All posts by BabakJoy2014

Five Chinese feminists conditionally released from detention

Five Chinese feminists - Apr 9 2015

China has conditionally released five feminists arrested just prior to International Women’s Day for organizing a protest against sexual harassment on public transportation. They were activists in campaigns against sexual harassment, domestic violence, LGBT rights, disability rights, & employment discrimination & were hauled in without charge on suspicion of “picking quarrels & provoking trouble.”

Conditional release means they can still be charged with something or even disappeared because there is a general crackdown on Chinese democracy & human rights activists. Dissent has been growing a long time in China & is widespread, including around the environment & labor issues. New battalions enter humanity’s historic struggle against neoliberal capitalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism.

The child trash collectors of Kabul

Afghanistan child garbage picker (Wakil Kohsar:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 13 2015

The media caption to this photo read: “A young rubbish collector works at a dump site” in Kabul, Afghanistan. In fact, he’s a kid, a young boy & he’s not a scavenger looking for recyclables but a rubbish collector for the city.

What the caption editor should have said is: “This is emancipation US-style. Child labor has increased under the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan & now tens of thousands of kids as young as six work under dangerous conditions in coal mines, brick factories, construction, carpet weaving, begging, & in toxic dump sites.”

But the plot sickens from there. After 30 years of constant war & occupation, Afghanistan’s infrastructure was in ruins & one of the most pressing problems was solid waste management. From the US-NATO occupation in 2001 to 2004, Kabul, the largest city in Afghanistan, had grown from one million to four million people. The UN reported the growth as returning refugees & “new urban dwellers.” “New urban dwellers” must be a coy way of saying those thousands of rural Afghans fleeing US-NATO bombing in the countryside as well as the armies of NGO & military personnel swarming like predatory locusts into the country.

UN-Habitat, the agency dealing with urban development, boasted they handed a grant of over $840,000 from the World Bank to the municipality of Kabul to develop a waste management program. They claimed the program cleared mountains of accumulated waste from dump sites around the city. USAID also reported funding a waste management program for the municipality including logistical assistance–first in 2004 to 2007 & again in 2010 to 2013. Now this is quite disturbing because it suggests (actually it confirms what we already knew) that the US as well as the UN & World Bank are aware children are employed in a dangerous occupation where they are susceptible to disease, not to mention vermin.

The more we know about the war in Afghanistan, the more we understand it must be actively opposed.

US out of Afghanistan! US out of Iraq!

(Photo by Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images)

We need a political critique of Hillary Clinton; enough with the gossip!

According to the NY Times, Clinton has announced her candidacy for president. I am constantly surprised at the banality, often laden with a sneering subtle misogyny, that passes for political criticism of Clinton. A few radicals have made a cottage industry of Clinton-criticism which never really rises above the level of gossip & insinuation. In place of hard-hitting expose, we get nitpicking politics.

Since I’ll be running against her, I will be writing a critique that won’t include sneering. Her role as shill-in-chief for US militarism is damning enough but what needs to be exposed is how she used that post for undermining human rights especially when it served personal enrichment. What she & that shabby-assed husband of hers did in Haiti deserves an entire book of condemnations. And what she continues to do to co-opt & turn women’s rights into an elite pastime deserves another book.

It isn’t good enough that she’s a woman. But then I’m still not convinced she stands a snow ball’s chance in hell because the smell of corruption & venality is written all over her resume.

The Coachella Music Festival and migrant workers in California

Richard Lui:The Desert Sun) Apr 12 2015 (

Few things show the disparities of wealth in the US so starkly as the annual Coachella Music Festival in Southern California where celebrities mix with the well-heeled to hear top performers over two weekends. Tickets go from over $400 to over $5,000. Last year, the gate grossed $78 million from 579,000 attendants over six days. But just miles away is an agribusiness area where migrant farm workers live in squalid, sub-human conditions without sanitation or electricity.
Reposted from 2012:

This weekend, thousands of music fans converge in Indio, CA (near Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley) for the annual Coachella Music Festival, considered one of the world’s premiere music festivals. The western part of Coachella Valley–now one of the fastest growing areas in the country–has been a resort haven for millionaire movie stars & retired presidents since the 1920s & a haven for retired northerners (“snowbirds”) during the winter months.

