Category Archives: Lebanon

Hands off Lebanon: Macron’s Self-serving ‘New Pact’ Must Be Shunned  

French President, Emmanuel Macron, is in no position to pontificate to Lebanon about the need for political and economic reforms. Just as thousands of Lebanese took to the streets of Beirut demanding “revenge” against the ruling classes, the French people have relentlessly been doing the same; both peoples have been met with police violence and arrests.

Following the August 4 blast which killed over 200 people and wounded thousands more, the irony was inescapable when Macron showed up in a bizarre display of “solidarity” on the streets of Beirut. Macron should have taken his roadshow to the streets of Paris, not Beirut, to reassure his own people, burdened by growing inequality, rising unemployment and socio-economic hardship.

However, the French show went on, but in the Middle East. It was a perfectly choreographed scene, engineered to be reminiscent of France’s bygone colonial grandeur. On August 6, Macron stood imperiously amidst the ruins of a massive Beirut explosion, promising aid, accountability and vowing to never abandon France’s former colony.

A young Lebanese woman approached the French President, tearfully imploring him “Mr. President, you’re on General Gouraud Street; he freed us from the Ottomans. Free us from the current authorities.”

It is unconvincing that all of this: the sudden visit, the pleas for help, the emotional crowd surrounding Macron, were all impromptu events to reflect Lebanon’s undying love and unconditional trust of France.

Macron could have easily assessed the damage caused by the devastating explosion at the Beirut port. If the thousands of images and endless video streams were insufficient to convey the unprecedented ruin created by the Hiroshima-like blast, satellite and aerial footage certainly would have.

But Macron did not come to Lebanon to offer sincere solidarity. He came, like a ‘good’ French politician would to exploit the shock, panic and fear of a dumbstruck nation, while it is feeling betrayed by its own government, bewildered and alone.

I will talk to all political forces to ask them for a new pact. I am here today to propose a new political pact to them,” Macron said.

Certainly, Lebanon is in urgent need of a new pact, but not one that is engineered by France. Indeed, France was never a source of stability in Lebanon. Even the end of the formal French colonialism in 1946 did not truly liberate Lebanon from Paris’ toxic influence and constant meddling.

Alas, devastated Lebanon is now receptive to another bout of ‘disaster capitalism’:  the notion that a country must be on its knees as a prerequisite to foreign economic takeover, political and, if necessary, military intervention.

If the words of the woman who beseeched Macron to ‘liberate’ Lebanon from its current leadership were not scripted by some clever French writer, they would represent one of the saddest displays of Lebanon’s modern politics — this woman, representing a nation, calling on its former colonizer to subjugate it once more, in order to save it from itself.

This is the crux of ‘disaster capitalism’.

“In moments of crisis, people are willing to hand over a great deal of power to anyone who claims to have a magic cure – whether the crisis is a financial meltdown or … a terrorist attack,” wrote the acclaimed Canadian author, Naomi Klein, in her seminal book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”.

The political fallout of the explosion — whatever its causes — were triggered perfectly from the perspective of those who want to ensure Lebanon never achieves its coveted moment of stability and sectarian harmony. Unprecedented in modern history, the country’s current economic crisis has dragged on interminably, while the ruling classes either seem to have no answers or are, largely, not keen on finding any.

On August 7, a United Nations-backed tribunal was scheduled to issue its final verdict regarding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri. Hariri’s killing, also by a massive blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005, has torn the country apart and somewhat placed Lebanon at the hands of foreign entities.

Whether the now postponed verdict was going to further divide Lebanese society or help it achieve closure, is moot. The port explosion will surely renew the French-led Western mandate over the country.

On August 6, four former Lebanese prime ministers called for an ‘international investigation’ into the causes of the blast, hoping to win political leverage against their political opponents, setting the stage for another sectarian and political crisis.

Local forces are quickly scrambling to position themselves behind a winning political strategy. “We have no trust at all in this ruling gang,” leading Lebanese Druze politician, Walid Jumblatt, said. He, too, is demanding an international investigation.

Times of national crisis often lead to unity, however temporary, among various communities, since mass tragedies often harm all sectors of society. In Lebanon, however, unity remains elusive, as most political camps have allegiances that transcend the people and nation. People often hold onto their clans and sects due to their lack of trust in the central government. Politicians, instead, are beholden to regional and international powers — as in Macron’s France.

But France should not be the last lifeline for the Lebanese people, despite their desperation, anger and betrayal. France is currently involved in two of the ugliest and protracted conflicts in the Middle East and West Africa: Libya and Mali. Predictably, in both cases, Paris had also promised to be a force for good. While Libya has essentially been turned into a failed state, Mali persists under total French subjugation. It is no exaggeration to argue that France is currently involved in an active military occupation of Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Lebanon should be aware that its current tragedy is the perfect opportunity for its former colonial masters to stage a comeback, which would hardly save Lebanon and her people from their persisting calamity.

Macron’s bizarre and dangerous political act in the streets of Beirut should worry all Lebanese, at least those who truly care about their country.

The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?   

On August 4, hours before a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued an ominous warning to Lebanon.

“We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. I suggest to all of them, including Hezbollah, to consider this,” Netanyahu said during an official tour of a military facility in central Israel.

Netanyahu’s warning did not bode well for Israel when, hours later, a Hiroshima-like blast devastated entire sectors of Beirut. Those who suspected Israeli involvement in the deadly explosion had one more reason to point fingers at Tel Aviv.

In politics and in war, truth is the first casualty. We may never know precisely what transpired in the moments preceding the Beirut blast. Somehow, it may not matter at all, because the narrative regarding Lebanon’s many tragedies is as splintered as the country’s political landscape.

Judging by statements and positions adopted by the country’s various parties and factions, many seem to be more concerned with exploiting the tragedy for trivial political gain than in the tragedy itself. Even if the explosion was the unfortunate outcome of an accident resulting from bureaucratic negligence, sadly, it is still inconsequential. In Lebanon, as in much of the Middle East, everything is political.

What is almost certain about the future, however, is that the political discourse will eventually lead back to Israel versus Hezbollah. The former is keen at undermining the group’s influence in Lebanon, while the latter is insistent on thwarting Israel’s plans.

But what is Israel’s plan anyway? After decades of trying to destroy the Lebanese group, the Israeli government is keenly aware that eradicating Hezbollah militarily is no longer feasible, certainly not in the foreseeable future. The Lebanese group has proven its prowess on the battlefield when it played a major role in ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in May 2000.

Subsequent Israeli attempts at reasserting its dominance on Lebanon’s southern border have, thus far, proven futile. The failed war of 2006 and the more recent conflagration of September 2019 are also two cases in point.

Hezbollah is uninterested in inviting another Israeli war on Lebanon, either. The country is on the verge of economic collapse, if it has not already collapsed.

While Lebanon has always been in the throes of political division and factionalism, the divisiveness of the current political mood in the country is more destructive than it has ever been. Losing hope in all political actors, the Lebanese people have taken to the street demanding basic rights and services, an end to the endemic corruption and a whole new social and political contract – unsuccessfully.

While stalemates in politics are somewhat ordinary occurrences, political deadlocks can be calamitous in a country on the brink of starvation. The Hiroshima-like cloud of explosives that shocked the world was a perfect metaphor for Lebanon’s seemingly endless woes.

Former Israeli Knesset member, Moshe Feiglin, was among many jubilant Israelis who celebrated the near-demise of the Arab city. Feiglin described the horrendous explosion as a ‘day of joy’, giving a ‘huge thank you to God. “If it was us,” meaning Israel being involved in the deadly explosion, “then we should be proud of it, and with that we will create a balance of terror.”

Regardless of whether Feiglin is speaking from a position of knowledge or not, his reference to ‘balance of terror’ remains the basic premise in all of Israel’s dealings with Lebanon, and Hezbollah, in particular.

The convoluted war in Syria has expanded Israel’s war of attrition, but has also given Israel the opportunity to target Hezbollah’s interests without registering yet another aggression on Lebanese territories. It is much easier to target war-torn Syria and escape unscathed rather than to target Lebanon and pay a price.

For years, Israel has bombed many targets in Syria. Initially, it was unforthcoming about its role. Only in the last year or so, it has begun to openly brag about its military conquests, but for a reason.   The embattled Netanyahu is desperate to gain political credits, as he is dogged by multiple corruption charges, which have tarnished his image. By bombing Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, the Israeli leader hopes to garner the approval of the military elite, a critical constituency in Israeli politics.

