The Pivot Back To COVID!

Covid's back! The Biden Administration staged a high profile press availability for the President to get another covid shot and to announce a new government website devoted to getting Americans shots, masks and tests. Late in the game? No! The FDA is expected to announce yet ANOTHER covid booster will be available this fall. Also today, Biden fights "Putin's price hike" by emptying out America's strategic petroleum reserve. Watch today's Liberty Report:

Hunter Biden cashed in on millions of dollars from China

The business undertakings of Hunter Biden (son of President Joe Biden) have turned into a trendy soap opera for American Republicans. Senators Chuck Grassley (Republican-IA) and Ron Johnson (Republican-WI) have just disclosed evidence of money transfers from Chinese companies close to the Communist Party to Hunter Biden, addressed either to him personally or to companies controlled by him. Sums of $100,000 here, $5 million there, plus a few additional million elsewhere. It has so far (...)

History Rounds off Skeletons to Zero

Almagul Menlibayeva (Kazakhstan), Transoxiana Dreams, 2010.

On 16 March 2022, as Russia’s war on Ukraine entered its second month, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev warned his people that ‘uncertainty and turbulence in the world markets are growing, and production and trade chains are collapsing’. A week later, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a brief study on the immense shock that will be felt around the world due to this war. ‘Soaring food and fuel prices will have an immediate effect on the most vulnerable in developing countries, resulting in hunger and hardship for households who spend the highest share of their income on food’, the study noted. South of Kazakhstan, in the Kyrgyz Republic, the poorest households already spent 65% of their income on food before these current price hikes; as food inflation rises by 10%, the impact will be catastrophic for the Kyrgyz people.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, immense pressure was brought to bear on the countries of the Global South to disband their food security and food sovereignty projects and to integrate their production and consumption of food into global markets. In his recent address, President Tokayev announced that the Kazakh government was now going ‘to oversee the production of agricultural equipment, fertilisers, fuel, and the stocks of seeds’.

Saule Suleimenova (Kazakhstan), Skyline, 2017.

Saule Suleimenova (Kazakhstan), Skyline, 2017.

While 22% of world cereal production crosses international borders, Big Agriculture controls both the inputs for cereal production and the prices of cereals. Four corporations – Bayer, Corteva, ChemChina, and Limagrain – control more than half of the world’s seed production, while four other corporations – Archer-Daniels-Midland, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus – effectively set global food prices.

Very few countries in the world have been able to develop a food system that is immune from the turbulence of market liberalisation (read our Red Alert no. 12 for more). Modest domestic policies – such as banning food exports during a drought or keeping high import duties to protect farmers’ livelihoods – are now punished by the World Bank and other multilateral agencies. President Tokayev’s statement indicates an appetite in the poorer nations to rethink the liberalisation of the food markets.

In July 2020, a statement titled ‘A New Cold War against China is against the interests of humanity’, was widely circulated and endorsed. No Cold War, the campaign which drafted the statement, has held a number of important webinars over the past two years to amplify discussions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe on the impact of this US-imposed pressure campaign against China, and on the racism that this has inflamed in the West. Part of No Cold War’s analysis is that these manoeuvres by the United States are intended to discourage other countries from commercially engaging with China, and also Russia. US firms find themselves at a disadvantage compared to Chinese firms, and Russian energy exports to Europe are vastly cheaper than US exports. The US has responded to this economic competition, not on a purely commercial basis, but treated it as a threat to its national security and to world peace. Instead of dividing the world in this manner, No Cold War calls for relations between the United States and China and Russia based on ‘mutual dialogue’ centred ‘on the common issues which unite humanity’.

During this war on Ukraine, No Cold War has launched a new publication called Briefings, which will be factual texts on matters of global concern. Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research will share these periodic briefings in this newsletter (you can also find them here). For its first issue, No Cold War has produced the following Briefing, World hunger and the war in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine, along with sanctions imposed by the United States and Western countries against Russia, have caused global food, fertiliser, and fuel prices to ‘skyrocket’ and endanger the world food supply. This conflict is exacerbating the existing crisis of global hunger and imperils the living standards and well-being of billions of people – particularly in the Global South.

War in the ‘breadbasket of the world’

Russia and Ukraine together produce nearly 30 percent of the world’s wheat and roughly 12 percent of its total calories. Over the past five years, they have accounted for 17 percent of the world’s corn, 32 percent of barley (a critical source of animal feed), and 75 percent of sunflower oil (an important cooking oil in many countries). On top of this, Russia is the world’s largest supplier of fertilisers and natural gas (a key component in fertiliser production), accounting for 15 percent of the global trade of nitrogenous fertilisers, 17 percent of potash fertilisers, 20 percent of natural gas.

The current crisis threatens to cause a global food shortage. The United Nations has estimated that up to 30 percent of Ukrainian farmland could become a warzone; in addition, due to sanctions, Russia has been severely restricted in exporting food, fertiliser, and fuel. This has caused global prices to surge. Since the war began, wheat prices have increased by 21 percent, barley by 33 percent, and some fertilisers by 40 percent.

The Global South is ‘getting pummelled’

The painful impact of this shock is being felt by people around the world, but most sharply in the Global South. ‘In a word, developing countries are getting pummelled,’ United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recently remarked.

According to the UN, 45 African and ‘least developed’ countries import at least a third of their wheat from these two Russia or Ukraine – 18 of those countries import at least 50 percent. Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, obtains over 70 percent of its imports from Russia and Ukraine, while Turkey obtains over 80 percent.

Countries of the Global South are already facing severe price shocks and shortages, impacting both consumption and production. In Kenya, bread prices have risen by 40 percent in some areas and, in Lebanon, by 70 percent. Meanwhile, Brazil, the world’s largest producer of soybeans, is facing a major reduction in crop yields. The country purchases close to half of its potash fertiliser from Russia and neighbouring Belarus (which is also being sanctioned) – it has only a three month supply remaining with farmers being instructed to ration.

