Category Archives: United Nations

In Bahrain, the Horizon of Peace stretched Further Away from Palestinians

Donald Trump’s supposed “deal of the century”, offering the Palestinians economic bribes in return for political submission, is the endgame of western peace-making, the real goal of which has been failure, not success.

For decades, peace plans have made impossible demands of the Palestinians, forcing them to reject the terms on offer and thereby create a pretext for Israel to seize more of their homeland.

The more they have compromised, the further the diplomatic horizon has moved away – to the point now that the Trump administration expects them to forfeit any hope of statehood or a right to self-determination.

Even Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and architect of the peace plan, cannot really believe the Palestinians will be bought off with their share of the $50 billion inducement he hoped to raise in Bahrain last week.

That was why the Palestinian leadership stayed away.

But Israel’s image managers long ago coined a slogan to obscure a policy of incremental dispossession, masquerading as a peace process: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

It is worth examining what those landmark “missed opportunities” consisted of.

The first was the United Nations’ Partition Plan of late 1947. In Israel’s telling, it was Palestinian intransigence over dividing the land into separate Jewish and Arab states that triggered war, leading to the creation of a Jewish state on the ruins of most of the Palestinians’ homeland.

But the real story is rather different.

The recently formed UN was effectively under the thumb of the imperial powers of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. All three wanted a Jewish state as a dependent ally in the Arab-dominated Middle East.

Fueled by the dying embers of western colonialism, the Partition Plan offered the largest slice of the Palestinian homeland to a minority population of European Jews, whose recent immigration had been effectively sponsored by the British empire.

As native peoples elsewhere were being offered independence, Palestinians were required to hand over 56 per cent of their land to these new arrivals. There was no chance such terms would be accepted.

However, as Israeli scholars have noted, the Zionist leadership had no intention of abiding by the UN plan either. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, called the Jewish state proposed by the UN “tiny”. He warned that it could never accommodate the millions of Jewish immigrants he needed to attract if his new state was not rapidly to become a second Arab state because of higher Palestinian birth rates.

Ben Gurion wanted the Palestinians to reject the plan, so that he could use war as a chance to seize 78 per cent of Palestine and drive out most of the native population.

For decades, Israel was happy to entrench and, after 1967, expand its hold on historic Palestine.

In fact, it was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who made the biggest, unreciprocated concessions to peace. In 1988, he recognised Israel and, later, in the 1993 Olso accords, he accepted the principle of partition on even more dismal terms than the UN’s – a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

Even so, the Oslo process stood no serious chance of success after Israel refused to make promised withdrawals from the occupied territories. Finally, in 2000 President Bill Clinton called together Arafat and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to a peace summit at Camp David.

Arafat knew Israel was unwilling to make any meaningful compromises and had to be bullied and cajoled into attending. Clinton promised the Palestinian leader he would not be blamed if the talks failed.

Israel ensured they did. According to his own advisers, Barak “blew up” the negotiations, insisting that Israel hold on to occupied East Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa mosque, and large areas of the West Bank. Washington blamed Arafat anyway, and refashioned Israel’s intransigence as a “generous offer”.

A short time later, in 2002, Saudi Arabia’s Peace Initiative offered Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for a minimal Palestinian state. Israel and western leaders hurriedly shunted it into the annals of forgotten history.

After Arafat’s death, secret talks through 2008-09 – revealed in the Palestine Papers leak – showed the Palestinians making unprecedented concessions. They included allowing Israel to annex large tracts of East Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ expected capital.

Negotiator Saeb Erekat was recorded saying he had agreed to “the biggest [Jerusalem] in Jewish history” as well as to only a “symbolic number of [Palestinian] refugees’ return [and a] demilitarised state … What more can I give?”

It was a good question. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s negotiator, responded, “I really appreciate it” when she saw how much the Palestinians were conceding. But still her delegation walked away.

Trump’s own doomed plan follows in the footsteps of such “peace-making”.

In a New York Times commentary last week Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, candidly encapsulated the thrust of this decades-long diplomatic approach. He called on the Palestinians to “surrender”, adding: “Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission.”

The peace process was always leading to this moment. Trump has simply cut through the evasions and equivocations of the past to reveal where the West’s priorities truly lie.

It is hard to believe that Trump or Kushner ever believed the Palestinians would accept a promise of “money for quiet” in place of a state based on “land for peace”.

Once more, the West is trying to foist on the Palestinians an inequitable peace deal. The one certainty is that they will reject it – it is the only issue on which the Fatah and Hamas leaderships are united – again ensuring the Palestinians can be painted as the obstacle to progress.

The Palestinians may have refused this time to stumble into the trap, but they will find themselves the fall guys, whatever happens.

When Trump’s plan crashes, as it will, Washington will have the chance to exploit a supposed Palestinian rejection as justification for approving annexation by Israel of yet more tranches of occupied territory.

The Palestinians will be left with a shattered homeland. No self-determination, no viable state, no independent economy, just a series of aid-dependent ghettos. And decades of western diplomacy will finally have arrived at its preordained destination.

• First published in The National

Canada enables corrupt Haitian president to remain in power

At the front of a protest against Haiti’s president last week a demonstrator carried a large wooden cross bearing the flags of Canada, France and the US. The Haiti Information Project tweeted that protesters “see these three nations as propping up the regime of President Jovenel Moïse. It is also recognition of their role in the 2004 coup.”

Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, Haitian protesters regularly criticize Canada. On dozens of occasions since Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government was overthrown in 2004 marchers have held signs criticizing Canadian policy or rallied in front of the Canadian Embassy in Port-au-Prince. For their part, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force”, “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times.

In the face of months of popular protest, Canada remains hostile to the protesters who represent the impoverished majority. A recent corruption investigation by Haiti’s Superior Court of Auditors and Administrative Disputes has rekindled the movement to oust the Canadian-backed president. The report into the Petrocaribe Fund accuses Moïse’s companies of swindling $2 million of public money. Two billion dollars from a discounted oil program set up by Venezuela was pilfered under the presidency of Moïse’s mentor Michel Martelly.

Since last summer there have been numerous protests, including a weeklong general strike in February, demanding accountability for public funds. Port-au-Prince was again paralyzed during much of last week. In fact, the only reason Moïse — whose electoral legitimacy is paper thin — is hanging on is because of support from the so-called “Core Group” of “Friends of Haiti”.

Comprising the ambassadors of Canada, France, Brazil, Germany and the US, as well as representatives of Spain, EU and OAS, the “Core Group” released another statement effectively backing Moise. The brief declaration called for “a broad national debate, without preconditions”, which is a position Canadian officials have expressed repeatedly in recent weeks. (The contrast with Canada’s position regarding Venezuela’s president reveals a stunning hypocrisy.) But, the opposition has explicitly rejected negotiating with Moïse since it effectively amounts to abandoning protest and bargaining with a corrupt and illegitimate president few in Haiti back.

In another indication of the “Core Group’s” political orientation, their May 30 statement “condemned the acts of degradation committed against the Senate.” Early that day a handful of opposition senators dragged out some furniture and placed it on the lawn of Parliament in a bid to block the ratification of the interim prime minister. Canada’s Ambassador André Frenette also tweeted that “Canada condemns the acts of vandalism in the Senate this morning. This deplorable event goes against democratic principles.” But, Frenette and the “Core Group” didn’t tweet or release a statement about the recent murder of journalist Pétion Rospide, who’d been reporting on corruption and police violence. Nor did they mention the commission that found Moïse responsible for stealing public funds or the recent UN report confirming government involvement in a terrible massacre in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of La Saline in mid-November. Recent Canadian and “Core Group” statements completely ignore Moise’s electoral illegitimacy and downplay the enormity of the corruption and violence against protesters.

Worse still, Canadian officials regularly promote and applaud a police force that has been responsible for many abuses. As I detailed in a November story headlined “Canada backs Haitian government, even as police force kills demonstrators”, Frenette attended a half dozen Haitian police events in his first year as ambassador. Canadian officials continue to attend police ceremonies, including one in March, and offer financial and technical support to the police. Much to the delight of the country’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa has taken the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state since Aristide’s ouster.

On Wednesday Frenette tweeted, “one of the best parts of my job is attending medal ceremonies for Canadian police officers who are known for their excellent work with the UN police contingent in Haiti.” RCMP officer Serge Therriault leads the 1,200-person police component of the Mission des Nations unies pour l’appui à la Justice en Haïti (MINUJUSTH).

At the end of May Canada’s ambassador to the UN Marc-André Blanchard led a United Nations Economic and Social Council delegation to Haiti. Upon his return to New York he proposed creating a “robust” mission to continue MINUJUSTH’s work after its planned conclusion in mid-October. Canadian officials are leading the push to extend the 15-year old UN occupation that took over from the US, French and Canadian troops that overthrew Aristide’s government and was responsible for introducing cholera to the country, which has killed over 10,000.

While Haitians regularly challenge Canadian policy, few in this country raise objections. In response to US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent expression of solidarity with Haitian protesters, Jean Saint-Vil put out a call titled “OH CANADA, TIME TO BE WOKE LIKE ILHAN OMAR & MAXINE WATERS!” The Haitian Canadian activist wrote:

While, in Canada, the black population is taken for granted by major political parties who make no effort to adjust Canadian Foreign policies towards African nations, Haiti and other African-populated nations of the Caribbean, where the Euro-Americans topple democratically-elected leaders, help set up corrupt narco regimes that are friendly to corrupt Canadian mining companies that go wild, exploiting the most impoverished and blackest among us, destroying our environments in full impunity… In the US, some powerful voices have arisen to counter the mainstream covert and/or overt white supremacist agenda. Time for REAL CHANGE in Canada! The Wine & Cheese sessions must end! We eagerly await the statements of Canadian party leaders about the much needed change in Canadian Policy towards Haiti. You will have to deserve our votes, this time around folks!