Netanyahu’s comments before the Beirut explosion were in reference to a series of incidents that began on July 21, when Israel bombed an area adjacent to the Damascus International Airport, killing, among others, a senior Hezbollah member, Ali Kamel Mohsen.

This incident placed Israel’s northern borders on alert. The state of emergency was coupled with massive political and media hype, which helped Netanyahu by distracting ordinary Israelis from his ongoing corruption trial.

But Israel’s strategic interests in the Syria conflict go beyond Netanyahu’s need for a cheap victory. The outcome of the Syria war has the potential of yielding a nightmare scenario for Israel.

For decades, Israel has argued that an ‘axis of terror’ – Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – had to be dismantled, for it represented Israel’s greatest security threat. That was long before pro-Iran forces and militias began operating overtly in Syria, as a result of the ongoing war.

While Israel argues that its recurring bombardment of Syria is aimed largely at Hezbollah targets – the group’s military cache and Iranian missiles on their way to Lebanon via Syrian territories – Israel’s war in Syria is largely political. As per Israeli logic, the more bombs Israel drops over Syria, the more relevant a player it will become when the conflicting parties engage in future negotiations to sort out the fate of that country.

However, by doing so, Israel also risks igniting a costly military conflict with Lebanon, one that neither Tel Aviv nor Hezbollah can afford at the moment.

Israeli policymakers and military planners must be busy trying to analyze the situation in Lebanon, to understand the best way to exploit Lebanon’s tragedy in order to advance Israel’s strategic interests.

The future of Lebanon is, once more, in the hands of war generals.

The Likud Conspiracy: Israel in the Throes of a Major Political Crisis

Protests against Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have raged on for weeks, turning violent sometimes. Israelis are furious at their government’s mediocre response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially as COVID-19 disease is experiencing a massive surge throughout the country.

Netanyahu warned protesters, thousands of whom have been rallying outside his residence in Jerusalem, against “anarchy (and) violence”. Scenes of utter chaos and violent arrests have been a daily occurrence in a country that is already in the throes of a political crisis, largely, if not exclusively, linked to the Prime Minister himself.

Desperate to create any distractions from his many woes at home, Netanyahu has been pushing for a confrontation with the Lebanese resistance group, Hezbollah. But that, too, has failed, as Israeli media has denied earlier claims that a violent confrontation was reported at the Israel/Lebanon border.

Hezbollah insists that it would be the group, not Netanyahu, that will determine the time and place for its response to Israel’s recent killing of Hezbollah’s influential member, Ali Kamel Mohsen.

Mohsen was killed in an Israeli aerial raid targeting the vicinity of the Damascus International Airport, likely another desperate attempt by Netanyahu to deflect attention from his troubled coalition government and his corruption trial to an issue that often unifies most Israelis.

The turmoil in Israel is not just about an obstinate, divisive leader who is manipulating public opinion, the media and the various political groups to remain in power and to avoid legal accountability for his corruption.

The Disunited Coalition 

Israel is suffering a crisis of political legitimacy, one that goes beyond the embattled Netanyahu, and his coalition with the head of the Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) centrist party, Benny Gantz.

The political marriage between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Kahol Lavan last April was fundamentally odd and unexpected. The announcement that Gantz — who endured three general elections in less than a year to finally oust Netanyahu — was uniting with his archenemy has devastated the anti-Netanyahu political camp, forcing Gantz’s partners, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon, to abandon him.

But the new coalition government between the right and center became dysfunctional immediately after it was formed. Israel’s political marriage of convenience is likely to end in an ugly divorce.

The war between Netanyahu and his main coalition partner is now manifest in every aspect of Israel’s political life:  in the Knesset (parliament), in media headlines and on the streets.

When the new government assumed its duties after one of the most tumultuous years in Israel’s political history, the mood, at least immediately, was somewhat calm; both Netanyahu and Gantz seemed united in their desire to illegally annex nearly a third of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Israel’s right wing camp was delighted; the center tagged along.

However, the international response to the annexation scheme forced Netanyahu to rethink his July 1 deadline. Now that annexation has been postponed indefinitely, Netanyahu is being denied a major political card that could have helped him replenish his fading popularity among Israelis, at a time when he desperately needs it.

On July 19, Netanyahu’s corruption trial resumed. Although the Prime Minister did not attend the opening session personally, his image — that of a strong commanding figure — was tarnished, nonetheless.

Gantz, who already agreed to the annexation plan, was too clever to fully associate himself with the risky political endeavor. That task was left to Netanyahu who knew the risks affiliated with a failed political scheme, but with no option except to follow through with it.

Awaiting the right opportunity to pounce on his beleaguered ‘partner’, Gantz found his chance in a report published by the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz.

The Budget Conspiracy 

On July 22, Haaretz reported that, “Netanyahu decided to not pass the budget for 2020 and to call a general election to take place on November 18,” to avoid the possibility of being forced to “handing over the keys to Defense Minister and Kahol Lavan Chairman, Benny Gantz” so that he, Netanyahu, may “attend legal proceedings” related to his corruption trial.

According to this claim, Netanyahu only agreed to swap the Prime Minister seat with Gantz come November 2021 just to buy time and to avoid a fourth election that would leave him vulnerable to an electoral defeat and to a corruption trial without a political safety net.

Despite the risk of yet another election, Netanyahu is keen to wrestle the Justice Ministry from Kahol Lavan’s hands, because whoever controls the Justice Ministry controls Netanyahu’s fate in Israeli courts. Leaving Gantz with such a powerful card is neither an option for the Likud nor for Netanyahu.

Hence, the Likud is insisting that the budget agreement can only last for one year, while Kahol Lavan is adamant that it must cover a period of two years. The Likud conspiracy, as revealed in Israeli media, suggests that the Likud Finance Minister, Israel Katz, plans to use the next budget negotiations as the reason to dismantle the right-center coalition and demand another election, thus denying Gantz his chance to serve his term as a prime minister, per the unity government agreement.

Crisis of a Fake Democracy

However, the crisis is larger than the dispute between Netanyahu and Gantz. While Israel has long prided itself on being “the only democracy in the Middle East”, the truth is that Israeli ‘democracy’ was, from the start, fraudulent, in that it catered to Israeli Jews and discriminated against everyone else.

In recent years, however, institutionalized racism and apartheid in Israel were no longer masked by clever political discourses.  Netanyahu, in particular, has led the charge of making Israel the right-wing, chauvinistic, racist haven that it is today.

The fact that Netanyahu recently became Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, elected repeatedly by Israel’s Jewish citizens, indicates that the Israeli leader is but a reflection of the larger ailments that have afflicted Israeli society as a whole.

Reducing the discussion to Netanyahu’s many failures might be convenient, but the demonstrable truth is that corrupt leaders can only exist in corrupt and unhealthy political systems. Israel is now the perfect example of that truism.

Beirut goes up in smoke

WhatsApp Image 2020-08-04 at 12.19.47

To see Beirut and its port area with a huge mushroom cloud hanging above is a truly surreal sight. But what is not surreal in battered Lebanese capital?

A big part of the downtown looks flattened, thoroughly ruined.

One of my Japanese friends based in Beirut exclaimed:

It looks like Hiroshima!

It does.

Who is behind the carnage? What really happened? Nobody is claiming responsibility. Was it sabotage, a direct attack against Lebanon, or a politically motivated terrorist act?

What is certain is that the “earth moved.” One of the explosions, equivalent to a 4.5-magnitude earthquake, ruined everything in its proximity. Blasts were heard all the way across the sea in Cyprus, while some 20 kilometers away, window panels at Rafik Hariri International Airport, got shattered.

*****

 

Apartment where I spent five years

For five years, I have been observing from my window and terrace this magnificent sight: tall, often snow-covered mountains, huge bay, and vast port area with cranes, tankers, and mighty container cargo ships.

Once there was a small fire in the port, and I could see each and every detail of it. But now, everything changed. Two explosions, one relatively small and one enormous, turned the entire port area of Beirut into a war zone, a target of carpet bombing. Or the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.