Only 25 miles away, Eastern Coachella Valley is an agricultural area drawing 15,000 migrant farm workers during the growing season. Because no housing is provided for migrant workers, homelessness is a major problem with most forced to live out of their cars, on the streets, or in makeshift housing. Hundreds of illegal, unregulated trailer parks built on the cheap provide squalid housing for permanent residents & some migrants. Built on county lands (called unincorporated communities), these trailer parks lack sewage systems, clean drinking water, storm drains, trash pickup, & even power. As a result, residents are plagued by contaminated water & raw sewage backing up in the shower, overflowing in the streets every time it rains, sitting in stagnant pools in their yards. Children play in this raw sewage with rat, mosquito, & cockroach infestations.

Residents attempt to treat these problems which the state ignores by flushing sewage into septic tanks & cesspools (which overflow regularly), by pouring bleach into sewage pools, by digging private sewage pits, but suffer from many public health problems including gastrointestinal illness, respiratory disease, skin infections, & other health problems in an area not served by public health facilities. This racist neglect by the state also means dozens of crops sold around the country are grown in surrounding fields fertilized by untreated sewage.

Certainly the most disgusting of all the environmental outrages in the area is what has been termed “Mt. San Diego”, a 50-foot high pile of human poop dumped by San Diego on nearby Indian tribal land from 1989 until 1994, when a federal court ordered an end to the racist practice. Particulates from the massive heap of feces are dispersed by desert winds to the dozens of communities just a few miles away & emit a noxious stench impossible to shut out.

Although the labor of migrant workers generates the enormous agricultural wealth of California, their conditions of life have been in this bereft & squalid state for generations, existing right next door to lavish wealth. In Coachella Valley, one has to drive through upscale golf courses where celebrity tournaments are played to get to these impoverished hell holes where mostly Latino Californians & migrant workers live. If the stench was near enough to affect the golf games, that pile of human manure would be removed forthwith by the state.

(Photo of Coachella 2015 by Richard Lui/The Desert Sun)

Norman Finkelstein’s betrayal of Palestine

Palestinian girl (from Palestinian Declaration) Apr 11 2015

Norman Finkelstein has long played an educative role in Palestinian solidarity through his writings & speeches & is rightfully honored. But his commitment to a bantustate solution for Palestinians (essentially he is a left Zionist) is leading him in a deeply conservative direction. He justifies that commitment with references to international law, as if UN proclamations were sacrosanct or enforceable, & with his claims that popular opinion will not accept a democratic secular state where Jews & Palestinians live as brothers & sisters.

In the past few years he has quite aggressively & contemptuously opposed the economic & cultural boycott (BDS) of Israel, a movement which has transformed Palestinian solidarity from small campus-based groups into an international movement.

On a speaking tour last month at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he spoke on the “new antisemitism” alleged by Zionists. For the past several years, with the rise of Palestinian solidarity, Israel & its Zionist supporters have attempted to yoke antisemitism to anti-Zionism even though a growing number of religious & secular Jews are active supporters of Palestine & oppose Zionism as a racist, right-wing nationalist ideology. For the most part, Finkelstein’s speech was dismissive of these allegations about crescendoing antisemitism.

Despite his dismissiveness & Zionist sensationalizing & fear-mongering about rising antisemitism (ignoring the rise of Islamophobia), antisemitic incidents are increasing in Europe & have been for nearly 20 years, with verbal abuse, physical assaults, vandalism & fire bombings of synagogues, schools, & cemeteries. Zionists, European regimes, & in particular Israel attempt to pin the increasing attacks against Jews on Muslim terrorists.

