Category Archives: United Nations

Climate Change: The Catastrophic Impact on Developing Countries

The Paris Agreement on climate change, signed in November 2016, was the first time all the world’s nations (except Nicaragua and Syria) signed up to reduce emissions and cap man-made global warming.

Amongst a number of positive pledges made by governments a key agreement was the goal to limit the increase in the average global temperature to well below 2°C (above pre-industrial levels) and to aim for 1.5°C. The probability is that neither of these goals will be met; in fact, a recent study conducted by the University of Washington, estimates there is a mere 5% chance of meeting the 2°C target, and states that, “The likely range of global temperature increase [up to 2100] is 2.0–4.9 °C.”

Another Trump Mistake

An important part of the Paris Agreement was a commitment to assist developing countries as they try to prepare for and mitigate the impact of rising global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere by industrialized countries.

In a somewhat optimistic statement after the Paris accord, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar said, “Humanity will look back on November 4, 2016, as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster.” They went on to say that: “The Agreement is undoubtedly a turning point in the history of common human endeavor, capturing the combined political, economic and social will of governments, cities, regions, citizens, business and investors to overcome the existential threat of unchecked climate change.”

A step of huge significance then, not just in our approach to climate change, but in the development of a global sense of unity. And whilst little of substance has been done since the accord, it represented a major shift away from isolationism, nationalism and ideology towards collective responsibility and cooperative action.

The decision by President Trump not to implement the Paris Agreement violates this unifying act and is a massive mistake, one of many. It reveals how out of touch his administration and certain sections of US business are with the mood of the times and the majority of people around the world. His violent, irresponsible and ignorant action further isolates the US, and reinforces international feelings of anger and dismay at successive US governments’ approach to global affairs and the destructive values espoused and exported by the Neo-Liberal ideologues that determine American government policy.

Michael Brune, from the US environmental group, the Sierra Club, expressed the view of many when he said that: “Donald Trump has made a historic mistake which our grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality.” Trump has “shamelessly disregarded the safety of our families just to let the fossil fuel industry eke out a few more dollars in profits.” America is a significant source of financial and technological support for developing countries: this is also jeopardized by the decision to withdraw. The ambitions of many countries to reduce emissions are dependent on receiving international support, and lack of funds will impact on their ability to meet agreed targets.

By this decision the US, which is responsible for 15% of all carbon emissions, has made it more difficult to reach the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement and intensified the risks resulting from climate change. The results could well be devastating for the whole World (including America), in particular those countries in the front line of climate change, many of which constitute the poorest nations on Earth, are not the principle polluters, have little or no resources – socially, technologically or financially – to cope with the impact of increases in global temperatures and need the support of wealthier countries.

A World Bank report (Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty) states that climate change “threatens the objective of sustainably eradicating poverty”, and unless substantial worldwide efforts are made, more than 100 million people could be pushed back into poverty by 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, home to the poorest of the poor, are the regions that will be hit the hardest. Studies by the Bank show that climate change in these regions will result in increased agricultural prices and could threaten food security: it’s the same old story, the poor always suffer most, no matter what the threat is.

Over the next ten years, according to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) “it is predicted that billions of people, particularly those in developing countries, [will] face shortages of water and food and greater risks to health and life as a result of climate change.” Concerted global action – not withdrawal from international agreements – is needed they state: “To enable developing countries to adapt to the effects of climate change that are happening now and will worsen in the future.”

The poor live in a state of perpetual uncertainty; one natural disaster can take away what little they have, destroying homes and livestock, bringing death and disease. Based on three reports, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecast that a global temperature increase within the lowest targets agreed at Paris, of between 1.5ºC and 2ºC will have a devastating impact: reduced crop yields in tropical areas fueling hunger, the spread of malaria and diarrhoea, and the risk of extinction of 20 – 30 per cent of all plant and animal species. By 2020, “Up to 250 million people in Africa could be exposed to greater risk of water stress,” and over the course of the century millions of people around the Himalayas and Andes will be at risk of bouts of flooding and drought as glaciers retreat or disappear.

Migration and agricultural degradation

Environmental changes have always fed global migration, but the impact of climate change on communities in developing countries could lead to the displacement of unprecedented numbers of people. This will impact on countries in neighbouring regions and the wider world and in turn affect the surrounding ecosystems.

The key cause of mass displacement due to climate change will come from sea-level rises — a rise of 17 – 19 cm in the next 40 years is likely, with many scientists projecting a one meter rise by the end of the century. In addition to small island states, Egypt, Bangladesh, Vietnam, India and China are countries most at risk, all have large populations and productive agricultural land in low-lying coastal areas. Higher temperatures (affecting agriculture), disruption of water cycles and increased intensity of storms are the other key factors that are set to drive people from their homes.

The Global Military Advisory Council on climate change states, somewhat alarmingly, that climate change could trigger a refugee crisis of “unimaginable scale”, and that mass migration will become the “new normal”. Major General Munir Muniruzzaman, a former general in the Bangladesh army and chairman of the military Council has told The Guardian that, “one meter of sea level rise will flood 20% of his nation. “We’re going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people.” This view was echoed by former US Secretary of State John Kerry when, in 2015 (and nothing has changed since then) he warned that with increased food insecurity and shortages of water, violent conflicts between tribal groups fighting for survival would erupt and mass migration would follow. Far from being fantastical or apocalyptic, the early signs of this vision are upon us: In Pakistan, for example, – one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, floods during 2010 destroyed crops and forced 14 million people from their homes. But according to research conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute floods are not the biggest threat, it’s hot weather, ‘heat stress’, as it’s called, that drive more people from their homes, as it severely impacts on crop yields.

Climate change is upon us, is increasingly affecting weather patterns around the world, and if the World Bank report is correct, in the short-term – between now and 2030 – there is little that can be done to reduce them; the only option for developing countries over the next 15 years or so they say, is to “reduce vulnerability through both targeted adaptation investments and improved socioeconomic conditions.”

There is an alternative way to ‘reduce vulnerability’ for the poorest people in the world, and that is by the rich nations sharing what they have, and what the Earth provides more equitably amongst everyone. Building sharing into the socio-economic model that determines peoples lives; sharing the food and water, the knowledge, skills, information and materials, technology and ideas, so that those with nothing do not suffer the most as a result of our collective poisoning of the world; contamination by the industrialized nations of the world, which has caused the greatest crisis humanity has faced and is already tearing at the lives of millions of the most disadvantaged.