‘The United States has sanctioned the whole world’

The situation is being directly exacerbated by U.S. and Western sanctions against Russia. Although sanctions have been justified as targeting Russian government leaders and elites, such measures hurt all people, particularly vulnerable groups, and are having global ramifications.

Nooruddin Zaker Ahmadi, director of an Afghan import company, made the following diagnosis: ‘The United States thinks it has only sanctioned Russia and its banks. But the United States has sanctioned the whole world.’

‘A catastrophe on top of a catastrophe’

The war in Ukraine and associated sanctions are exacerbating the already existing crisis of world hunger. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that ‘nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food in 2020.’ In recent years, the situation has worsened as food prices have risen due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and related disruptions.

‘Ukraine has only compounded a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe,’ said David M. Beasley, the executive director of the UN World Food Program. ‘There is no precedent even close to this since World War II.’

‘If you think we’ve got hell on earth now, you just get ready,’ Beasley warned.

Regardless of the different opinions on Ukraine, it is clear that billions of people around the world will suffer from this hunger crisis until the war and sanctions come to an end.

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Stanisław Osostowicz (Poland), Antifascist Demonstration (1932-1933).

Stanisław Osostowicz (Poland), Antifascist Demonstration (1932-1933).

In 1962, the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska wrote ‘Starvation Camp Near Jasło’. Located in south-east Poland not far from the Ukraine-Poland border, Jasło was the site of a Nazi death camp, where thousands of people – mainly Jews – were caged and left to die of starvation. How does one write about such immense violence? Szymborska offered the following reflection:

Write it down. Write it. With ordinary ink
on ordinary paper; they weren’t given food,
they all died of hunger. All. How many?
It’s a large meadow. How much grass
per head? Write down: I don’t know.
History rounds off skeletons to zero.
A thousand and one is still only a thousand.
That one seems never to have existed:
a fictitious fetus, an empty cradle,
a primer opened for no one,
air that laughs, cries, and grows,
stairs for a void bounding out to the garden,
no one’s spot in the ranks …

Each death is an abomination; including the 300 children who die of malnutrition every hour of every day.

The post History Rounds off Skeletons to Zero first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Vito Marcantonio Gets Da Biziniss

I have stood by the fundamental principles which I have always advocated. I have not trimmed. I have not retreated. I do not apologize, and I am not compromising.”

— Socialist New York City Congressman Vito Marcantonio
(Dec. 12, 1902-Aug. 9, 1954)

I say these words, but who hears me? … Do I know what I say? … I can’t tell anymore. … I’m haunted by the reality that a man was killed because he opposed me. Is that my sin? Will that bring my downfall?… I’m dizzy … weak. … Will I die with this on my soul?”

“Vito. We have to talk. Now!”

“Talk? I don’t know how this is talk. It’s a command,” Carlo. “I know what you want.”

“Vito, please. For my sake, and my family. Meet with this guy. Granted, he’s a member of a certain Italian-American subculture, but he only wants his son in West Point. That’s all. The kid goes to Mount Saint Michael’s Academy in the Bronx, and is an honor student and athlete.”

“But, Carlo, he’s from the Bronx. Not East Harlem!”

“That’s the point, don’t you see? I’m from the Bronx, and he knows I support you because my restaurant is in your district, and the appointments in his Bronx district are all taken. You come. You meet. You give him what he wants. And, we all go away happy. And, alive! There’s a lot of tough paisons in the Bronx. You don’t want to mess with this one.”

I leave this meeting. Like I don’t have enough to worry about. Italians, Jews, Puerto Ricans, Negroes, Irish and Germans. They call each other wops, kikes, spicks, jigs, micks and krauts, and I have to make them into one. To stick together for our common good. And, now this inappropriate, no, illegal, West Point business.

The phone at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia political club in East Harlem rings. It’s Mayor LaGuardia, for Vito, who runs the place: “Vito, how are you and our Gibboni? All going well, I hope.?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, not really. You lost the Republicans to this silk stocking guy with the big name: Frederick Van Pelt Bryan. Maybe we make you a Van Pelt? You do better with such a name. Ha, ha.”

“We can win without the Republicans.”

“Maybe. But, you see today’s Mirror?”

“That bad?”

“Get this: ‘The chief pro-Communist of the House has skinned through the primary by the scum of his political teeth.’ ”

“So, what else is new?”

“You’re kind of calm, considering that all the papers are against you, including the Daily News, Governor Dewey, Dubinsky and the Garment Workers.”

“I’m a son of East Harlem. I can speak to my 18th Congressional District constituents in their own tongues, English, Italian, Spanish and Yiddish. And, Mayor, always remember: It is the duty of government to provide for those who through no fault of their own have been unable to provide for themselves.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“That was my speech at Dewitt Clinton. When, you took me out of high school, and set me on the road I’m now traveling. Anymore questions?”

“No! That’s my boy!”

It was the night that I walk a few blocks to the restaurant, Basilicata. It’s named for the region to the deep south of Italy, where my parents were born. Carlo takes me to a table in the back, and I meet my new “constituent,” Mingo Indelicato, and his son, Scott (Scott? Gimme a break). Mingo is huge, the kid huger, if that’s a word. Both with wall-to-wall smiles. The kid is a top student at The Mount. Bright, athletic. And, I have to get him into West Point. “OK,” I say. “But, you don’t have an address in my district.” Mingo says, “Don’t worry. I got that covered. I’m gonna use the address of Carlo’s restaurant.” Then, this that troubled me: “And, also, don’t worry. I’ll be watching you, to see that you’re safe and OK, and if there’s anything I can do to help your campaign?” He didn’t want me to lose my congressional seat, or die, before I could get the kid into the Point!

The public focus in 1946 went to the general election in the 18th Congressional District, where what the Mirror called the “miserable pip-squeak who pipes the tunes from Moscow” faced Bryan. Time magazine said the “little padrone” … boss of this verminous, crime-ridden slum” — was seeing his grasp threatened. But, Vito ignored the print media and went on radio. His broadcasts mainly stood on his record, support by LaGuardia, two housing projects he helped build, fight for a more liberal G.I. Bill, civil rights and price controls.