People running away, in horror. Women and children shouting, crying, clinging to each other. The number of casualties is still unknown. Preliminary reports speak of at least 73 persons killed, but there are most likely hundreds of those who lost their lives. There are those still buried under the rubble, burned beyond recognition. One entire fire brigade just ‘vanished.’ Red Cross reported at least 2,200 people injured. Soon after, the number shut up to 4,000. Several crew members on the UNIFIL vessel, which was docked in the Beirut port, injured. The horrible count goes up and up.

Lebanese medical system, mostly privatized and in terrible shape, cannot cope with the carnage.

Red smoke is levitating above the coast. What is it, really?

Speculations and preliminary analyses are the most alarming.

The Canadian Embassy began headcount of its staff. That fact has been confirmed.

What has been clearly a hoax is that the Embassy sent scientific/medical warnings, which are now circulating all over the social media, such as:

It’s a dropped bomb with depleted uranium (red color). Tell all your loved ones to get away and don’t inhale. Try to go in the opposite direction of the wind.

Truth is getting mixed with the fake news. Whether it was a bomb is a very legitimate question. But the Canadian Embassy definitely did not claim on its social media, that it was.

There is an “urgent message” from AUBMC (American University of Beirut Medical Center), the most prestigious medical facility in the Middle East. It even carries its logo at the top of the page. But when I contacted AUBMC, the staff strongly denied sending such messages:

Everyone in Lebanon needs to stay indoor… From the look of the flame, the explosion looks nitric acid-based. PLEASE STAY INSIDE!!!

There is a long message from AUB president, however, which begins with:

Dear members of the AUB community, I hope you and your loved-ones are safe and starting to recover from the catastrophic explosion which occurred earlier this evening in the Port of Beirut. We already know of thousands of injured and more than 67 dead. Property has been destroyed over an area of many square kilometers, including at AUB and AUBMC. Our hearts and our prayers are with all those injured or lost in this awful tragedy. We must do all we can, and some measure beyond that, to care for those injured and heal the terrible unseen wounds this has created. The AUBMC Emergency Department, our medical faculty, nurses and staff are all responding to hundreds of trauma cases, including a number of serious and critical cases, with great skill and professionalism…

Why are rumors being spread? Who is benefiting? What are the plans?

Each and every piece of information has to be now verified. Scrutinized. Double and triple checked.

Each piece of ‘fake news’ or outright fabrication may lead to yet another “explosion,’ to the worsening of the political violence. Lebanon is at the edge. And always when it is; when it feels this way, thousands of innocent people die. Everybody who has been living here, everyone who understands its history, knows that it is exactly this way here.

It is obvious that there are certain groups in the country, who are interested in spreading chaos in this long-suffering, deeply injured land.

But there are also very legitimate sources that believe that this is an attack by hostile foreign states.

Some trustworthy security sources that I approached are brief in their analyses, and their preliminary conclusions are chilling:

Nuke hit ballistic missile warehouse. The red smoke is fuel.

But I don’t know, yet; nobody knows.

The situation is incredibly confusing. Everybody is still in shock and mourning.

Some fingers are pointing at Israel. Israel denies its involvement and is offering help instead. Trump claims it was a bomb, but does not elaborate.

RT reported earlier on the day of the blasts:

The secretary-general of Lebanon’s Christian Kataeb Party, or Phalange, Nizar Najarian, has been killed.

Kataeb Party is an extremist, violent right-wing Christian party, which is in alliance with the pro-Saudi faction of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Welcome to Lebanon-style political labyrinth!

*****

Meanwhile, Beirut inhabitants are frightened. Lebanon has been faced with enormous problems, for at least one entire year. From huge anti-establishment riots which began in 2019, to the outbreak of COVID-19 followed by lockdowns, severe economic crises, and financial collapse. Eventually, the controlled exchange rate between the Lebanese pound and the U.S. dollar got abandoned, and the local currency went nose-diving; it got sharply devalued. For some time, people could withdraw only a small amount of their savings from the local banks.

Political confrontations have always been pounding Lebanon, but recently they have been on the rise. The country is home to countless political and religious parties and movements, as well as shaky and temporary coalitions. What is on the surface does not necessarily correspond with what is forming the foundations.

For instance, Hezbollah, which is an arch-enemy of Israel and which is now on the U.S. terrorist list, has been actually the most effective social organization, providing de facto social security net for both Muslims and Christians. But it is also a determined and powerful force, always ready to defend Lebanon against the Israeli invasions, therefore constantly on someone’s ‘hit list.’

Extreme right-wing Christians could always swing either way; from antagonizing mistreated Palestinians and siding with Israel, to forming coalitions with Hezbollah. For an outsider, all this makes no sense. But, somehow, it does (often in a perverse way), at least for the Lebanese, and for those of us who have spent a long time in the country.

The explosions took place just a few days before the U.N. court of justice was going to read the verdict, in absentia, against four Hezbollah members, who were allegedly involved in the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon. Some believe there is a link, but I strongly disagree, knowing Hezbollah and its political goals. This attack is definitely not Hezbollah’s ‘style,’ nor would it be in the group’s interests.

Lebanon has always been a timebomb, with dozens of real terrorist organizations forming so-called ‘dormant cells’; all over the country, and naturally all over the city of Beirut. Their proximity to each other, their antagonistic nature, could lead to a catastrophe at any moment.

*****

Al Mayadeen, a left-leaning television channel which is close to both Hezbollah and South American TeleSur, reported in its Arabic service:

Major General Abbas Ibrahim told Al-Mayadeen that it is possible that the explosion came from the highly explosive materials that had been confiscated some time ago, adding that course of investigations cannot be anticipated and when they are finished we will circulate confirmed information.

For his part, the Director-General of Customs announced that nitrate is the cause of the huge explosion in the port of Beirut.

As for the Minister of the Interior, Mohamed Fahmy, during his inspection of the Beirut port, he said, “Investigations must be awaited to find out the cause of the explosion.”

The latest by Al-Mayadeen restated that what exploded was “Ammonium Nitrate.” And Al-Mayadeen is closely connected to Hezbollah. 

*****

Maki, a Japanese aid worker, based in Beirut, commented:

Hope it’s not nuclear. This Mushroom shape of the smoke is very worrying.

Rana, a Lebanese U.N. staff in Beirut, shared her thoughts:

A lot of speculations are going around: an accident in the fireworks storage, an Israeli attack on Hezbollah or army weapons. Nothing is certain right now, except that there are tremendous damage and destruction.

Before the explosions, apparently, there was a drone circling above the area of the disaster.  The footage is clearly depicting its presence in the sky. People are demanding an explanation.

As no one is claiming responsibility, it appears that for at least some time, there will be many more questions than answers. But that is much better than rushed conclusions.

The tragedy is enormous. The entire country is in shock. Emotions are running high. One wrong move and this entire part of the world could go up in flames. Again.

Right now, the most important is to tend to thousands of wounded, bury the victims, and investigate thoroughly and coolheadedly.

This may be the most difficult, the most dangerous moment for Lebanon since the end of the civil war. No time for sectarianism. The country has to unite, grind its teeth, and stoically fight for its very survival.

Those of us who love and miss Lebanon, despite everything, will be suporting it, as much as we can.

UPDATES:

The same day as this essay went to print, three heavy-lift Russian transport planes landed in Beirut, bringing an operation theatre, medical staff, medicine, and other equipment essential for saving lives.

President Trump retracted his statement that the explosion was caused by a missile.

President Emmanuel Macron of France arrived in Beirut, promising support, but raising fears that he may try to force Lebanon back to Western orbit. On 6 August, according to Reuters, he gave a speech in Beirut, declaring: “French aid would not go to “corrupt hands” and he would seek a new deal with political authorities, Reuters reports.”

In the latest update by RT: “The source of the explosion is believed to be almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that was stored at a port warehouse. The blast has taken the lives of at least 135 people, while 5,000 have been injured.”

• Originally published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook (a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences)

Do Not Belittle Protesters in the U.S. by calling their Struggle a “Color Revolution”

For almost a decade, I have been covering “Color Revolutions” in virtually all parts of the world. While making a film for TeleSur, I was facing Egyptian tanks, risking my life under sniper fire, getting roughed-up in the middle of clashes of the supporters of al-Sisi and Morsi.