Biological Warfare: US & Saudis Use Cholera to Kill Yemenis

Chemical/biological warfare is the term used to describe the use of chemical or biological agents as weapons to injure or kill humans, livestock, or plants. Chemical weapons are devices that use chemicals to inflict death or injury; biological weapons use pathogens or organisms that cause disease. Pathogens include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins (poisons produced by animals or plants).
Library of Congress, Science Reference Services

Since March 2015, the US has supported Saudi Arabia and its allies in their criminal war of aggression against Yemen, committing daily war crimes, especially against civilians, who are now suffering a cholera epidemic with more than 400,000 victims.

Cholera is caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholera and has been weaponized by the US, Japan (in World War II), South Africa (under apartheid), Iraq (under Saddam), and other states. To be most effective, cholera must be spread through water supplies. That’s what’s happening in Yemen now. More than two years of bombing has largely destroyed Yemen’s infrastructure, water and sewage systems are destroyed, hospitals and clinics are destroyed, and the population of about 25 million has almost no protection against the spread of cholera. The UN says Yemen’s cholera epidemic is “the largest ever recorded in any country in a single year since records began.”

This may not be literal biological warfare, but it is certainly biological warfare by other means. This is biological warfare in reality, if not in law. This is biological warfare in one of the world’s poorest countries, supported across two American administrations, with no sign of letting up. US slaughter of civilians has been ratcheting up in recent months, not only in Afghanistan but in places like Iraq (Mosul) and Syria (Raqqa). This is what empires do, especially as their authority begins to wane…

And in Yemen, the US continues to support and participate in this panoply of criminal acts with little objection from Congress, most news media, or the general public. Few seem to care about the deliberate spread of a toxin that affects mostly children and that “causes a person’s intestines to create massive amounts of fluid that then produces thin, grayish brown diarrhea.” Where treatment is unavailable or impossible, cholera can be lethal in a matter of days. As a NOVA program on bioterror put it, “because cholera is readily treated with proper medical attention, it is less likely to be used as an agent of terror in the United States.” And since rehydration is essential to recovery, cholera is most effectively deployed in a place like Yemen where the water and sewage systems have been bombed into a state of high lethality.

There are laws against all this, not that it matters much

At present, 124 nations are member states of the International Criminal Court (ICC), established by international treaty (the Rome Statute) to have jurisdiction over the international crimes of aggression, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The United States is not among the member states, having signed the original treaty and then withdrawn its signature. Sudan, Israel, and Russia also signed the original treaty, then withdrew. Yemen voted in 2007 to ratify the treaty, then re-voted to retract ratification. There are 41 other countries, including India, Pakistan, Turkey, and China, that have rejected the treaty.

The US did not sign the war crimes treaty until December 31, 2000, when President Clinton was a lame duck who had not asked the Senate to ratify the treaty. On May 6, 2002, John R. Bolton, the Bush administration’s Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, communicated the US position to the UN. Here is the full text of the letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan:

This is to inform you, in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000. The United States requests that its intention not to become a party, as expressed in this letter, be reflected in the depositary’s status lists relating to this treaty..

There was a time when the US, lacking “legal obligations” not to commit war crimes, might still have felt some moral obligation not to do so (as well as the capacity to overcome it, for example, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Now our national interests, usually undefined, put us in the company of thuggish police states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Kuwait in their unprovoked, savagely genocidal assault on a defenseless Yemeni population whose Houthi minority had the effrontery to want to be left alone and was willing to fight for that right..

There was a time, before there was a United States, that this country fought for the same right. We’ve long since become a country that doesn’t want to leave anyone else alone. Now we have a president who demands complete personal loyalty, and who’s more than happy to molest anyone who even appears to fall short, which happens to include the majority of Americans. This can’t end well.

Palestine: Apartheid, Stolen Lives and Land, History Erased, United Nations Deaf Mute

“All 100 U.S. Senators signed a letter Thursday asking U.N. Secretary General António Guterres to address what the lawmakers call entrenched bias against Israel at the world body.”

The letter: “ … uses strong language to insist that the United Nations rectify what the Senators said is unequal treatment of Israel on human rights and other grounds.

“Through words and actions, we urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other U.N. member in good standing,” they stated.

The Senators appear to be on a parallel universe. Have they reflected, in context, on the UN’s fine founding words, avowing:

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person … to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom … to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours … to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples …

Israel – ever presented as the eternal victim – has not just made a mockery of the words but also of the Balfour letter of 2nd November 1917 and trampled on both ever since. Balfour:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine … (Emphasis added.)

So much for the “rights” of the Palestinians. Between November 1947 and November 1948 five hundred and thirty one Palestinian towns and villages had been “ethnically cleansed”. By 1952 it was six hundred and fifteen.

This “Nakba” (“catastrophe”) seventy years after Israel’s final founding is ongoing.

The land grabs are illegal and violate: U.N. Charter, Article 2(4) and 51 (1945); Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations…, Principle 1 (1970).

Settlements on occupied lands violate Geneva Conventions IV, Article 49(6) (1949). It is illegal to colonize or transfer non-indigenous people to occupied land.

Taking land by force and claiming sovereignty violates: U.N. Charter, Article 2(4) (1945); Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations…, Principle 1.

Forbidding civilian populations the right to return to their homes following the end of armed conflict is in direct violation of international law and UN resolutions. Geneva Convention IV, Articles 45, 46 and 49 (1949), UN resolutions 194 (III) (General Assembly; 1948) and 237 (Security Council; 1967).

Collective punishment violates Geneva Conventions IV, Article 33 (1949); Geneva Conventions (Protocol I), Article 75(2d) (1977).

The list of breaches of international law is near endless as are the attacks on a people with no army, air force or navy, plus the decimations of 1967, 2008-9 and 2014.

Israel’s violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, legally binding on Member-nations, include Resolutions 54, 111, 233, 234, 236, 248, 250, 252, 256, 262, 267, 270, 280, 285, 298, 313, 316, 468, 476, a small sample.

The Senators would seem to have as little knowledge of the iniquities inflicted on the Middle East by foreign powers and cuckoos in the nest as their rookie President. It is not Israel being meted out “unequal treatment”. It is the Palestinians, thieved of their land, history, justice and all normality.

• First published at Global Research

Refugee Conundrums

Having poured scorn and not an indecent amount of bile upon the refugee deal between the Obama administration and Canberra last year, US President Donald Trump was never going to make things easy for the resettlement of various groups held on Nauru and Manus Island.

Repeated emphasis has been made on the issue of how the anti-terrorism regime outlined in the USA Patriot Act disqualifies potential entrants, given the sheer scope of how “support” is defined.  This is particularly applicable to the Tamils, numbering some 100, who might have been sympathetic to the cause of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam.

