Martial law lifted in Ferguson

St. Louis County has ended martial law in Ferguson, Missouri & the surrounding areas. It went into affect on Monday after police accused 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr. of opening fire on an unmarked police van. Harris was critically wounded by police gunfire & is in the hospital.

Since that is the only incident of alleged violence from protesters in Ferguson over the past several days, it would seem necessary for authorities to explain the imposition of martial law & the media scare-mongering about violence from protesters.

Under martial law, county police took over Ferguson, preempting local police. Who knew US counties had their own police forces? In revoking martial law, the County Executive said “I am pleased to report our law enforcement officers have established order while preventing further acts of violence in Ferguson.”

So you see!? Even though there was no violence, martial law prevented it. It’s beginning to look like Kafka-world.

Civil liberties under attack in Northern Ireland under guise of right-wing preacher

Pastor Mcconnell:Belfast August 14 2015

Pastor James Mcconnell, a born-again preacher, is in a Belfast courtroom being prosecuted for a controversial sermon he gave in his church last year where he said “Islam is heathen, Islam is Satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in Hell.” Because the sermon was streamed on the internet, he is being charged under the Communications Act of 2003 rather than for committing a hate crime–either one of which is fallacious as hell. The British government said Mcconnell’s words were “grossly offensive.”

The Communications Act of 2003 is an undemocratic, treacherous little piece of legislation with a provision that sending a “malicious communication” using social media is a criminal offense. McDonnell’s defense attorney said “This is one of the most bizarre & peculiar cases I have ever seen before the court.” We don’t differ with that assessment but we’ll be seeing a lot more of this kind of legal action.

Political activists should see what’s coming like a Mack truck. If we don’t nip this kind of initiative in the bud, we’re going to see this kind of legal maneuver used against Palestinian solidarity & the boycott of Israel movement. It’s the same legal genre used by the Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin which earlier this year won a ruling in a NY court for millions in damages from the Palestinian Authority & PLO for inciting terrorist acts. Shurat HaDin, which was trained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has already begun using this legal tactic–what they call “lawfare”–against BDS groups.

Repugnant at his beliefs are, the good pastor with the head stuffed full of Islamophobia & other rubbish, has a democratic right to hold & express those views. There are many political & democratic ways to rebut them but encouraging the British government to come in & prosecute him opens a floodgate for repression of those who stand against war & Israeli apartheid.

How dare the British government prosecute this guy & endanger civil liberties while they use media & internet to spew war propaganda justifying Islamophobic wars, deploy their armies in Afghanistan & elsewhere, deploy their navy in the Mediterranean against African immigrants, refuse access to thousands of refugees. If we’re talking “grossly offensive,” you can’t top that.

As you would expect, right-wingers were out supporting the pastor with banners denouncing persecution of Christianity & the inroads of Sharia law. The white nationalist English Defence League weighed in on his behalf. But there are other supporters–not of his rancid views, but of his right to free speech–including a London imam who objects to the prosecution on civil liberties grounds. Any person holding dissident views or who believes in democracy must defend his democratic right to free speech–even if you detest every rotten thing he stands for. The civil liberties you are defending will be your own.

In an irony you can’t make up, Mcconnell’s sermon was first denounced by an Iraqi Muslim businessman in Belfast controversial for publicly praising the Islamic State takeover of an Iraqi city.

(Photo of the unfortunate Mcconnell from FB)

“The Middle-East problematique” in Paris: Israeli apartheid on the Seine

Apartheid sur Seine (AFP Photo:Kenzo Tribouillard) August 14 2015

In line with French evictions & deportations of Roma & assaults on immigrants at Calais, authorities in Paris decided to celebrate “Tel Aviv Beach” yesterday in its annual beach-on-the-Seine festival which took place on the Seine river bank next to the Paris City Hall.

Yahoo reports–in a French style likely coming from the Parisian mayor Anne Hidalgo who made the decision–“The middle-east problematic is a very sensitive question in France as the country was shaken last year by several protests against the Israeli occupation & numerous clashes with the Jewish community.” Ah, but the “middle-east problematic” is a much more sensitive question in Gaza. So sensitive that the event can only be considered an obscenity since this time last year, while Israelis were lolling on Tel Aviv beach, Israeli war planes bombed four small boys to death on a Gaza beach just 45 miles away.