Unfortunately, Canadian foreign policymakers — the Liberal party in particular — have co-opted/pacified most prominent black voices on Haiti and other international issues. On Monday famed Haitian-Canadian novelist Dany Laferrière attended a reception at the ambassador’s residence in Port-au-Prince while the head of Montréal’s Maison d’Haïti, Marjorie Villefranche, says nary a word about Canadian imperialism in Haiti. A little discussed reason Paul Martin’s government appointed Michaëlle Jean Governor General in September 2005 was to dampen growing opposition to Canada’s coup policy among working class Haitian-Montrealers.

Outside the Haitian community Liberal-aligned groups have also offered little solidarity. A look at the Federation of Black Canadians website and statements uncovers nothing about Canada undermining a country that dealt a massive blow to slavery and white supremacy. (Members of the group’s steering committee recently found time, however, to meet with and then attend a gala put on by the anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.)

A few months ago, Saint-Vil proposed creating a Canadian equivalent to the venerable Washington, D.C. based TransAfrica, which confronts US policy in Africa and the Caribbean. A look at Canadian policy from the Congo to Venezuela, Burkina Faso to Tanzania, suggests the need is great. Anyone seeking to amplify the voices from the streets of Port-au-Prince should support such an initiative.

The Monkey’s Face

The more reified the world becomes, the thicker the veil cast upon nature, the more the thinking weaving that veil in its turn claims ideologically to be nature, primordial experience.
— Theodor M. Adorno, Critical Models, Columbia University Press, 1963

Year after year
On the monkey’s face:
A monkey’s face.
— Basho (translated by Earl Miner)

Nature contains, though often unnoticed, an extraordinary amount of human history.
— Raymond Williams, Culture and Materialism, 2005

It is obvious that an imagined world, however different it may be from the real one, must have something — a form — in common with it.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, May 1, 2007

What I am seeing of late is that the Climate Crises is destroying environmentalism. What I consider real environmentalism. The Climate discourse is quickly being taken over by monied interests whose desire is to save capitalism before they save the planet. They fly (in jets, often private) to conferences in which avacados (or whatever) are flown in from California (or wherever). And there is aristocracy, literally, in attendance. It feels almost required. The British or Dutch Royals, if we’re talking carbon footprints, are tracking in with size 12 Florsheims– while the indigenous activists who toil and are persecuted in places such as Honduras, or Colombia, are not invited. They are of another way of life, the life of actual concern for nature. These conferences are a kind of ceremonial environmentalism.

And the branded progressives of the Democratic Party, Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, feint to the left with tepid rebukes to the establishment, but quickly tack to the right with praise for blood-drenched ghouls like Madeleine Albright and even Gloria Estefan, whose father, in fact, was a bodyguard for Batista. Who “fled” Cuba (meaning fled the evils of communism) and thereby should be seen as a role model of some sort for young liberals and (yes) environmentalists… because brand loyalty being what it is, etc etc.

Meanwhile back at the conference, there is the issue of packaging. And I want to examine the packaging industry for a moment. Everything comes in a package. That is mass production at work. You can buy small yogurts that amount to five spoonfuls and then you must throw out the plastic container. The world is awash in plastics. And not only are plastics destroying the oceans and marine mammals and fish, pliable plastic is downright poisonous to the human beings.  And this has been known for some time now. I first read about BPA and the effects of plastics in the early 90s.

CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.{ } According to one study, the pesticide atrazine can turn male frogs female. DES, which was once prescribed to prevent miscarriages, caused obesity, rare vaginal tumors, infertility, and testicular growths among those exposed in utero. Scientists have tied BPA to ailments including asthma, cancer, infertility, low sperm count, genital deformity, heart disease, liver problems, and ADHD.

— Mariah Blake, Mother Jones, 2014

And yet, like Big Tobacco did for years with cigarettes, the packaging industry has buried this information. People overwhelmingly eat from containers made of pliable plastic.

The toxicological consequences of such exposures, especially for susceptible subpopulations such as children and pregnant women, remain unclear and warrant further investigation. However, there is evidence of associations between urinary concentrations of some phthalate metabolites and biological outcomes (Swan et al. 2005; Swan 2008). For example, an inverse relationship has been reported between the concentrations of DEHP metabolites in the mother’s urine and anogenital distance, penile width and testicular decent in male offspring (Swan et al 2005; Swan 2008). In adults, there is some evidence of a negative association between phthalate metabolites and semen quality (Meeker & Sathyanarayana) and between high exposures to phthalates (workers producing PVC flooring) and free testosterone levels.

— Richard Thompson et al, Royal Society of Biological Medicine, 2009

Ah, the fertility drop off, which would be an elegant segue if I didn’t want to stick with packaging just a bit longer.

The new Climate Crisis…or Climate Emergency, feels increasingly distant from radical environmentalists of an earlier time. And I think part of the problem in wrapping one’s head around this crisis is that one has to tie together so many different topics: Fertility, mental health, dropping literacy, infrastructure neglect, pollution, militarism, Big Agra and Big Pharma, as well as digital technology and the psychology of contemporary westerners. A psychology mediated in huge part by lives increasingly spent staring at screens. And rather than expend the effort to actually connect these threads I find most people gravitate toward a simplistic and generalized position on the environment. And that position feels increasingly shaped by a marketing of fear.

The question then is how to frame a climate discourse that is not predicated on narrow almost tribal loyalties, and not deferential to the institutions of western capital. I mean, presuming that the earth actually does face mass extinction over the next fifty years (or, pick a date, say a hundred years) then one would want a sober clear dialogue with those who best know what is going on to make the earth warmer (and I think even so called deniers grant that earth is getting warmer… and the question would be how much warmer, for what reason and with what consequences. ) The problem is, who does know best what is going on? I see, increasingly, movie stars or celebrity politicians, or just celebrities, joining in the new branding of *climate emergency*. Why there is Mark Rufalo and Don Cheadle. There is Arnold with Greta. There is Barry with Greta. The world increasingly is presented as if Annie Liebovitz photographed everything for us. And I can find you the scientists who now have claim to their kind of celebrity, and I can find those who contradict them, even if they are not so called sceptics.

Now as I research this piece I run into sites where I have to subscribe to read the article. New Scientist, for example. Someone explain how that works…we are looking into the possible termination of human life, right? But you want to charge me a subscription fee?

I digress. Okay, now, I want to again note the invaluable work that Cory Morningstar has done. And rather than excerpt her detailed research on who is behind the various co-opting measures that western Capital has employed in creating the new narrative on the climate emergency, I will just link to her latest article here.

I mean honestly, Coca Cola is going to help save the planet? If you only read the Global Shapers section you will arrive at a pretty clear idea of how this all works. My point is that once you have The Climate Reality Project, Coca-Cola, Salesforce, Procter and Gamble, Reliance Industries, Oando, GMR Group, Hanwha Energy Corporation, Rosamund Zander and Yara International *investing* in saving the planet, you know something is wrong. The *Climate Emergency* is coming to obscure a host of other environmental and social problems. A recent report on links between fracking and cancer seems to get only minor attention. Or the aforementioned plastics problem — which does get attention from the perspective of ocean pollution but far less to none in terms of human and especially infant health. When there is a clear and recorded drop in IQ scores and when educators bemoan the state of academics and student skills, and when there are spikes in early onset of Alzheimers and autism and for that matter depression and anxiety, the scope of what can be included under the label of *environment* increases dramatically. This is not to even begin discussing U.S. Imperialism and the defense industry.1

And I am not even going to get into the effects of Depleted Uranium here.

The U.S. military hides statistics on its petroleum usage and its disposal of chemical waste, and, of course, the severe consequences of all the current ongoing U.S. wars (see Cholera in Yemen just for starters). The socio-political landscape is seeing the rise of global fascism as well as a continuing migration of wealth to the very top tier of the class hierarchy. Homes are being built with servants quarters for the first time in over a hundred years. It is a return to both Victorian values and social structure and in a wider sense a return to feudalism. The homeless camps that circle every American city speak to the extreme fragility of the social fabric in the West today. A fragility that is both planned and exploited by the ruling classes. The environment includes those people sleeping on the sidewalks of American cities. It includes a terrorized inner city black population, terrorized by ever more openly racist police departments (militarized under Obama) that routinely abuse power and often simply execute the vulnerable populations — populations that are growing.

And, of course, the dependency of the population of the West on its smart phone use. A new generation is always coming out and replacing the perfectly fine earlier generation of phone. Apple, Samsung, et al are massive polluting agents. So called *e waste* is gigantic. And it has accelerated the mining for rare earth minerals. Where is the discussion about this on these new green conferences? The idea of a future is still based on something like the old cartoon show The Jetsons. It is the entrenched belief in technology to solve everything, including global warming it seems.

Here another link to Wrong Kind of Green and the investment in fear.

The target demographic is youth. And the Greta phenomenon is the first volley of that campaign. The Gates Foundation is busy indoctrinating and grooming the young in Africa. Microsoft does the same: see here.

As does the U.S. military.

But “Climate Works” is quite simply behind nearly everything to some degree.

The issue of credibility looms as significant here. While I think everyone agrees that the planet is getting warmer, the marketing apparatus of global capital exaggerates and sensationalizes nearly everything. Extreme heat in India, dozens of deaths in Bihar. Well, the poor die in Bihar all the time, and in the past they have died from heat, too. New Delhi has had brutal heat for a hundred years in May and June. Now it’s getting worse. And there is little question it will continue to worsen. But articles are written as if they were scripts for Hollywood disaster films. The Raj used to move to the hill stations in summer to avoid the heat on the Indian plains. The poor are always the first to suffer when anything happens. Even when the exceptional event does occur it is hard to trust its exceptional qualities. And this might well be the final state of brain lock to which the Spectacle has brought us.

There is a growing conformity of opinion and a moral indignation that follows should one disagree, or even, often, simply ask questions. I have several times been referred to the NASA climate page. And I am shocked, really. On the page is one article on how the U.S. Navy is preparing for global warming. I mean the mind reels, honestly. Should I believe without question what NASA and the Navy tell me about the environment? The Navy, you know, the ones who torture and murder dolphins and whales.

