Category Archives: Land Theft

Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom

What took place between May 2021 and May 2022 is nothing less than a paradigm shift in Palestinian resistance. Thanks to the popular and inclusive nature of Palestinian mobilization against the Israeli occupation, resistance in Palestine is no longer an ideological, political or regional preference.

In the period between the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and only a few years ago, Palestinian muqawama – or resistance –  was constantly put in the dock, often criticized and condemned, as if an oppressed nation had a moral responsibility in selecting the type of resistance to suit the needs and interests of its oppressors.

As such, Palestinian resistance became a political and ideological litmus test. The Palestinian Authority of Yasser Arafat and, later, Mahmoud Abbas, called for ‘popular resistance’, but it seems that it neither understood what the strategy actually meant, and certainly was not prepared to act upon such a call.

Palestinian armed resistance was removed entirely from its own historical context; in fact, the context of all liberation movements throughout history, and was turned into a straw man, set up by Israel and its western allies to condemn Palestinian ‘terrorism’ and to present Israel as a victim facing an existential threat.

With the lack of a centralized Palestinian definition of resistance, even pro-Palestine civil society groups and organizations demarcated their relationship to the Palestinian struggle based on embracing certain forms of Palestinian resistance and condemning others.

The argument that only oppressed nations should have the right to choose the type of resistance that could speed up their salvation and freedom fell on deaf ears.

The truth is that Palestinian resistance preceded the official establishment of Israel in 1948. Palestinians and Arabs who resisted British and Zionist colonialism used many methods of resistance that they perceived to be strategic and sustainable. There was no relationship whatsoever between the type of resistance and the religious, political or ideological identity of those who resisted.

This paradigm prevailed for many years, starting with the Fidayeen Movement following the Nakba, the popular resistance to the brief Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1956, and the decades-long occupation and siege starting in 1967. The same reality was expressed in Palestinian resistance in historic Palestine throughout the decades; armed resistance ebbed and flowed, but popular resistance remained intact. The two phenomena were always intrinsically linked, as the former was also sustained by the latter.

The Fatah Movement, which dominates today’s Palestinian Authority, was formed in 1959 to model liberation movements in Vietnam and Algeria. Regarding its connection to the Algerian struggle, the Fatah manifesto read: “The guerrilla war in Algeria, launched five years before the creation of Fatah, has a profound influence on us. […] They symbolize the success we dreamed of.”

This sentiment was championed by most modern Palestinian movements as it proved to be a successful strategy for most southern liberation movements. In the case of Vietnam, the resistance to US occupations was carried out even during political talks in Paris. The underground resistance in South Africa remained vigilant until it became clear that the country’s apartheid regime was in the process of being dismantled.

Palestinian disunity, however, which was a direct result of the Oslo Accords, made a unified Palestinian position on resistance untenable. The very idea of resistance itself became subject to the political whims and interests of factions. When, in July 2013, PA President Abbas condemned armed resistance, he was trying to score political points with his western supporters, and further sow the seeds of division among his people.

The truth is that Hamas neither invented, nor has ownership of, armed resistance. In June 2021, a poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), revealed that 60% of Palestinians support “a return to armed confrontations and Intifada”. By stating so, Palestinians were not necessarily declaring allegiance to Hamas. Armed resistance, though in a different style and capacity also exists in the West Bank, and is largely championed by Fatah’s own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. The recent Israeli attacks on the town of Jenin, in the northern West Bank, were not aimed at eliminating Hamas, Islamic Jihad or socialist fighters, but Fatah’s own.

Skewed media coverage and misrepresentation of the resistance, often by Palestinian factions themselves, turned the very idea of resistance into a political and factional scuffle, forcing everyone involved to take a position on the issue. The discourse on the resistance, however,  began changing in the last year.

The May 2021 rebellion and the Israeli war on Gaza – known among Palestinians as the Unity Intifada – served as a paradigm shift. The language became unified; self-serving political references quickly dissipated; collective frames of reference began replacing provisional, regional and factional ones; occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque emerged as the unifying symbols of resistance; a new generation began to emerge and quickly began to develop new platforms.

On May 29, the Israeli government insisted on allowing the so-called ‘Flag March’ – a mass rally by Israeli Jewish extremists that celebrate the capture of the Palestinian city of al-Quds – to once more pass through Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem. This was the very occasion that instigated the violence of the previous year. Aware of the impending violence which often results from such provocations, Israel wanted to impose the timing and determine the nature of the violence. It failed. Gaza didn’t fire rockets. Instead, tens of thousands of Palestinians mobilized throughout occupied Palestine, thus allowing popular mobilization and coordination between numerous communities to grow. Palestinians proved able to coordinate their responsibility, despite the numerous obstacles, hardships and logistical difficulties.

The events of the last year are a testament that Palestinians are finally freeing their resistance from factional interests. The most recent confrontations show that Palestinians are even harnessing resistance as a strategic objective. Muqawama in Palestine is no longer ‘symbolic’ or supposedly ‘random’ violence that reflects ‘desperation’ and lack of political horizon. It is becoming more defined, mature and well-coordinated.

This phenomenon must be extremely worrying to Israel, as the coming months and years could prove critical in changing the nature of the confrontation between Palestinians and their occupiers. Considering that the new resistance is centered around homegrown, grassroots, community-oriented movements, it has far greater chances of success than previous attempts. It is much easier for Israel to assassinate a fighter than to uproot the values of resistance from the heart of a community.

The post Palestine’s New Resistance Model: How the Last Year Redefined the Struggle for Palestinian Freedom first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestine Needs Immediate Attention to Stave off Major Food Crisis

A friend, a young journalist in Gaza, Mohammed Rafik Mhawesh, told me that food prices in the besieged Strip have skyrocketed in recent weeks and that many already impoverished families are struggling to put food on the table.

“Food prices are dramatically surging,” he said, “particularly since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war.” Essential food prices, like wheat and meat, have nearly doubled. The price of a chicken, for example, which was only accessible to a small segment of Gaza’s population, has increased from 20 shekels (approx. $6) to 45 (approx. $14).

These price hikes may seem manageable in some parts of the world but in an already impoverished place, which has been under a hermetic Israeli military siege for 15 years, a humanitarian crisis of great proportions is certainly forthcoming.

In fact, this was also the warning of the international charity group Oxfam, which on April 11 reported that food prices throughout Palestine jumped by 25% but, more alarmingly, wheat flour reserves in the Occupied Territories could be “exhausted within three weeks”.

The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war has been felt in every part of the world, some places more than others. African and Middle Eastern countries, which have been battling pre-existing problems of poverty, hunger and unemployment, are most affected. However, Palestine is a whole different story. It is an occupied country that is almost entirely reliant on the action of an occupying power, Israel, which refuses to adhere to international and humanitarian laws.

For Palestinians the issue is complex, yet almost every aspect of it is somehow linked to Israel.

Gaza has been under an Israeli economic blockade for many years, and food that Israel allows to the Strip is rationed and manipulated by Israel as an act of collective punishment. In its report on Israeli apartheid published last February, Amnesty International detailed Israeli restrictions on Palestinian food and gas supplies. According to the rights group, Israel uses “mathematical formulas to determine how much food to allow into Gaza”, limiting supplies to what Tel Aviv deems “essential for the survival of the civilian population”.

Aside from many infrastructure issues resulting from the siege – lack of clean water, electricity, farming equipment, etc. – Gaza has also lost much of its arable land to the Israeli military zone established across border areas throughout the Strip.

The West Bank is not much better off. Most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are feeling the growing burden – the Israeli occupation, compounded with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and structural weaknesses within the Palestinian Authority, rife with corruption and mismanagement.

The PA imports 95% of its wheat, Oxfam says, and owns no storage facilities whatsoever. All of such imports are transported via Israel, which controls all of Palestine’s access to the outside world. Since Israel itself imports nearly half of its grains and cereals from Ukraine, Palestinians are, therefore, hostage to this very mechanism.

Israel, however, has been amassing food and is largely energy independent, while Palestinians are struggling at all levels. While the PA should shoulder part of the blame for investing in its ‘security’ apparatus at the expense of food security, Israel holds most of the keys to Palestinian survival.

With hundreds of Israeli military checkpoints dotting the occupied West Bank, cutting off communities from one another and farmers from agricultural land, sustainable agriculture in Palestine is nearly impossible.

Two major issues complicate an already difficult picture: one, the hundreds of kilometers long so-called ‘Separation Wall’, which actually does not ‘separate’ between Israelis and Palestinians but, instead, unlawfully deprives Palestinians from large tracts of their land, mostly farming areas; and two, the outright robbery of Palestinian water from the West Bank’s acquifers.  While many Palestinian communities struggle to find drinking water in the summer, Israel never experiences any water shortage throughout the year.

So-called Area C, which constitutes nearly 60% of the total size of the West Bank, is under complete Israeli military control. Though sparsely populated in comparison, it contains most of the region’s agricultural land, especially areas located in the very fertile Jordan Valley. Though Israel has postponed, under international pressure, its official annexation of Area C, the area is practically annexed, and Palestinians are slowly being driven out and replaced by a growing population of illegal Israeli Jewish settlers.

The rapidly rising food prices are hurting the very farmers and herders who are responsible for filling the massive gaps caused by the global food insecurity as a result of war. According to Oxfam, the cost of animal feed is up by 60% in the West Bank, which adds to the “existing burden” faced by herders, including “worsening violent attacks by Israeli settlers” and “forced displacement”, as in ethnic cleansing resulting from Israeli annexation policies.