The true sufferers remain the refugees who continue being shuffled and disposed in a broken international system that Australia insists on further fracturing. (It might be argued, with good grounds, that Australian governments have been instrumental in ensuring its failure.)

Another troubling feature of Canberra’s obstinacy lies is its inventive approach to the factual record.  Both sides of the political aisle insist that the people-smuggling “market” model must be confronted, with a hammer wielded in determination against its workings.  All done in the spirit of humanitarian sensibility, we are told.

Yet Amnesty International has noted instances where members of the Australian navy have paid those very smugglers to move their human cargo away from Australian waters. The model, in other words, thrives under the colluding eyes of states who prefer borders and regulation over humans and rights.

The tail in Canberra has continued to twist on this score.  For one, where would those rejected by the US vetting process go?  Even if some had passed muster under those “extreme vetting” procedures, what would it do to those with ties to Australia?

Disputes have emerged.  One backer for the US-Australia resettlement deal was the United Nations through its various organs dealing with refugees.  But conflicting claims between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the Turnbull government about the resettling of those captives on Manus Island and Nauru have surfaced.

We are long accustomed to the usual charge and counter-charge in these squabbles over how best to use and abuse a refugee debate.  Enter milksop Grandi: “Australia’s policy of offshore processing in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, which denies access to asylum in Australia for refugees arriving by sea without a valid visa, has caused extensive, avoidable suffering for far too long.”

Grandi then gets to the crux: an explanation as to why the UNHCR, not exactly the most persuasive organisation, committed to the Australian-US agreement on resettling refugees.  “We agreed to do so on the clear understanding that vulnerable refugees with close family ties in Australia would ultimately be allowed to settle there.”

Cue Grandi’s perplexed response to being “informed by Australia that it refuses to accept even these refugees, and that they, along with the others on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, have been informed that their only option is to remain where they are or to be transferred to Cambodia or the United States.”

Canberra’s UNHCR mission was also baffled.  “We’ve maintained from the beginning,” claimed Catherine Stubberfield, “that allowing people with close family being able to come to Australia is a minimum, and unfortunately that’s not being honoured.”  According to Stubberfield, this understanding would prevail even of those accepted by US authorities.

UN Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Turk, also added his name to the inventory of the deluded that families with ties to Australia would be prioritised.  “We were hoping very much, based on the understanding, that Australia would be part of the solution, that we would find an agreement that would allow them to settle in Australia.”

Why Grandi and the UNHCR grandees should be puzzled is itself puzzling.  The official policy from Canberra on refugees has been well minted for some years. In the dying days of an election campaign, a desperate Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, turned over a leaf on countering naval arrivals by declaring that any unprocessed individuals heading to Australia by boat would never be permitted settlement on the mainland.

A more reactionary, but consistently brutal Prime Minister Tony Abbott merely militarised the response, cloaking it with a secrecy that any authoritarian leader would be pleased with.  The “never settle in Australia” approach persists with grim determination.

Last week, Rudd attempted to throw a dose of humanitarianism on the policy by insisting that, when he re-commenced the offshore processing system in July 2013, he had only intended a 12-month limit on operating the Manus Island centre.  Rudd remains immaculately disingenuous on this score.

What we have on record is a clear case of double narratives, one spun for political convenience to an electorate hardened to Fortress Australia, and to diplomats charged with negotiating the resettlement program.  Caught between two chairs, those on Manus and Nauru will fall between them, doomed to a comical and vicious solution that will see those rejected by the United States and Australia find testy homes in third, vastly inappropriate states.

The Balfour Declaration: Time to Say Sorry and Time We Made Amends

In a letter to a local newspaper about Brexit and the way prime minister Theresa May is handling it, I happened to mention in passing the Balfour Declaration, criticising her plans to celebrate the centenary “with pride” and invite Israel’s PM Netanyahu to the fun. This drew a sharp response from someone spouting the usual Israeli propaganda ‘facts’ and saying my attitude harmed the Jewish community worldwide.

The Balfour Declaration is a deadly serious subject. It is a cause of great horror and grief, of justifiable international anger, and a matter for profound regret. This is a right time and proper time for debate. Let’s focus on it for the next few months because justice groups are urging the British Government to mark the Balfour Declaration centenary by saying sorry.

Mrs May could do some real good here. She could, at a stroke, help quell the destructive turmoil in the Middle East and begin repair to Britain’s tattered prestige. She could even open new trade routes into Islamic markets, vitally important as we leave the EU.

By eating a little humble pie and apologising on our behalf for 100 years of agony inflicted on lovely people in a lovely part of the world Mrs May could take a giant step for mankind on the world stage. She has between now and November to do it. Will she?

No, she’ll be celebrating Balfour in style with the Israeli prime minister and not giving a toss about the people Britain wronged.

Which is shocking when a UN report recently branded Israel an apartheid regime. It’s even more regrettable considering the desperate cry for help from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine in an open letter to the World Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement, signed by over 30 organisations in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Here’s an extract:

We are still suffering from 100 years of injustice and oppression that were inflicted on the Palestinian people beginning with the unlawful Balfour declaration… followed by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza and the fragmentation of our people and our land through policies of isolation and confiscation, and the building of Jewish-only settlements and the Apartheid Wall…

Mrs May needs a jolt.

When I enquired whether the Balfour Declaration is taught in our schools I was told ‘no’. So what exactly is it?

Arthur Balfour, British foreign secretary in 1917, penned a letter to the most senior Jew in England, Lord Rothschild – pledging the Government’s “best endeavours” to facilitate the establishment in Palestine of a national home for Jewish people. Balfour also wrote:

We do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country.

It amounted to a betrayal of our Arab allies in WW1. Many in Parliament objected, including Lord Sydenham who remarked:

What we have done, by concessions not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, is to start a running sore in the East, and no-one can tell how far that sore will extend.

At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 when the Great Powers carved up the territorial spoils of war a Zionist delegation produced Balfour’s promissory note. It planted a powder-keg in the Middle East and the fuse was now lit. Britain accepted the mandate responsibility for Palestine and eventually in 1947 the Great Powers pushed the United Nations into partitioning the territory, again without consulting those who lived there.

So what made Balfour do it? The more you delve, the more incredible the answers to those unaware of the growing influence of worldwide Zionism. Support for the movement and its ambition to create a New Israel was quite fashionable in the corridors of power around the time of WW1. The story I find compelling is that, while Britain struggled desperately against German U-boat successes and ammunition shortages, the Zionist power-brokers of Germany and Eastern Europe consulted with their opposite numbers in America and decided, given their grip on money and media, they could bring the US into the war against Germany and its Ottoman ally if Britain were to promise them Palestine for a Jewish homeland afterwards.