Together with Syrian commanders, I was also facing the terrorists in Idlib; challenged the Ukrainian fascists; encountering Bolivian indigenous elders high in the Altiplano after the revolution of Evo Morales and MAS was crashed by the U.S.-sponsored coup in 2019. I regularly worked in Venezuela, Lebanon, and Iraq. And, of course, again and again, I have been returning to Hong Kong, reporting on systematic Western attempts to radicalize SAR’s youth and to harm China.

I mention all this just in order to establish that I am very well aware of how those “Color Revolutions” are triggered and implemented.

“Color Revolutions!” Unlike many “analysts” who are now tossing this term left and right, often without ever experiencing the events first hand, I spoke with the people on the ground, examining dynamics, asking endless questions. On many occasions, I was risking my life to get a philosophical context and the story right.

Frankly, I am sick of conspiracy theories, ignorance, clichés, and arrogance of those “analysts” who, from the comfort of their couch, somewhere in Europe or North America, are passing judgments and conclusions, with that proud look of superiority.

Since the police murdered Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis, since the United States literally exploded, since the African Americans, Native Americans and other appallingly oppressed people went to the streets in hundreds of the cities demanding justice; a substantial group of mainly white ‘we-know-everything’ ‘analysts’ began belittling protesters, calling them ‘violent,’ calling them ‘riots,’ calling them ‘creations of Soros and the Zionists’! And at the end, with dark sarcasm, declaring that the United States itself is now suffering from what it has been spreading all over the world for years – from the so-called “Color Revolution.”

Many of those ‘analysts’ became so aggressive and vocal that they literally managed to monopolize the ‘alternative narrative.’ Suddenly, there was hardly any space left for those of us who were continuously writing, using traditional internationalist, left-wing perspective.

*****

First of all, even the term itself – “Color Revolutions” – became a bad cliché.

The Western empire has been destroying the world for some 500+ years, in the most brutal ways imaginable. Hundreds of millions of lives were lost. Entire continents were plundered. People have been enslaved.

At the end of the colonial era, in various parts of our planet, at least some semi-independence was achieved. But countless governments in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America were still taking diktat directly from Washington, London, Paris, and other Western capitals.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the situation looked desperate. But with the rise of China and Russia, as well as Iran, great hope returned, and many countries embarked on the second stage of de-colonialization.

The process was confused and confusing. Each country was different. There were attempts to trigger real revolutions (Egypt), but there were also some clearly anti-revolutionary and right-wing movements (Syria, Ukraine) born.

In many countries where genuine grievances of the people brought masses to the streets, masses which were demanding mainly social and political reforms, the West quickly infiltrated several movements and literally kidnaped the revolutions. This is what happened in Egypt, but also, a few years later, in Lebanon and Iraq.

But to claim that Egypt had not attempted a revolution would be insulting, patronizing, and incorrect! Egypt was suffering from the terrible pro-Western regime and from the military. Egyptian people rose. I was working with a group of Marxist doctors during the process; I saw it all, from the ground, so to speak. But the revolution was infiltrated and finally destroyed.

Cairo battles

In Lebanon, too. For five years, I was based there; in Beirut and Asia. People were fed up with the so-called ‘confessional democracy,’ of the religions tearing-apart the nation, of savage capitalism, collapsed infrastructure, and non-existent social services. Hezbollah, hated by the West and Israel, has been the only solid provider of social services to all deprived Lebanese people, for years and decades. And so, in Lebanon, too, people rose. Late, in 2019, but rose. Sure, a few weeks after, I began spotting clenched fists of “Odpor” and “Canvas” on the Martyr’s Square (those used in Serbia, when President Milosevich was forced out of power, with full sponsorship of the West). Sure, the West began supporting rebels, because it wanted to get rid of Hezbollah, which has been part of the ruling coalition. But people of Lebanon do have thousands of legitimate grievances; reasons to rebel. However, the West has been skillfully infiltrating and, to some extent, manipulating the uprising, which is still going on until this day. And we have no idea where it is all going to lead.

Lebanon

Do you see how complex the situation is? It does not fit any of the simplifications, and clichés! And, of course, it is even more complicated than how I describe it here. It takes entire books to explain.

Syria

Syria: another totally different story, and absolutely distinctive species of “Color Revolutions,” if it is how you want to call it. Some grievances, yes. But also, a solid pan-Arab socialist state, which the West, Saudis, Qataris, Israelis, and other allies of Washington wanted desperately to destroy; government they were aiming to overthrow. After a relatively mild rebellion in Aleppo and Holms, supported by Gulf states coalition, and the West, Saudis and Turks began injecting monstrous, murderous combat forces into Syria from ISIS to Uyghurs, and everything in between.

All these cases of interference from the West are totally distinctive, although some patterns can be detected. And we are still in the same cultural and geographical area.

Maidan from above

Now look further away: Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Hong Kong (China).

In all these places, there are direct interventions, clear counter-revolution! It is financed, supported, and coordinated from Washington, London, Berlin, Paris, and other Western capitals.

Victims of the coup: indigenous elders

In Bolivia, white, racist, fundamentalist Christian elites overthrew, with the full support of the White House, the legitimate multi-cultural, democratic, and enormously successful government of President Evo Morales. It was done after agitation by a small sector of Bolivians, clearly financed from abroad and by the local elites. One month after the coup, I was working all over the Altiplano, taking down testimonies of indigenous people who were humiliated, tortured, abused, even killed by a new illegitimate regime.

That’s quite different ‘scenario,’ isn’t it; different from that in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt? Is it really legitimate to hide it all under one single “Color Revolutions” label?

Look at Cuba: decades and decades of terror against this marvelous island! Passenger airplanes being blown out of the sky. Countless assassination plots against its leaders. Chemical warfare, biological warfare, the bombing of cafes, restaurants, and hotels. All proven and documented. And constant attempts to recruit, radicalize Cuban citizens – to force them against their own government.

Venezuela, a nation that offered tremendous hope to the entire divided continent. Venezuela compassionate, brave, built on solidarity. Look what has been done to her. One coup attempt after another. Embargos. Recruitment of treasonous cadres. Attacks from neighboring Colombia. Another “Color Revolution?” Or merely a campaign of terror?

Hong Kong love for the US

Hong Kong:  a city, former British colony, which has been ‘sacrificed’ by the West, while literally converted into a battleground against the most optimistic country on Earth – China. There, the symbol used to be umbrellas, not colors. Now, there seems to be no symbol, whatsoever, just spite and violence and hate.

It is easy to understand that somehow the label of “Color Revolutions” is trivializing everything.

I am surprised that some conspiracy theorists did not come up with a scheme yet that would say that the very term – “Color Revolutions” – has been invented to belittle what has been done to the world by the imperialist West. To throw everything to one bag and to confuse everything.

*****

Back to the United States.

“Color Revolution” there, too? For heaven’s sake, really?

After the murder of Mr. Floyd, protests are being discredited, again and again, by the people who, one would believe, should be standing by the side of the oppressed. Instead, they call rebellion ‘riots,’ they claim that they are backed by Soros, Gates, others!

The terrible truth emerged: in the United States, there is almost no left anymore. No real left. No internationalist left.

Instead, there are tons of conspiracy theory sites.

Significantly, on the streets of Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, black people are not just demanding justice for themselves; they have been shouting internationalist slogans, demanding justice for the world. It is something new, something marvelous, something you hardly hear in Paris or Berlin.

But this fact goes unnoticed, hardly reported.

The explosion of rage, brave uprising all over the United States, has been targeting those basic foundations of over 200 years long monstrous history on which the country is based. First, the colonialist invasion by the genocidal Europeans, then extermination of the great majority of native people, and simultaneously the most repulsive slavery which was endorsed and used by the founding fathers.

The state of the oppressed people in the U.S.A. today is clearly and directly related, connected to that past. But not only that: the entire state of the world could only be comprehended if viewed in the context of what has been done to the native people and brutalized black slaves in the United States, itself.

Colonialism, extermination campaigns in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, are inter-connected with the plight of non-white people in the United States.

Now, black people in the United States are fighting for themselves and their children, but also for their brothers and sisters in all corners of the world, which is still colonized and plundered by Washington and London.

Do all of the protesters know this? Some do, some don’t, and many feel it, intuitively.

Now, to the point which is made by those who are trying to discredit this uprising: is all this also a power-struggle inside the U.S. establishment? Are Democrats, for instance, trying to manipulate the situation, using it to their advantage?