Though it may bring partial relief, even a halt to the Russia-Ukraine war will not end Palestine’s food insecurity, as this issue is instigated and prolonged by specific Israeli policies. In the case of Gaza, the crisis is, in fact, fully manufactured by Israel with specific political designs in mind. The infamous comments by former Israeli government advisor, Dov Weisglass in 2006, explaining Israel’s motives behind the siege on Gaza, remain the guiding principle of Israel’s attitude towards the Strip. “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” he said.

Palestine needs immediate attention to stave off a major food crisis. Gaza’s pre-existing extreme poverty and high unemployment leaves it with no margins whatsoever to accommodate any more calamities. However, anything done now can only be a short-term fix. A serious conversation involving Palestinians, Arab countries, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and other parties must take place to discuss and resolve Palestine’s food insecurity. For Palestinians, this is the real existential threat.

The post Palestine Needs Immediate Attention to Stave off Major Food Crisis first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Gaza’s Forthcoming Crisis Might Be Worse than Anything We Have Ever Seen

“The water is back,” one family member would announce in a mix of excitement and panic, often very late at night. The moment such an announcement was made, my whole family would start running in all directions to fill every tank, container or bottle that could possibly be filled. Quite often, the water would last for a few minutes, leaving us with a collective sense of defeat, worrying about the very possibility of surviving.

This was our life under Israeli military occupation in Gaza. The tactic of holding Palestinians hostage to Israel’s water charity was so widespread during the First Palestinian Intifada, or upirising, to the extent that denying water supplies to targeted refugee camps, villages, towns or whole regions was the first measure taken to subdue the rebellious population. This was often followed by military raids, mass arrests and deadly violence; but it almost always began with cutting Palestinians off from their water supplies.

Israel’s water war on the Palestinians has changed since those early days, especially as the Climate Change crisis has accelerated Israel’s need to prepare for grim future possibilities. Of course, this largely happens at the expense of the occupied Palestinians. In the West Bank, the Israeli government continues to usurp Palestinian water resources from the region’s main aquifers – the Mountain Aquifer and the Coastal Aquifer. Frustratingly, Israel’s main water company, Mekorot, sells stolen Palestinian water to Palestinian villages and towns, especially in the northern West Bank region, at exhorbitant prices.

Aside from the ongoing profiteering from water theft, Israel continues to use water as a form of collective punishment in the West Bank, while quite often denying Palestinians, especially in Area C, the right to dig new wells to circumvent Israel’s water monopoly.

According to Amnesty International, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank consume, on average, 73 liters of water a day, per person. Compare this to an Israeli citizen, who consumes approximately 240 liters of water a day, and, even worse, to an illegal Israeli Jewish settler, who consumes over 300 liters per day. The Palestinian share of water is not only far below the average consumed by Israelis, but is even below the recommended daily minimum of 100 liters per capita as designated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

As difficult as the situation for West Bank Palestinians is, in Gaza the humanitarian catastrophe is already in effect. On the occasion of the World Water Day on March 22, Gaza’s Water and Environmental Quality Authority warned of a ‘massive crisis’ should Gaza’s water supplies continue to deplete at the current dangerous rate. The Authority’s spokesman, Mazen al-Banna, told reporters that 98 percent of Gaza’s water supplies are not fit for human consumption.

The consequences of this terrifying statistic are well known to Palestinians and, in fact, to the international community as well. Last October, Muhammed Shehada of the Euro-Med Monitor, told the 48th UN Human Rights Council session that about one-quarter of all diseases in Gaza are caused by water pollution, and that an estimated twelve percent of deaths among Gaza’s children are “linked to intestinal infections related to contaminated water.”

But how did Gaza get to this point?

On May 25, four days after the end of the latest Israeli war on Gaza, the charity Oxfam announced that 400,000 people in besieged Gaza have had no access to regular water supplies. The reason is that Israeli military campaigns always begin with the targeting of Palestinian electric grids, water services and other vital public facilities. According to Oxfam, “11 days of bombardment … severely impacted the three main desalination plants in Gaza city.”

It is important to keep in mind that the water crisis in Gaza has been ongoing for years, and every aspect of this protracted crisis is linked to Israel. With damaged or ailing infrastructure, much of Gaza’s water contains dangerously high salinity levels, or is extremely polluted by sewage and other reasons.

Even before Israel redeployed its forces out of Gaza in 2005 to impose a siege on the Strip’s population from land, sea and air, Gaza had a water crisis. Gaza’s coastal aquifer was entirely controlled by the Israeli military administration, which diverted quality water to the few thousand Jewish settlers, while occasionally allocating high saline water to the then 1.5 million Palestinian people, granted that Palestinians did not protest or resist the Israeli occupation in any way.

Nearly 17 years later, Gaza’s population has grown to 2.1 millions, and Gaza’s already struggling aquifer is in a far worse shape. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that water from Gaza’s aquifer is depleting due to “over-extraction (because) people have no other choice”.

“Worse, pollution and an influx of seawater mean that only four percent of the aquifer water is fit to drink. The rest must be purified and desalinated to make it drinkable,” UNICEF added. In other words, Gaza’s problem is not the lack of access to existing freshwater reserves as the latter simply do not exist or are rapidly depleting, but the lack of technology and fuel that would give Palestinians in Gaza the ability to make their water nominally drinkable. Even that is not a long term solution.

Israel is doing its utmost to destroy any Palestinian chances at recovery from this ongoing crisis. More, it seems that Tel Aviv is only invested in making the situation worse to jeopardize Palestinian chances of survival. For example, last year, Palestinians accused Israel of deliberately flooding thousands of Palestinian dunums in Gaza when it vented its southern dams, which Israel uses to collect rain water. The almost yearly ritual by Israel continues to devastate Gaza’s ever shrinking farming areas, the backbone of Palestinian survival under Israel’s hermetic siege.

The international community often pays attention to Gaza during times of Israeli wars; and even then, the attention is mostly negative, where Palestinians are usually accused of provoking Israel’s supposed defensive wars. The truth is that even when Israel’s military campaigns end, Tel Aviv continues to wage war on the Strip’s inhabitants.

Though militarily powerful, Israel claims that it is facing an ‘existential threat’ in the Middle East. In actuality, it is the Palestinian existence that is in real jeopardy. When almost all of Gaza’s water is not fit for human consumption because of a deliberate Israeli strategy, one can understand why Palestinians continue to fight back as if their lives are dependent on it; because they are.

The post Gaza’s Forthcoming Crisis Might Be Worse than Anything We Have Ever Seen first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Palestine is a Loud Echo of Britain’s Colonial Past and a Warning of the Future

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

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

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

It wasn’t for the food either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toppled statue

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

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

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

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

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

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

I ended up writing about both events from Nazareth.

Blind to history

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

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

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

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

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

Troubling clues

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

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

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

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

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

Shroud of silence

Most of us in Britain do something very similar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divine plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perverse ideology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trade in bodies

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

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

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

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

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

Elimination strategies

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

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

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

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

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

Apartheid named

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial mentality

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

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

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

Being ‘offensive’

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

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

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

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

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

Into the fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Tantura to Naqab: Israel’s Long Hidden Truths are Finally Revealed

A succession of events in recent weeks all point to the inescapable fact that nearly 75 years of Israel’s painstaking efforts aimed at hiding the truth about its origins and its current racially-driven apartheid regime are failing miserably. The world is finally waking up, and Israel is losing ground quicker than its ability to gain new supporters, or to whitewash its past or ongoing crimes.

First, there was Tantura, a peaceful Palestinian village whose inhabitants were mostly exterminated by Israel’s Alexandroni Brigade on May 23, 1948. Like many other massacres committed against unarmed Palestinians throughout the years, the massacre of Tantura was mostly remembered by the village’s survivors, by ordinary Palestinians and by Palestinian historians. The mere attempt in 1998 by an Israeli graduate student, Theodore Katz, to shed light on that bloody event ignited a legal, media and academic war, forcing him to retract his findings.

In a recent social media post, Israeli Professor Ilan Pappé revealed why, in 2007, he had to resign his position at Haifa University. “One of my ‘crimes’,” Pappé wrote, “was insisting that there was a massacre in the village of Tantura in 1948 as was exposed by MA student, Teddy Katz.”

Now, some Alexandroni Brigade veterans have finally decided to confess to the crimes in Tantura.

“They silenced it. It mustn’t be told, it could cause a whole scandal. I don’t want to talk about it, but it happened.” These were the words of Moshe Diamant, a former member of the Alexandroni Brigade who, with other veterans, revealed in the documentary ‘Tantura’ by Alon Schwarz the gory details and the horrific crimes that transpired in the Palestinian village.

An officer “killed one Arab after another” with his pistol, Micha Vitkon, a former soldier, said.

“They put them into a barrel and shot them in the barrel. I remember the blood in the barrel,” another explained.

“I was a murderer. I didn’t take prisoners,” Amitzur Cohen admitted.

Hundreds of Palestinians were killed in Tantura in cold blood. They were buried in mass graves, the largest of which is believed to be under a parking lot at the Dor beach, flocked by Israeli families daily.

The Tantura massacre and its aftermath is arguably the most glaring representation of Israeli criminality. However, this is not the story of Tantura alone. The latter is a representation of something much bigger, of mass-scale ethnic cleansing, forceful evictions and mass killing. Thankfully, much truth is being unearthed.

In 1951, the Israeli army launched a full-scale military operation that ethnically cleansed Palestinian Bedouins from the Naqab. The tragic scenes of entire communities being uprooted from their ancestral homes were justified by Israel with the usual cliché that the terrible deed was carried out for “security reasons”.