In 2004, Finkelstein refuted Zionist claims that Muslim youth were responsible for antisemitic assaults. He was responding to a study from the European Monitoring Center on Racism & Xenophobia (EUMC), a European Union group now called The Fundamental Rights Agency. In a 2003 report, the EUMC claimed the increased attacks were by Muslims & Palestinian supporters. In his textual exegesis of the 2003 report (which was never published), Finkelstein rejected the EUMC working definition of antisemitism because it involved not just incidents of violence & vandalism but merely criticizing the State of Israel or comparing Israeli policies to that of Nazis.

In 2004, the EUMC corrected the slanderous allegation that Muslim youth were at fault & acknowledged the perpetrators were primarily incited by or members of white right-wing nationalist groups. That is borne out by annual reports from Europol, the security agency of the European Union, which show most acts against both Muslims & Jews are carried out by thugs from far-right nationalist groups. The incidence of Muslim so-called “terrorist” attacks is less than one percent of total incidents.

So why did Finkelstein claim in his Madison speech that evidence collected over many years shows that every time Israel launches a murderous assault on Palestinians there is a spike in antisemitic incidents in Europe? Why does he draw a direct connection, what he calls a “causal nexus,” between antisemitic violence & Palestinian solidarity? Even worse, he claimed outright that the assaults “have often been perpetrated by disaffected, angry Muslim youth.” Not content to leave bad enough alone, he added “If in recent times, a larger fraction of these incidents are violent, it’s the blowback from the brutish fanaticism currently plaguing the Arab Muslim world.”

In this outrageous slander Finkelstein is parroting Zionist organizations. As reported in the Guardian-UK newspaper: “Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is breathing new life into some very old, & very ugly, demons. This is not unusual; police & Jewish civil rights organisations have long observed a noticeable spike in antisemitic incidents each time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flares.” The article also reports that in several cities, “chants at pro-Palestinian protests compared Israel’s actions to the Holocaust; other notable slogans included: “Jew, coward pig, come out & fight alone,” & “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.” In a pig’s eye! This is slander.

After the Charlie Hebdo (CH) incident, considerable fear-mongering was whipped up in Europe about the rise in antisemitic attacks, with Netanyahu leading the chorus to encourage Jews to flee to Palestine. But in fact, the greatest number of assaults after CH were against Muslims, with 147 assaults reported in France alone & mass Muslim-hating rallies in other countries like Germany. In the week following CH, 26 mosques were attacked throughout France with firebombs and/or grenades. Muslim women were particularly targeted with spitting, things hurled at them on the street, & physical & verbal abuse, including being taunted as “Muslim whore,” & “Muslim bitch.”

Finkelstein is nothing if not a textual analyst; he can damn well find Europol & police statistics on antisemitic & Islamophobic violence but instead relies on Zionist organizations & mainstream media. And this is a regrettable degeneration.

Another troubling feature of his Madison speech is his counsel that if Israel really wants to stop antisemitic attacks it should stop carrying out massacres of Palestinians & stop calling itself a Jewish state “so Jews wouldn’t have to bear the burden for its criminal actions.” He also suggested “official Jewish organizations in the diaspora” should cease defending Israel’s criminal actions so that all Jews are not blamed. Our man is moving backwards here. To speak of a diaspora is to suggest Jews have some kind of historic claim to Palestine when they have no more claim than Irish-Americans do to the Rhineland from whence the Celtics came. But most importantly, is this an appeal for Israel to clean up its public relations image & deny its apartheid character & ethnic cleansing program? Who would be blaming all Jews? Palestinian solidarity which includes thousands of Jews? Or European neofascist groups who blame all Jews just for getting up in the morning?

It’s regrettable to witness such a political decline in someone who has played such an important educative role in Palestinian solidarity. But there is no reason in the world to refrain from sharp criticism when he attempts, even in an insinuating way, to vilify Muslims & discredit Palestinian solidarity. Our first commitment is to justice come hell what may.