Here is another side bar follow up on the military.

Let’s take the IPCC, whose voice and influence is far reaching here. They authored the *Climate Bible*, and are widely respected and endlessly quoted. Who is the IPCC?

The Panel itself is composed of representatives appointed by governments. Participation of delegates with appropriate expertise is encouraged. Plenary sessions of the IPCC and IPCC Working Groups are held at the level of government representatives. Non-Governmental and Intergovernmental Organizations admitted as observer organizations may also attend. Sessions of the Panel, IPCC Bureau, workshops, expert and lead authors meetings are by invitation only. About 500 people from 130 countries attended the 48th Session of the Panel in Incheon, Republic of Korea, in October 2018, including 290 government officials and 60 representatives of observer organizations. The opening ceremonies of sessions of the Panel and of Lead Author Meetings are open to media, but otherwise IPCC meetings are closed.

The IPCC is a child of the UN. It is, of necessity, a political organization. And as such there are a host of very suspect relationships involved. The most obvious is that poor countries are given technology and training, and money often, by the UN. Or rather, these gifts are largely administered by the UN. The developing nation must follow the UN guidelines and answer to the UN. This is a bit like the environmental version of economic austerity. There is also the fact that climate skeptics are now simply stigmatized and ridiculed. Usually by non scientists, even if said skeptic IS a scientist. Such is the desire (nearly pathological desire) for consensus in the West today. The point is that the IPCC is both political, western-based and UN-funded, and the UN uses the work of the IPCC to chart its climate course and allocation of funds. The UN, itself, of course is U.S.-based and does nothing to offend its host.

The IPCC has direct and significant ties to the WWF, Greenpeace, and the Environmental Defense Fund; in other words the corporate green opportunists. There is massive financing behind these groups. The IPCC also has had numerous accusations lodged against it regarding dodgy definitions of peer review (and for the record, peer reviewed material is actually no more likely to be true than non peered review material.(See Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, here.

And just to cover more of who runs government organizations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is headed by retired rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet (lead administrator) while the Chief of the NOAA is Neil Jacobs, previously chief Atmospheric scientist for Panasonic Avionics {sic} (and still to be confirmed the CEO of Accuweather Barry Myers). The previous head of the NOAA, appointed by Obama, was Jane Lubachenko who called the IPCC an embarrassment. Just to keep your score cards up to date here. Also…the NOAA is tasked with managing U.S. satellite programs (through sub-organizations — The Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service — NESDIS) who collects data for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, among others. There are several sub-sub-services like National Coastal Data Development Center. The point being this is, again, the U.S. military in good measure. And most intelligent people I know distrust most everything that the military says, and with good reason — they have a long history of lying through their teeth.

And this ties into the notion of personal responsibility. Solutions to our environmental crisis have been reduced to “life style changes” which have also become the en vogue activism of the day. It is a line of thinking that is accepted and even endorsed by corporations, banks and neoliberal governments because it poses no real challenge to their power or their ongoing destructive practices. To the mainstream, tweaking one’s lifestyle is all that is needed. Buy an electric vehicle or use a bicycle. Don’t take a plane on your vacation. Buy reusable bags. Choose organic only. Go vegan. Buy reusable straws. While there is nothing wrong with doing these things in general, they must be understood as individual choices that are based on privilege and that have little impact in addressing urgent crisis our biosphere is facing right now.

What they do manage to do is deliver an added punishment on the poor and working class, people who are struggling to make ends meet. It places an unfair level of guilt on ordinary people whose impact on the environment is relatively negligible compared to the enormous destruction caused by the fossil fuel industry, mining companies, plastic and packaging production, shipping and the military industrial complex. Seldom (if ever) questioned are the basic foundations of the current economic order which is driving the decimation of the biosphere for the benefit of the wealthy Davos jet set.

— Kenn Orphan, Counterpunch, March 2019

Again, a difficulty in grasping the environmental crises in its entirety is that there are literally mountains of material to read and absorb. But it is clear that the U.N. (on Rockefeller land by the by) is really not to be trusted. It provides, at times, a platform for revolutionary voices, but more often it works against change. The very existence of the Security Council is a working definition of anti-democratic. Speaking of Rockefeller, here is another bit of sidebar history.

One of the interesting details from Ralph Richardson, circa 1976, is the interest of the foundation in ‘weather modification’. That’s fifty years ago now.

I mean, make of that what you will. And this also again raises issues of credibility. There are countless activists who claim geo-engineering is going on, that HAARP is behind it, and that chemtrails are evidence this, etc. For anyone who is not a scientist there is simply no way to verify or disprove any of this. It sounds crack-pot, though I can’t honestly tell you it is. But it does cause one a momentary shudder to note that the Rockefeller Foundation was interested in weather modification over fifty years ago. But my point here is broader, in a sense. I have written several times (and on my blog often) that contemporary life in the West feels unreal, that people in general exhibit almost trance like inabilities to reason or think or calculate. And I think that addiction to screens, to digital technology, to the internet itself (and I am as guilty as anyone) has led to a serious erosion in autonomous thought. And accompanying this erosion is a particular American brand of self righteousness Even on the left. This is a society of acute group think, and of shaming and stigmatizing. Dissent is, we know, actively attacked by the surveillance state, and censorship is growing on all fronts, and on the left I feel a chilling embrace of Puritanical moralism. The Climate Crises…maybe that should be in quotes….is becoming a nearly religious movement in which heretics are to be digitally burned at the stake.

Why is there such a growing hostility to credulity? Why do people seem not to care in the least that most of the world’s largest corporations are *investing* in climate cures. Not donating to climate cures but investing in them as business opportunities. And alongside this overarching investment in global warming is a recruitment and indoctrination of youth. The military is only one branch of the marketing that targets the young. Microsoft and the Gates Foundation proudly trumpet their target demographic; poor kids of the global south.

Now there is another discussion here, and oddly enough the arch conservative Aussie journalist Andrew Bolt distilled it a few years ago…

It’s that global warming is an apocalyptic faith whose preachers demand sacrifices of others that they find far too painful for themselves. It’s a faith whose prophets demand we close coal mines but who won’t even turn off their own pool lights. Who demand the masses lose their cars, while they themselves keep their planes. It’s the ultimate faith of the feckless rich, where a ticket to heaven can be bought with a check made out to Al Gore [to purchase offsets from a company he owns]. No further sacrifice is required. Except of course, from the poor. ( ) If the planet really is threatened with warming doom, why don’t you act like you believe it?

— Andrew Bolt, The Herald-Sun, November 17, 2010

Now Bolt is a profoundly reactionary voice, but he’s not entirely wrong here at all. Or rather he is wrong about global warming, but he is not wrong about a new cultural cultic following of armchair nihilism.

I have had people tell me it’s selfish to have more children. I have had them tell me to stop flying, or to stop eating meat (actually I’m already a vegetarian). But the point is this sort of individualistic nonsense masks a certain very stark hypocrisy. The problem is that this is not an individual problem. So two things seem to be ignored: the first is that industrial civilization has been going on for a long time and it began to hurt the planet and atmosphere from the first day. And two, this historical long range amnesia is connected to the Hollywood-fication of all thinking. People literally perceive the world as if Dwayne Johnson was going to rescue it. . You get the idea. Angelina Jolie now delivers speeches at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is going to run for office (or, is, cough, thinking about it). American politics is a clown show operating at the lowest possible common denominator.

The point is that environmental destruction has been going on a long time. And the industrial revolution intensified the harm and civilization never looked back. The greenhouse emissions theory may or may not be completely true or accurate. But it also doesn’t matter, really. Society itself is unravelling. People are sick, depressed, even increasingly suicidal — and the U.S. seems to want to wage even more war. The madness of this is stupefying — and it again underscores the need for a political vision that begins with a platform that says STOP WAR. All war, all of it. That men like John Bolton or Mike Pompeo are in positions of authority, that such men can manipulate their power to create military conflict speaks to the utter and absolute depravity and decadence of the Capitalist system (of course, in a wider sense Bolton and Pompeo are just following the mandate of the ruling class, something they learned and perfected long ago). Capitalism cannot survive. I have no idea if the planet can survive, but I suspect it will, though with rather substantial damage and suffering. But the hierarchical profit-driven capitalist system cannot. The new feudalism is here, already, but it’s not sustainable. And western capital is helping with the rise of new ultra nationalist fascist leaders across the planet. Nature is, I believe, more resilient than mortals think. Humans may not survive each other, however.

Then there is this:2

Again, there is always a question of credibility, of who to believe, and to remember these are models, computer models, and hence open to error, and behind any such numbers are the always lurking racism of the West, and sexism. But the Pew report does suggest that, as Roger Harris put it, the overpopulation ideologues may have just woken up to a demographic winter. By 2100 white people will be a stark minority in the world. Might this have anything to do with Bill and Melinda Gates obsessive birth control measures in Africa and India? Make America white again!

The climate emergency is disproportionately pushed by three or four mainstream outlets. I’m just noting this, really: the Guardian UK, Globe & Mail, The Independent, and Washington Post. And the Guardian can criticise what they see as institutional hypocrisy on the part of the World Bank for funding coal-burning sites but they say nothing against U.S. NATO aggressions, and they repeat the lies of the U.S. state department and Pentagon, as well as Israel, and this nowhere registers as cognitive dissonance (and honestly, George Monbiot, he who cares so for the planet, is also among the most egregious apologists for western Imperialism one can find).

…capitalism is not a natural and inevitable consequence of human nature, or of the age-old social tendency to ‘truck, barter, and exchange’. It is a late and localized product of very specific historical conditions. The expansionary drive of capitalism, reaching a point of virtual universality today, is not the consequence of its conformity to human nature or to some transhistorical law, or of some racial or cultural superiority of ‘the West’, but the product of its own historically specific internal laws of motion, its unique capacity as well as its unique need for constant self-expansion. Those laws of motion required vast social transformations and upheavals to set them in train. They required a transformation in the human metabolism with nature, in the provision of life’s basic necessities.

— Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origin of Capitalism: A Longer View, May 2, 2017

Wood earlier notes Marshall Berman’s ideas of the Enlightenment’s inherent duality; a desire for universality and immutability, contingency and fragmentation. And that this was somehow a response to the ephemeral and ever shifting perspectives of modern life, aka Capitalism.

That duality feels more like schizophrenia today. Or bi-polar disorder. The shifting ephemeral experiences and shocks that Walter Benjamin described with Paris are now dulled computer-generated flat screen cut-out dolls.

I am reminded of a succinct capsulation of Mike Davis’ book Late Victorian Holocausts by William Wall on his blog…

Davis makes a convincing argument for seeing these late-Victorian famines in places as diverse as India, China, Brazil, Ethiopia and Egypt, as structural products of capitalism, the result of a nexus of improved communication by railroad and telegraph; the destruction of pre-existing communitarian (and therefore anti-capitalist) balances such as the ”iron granaries” of China; the demand for raw materials and foodstuffs to feed European industrial development; a fanatical belief in what we now call neo-liberalism but which was then called laissez-faire; the desire to exploit the labour surpluses that occurred when starving peasants abandoned land and moved to industrial centres; endemic racism (‘it would be a mistake to spend so much money to save a lot of black fellows’ – commented Lord Salisbury) combined with the Malthusian dogma that famines were a gift from God to keep human reproduction within the limits of our capability to produce food.

Pertinent at this moment, I think. Oh and food… it is worth pointing out the realities of food waste at this point.

Our calculations show that food surplus is increasing and food deficit is decreasing globally (Figures 2 and S4). Between 1965 and 2010, the food surplus grew from 310 kcal/cap/day to 510 kcal/cap/day, and the food deficit declined from 330 kcal/cap/day to 120 kcal/cap/day (moderate PAL). The amount of surplus food is increasing especially in most of the OECD countries, e.g., food surplus in the United States has increased from 400 kcal/cap/day to 1,050 kcal/cap/day between 1965 and 2010. Food availability has increased over the last few decades, whereas biophysical food requirements have remained almost constant.

— Diego Rybski and Jürgen P. Kropp, Environmental Service and Technology, 2019

and

Americans waste an unfathomable amount of food. In fact, according to a Guardian report released this week, roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, an amount constituting “one third of all foodstuffs.” Wasted food is also the single biggest occupant in American landfills, the Environmental Protection Agency has found.

— Adam Chandler, The Atlantic, 2014

There is more than enough food, in other words. But here is a very short primer on food dynamics…

The early 1900s saw the introduction of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, innovations that have become a hallmark of industrial crop production. In just 12 years, between 1964 and 1976, synthetic and mineral fertilizer applications on U.S. crops nearly doubled, while pesticide use on major U.S. crops increased by 143 percent. The shift to specialized monocultures increased farmers’ reliance on these chemicals, in part because crop diversity can help suppress weeds and other pests.

Chemical and pharmaceutical use also became commonplace in newly industrialized models of meat, milk, and egg production. Antibiotics, for example, were introduced to swine, poultry, and cattle feed after a series of experiments in the 1940s and 1950s found that feeding the drugs to animals caused them to gain weight faster and on less feed.  By 2009, 80 percent of the antibiotic drugs sold in the U.S. were used not for human medicine but for livestock production. (  ) Largely as a result of consolidation, most food production in the U.S. now takes place on massive-scale operations. Half of all U.S. cropland is on farms with at least 1,000 acres (over 1.5 square miles). The vast majority of U.S. poultry and pork products comes from facilities that each produce over 200,000 chickens or 5,000 pigs in a single year, while most egg-laying hens are confined in facilities that house over 100,000 birds at a time.

— Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future, 2016

Obesity has tripled since 1975 according to the WHO. In 2016 close to two billion people worldwide were clinically obese. There has also been a dramatic increase in childhood obesity. Capitalism is a system that only considers profit, you see. It does not consider our health, our quality of life, and certainly not planetary survival.

Food industry monopolists are behind the dismal economic reality of rural America. According to data compiled by the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012, the four largest food and agriculture companies controlled 82 percent of the beef packing industry, 85 percent of soybean processing and 63 percent of pork.

— Anthony Pahnke and Jim Goodman, Counterpunch, 2019

Globally, what Vandana Shiva calls food imperialism, is also bankrolled by the same corporate forces and money that are coopting the Environmental movement. Cargill, Pepsi Cola, Bayer, Uniliver, Syngenta, Dupont, et al… (oh and Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos) and this form of cultural imperialism also tries to erase history, as do all Imperialist projects.

The industrial west has always been arrogant, and ignorant, of the cultures it has colonised. “Fake Food” is just the latest step in a history of food imperialism. Soya is a gift of East Asia, where it has been a food for millennia. It was only eaten as fermented food to remove its’ anti-nutritive factors. But recently, GMO soya has created a soya imperialism, destroying plant diversity. It continues the destruction of the diversity of rich edible oils and plant based proteins of Indian dals that we have documented.

Women from India’s slums called on me to bring our mustard back when GMO soya oil started to be dumped on India, and local oils and cold press units in villages were made illegal. That is when we started the “sarson (mustard) satyagraha“ to defend our healthy cold pressed oils from dumping of hexane-extracted GMO soya oil. Hexane is a neurotoxin.

While Indian peasants knew that pulses fix nitrogen, the west was industrialising agriculture based on synthetic nitrogen which contributes to greenhous gases, dead zones in the ocean, and dead soils.

— Dr. Vandana Shiva, Counterpunch, 2019

If there is a possible future, it is one without corporations. Which means, really, a classless society, and that means, really, communism or socialism. It means, as I have said before, that equality is the real green. The climate discourse today is often mediated by those arrogant voices of both right and pseudo left America, the bullying aggressive believers in “science” … the belief in science by non scientists. And honestly, many scientists today are very narrowly focused and rather myopic outside of their specialization. The best scientists I have known are those most suspicious of their profession or practice.

For Thomas Kuhn, scientific hypotheses are shaped and restricted by the worldview, or paradigm, within which scientists operate. Most scientists are as blind to the paradigm as fish to water, and unable to see across or beyond it. In fact, most of the clinical medical students I teach at Oxford, and who already have a science degree, don’t even know what the word ‘paradigm’ means. When data emerges that conflicts with the paradigm, it is usually discarded, dismissed, or disregarded.

— Neel Burton, MD, “The Problems of Science”, Pyschology Today, 2019

Now, the flip side of trying to interrogate science is overcoming the blatant anti-science propaganda put out by the far right, and more significantly, perhaps, by the oil industry (Lee Raymond, when he was CEO of Exxon, spent huge amounts of money to propagate climate denial papers and disinformation). The Koch brothers donate huge amounts of their vast fortune to further an anti science right wing propaganda, as does Rupert Murdoch and the heinous FOX news empire.

Everything is political. Science is political. Our emotional lives are political. I just think it is important to remember that. The system wants the population both confused and at odds with each other. And remember too that social media is almost by design a toxic environment. The negative is rewarded and reinforced. And it has resulted in a populace that is highly defended (and resulted in more withdrawn and isolated people, especially among the young). An already aggressive society is now more aggressive

  1. J.D. Simpkins, A Staggering Number of Troops are Fat and Tired, report says, Military Times, October 3, 2018.
  2. Anthony Cilluffo and Neil G. Ruiz, “World’s Population is Projected to Nearly Stop Growing by the end of the Century“, Pew Research Center, June 17, 2019.

Palestinians Keep Their Right of Return Alive through Hope, Resistance

The United Nations’ World Refugee Day, observed annually on June 20, should not merely represent a reminder of “the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.”

It should also be an opportunity for the international community to truly understand and actively work towards finding a sustainable remedy to forced displacement, for no woman, man or child should be forced to endure such grueling, shattering and humiliating experience in the first place.

Palestinians who have withstood the degradation of exile for over 70 years embody the harshness of this collective experience more than any other group.

To be a refugee means living perpetually in limbo – unable to reclaim what has been lost, the beloved homeland, and unable to fashion an alternative future and a life of freedom, justice and dignity.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently 68.5 million people around the world who have been forced out from their homes, with 25.4 million of them classified as refugees.

Of the officially listed refugees, 5.4 million are Palestinians, registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

For Palestinians, the grim reality of being a refugee is compounded through the absence of any political horizon, enough to convey a sense of hope that, 70 years after the genesis of the Palestinian refugee crisis, a remedy is at hand.

Abandoned in this seemingly eternal quest for a homeland, Palestinians hold tighter onto hope, because it is hope alone that feeds their own sense of determination, which neither time nor distance will stand between them and their Right of Return. This internationally-honored right is etched in the hearts and minds of millions of Palestinians everywhere.

The archetypal image of a refugee – a man, a woman, a child holding on to the pole of a tent, charting a path of exile to no specific place, imploring UN officials for help, and the world for mercy – is, by itself, not enough to deconstruct the complexity of that identity. To belong to a place that has ejected you, yet to seek an alternative home in places to which you do not belong, culturally and in every other way, confuses one’s sense of being. The psychological trauma alone is shattering.

While Palestinians continue to hold on to a sense of identity in their various spaces of exile – refugee camps across Palestine and the Middle East – their prolonged odyssey is seen as a ‘problem’ to be haphazardly fixed, or entirely dismissed, in order for Israeli Jews to maintain their demographic majority.

The mere fact that the Palestinian people live and multiply is a “demographic threat” to Israel, a ‘demographic bomb,’ even. This unmistakably racist notion is wholly embraced by Israel’s allies in Washington and elsewhere.

When Israel and its friends argue that the Palestinians are an “invented people“, not only are they aiming to annihilate the Palestinian collective identity, but they are also justifying in their own minds the continued killing and maiming of Palestinians, unhindered by any moral or ethical consideration.