In 1953, Israel passed the so-called Land Acquisition Law, which allowed the Israeli state to seize the land of the Palestinians who were forced out of their homes. By then, Israel had unlawfully expropriated 247,000 dunums in the Naqab, with 66,000 remaining ‘unutilized’. The remaining land is currently the epicenter of an ongoing saga involving Palestinian Bedouin communities in Israel and the Isreali government, which falsely claims that the land is “essential” for Israel’s “development needs”.

Recently revealed documents, uncovered by extensive research conducted by Professor Gadi Algazi, point towards Israel’s version of the truth in Naqab being a complete fabrication. According to numerous uncovered documents, Moshe Dayan, then the head of the Israeli army Southern Command, was central to an Israeli government and military ploy to evict the Bedouin population and to “revoke their rights as landowners”, per the conveniently created Israeli law, which allowed the government to ‘lease’ the land as if its own.

“There was an organized transfer of Bedouin citizens from the north-western Negev eastward to barren areas, with the goal of taking over their lands. They carried out this operation using a mix of threats, violence, bribery and fraud,” Algazi told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The entire scheme was organized in such a way as to facilitate the claim that the Palestinians had moved ‘voluntarily’, despite their legendary resistance and “the stubbornness with which they tried to hold onto their land, even at the cost of hunger and thirst, not to mention the army’s threats and violence”.

Furthermore, a newly-released volume by French historian, Vincent Lemire, has entirely dismissed Israel’s official version of how the Moroccan Quarters of Jerusalem were demolished in June 1967. Though Palestinian and Arab historians have long argued that the destruction of the neighborhood – 135 homes, two mosques and more – was done per the order of the Israeli government through the then-Jewish mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, Israel has long denied that version. According to the official Israeli account, the demolition of the neighborhood was carried out by “15 private Jewish contractors (who) destroyed the neighborhood to make space for the Western Wall plaza”.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), Lemire stated that his book offers “definitive, written proof on the pre-meditation, planning and coordination of this operation,” and that includes official meetings between Kollek, the commander of the Israeli army, and other top government officials.

The story continues; more heartbreaking revelations and a well-integrated version of the truth are exposing long-hidden or denied facts. The days of Israel getting away with these crimes seem to be behind us. An example is Amnesty International’s recent report, “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Look into Decades of Oppression and Domination”.

Amnesty’s 280 pages of damning evidence of Israel’s racism and apartheid did not shy away from connecting Israel’s violent present with its equally bloody past. It did not borrow from Israel’s deceptive language and self-serving division of Palestinians into disconnected communities, each with a different claim and a different status. For Amnesty, as was the case with Human Rights Watch’s report in April 2021, Israeli injustices against the Palestinians must be recognized and duly condemned in their entirety.

“Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony .. while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights,” the report stated. This could only happen through mass killing, ethnic cleansing and genocide, from Tantura to the Naqab, to the Moroccan Quarters, to Gaza and Sheikh Jarrah.

The post From Tantura to Naqab: Israel’s Long Hidden Truths are Finally Revealed first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order

Farmerless farms manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented genetically engineered seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food. Data platforms, private equity firms, e-commerce giants and AI-controlled farming systems.

This is the future that big agritech and agribusiness envisage: a future of ‘data-driven’ and ‘climate-friendly’ agriculture that they say is essential if we are to feed a growing global population.

The transformative vision outlined above which is being promoted by the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation amounts to a power grab. Whether through all aspects of data control (soil quality, consumer preferences, weather, etc), e-commerce monopolies, corporate land ownership, seed biopiracy and patenting, synthetic lab-made food or the eradication of the public sector’s role in ensuring food security and national food sovereignty, the aim is for a relative handful of corporations to gain full control of the entire global food system.

Smallholder peasant farming is to be eradicated as the big-tech giants and agribusiness impose their  ‘disruptive’ technologies.

This vision is symptomatic of a reductionist mindset fixated on a narrow yield-output paradigm that is unable or more likely unwilling to grasp an integrated social-cultural-economic-agronomic systems approach to food and agriculture that accounts for many different factors, including local/regional food security and sovereignty, diverse nutrition production per acre, water table stability and boosting rural development based on thriving local communities.

Instead, what is envisaged will lead to the further trashing of rural economies, communities and cultures. A vision that has scant regard for the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems.

But is any of this necessary or inevitable?

There is no global shortage of food. Even under any plausible future population scenario, there will be no shortage as evidenced by scientist Dr Jonathan Latham in his paper The Myth of a Food Crisis (2020). Furthermore, there are tried and tested approaches to addressing the challenges humanity faces, not least agroecology.

Reshaping agrifood systems

An organic-based, agrifood system could be implemented in Europe and would allow a balanced coexistence between agriculture and the environment. This would reinforce Europe’s autonomy, feed the predicted population in 2050, allow the continent to continue to export cereals to countries which need them for human consumption and substantially reduce water pollution and toxic emissions from agriculture.

That is the message conveyed in the paper Reshaping the European Agro-food System and Closing its Nitrogen Cycle: The potential of combining dietary change, agroecology, and circularity (2020) which appeared in the journal One Earth.

The paper by Gilles Billen et al follows a long line of studies and reports which have concluded that organic agriculture is vital for guaranteeing food security, rural development, better nutrition and sustainability.

For instance, in the 2006 book The Global Development of Organic Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects, Neils Halberg and his colleagues argue that there are still more than 740 million food insecure people (at least 100 million more today), the majority of whom live in the Global South. They say if a conversion to organic farming of approximately 50% of the agricultural area in the Global South were to be carried out, it would result in increased self-sufficiency and decreased net food imports to the region.

In 2007, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted that organic models increase cost-effectiveness and contribute to resilience in the face of climatic stress. The FAO concluded that by managing biodiversity in time (rotations) and space (mixed cropping), organic farmers use their labour and environmental factors to intensify production in a sustainable way and that organic agriculture could break the vicious circle of farmer indebtedness for proprietary agricultural inputs.

Of course, organic agriculture and agroecology are not necessarily one and the same. Whereas organic agriculture can still be part of the prevailing globalised food regime dominated by giant agrifood conglomerates, agroecology uses organic practices but is ideally rooted in the principles of localisation, food sovereignty and self-reliance.

The FAO recognises that agroecology contributes to improved food self-reliance, the revitalisation of smallholder agriculture and enhanced employment opportunities. It has argued that organic agriculture could produce enough food on a global per capita basis for the current world population but with reduced environmental impact than conventional agriculture.

In 2012, Deputy Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Petko Draganov stated  that expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will have beneficial effects on the continent’s nutritional needs, the environment, farmers’ incomes, markets and employment.

meta analysis conducted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNCTAD (2008) assessed 114 cases of organic farming in Africa. The two UN agencies concluded that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems and that it is more likely to be sustainable in the long term.

The 2009 report Agriculture at a Crossroads by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommended agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. It cites the largest study of ‘sustainable agriculture’ in the Global South, which analysed 286 projects covering 37 million hectares in 57 countries, and found that on average crop yields increased by 79% (the study also included ‘resource conserving’ non-organic conventional approaches).

There are numerous other studies and projects which testify to the efficacy of organic farming, including those from the Rodale Institute, the Oakland Institute, the UN Green Economy Initiative, the Women’s Collective of Tamil NaduNewcastle University and Washington State University. We also need look no further than the results of organic-based farming in Malawi.

In Ethiopia, agroecology has been scaled up across the entire Tigray region, partly due to enlightened political leaders and the commitment of key institutions. But Cuba is the one country in the world that has made the biggest changes in the shortest time in moving from industrial chemical-intensive agriculture to organic farming.

Professor of Agroecology Miguel Altieri notes that, due to the difficulties Cuba experienced as a result of the fall of the USSR, it moved towards organic and agroecological techniques in the 1990s. From 1996 to 2005, per capita food production in Cuba increased by 4.2% yearly during a period when production was stagnant across the wider region.

By 2016, Cuba had 383,000 urban farms, covering 50,000 hectares of otherwise unused land and producing more than 1.5 million tons of vegetables. The most productive urban farms yield up to 20 kg of food per square metre, the highest rate in the world, using no synthetic chemicals. Urban farms supply 50 to 70% or more of all the fresh vegetables consumed in cities such as Havana and Villa Clara.

It has been calculated by Altieri and his colleague Fernando R Funes-Monzote that if all peasant farms and cooperatives adopted diversified agroecological designs, Cuba would be able to produce enough to feed its population, supply food to the tourist industry and even export some food to help generate foreign currency.

Serving a corporate agenda

However, global agribusiness and agritech firms continue to marginalise organic, capture public bodies and push for their chemical-intensive, high-tech approaches. Although organic farming and natural farming methods like agroecology offer genuine solutions for many of the world’s pressing problems (health, environment, employment, rural development, etc), these approaches challenge corporate interests and threaten their bottom line.

In 2014, Corporate Europe Observatory released a critical report on the European Commission over the previous five years. The report concluded that the commission had been a willing servant of a corporate agenda. It had sided with agribusiness on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. Far from shifting Europe to a more sustainable food and agriculture system, the opposite had happened, as agribusiness and its lobbyists continued to dominate the Brussels scene.

Consumers in Europe reject GM food, but the commission had made various attempts to meet the demands from the biotech sector to allow GMOs into Europe, aided by giant food companies, such as Unilever, and the lobby group FoodDrinkEurope.

The report concluded that the commission had eagerly pursued a corporate agenda in all the areas investigated and pushed for policies in sync with the interests of big business. It had done this in the apparent belief that such interests are synonymous with the interests of society at large.