The 18th District gave Vito a plurality of 6,500 out of 78,000 votes cast, for the defeat of Bryan. Presenting the American Labor Party, and a fusion of other parties, a victory over the GOP in a strong GOP year.

Vito served his East Harlem constituents, listened to them and acted. Such as when a delegation of residents enters the LaGuardia social club. Vito is seated up front, ready to greet and help constituents of his district, 5th Avenue to the East River and 98th Street to the Harlem River. The group, comprising mainly Italians, Puerto Ricans and blacks, is led by an Italian woman, Florie Di Piona, who has a high school diploma, and is a swim teacher in the city public schools.

“Vito,” says Florie, with a big smile, “this river, the East River, is our river. Vito, it’s our home, but the Americones want to take it. Can you imagine, Vito, luxury apartments on the banks of our river. This is where we learned to swim. In these waters I found my future as a swim teacher. I was called the only ‘broad’ who could swim the river to Brooklyn. Be that as it may, broad, or whatever, luxury apartments are not welcome here, and neither are the wealthy who would own them. These people, these Americones, they use tomato soup for spaghetti sauce. Can you imagine? Tomato soup!”

Then, shaking her right forefinger right to left: “No! I say no!”

Within days, Vito rallied his forces, his “Gibboni,” and suggested a site for public housing along the river: “We do not want in our community penthouses and Silk Hats alongside tenements of people on relief budgets. We do not want Dead Ends. The East River is our River. We were born on its banks. We learned to swim in that river. We have lived and suffered alongside this river. We have had to smell it on the hot summer days. Now that the river has been cleaned, and now that the land along side it is available, we want that river for ourselves.”

Vito got his way. The federal government announced plans for a major housing project in East Harlem, the East River Housing Projects, with rents in line with Vito’s suggestion, $5 a month. The first opened in the late 1940s.

Then, the killing. A Republican district captain, Joseph Scottoriggio, was beaten to death on his way to the polls. Case never solved, but an opening against Vito. Dewey and Bryan said the killing was done by left-wing thugs in the 18th District. News stories sought to show a connection between Vito and hoodlums, and that he be punished. A crime reporter said the killing was likely an “accident,” when the “muscle men” failed to follow orders “to just give it to him once over lightly.”

Life magazine ran a story with pictures showing Vito “with bold, cynical eyes,” and several well-known gangsters of the time such as Joey Rao, Trigger Mike Coppola and Frank Costello. It said that the killing exposed Vito’s crime-ridden district, but the attacks on Vito also produced the Citizens’ Investigating Committee to ensure Fair Political Reporting. Its leader, William Jay Schieffelin observed: “To my mind there is no precedent in recent years for the deliberate venal propaganda campaign conducted by various newspapers against Congressman Vito Marcantonio during the past several months.”

I got this, now. A stone in my shoe. I’m not only a Communist, but a racketeer. How do you succeed in politics in the 18th District without including everybody, including the Mafia. Could it be Mingo? Did he in some cockamamie way see Scottoriggio as a problem for me, and take him out? … Democrats, Republicans and others think I don’t see their attacks coming, but I know they’re ganging up on me because of the Communist thing; political parties, the Catholic Church people and the government. …But, I keep thinking my deal with Mingo brought this on. My sin. I’m carrying a Crucifix and a Rosary around with me now. Why? Am I trying to get straight with the big fella upstairs?

Democrats, Republicans and Liberals did, indeed, gang up on Vito to make Democrat James Donovan their 18th District candidate. Donovan also tried to tack onto Vito the attempted assassination of President Truman because the attackers were Puerto Rican, a primary Marcantonio constituency. Vito lost 50,391 to 35,835 in this 1950s race.

Vito, the New York University law graduate, continued as a champion of unpopular causes. Counsel to Marxist W.E.B. Dubois and the Communist-dominated Peace Information Center. Also, Hollywood stars fighting the House un-American Activities Committee, and seeking clemency for the would-be Truman assassins. Then, in 1954, he reentered politics with the creation of the Good Neighbor Party. The Daily News, alarmed, sought “fast action on Marc,” and a plan to close the political ranks against him. He thought about running for governor, but settled on his old congressional seat.

I know it will be the same old forces of reaction against me. And, the Scottoriggio killing will be blamed on me. And, the church, and Cardinal Spellman against me. And, the newspapers against me. But, I know how to fight. To prevail in this contest. What I don’t know is how to get up these subway steps. I’m so weak, dizzy.

On Aug, 9, 1954, Vito died of a heart attack at age 51. Francis Cardinal Spellman, a strong anti-communist, overruled local Catholic clergy, and Vito wasn’t granted burial in a Catholic cemetery. He was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery, a nonsectarian site in the Bronx, not far from the grave of his patron, LaGuardia. Vito’s gravestone said, “Defender of the People.”

Thousands in East Harlem said farewell to Vito, and he was eulogized by many.

* Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker publication: “He lived Matthew {of the Bible}. And did the work of mercy. … Crowds came to him, and he always listened. He always tried to help.”

* Puerto Rican leader Gilberto Gerene Valentin: “Without Vito we are politically orphans.”

* Black leader, W.E.B. Dubois said Vito was one of the clearest thinkers in Congress … “a politician in the finest sense of the mutilated word.”

*At Vito’s services, a black man raised up his son to the casket and said, “I want you to say goodbye to the best friend the Negro people ever had.”

*Power broker Robert Moses and his wife, Mary, said Vito was “one of the kindest people we had ever met, and while his philosophy was quite beyond us, we will still miss him very much.”

* Then there was TV star Ed Sullivan, an East Harlem product: “Marcantonio’s squandered life should spell out to other Communist fronters … that when you hitch your wagon to a star be certain it isn’t the Red Star of the Kremlin.”