Israel and the US will do anything in their power to trivialize the centrality of the Palestinian refugee question and its relevance to any future just peace in Palestine.

Nearly a million Palestinian were made refugees following the establishment of Israel on the ruins of historic Palestine in 1948. Hundreds of thousands more acquired that dismal status in subsequent years, especially during the Israeli war and occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.

The 5.4 million refugees registered with UNRWA are those original refugees and their descendants.

Israel has never agreed to take responsibility for the consequences of its violent inception – the ethnic cleansing, the untold destruction of towns and villages and the very erasure of historic Palestine.

Even during the Oslo Peace Process, Israel refused to discuss the core issue of refugees, relegating it to the ‘final status negotiations’, which have never taken place and will, most likely, never actualize.

In the meantime, Palestinian refugees have been sentenced to subsist in this unfair status – neither here nor there. If there was such a status as second, third and fourth time refugees, Palestinians would have acquired that, as well.

Indeed, millions of Palestinian refugees have been exiled more than once, from Palestine to Jordan or Lebanon; from there to Syria, and back and forth.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the current war in Syria have taught us that Palestinian refugees with relatively better living conditions are not safe, either.

The small Palestinian refugee community in Iraq was persecuted after the invasion, to the point that they were forced to leave, en masse, to any country willing to take them. Many of them ended up as refugees in South America.

The same sordid scenario was repeated in Syria and will, tragically, be replayed elsewhere in the future.

Instead of remedying the crisis with a degree of moral and legal accountability, successive US administrations have tried to marginalize the importance of the Right of Return.

Israel, on the other hand, has targeted refugee communities through wars and massacres, most notably during the 1982 war and invasion of Lebanon, and the subsequent Sabra and Shatila Massacre in September of that same year.

Now, with the help of the Donald Trump’s administration, Israel and the US are orchestrating even more sinister campaigns to make Palestinian refugees vanish through the very destruction of UNRWA and the redefining of the refugee status of millions of Palestinians.

By denying UNRWA urgently needed funds, Washington wants to enforce a new reality, one in which neither human rights, nor international law or morality are of any consequence.

What will become of Palestinian refugees seems to be of no importance to Trump, his son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, and other US officials. The Americans are now watching, hoping that their callous strategy will finally bring Palestinians to their knees so that they will ultimately submit to the Israeli government’s dictates.

The Israelis want the Palestinians to give up their Right of Return in order to get “peace”. The joint Israeli-American “vision” for the Palestinians basically means the imposition of apartheid and keeping Palestinian exiles in a never-ending ordeal.

The Palestinian people will never accept this injustice.

The Right of Return remains a driving force behind Palestinian resistance, as the Great March of Return demonstrated in Gaza, starting March of last year.

All the money in Washington’s coffers will not reverse what is now a deeply embedded belief in the hearts and minds of millions of refugees throughout Palestine, the Middle East and the world.

Palestinian refugees may not top the political agenda of the Middle East at the moment, but it is their persistence, determination and undying hope that will keep their cause alive until international law is respected and human rights are truly honored.

Annexation: How Israel Already controls More than Half of the West Bank

A state of de facto annexation already exists on the ground in most of the occupied West Bank.

Almost two-thirds of the Palestinian territory, including most of its most fertile and resource-rich land, is under full Israeli control. About 400,000 Jewish settlers living there enjoy the full rights and privileges of Israeli citizens.

At least 60 pieces of legislation were drafted by right-wing members of the Knesset during the last parliament to move Israel from a state of de facto to de jure annexation, according to a database by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group.

Yesh Din points out that the very fact that some of these bills have passed as laws constitutes a form of annexation: “The Israel Knesset [now] regards itself as the legislative authority in the West Bank and the sovereign there.”

Paradoxically, many of those bills were opposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though they were drafted from within his own ruling coalition.

Netanyahu argued that it would be wrong to pre-empt US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, implying that annexation is high on the agenda.

Leaked details suggest that Washington is now preparing to green-light the formal annexation of at least some of that territory as part of its deal-making, though Netanyahu’s political difficulties and his decision to call another election in September could mean putting details on ice once again.

The Golan precedent

Three recent developments have also brought the idea of Israel annexing parts or all of the West Bank onto the agenda.

In March, US President Donald Trump recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed by Israel in 1981 in violation of international law. The US decision suggested a precedent whereby it might similarly approve a move by Israel to annex the West Bank.

In April, in the run-up to Israel’s general election, Netanyahu said he would use the next parliament to “extend sovereignty” to all illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, using a phrase preferred by Israeli politicians to “annexation”.

About 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank in 150 official settlements and another 120 so-called “unauthorised” outposts that have been covertly sponsored by the Israeli state since the 1990s. These settlements have jurisdiction over 42 percent of West Bank territory.

In early June, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a stalwart supporter of the settlements and one of the architects of Trump’s supposed “deal of the century”, told the New York Times that he believed Israel was “on the side of God” and said: “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

Support in Israel growing

Support in Israel for annexation is growing, with 42 percent backing one of several variants in a recent poll, as opposed to 34 percent who were behind a two-state solution. Only 28 percent of Israelis explicitly rejected annexation.

Behind the scenes, debates about formally annexing the Palestinian territories have been rife in Israel since it occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza in 1967.

Successive Israeli governments, however, have demurred out of concern both that there would be strong international objections (most UN member states would be opposed to the annexation of territory recognised as illegally occupied in international law) and that Israel would be under pressure to give Palestinians in annexed areas citizenship, including the right to vote, that would undermine its Jewish majority.

Senior government ministers such as Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon were among the early proponents of annexing parts of the West Bank. They drew up maps for a permanent settlement programme that would allow Israel to hold on to swathes of the West Bank, especially the most fertile land and the aquifers.

Through the late 1970s and 1980s, a justice ministry official, Plia Albeck, declared large areas of the West Bank “state land”, allowing the government to treat it as effectively part of Israel and build settlements.

Speeding tickets and police stations

Israel has applied its laws to the settler population and dozens of Israeli police stations located in the West Bank operate as if the territory has been annexed, issuing speeding tickets and enforcing other infractions on Palestinians. Palestinians’ ultimate recourse to adjudication on legal matters is Israel’s Supreme Court.

In 2011, that court decided that Israel was allowed to exploit more than a dozen quarries, one of the Palestinians’ key resources, because the occupation had become “prolonged” – a ruling that treated the West Bank as if it had been de facto annexed.

Since the Olso accords, Israeli leaders have tended to pay lip service to Palestinian statehood, at some distant future point. But in practice, they have encouraged the rapid expansion of the settlements. This policy is sometimes referred to as “creeping annexation”.

A number of variants have been advanced by the Israeli right, ranging from the annexation of all Palestinian territories, including Gaza, to annexation limited to certain areas of the West Bank.

How Oslo gave Israel control

The main framework for the Israeli debate about annexation is the Oslo process which temporarily carved up the occupied West Bank into Areas A, B and C as a prelude, it was assumed, to eventually transferring sovereignty to the Palestinian Authority.

Area C, 62 per cent of the West Bank, is under full Israeli control and where the settlements are located. It is also where most of the water, agricultural and mineral resources are to be found.

Area B, 20 percent, is under Israeli security control and Palestinian civil control. And Area A – mainly Palestinian built-up areas on 18 percent of the West Bank – is nominally under full Palestinian control.

The option favoured by most of Netanyahu’s Likud party involves the annexation of areas populated with settlers, or about 40 percent of the West Bank mostly located in Area C.

This option would keep West Bank Palestinians outside the annexed areas and make it easier to avoid conferring any residency or citizenship rights on them. The Palestinian Authority would be given “limited autonomy” – a kind of glorified municipal role – over the remaining fragments of the West Bank.

To the right of Likud, opinions range from annexing all of Area C to annexing the entire West Bank and Gaza, and the creation of Palestinian “Bantustans” modelled on South Africa’s racist apartheid system. Some propose a “salami” method, with Israel gradually slicing off more of the West Bank.

The Israeli centre-left fears formal annexation not only violates international law but will damage Israel’s image abroad by encouraging comparisons with apartheid-era South Africa. In the absence of a Palestinian state, a minority of Jews might soon be ruling over a majority of Palestinians.

The centre-left is also concerned about the costs of annexation. Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group of retired security officials, argue that annexation will lead to the inevitable collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

As a result, they believe Israel would incur annual costs of between $2.3bn and $14.5bn, depending on the extent of the West Bank area annexed. There would also be a loss of $2.5bn in foreign investments. Palestinian uprisings could cost Israel’s economy as much as $21bn.

Right-wing economists like Amatzia Samkai of the Caucus for Eretz Israel say Israel will benefit economically. If Area C is annexed, only a small number of Palestinians will be entitled to Israeli welfare payments, he says. Such costs, he adds, can be more than offset by an expanded labour force and a drop in real-estate prices after West Bank land is freed up for house building by Israelis.

Knesset ‘sovereign’ in West Bank already

Of the 60 pieces of draft annexation legislation brought before the Knesset, eight have passed into law.

The main laws that have been passed include:

  • annulling a special council overseeing higher education in West Bank settlements and transferring its powers to the main Israel Council for Higher Education.
  • approving retroactively the theft of private Palestinian land used to build settlements. The previous official position was that settlements should be built only on land Israel had declared state land because it was not owned by Palestinians.
  • extending benefits available in Israel – from tax exemptions and egg production quotas to renewable energy investments – to West Bank settlements.
  • unifying the criminal register used by police in Israel and the West Bank.
  • transferring powers to adjudicate matters involving the West Bank to lower courts in Israel.
  • prohibiting businesses from refusing to supply services to West Bank settlements.

In addition, Yesh Din notes, Israel has recently shifted its diplomatic position and legal arguments to the courts in relation to the West Bank.