Little has changed since. In December 2021, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) noted that big agribusiness and biotech corporations are currently pushing for the European Commission to remove any labelling and safety checks for new genomic techniques. Since the beginning of their lobbying efforts (in 2018), these corporations have spent at least €36 million lobbying the European Union and have had 182 meetings with European commissioners, their cabinets and director generals: more than one meeting a week.

According to FOEE, the European Commission seems more than willing to put the lobby’s demands into a new law that would include weakened safety checks and bypass GMO labelling.

Corporate influence over key national and international bodies is nothing new. From the World Bank’s ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ and the influence of foreign retail on India’s NITI Aayog (the influential policy commission think tank of the Government of India) to the Gates Foundation’s role in opening up African agriculture to global food and agribusiness oligopolies, democratic procedures at sovereign state levels are being bypassed to impose seed monopolies and proprietary inputs on farmers and to incorporate them into a global agrifood chain dominated by powerful corporations.

But there are now also new players on the block. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others are closing in on the global agrifood sector while the likes of Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and Cargill continue to cement their stranglehold.

The tech giants entry into the sector will increasingly lead to a mutually beneficial integration between the companies that supply products to farmers (pesticides, seeds, fertilisers, tractors, etc) and those that control the flow of data and have access to digital (cloud) infrastructure and food consumers. In  effect, multi-billion dollar agrifood data management markets are being created.

In India, Walmart and Amazon could end up dominating the e-retail sector. These two US companies would also own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them the country’s digital overlords along with Google and Facebook.

The government is facilitating the dominance of giant corporations, not least through digital or e-commerce platforms. E-commerce companies not only control data about consumption but also control data on production, logistics, who needs what, when they need it, who should produce it, who should move it and when it should be moved.

These platforms have the capacity to shape the entire physical economy. We are seeing the eradication of the marketplace in favour of platforms owned by global conglomerates which will control everything from production to logistics, including agriculture and farming.

The farmer will be told how much production is expected, how much rain is anticipated, what type of soil quality there is, what type of (GM) seeds and proprietary inputs are required and when the produce needs to be ready.

E-commerce platforms will become permanently embedded once artificial intelligence begins to plan and determine all of the above.

In April 2021, the Indian government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Microsoft, allowing its local partner CropData to leverage a master database of farmers. The MoU seems to be part of the AgriStack policy initiative, which involves the roll out of ‘disruptive’ technologies and digital databases in the agricultural sector.

CropData will be granted access to a government database of 50 million farmers and their land records. As the database is developed, it will include farmers’ personal details, profile of land held, production data and financial details.

In addition to facilitating data harvesting and a data management market, the Indian government is trying to establish a system of ‘conclusive titling’ of all land in the country, so that ownership can be identified and land can then be valued, bought or taken away.

The plan is that, as farmers lose access to land or can be identified as legal owners, predatory global institutional investors will buy up and amalgamate holdings, facilitating the further roll out of high-input, corporate-dependent industrial agriculture.

This is an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, much promoted by the likes of the World Economic Forum, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then, in this case, use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who will find themselves displaced.

By harvesting information – under the benign-sounding policy of data-driven agriculture – private corporations will be better placed to exploit farmers’ situations for their own ends.

Imagine a cartel of data owners, proprietary input suppliers and retail concerns at the commanding heights of the global economy, peddling toxic industrial (and lab-engineered) ‘food’ and the devastating health and environmental impacts associated with it.

As for elected representatives and sovereign state governments, their role will be highly limited to technocratic overseers of these platforms and the artificial intelligence tools that plan and determine all of the above.

But none of this is set in stone or inevitable. The farmers victory in India in getting the corporate-friendly farm laws repealed show what can be achieved, even if this is only viewed as a spanner in the works of a global machine that is relentless.

New world order

And that machine comprises what journalist Ernst Wolff calls the digital-financial complex that is now driving the globalisation-one agriculture agenda. This complex comprises many of the companies mentioned above: Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Amazon and Meta (Facebook) as well as BlackRock and Vanguard, transnational investment/asset management corporations.

These entities exert control over governments and important institutions like the European Central Bank (ECB) and the US Federal Reserve. Indeed, Wolff states that BlackRock and Vanguard have more financial assets than the ECB and the Fed combined.

To appreciate the power and influence of BlackRock and Vanguard, let us turn to the documentary Monopoly: An Overview of the Great Reset which argues that the stock of the world’s largest corporations are owned by the same institutional investors. This means that ‘competing’ brands, like Coke and Pepsi, are not really competitors, since their stock is owned by the same investment companies, investment funds, insurance companies and banks.

Smaller investors are owned by larger investors. Those are owned by even bigger investors. The visible top of this pyramid shows only two companies: Vanguard and Black Rock.

A 2017 Bloomberg report states that both these companies in the year 2028 together will have investments amounting to 20 trillion dollars. In other words, they will own almost everything worth owning.

The digital-financial complex wants control over all aspects of life. It wants a cashless world, to destroy bodily integrity with a mandatory vaccination agenda linked to emerging digital-biopharmaceutical technologies, to control all personal data and digital money and it requires full control over everything, including food and farming.

If events over the last two years have shown us anything, it is that an unaccountable authoritarian global elite knows the type of world it wants to create, has the ability to coordinate its agenda globally and will use deception and duplicity to achieve it. And in this brave new Orwellian world where capitalist ‘liberal democracy’ has run its course, there will be no place for genuinely independent nation states or individual rights.

The independence of nation states could be further eroded by the digital-financial complex’s ‘financialisation of nature’ and its ‘green profiling’ of countries and companies. If we take the example of India, again, the Indian government has been on a relentless drive to attract inflows of foreign investment into government bonds (creating a lucrative market for global investors). It does not take much imagination to see how investors could destabilise the economy with large movements in or out of these bonds but also how India’s ‘green credentials’ could be factored in to downgrade its international credit rating.

And how could India demonstrate its green credentials and thus its ‘credit worthiness’? Perhaps by allowing herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that the GM sector misleadingly portrays as ‘climate friendly’.

As for concepts such as localisation, food sovereignty, self-reliance and participatory democracy – key tenets of agroecology ­– these are mere inconveniences to be trampled on.

Olivier De Schutter, former UN special Rapporteur on the right to food, delivered his final report to the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, based on an extensive review of scientific literature. He concluded that by applying agroecological principles to the design of democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and address climate variabilities and poverty challenges.

De Schutter argued that agroecological approaches could address food needs in critical regions and double food production within 10 years. However, he notes there is insufficient backing for organic-based farming which seriously hinders progress.

But it is not just a case of insufficient backing. Global agribusiness and agritech corporations have leveraged themselves into strategic positions and integral to their strategy has been attacks on organic farming as they attempt to cast it as a niche model which cannot feed the world. From the false narrative that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed a growing population to providing lavish research grants and the capture of important policy-making institutions, these firms have secured a thick legitimacy within policy making machinery.

These conglomerates regard organic approaches as a threat, especially agroecology which adheres to a non-industrial, smallholder model rooted in local independent enterprises and communities based on the principle of localisation. When people like De Schutter assert the need for a “democratically controlled” agroecology, this runs counter to the reality of large agribusiness firms, their proprietary products and their globalisation agenda based on long supply chains, market dependency, dispossession and the incorporation of farms and farmers into their agrifood regime. And as we can see, ‘democracy’ has no place in the world of the digital-financial complex.

The 2015 Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology argues for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on truly agroecological food production. It says that agroecology should not be co-opted to become a tool of the industrial food production model; it should be the essential alternative to it.

The declaration stated that agroecology is political and requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

According to Pat Mooney of the ETC Group, this involves developing healthy and equitable agroecological production systems, building short (community-based) supply chains and restructuring and democratising governance systems that could take 25 years to accomplish: in effect a ‘long food movement’.

We are currently living through epoch-defining changes and the struggle for the future of food and agriculture is integral to the wider struggle over the future direction of humanity. There is a pressing need to transition towards a notion of food sovereignty based on agroecological principles and the local ownership and stewardship of common resources.

The post Living in Epoch-Defining Times: Food, Agriculture and the New World Order first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why is Israel Amending Its Open-Fire Policy: Three Possible Answers

At the outset, the Israeli military decision to revise its open-fire policies in the occupied West Bank seems puzzling. What would be the logic of giving Israeli soldiers the space to shoot more Palestinians when existing army manuals had already granted them near-total immunity and little legal accountability?

The military’s new rules now allow Isreali soldiers to shoot, even kill, fleeing Palestinian youngsters with live ammunition for allegedly throwing rocks at Israeli ‘civilian’ cars. This also applies to situations where the alleged Palestinian ‘attackers’ are not holding rocks at the time of the shooting.

The reference to ‘civilians’ in the revised army manual applies to armed Israeli Jewish settlers who have colonized the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in defiance of international law and Palestinian sovereignty. These settlers, who often operate as paramilitary forces in direct coordination with the Israeli army, endanger the lives of their own families by residing on occupied Palestinian land. Per Israel’s twisted standards, these violent Israelis, who have killed and wounded numerous Palestinians throughout the years, are ‘civilians’ in need of protection from rock-throwing Palestinian ‘assailants’.

In Israel, throwing rocks is a “serious crime” and Palestinians who throw rocks are “criminals”, according to Liron Libman, Israel’s former chief military prosecutor, commenting on the new rules. For Israelis, there is little disagreement on these assertions, even by those who are questioning the legality of the new rules. The point of contention, according to Libman and others, is that “a person who is fleeing does not present a threat,” though, according to Libman himself, “the new policy could potentially be justified,” The Times of Israel reported.