*And, Mingo: “Too bad I didn’t know Vito was gonna check out so soon. I would a told him to tell Scottoriggio I was just trying ta send a message. Nothin’ personal. Just business. Like my father would say, ‘Da biziniss.’“

Mingo, at an Arthur Avenue, Bronx, cafe, takes another sip of his espresso, with a twist of lemon:

“Yeah. Da biziniss.”

The post Vito Marcantonio Gets Da Biziniss first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Another one: FDA expects to authorize 6th mRNA dose in the fall

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On the same day that the FDA authorized a fifth mRNA COVID injection for immunocompromised individuals (and a fourth for the general population over 50), one of the FDA’s top bureaucrats is already projecting more mRNA doses to come.
“I don’t want to shock anyone, but there may be a need for people to get an additional booster in the fall,” Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologic Evaluation and Research, told reporters.

For mRNA compliant citizens, that round of shots would mark a fifth or sixth injection of a non FDA-approved experimental mRNA vaccine — which can cause significant side effects with each additional dose for some — within a two year window. 

Marks explained that an FDA advisory committee will discuss the probability of another mRNA dose next week. That committee was supposed to meet before the latest booster authorization to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a fourth and fifth round of shots. The FDA decided to bypass that process entirely.
“It’s not actually clear yet what the optimal booster should be,” Marks said. “We’re hoping by taking this action, we will help allow people to take steps to protect themselves should we have another wave to come through this country.”

He added that the next dose might be one that is reformulated for a more current variant, but did not commit one way or another.

The current mRNA shot was designed by both Pfizer and Moderna to target the ostensibly original Wuhan strain of 2019. This strain no longer exists in circulation, and according to gene sequencing, it has not been the dominant strain for about two years. The 2019 shot has never been updated, despite claims of an update being as easy as a computer-generated “copy and paste” procedure. Pfizer and Moderna both claimed that they were working on an Omicron vaccine — projecting that it would be ready in March of 2022 — but seem to have scrapped the plan, for reasons unknown to the public.

The US government has already spent tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to enrich Pfizer and Moderna, which seem to have assumed full regulatory capture of Government Health agencies. These agencies now deliver timely rubber stamp approvals for their latest experimental products, and they routinely dismiss the overwhelming evidence of a negative efficacy, failed vaccine program.
On Wednesday, President Biden got his claimed “second booster” (fourth injection) on live television, marking the president’s fourth shot in the last 15 months.
He then demanded more money from taxpayers to finance future doses for “new variants.” 

Reprinted with permission from The Dossier.

The US Empire’s Ultimate Target Is Not Russia But China

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The Pentagon has produced its latest National Defense Strategy (NDS), a report made every four years to provide the public and the government with a broad overview of the US war machine's planning, posturing, developments and areas of focus. 

You might assume with all the aggressive brinkmanship between Moscow and the US power alliance this year that Russia would feature as Enemy Number One in the 2022 NDS, but you would be assuming incorrectly. The US "Defense" Department reserves that slot for the same nation that's occupied it for many years now: China.

Antiwar's Dave DeCamp writes the following:
The full NDS is still classified, but the Pentagon released a fact sheet on the document that says it “will act urgently to sustain and strengthen deterrence, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as our most consequential strategic competitor and the pacing challenge for the Department.”

The fact sheet outlines four priorities for the Pentagon:

1) Defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the PRC

2) Deterring strategic attacks against the United States, Allies, and partners

3) Deterring aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary, prioritizing the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific, then the Russia challenge in Europe

4) Building a resilient Joint Force and defense ecosystem
"The Pentagon says that while China is the focus, Russia poses 'acute threats' because of its invasion of Ukraine," DeCamp writes, showing the empire's view of Moscow as a second-tier enemy.

Ahead of a meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has made some comments which clearly illustrate the US-centralized empire's actual problem with Moscow.

"We, together with you, and with our sympathisers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order," Lavrov said to the Chinese government on Wednesday.

And that right there ladies and gentlemen is the real reason we've been hearing so much hysterical shrieking about Russia these last five or six years. It's never been about Russian hackers. Nor about a Kremlin pee pee tape. Nor about Trump Tower. Nor about GRU bounties in Afghanistan. Nor about Manafort, Flynn, Bannon, Papadopoulos or any other Russiagate Surname of the Week. It's not even actually about Ukraine. Those have all been narrative-shaping constructs manipulated by the US intelligence cartel to manufacture support for a final showdown against Russia and China to prevent the emergence of a multipolar world.

The US government has had a policy in place since the fall of the Soviet Union to prevent the rise of any powers which could challenge its imperial agendas for the world. During the (first) Cold War the strategy promoted by empire managers like Henry Kissinger was to court China out of necessity to pull it away from the USSR, which was when we saw business ties between China and the US lead to immense profits for certain individuals in both nations and the influx of wealth which now has China on track to surpass the US as an economic superpower.

Once the USSR ended, so too did the need to remain on friendly terms with China, and subsequent decades saw a sharp pivot into a much more adversarial relationship with Beijing.
In what history may one day view as the US empire's greatest strategic blunder, empire managers forecasted the acquisition of post-soviet Russia as an imperial lackey state which could be weaponized against the new Enemy Number One in China. Instead, the exact opposite happened.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Bloomberg New Economy Forum last year that she'd "heard for years that Russia would become more willing to move toward the west, more willing to engage in a positive way with Europe, the UK, the US, because of problems on its border, because of the rise of China." But that's not what occurred.

"We haven't seen that," Clinton said. "Instead what we've seen is a concerted effort by Putin maybe to hug China more."

The empire's expectation that Moscow would come grovelling to the imperial throne on its own meant that no real effort was expended trying to establish goodwill and win over its friendship. NATO just kept on expanding and the empire got increasingly aggressive and belligerent in its games of global conquest. This error has led to the strategist's ultimate nightmare of having to fight for global domination against two separate powers at once. Because empire architects incorrectly predicted that Moscow would end up fearing Beijing more than it fears Washington, the tandem between China's economic power and Russia's military power that experts have been pointing to for years has only gotten more and more intimate.