It has rejected the West Bank’s status as being under occupation, asserted Israel’s authority to operate there and eroded the obligation to protect the rights and property of the Palestinian population.

Another significant piece of legislation Netanyahu is known to favour – chiefly for personal reasons because it could be used to protect him from corruption indictments – is an Override Law.

The measure is being aggressively promoted by settler groups because it would strip Israel’s Supreme Court of judicial review powers to block legislation annexing the West Bank.

Palestinian support?

On the Palestinian side, a tiny number, mostly business leaders, have backed annexation of the West Bank. They have been cultivated by the Trump administration as a potential alternative leadership to the Palestinian Authority. Most Palestinians consider them traitors or collaborators.

Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari, for example, has entered into a partnership with settler counterparts in the “Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce”, using the settlers’ Biblical name for the West Bank.

The chamber promotes joint ventures such as shopping centres along West Bank main roads, tourism initiatives and infrastructure projects.

Jabari and others have consciously sought to package annexation on Israeli terms as similar to the one-state agenda of a growing section of the Palestinian population, especially those supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).

“We have to think about this area as one entity, not two entities and two realities,” he told journalists recently.

Certainly, there are Palestinians who consider annexation and Israel’s direct re-occupation of the West Bank, unmediated by the PA, as a necessary condition for Palestinians launching a civil rights or anti-apartheid struggle to realise a genuine one-state solution.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Buried In Broad Daylight: The “Free Press” And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the ‘mainstream’ media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons ‘against his own civilians’ was used by the US, UK and France to ‘justify’ missile strikes on ‘chemical weapons facilities’ on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis – based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling – were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to ‘evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.’ The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years’ experience, concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft. [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

Observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

In short:

Two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.

Postol expanded:

An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.

He added:

A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as “tunneling.” Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter…

But this was not the case:

The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°… This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW’s own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.

The only possible conclusion is that ‘chemical weapons attacks’ at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the ‘mainstream’ media:

The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I’m aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.

He added:

What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – ‘a very unusual animal these days’ – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the ‘gas’ video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to ‘private’. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged ‘chemical weapons’ attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of ‘fabrication’. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam’s ‘denials of WMD’, a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

The BBC Goes Quiet

That the OPCW may be so compromised as to present a misleading report to the UN Security Council that could be used as post-facto ‘justification’ for a Western military attack is, to say the least, an extremely grave matter. Indeed, it casts doubt on the whole integrity of an important international organisation. Ted Postol said in an interview with Sharmini Piries of The Real News Network that he believes the official OPCW report into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017 – almost exactly one year before the Douma attack – may also have been ‘severely compromised’.

As Tim Hayward, a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), the group of independent scholars and researchers that originally published the leaked OPWC document, noted:

While Western politicians and news media echo tropes about obstructive Russia & outlaw Syria, States of Non-Aligned Movement and China share their concerns about politicisation and polarising of OPCW.

Hayward added:

Suppressed OPCW document undermines the claimed justification for Western missile strikes on Syria in April 2018, and it reveals an organisation in need of radical reform.

Regardless of the findings of the official and leaked OPCW reports, the leaders of the US, UK and France, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were guilty of launching an unprovoked military attack on another country in violation of the UN Charter; the ‘supreme international crime’, in the words of the post-WW2 Nuremberg judgment. These are issues that would, in a sane media system, be extensively reported and debated.

However, as we wrote over three weeks ago in our earlier media alert, other than the small-circulation, left-wing Morning Star, the damning leaked document has been mentioned in just two articles in the national press: one by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and one in the Independent by Robert Fisk. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, this remains the case at the time of writing. Nor is there a single mention of it anywhere on the BBC News website. Hitchens has also submitted questions direct to the OPCW which appear to have been ignored by the body.

Our repeated challenges to senior BBC journalists, including Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s head of news, have met with a stony silence, with one exception. Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, replied via Twitter on May 24:

Thanks for your message. I am in Geneva today, in Sarajevo and Riga last week, and heading to Gulf next week. It’s an important story. Will make sure programmes know about it. As you know, UK outlets focused on May & Brexit last few days. [Our emphasis.]

Let us set aside the implausible argument that ‘UK outlets focused on May & Brexit’ should preclude any coverage of a vital reappraisal of the West’s ‘justification’ of an attack on Syria; or the notion that senior editors at the BBC, with its vast monitoring resources, would have to be informed by Doucet of the leaked document. But, if we were to take Doucet’s words at face value, she would surely be happy to respond to our follow-up query, asking for an update. Seemingly not. She has now retreated behind the wider, blanketing BBC silence.

And yet, last week, evidence emerged that the BBC is well aware of the leaked document. In a live-streamed panel debate at the annual meeting of GLOBSEC, a global security thinktank, on June 6, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asked OPCW director-general Fernando Arias about the Independent report ‘by someone called Robert Fisk’. Was this an example of fake news? In his evasive reply, Arias stated that:

All the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. [Our emphasis.]

This remarkable admission that serious evidence and analysis were disregarded because it does ‘not fit the conclusion’ went unchallenged by the BBC’s Gardner and everyone else in the room. It echoed the infamous statement in the 2002 Downing Street memo on plans to invade Iraq that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’ The focus of Arias’s concern was to defend the OPCW and to identify the whistle-blower, stating that:

‘”actions had to be taken” following the leak…” I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the full OPCW report.’

On June 12, Peter Hitchens, mentioned earlier for his excellent reporting on Syria, challenged Gardner on whether he had reported his exchange with the OPCW director-general. Later that day, Hitchens tweeted:

BBC this afternoon stated that @FrankRGardner has *not* reported on the exchange, indeed BBC as a whole, despite vast resources paid for by licence holders, has yet to report at all on this major development.

The only response to the leaked OPCW report by a Guardian journalist so far appears to have been this remarkable outburst from George Monbiot on Twitter:

The Assad apologists are out in force again, and baying for blood. It’s chilling to see how they latch onto one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity, while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the govt. #Syria

Monbiot added:

They seek to exonerate one of the bloodiest mass murderers on the planet, denying his crimes and whitewashing his record. In doing so, they share some of the blame for his ongoing mass killing of Syrian people.

As we, and many other people, pointed out, this was an inexplicably irrational response to an obviously important, indisputably authentic, highly credible, leaked document that was not at all ‘one person’s… account’. The leaked material simply has to be taken seriously and investigated, not dismissed out of hand. We are, after all, talking about possible war crimes under Trump, the famously dangerous, fascist US President every liberal journalist is supposed to be determined to excoriate at every possible turn. Why should we not, then, describe Monbiot as a ‘Trump apologist’?

Last year, during an exchange about Syria, Hitchens told Monbiot what we had already concluded about him:

This is important. I have until now regarded you as a fundamentally decent and honest person (and defended you against those who have argued otherwise). But your behaviour in this matter is causing me to reconsider this opinion. Please argue honestly.

The near-total ‘mainstream’ media blanking of the leaked OPCW document is a genuinely disturbing sign of growing corporate media conformity and totalitarian-style mendacity. In the age of social media – with netizens repeatedly challenging the likes of the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and the Guardian‘s George Monbiot – the stonewalling, and the denial of newsworthiness, is happening in plain sight. Corporate journalists know that it is important, they know that we know that it is important, they know that we are asking why they are ignoring it, and they are ignoring us anyway, with the whole act of censorship swathed in silence. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Roméo Dallaire denies Canadian Genocide and distorts Rwanda’s

Is Roméo Dallaire a genocide denier?

After a (question free) talk at Concordia University this week I followed the famous Canadian general out of the room to ask why he still supports ruthless dictator Paul Kagame. Kagame is the individual most responsible for the mass slaughter in Rwanda in mid-1994 since his forces invaded the country, engaged in a great deal of killing and blew up the presidential plane that unleashed the genocidal violence.

In 1996 Kagame’s forces invaded the Congo to overthrow the government in Kinshasa and when their installed president kicked them out they reinvaded in 1998, causing an eight country war that left millions dead. According to a 600-page report by the UN high commissioner for human rights, Rwanda was responsible for “crimes against humanity, war crimes, or even genocide” in the Congo.

With Dallaire refusing to answer my question I asked a Radio Canada journalist seeking to interview the former general to ask why he supports Kagame. The reporter was there to question Dallaire about the use of the term “genocide” in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Dallaire said he had “a problem” with the use of the word “genocide” to describe what happened to First Nations. “Is that an act of genocide? Is it?” he said. “My definition of genocide, I read it very deliberately at the start of the Rwandan genocide, and it was a deliberate act of a government to exterminate deliberately, and by force and directly, an ethnicity or a group or an entity of human beings.”

Numerous media outlets picked up Dallaire’s comments. A La Presse headline read “Dallaire denounces the use of the term ‘genocide’” while Rebel Media’s The Ezra Levant Show reported on, “Rwandan genocide witness General Roméo Dallaire’s strong denouncement of Justin Trudeau’s agreement that the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women findings indeed constitute a ‘genocide.’”

While Dallaire is opposed to labeling Canada’s dispossession of First Nations a genocide, he has repeatedly employed the term to describe rights violations in enemy states. In recent years he’s compared the situation of Darfur in Sudan and Baha’i in Iran, as well as Syria and Libya, to Rwanda. If Western interventionists are targeting a nation Dallaire is happy to employ the “G” word or “R” comparison.

Interestingly, Dallaire’s criteria for a genocide — “a deliberate act of a government to exterminate deliberately” — better applies to indigenous people in Canada than to the Tutsi in Rwanda. Dispossessed of 99% of their land, indigenous people have faced state-backed efforts to starve and sterilize them. They’ve also been made wards of the state, had their movement restricted and religious/cultural ceremonies banned. Residential schools and other so-called child welfare initiatives sought to eradicate their ways, or in the infamous formulation of the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, Duncan Campbell Scott:

Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question.