The ‘debate’ on the new open-fire policy in Israeli media, gives one the false impression that something fundamental has changed in the Israeli army’s relationship with occupied Palestinians. This is not the case at all. There are numerous, daily examples in which Palestinians, including children, are shot and killed with impunity, whether throwing rocks or not, going to school or merely protesting the illegal confiscation of their land by the Israeli military or armed settlers.

In the Palestinian village of Beita, in the northern occupied West Bank, eight unarmed Palestinians have been killed since May. This small village has been the scene of regular demonstrations against Jewish settlement expansion and against the illegal settlement outpost of Eviatar, in the Palestinian rural area of Mount Sabih. The victims include Muhammad Ali Khabisa, the 28-year-old father of an eight-month-old child, who was shot dead last September.

Though the new rules have placed much emphasis on the status of the supposed Israeli victims, labeling them ‘civilians’, in practice, the Israeli military has used the exact same standard to shoot, maim and kill Palestinian alleged rock-throwers, even when armed settlers are not present.

A famous case, in 2015, involved the killing of a 17-year-old Palestinian teenager, Mohammad Kosba, at the hands of an Israeli army colonel, Yisrael Shomer. The latter alleged that Kosba had thrown a rock at his car. Subsequently, Shomer chased down the Palestinian teenager and shot him in the back, killing him.

The Israeli officer was “censored” for his conduct, not for killing the boy, but for not stopping “in order to aim properly,” according to The Times of Israel. The Israeli military chief prosecutor at the time concluded that “Shomer’s use of deadly force under the framework of the arrest protocol was justified from the circumstances of the incident.”

Israel’s disregard of international law in its targeting of Palestinians is not a secret. Israeli and international human rights groups have repeatedly condemned the Israeli army’s inhumane and barbaric behavior in the occupied territories.

In an extensive report as early as 2014, Amnesty International condemned Israel’s “callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank” over the years. AI said that such killings had taken place “with near total impunity.”

“The frequency and persistence of arbitrary and abusive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and police officers – and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators – suggests that it is carried out as a matter of policy,” the Amnesty report read.

Even Israel’s own rights group, B’tselem, concurs. The organization decried the Israeli army’s “shoot-to-kill policy”, which is also applied to “people who have already been ‘neutralized’”. Indeed, in the case of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, a Palestinian man who was shot point-blank in Al-Khalil (Hebron), by an Israeli military medic, Elor Azaria, in 2016, was not only ‘neutralized’ but also unconscious.

According to B’tselem, Israeli “soldiers and police officers have become judge, jury and executioner”. With this tragic and sinister trajectory in mind, one is left to wonder why the Israeli army would amend its open-fire policy at this particular moment. There are three possible answers:

One, the Israeli government and army are anticipating a surge in Palestinian popular resistance in the coming months, possibly as a result of the massive expansion of illegal settlements and forced evictions in occupied East Jerusalem.

Two, by perfectly aligning the existing open-fire policy with the aggressive shoot-to-kill military practice already in place, Israeli courts would no longer have to contend with any legal repercussions for killing Palestinians, including children, regardless of the circumstances of their murders.

Finally, the revised rules would allow Israel to make a case for itself in response to the open investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), concerning human rights violations and war crimes in occupied Palestine. Israel’s Attorney General will now argue that no war crimes are taking place in Palestine since the killing of Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s own military conduct and judicial system. Since the ICC is investigating alleged war criminals, not the government itself, Israel hopes that it can spare its own murderers from having to contend with the legal expectations of the Court.

Though the timing of the Israeli military decision to amend its open-fire policy may appear sudden and without much context, the decision is still ominous, nonetheless. When a country’s military decides that shooting a child in the back without any proof that the alleged ‘criminal’ posed any danger whatsoever is a legal act, the international community must take notice.

It is true that Israel operates outside the minimum standards of international and humanitarian laws, but it is the responsibility of the international community to protect Palestinians, whose lives remain precious even if Israel disagrees.

The post Why is Israel Amending Its Open-Fire Policy: Three Possible Answers first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet? 

The UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team helped to push the public towards accepting the COVID narrative, restrictions and lockdowns. It is now working on ‘nudging’ people towards further possible restrictions or at least big changes in their behaviour in the name of ‘climate emergency’. From frequent news stories and advertisements to soap opera storylines and government announcements, the message about impending climate catastrophe is almost relentless.

Part of the messaging includes blaming the public’s consumption habits for a perceived ‘climate emergency’. At the same time, young people are being told that we only have a decade or so (depending on who is saying it) to ‘save the planet’.

Setting the agenda are powerful corporations that helped degrade much of the environment in the first place. But ordinary people, not the multi-billionaires pushing this agenda, will pay the price for this as living more frugally seems to be part of the programme (‘own nothing and be happy’). Could we at some future point see ‘climate emergency’ lockdowns, not to ‘save the NHS’ but to ‘save the planet’?

A tendency to focus on individual behaviour and not ‘the system’ exists.

But let us not forget this is a system that deliberately sought to eradicate a culture of self-reliance that prevailed among the working class in the 19th century (self-education, recycling products, a culture of thrift, etc) via advertising and a formal school education that ensured conformity and set in motion a lifetime of wage labour and dependency on the products manufactured by an environmentally destructive capitalism.

A system that has its roots in inflicting massive violence across the globe to exert control over land and resources elsewhere.

In his 2018 book The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequalities and its solutions, Jason Hickel describes the processes involved in Europe’s wealth accumulation over a 150-year period of colonialism that resulted in tens of millions of deaths.

By using other countries’ land, Britain effectively doubled the size of arable land in its control. This made it more practical to then reassign the rural population at home (by stripping people of their means of production) to industrial labour. This too was underpinned by massive violence (burning villages, destroying houses, razing crops).

Hickel argues that none of this was inevitable but was rooted in the fear of being left behind by other countries because of Europe’s relative lack of land resources to produce commodities.

This is worth bearing in mind as we currently witness a fundamental shift in our relationship to the state resulting from authoritarian COVID-related policies and the rapidly emerging corporate-led green agenda. We should never underestimate the ruthlessness involved in the quest for preserving wealth and power and the propensity for wrecking lives and nature to achieve this.

Commodification of nature

Current green agenda ‘solutions’ are based on a notion of ‘stakeholder’ capitalism or private-public partnerships whereby vested interests are accorded greater weight, with governments and public money merely facilitating the priorities of private capital.

A key component of this strategy involves the ‘financialisation of nature’ and the production of new ‘green’ markets to deal with capitalism’s crisis of over accumulation and weak consumer demand caused by decades of neoliberal policies and the declining purchasing power of working people. The banking sector is especially set to make a killing via ‘green profiling’ and ‘green bonds’.

According to Friends of the Earth (FoE), corporations and states will use the financialisation of nature discourse to weaken laws and regulations designed to protect the environment with the aim of facilitating the goals of extractive industries, while allowing mega-infrastructure projects in protected areas and other contested places.

Global corporations will be able to ‘offset’ (greenwash) their activities by, for example, protecting or planting a forest elsewhere (on indigenous people’s land) or perhaps even investing in (imposing) industrial agriculture which grows herbicide-resistant GMO commodity crop monocultures that are misleadingly portrayed as ‘climate friendly’.

FoE states:

Offsetting schemes allow companies to exceed legally defined limits of destruction at a particular location, or destroy protected habitat, on the promise of compensation elsewhere; and allow banks to finance such destruction on the same premise.

This agenda could result in the weakening of current environmental protection legislation or its eradication in some regions under the pretext of compensating for the effects elsewhere. How ecoservice ‘assets’ (for example, a forest that performs a service to the ecosystem by acting as a carbon sink) are to be evaluated in a monetary sense is very likely to be done on terms that are highly favourable to the corporations involved, meaning that environmental protection will play second fiddle to corporate and finance sector return-on-investment interests.

As FoE argues, business wants this system to be implemented on its terms, which means the bottom line will be more important than stringent rules that prohibit environmental destruction.

Saving capitalism

The envisaged commodification of nature will ensure massive profit-seeking opportunities through the opening up of new markets and the creation of fresh investment instruments.

Capitalism needs to keep expanding into or creating new markets to ensure the accumulation of capital to offset the tendency for the general rate of profit to fall (according to writer Ted Reese, it has trended downwards from an estimated 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s). The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation (surplus) of capital.

Reese notes that, although wages and corporate taxes have been slashed, the exploitability of labour continued to become increasingly insufficient to meet the demands of capital accumulation. By late 2019, the world economy was suffocating under a mountain of debt. Many companies could not generate enough profit and falling turnover, squeezed margins, limited cashflows and highly leveraged balance sheets were prevalent. In effect, economic growth was already grinding to a halt prior to the massive stock market crash in February 2020.

In the form of COVID ‘relief’, there has been a multi-trillion bailout for capitalism as well as the driving of smaller enterprises to bankruptcy. Or they have being swallowed up by global interests. Either way, the likes of Amazon and other predatory global corporations have been the winners.

New ‘green’ Ponzi trading schemes to offset carbon emissions and commodify ‘ecoservices’ along with electric vehicles and an ‘energy transition’ represent a further restructuring of the capitalist economy, resulting in a shift away from a consumer oriented demand-led system.

It essentially leaves those responsible for environmental degradation at the wheel, imposing their will and their narrative on the rest of us.

Global agribusiness

Between 2000 and 2009, Indonesia supplied more than half of the global palm oil market at an annual expense of some 340,000 hectares of Indonesian countryside. Consider too that Brazil and Indonesia have spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid from the UN to prevent it.

These two countries gave over $40bn in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012, some 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rain forests.

India is the world’s leading importer of palm oil, accounting for around 15% of the global supply. It imports over two-­thirds of its palm oil from Indonesia.