Balfour was a Zionist convert (as were many others including prime minister David Lloyd-George) and in the right position. The proposition was put to Britain in 1916. The Zionists delivered. The US entered the war. In the meantime immigrant Polish-Zionist chemist Chaim Weizmann offered a solution to the production of enough acetone, a critical ingredient in cordite for artillery shells, to satisfy the war effort. He demanded the same promise. Balfour handed them their ‘receipt’ in November 1917 even though Palestine was not, and never could be, Britain’s to give away.

‘Name of the game: erasing Palestine’

Balfour had inserted into his ‘declaration’ that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing and non-Jewish communities….” on the insistence of the only Jew in the British Cabinet, Lord Montague, who was anti-Zionist and opposed the deal. But this safeguard was jettisoned as soon as Britain lost control of events.

Not content with the territory allocated to them under the UN Partition Plan the Israelis declared statehood ignoring all boundaries. Their ‘Plan Dalet’ offensive, begun beforehand, had seized much Arab-designated land at gunpoint.  Jewish militia – the Irgun, Haganah, Palmach and Lehi – raided towns and villages forcing inhabitants to flee. Numerous attrocities were committed including the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem (headquarters of the British administration) in 1946 murdering 91, and the massacres at Deir Yassin and Lydda in 1948.

Today Israel illegally occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Old City, and has Gaza in a stranglehold so pitiless as to have caused a long-term humanitarian crisis and irreparable environmental damage. For nearly 70 years millions of dispossessed Palestinians and their families have languished in refugee camps, and those who remain in their homeland – Christian and Muslim alike – live a miserable life under brutal military occupation.

The situation stands as a monumental stain on the flag of the United Nations, which hasn’t the backbone to take action. And the continuing repercussions throughout the Holy Land should concern all true Christians and Muslims especially regular churchgoers like Mrs May.

Miko Peled, the son of an Israeli general and a former soldier in the Israeli army – and now an important figure in the struggle for justice – confirms what many have been saying for years:

The name of the game: erasing Palestine, getting rid of the people and de-Arabizing the country… By 1993 the Israelis had achieved their mission to make the conquest of the West Bank irreversible…. That is when Israel said, OK, we’ll begin negotiations…

My critic in the local newspaper called Hamas terrorists. Peled describes the Israeli army, in which he served, as “one of the best trained and best equipped and best fed terrorist organisations in the world.” Take your pick. But Hamas’ political wing is not proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK.

The accusation that criticising the Israeli regime harms Jewish communities is unacceptable. There are many admirable Jewish groups vehemently campaigning against Israel’s crimes. One-time Israeli Military Intelligence chief Yehoshafat Harkabi warned that Jews throughout the world would pay the price of Israel’s misconduct. So the problem appears to be a ‘family’ matter between Jews everywhere.

The Story behind the Jerusalem Attack

Early October 2016, Misbah Abu Sbeih left his wife and five children at home and then drove to an Israeli police station in Occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem.

The 39-year-old Jerusalemite was scheduled to hand himself over to serve a term of 4 months in jail for, allegedly, trumped up charges of ‘trying to hit an Israeli soldier’.

Misbah is familiar with Israeli prisons, having been held there before on political charges, including an attempt to sneak into and pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is part of a large compound known as Haram al-Sharif, which includes – aside from Al-Aqsa – the famed Dome of the Rock and other Palestinian Muslim sites, revered by Muslims everywhere.

Al-Aqsa is believed to be the second mosque ever to be built, the first being Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The Holy Quran mentions it as the place from which Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, journeying from Mecca to Jerusalem.

For Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, the Mosque took on a new meaning following the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian city of al-Quds (East Jerusalem) in 1967.

Scenes of Israeli soldiers raising the Israeli flag over Muslim and Christian shrines in the city fifty years ago, is burnt into the collective memory of several generations.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, that the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been the focal point of clashes between Palestinian worshipers and the Israeli army.

Daily visitors to the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem include non-Muslims tourists. They are often welcomed by the Al-Waqf administration, which is the Islamic religious trust that manages the holy shrines, a practice dating back 500 years.

Even after the Israeli occupation of the Arab city, al-Waqf has continued to be the caretaker of the Muslim site, as arranged between the Jordanian government and Israel.

Israeli design in the occupied city, however, is far greater than the Mosque itself. Last April, the Israeli government announced plans to build 15,000 new housing units in Occupied Jerusalem, contrary to international law.

The international community recognizes East Jerusalem as a Palestinian city. The United States, too, accepts international consensus on Jerusalem, and attempts by the US Congress to challenge the White House on this understanding have all failed. That is, until Donald Trump came to power.

Prior to his inauguration in January, Trump had promised to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The announcement was welcomed by Israeli right wing politicians and extremists alike. Many of Israel’s supporters in the US saw this as a good sign of the Trump presidency.

While the US embassy is yet to officially move to Jerusalem, the new administration is sending a message that it is no longer bound by international law with regard to the Occupied Territories.

Not only is the US abandoning its self-tailored role as a ‘peace broker’ between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, but it is sending a clear signal to Israel that there can be no pressure on Israel regarding the status of Jerusalem.

In response, the United Nations and its various institutions have moved quickly to reassure Palestinians.

The UN cultural agency, UNESCO, has been the most active in this regard. Despite US-Israeli pressure, several resolutions have been passed by UNESCO and the UN General Assembly in recent months, which have reaffirmed Palestinian rights in the city.

Israel and the US moved to punish Palestinians for UNESCO’s decisions.

It began when the Israeli Knesset began pushing laws that make life even more difficult for Palestinian Jerusalemites, including a law that limits the Muslim call for prayer. The law, which passed its second reading last March, was championed by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli police expanded the ever-growing list of Palestinians who are not allowed to reach their houses of worship. The list included Misbah Abu Sbeih, who was repeatedly arrested, beaten and incarcerated by the Israeli police.

The Israeli government then opened up the flood gates of settlement expansion in the occupied city, after being partially limited during the presidency of Barack Obama. In part, that was Netanyahu’s response to UN Resolution 2334, which demanded an immediate halt to Israeli settlement construction in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories.

Concurrently, the new US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took on the task of silencing any international criticism of the Israeli occupation, calling international attempts to end the occupation a form of ‘bullying.’

Assured by the unconditional US support, Netanyahu moved to new extremes. He severed his country’s ties with UNESCO and called for the dismantlement of UN headquarters in the occupied Palestinian city.

East Jerusalem was already illegally annexed by Israeli in 1981, but without international acceptance of such a measure, the Israeli move seemed pointless.