Prior to confederation, British forces conquered today’s Nova Scotia through terror, putting the heads of Mi’kmaq soldiers on spikes and offering bounties to kill women and children. Founder of the Halifax fort, Lieutenant General Edward Cornwallis led the charge and by the mid-1760s the Mi’kmaq had been largely wiped out in Nova Scotia.

After British forces conquered Quebec General Jeffery Amherst’s forces gave indigenous chiefs in the Great Lakes region blankets and a handkerchief from a smallpox hospital. Commander of British forces in North America, Amherst wrote:

You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.

By the 1820s the Beothuk in Newfoundland were extinct. On the West Coast in 1862 colonial officials are accused of enabling the spread of smallpox among First Nations, which devastated the indigenous population.

Unlike the Tutsi in Rwanda, indigenous people in Canada didn’t end up in power after the “genocide”. Nor did Jews in Germany, the Herero in Namibia, Armenians in Turkey, Maya in Guatemala, etc. Rwanda is a peculiar case where the minority — 10% of the population — targeted for extermination ended up ruling after the bulk of the violence subsided.

That’s partly because the genocidal killings were not a long planned attempt to exterminate all Tutsi, which even the victors’ justice dispensed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) effectively concluded. Instead, it was the outgrowth of a serious breakdown in social order that saw hundreds of thousands slaughtered by relatively disorganized local ‘militias’ fearful of the Kagame-led foreign invasion that eventually conquered Rwanda and drove a quarter of the population out of the country. Probably an equal — and possibly a greater — number of Hutu were killed.

Dallaire has propagated a wildly simplistic account of the tragedy that gripped Rwanda and Burundi in the mid-1990s. He has promoted the Kagame-inspired fairy tale used to justify a brutal dictatorship in Rwanda and its expansionism in the region (as well as Western liberal imperialism). According to the most outlandish aspect of this story, Hutu extremists murdered the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command, weakening the Hutu government to its most frail point in three decades, and then decided to begin a long planned systematic extermination of Tutsi. In this depiction of Rwanda’s tragedy, the individual most responsible for unleashing the genocidal violence is the hero who ended “the Genocide”.

Dallaire is not innocent of Kagame’s violence. In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of mid-1990s UN mission in Rwanda, claims Dallaire had little interest in the violence unleashed by Kagame’s RPF despite reports of summary executions in areas controlled by them. Booh Booh says Dallaire turned a blind eye to RPF weapons coming across the border from Uganda and he believes the UN forces under Dallaire’s command may have even transported weapons directly to the RPF, “becoming an objective ally of one of the parties in the conflict.”

Dallaire’s criticism of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls is consistent with his political interventions. He has long been a cheerleader for Canadian and Western domination of the world. As I detail in this article, the former general opposed calls to withdraw Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan, supported the overthrow of Haiti’s elected government in 2004 and bombing of Libya in 2011. He has also called for increased military spending and for Canada to join US ballistic missile “defence”. Now he appears to be denying a genocide perpetrated by a government he represented in the Senate and worked for in the military. Boil it all down and it simply becomes: ‘Our side is good and our enemies are bad.’

But, of course, this is what passes for foreign policy in Canada.

Findings of Torture: The UN Rapporteur and Julian Assange

Another crude and sad chapter, yet more evidence of a system’s vengeance against its challengers.  Julian Assange, like they dying Roman emperor Vespasian, may be transforming into a god of sorts, but the suffering of his mortal physical is finding its mark.  While some in the cynical, narcissistic press corps still find little to commend his case, the movement to highlight his fate, and the extra-territorial vengeance of the United States, grows.

Often reviled and dismissed as ineffectual if not irrelevant, the United Nations has offered Assange some measure of protection through its articulations and findings.  Ironically enough, powers happy to regard the UN as a mere bauble of international relations in not protecting human rights have dismissed it when action does take place.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, for instance, found in 2016 that the publisher’s conditions of confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy amounted to arbitrary detention.  “The Working Group considered that Mr Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorean embassy.”

The Working Group took the long view: to suggest that he had a choice in leaving the embassy at any point was farfetched and myopic.  Specific reference to the shoddy Swedish prosecution effort against Assange (“lack of diligence… in its investigations”) was also made, as it compounded the element of arbitrariness.  Any request to question him in Sweden could hardly be seen as “benign”.  How right they were.

Notwithstanding that, a resounding sneer from the British authorities, a bevy of black letter lawyers, and newspapers followed.  “He is not being detained arbitrarily,” The Guardian editorialised with its usual fair-friend weathered disposition.  The Working Group’s finding, according to international law authority Philippe Sands, was “poorly reasoned and unpersuasive”. Assange best give up the ghost and face the music.

This week, Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, came to a conclusion as unsurprising as it was necessary.  After visiting Assange at the maximum security facility at Belmarsh on May 9, the UN official found that the publisher had been subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  This was all part of him becoming the cause célèbre of “a relentless campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation […] not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.”  These governments had, be it through “an attitude of complacency at best, and of complicity at worst […] created an atmosphere of impunity encouraging Mr Assange’s uninhibited vilification and abuse.”

The fresh list of charges from US prosecutors – 17 additions to spice those centred on computer intrusion and conspiracy – alarmed Melzer.  “My most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr Assange would be exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The cumulative and crushing effect of the charges – potentially 175 years imprisonment – astonished Melzer.  “This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges are added in the future.”  To this can be added a nine-year period of systematic judicial abuse, arbitrary confinement, oppressive isolation, harassment, embassy surveillance by Ecuador and the “deliberative collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.”

While the conditions in Belmarsh do not currently make the grade of solitary confinement, they have been severe and inhospitable enough to cause concern.  Visits by Assange’s legal team are limited and sporadic; access to necessary case files and documents has been curbed, impairing chances of adequately preparing his legal defence.

Melzer also has a dig against the broader effort to attack journalism, with Assange as figurehead. “Since 2010, when WikiLeaks started publishing evidence of war crimes and torture committed by US forces, we have seen a sustained and concerted effort by several States towards getting Mr Assange extradited to the United States by prosecution, raising serious concern over the criminalisation of investigative journalism in violation of both the US constitution and international human rights law.”

Medical experts who accompanied Melzer on his visit also expressed opinions on Assange’s health, finding that his health had been “seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years.”  Physical ailments were found alongside the “symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, taking a dog-eared leaf out of the book of excuses used against the Working Group, dismissed Melzer’s findings.  Assange always had an unimpaired, free choice (that word again).  “Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgments without his interference or inflammatory accusations.”

The BBC also noted the views of a justice ministry spokesperson, keen to disabuse sceptics that the British justice system might be suffering from judicial wear and tear.  The UK did not, it was asserted, participate in torture; its judges were independent and rights to appeal could be exercised.

The response to Hunt from the good professor was sharp: Assange “was about as ‘free to leave’ as a [sic] someone sitting on a rubberboat in a sharkpool.”  In his view, “UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.”

Melzer’s words suffice as a damningly grim biography on the treatment levelled at Assange and the broader enterprise of publishing.  For two decades, having worked with “victims of war, violence and political persecution,” the rapporteur had “never seen a group of democratic States gang up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

The UN Torture Report On Assange Is An Indictment Of Our Entire Society

On the eighth of April, shortly before London police forcibly carried WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy, a doctor named Sondra S Crosby wrote a letter to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights requesting that the office look into Assange’s case. Today, following a scorching rebuke of multiple governments by UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, mass media outlets around the world are reporting that Julian Assange has been found to be the victim of brutal psychological torture.

Melzer, who by his own admission began his investigation as someone who had “been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else” regarding Assange, speaks of Assange’s plight with the fresh-eyed ferocity of a man who has not been immersed in a soul-corroding career in establishment politics or mass media. A man has not been indoctrinated into accepting as normal the relentless, malicious character assassinations of the western political/media class against a publisher of inconvenient facts about the powerful. A man who, when looking deeply and objectively into the facts with uncorrupted vision, was able to see clearly just how unforgivably abusive Assange’s treatment has been.

“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”

Melzer condemned attempts to extradite Assange to the US under the Espionage Act, as well as what he called “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.”

“According to the expert, this included an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press and on social media, but also by senior political figures, and even by judicial magistrates involved in proceedings against Assange,” the OHCHR statement reads.

“In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination,” Melzer said.

“It was obvious that Mr. Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” said Melzer. “Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

“The evidence is overwhelming and clear,” Melzer said. “Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”

“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the deliberate, concerted and sustained nature of the abuse inflicted on Mr. Assange and seriously deplore the consistent failure of all involved governments to take measures for the protection of his most fundamental human rights and dignity,” Melzer added.

It is hugely significant that a UN expert has included the massive anti-Assange smear campaign in his assessment of psychological abuse. For far too long this devastating psychological weapon of the powerful has gone fully normalized and unacknowledged for the damage and suffering it causes, and now an authoritative voice has pointed it out and called it into public consciousness for the depraved manipulation that it is. It’s a very interesting development to see western governments and their media stenographers condemned in this way for their participation in such savagery.

Responses to Melzer’s findings have been explosive. Virtually every major media outlet in the English-speaking world has been carrying headlines about this story, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to Fox News to CNN to the Guardian to the BBC to the Herald Sun. An attempt to regain control of the narrative by the accused governments, therefore, was, of course, quick to follow.

“This is wrong,” tweeted Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in response to the story. “Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgements without his interference or inflammatory accusations.”

Abusers always demand the right to conduct their abuse in private.

Hunt, who’d just returned from hanging out with the Trump administration’s warmongering psychopath John Bolton, received a direct response from Melzer himself.

“With all due respect, Sir: Mr Assange was about as ‘free to leave’ as a someone sitting on a rubber boat in a shark pool,” Melzer tweeted. “As detailed in my formal letter to you, so far, UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.”

We reject any suggestion by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Australian Government is complicit in psychological torture or has shown a lack of consular support for Mr Assange,” reads a statement by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “The Special Rapporteur has not been in contact with the Australian Government to raise these concerns directly. The Australian Government is a staunch defender of human rights and a strong advocate for humane treatment in the course of judicial processes. We are confident that Mr Assange is being treated appropriately in Belmarsh Prison.