Until the mid-1990s, India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils. Under pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO), import tariffs were reduced, leading to an influx of cheap (subsidised) edible oil imports that domestic farmers could not compete with. This was a deliberate policy that effectively devastated the home-grown edible oils sector and served the interests of palm oil growers and US grain and agriculture commodity company Cargill, which helped write international trade rules to secure access to the Indian market on its terms.

Indonesia leads the world in global palm oil production, but palm oil plantations have too often replaced tropical forests, leading to the killing of endangered species and the uprooting of local communities as well as contributing to the release of potential environment-damaging gases. Indonesia emits more of these gases than any country besides China and the US, largely due to the production of palm oil.

The issue of palm oil is one example from the many that could be provided to highlight how the drive to facilitate corporate need and profit trumps any notion of environmental protection or addressing any ‘climate emergency’. Whether it is in Indonesia, Latin America or elsewhere, transnational agribusiness – and the system of globalised industrial commodity crop agriculture it promotes – fuels much of the destruction we see today.

Even if the mass production of lab-created food, under the guise of ‘saving the planet’ and ‘sustainability’, becomes logistically possible (which despite all the hype is not at this stage), it may still need biomass and huge amounts of energy. Whose land will be used to grow these biomass commodities and which food crops will they replace? And will it involve that now-famous Gates’ euphemism ‘land mobility’ (farmers losing their land)?

Microsoft is already mapping Indian farmers’ lands and capturing agriculture datasets such as crop yields, weather data, farmers’ personal details, profile of land held (cadastral maps, farm size, land titles, local climatic and geographical conditions), production details (crops grown, production history, input history, quality of output, machinery in possession) and financial details (input costs, average return, credit history).

Is this an example of stakeholder-partnership capitalism, whereby a government facilitates the gathering of such information by a private player which can then use the data for developing a land market (courtesy of land law changes that the government enacts) for institutional investors at the expense of smallholder farmers who find themselves ‘land mobile’? This is a major concern among farmers and civil society in India.

Back in 2017, agribusiness giant Monsanto was judged to have engaged in practices that impinged on the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food and the right to health. Judges at the ‘Monsanto Tribunal’, held in The Hague, concluded that if ecocide were to be formally recognised as a crime in international criminal law, Monsanto could be found guilty.

The tribunal called for the need to assert the primacy of international human and environmental rights law. However, it was also careful to note that an existing set of legal rules serves to protect investors’ rights in the framework of the WTO and in bilateral investment treaties and in clauses in free trade agreements. These investor trade rights provisions undermine the capacity of nations to maintain policies, laws and practices protecting human rights and the environment and represent a disturbing shift in power.

The tribunal denounced the severe disparity between the rights of multinational corporations and their obligations.

While the Monsanto Tribunal judged that company to be guilty of human rights violations, including crimes against the environment, in a sense we also witnessed global capitalism on trial.

Global conglomerates can only operate as they do because of a framework designed to allow them to capture or co-opt governments and regulatory bodies and to use the WTO and bilateral trade deals to lever influence. As Jason Hickel notes in his book (previously referred to), old-style colonialism may have gone but governments in the Global North and its corporations have found new ways to assert dominance via leveraging aid, market access and ‘philanthropic’ interventions to force lower income countries to do what they want.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ and its ongoing commitment to an unjust model of globalisation is an example of this and a recipe for further plunder and the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few.

Brazil and Indonesia have subsidised private corporations to effectively destroy the environment through their practices. Canada and the UK are working with the GMO biotech sector to facilitate its needs. And India is facilitating the destruction of its agrarian base according to World Bank directives for the benefit of the likes of Corteva and Cargill.

The TRIPS Agreement, written by Monsanto, and the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, written by Cargill, was key to a new era of corporate imperialism. It came as little surprise that in 2013 India’s then Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar accused US companies of derailing the nation’s oil seeds production programme.

Powerful corporations continue to regard themselves as the owners of people, the planet and the environment and as having the right – enshrined in laws and agreements they wrote – to exploit and devastate for commercial gain.

Partnership or co-option?

It was noticeable during a debate on food and agriculture at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that there was much talk about transforming the food system through partnerships and agreements. Fine-sounding stuff, especially when the role of agroecology and regenerative farming was mentioned.

However, if, for instance, the interests you hope to form partnerships with are coercing countries to eradicate their essential buffer food stocks then bid for such food on the global market with US dollars (as in India) or are lobbying for the enclosure of seeds through patents (as in Africa and elsewhere), then surely this deliberate deepening of dependency should be challenged; otherwise ‘partnership’ really means co-option.

Similarly, the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that took place during September in New York was little more than an enabler of corporate needs. The UNFSS was founded on a partnership between the UN and the World Economic Forum and was disproportionately influenced by corporate actors.

Those granted a pivotal role at the UNFSS support industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive pesticide use and commodity crop monocultures, all of which cause soil deterioration, water contamination and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and human health. And this will continue as long as the environmental effects can be ‘offset’ or these practices can be twisted on the basis of them somehow being ‘climate-friendly’.

Critics of the UNFSS offer genuine alternatives to the prevailing food system. In doing so, they also provide genuine solutions to climate-related issues and food injustice based on notions of food sovereignty, localisation and a system of food cultivation deriving from agroecological principles and practices. Something which people who organised the climate summit in Glasgow would do well to bear in mind.

Current greenwashed policies are being sold by tugging at the emotional heartstrings of the public. This green agenda, with its lexicon of ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon neutrality’, ‘net-zero’ and doom-laden forecasts, is part of a programme that seeks to restructure capitalism, to create new investment markets and instruments and to return the system to viable levels of profitability.

The post Saving Capitalism or Saving the Planet?  first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Indigenous Leaders in Nicaragua Speak Out Against Western Media and NGOs

Nicaragua has an election to choose their president and national assembly on November 7. According to polls, the Sandinista Front (FSLN) currently in government is expected to win the presidency and a majority of seats in the assembly.

At the same time, the Sandinista government is intensely disliked by Washington and there has been a steady stream of negative news and accusations.

One theme of accusations concerns the indigenous peoples. In October 2020, PBS Newshour broadcast an episode claiming the US is importing “conflict beef” from the indigenous regions of Nicaragua. This story relied on an Oakland Institute report which alleges rampant violence against indigenous communities and a complicit Nicaraguan government.

The PBS story and Oakland Institute accusations were criticized at the time, but there was no retraction or serious response.

One month later, in November 2020,  Stephen Sefton travelled to eastern Nicaragua to interview indigenous community leaders and determine the facts. He asked the elected indigenous leaders about the situation, the challenges and whether the PBS story and Oakland Institute reports were accurate.

Sefton,  a community worker who has lived in Nicaragua for 25 years, has published the interviews in a 79-page PDF booklet titled “Nicaragua’s Indigenous Peoples: the Reality and the Neocolonial Lies”.

Sefton interviewed an impressive set of indigenous leaders. With photos below they are:

Arisio Genaro Selso (President  Mayangan Indigenous Territorial Government);

Eloy Frank Gomez (Secretary Mayangna Indigenous Territorial Government);

Fresly Janes Zamora (President of the Miskito Indigenous Territorial Government Twi Yabra);

Ronald Whittingham Dennis (President of the Indigenous and Afro Descendant Territorial Government Karata);

Rose Cunningham Kain (Mayor of Waspam and President of the Indigenous Territorial Government of Wanghi Awala Kupia);

Dr. Loyda del Carmen Martinez Rodriguez (District Judge of Waspam, Rio Coco);

Lejan Mora (President of Indigenous Territorial Government of Wangki Twi / Tasba Raya).

Nicaragua’s Autonomous Zones

In 1987, the Sandinista government passed Law 28 which gave legal support to indigenous land claims. After the Sandinistas lost a hotly contested election in 1990,  neoliberal policies took over and progress on indigenous claims was stopped and reversed.  In 2005, the FSLN was still in opposition but secured passage of Law 445.

As a result of these laws, approximately 31% of Nicaragua’s territory is considered communal property owned by the indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples of the country.

*****

Key Questions and Answers

Are cattle being raised for export in the autonomous zones?

Rose Cunningham Kain:

Cattle here have been like pets in other countries. And little by little we have been making a shift to having more cattle. But here there has been no certification process to permit meat exports.

The people here supply the local market and, as often as not with some difficulty, we manage to find someone who wants to butcher their cattle for the local market. Of course, in the last few years we have been encouraging people to improve their cattle stock, so that IPSA (Institute of Agricultural Protection and Health) can do its work teaching us how to improve our cattle rearing.

But we keep animals on a very small scale. So, this report saying that settlers are killing us for land to raise cattle on is not true either. That is not true. Not one cattle rancher has died here, not one Miskito involved in any kind of cattle related killing. It’s a Disney World story, maybe, a Mickey Mouse story, who knows. But it is not a real story of this municipality Waspam or any of these municipalities where there are indigenous peoples.

What about media claims that a little girl was shot in the face by a land invader? 

Lejan Mora:

In that case, a 13-year-old boy was handling his father’s handgun inside the house. The gun went off and the bullet pierced through here and came out here on a nearby girl.  What did they do when that accident happened? The creators of fake news took charge of spreading the word through the media, through Facebook, claiming that a lot of men appeared, 200 men and attacked the community. And we showed that was false. We went to the house and to the community.

We interviewed people. We even visited the site where it happened. Everything was false. But that information spread internationally as if it was something real, which is untrue. Today even we could go… if we go to the community, we can go and talk also to the mother of the girl about what happened, and she can tell us the truth.

Some mestizo farmers purchased land in the indigenous regions.  How did this happen?