And now here we are with Russian and Chinese officials openly discussing their plans to create a multipolar world while Chinese pundits crack jokes about the US empire's transparent ploys to turn Beijing against Moscow over the Ukraine invasion:
On the empire's grand chessboard, Russia is the queen piece, but China is the king. Just as with chess it helps to take out your opponent's strongest piece to more easily pursue checkmate, the US empire would be well advised to try and topple China's nuclear superpower friend and, as Consortium News editor-in-chief Joe Lauria recently put it, "ultimately restore a Yeltsin-like puppet to Moscow."

Basically all we're looking at in the major international news stories of our time is the rise of a multipolar world crashing headlong into an empire which has espoused the belief that unipolar domination must be retained at all cost, even if it means flirting with the possibility of a very fast and radioactive third world war. 

This is the Hail Mary pass of the US hegemon. Its last-ditch effort to secure control before forever losing any chance at it. Many anti-imperialist pundits I read regularly seem quite confident that this effort will fail, while I personally think those forecasts may be a bit premature. The way the chess pieces are moving it definitely does look like there's a plan in place, and I don't think they'd be orchestrating that plan if they didn't believe it had a chance to succeed.

One thing that does seem clear is that the only way the empire has any chance of stopping the rise of China is by maneuvers that will be both highly disruptive and existentially dangerous for the entire world. If you think things are crazy now, just you wait until the imperial crosshairs move to Beijing.

Reprinted with permission from Caitlin's Newsletter.
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Palestine is a Loud Echo of Britain’s Colonial Past and a Warning of the Future

[This is the transcript of a talk I gave to Bath Friends of Palestine on 25 February 2022.]

Since I arrived with my family in the UK last summer, I have been repeatedly asked: “Why choose Bristol as your new home?”

Well, it certainly wasn’t for the weather. Now more than ever I miss Nazareth’s warmth and sunshine.

It wasn’t for the food either.

My family do have a minor connection to Bristol. My great-grandparents on my mother’s side (one from Cornwall, the other from South Wales) apparently met in Bristol – a coincidental stopping point on their separate journeys to London. They married and started a family whose line led to me.

But that distant link wasn’t the reason for coming to Bristol either.

In fact, it was only in Nazareth that Bristol began occupying a more prominent place in my family’s life.

When I was not doing journalism, I spent many years leading political tours of the Galilee, while my wife, Sally, hosted and fed many of the participants in her cultural café in Nazareth, called Liwan.

It was soon clear that a disproportionate number of our guests hailed from Bristol and the south-west. Some of you here tonight may have been among them.

But my world – like everyone else’s – started to shrink as the pandemic took hold in early 2020. As we lost visitors and the chance to directly engage with them about Palestine, Bristol began to reach out to me.

Toppled statue

It did so just as Sally and I were beginning discussions about whether it was time to leave Nazareth – 20 years after I had arrived – and head to the UK.

Even from thousands of miles away, a momentous event – the sound of Edward Colston’s statue being toppled – reverberated loudly with me.

Ordinary people had decided they were no longer willing to be forced to venerate a slave trader, one of the most conspicious criminals of Britain’s colonial past. Even if briefly, the people of Bristol took back control of their city’s public space for themselves, and for humanity.

In doing so, they firmly thrust Britain’s sordid past – the unexamined background to most of our lives – into the light of day. It is because of their defiance that buildings and institutions that for centuries bore Colston’s name as a badge of honour are finally being forced to confront that past and make amends.

Bath, of course, was built no less on the profits of the slave trade. When visitors come to Bath simply to admire its grand Georgian architecture, its Royal Crescent, we assent – if only through ignorance – to the crimes that paid for all that splendour.

Weeks after the Colston statue was toppled, Bristol made headlines again. Crowds protested efforts to transfer yet more powers to the police to curb our already savagely diminished right to protest – the most fundamental of all democratic rights. Bristol made more noise against that bill than possibly anywhere else in the UK.

I ended up writing about both events from Nazareth.

Blind to history

Since my arrival, old and new friends alike have started to educate me about Bristol. Early on I attended a slavery tour in the city centre – one that connected those historic crimes with the current troubles faced by asylum seekers in Bristol, even as Bristol lays claim to the title of “city of sanctuary”.

For once I was being guided rather than the guide, the pupil rather than the teacher – so long my role on those tours in and around Nazareth. And I could not but help notice, as we wandered through Bristol’s streets, echoes of my own tours.

Over the years I have taken many hundreds of groups around the ruins of Saffuriya, one of the largest of the Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel in its ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948, the Nakba or Catastrophe.

What disturbed me most in Saffuriya was how blind its new inhabitants were to the very recent history of the place they call home.

New Jewish immigrants were moved on to the lands of Saffuriya weeks after the Israeli army destroyed the village and chased out the native Palestinian population at gunpoint. A new community built in its place was given a similar Hebrew name, Tzipori. These events were repeated across historic Palestine. Hundreds of villages were razed, and 80 per cent of the Palestinian population were expelled from what became the new state of Israel.

Troubling clues

Even today, evidence of the crimes committed in the name of these newcomers is visible everywhere. The hillsides are littered with the rubble of the hundreds of Palestinian homes that were levelled by the new Israeli army to stop their residents from returning. And there are neglected grave-stones all around – pointers to the community that was disappeared.

And yet almost no one in Jewish Tzipori asks questions about the remnants of Palestinian Saffuriya, about these clues to a troubling past. Brainwashed by reassuring state narratives, they have averted their gaze for fear of what might become visible if they looked any closer.

Tzipori’s residents never ask why there are only Jews like themselves allowed in their community, when half of the population in the surrounding area of the Galilee are Palestinian by heritage.

Instead, the people of Tzipori misleadingly refer to their Palestinian neighbours – forced to live apart from them as second and third-class citizens of a self-declared Jewish state – as “Israeli Arabs”. The purpose is to obscure, both to themselves and the outside world, the connection of these so-called Arabs to the Palestinian people.

To acknowledge the crimes Tzipori has inflicted on Saffuriya would also be to acknowledge a bigger story: of the crimes inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people as a whole.