Assange has, in fact, grown so ill in Belmarsh Prison that he is reportedly unable to carry out a lucid conversation, and has been losing a drastic amount of weight. His failing health has been an established fact for a year and a half, with doctors warning at the beginning of last year that conditions in the Ecuadorian embassy are placing his physical well being in serious danger, and has the entire time been pathetically ignored by the government of Assange’s home country.

Menzer’s report is an indictment on our entire society. It’s an indictment of the US-centralized western power alliance. It’s an indictment of the politicians, opaque government agencies and plutocrats who lead that alliance. It’s an indictment of the mass media who regurgitate whatever their government tells them to into the minds of a credulous populace. It’s an indictment of everyone who has ever helped spread the smear campaign against Assange, wherever they may have spread it; every remark, every social media comment, every share and retweet. The entire abusive construct has been outed as exactly what it is, from top to bottom.

So things have been severely shaken up. A massive smear campaign spanning all western nations across all political sectors has been pulled into the spotlight of public consciousness, mass media outlets who’ve devoted huge amounts of resources to assassinating Assange’s character have been forced to report a major revelation coming directly from the United Nations, Assange supporters can now officially say with full authority that his persecutors have literally tortured him, and establishment narrative managers are fighting on the back foot.

And right now all I can feel is gratitude. Gratitude toward Dr Crosby for writing to the UN after examining Assange, gratitude toward Nils Melzer for going to visit him in Belmarsh with an open mind and a compassionate heart, and, most importantly, gratitude toward Julian Assange. Gratitude to him for never giving up this fight.

I mean, think about it. Imagine if Assange had just gone to Sweden when he was told to? He would have surely been extradited to the United States years ago, wrongfully prosecuted in an Eastern District of Virginia court proceeding impossibly rigged against him, and by now the world would have all but forgotten him. He could have laid down, he could have given up, he could have died in that embassy in any number of ways. He had so many off-ramps he could have taken from the psychological torture that he has been subjected to since exposing US war crimes in 2010, but he chose to stand and fight instead. He decided that if they wanted his head, they were going to have to work for it.

Because of that decision, because Julian Assange decided to stand his ground and trade blows toe-to-toe with the most powerful empire in the history of human civilization, he forced them to expose themselves. He forced the oppression machine to reveal its true face, by coordinating across national borders to drag him bodily out of the embassy, locking him in a cage, waging a war upon the free press with outrageous espionage charges, and finally being found guilty of torturing a journalist for publishing factual documents about the powerful.

We have all that information now. It can’t be unseen. Because Assange chose to fight, we now have that evidence and we can use it to help wake people up to the true face behind the smiling mask of “liberal democracy” we’ve all been told to believe in since grade school. Even while imprisoned, sick, and barely even able to speak, Julian Assange is still exposing these bastards for what they are.

Don’t let his example go to waste.

• First published at Caitlin Johnstone.com

Showdown at the Venezuelan Embassy

Photo by Alex Rubinstein

This article describes a tense showdown that took place Monday evening between the Embassy Protectors and federal authorities, and concludes with URGENT ACTIONS people can take to resolve this dispute and stop a US-orchestrated coup.

Writing on Day 36 of the campaign to prevent a US-sponsored coup by protecting the Venezuelan Embassy from illegal takeover

Events reached a climax this Monday, as well as a new level of absurdity, when for the first time, federal authorities cut the locks and opened the embassy doors to tell us we were being evicted, based solely on orders from a fictional Venezuelan ambassador named Carlos Vecchio. (Vecchio is a member of the tiny, right-wing Popular Will Party in Venezuela, and is living in the US in exile out of fear of arrest in Venezuela for his role in organizing violent protests that resulted in over 100 deaths.)

It began around 5 or 5:30pm when the DC Metropolitan Police, along with federal authorities, began negotiating our eviction and possible arrest with our lawyer, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, outside the embassy. They presented her with an order, not signed by any US agency (or any person for that matter) on plain paper without even a letterhead, saying that we were trespassing in the building and were required to leave.

“Required by whom,” Mara asked, and maintained that we were in the embassy legally, with the permission of the elected Venezuelan government, and that we were not violating any laws.

The police refused to allow her to talk to us, but they did allow her to watch from the doorway when around 7PM, the authorities cut the chains and bike lock placed on the embassy’s front doors by the legitimate embassy staff back when diplomatic relations were severed.

When the authorities opened the door, four of us were right there in the lobby (the authors of this report, along with Adrian Pine and David Paul), and we immediately began chanting, “We are here legally! You are breaking international law!”

There were US Marshalls present, members of Federal Protective Services, and a spokesperson from the State Department. They began to read the illegal eviction order, and as soon as they mentioned Vecchio’s name, we interrupted and told them it was an illegal order, that a fictional ambassador from a non-governmental group of coup plotters cannot give legal orders regarding the legitimate Venezuelan embassy.

They then asked us if we would leave voluntarily. Each of us, in turn, said “no.” We then attempted to open a dialogue with them, to let them know we are here legally, and that the only way we would leave voluntarily is if presented with a mutual Protecting Power Agreement (PPA), signed between the US and Venezuela guaranteeing the protection of both this embassy and the corresponding, vacant US embassy in Caracas. Such PPAs are historically common when diplomatic relations break down between two countries. In that even, neutral third countries agree to maintain staff at each respective embassy, protecting it until relations can be reestablished.

They listened. Then the State Department spokesperson simply repeated, “Will you leave voluntarily?”

Again we said no. We told them that entering the embassy was in the violation of the Vienna convention, and that further action could set a precedent that would put all embassies around the world at risk, including US embassies and their personnel.

They let us continue speaking.

We explained to them that removing us and taking over the embassy would also escalate the conflict between Venezuela and the United States, and that this could lead to a military conflict, creating chaos in the region and resulting in many lost lives, including that of US soldiers. “We do not want Latin America to turn into another middle east,” we said. “This would be a quagmire and would cost the US trillions of dollars. And with Russia and China allied with Venezuela, it could potentially lead to a global conflict. So be very careful. Your actions right now are important. If you cross this threshold, your name could very well go down in history as the officers who violated international law and started World War III.”

They glanced back and forth at each other with seeming concern over what they were hearing.

But the spokesperson simply repeated, “will you leave voluntarily?”

Again we said no. We told them, “Listen. The coup plotters cut off our power. They cut off our water. The secret service outside has allowed these terrorists to surround us, to assault us, to prevent food and water from getting inside. They have tried all this on us, and we are still here. If this hasn’t forced us to leave, what do you think will? Please understand we are staying until a mutual PPA is reached between the two countries. Either that or you will have to carry us out on stretchers.”

We continued for quite some time with similar themes about the Vienna convention, and that we were concerned about the personnel in US embassies around the world. We said we hoped the State Department shared our concerns. We told them that the precedent set by violating the Vienna convention would embarrass President Trump and become his legacy. We told them that John Bolton was already making a fool of Trump by misjudging the situation in Venezuela, that the people of Venezuela will not give up their independence or their sovereignty, and that they want peace with the United States. We told them there’s no reason for the US to be enemies with Venezuela, but that if they—right here and right now—cross this threshold by removing us, they could set in motion something they might regret.”

Silence. More glances. Then once again, “will you leave voluntarily?”

We continued, presenting them with an alternative. “Why violate international law,” we asked them? “International law already provides a peaceful resolution to this conflict through what are known as mutual Protective Power Agreements, or PPAs, which have been standard diplomacy since the 1870s.” We educated them that there are currently 29 PPAs in place around the world. “When there’s a peaceful path already established,” we said, “it will be especially bad for your careers and reputations if you violate international law in such a major way that could lead to war.”

Silence this time.

For good measure we added, “Following an illegal order is no defense to criminal prosecution. So we suggest you close the door, go back to your superiors, and discuss with them what we’ve just told you.”

The officer who was acting as a spokesperson left. Another officer took his place.

“Will you leave voluntarily?” he asked us.

We explained the same things to this new officer. Ten minutes later the first officer returned. We told them both that our position hadn’t changed, that we will leave voluntarily only when presented with a mutual PPA.

The officers thought for a moment. Then they informed us that they were going to close the door behind secure it. They said they would station a federal Marshall outside the door.

We told them, “make sure the entire embassy compound is under police protection because these violent terrorists have broken in three times and have yet to be prosecuted.” He replied that they would, but added that if we changed our mind, all we had to do was knock on the front door and they would let us leave peacefully.” They then shut the door and placed plastic zip ties–the same ones typically used for handcuffs– around the handles of the door.

Mara, our attorney, walked the embassy compound with the police to ensure it was fully protected. It was.

The secret service has been removed from duty, replaced with DC Metro police and officers of Federal Protective Services, which is part of DHS. Finally, for the first time, Federal authorities are now protecting the embassy—and us—from the terrorists who have been attacking us.

Monday and Tuesday night we slept peacefully for the first time in weeks.

What Social Movements Around the World Should Do

We urge social movements around the world to show their solidarity with the Embassy Protection Collective by going to US embassies to demand respect for the Vienna convention and the rule of law, and to urge the US and Venezuela to sign a mutual Protecting Power Agreement (PPA).

Furthermore, people in the United States need to become the media, because despite this being a truly unique event in US history where US citizens have gone into a foreign embassy in DC to prevent a US-orchestrated coup, the corporate media has barely covered the story.

Lastly, people should contact their members of congress. Tell them to support a mutual Protecting Power Agreement, or PPA, the usual procedure for protecting embassies when diplomatic relations break down.

Time is of the essence. Resolution of this conflict should not be a unilateral decision by John Bolton, Elliot Abrams, and Mike Pompeo. It’s up to social movements and people everywhere to elevate this issue to international dialogue.

National Mobilization at the Venezuelan Embassy in DC, Saturday May 18th at noon

A Statement from the Embassy Protection Collective