Eloy Frank Gomez:

Yatama (indigenous opposition political party) mayors and deputies of Yatama were involved in the sale of indigenous lands. The community members didn’t know. The mestizos came in big numbers, families after families entering indigenous territories, for example, in the area of the Rio Coco.

In certain areas of our communities in the Bosawas Reserve, which borders with Miskito land, many mestizo settlers came to enter our Mayangna lands. But how? Through these sales authorized by politicians from Yatama.

It’s no secret that Liberal mayors and municipalities with mayors opposed to the government also promoted land trafficking, even financed organized groups, armed groups to invade indigenous lands and to dispossess the indigenous people of their lands. There is evidence of that.

Lejan Mora:

YATAMA leaders were the ones who started selling land. We have documents showing they were the vendors. Who were the buyers? People from the Pacific, who don’t have land. So, they began selling, they began doing business, and that is where the problem of land invasion arose.

How are relations between indigenous and mestizo settlers?

Fresly Janes Zamora:

From the 1980s to date, if that person lives in that area, in that community, they already know the language, the culture, they already live with the same culture. The children, for example, are already over 30 years old. So, all these things give them that right.

But what happened? The problem of the invasions started after the year 2000. It was difficult for the communities… they didn’t even have the authority to make decisions. So, what happens then? From 2013 onwards, we do have that dominion.

We have that dominion, and we do still have that conflict, not with the government, not with the State of Nicaragua, but the people, the mestizos themselves are invading properties. Because as I told you, we conserve areas. Our ancestors, that is our culture. We are few but we have large tracts of land, because they are the areas where we go out to hunt animals, to sow our crops, to fish. So, these are areas where we as indigenous peoples abide. That is our culture.

So, we now have the title. We have … dominion, we do have now, and the government, the State recognizes it. The only problem we have is that sometimes outsiders want to invade us or are invading our property. So, something that we must teach them is to recognize that they are our lands, and that this land is not empty and unclaimed.

It has an owner. And the owner is the indigenous peoples. Therefore, although they do need land, they must coordinate, to reach an arrangement, to engage in dialogue, a negotiation with the owners

Sometimes we have a conflict. With two or three of the ten mestizos that are within our lands, not all of them agree to recognize us. Always, in everything, there are two or three families that do not agree, that do not want to recognize us. So, what do we do?

When this is the case, we visit the place, because it is our land, and we go in a commission to explain to them the internal regulations of our communities, or the internal regulations of the territory. If they agree, we can reach an understanding.

We can sit down and start a dialogue, negotiate. Because the lands cannot be sold, even if I want to sell, I cannot, even if I want to give them away, I cannot. Because that’s a crime. But yes, the land can be leased.

So, what we are doing is, as Twi Yabra, we are leasing land. We are leasing land, after several lawsuits, there was even bloodshed.  But what good is that?

Rose Cunningham Kain:

Here in Waspam we are practicing coexistence with those who have come to settle in Waspam. So, in this municipality we have different models of relations with non-indigenous peoples, with non-indigenous settlers. At this moment in the context of the hurricane, we have also had news of agricultural losses these non-indigenous people have suffered too. And as the mayor’s office we have to listen to them because they are Nicaraguan citizens. They have human rights. They are human too.

What is true is that we always call on them to reach agreement with the indigenous peoples. Either they leave or they come to an agreement with the owners of the land. The last violent activity must have been in about 2013/14. We have not had violent activities in this part of our territory. Here we have seen meetings where people speak their minds. We have documented meetings that have taken place in the mountains between non-indigenous settlers and indigenous settlers where 17 communities, leaders of 17 communities, come together and walk to meet at a certain point.

The last stage of the transition in the autonomous zones is remediation (‘saneamiento’). What is the status of this?

Lejan Mora:

We’re in the last phase of the remediation, which is clearing the boundaries, the inter-territorial limits and so on. So, we are at that stage right now. I remember very well indeed that in 2015 there were clashes between Miskitos and those who were invading the land.

The political opposition are insisting on self-remediation. So, the people in the communities rise up, get involved in confrontations, and then they persist, and that’s how it happened that, I think there have been four or three deaths, something like that.

We invited the settlers and we sat there under a tree. We started to make a presentation of the real situation there because they know very well they are on land that does not belong to them, we presented this to them. And we have shown them what and how might be the most appropriate way forward. It is a negotiated way, not through confrontations or anything like that.

We talked and reached an agreement that… because there are people who have been on that land for several years. And that land where they are located, they got it because another territory sold it. One territory agreed the sale, but it is a piece of land that belongs to a different territory.

So, it is a bit of a complicated situation. So, we talked with them, and precisely this coming Wednesday we have planned to go and prepare the ground for to another type of approach, namely leasing. We as the territory of Wangki Twi have not yet taken that approach but seeing the situation and to alleviate it a little, we must take that step. To what end? To a point we regard as feasible for creating a calmer and more durable situation, so that there are no conflicts.

What about “self-remediation”?

Fresly Janes Zamora:

The opposition is promoting violence between indigenous and mestizos… Self-remediation means promoting violence between indigenous against mestizos.

So, when they throw a stone, someone else will throw stones.

Why do they send NGOs and programs for this? … On paper it says one thing, but on the ground it’s something else. That’s it. So that’s what they are promoting. When there is no fire, there is no money. As I told you, things are calm, things are resolved, but that’s what they do.

So, we as Twi Yabra territory are against those people. That is why we are not involved with any organization. Because at the beginning we thought they entered in good faith to support us. But during the execution of these projects, of these visits, which they did in my absence, they were already doing other things. We immediately prohibited their visits to our communities because they were trying to destabilize the structure of the territorial government, the structure of the communal authorities and at the same time to bring violence between the Miskito peoples and outsiders, so we are against it.

When do you negotiate with non-indigenous people?

Ronald Whittingham Dennis:

There are people who say remediation is to clear out, to get everyone out …. But some people say no, remediation is to seek an understanding, to remediate is to reach an understanding. And part of that understanding is the well-known term of reordering. That is the concept.

So, what does it mean to reorder? It is not that the mestizos or the outsiders that are within your territory, within your area, that they are going to decide where they are going to be. You will tell them where they are going to be. That is reordering. And how much you can give in the portion of land. That is the zoning.

It is a component for solving problems. Now in that reordering you also have to see who will go and who can stay. That is reordering.

The State provides that through the Army and the Army’s Ecological Battalion, and no territory can say that’s not the case. They have indeed provided accompaniment. They have provided accompaniment.

If a member of the community sold a certain portion of land for whatever reason, you are forced to sit down and negotiate. To see what can be done. And to negotiate you have to do so in a spirit of wanting to solve the problem. But if there is no will to resolve the problem rather than to create more problem, then you will never solve the problem.

So, you have to look for strategies on how you are going to resolve it. Because these people who have already, imagine, who have already come to live here for fourteen years, fifteen years, they came to plant their crops, they have their own livestock, they have their animals, they are already well established.

And that is what we in the territories have to understand. The damage is already done. What we have to look for is how to resolve the problem.

What happens to settlers who are violent or refuse to leave the indigenous areas?

Dr. Loyda del Carmen Martinez Rodriguez:

The State has vindicated the indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ right to the land, and the State is also a guarantor in the efforts to secure social peace in our country and in our region. It is a process in which the State has guaranteed and has given those peoples this right, but the political opposition always does not see this. They also say that the cases we have prosecuted are of little importance. But no. The indigenous peoples are being protected and the rights the indigenous peoples are being vindicated. And the State has contributed a great deal to this because no other government had ever recognized the indigenous peoples, giving them a title to what before was only private property, where only the oligarchy and the bourgeoisie had the right to own land.

Also, I have participated in dialogue between mestizos and Miskitos in which there are territories that want to resolve the remediation process by means of a leasing agreement with the territory. They make the proposal, then the territory, its president will decide if they are going to lease or not. So, we have carried out these procedures as a judicial authority… by way of accompaniment, then. So, you see, we have participated listening to both parties, the mayor of the municipality has invited me to participate and listen to proposals made by the non-indigenous party.

Likewise, we have made progress in this aspect of property remediation, and we are not trying to drag it out, although the opposition always sees it like that. But there has been a lot of progress, because there is a dialogue between mestizos and Miskitos in which the State guarantees as established in Law 445 that those communities, that now have their legal title, can lease their land and that is allowed by law. But this is something that as regards the State and the territories, each territory president is able say whether they want to lease or not.

Lejan Mora:

We’ve stopped the invasion that was taking place.  By applying that law, we are able to get people imprisoned via a judicial process. We get them imprisoned and they end up with three-year prison terms.

And that is how we are trying to calm the situation. And later, we seek to reach a peaceful solution, without confrontations or anything else. The issue of territorial rights here in Nicaragua is something new for us. What the current government has done for us is a very good thing.

What is the role of foreign funded NGOs?

Arisio Genaro Selso:

There are organizations, NGOs that use the name of the indigenous peoples and indigenous organizations to make accusations against the government, to denigrate the government, to try to destroy the government’s image and that of the work it does within the protected areas, for example, in the case of the Río San Juan, for example, or in the case of the Indio Maíz Reserve, and here in the case of the Bosawas Reserve.

Rose Cunningham Kain:

I think that, like this person, there are many who take advantage of the poverty and conflict of others. That is not and never has been the spirit of the creation of non-governmental organizations. For me, non-governmental organizations should not want to profit from poverty or people’s conflicts. And when I say poverty, it’s not that we are poor.

We have been impoverished by the same people who have funded the people who say that we live in conflict.