Now, Israel feels that times are changing, as the Trump administration offers Israel a window of opportunity to normalize its illegal occupation and annexation of the city.

In recent months, Palestinians have responded in myriad ways. They have worked with various countries across the globe to challenge the Israeli-US plans.

Most Palestinian efforts, although successful to some extent, have failed to sway Israel in any way.

The political upheaval has translated on the ground to more violence, as thousands of Israeli occupation soldiers and police were rushed to the city to restrict Palestinian movement and to block thousands of worshipers from reaching Al-Aqsa. Hundreds were detained in a massive security campaign.

In the absence of a strong leadership, Palestinians are growing increasingly desperate and angry. The Palestinian Authority is largely busy in its own pitiful power struggles and appears to have no time for Palestinians, who are left with little hope for a political horizon and no clear sense of direction.

While thousands of Palestinians have resisted through constantly attempting to reach Al-Aqsa or demonstrated in protest, others are “reaching the breaking point”. One is Misbah Abu Sbeih.

Once he arrived at the Israeli military police station, Mishbah did not give himself up. Instead, he opened fire, killing an Israeli army office from the ‘Yassam’ unit and another Israeli. He was killed instantly.

Other attacks followed. On Friday, July 14, the holiest day of the week in the Muslim calendar, three Palestinian men attacked Israeli soldiers and police officers stationed near one of the Haram’s gates.

They killed two Israeli officers, and were killed by occupation soldiers, soon after. This is the first time that an attack of this nature has been recorded inside the Al-Aqsa compound. Since 1967, only Israelis have used arms in violent clashes with Palestinians. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in or around this holy shrine throughout the years.

Last June in Jerusalem, speaking to a crowd celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the city, Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu declared that the al-Aqsa Mosque compound would “forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

Empowered by the Trump administration and assured by Haley’s tactics at the UN, Netanyahu feels that his dream of subduing East Jerusalem is being realized. The price of Netanyahu’s dream, however, is likely to be costly.

On the day of the attack, several Palestinians were killed in various parts of the West Bank and a 3-year-old child from Gaza died while awaiting a permit to cross from the besieged region to the West Bank for treatment. None of this registered in international media. The armed Palestinian attack on Israeli soldiers, however, made headlines around the world.

More violence is likely to follow. Palestinians, who are dying without much media coverage, are desperate and angry as their holy city is crumbling under the heavy boots of soldiers, amid international silence and unconditional US support for the Israeli government.

Will Tony Blair Finally Stand Trial for his Part in the “Supreme International Crime”?

I think most people who have dealt with me, think I’m a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am.
— Tony Blair, BBC “On the Record”, 16th November 1997.

On 30th November last year, Michael Gove, currently UK Environment Minister, pretty well unloved by swathes of the population whatever Ministry he heads, declared at the post-Chilcot Inquiry debate in Parliament regarding Tony Blair’s role in dragging the UK into a monumental tragedy for which history will not forgive: “History, I think will judge him less harshly than some in this House do.” Deciding whether or not to illegally invade Iraq was a “finely balanced act”, fantasized Gove.

It was not. It was a pack of lies, many of which came from the Blair regime, as confirmed by Colin Powell’s delusionary address to the UN on 5th February 2003, in subsequently unearthed correspondence and, of course, the Chilcot Inquiry.

On 15th September 2004, the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in an interview with the BBC World Service, when asked if the invasion was illegal, stated: “Yes, if you wish.” He continued without caveat: “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view and from the Charter point of view it was illegal.”

Blair, his Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw and his Attorney General Lord Goldsmith did not face a Nuremberg type trial – and surreally, Blair, after his 2007 resignation was appointed Middle East Peace Envoy. Straw and Goldsmith went back to business as usual.

However, after fourteen years, maybe two million deaths, the decimation by ISIS, the US, and the UK of Iraq’s (Mesopotamia’s) history, culture stewardship and witness, over millennia, to one of the world’s great, ancient civilizations, there is a chance that Antony Charles Lynton Blair, Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith may yet face a Court of Law.

In April this year the UK Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, intervened in an attempt to halt a private prosecution of the three brought by General Abdul-Wahid al-Ribat, former Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein’s government.

The Attorney General argued that the basis of the case, the crime of aggression “the supreme international crime” as enshrined in the Nuremberg Tribunals, did not apply in British law and that the former Prime Minister, Blair and his Ministers had “implied immunity as former Head of State and government Ministers, therefore offence not made out … Allegations involve potential details being disclosed under the Official Secrets Act for which Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions consent are required.” The implication seemingly being that those consents would not be forthcoming.

However, in direct contradiction, relating to the argument regarding the crime of aggression: “In his 2003 memo on the legality of the Iraq war (Lord) Goldsmith, then Attorney General, appeared to concede the key point of those now seeking his prosecution. ‘Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law’ “, he wrote in an advice to then Prime Minister Blair prior to the invasion.

Nevertheless the case was dismissed by the Judge at Westminster Magistrates Court. The legal team for General al-Ribat, led by Michael Mansfield QC and lawyer Imran Khan are not easily deterred.

Mansfield has been described thus: “The radical lawyer has become an icon in a disenchanted age … (Mansfield’s) high profile victories take on a hallowed significance: the good guys against the rotten state … with a flourish of his insolence and a refusal to shut up they flock to him … and he looks after them all. The Establishment loathes him.”1 Imran Khan “is one of the most highly regarded human rights layers in the country” and “a rebel with many causes.”2 “My objective is to make sure the State is held accountable”, he is quoted as saying.

This week, on Wednesday, 5th July, General al-Ribat’s case returned to the High Court in an appeal which is being heard by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and Mr. Justice Ouseley.

The General had been motivated, Mansfield told the Court, by the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry that the Iraq invasion was unnecessary and undermined the United Nations.

‘Mansfield summarised the report’s findings as: “Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to the UK, intelligence reporting about [Iraqi] weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty, that the war was unnecessary and that the UK undermined the authority of the UN Security Council.”

“Nothing could be more emphatic than these findings,” he said. “It was an unlawful war.”

He further argued that in 1945: “… when the British prosecutor, Sir Hartley Shawcross, opened the cases against Nazi leaders at the Nuremburg war crimes trials at the end of the second world war, he acted as though the crime of aggression had already been assimilated into English law.”

James Eadie, QC. representing the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, stated that: “The crime of aggression is not known to English law” and does not exist in the statute book.

Sabah al-Mukhtar, of the Arab Lawyers Network, commented of the case: “This is just looking at whether the first Court was right in refusing to entertain the case.

