states that “resolutions that have been reaffirmed hundreds of times not only confirm long-established international consensus but they acquire a legal character.” Resolution 194 has been repeatedly reaffirmed over the years, and it has even served as a precedent in international responses to other refugee crises.

 

Military Order 58

In the aftermath of the 1967 Israeli assault and conquest of Arab lands, and immediately after it seized the West Bank, the Israeli army issued Military Order 58. It authorizes the seizure of any property held by West Bank residents who were outside the area on June 7, 1967, and that of those who subsequently left. “Military Order 58 replicates the Absentees’ Property Law of 1950 for the 1967 territories, applying it to territory that Israel supposedly “merely occupies and over which it has no sovereignty.”

According to this study, Military Order 58 “has a broader scope than the Absentees’ Property Law,” in that it allowed Israel to take control over property that had been held by Jordan since 1948 and placed it under the control of the Custodian’s authority of Israel. Furthermore, it has no time restrictions, covers any Palestinian who leaves the West Bank, and remains in force to this day.

 

International law

The British government initially made two conflicting promises regarding Palestine, one to the indigenous Palestinian Arabs and the other to the immigrant-colonizer Jewish community. However, the British government’s actions made it clear that Britain favored the creation of what became known as a Jewish state – or more accurately, a Zionist state – in Palestine. As a side note, it is worth mentioning that the local Orthodox Jewish community residing in Palestine at the time vehemently opposed the Zionists and the creation of a Zionist state. They made their opposition known to the British, the United Nations, and the local Palestinian Arab leadership, with whom they had excellent relations.

British support for Zionist claims to Palestine allowed the all-out military assault by Zionist militias against the indigenous Palestinian community. This ultimately led to the creation of an independent Zionist state and the subjugation, dispossession, exile, and statelessness of indigenous Palestinian Arabs. It also brought about measures preventing the return of the Palestinians forcibly displaced while actively promoting Jewish immigration under the guise of return. As a result of this, there is currently an unresolved refugee crisis “that has evolved into the largest and most protracted in modern history.”

Palestine 1936

Palestinian homes destroyed with dynamite by British troops following clashes between Jewish militias and Palestinians in Jaffa on July 3, 1936. Photo | AP

A crucial point that must be recognized is that the rights of Palestinian refugees to return, restitution, and compensation, were already enshrined in international law in 1948. The UN General Assembly reaffirmed these rights in resolution 194.

In 1948, the refugees already had the right to return to their homes. Instead, 750,000 refugees were denationalized en masse, prevented from returning to their houses, and forced into a seemingly endless exile. In other words, Israel had already violated its obligations under international humanitarian law and the law of state responsibility in 1948.

Since then, the policies and practices of successive Israeli governments continue to prevent the return and self-determination of Palestinian people. Israel denies Palestinian refugees the right to return, restitution, and compensation, and Israeli leaders even continue to deny the very existence of a Palestinian people. Israel justifies its actions by challenging the foundation of its obligations and that of the rights of Palestinians, and the international community has been weak and unwilling to intervene.

The practice that has evolved since the Second World War affirms that individual and collective claims of refugees are not mutually exclusive but rather reinforce each other. In fact, these are challenges found in other cases of mass displacement, serious human rights violations, and where the passage of time has increased the number of claimants. The high number of possible claimants among Palestinian refugees is often seen as justifying Israel in its refusal to recognize Palestinian refugees’ rights in general. However, given the clarity of the individual rights and the nature of violations involved in the Palestinian case, “individual claims and claims en masse for groups of individuals must be addressed.”

These are issues that can be overcome, as was demonstrated by the reparations to victims of Nazi persecution. They included multiple claims in different jurisdictions within different countries and on different continents, with settlements being achieved many decades after the violations took place.

The Israeli government aggressively encourages Jews from around the world to settle in Israel while pressing for restitution laws to be adopted regarding losses suffered by the Jewish people. Simultaneously, it adamantly denies Palestinians the right to return and resettle in their homeland and receive restitution. Being that Israel is a settler-colonial state these policies are not unusual, one wonders, however, at what point the international community will intervene on behalf of the millions of Palestinian refugees waiting to retun.

 

Right to return

Israel objects to the return of the Palestinian refugees claiming it is an existential threat. However, what Zionist institutions fear equally as much are demands under international law that they pay restitution and compensation for the properties both private and public, and for the natural resources stolen from the Palestinian people.

In 1949, the Geneva Convention elaborated regarding the prohibition of deportation and expressly referred to the repatriation of protected persons. Article 49 of GCIV prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportation of protected persons from occupied territory.” It goes on to say that “All protected persons who may desire to leave the territory at the outset of, or during a conflict, shall be entitled to do so.”

Zionist institutions and spokespeople claim that the refugee issue has somehow reached some imaginary statute of limitations. However, the legal foundation of the rights of the Palestinian refugees to repatriation, restitution, and compensation  – as affirmed in resolution 194 – not only has not expired but, according to this study, “has since become even stronger.” Furthermore, according to the Articles on State Responsibility, “the state responsibility does not diminish with the passing of time.”