Shroud of silence

Most of us in Britain do something very similar.

In young Israel, Jews still venerate the criminals of their recent past because they and their loved ones are so intimately and freshly implicated in the crimes.

In Britain, with its much longer colonial past, the same result is often achieved not, as in Israel, through open cheerleading and glorification – though there is some of that too – but chiefly through a complicit silence. Colston surveyed his city from up on his plinth. He stood above us, superior, paternal, authoritative. His crimes did not need denying because they had been effectively shrouded in silence.

Until Colston was toppled, slavery for most Britons was entirely absent from the narrative of Britain’s past – it was something to do with racist plantation owners in the United States’ Deep South more than a century ago. It was an issue we thought about only when Hollywood raised it.

After the Colston statue came down, he became an exhibit – flat on his back – in Bristol’s harbourside museum, the M Shed. His black robes had been smeared with red paint, and scuffed and grazed from being dragged through the streets. He became a relic of the past, and one denied his grandeur. We were able to observe him variously with curiousity, contempt or amusement.

Those are far better responses than reverence or silence. But they are not enough. Because Colston isn’t just a relic. He is a living, breathing reminder that we are still complicit in colonial crimes, even if now they are invariably better disguised.

Nowadays, we usually interfere in the name of fiscal responsibility or humanitarianism, rather than the white man’s burden.

We return to the countries we formerly colonised and asset-stripped, and drive them back into permanent debt slavery through western-controlled monetary agencies like the IMF.

Or in the case of those that refuse to submit, we more often than not invade or subvert them – countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Iran – tearing apart the colonial fabric we imposed on them, wrecking their societies in ways that invariably lead to mass death and the dispersion of the population.

We have supplied the bombs and planes to Saudi Arabia that are killing untold numbers of civilians in Yemen. We funded and trained the Islamic extremists who terrorise and behead civilians in Syria. The list is too long for me to recount here.

Right now, we see the consequences of the west’s neo-colonialism – and a predictable countervailing reaction, in the resurgence of a Russian nationalism that President Putin has harnessed to his own ends – in NATO’s relentless, decades-long expansion towards Russia’s borders.

And of course, we are still deeply invested in the settler colonial project of Israel, and the crimes it systematically inflicts on the Palestinian people.

Divine plan

Through the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain gave licence for the creation of a militarised ethnic, Jewish state in the Middle East. Later, we helped supply it with atomic material in the full knowledge that Israel would build nuclear bombs. We gave Israel diplomatic cover so that it could evade its obligations under the international treaty to stop nuclear proliferation and become the only nuclear power in the region. We have had Israel’s back through more than five decades of occupation and illegal settlement building.

And significantly, we have endlessly indulged Zionism as it has evolved from its sordid origins nearly two centuries ago, as an antisemitic movement among fundamentalist Christians. Those Christian Zonists – who at the time served as the power brokers in European governments like Britain’s – viewed Jews as mere instruments in a divine plan.

According to this plan, Jews were to be denied the chance to properly integrate into the countries to which they assumed they belonged.

Instead the Christian Zionists wanted to herd Jews into an imagined ancient, Biblical land of Israel, to speed up the arrival of the end times, when mankind would be judged and only good Christians would rise up to be with God.

Until Hitler took this western antisemitism to another level, few Jews subscribed to the idea that they were doomed forever to be a people apart, that their fate was inextricably tied to a small piece of territory in a far-off region they had never visited, and that their political allies should be millenarian racists.

But after the Holocaust, things changed. Christian Zionists looked like much kinder antisemites than the exterminationist Nazis. Christian Zionism won by default and was reborn as Jewish Zionism, claiming to be a national liberation movement rather than the dregs of a white European nationalism Hitler had intensified.

Today, we are presented with polls showing that most British Jews subscribe to the ugly ideas of Zionism – ideas their great-great-grandparents abhorred. Jews who dissent, who believe that we are all the same, that we all share a common fate as humans not as tribes, are ignored or dismissed as self-haters. In an inversion of reality these humanist Jews, rather than Jewish Zionists, are seen as the pawns of the antisemites.

Perverse ideology

Zionism as a political movement is so pampered, so embedded within European and American political establishments that those Jews who rally behind this ethnic nationalism no longer consider their beliefs to be abnormal or abhorrent – as their views would have been judged by most Jews only a few generations ago.

No, today Jewish Zionists think of their views as so self-evident, so vitally important to Jewish self-preservation that anyone who opposes them must be either a self-hating Jew or an antisemite.

And because non-Jews so little understand their own culpability in fomenting this perverse ideology of Jewish Zionism, we join in the ritual defaming of those brave Jews who point out how far we have stepped through the looking glass.

As a result, we unthinkingly give our backing to the Zionists as they weaponise antisemitism against those – Jews and non-Jews alike – who stand in solidarity with the native Palestinian people so long oppressed by western colonialism.

Thoughtlessly, too many of us have drifted once again into a sympathy for the oppressor – this time, Zonism’s barely veiled anti-Palestinian racism.

Nonetheless, our attitudes towards modern Israel, given British history, can be complex. On the one hand, there are good reasons to avert our gaze. Israel’s crimes today are an echo and reminder of our own crimes yesterday. Western governments subsidise Israel’s crimes through trade agreements, they provide the weapons for Israel to commit those crimes, and they profit from the new arms and cyber-weapons Israel has developed by testing them out on Palestinians. Like the now-defunct apartheid South Africa, Israel is a central ally in the west’s neo-colonialism.

So, yes, Israel is tied to us by an umbilical cord. We are its parent. But at the same time it is also not exactly like us either – more a bastard progeny. And that difference, that distance can help us gain a little perspective on ourselves. It can make Israel a teaching aid. An eye-opener. A place that can bring clarity, elucidate not only what Israel is doing but what countries like Britain have done and are still doing to this day.

Trade in bodies

The difference between Britain and Israel is to be found in the distinction between a colonial and a settler-colonial state.