“The Magistrates Court dismissed it on the grounds that Tony Blair had immunity and that the crime of aggression was not part of English law. Many think they were not correct on that.”

The case can be brought in Britain since the British were part of the occupying forces in Iraq, thus General al-Ribat, now living in exile is “under the European Convention on Human Rights, deemed to have been within the jurisdiction at a relevant time.”

The High Court’s decision has been reserved to allow a further week for the General’s legal team to make “additional specified submissions.” If the Appeal is not dismissed “the issue of whether the crime of aggression exists in English law will be sent up to the Supreme Court to decide.”

It has not been Blair’s week. In the light of the Court hearing, Sir John Chilcot – who headed the seven year Inquiry into the decimating attack on Iraq and found that the Blair Cabinet’s decisions on the matter had been “far from satisfactory” – broke a year long silence in an interview with the BBC.

Asked if the former Prime Minister had been as truthful with him and the public as he should have been, Sir John replied:

Can I slightly reword that to say I think any Prime Minister taking a country into war has got to be straight with the nation and carry it, so far as possible, with him or her. I don’t believe that was the case in the Iraq instance.

Millions would surely agree, including a swathe of the media, as encapsulated by media correspondent Roy Greenslade exactly a year ago, on the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry. The sub-heading was: “Without exception, the ‘feral beasts’ of the press tear the former Prime Minister apart over the Iraq invasion, leaving his reputation in tatters.”

A few front page examples were: “Chilcot Report into Iraq war delivers harsh verdict on Blair” (Financial Times); “A monster of delusion” (Daily Mail); “Weapon of mass deception” (Sun); “Blair’s private war” (Times); “Blair is world’s worst terrorist” (Daily Star) and “Spinning on their graves” (Independent). The Mail cited: “the duplicitous, dishonest, secretive, shallow and incompetent conduct of Tony Blair…”

In November 2011: “In Kuala Lumpur, after two years of investigation by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC), a Tribunal (the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, or KLWCT) consisting of five Judges with judicial and academic backgrounds reached a unanimous verdict that found George W Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.”

Relevant to this week’s case may be that The Tribunal also added several recommendations to its verdict:

1) Report findings in accord with Part VI (calling for future accountability) of the Nuremberg Judgment of 1945 addressing crimes of surviving political and military leaders of Nazi Germany;

2) File reports of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague;

3) Approach the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution demanding that the United States end its occupation of Iraq;

4) Communicate the findings of the tribunal to all members of the Rome Statute (which governs the International Criminal Court) and to all states asserting Universal Jurisdiction that allows for the prosecution of international crimes in national courts; and

5) Urge the UN Security Council to take responsibility to ensure that full sovereign rights are vested in the people of Iraq and that the independence of its government be protected by a UN Peacekeeping Force.

It is ten years nearly to the day (27th June 2007) since Blair left Downing Street, left Iraq bathed in blood and tears and walked off to make £millions and a joke of all peace stands for, as a “Peace Envoy.”

Perhaps, at last, justice may have a chance, one which might set a precedent and also deter any politician or leader from embarking on the “supreme international crime”, ever again. Here’s fervently hoping.

  1. Guardian, 25th October 1997.
  2. The Lawyer, 17th June 2015.

Nuclear Weapons: Barbaric Tools of Death

The existence of nuclear weapons is an ugly symbol of the violent consciousness that plagues humanity. Despite tremendous technological advancements, developments in health care and wonders of creative expression, little of note has changed in humanity’s collective consciousness: Tribalism, idealism and selfish desire persist, negative tendencies that under the pervasive socio-economic systems are exacerbated and encouraged. People and nations are set in competition with one another, separation and mistrust is fed, leading to disharmony, fear and conflict.

Such engineered insecurity is used as justification for nations to maintain a military force, and in the case of the world’s nuclear powers, arm themselves with weapons that, if used, would destroy all life, human and sub-human alike. Despite this, unlike biological and chemical weapons, landmines and cluster munitions, possession of nuclear weapons is not prohibited under international law, although launching them would, according to CND, breach a plethora of conventions and declarations.

Sustainable security is not created through threats and the cultivation of fear, but by building relationships, cooperating and establishing trust. As long as nuclear weapons exist there is a risk of them being used, of an accident – and there have been many close shaves since 1948 – and subsequent annihilation. As the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANW) rightly states, “Prohibiting and completely eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee against their use.” The rational thing to do is to move towards a nuclear free world and with some urgency; this necessarily entails the nuclear powers disarming, either unilaterally or bilaterally. Someone has to begin the process; by taking the moral initiative others will be under pressure to follow, whereas, as former US Secretary of State George Shultz put it, “proliferation begets proliferation.”

Clearing the world of these monstrous machines would not only be a major step in safeguarding humanity and the planet, it would represent a triumph of humane principles of goodness — cooperation, trust, unity — over hate, suspicion and discord.

There can be little doubt that the vast majority of people and nations in the world would like nuclear weapons to be decommissioned.  It is the Governments of some of the most powerful countries that stand as obstacles to common-sense and progress: Corporate-State governments motivated not by a burning desire to help create a peaceful world at ease with itself, but driven by self-interest, pressure from financial investors and the demands of the arms-industry.

Towards the end of 2016, the United Nations general assembly adopted a landmark resolution to begin to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” Talks began in February this year, when the first leg of a two stage conference was held in New York; 123 nations voted to outlaw them, while the nine nuclear powers (USA, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea), rather predictably stood in opposition to a ban and voted against the proposal, as did nuclear host and alliance countries such as Belgium, Italy, Croatia and Norway, among others: Shame on them all. These obstructive governments do not represent the wishes of their populations, their motives are corrupt, their actions irresponsible.

It’s interesting to note that the countries that possess nuclear weapons seem to believe it’s fine for them to have these tools of destruction, but not for other nations, particularly those that have a different world view. Between them, these nine nations boast around 15,000 nuclear weapons; America and Russia own 93% of the total of which some 1,800 are reportedly kept on ‘high-alert status’, meaning they can be launched within minutes. Just one of these warheads, if detonated on a large city, could kill millions of people, with the effects persisting for decades.

Modern nuclear weapons are a great deal smaller and many times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which, far from ending the war, was completely unnecessary, and caused death and destruction on a scale hitherto unseen. As Admiral William D. Leahy, the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military at the time, wrote in his memoirs, the atomic bomb “was of no material assistance” against Japan, because “the Japanese were already defeated.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower echoed this view, saying, “Japan was at the moment seeking some way to surrender with minimum loss of ‘face’. It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” In dropping the bombs, Leahy said, the U.S. “had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

False, Expensive Logic

The perverse attitude surrounding the possession of nuclear weapons was evident during the UK election campaign when Jeremy Corbyn – a lifelong peace activist and co-founder of the Stop the War Campaignwas repeatedly criticized by the right-wing media (including the BBC), Conservative politicians and manipulated members of the public, for refusing to say whether he would, or would not, launch a nuclear attack. He met such irrational hypotheticals with composure and suppressed irritation, saying that he would do all he could to avert conflict in the first place and that every effort should be made to rid the world of these ultimate weapons of mass destruction.