It is only for political reasons that the rights of the Palestinian refugees continue to be side-lined. Zionist institutions around the world, with the support of the United States government, are doing all they can to undermine the severity of the Palestinian refugee issue and to absolve Israel of any responsibility. The fall of the Zionist- apartheid regime in Palestine and the emergence of a free and democratic Palestine in its place is arguably the only development that can realistically bring about the return of the refugees.

Feature photo | Palestinian refugees carry their belongings as they flee across the wrecked Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River from the Israeli-occupied section of Jordan, June 22, 1967. Bernard Frye | 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 A Historical Reckoning: Oxford Study Challenges Israel’s Claims Concerning Palestinian Refugees appeared first on MintPress News.

FCC Head and Internet’s Most Hated Man Ajit Pai Just Vowed to Kill First Amendment Rights Online

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 17/10/2020 - 6:42am in

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News, fcc, Social media

Citing “censorship outcry” from the three branches of government, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced yesterday via tweet the agency’s intention to move forward with regulation of social media by looking to modify Section 230 of the Communications Act, which protects the likes of Facebook and Twitter from the parts of the U.S. code that opens publishers to legal challenges over the content posted to their platforms, which inevitably puts content creators, themselves, in the cross hairs of the legal system without the benefit of their first amendment rights.  

Despite claims of bipartisan support for the reform initiative, one of Section 230’s original authors, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), directly challenged Pai’s authority to change the law altogether. Pai has claimed that FCC lawyers have assured him the agency has legal standing to amend the law.

Meanwhile, FCC commissioner and Democratic party member Jessica Rosenworcel denounced Pai’s timing as “absurd” and decried the Chairman’s decision to kowtow to Trump’s executive order, issued earlier this year calling for the agency to reinterpret the law.

Rosenworcel was confirmed for her second stint as FCC commissioner in August 2017, even though Trump had reportedly withdrawn his nomination of the Obama holdover, likely worried over her track record on the commission and her dissenting opinion on Pai’s scrapping of Net Neutrality soon after Trump’s election.

 

The Twitter setup

The Chairman’s intention to slap the ‘publisher’ tag on social media companies and make them legally liable for the content that appears on their platforms comes in the wake of the Twitter’s censorship of a New York Post article two days ago, which covered allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the Ukraine oil company scandal.

The article’s purge from the social media platform elicited strong reactions on both sides of the issue and the aisle, including Senator Ted Cruz, who accused Twitter of “election interference.” On Thursday, Republican Senators called for Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, to be subpoenaed and appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the company’s actions.

The social media giant has since backtracked, going as far as changing the policy it cited as justification, which “prohibits the use of our service to distribute content obtained without authorization.” Notably, the Department of Homeland Security had released its first-ever Homeland Threat Assessment only days prior, where it declared that “denigrating” Joe Biden constitutes grounds for de-platforming.

 

Stonewalling America

Appointed FCC Chairman by Barack Obama in 2010, former Verizon company lawyer and the most hated man on the Internet, Ajit Pai, has systematically weakened privacy and access protections for the average Internet user in the service of the giant tech companies like his former employer, which was embroiled in a data privacy scandal in 2013 after leaked documents disclosed classified orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, compelling the largest cell phone carrier network in the country to turn over millions of phone records to the National Security Agency (NSA).

Pai has earned the public’s distrust, especially due to his repeal of Net Neutrality rules, which overwhelmingly favored big Telecom by allowing the industry to manipulate Internet traffic for discriminatory or profit motives. Verizon was one of the first companies to take advantage of the deregulation in ways that contradicted Pai’s own argument regarding the destruction of Net Neutrality, which rested on many of the same free-market clichés used to rationalize all sorts of corporate abuses.

While still at Verizon in 2003, Pai and another colleague produced an amateur skit comedy video where they plot to install a puppet at the FCC. The video, which Pai himself played at the annual FCC Chairman’s Dinner in 2017, led Gizmodo to file a FOIA for “any communications records from within the chairman’s office referencing the event or the Verizon executive,” which the FCC has yet to release.

Pai’s FCC has a long history of stonewalling FOIA’s and being generally opaque about its moves in what is perhaps the most pivotal moment for the future of the Internet. As the power of the tech giants grows by leaps and bounds, reinterpreting Section 230 to make social media companies liable for the content on their platforms may seem like a check on said power, but it is only another restriction on the voice of the people, who are the ones creating the very content lining their shareholders’ pockets and the ones who will ultimately face the brunt of any laws designed to muzzle the first amendment rights of all Americans.

Feature photo | Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai says goodbye after a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Federal Communications Commission spectrum auctions program for FY2021 on Capitol Hill, June 16, 2020 in Washington. Chip Somodevilla | Pool via AP

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

The post FCC Head and Internet’s Most Hated Man Ajit Pai Just Vowed to Kill First Amendment Rights Online appeared first on MintPress News.

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