I have no doubt that there are such attempts. Almost everyone in the United States is always using things, looking for advantages. This is what people are taught to do, living in a savage capitalist system.

But these are two distinct issues!

Even if Gates, Soros, deep state, Democrats, mass media outlets, and who knows who else, wants to kidnap the narrative and derail the uprising, it changes nothing on the fact that the peoples whose lives were, for generations, ruined, are now pissed off no end, and that their rebellion may shake the foundations of the entire country, and the terrible world order!

Even now, as this is being written, the uprising in the U.S. already inspired new movement @PapuanLivesMatter, which is referring to an ongoing genocide in West Papua, performed by the Indonesian state on behalf of Western governments and mining companies.

And this is just a beginning.

Grievances are legitimate. Struggle for justice is legitimate. The essential thing now is to separate the fight against racism, colonialism, and imperialism, from the political interests of the establishment, or part of it.

This separation can only happen on the barricades. And since the education has been kidnapped by the regime, there has to be an accelerated injection of the revolutionary education administered to both protesters and the general public. Education about both the past and the present.

But we should not give up on the protesters!

And calling their uprising “Color Revolution” is disrespectful and, yes, racist!

Their rage is legitimate. And, of course, the rage of the people all over the world is legitimate, too, without any doubt.

Conclusion

Point one: Blanket term “Color Revolutions” is wrong. Those who are promoting it are actually confusing the situation. During the last years and decades, the West has been using many different tactics on how to overthrow governments, subvert legitimate movements and revolutions, and deter revolutionary and anti-colonialist struggle. Each has to be examined and exposed separately, individually. Otherwise, it would create indigestible, on purpose confusing mass, and further damage independence struggle. Otherwise, nihilism would be spread, and revolutionary zeal deterred.

Point two: in the United States – the ongoing struggle against racism, segregation, and imperialism is a legitimate struggle, which is having a tremendous and positive influence on the entire world. If there are political interests that are trying to undermine and derail it, they should be exposed by the people in the United States. But it does not mean at all that the protesters should be discouraged, let alone ridiculed. Those who are fighting for justice, and for the entire world, should be embraced and full-heartedly supported!

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Why Israel Fears the Nakba: How Memory Became Palestine’s Greatest Weapon

On May 15, thousands of Palestinians in Occupied Palestine and throughout the ‘shatat’, or diaspora, participated in the commemoration of Nakba Day, the one event that unites all Palestinians, regardless of their political differences or backgrounds.

For years, social media has added a whole new stratum to this process of commemoration. #Nakba72, along with #NakbaDay and #Nakba, have all trended on Twitter for days. Facebook was inundated with countless stories, videos, images, and statements, written by Palestinians, or in global support of the Palestinian people.

The dominant Nakba narrative remains — 72 years following the destruction of historic Palestine at the hands of Zionist militias — an opportunity to reassert the centrality of the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees. Over 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes in Palestine in 1947-48. The surviving refugees and their descendants are now estimated at over five million.

As thousands of Palestinians rallied on the streets and as the Nakba hashtag was generating massive interest on social media, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, paid an eight-hour visit to Israel to discuss the seemingly imminent Israeli government annexation, or theft, of nearly 30% of the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

“The Israeli government will decide on the matter, on exactly when and how to do it,” Pompeo said in an interview with Israeli radio, Kan Bet, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Clearly, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has American blessing to further its colonization of occupied Palestine, to entrench its existing Apartheid regime, and to act as if the Palestinians simply do not exist.

The Nakba commemoration and Pompeo’s visit to Israel are a stark representation of Palestine’s political reality today.

Considering the massive US political sway, why do Palestinians then insist on making demands which, according to the pervading realpolitik of the so-called Palestinian-Israeli conflict, seem unattainable?

Since the start of the peace process in Oslo in the early 1990s, the Palestinian leadership has engaged with Israel and its western benefactors in a useless political exercise that has, ultimately, worsened an already terrible situation. After over 25 years of haggling over bits and pieces of what remained of historic Palestine, Israel and the US are now plotting the endgame, while demonizing the very Palestinian leaders that participated in their joint and futile political charade.

Strangely, the rise and demise of the so-called ‘peace process’ did not seem to affect the collective narrative of the Palestinian people, who still see the Nakba, not the Israeli occupation of 1967, and certainly not the Oslo accords, as the core point in their struggle against Israeli colonialism.

This is because the collective Palestinian memory remains completely independent from Oslo and its many misgivings. For Palestinians, memory is an active process. It is not a docile, passive mechanism of grief and self-pity that can easily be manipulated, but a generator of new meanings.

In their seminal book “Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory”, Ahmad Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod wrote that “Palestinian memory is, at its heart, political.”

This means that the powerful and emotive commemoration of the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba is essentially a collective political act, and, even if partly unconscious, a people’s retort and rejection of Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’, of Pompeo’s politicking, and of Netanyahu’s annexation drive.

Despite the numerous unilateral measures taken by Israel to determine the fate of the Palestinian people, the blind and unconditional US support of Israel, and the unmitigated failure of the Palestinian Authority to mount any meaningful resistance, Palestinians continue to remember their history and understand their reality based on their own priorities.

For many years, Palestinians have been accused of being unrealistic, of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” and even of extremism, for simply insisting on their historical rights in Palestine, as enshrined in international law.

These critical voices are either supporters of Israel, or simply unable to understand how Palestinian memory factors in shaping the politics of ordinary people, independent of the quisling Palestinian leadership or the seemingly impossible-to-overturn status quo. True, both trajectories, that of the stifling political reality and people’s priorities seem to be in constant divergence, with little or no overlapping.

However, a closer look is revealing: the more belligerent Israel becomes, the more stubbornly Palestinians hold on to their past. There is a reason for this.

Occupied, oppressed and refugee camps-confined Palestinians have little control over many of the realities that directly impact their lives. There is little that a refugee from Gaza can do to dissuade Pompeo from assigning the West Bank to Israel, or a Palestinian refugee from Ein El-Helweh in Lebanon to compel the international community to enforce the long-delayed Right of Return.

But there is a single element that Palestinians, regardless of where they are, can indeed control: their collective memory, which remains the main motivator of their legendary steadfastness.

Hannah Arendt wrote in 1951 that totalitarianism is a system that, among other things, forbids grief and remembrance, in an attempt to sever the individual’s or group’s relation to the continuous past.

For decades, Israel has done just that, in a desperate attempt to stifle the memory of the Palestinians, so that they are only left with a single option, the self-defeating peace process.

In March 2011, the Israeli parliament introduced the ‘Nakba Law’, which authorized the Israeli Finance Ministry to carry out financial measures against any institution that commemorates Nakba Day.

Israel is afraid of Palestinian memory, since it is the only facet of its war against the Palestinian people that it cannot fully control; the more Israel labors to erase the collective memory of the Palestinian people, the more Palestinians hold tighter to the keys of their homes and to the title deed of their land back in their lost homeland.

There can never be a just peace in Palestine until the priorities of the Palestinian people —  their memories, and their aspirations — become the foundation of any political process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Everything that operates outside this paradigm is null and void, for it will never herald peace or instill true justice. This is why Palestinians remember; for, over the years, their memory has proven to be their greatest weapon.

Iran:  Socialist, Internationalist, Powerful and Determined

I refuse to describe Iran as a victim. It is not. It is one of the most influential and strong-minded nations on Earth.

When facing mortal danger, its people unite, harden themselves and get ready to face invaders, no matter how threatening they might be.

Iran determined despite attacks

Iran is home to one of the oldest and deepest cultures in the world, and it’s precisely this culture that helps Iranian people to survive the most frightening moments.

And one such moment is sadly right now.

*****

U.S. battleships are sailing right next to the Iranian territorial waters. One mistake, one false move, and war could erupt, engulfing the entire region in flames. Iran is a proud nation, and it takes its independence extremely seriously.

Right now, the country is facing one of the most unjust embargos in human history. It is being punished for nothing; or more precisely, for sticking to all the points of the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as The Iran Nuclear Deal, which it signed in 2015 with China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany, and which the United States abandoned, without providing any logical explanation. While not particularly happy about the U.S. withdrawal; Germany, France and U.K. are doing all they can not to anger their senior partner, and its leaders in Washington.