Just a few weeks ago, baby Ali Dawabsha & his 32-year-old father Sa’ad were burned to death by Israeli settlers in the West Bank & a right-wing settler attacked a LGBT rights march in Jerusalem, stabbing to death a 16-year-old girl. This is hardly a time to herald Israeli beach culture when its culture of violence is exploding not only against Palestinians but Israeli LGBTs, Ethiopian Israelis, African refugees.

Yahoo also reported that “a polemic has risen” from the mayor’s decision to celebrate Tel Aviv beach culture. You could say that. Only a small number of celebrants came to play beach ball at Tel Aviv sur Seine where they were protected by riot cops &–so reminiscent of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank–had police checkpoints. BDS Paris outnumbered them by a long-shot, showing up with banners, unfurling Palestinian flags from the sidewalk overlooking Tel Aviv beach, & holding a “Gaza beach” protest.

Hats off to BDS Paris! Build the economic, cultural, & academic boycott of Israel. Demand no military aid to Israel.

Photo is Gaza beach protest yesterday.

(Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP)

India’s brutal military occupation of Kashmir

Funeral of Bilal Ahmad Bhat (Yawar Nazir: Getty Images) August 13 2015

In an uncustomary breaking of the news blackout on the Indian occupation of Kashmir, media posted this photo of a family member at the funeral of 23-year-old Bilal Ahmad Bhat, a young man shot dead Tuesday by a patrol of the Indian paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF).

None of the media has been able to present a coherent narrative of this incident. Reconstructing from several mangled narratives, it appears that on Monday two young men alleged to be members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (designated by India as a Muslim terrorist group) & accused of involvement in a number of “militancy-related activities” engaged in what is called a “gun battle” with Indian security forces. Gun battle is not the right term since whether they were even armed is in question & the operation was to hunt down & kill the two men. To do that India marshaled counter-terrorist paramilitary army units, the Special Operations Group from the police, regular army units, & they deployed choppers hurling grenades from the air. This mighty force cordoned off the area & began their murderous hunt. All that fire power against two men? That sounds very much like overkill. Like a massacre even.

Apparently, due process is no part of military occupation because any reasonable person would think such a sizable, well-armed force would be able to encircle & capture the alleged terrorists & charge them in a court of law rather than summarily execute them. Unless they really weren’t guilty of any crimes at all except resistance to occupation.

Reports from the area said as the military operation went on a large number of villagers came out of their homes in support of the young men & began chanting freedom slogans & hurling rocks to break the cordon & give safe passage to the militants. Those protesters were then dispersed with tear gas shelling & soldiers shooting live ammo into the air. 19 people were injured.

After villagers in the area heard of the murders of Gulzar Ahmad Bhat & Showkat Ahmad Lone by the military, thousands more came out in protest. That’s when the BSF opened fire on unarmed protesters & killed young Bilal Ahmad Bhat. His murder caused even larger demonstrations against the Indian occupation. Thousands attended his funeral.

It’s important to know that India has one of the largest police forces in the world, second only to China, & one of the highest ratios in the world of police to civilians (130 police per 100,000 residents). Because India has several military, paramilitary, & special police forces, it’s hard to know if the figure of nearly 1.6 million police includes all of these or just regular police officers. An estimated 700,000 Indian security forces are deployed in Kashmir–some of them counter-terrorist units only deployed in Kashmir. The ratio of security forces to residents in Kashmir is sky-high, dwarfing that 130 to 100,000 figure for all of India–& signifying an occupation.

The Border Security Force (BSF) that shot young Bilal Ahmad Bhat is a paramilitary force formed to protect the borders of India but marshaled repeatedly as a terrorist force against the people of Kashmir. It seems they weren’t even part of the operation against the militants but just passing by when they opened fire. One of the ugliest things about the paramilitary & police units in Kashmir is that they have special incentives & earn bonuses for every militant killed or arrested. Now we can understand Indian’s special military relationship with Israel; it’s a political affinity based in colonialism & terrorism.