Britain is a classic example of the former. It sent the entitled sons of its elite private schools, men like Colston, to parts of the globe rich in resources in order to steal those resources and bring the wealth back to the motherland to further enrich the establishment. That was the purpose of the tea and sugar plantations.

But it was not just a trade in inanimate objects. Britain also traded in bodies – mostly black bodies. Labour and muscle were a resource as vital to the British empire as silk and saffron.

The trafficking in goods and people lasted more than four centuries until liberation movements among the native populations began to throw off – at least partially – the yoke of British and European colonialism. The story since the Second World War has been one of Europe and the United States’ efforts to reinvent colonialism, conducting their rape and pillage at a distance, through the hands of others.

This is the dissembling, modern brand of colonialism: a “humanitarian” neocolonialism we should by now be familiar with. Global corporations, monetary
agencies like the IMF and the military alliance of NATO have each played a key role in the reinvention of colonialism – as has Israel.

Elimination strategies

Israel inherited Britain’s colonial tradition, and permanently adopted many of its emergency orders for use against the Palestinians. Like traditional colonialism, settler colonialism is determined to appropriate the resources of the natives. But it does so in an even more conspicuous, uncompromising way. It does not just exploit the natives. It seeks to replace or eliminate them. That way, they can never be in a position to liberate themselves and their homeland.

There is nothing new about this approach. It was adopted by European colonists across much of the globe: in North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as belatedly in the Middle East.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the settler colonial strategy, as Israel illustrates only too clearly. In their struggle to replace the natives, Israel’s settlers had to craft a narrative – a rationalisation – that they were the victims rather than the victimisers. They were, of course, fleeing persecution in Europe, but only to become persecutors themselves outside Europe. They were supposedly in a battle for survival against those they came to replace, the Palestinians. The natives were cast as irredeemably, and irrationally, hostile. God was invoked, more or less explicitly.

In the Zionist story, the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians – the Nakba – becomes a War of Independence, celebrated to this day. The Zionist colonisers thereby transformed themselves into another national liberation movement, like the ones in Africa that were fighting after the Second World War for independence. Israel claimed to be fighting oppressive British rule, as Africans were, rather than inheriting the colonisers’ mantle.

But there is a disadvantage for settler colonial projects too, especially in an era of better communications. In a time of more democratic media, as we are currently enjoying – even if briefly – the colonisers’ elimination strategies are much harder to veil or airbrush. The ugliness is on show. The reality of the oppression is more visceral, more obviously offensive.

Apartheid named

The settlers’ elimination strategies are limited in number, and difficult to conceal whichever is adopted. In the United States, elimination took the form of genocide – the simplest and neatest of settler-colonialism’s solutions.

In the post-war era of human rights, however, Israel was denied that route. It adopted settler colonialism’s fall-back position: mass expulsion, or ethnic cleansing. Some 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and outside the new borders of Israel in 1948.

But genocide and ethnic cleansing are invariably projects that cannot be completed. Some 90 per cent of Native Americans died from the violence and diseases brought by European incomers, but a small proportion survived. In South Africa, the white immigrants lacked the numbers and capacity either to eradicate the native population or to exploit such a vast territory.

Israel managed to expel only 80 per cent of the Palestinians living inside its new borders before the international community called time. And then Israel sabotaged its initial success in 1948 by seizing yet more Palestinian territory – and more Palestinians – in 1967.

When settler populations cannot eradicate the native population completely, they must impose harsh, visible segregation policies against those that remain.

Resources and rights are differentiated on the basis of race or ethnicity. Such regimes institute apartheid – or as Israel calls its version “hafrada” – to maintain the privileges of their own, superior or chosen population.

Colonial mentality

Many decades on, human rights groups have finally named Israel’s apartheid. Amnesty International got round to it only this month – 74 years after the Nakba and 55 years after the occupation began.

It has taken so long because even our understanding of human rights continues to be shaped by a European colonial mentality. Human rights groups have documented Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians – the “what” of their oppression – but refused to understand the “why” of that oppression. These watchdogs did not truly listen to Palestinians. They listened to, they excused, Israel even as they were criticising it. They indulged its endless security rationales for its crimes against Palestinians.

The reluctance to name Israeli apartheid derives in large part from a reluctance to face our part in its creation. To identify Israel’s apartheid is to recognise both our role in sustaining it, and Israel’s crucial place in the west’s reinvented neocolonialism.

Being ‘offensive’

The difficulty of facing up to what Israel is and what it represents is, of course, particularly stark for many Jews – not only in Israel but in countries like Britain. Through no choice of their own, Jews are more deeply implicated in Israel’s crimes because those crimes are carried out in the name of all Jews. As a result, for Zionist Jews, protecting the settler colonial project of Israel is identical to protecting their own sense of virtue.

In the zero-sum imaginings of the Zionist movement, the stakes are too high to doubt or to equivocate. As Zionists, their duty is to support, dissemble and propagandise on Israel’s behalf at all costs.

Nowadays Zionism has become such a normalised part of our western culture that those who call themselves Zionists are appalled at the idea anyone could dare to point out that their ideology is rooted in an ugly ethnic nationalism and in apartheid. Those who make them feel uncomfortable by highlighting the reality of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians – and their blindness to it – are accused of being “offensive”.

That supposed offensiveness is now conflated with antisemitism, as the treatment of Ken Loach, the respected film-maker of this parish, attests. Disgust at Israel’s racism towards Palestinians is malevolently confused with racism towards Jews. The truth is inverted.

This confusion has also become the basis for a new definition of antisemitism – one aggressively advanced by Israel and its apologists – designed to mislead casual onlookers. The more we, as anti-racists and opponents of colonialism, try to focus attention and opprobrium on Israel’s crimes, the more we are accused of covertly attacking Jews.

Into the fire

Arriving in the UK from Nazareth at this very moment is like stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Here the battle over Zionism – defining it, understanding it, confronting it, refusing to be silenced by it – is in full flood. The Labour party, under Jeremy Corbyn, was politically eviscerated by a redefined antisemitism. Now the party’s ranks are being purged by his successor, Sir Keir Starmer, on the same phony grounds.