He is right and should be applauded for taking such a sane, common-sense approach, but the collective imagination has been poisoned to such a degree that advocating peace, and engaging in dialogue with one’s enemies is regarded as a sign of weakness, whereas sabre rattling and intransigence are hailed as displays of strength.

In addition to the rick of human and planetary death, the financial costs of producing, maintaining and developing these instruments of terror is staggering and diverts resources from areas of real need – health care, education, dealing with the environmental catastrophe, and eradicating hunger. Globally, ICAN reports that the “annual expenditure on nuclear weapons is estimated at USD 105 Billion – or $12 million an hour”. Unsurprisingly America spends the largest amount by far; equivalent, in fact, to the other eight nuclear-armed nations combined. Between 2010 and 2018 the US will spend at least $179 billion and probably more, while 50 million of its citizens live in grinding poverty.

In 2002 the World Bank forecast that “an annual investment of just US$40–60 billion, or roughly half the amount currently spent on nuclear weapons, would be enough to meet the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals on poverty alleviation by the target date of 2015.” But the powerful and tooled up prefer to invest in an arsenal of total destruction. It makes no sense; it is another example of the insanity that surrounds us.

The irrational political choice of maintaining a nuclear arsenal is justified by duplicitous politicians as a means of establishing of peace; it is they claim, a necessary deterrent against aggression. This is not only dishonest, it is totally false logic: far from making the world a safer place, the very possession of nuclear weapons by any one country allows for and encourages their proliferation, thereby increasing the risk of them being used, or accidentally detonated.

If retaining nuclear weapons is not to deter would be invaders what is the reason for the massive financial investment and the dangers that are inherent in patrolling the Earth with these weapons of total destruction?

National image and bravado, the men with the biggest sticks ruling the roost, sitting around the UN Security Council (a remnant of the past that should be scrapped altogether) is, no doubt, one factor, but the primary reason why the nuclear powers consistently block moves to rid the world of these killing machines lies in the world of business. The companies and financial investors involved in developing, manufacturing and maintaining the weapons as well as trading in related technology, parts or services do not want to see an end to the cash cow of nuclear indulgence.

In its detailed report Don’t Bank on the Bomb ICAN relates that in America, Britain, India and France private companies are given contracts worth billions of USD to develop “new, more useable, and more destabilizing nuclear weapons.” In Russia, China, Pakistan and North Korea this work is done by government agencies, where no doubt corruption is rife. Financial institutions, including high-street banks and insurance companies, are investing in companies involved in manufacturing and maintaining nuclear weapons; such organizations should reveal their investments and be boycotted by the public. I would go further and say that investment in firms connected with making these abominations should be illegal.

If peace is the collective objective, nuclear weapons must be regarded as a major obstacle and those connected in their construction, including investors, seen as collaborators in the creation of an atmosphere of mistrust and conflict, facilitators of fear and insecurity. The contemporary threats to national security come not from potential armed invasion, but from terrorism, cyber-security issues, poverty and the environmental catastrophe – which, unless drastic steps are taken, will result in an unprecedented worldwide refugee crisis. In the light of such threats, nuclear weapons as a so-called deterrent are irrelevant.

Peace will not be established by ever-larger arsenals of nuclear weapons held by more and more nations. It will be built on a firm foundation of trust, and as Pope Francis has said “on the protection of creation, and the participation of all in public life,” as well as “access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity.” It is by negating the causes of conflict that peace will be allowed to flourish. Such causes are rooted in social injustice, community divisions, prejudice and discrimination, competition and inequality, and must be countered by demonstrations of tolerance, the cultivation of cooperation and expression of compassion.

Attacking the Left to Shut Down Criticism of Israeli Crimes

Most progressives would agree that opposing all forms of racism is a key element of what makes them left wing. But it is not always straightforward how best to confront white privilege, avoid cultural appropriation, tackle colonial attitudes towards indigenous peoples or avoid being labelled anti-Jewish when working for Palestinian human rights. And in the later case, accusations of Left anti-Semitism actually mask a more significant racism problem on the Left.

In response to the recent controversy at Chicago’s Dyke March Toronto activist Alex Hundert tweeted “And to think ppl keep tryna ridicule me for calling out #antisemitism on the Left… #leftfail.” The self-declared radical linked to a Ha’aretz story headlined “Chicago ‘Dyke March’ Bans Jewish Pride Flags: ‘They Made People Feel Unsafe’”. But according to march organizers, Jewish Voices for Peace and Electronic Intifada the whole thing was a set-up and part of an orchestrated attack by a pro-Israel queer group. In one of many efforts to turn the Dyke March incident against critics of Israel and the left more generally, New York Times opinion section editor Bari Weiss opined that by echoing criticism of Israeli policy in recent years left Jews have opened the door to pogroms or genocide (“if history has taught the Jews anything it’s that this kind of contortion never ends well”), concluding that “anti-Semitism remains as much a problem on the far-left as it is on the alt-right.”

The Dyke March incident is not the first time Hundert has taken up this criticism of Left political movements. “Everytime I’m almost ready to start organizing again,” the former Upper Canada College student tweeted a couple months ago, “I see some stupid left antisemitism that reminds me I’m glad I switched to advocacy.” Hundert is echoing an increasingly common refrain. Last year, at the liberal end of the dominant media the CBC’s Neil MacDonald asked, “Has the activist left decided anti-Semitism doesn’t exist?” while the far right Rebel denounced “Tom Mulcair, Olivia Chow and the NDP’s huge anti-Semitic problem”. For its part, B’nai Brith has specifically cited “far-left-wing groups”, alongside “anti-Israel agitators”, as a major source of anti-Semitic incidents in its annual audit. During the 2012 Québec student strike B’nai B’rith condemned protesters’ purported “hate …that has outraged the Jewish community.” A Canadian Jewish News editorial and front page cover about the NDP supporting the Leap Manifesto in 2016 suggests the Jewish community’s leading organ would likely cry “anti-Semitism” if the NDP elects a left-wing leader.