Add COVID-19, and inability of the country, due to sanctions, to buy medical equipment, at least in the West, and you have the perfect scenario for a national calamity and even for imminent collapse.

Or more precisely, anywhere else this would be the case, but not in Iran!

After receiving terrible blows from the West, one after another, Iran has never fallen to its knees. It has never abandoned its internationalist and socialist course (socialist, with Iranian characteristics), and it has preserved its dignity.

What it has managed to achieve is amazing, nothing short of heroic, given the circumstances.

*****

If you look at the latest, 2019 HDI (Human Development Index, compiled and published by the UNDP), Iran is in the High Human Development bracket, and only 3 steps from the Highest Human Development group of countries. Which is thoroughly amazing, given the above-mentioned sanctions, embargos and constant military intimidations.

In Tehran, monument to nuclear scientists murdered from abroad

Whenever I visit Iran, I am astonished by its public spaces, cultural institutions, public transportation, fountains, comfortable trains… The country is functioning well, showing incredible grace under pressure. Its television channel – PressTV – is one of the most important anti-imperialist news outlets in the world. I don’t see extreme misery, or homelessness, there. Iranians are polite, well-educated and proud. They have to deal with complex exchange rates, which I do not understand. Whenever I pay in a café or taxi, I simply extend my hand full of local currency, and I never get cheated. Things are solid and reassuring there; I feel it and really appreciate it.

Iran is an internationalist country. Not unlike Cuba or Venezuela, who are its long-term allies. Even when injured, itself, it helps others, those who need solidarity even more. This can never be forgotten, particularly in places like Latin America, or Syria.

Hezbollah, Iran’s close ally in the Middle East, is fighting the most dangerous terrorist groups in Syria; those groups that have been injected there by the West, but also by Washington’s allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But Hezbollah is also essentially the only social net for the poor in Syria’s neighbor – Lebanon. And not only for the Shi’a Muslims, but also for the disadvantaged Sunni citizens, for the Christians, and non-believers. Whoever is destitute in Lebanon comes to Hezbollah for assistance. I was based in Beirut for five years, and I know what I am talking about. All this, while the Lebanese elites are burning money in Paris, in Nice, in the nightclubs of Beirut, driving their lavish cars through the slums. And the more Iran and Hezbollah help the region, the more frustrated, outraged and aggressive the West gets.

Look at Palestine. When it comes to the liberation of the Palestinian people from the long and brutal Israeli occupation, the Gulf countries just talk and talk. In the end, some of them side with the West and Israel. The closest, the most determined allies of the long-suffering Palestinian people in the region, are, without doubt, Iran and Syria. That, everybody in the Middle East, knows, and it is only “a secret” to Westerners.

In Afghanistan, particularly in Herat, I witnessed long lines of Afghan people in front of the Iranian consulate. Devastated by the NATO occupation, Afghanistan is in despair, rated as a country with the shortest life expectancy in Asia, and the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) on the Asian continent. Tens of thousands of the Afghan people have been travelling to Iran in search of jobs. Without Iran, Herat would most likely starve to death. And now, Iran is searching for ways, (together with China and Russia), how to help Afghanistan to find a political solution, and send the NATO forces packing.

For years, all the Socialist countries of Latin America could always rely on Iran. Be it Bolivia, before the legitimate government of Evo Morales was overthrown, or Cuba and especially Venezuela. Iran has been building social housing, it was helping with oil technology, and with many other social essentials.

Iraq and Iran, two great nations, in the past brutally pitched against each other by Washington, are once again cooperating, working together. The Western occupation has already thoroughly ruined Iraq (as it has ruined Afghanistan), historically one of the richest countries in the region. However, more positively Iran gets involved in neighboring Iraq, the more aggressively the West behaves. It now habitually crosses all the lines of acceptable behavior. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike murdered Iran’s national hero, General Quasem Soleimani, while he was travelling right near the Baghdad International Airport.

For years now, Iran has been standing shoulder to shoulder with Russia, China, Syria, Venezuela and Cuba; the nations which are openly and bravely deterring the aggression and brutality of Western imperialism.

Iranian cinema, world famous. Filming on the streets

It seems that no matter what the West tries to do, Iran cannot be broken. Despite the embargos and sanctions, it demonstrates that it is capable of producing and shooting satellites into space, or of producing its own medical equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While the nation creates its great scientific and technological achievements, Iranian filmmakers keep producing their cinematic masterpieces. What a nation!

Unfortunately, all this is hidden from the eyes and ears of the public, both in the West and in the client states. There, Iran is portrayed as a “threat”.

*****

Look at this irony. On April 30, 2020, Reuters released a report about the German move to ban Hezbollah:

Last December, Germany’s parliament approved a motion urging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to ban all activities by Hezbollah on German soil, citing its “terrorist activities” especially in Syria.

On a trip to Berlin last year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped Germany would follow Britain in banning Hezbollah. Britain introduced legislation in February of last year that classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

When the West says “Terrorist activities, especially in Syria”, what it really means is “fighting the terrorism injected by the West and its allies, into Syria”. Everything is twisted, perverted and turned upside-down by the propaganda outlets operating out of the United States, Europe, Israel and the Gulf.

“Terrorist activities” outside Syria, also means supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence, as well as at least moral support for Syria in its attempts to regain the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, an occupation which has never been recognized, even by the United Nations. It also means helping Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Latin American countries, which are brutalized (or should we say ‘terrorized’) relentlessly by Washington and its allies.

This is precisely the logic and lexicon which was used by German propagandists during WWII to describe resistance forces in its colonies. Freedom fighters and partisans were labeled as terrorists in France, Yugoslavia, Ukraine.

*****

Even the otherwise mainstream newspaper – The Independent – published on May 1, 2020 a report critical of the bizarre U.S. scheming against Iran:

The United States is pushing ahead with a scheme to extend a United Nations arms embargo on Iran that is due to be lifted in October as part of the nuclear deal that Washington abandoned two years ago.

To force the extension, Washington will attempt to lobby the Security Council to continue the arms embargo, which bars weapons sales to or from Iran.

But it also is making what legal experts and diplomats describe as a convoluted argument that it is still part of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action it left, and hence able to use one of its provisions to “snapback” the embargo.

This weird political somersault has been, according to The Independent, criticized even by one of Washington’s allies, the French President Emmanuel Macron:

China and Russia have already vowed to use any means to block the US plan. France’s Emmanuel Macron has been working behind the scenes to sabotage the Trump scheme because of what it sees as an attempt by the White House to destroy international legal norms, said a well-placed European diplomat.

France, the U.K., Germany and other EU countries are not necessarily happy with Washington’s foreign policy towards Iran, but their outrage is far from being moral indignation. Iran is big and it is far from being poor. European companies are losing billions of euros in trade because of the sanctions. For instance, in the recent past, two Iranian airlines were ready to purchase large numbers of brand-new Airbus aircraft, in order to compete with Qatar Airways and the Emirates. Such plans collapsed because of the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the almost immediate imposition of new, senseless but brutal sanctions against Teheran. Now even Mahan Air, a civilian airline, is facing sanctions, allegedly because of its flights to Venezuela, and to several Middle Eastern destinations.

*****

Now, many are perhaps wondering what triggered in the West such hate towards Iran?

There is a well-hidden (again, in the West) secret regarding Iran: “It is a Socialist country. Socialist with Iranian characteristics.”

In his latest and by all means ground-breaking book about Iran (“Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism”), which our publishing house Badak Merah will be publishing later in May 2020, an Iranian author and the PressTV Paris chief correspondent, Ramin Mazaheri, passionately defends the Iranian socialist concept:

I think that if open-minded leftists would simply become aware of the facts and… modern socialist interpretations of Iran’s policies – many of which I’m sure are being presented in English for the first time – I’m sure that they would not be waiting breathlessly for the collapse of the Middle East’s greatest bulwark against imperialism and capitalism.

It is urgent that Western leftists understand that the reversal of Iran’s popular, democratic revolution would have incredibly negative ramifications for the anti-imperialist movement in the Middle East, and thus the global anti-imperialist movement, and it certainly would be the cruelest loss for Islamic Socialism, which is taken quite seriously in the Muslim world even if atheistic Trotskyism cannot even discuss the concept without resorting to insults.