Professors are being threatened and losing their jobs, as happened to David Miller at Bristol university, with the goal of intensifying pressure on the academy to keep silent about Israel and its lobbyists. Exhibitions are taken down, speakers cancelled.

And all the while, the current western obsession with redefining antisemitism – the latest cover story for apartheid Israel – moves us ever further from sensitivity to real racism, whether it be genuine prejudice against Jews or rampant Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism.

The fight for justice for Palestinians resonates with so many of us precisely because it is not simply a struggle to help Palestinians. It is a fight to end colonialism in all its forms, to end our inhumanity towards those we live alongside, to remember that we are all equally human and all equally entitled to respect and dignity.

The story of Palestine is a loud echo from our past. Maybe the loudest. If we cannot hear it, then we cannot learn – and we cannot take the first steps on the path towards real change.

The post Palestine is a Loud Echo of Britain’s Colonial Past and a Warning of the Future first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Nine-Year Obscenity: The Australia-NZ Resettlement Deal

Obscenities occupy the annals of State behaviour, revolting reminders about what governments can do.  One of Australia’s most pronounced and undeniable obscenities is its continuing effort to gut and empty international refugee law of its relevant foundations.  Instead of being treated as a scandal, populists and governments the world over have expressed admiration, even envy: If they can get away with that, what might we do?

Along the way, Australia has also made its greatest contribution to deterring unwanted arrivals, creating the most ruthless, tropical detention network for individuals who, unblessed by paperwork, arrive by boat with the aid of people traffickers and are duly told they will never settle in Australia.  These “unlawful” arrivals – language itself in contravention of the UN Refugee Convention – are duly passed on the refugee camp conveyor belt, where they face ruination, despair and sadistic prison wardens.  To Manus Island or Nauru they go, awaiting settlement in another country.

In 2013, New Zealand offered some mitigation to these ghastly conditions.  Australia might have expressed no interest in resettling such arrivals, but New Zealand did.  Thus, that great tradition of outsourcing obligations and responsibilities was continued, with Australia preferring to let others do the heavy lifting.

That agreement involved Australia’s neighbour accepting 150 of its annual intake of refugees from Australian detention centres.  But the fall of the Labor government, and the coming to power of a conservative Coalition crazed by “turning back the boats”, all but killed the arrangement.

This did not stop other inglorious attempts on Canberra’s part to abdicate human rights responsibilities with the connivance of other countries.  In 2014, a resettlement deal was struck with Cambodia costing in the order of AU$55 million.  Unsurprisingly, only a few refugees availed themselves of this less than impressive arrangement.  The next year, Australia tried, in vain, to coax the Philippines with an offer worth AU$150 million.

The 2016 agreement with the United States, hammered out in the last days of the Obama administration, was seen as a diplomatic coup, obliging Washington to take between 1,250 to 2,000 refugees.  All would be subject to stringent US vetting.  Australia, in turn, would accept a much smaller complement of refugees from Central America.

These arrangements, with much justification, were rubbished by the newly arrived President Donald J. Trump.  In a now notorious phone call between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the President suggested that this “stupid deal” might facilitate the import of terrorists into the United States.  “I do not want to have more San Bernadinos or World Trade Centres.  I could name 30 others, but I do not have enough time.”

In another action that could only be seen as ingratiating, Australia agreed, in 2017, to resettle 17 Cubans who were found desperately clinging to a lighthouse off the Florida Keys.  The pattern here should be obvious: Australia will do everything it can to evade, circumvent and subvert a refugee processing scheme that is humane and generous.

Under the current, revived understanding, New Zealand will accept 150 refugees from Australia each year for three years, but only those who are already in detention.  Canberra has made it clear that the deal will not apply to those subsequently making an effort to travel to Australia by sea.  “Australia remains firm,” stated Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, “illegal maritime arrivals will not settle here permanently.  Anyone who attempts to breach our borders will be turned back or sent to Nauru.”

Another nasty proviso is also applicable.  Those refugees resettled in New Zealand will be looked at as a special category should they wish to enter Australia.  According to the Australian Department of Home Affairs, they will be allowed “to apply for visas to enter Australia on a short-term or temporary stay basis only”. This would also apply even after the grant of New Zealand citizenship.

Government acceptance of this plan was only reached after what were described as “bullish” and “intimidating” negotiations between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and non-government parliamentarians in 2019.  Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie even claims that she was threatened with jail were she to reveal any details of the plan.  “So, for the sake of humanity, I had no other choice but to shut up anyway to make sure that job was done.”

Lambie’s sense of humanity should not be exaggerated.  Negotiations with the government centred on securing her support for the repeal of laws permitting the evacuation of gravely ill refugees to the Australian mainland for medical treatment.  Compassion for refugees tends to be in short supply in the nation’s capital.

The opposition Labor Party, hardly a shining light in the refugee debates, have tried to make hay from the Morrison government’s change of heart.  “This is an absolutely humiliating backflip,” cheered Shadow Assistant Minister for Immigration, Andrew Giles.  “It should not have taken nine years and that is the other big thought in my mind, the cost to those individual lives and the cost to all of us in this pointless, cruel intransigence by Mr Morrison.”

While Australian Labor mocked, New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi was self-congratulatory and business-like of his country’s record.  “New Zealand has a long and proud history of refugee resettlement and this arrangement is another example of how we are fulfilling our humanitarian international commitment.”  In marketing speak, Faafoi expressed his pleasure that NZ could “provide resettlement outcomes for refugees who would otherwise have continued to face uncertain futures.”

While 450 refugees will find safety and sanctuary in New Zealand, that does little for 500 others.  The beastly, cruel system remains in place, and promises to cost AU$2 billion next year.  If anything, this revived agreement shows how far countries have pitifully fallen in their responsibilities in providing safety for the vulnerable and damaged.

The post A Nine-Year Obscenity: The Australia-NZ Resettlement Deal first appeared on Dissident Voice.