Our deepest condolences to the families of the three young men; may they RIP. Our fullest solidarity with the people of Kashmir. May their Intifada go international.

(Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

Greece has begun the crackdown on immigrants

Kos sports stadium line (Yorgos Karahalis:AP) August 13 2015

These men are refugees queued up for hours inside a football stadium on Kos to register for immigration papers so they can move further into Europe. The stadium is described as “sunbaked” without food, drinking water, or toilets. It reminds us of nothing quite so much as that football stadium in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. People crowded together, hassled by police, sprayed with water cannons panic in those situations.

The Greek government claims it’s dispatching a ship to Kos to double up as “an accommodation & processing center” for the 7,000 refugees waiting to apply for immigration papers. No one should kid themselves “accommodations” means that SYRIZA is providing housing for refugees whilst retirees are living in or on the edge of homelessness.

In the meanwhile, “as the situation continues to deteriorate” on Kos–which means thousands of refugees are increasingly restive at being stuck without food, water, or housing, unable to move on without papers–there are increasing reports of police beatings & abuse. There are also increasing reports of refugees suffering panic attacks.

The refugees coming through Kos are from Syria, Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan; they’re on the run from war & bombing. And this is the treatment they receive!?

Immigration is a human right. Open the damn borders.

(Photo by Yorgos Karahalis/AP)

Humans of New York in Pakistan

Humans of New York (Lahor, Pakistan) August 13 2015

This is a powerful story of a man & his daughter in Lahore, Pakistan from the “Humans in New York” travelog:

“I was never educated because I began working when I was a child. I was always envious of the boys who got to wear uniforms and go to school. This is her first month of school. She comes home & tells me exactly what happened, everyday. I love it. If I’m not home for a few days, she’ll save up all her stories, then tell them to me all at once.”

The real legacy of Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter

Former US president Jimmy Carter is reportedly dying from cancer. I’m not going to write an anti-obituary celebrating his death like I did for Israeli politician Ariel Sharon or Egyptian torturer Omar Suleiman & as I look forward to doing for Madeleine Albright & Henry Kissinger. But I will not be joining those who mourn & herald him as a man of peace. Does the rather equivocal work he’s done around Israel & Palestine after his term in office compensate for his policies in Iran, El Salvador, the Philippines, & in encouraging the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? I think not.

It’s true he’s brought some understanding about Palestinians & Israel but his work is a mixed bag. Despite the furor it evoked, his 2006 book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” is too equivocal about Israeli apartheid to be considered an indictment. He does not so much designate Israeli policies as apartheid as depict the barbaric realities of those policies in the occupied West Bank. Good for him & a tip of the hat for standing the guff he received for writing the book.

It’s on solutions that Carter’s equivocations stand out. He publicly opposes BDS, representing that view as a member of The Elders, & is an outspoken promoter of the two-state, bantustate solution for Palestinians. He’s been involved in Middle East politics for several decades & should know by now that’s an unworkable, undemocratic, & apartheid solution.

There’s a political history to Carter’s role in Palestine that cannot be ignored. It’s not too dramatic to say he has blood on his hands from brokering the Camp David Accords in 1978 when he was president. Those accords, signed between Anwar Sadat of Egypt & Menachem Begin of Israel, were so flawed they were even rejected by the UN. Jordan & Syria refused to participate (at least openly) & Palestinian representatives were excluded. The accords had nothing to do with Palestinian justice but with neutralizing Egypt & making it a partner with the US & Israel in isolating Palestinians. The accord provisions established the framework for the betrayal of Palestinian justice negotiated by Yasser Arafat in the Oslo Accords in 1993.

In return for massive Egyptian trade concessions to Israel (including ending the boycott by Egypt & opening the Suez Canal to Israel), the US committed to billions of dollars in military aid to Egypt & established it as a military bulwark supporting Israel against Palestinians, by the Egyptian regime against its own people, & for US hegemony in the entire region. Sadat was assassinated for his betrayal but the military arsenal created in Egypt by the Camp David Accords made possible the defeat of the Egyptian uprising in 2013 & the continuing repression of democracy in Egypt by the Sisi regime.

That is the legacy of Jimmy Carter.

(Photo of Carter by Lydia Smith)