Internationally Zionist groups, media commentators and Blairites in the British Labour Party whipped up an “anti-Semitism” crisis last year to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Similar accusations were levelled earlier this year at leftist French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and previously against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Let me be clear: Anti-Jewish prejudice exists on the Left. Many who bemoan “Zionist controlled governments” and other such formulations are referencing stereotypical tropes about Jewish control. Some ‘Jews as Jesus killers’ prejudice also lingers in a country with Christian (colonial) roots. Anti-Semitism should be condemned since all forms of ethnic/religious discrimination are wrong. Additionally, simplistic ethnic/religious explanations of power do a disservice to movements seeking to make the world better a place.

But, while it exists, left anti-Jewish prejudice should be put in context. Is there more anti-Jewish prejudice on the Left than anti-black, indigenous, south Asian, Chinese, etc. racism? Or how about patriarchal attitudes? Or even class bias against “unskilled” workers? But, unlike indigenous or black people or women, Jews are not underrepresented in positions of influence on the Canadian Left, just as they are not underrepresented in the structures of power in this country.

So, what is going on with this focus on the Left’s anti-Semitism? The answer is obvious. It is a way for supporters of Israel to shut down criticism of that country.

While one hears a great deal about the relatively marginal problem of left anti-Semitism, explicit Jewish/Israeli supremacism passes with little comment. NDP officials, for instance, continue to promote the openly racist Jewish National Fund. Five months after speaking at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington D.C., Hélène Laverdière participated in a November 2016 JNF tree planting ceremony in Jerusalem. During a visit to Israel with Canada’s Governor General the NDP’s foreign critic attended a ceremony with JNF World Chairman Danny Atar. In 2011 Nova Scotia NDP Premier Darrell Dexter donned a JNF hat as he planted a tree at a JNF garden. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner in Winnipeg and cabinet minister Christine Melnick received the same honour in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable. (In May Melnick won a B’nai Brith Zionist action figures prize for writing a piece about a friend who helped conquer East Jerusalem and then later joined the JNF).

In 2013 Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a JNF Ottawa fundraiser, even lauding “the greatwork that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” May’s comment erased the existence of the indigenous Palestinians and promoted an explicitly racist institution that has Judaized historically Arab areas and continues to discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in its land use policies, as the UN, US State Department and the organization’s own website make clear.

While less flagrantly supremacist than supporting the JNF, most left politicians, representatives and commentators express support for a “Jewish state”. From a Palestinian, or internationalist, perspective this is a decidedly racist characterization and goes against hundreds of years of left support for a secular state.

In an effort to appease critics, some left organizations have even stated formally that opposing a Jewish supremacist state is itself a form of discrimination. After being raked over the coals for refusing a politicized resolution calling on it to align with a pro-Israel group in promoting Holocaust Education Week, the Ryerson Student Union recently adopted the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” as part of its definition of anti-Jewish prejudice. The Protocol conflates opposition to political Zionism with anti-Jewish prejudice or, in other words, it says it is anti-Semitic to oppose a “Jewish state”. Promoted by Students Supporting Israel and Stand With Us Canada, the student union’s move was immediately applauded by staunch Israeli nationalist National Post columnist Barbara Kay.

Even individuals and groups focused on challenging racism often provide an exemption for explicit Jewish/Israeli racism. In January one of Toronto’s leading anti-racist writers, Desmond Cole, spoke at a forum on “increased racist and xenophobic attacks” in the time of Trump with three individuals (Bernie Farber, Karen Mock and Warren Kinsella) who have ties to the only (to my knowledge) explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs: the JNF.

After I recently wrote about Warren Kinsella speaking at a Jewish Defense League meeting in 2009, it came to light that a moderator made the former Canada-Israel Committee board member part of a private Toronto Facebook group set up to oppose overtly racist groups like the JDL. In a sign he still condones explicit racism, last year Kinsella condemned a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” (Imagine someone who spoke at a KKK meeting or defended them being invited to a private antiracist Facebook group.) The sober reality is that large swaths of the left still accept, even promote, explicit Jewish/Israeli racism.

When Hundert, Macdonald, B’nai Brith etc. attack the left for being anti-Jewish they reinforce an ideological climate that still sees many labour leaders, NGO representatives, left politicians etc. remaining silent in the face of substantial Canadian support for the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism, precisely because they fear being labeled “anti-Semitic”. Whatever one’s motives in launching these attacks on anti-Semitism, their effect is to deter Canadians from condemning our foreign minister for calling Israel a “close friend”, opposing Palestinian rights at the UN, delivering aid to prop up Israel’s illegal occupation and subsidizing charities that channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements.

Are There any Limits to U.S. Hypocrisy?

Having ordered the attack on the al-Shayrat air field near the western Syrian city of Homs, U.S. President Donald Trump knew that the Syrian government hadn’t used any chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun. At the same time the current U.S. administration was making every effort to develop an information campaign against Damascus.

This was reported by Welt am Sonntag, a German Sunday newspaper. An American investigative journalist and political writer Seymour Hersh stressed that actually the Syrian Air Force had targeted a two-story building, where extremists from various terrorist groups held meetings. According to Hersh, a bomb, dropped by the Syrian aircraft in Khan Shaykhun, caused a number of detonations. The explosion led to the formation of a cloud of noxious vapour. Washington was knowledgeable about that.

The attack became an ideal occasion for the U.S. to make further accusations against Damascus. After a short time, the world media started to spread staged footage and photos from Khan Shaykhun. Those materials showed injured people, who were allegedly dying in a suspected sarin chemical attack.

Permanent representatives of a number of Western countries to the UN also made every effort to put all responsibility for the incident on the Syrian government, headed by President Bashar al-Assad. Thus, Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, at a Security Council meeting even showed photos, allegedly proving the ‘crimes’ of the Syrian authorities against Syrians.

In addition, the U.S., France, Britain proposed the UN SC draft several resolutions on the Syrian gas attack. The documents were aimed to provide an international investigation with flight plans and logs, the names of all helicopter squadron commanders and to provide access to air bases where investigators believe attacks using chemicals were launched.

It also should be mentioned that despite Syria’s readiness to cooperate with the specialists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an official investigation into the incident in Khan Shaykhun has not been launched yet. Moreover, Western countries continue to expand sanctions against Syria to escalate the economic situation in the country and drag it into an endless war.

Seymour Hersh, referring to information received from a senior adviser in the U.S. intelligence services, reported that Washington had no evidence that the Syrian Army used sarin gas. The CIA also informed the White House that no poisonous substances were found in the al-Shayrat air field, and al-Assad had no reason to commit political suicide.

According to many Syrian experts, it is possible that the world will soon become aware of the United States’ participation in other major scandals and incidents in Syria.