And, of course, a counter-revolution in Iran would be a major blow for global democracy, as there is no doubt that the Iranian People support their revolution, constitution and unique system in a democratic majority.

Like Russia and China in Euro Asia and in Asia, like Venezuela, Cuba and before the coup, Bolivia, Iran is spreading hope and revolutionary optimism in its entire part of the world. And it is an extremely wounded part of the world where hope is absent but desperately needed.

Spreading hope – that is never forgiven by the Western empire which, like some gigantic and sadistic prison warden, constantly demands submission while spreading depression and fear.

In the entirety of modern history, Iran has never invaded, never attacked anyone. Iran is a peaceful nation. But at the same time, it is a powerful, brave and proud country.

The United States and its turbo-capitalist regime understand brutal force, only. They do not comprehend, do not appreciate cultural nuances, let alone depth. Pity! There is so much to learn from Iran and its culture.

Iran will not attack anyone. That is clear as is proven by history. But if physically confronted, it will defend itself, and its people. It will fight, well and bravely.

The West should know: if it triggers a war with Iran, the entire Middle East will be consumed by terrible fire.

*****

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook,  a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Arabs, UN Must Move to Swiftly Protect the Status of Palestinian Refugees

‘Heinous racism,’ is how the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor described a recent decision by Lebanese authorities to bar Palestinian refugee expats from returning to Lebanon.

Lebanon’s restrictions on its ever-diminishing population of Palestinian refugees is nothing new. However, this event is particularly alarming as it may be linked to a long-term official policy regarding the residency status of Palestinian refugees in this Arab country.

Many were taken aback by a recent Lebanese government’s order to its embassy in the United Arab Emirates, instructing it to prevent Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes in Lebanon.

Tariq Hajjar, a legal advisor to the Euro-Med Monitor said in a statement that “the circular includes heinous racial discrimination against Palestinian refugees holding Lebanese travel documents.”

Hajjar rightly insisted that “the holder of this document should receive similar treatment to the Lebanese citizen.”

Indeed they should, as has been the practice for many years. Otherwise, there is no other place where these refugees can possibly go, considering that Lebanon has been their home for decades, starting in 1948 when Israel forcefully expelled nearly a million Palestinians from their historic homeland.

Refugees, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, should be treated with respect and dignity, no matter the political complexity of their host countries. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon cannot be made an exception.

Last April, the Palestinian Association for Human Rights called on the United Nations to provide financial assistance to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees, indicating that due to the coronavirus pandemic, a whopping 90 percent of all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have lost their jobs.

Under discriminatory Lebanese laws, Palestinian refugees are not allowed to practice 72 types of jobs that are available to Lebanese nationals. This is merely one of many other such restrictions. Thus, employed Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (the vast majority of whom are now unemployed) have been competing within a very limited work market.

A large number of those refugees have been employed at the various projects operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Many of those who were lucky enough to receive university degrees opted to leave the country altogether, mostly working in the teaching, engineering, banking, and medical sectors in Arab Gulf countries.

However, due to the coronavirus, the severe financial hardship suffered by UNRWA and to new Lebanese government regulations, all doors are now being shut in the face of Palestinian refugees.

For thousands of those refugees, the only remaining option is sailing the high seas in search for a better refugee status in Europe. Yet, sadly, tens of thousands of those refugees are now living a miserable life in European camps, or stranded in Turkey. Hundreds drowned while undertaking these perilous journeys.

According to a recent survey by  the Lebanese Central Administration of Statistics, conducted jointly with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, only 175,000 (from nearly half a million) Palestinian refugees still reside in Lebanon.

That said, the Palestinian refugee tragedy in Lebanon is only a facet in a much larger ailment that is unique to the Palestinian refugee experience.

Syria’s Palestinian refugees arrived in the country in waves, starting with the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine during the ‘Nakba’, or Catastrophe. Others fled the Golan Heights after the Israeli invasion in 1967. Many more fled Lebanon during the Israeli 1982 invasion.

The relatively safe Syrian haven was ruptured during the ongoing Syria war started in 2011. UNRWA’s mission, which allowed it to provide the nearly half a million Palestinian refugees in Syria with direct support was made nearly impossible because of the destructive war, and the fact that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled the country or became internally displaced.

The devastating impact of the Syrian war on Palestinian refugees was almost an exact copy of what had transpired earlier during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the case of Iraq, where most of the country’s 35,000 refugees fled, the Palestinian refugee crisis was particularly compounded. While Palestinians enjoyed a permanent residence status (though no ownership rights) in Iraq before the war, they were still not recognized as refugees as per international standards, since UNRWA does not operate in Iraq. Post-2003 Iraqi governments exploited this fact to the fullest, leading to the displacement of the country’s Palestinian population.

Since its advent, the US Administration of President Donald Trump has waged a financial war on the Palestinians, including the cutting of all aids to UNRWA. This infamous act has added layers of suffering to the existing hardships of refugees.

On May 5, UNRWA, somberly declared that it only has enough cash to sustain its operations until the end of the month.

The truth is that, long before Trump targeted the UN agency, UNRWA has functioned for over 70 years with an inherent vulnerability.

UNRWA was established exclusively with a UN mandate that provided the organization with a “separate and special status” to assist Palestinian refugees.

Arab governments, at the time, were keen for UNRWA to maintain this ‘special status’ based on their belief that lumping Palestinian refugees with the burgeoning world refugee crisis (resulting mostly from War World II) would downgrade the urgency of the Palestinian plight.

However, while that logic may have applied successfully in the immediate years following the ‘Nakba’, it proved costly in later years, as the status and definition of what constitute a Palestinian refugee remained historically linked to UNRWA’s scope of operations.

This became clear during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, but, especially, since the start of political upheavals and subsequent wars in the Middle East in the last decade.

This is precisely why the US and Israel are keen on dismantling UNRWA, because, according to their logic, if UNRWA ceases to operate, the Palestinian refugee ceases to exist with any status that makes him/her unique.

Such precarious reality calls for an urgent and creative solution that should be spearheaded by Arab countries, UN-registered NGOs, and friends of Palestine everywhere.

What is needed today is a UN-adopted formula that would allow the legal status of Palestinian refugees under international law to remain active regardless of  UNRWA’s scope of operation, while providing Palestinian refugees with the material and financial support required for them to live with dignity until the Right of Return, in accordance to UN Resolution 194 of 1948, is finally enforced.

For the rights of Palestinian refugees to be maintained and for the Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria scenarios not to be repeated, the Arab League must work within the framework of international law – as determined by the UN General Assembly – to safeguard the Palestinian refugees’ legal status which is currently under an unprecedented attack.

Palestinian refugees must not have to choose between forfeiting their legal and unalienable right in their own homeland and accepting a life of perpetual degradation and uncertainty.

How is Washington “Liberating” Free Countries

There are obviously some serious linguistic issues and disagreements between the West and the rest of the world. Essential terms like “freedom”, “democracy”, “liberation”, even “terrorism”, are all mixed up and confused; they mean something absolutely different in New York, London, Berlin, and in the rest of the world.

Before we begin analyzing, let us recall that countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States, as well as other Western nations, have been spreading colonialist terror to basically all corners of the world. And in the process, they developed effective terminology and propaganda which has been justifying, even glorifying, acts such as looting, torture, rape and genocides. Basically, first Europe, and later North America literally “got away with everything, including mass murder”. The native people of Americas, Africa and Asia have been massacred, their voices silenced. Slaves were imported from Africa. Great Asian nations, such as China, what is now “India” and Indonesia, got occupied, divided and thoroughly plundered.

And all was done in the name of spreading religion, “liberating” people from themselves, as well as “civilizing them”.

Nothing has really changed.

To date, people of great nations with thousands of years of culture, are treated like infants; humiliated, and as if they were still in kindergarten, told how to behave, and how to think.

Sometimes if they “misbehave”, they get slapped. Periodically they get slapped so hard, that it takes them decades, even centuries, to get back to their feet. It took China decades to recover from the period of “humiliation”. India and Indonesia are presently trying to recuperate from the colonial barbarity, and from, in the case of Indonesia, the 1965 U.S.-administered fascist coup.

But if you go back to the archives in London, Brussels or Berlin, all the monstrous acts of colonialism, are justified by lofty terms. Western powers are always “fighting for justice”; they are “enlightening” and “liberating”. No regrets, no shame and no second thoughts. They are always correct!