It is a big lie. We have not had that kind of conflict for many years. We are building peace. Peace is not just words. Peace is a process. And the social reinsertion after the eighties, when the counterrevolution was also financed from the north, that peace process that led us to Autonomy, we continue to weave it, we continue to build it, and we continue to strengthen it. And today, after 33 years of Autonomy, we feel, and I feel proud to see how our community leaders are able to give you an interview and tell you the reality. And they know where the bad is and where the good is.

What is the role of the Center for Justice and Human Rights in the Atlantic District of Nicaragua (CEJUDHCAN) and its leader Lottie Cunningham?

Arisio Genaro Selso:

CEJUDHCAN is not the institution she claims or projects at the international level, as an organization or institution defending indigenous rights.

Why doesn’t she ever consult us? Why doesn’t she come to the communities to consult us? Why not our national leadership, which is who we are, leading the national government of the Mayangna Nation, or else to the presidents in our territorial governments…? She is not present. She speaks from afar. She uses the indigenous name. She uses it without having been there when the events are taking place. For example, when the Alal case occurred, up there in the Reserve, she said that the government was not defending the indigenous people.

In practice, Lottie works with opposition activists. They are people who live as we Nicaraguans say, making accusations against the government, talking badly about the government. So, she takes that and exploits it to say that the government does such and such, but really if it were the organization, she says it is, she should be open to consultation. But she is not. She just turns up for a short while. And sometimes she exaggerates things. And she makes use of the indigenous peoples.

Fresly Janes Zamora:

CEJUDHCAN does training on the rights of indigenous peoples. But at the same time, they have another interest. Two programs came to my territory, that they are going to help me, that are going to help me with remediation, this, and that… We said, look, these are our conditions and priorities. So, help me on such and such a matter.

For example, when in my second year as president, they saw things were going to improve, change, become more formalized, they did not like that. Why? Well, as long as there are incidents, then there are conflicts, so for them that means there is always funding. So, what did I do? I told them, I sent two letters, saying that we want nothing to do with them. We no longer want to have a relationship with them.

Lejan Mora:

I have seen the video that Lottie released. She says every pound of meat that sold to the United States is a drop of blood of the Miskito. Which is totally false. I don’t know what her objective is in spreading so many lies. Because it has nothing to do with anything real, nothing at all. These are not right. I mean, a lie of such magnitude.

How are relations between the indigenous leaders and the Nicaragua government?

Arisio Genaro Selso:

Before there was this great project for Bosawas it was worse. There was no consultation, the decisions weren’t taken by the indigenous communities.

Now things are different. This is an opportunity for the indigenous peoples, this recognition, this respect of the government towards indigenous institutions, towards indigenous peoples.  This also allows indigenous peoples to participate directly and broadly in the decisions that are being taken.

Progress has been made. Why? Because the government authorized the creation of a body within the courts, namely the figure of Defenders of Indigenous Peoples was created, wherever there is the presence of indigenous population. What is the function of these Defenders? It is the direct accompaniment these Defenders provide to the indigenous organizations for the judicial process of settlers, those who are destroying the environment, all these types of cases. So, there is greater accompaniment.

And the other important element is that we have also achieved within the judiciary, our indigenous officials also hold positions in the courts. So now the recent appointments of the Defenders of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples are also indigenous people who speak the indigenous languages. That is the other element, which for us is vital.

The government has guaranteed that in all the municipalities where indigenous peoples are present, there will also be functionaries who speak indigenous languages.

Summary

Readers who are interested to learn more facts and perspectives on the situation in Nicaragua’s autonomous regions are encouraged to read Sefton’s entire book.  While there is much in common, the indigenous leaders have different experiences and perspectives on certain issues. There are many rich insights and subtleties in the full text. What comes through very clearly is that the news and analysis of the situation in Nicaragua is being hugely distorted.

In the last month (October 2021) a violent attack took place in the Bosawas indigenous territory.  Again, Stephen Sefton travelled to the remote area by car and horse to ascertain the facts about what really happened. It turns out that the conflict was over a mining operation and both the victims and perpetrators were indigenous. This is documented in Sefton’s article “The Truth about Recent Violence in Bosawas”. From the misinformation about “conflict beef” and other accusations last year, to the recent events in Bosawas, the common thread is that information about Nicaragua is being manipulated for geopolitical ends. That is why these first person interviews and statements from indigenous leaders are so crucial to hear.

USAID Photo

The post Indigenous Leaders in Nicaragua Speak Out Against Western Media and NGOs first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Murder of the “Menacing” Water Technician: On the Shadow Wars in the West Bank  

There is an ongoing, but hidden, Israeli war on the Palestinians which is rarely highlighted or even known. It is a water war, which has been in the making for decades.

On July 26 and 27, two separate but intrinsically linked events took place in the Ein al-Hilweh area in the occupied Jordan Valley, and near the town of Beita, south of Nablus.

In the first incident, Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Maskiyot began construction in the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, which has been a source of fresh water for villages and hundreds of Palestinian families in that area. The seizure of the spring has been developing for months, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli occupation army.

Now, the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, like most of the Jordan Valley’s land and water resources, is annexed by Israel.

Less than 24 hours later, Shadi Omar Salim, a Palestinian municipal employee, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the town of Beita. The Israeli army quickly issued a statement which, expectedly, blamed the Palestinian for his own death.

The Palestinian victim approached the soldiers in a “menacing manner”, while holding “what appeared to be an iron bar,” before he was gunned down, the Israeli army claimed.

If the “iron bar” claim was true, it might be related to the fact that Salim was a water technician. Indeed, the Palestinian worker was on his way to open the pipes that supply water to Beita and other adjacent areas.

Beita, which has witnessed much violence in recent weeks, is facing an existential threat. An illegal Jewish settlement, called Givat Eviatar, is being built atop the Palestinian Sabih Mountain, in Arabic, Jabal Sabih. As usual, whenever a Jewish settlement is constructed, Palestinian life and livelihood are threatened. Thus, the ongoing Palestinian protests in the area.

The struggle of Beita is a representation of the wider Palestinian struggle: unarmed civilians fighting against a settler-colonial state that ultimately wishes to replace a Palestinian village or town with a Jewish settlement.

There is another facet to what may seem a typical story, where the Israeli army and Jewish settlers work together to ethnically cleanse Palestinians: Mekorot. The latter is a state-owned Israeli water company that literally steals Palestinian water and sells it back to the Palestinians at an exorbitant price.

Unsurprisingly, Mekorot operates near Beita as well. The Palestinian worker, Salim, was killed because his job of supplying water to the people of Beita was a direct threat to Israeli colonial designs in this region.

Let us put this in a larger context. Israel does not just occupy Palestinian land, it also systematically usurps all of its resources, including water, in flagrant violation of international law which guarantees the fundamental rights of an occupied nation.

The occupied West Bank obtains most of its water from the Mountain Aquifer, which is divided into three smaller aquifers: the Western Aquifer, the Eastern Aquifer and the North-Eastern Aquifer. In theory, Palestinians have plenty of water, at least enough to meet the minimally-required water allotment of 102-120 liters per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In practice, however, this is hardly the case. Sadly, most of the water in these aquifers is appropriated directly by Israel. Some call it “water capture”; Palestinians call it, more accurately, “theft”.

While in Israel the daily per capita water consumption is estimated at 300 liters, illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank consume over 800 liters per day. The latter number becomes even more outrageous if compared to the meager amount enjoyed by a Palestinian, that of 70 liters per day.

This problem is accentuated in the so-called ‘Area C’ in the West Bank, for a reason. ‘Area C’ consists of nearly 60 percent of the total size of the West Bank and, unlike ‘Areas A’ and ‘B’, it is the least populated. It is mostly fertile land and it includes the Jordan Valley, known as the ‘breadbasket of Palestine’.

Despite the fact that the Israeli government had, in 2019, decided to postpone its formal annexation of that area, a de facto annexation has been in effect for years. The illegal appropriation of the Ein al-Hilweh Spring by illegal Jewish settlers is part of a larger stratagem that aims at appropriating the Jordan Valley, one dunum, one spring, and one mountain at a time.

Of the more than 150,000 Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, nearly 40 percent – over 200 communities – suffer from “severe shortage of clean water”. That shortage can be remedied if Palestinians are allowed to drill new wells, expand current ones or to use modern technologies to allocate other sources of freshwater. Not only does the Israeli army prohibit them from doing so, even rainwater is off-limits to Palestinians.

“Israel even controls the collection of rainwater throughout most of the West Bank and rainwater harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the Israeli army,” an Amnesty International report, published in 2017, concluded.

Since then, the situation became even worse, especially since the idea of officially annexing a third of the West Bank obtained widespread support in the Israeli Knesset and society. Now, every move made by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the West Bank is directed towards that end, controlling the land and its resources, denying Palestinians access to their means of survival and, ultimately, ethnically cleansing them altogether.

The Beita protests continue, despite the heavy price being paid. Last June, a 15-year-old boy, Ahmad Bani-Shamsa, was killed when an Israeli army bullet struck him in the head. At the time, Defense for Children International-Palestine issued a statement asserting that Bani-Shamsa did not pose any threat to the Israeli army.

The truth is, it is Beita that is under constant Israeli threat, as well as the Jordan Valley, ‘Area C’, the West Bank and the whole of Palestine. The protest in Beita is a protest for land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Bani-Shamsa and, later, Salim, were killed in cold blood simply because their protests were mere irritants to the grand design of colonial Israel.

The irony of it all is that Israel seems to love everything about Palestine: the land, the resources, the food and even the fascinating history, but not the indigenous Palestinians themselves.

The post The Murder of the “Menacing” Water Technician: On the Shadow Wars in the West Bank   first appeared on Dissident Voice.