Like now — precisely as it is these days.

Presently, the West is trying to overthrow governments in several independent countries on different continents. From Bolivia (the country has been already destroyed) to Venezuela, from Iraq to Iran, to China and Russia. The more successful these countries get, the better they serve their people, the more vicious the attacks from abroad are, the tougher the embargos and sanctions imposed on them are. The happier the citizens are, the more grotesque the propaganda disseminated from the West gets.

*****

In Hong Kong, some young people, out of financial interest, or out of ignorance, keep shouting: “President Trump, Please Liberate Us!” Or similar, but equally treasonous slogans. They are waving U.S., U.K. and German flags. They beat up people who try to argue with them, including their own Police Force.

So, let us see, how the United States really “liberates” countries in various pockets of the world.

Let us visit Iran, a country which (you’d never guess it if consuming only Western mass media) is, despite the vicious embargos and sanctions, on the verge of the “highest human development index bracket” (UNDP). How is it possible? Simple. Because Iran is a socialist country (socialism with the Iranian characteristics). It is also an internationalist nation which is fighting against Western imperialism. It helps many occupied and attacked states on our planet, including Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia (before), Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, to name just a few.

So, what is the West doing? It is trying to ruin it, by all means; ruin all good will and progress. It is starving Iran through sanctions, it finances and encourages its “opposition”, as it does in China, Russia and Latin America. It is trying to destroy it.

Then, it just bombs their convoy in neighboring Iraq, killing its brave commander, General Soleimani. And, as if it was not horrid enough, it turns the tables around, and starts threatening Teheran with more sanctions, more attacks, and even with the destruction of its cultural sites.

Iran, under attack, confused, shot down, by mistake, a Ukrainian passenger jet. It immediately apologized, in horror, offering compensation. The U.S. straightway began digging into the wound. It started to provoke (like in Hong Kong) young people. The British ambassador, too, got involved!

As if Iran and the rest of the world should suddenly forget that during its attack on Iraq, more than 3 decades ago, Washington actually shot down an Iranian wide-body passenger plane (Iran Air flight 655, an Airbus-300), on a routine flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai. In an “accident”, 290 people, among them 66 children, lost their lives. That was considered “war collateral”.

Iranian leaders then did not demand “regime change” in Washington. They were not paying for riots in New York or Chicago.

As China is not doing anything of that nature, now.

The “Liberation” of Iraq (in fact, brutal sanctions, bombing, invasion and occupation) took more than a million Iraqi lives, most of them, those of women and children. Presently, Iraq has been plundered, broken into pieces, and on its knees.

Is this the kind of “liberation” that some of the Hong Kong youngsters really want?

No? But if not, is there any other performed by the West, in modern history?

*****

Washington is getting more and more aggressive in all parts of the world.

It also pays more and more for collaboration.

And it is not shy to inject terrorist tactics into allied troops, organizations and non-governmental organizations. Hong Kong is no exception.

Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, China, Venezuela, but also many other countries, should be carefully watching and analyzing each and every move made by the United States. The West is perfecting tactics on how to liquidate all opposition to its dictates.

It is not called a “war”, yet. But it is. People are dying. The lives of millions are being ruined.

• First published by China Daily – Hong Kong

A Note on Carlos Ghosn and Global Capitalism

The boss of world car maker Nissan  — arrested and under intense surveillance around his luxury mansion, and charged with gorging himself with about $140 million of unauthorized pay1 — makes a daring escape from under the nose of Japanese authorities and across half the world. It will take months for details of how Carlos Ghosn ran away to become public, and probably years to verify which of them are true and which are diversionary stories. However, the lessons about global capitalism are already plain to see.

* Ghosn rose up the managerial ladder at vehicle maker Renault in France by showing his mettle as a ruthless exploiter of labor. His nickname, Le Cost Killer, was well earned.2 At the Renault factory in Flins, workers must stay at their station the entire eight-hour shift with two ten-minute toilet breaks. They burst into tears because they cannot help wetting their clothes. Nearly half the workers are on temporary contracts that run one to three months.3

* When Japanese car maker Nissan was on the verge of financial collapse in 1999, it formed a loose alliance with Renault and received an investment. Renault obtained about 40 percent of Nissan — and installed Ghosn as the boss.4  It was a major break for Japanese industry to accept a foreigner as chief. Ghosn laid off 20,000 and closed factories, which got the profits flowing again.

* Several years ago Ghosn began to push for a complete merger of Nissan and Renault in a consolidating global industry. But it seems the exploiters could not agree how to divide the profits. Nissan generates most of them, and high Japanese executives and Japan Capital in general feel that Renault wants too big a share.5

* Ghosn kept up the merger drive. This is the real reason, he says, why he was arrested and charged with plundering Nissan of undeclared money, putting luxury mansions in Japan, France, and Brazil on the corporate tab, and hiding a murky deal with Saudi businessmen.6  Ghosn counterchares that he is a victim of selective prosecution, asserting that executives in Japan do this stuff all the time.

* Unable to squeeze Ghosn to leave the scene quietly, the Japanese government released him on bail after four months in jail, re-arrested him last April, and largely confined him to his mansion. Ghosn could not have a phone or use the Internet, and his wife could not visit him.7  Ghosn’s trial was to begin in April 2020 but then was put off to autumn 2020 or even into 2021.

* Ghosn had enough. With his wealth and global connections, he put together a bold plot. Somehow Ghosn left his house despite 24-hour surveillance by several cameras. He allegedly took a private jet to Istanbul (chartered under a false name),8 changed to another private jet without going through Turkish arrival and departure clearances, and flew to Beirut, Lebanon, the city where he grew up and where he apparently enjoys government protection and presidential affection.

While the press debates the inhumane procedures of Japanese courts and confinement versus the illegal flight of Ghosn, it gives little attention to the fact that the Ghosn-Nissan-Renault affair is a clash among thieves over the profits sweated from hundreds of thousands of workers. For twenty years the press adored Ghosn for his talents at exploitation.

The escape drama underlines that the globalization of corporations, production, and supply chains does not create a unified capitalist class. Just the opposite, the battle of capitalist interests becomes global, too.

Despite intellectuals who chatter about the surpassing of national sovereignty9, state power remains more important than ever. Ghosn found refuge in Lebanon. Japan and Lebanon have no extradition treaty. State boundaries define limits of coercive state power, a reality that currently infuriates Japanese authorities.

Incidentally, the detail about workers forced to urinate in their pants was published by a mainstream newspaper in Japan almost a year ago, when the capitalist media there were in the process of removing Ghosn’s crown.

Hollywood will most likely make a suspense thriller about Carlos Ghosn’s escape. The movie might portray the contention between capitalists, but it will hardly underline the fact that it is all a fight over the spoils of exploitation. The Godfather is a brilliant epic showing that the mafia reproduces big business in miniature, but the first part in particular hides what the mafia is about: it extorts small businesses, preys upon working people susceptible to the vain hope of gambling and the doomed refuge of drugs, and hires out thugs to employers when workers want to unionize.

There is no greater drama than socialist revolution. Hollywood has yet to make a movie about how Lenin got out of tsarist-imposed exile in neutral Switzerland during the First World War and traveled with associates in a special closed train to Russia shortly after the revolution of 1917 began. History will tuck Carlos Ghosn away in a footnote — and see new triumphs on the path that Lenin took.

  1. How Carlos Ghosn Hid $140 Million in Compensation From Nissan,” Bloomberg, September 23, 2019.
  2. “‘Le Cost Killer’ faces toughest test,” The Telegraph, July 4, 2006.
  3. Renault factory workers in poor labor conditions have no sympathy for ‘cost-cutter’ Ghosn,” Mainichi, February 3, 2019.
  4. Nissan and Renault cement ties,” BBC News, 30 October 30, 2001.
  5. Renault presses Nissan again for merger,” Nikkei Asian Review, April 22, 2019.
  6. Carlos Ghosn: the charges against him,” France 24, January 8, 2020.
  7. Factbox: Ghosn’s bail conditions – Surveillance cameras, no internet access,” Reuters, December 30, 2019.
  8. Private jet firm says it was duped over Carlos Ghosn escape,” Guardian, January 3, 2020.
  9. See, for example, Peter Wilson, “The end of sovereignty,” Prospect, March 24, 2016.