(Photo is a Palestinian child from the Facebook wall of Palestinian Declaration)

And the election campaign snores on!

The 2016 election campaign has hardly begun & already it’s hell. Were it not for the clownish nature of the GOP candidates it would hardly be endurable without medication. Now we’re supposed to be all atwitter that Clinton is entering the race. Her speaking style is very much like a narcotic (audiences have to be poked with a stick to stay awake & quit snoring). If I weren’t running for president against the whole lot of them I would consider heavy medications or exile to a place without internet or TV.

Boycott Israel!

“Not a single home of the 7000 that were destroyed by apartheid Israel seven months ago has been built! And you are still wondering why we are angry?And why you MUST boycott Israel? And why the two-state solution should be declared dead? And why Um Mohammed, the parsley vendor, keeps cursing ALL Arab regimes?!”

(from Haidar Eid, who teaches at al-Aqsa University in Gaza)

The Islamic State assault on Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria

The Islamic State (ISIL) assault on Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, is a continuation of the barbarisms of the Assad regime against the camp–showing clearly how ISIL serves counterrevolution. But the assault on Yarmouk resonates & is of a historical & political piece with the 1948 expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland by Zionist terrorist groups like the Irgun & the Stern Gang; with the frequent massacres & Israeli bombings of the refugee camps; & with the barbarous cycles of Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza.

There are now over 5 million Palestinians living in refugee camps scattered throughout Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon in 59 registered camps & many uncounted refugees in unofficial camps like Yarmouk. This is the price paid by Palestinians for the reactionary Zionist fantasy of a Biblical land grant to Palestine combined with imperialist intrigues to control the Middle East.

Yesterday was the 67th commemoration of the 1948 massacre of 600 Palestinian villagers in Deir Yassin by the Irgun & Stern Gang. Since then, there have been countless barbarisms against the camps under the guise of routing out Palestinian terrorist groups. In July we will be commemorating the last cycle of Operation Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza which began with Israeli carpet bombing & continues with massive homelessness, hunger, human suffering, & the continued blockade of Gaza.

Once again, the ISIL attack on Yarmouk to rout out Palestinian terrorists exposes who ISIL serves. Our solidarity requires explaining that connection, building the hell out of the economic & cultural boycott (BDS) of Israel, & demanding no aid of any kind to Israeli terrorism & ethnic cleansing.

Suicide increases among grieving Palestinians in Gaza

Anyone who has lost a beloved to suicide, homicide, or any form of violence knows how complicated & wrenching the grieving process is, how laden with guilt, recriminations, & the second-guessing of every interaction you ever had with the beloved. How much more so to sustain the violence of war & see one’s children, siblings, parents, neighbors bombed to death–as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, & Gaza–& to feel helpless to protect them.

So it is distressing, if not also predictable, to read reports from Gaza that after nearly a decade of economic blockade & repeated episodes of carpet bombing there are now 30 to 40 attempted suicides in Gaza every month. Many agencies have reported on the massive mental health crisis among children in Gaza. After Operation Ethnic Cleansing last summer, UNICEF estimated 430,000 required emergency psychological help & earlier studies estimated nearly 100 percent suffer PTSD. How could it be other when Israeli war planes hunted them down like beasts? And of course this doesn’t account for PTSD among adults who were unable to protect their beloved & often saw them buried in cement rubble. The survivor guilt & helplessness must be overwhelming & compounded by one’s own feelings of despair.

A mental health professional in Gaza said mostly young people attempt suicide through overdoses of medications, poisons, pesticides, cutting, burning, hanging, or jumping from heights. It’s almost too gruesome to consider.

The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has predicted another assault over Gaza this summer. So international solidarity hasn’t a moment to spare in building the economic & cultural boycott (BDS) of Israel. Every opportunity must be maximized to evangelize for BDS & tell the world the truth behind the headlines. There can be rallies, speak-outs, forums, film showings, teach-ins–but most of all a refusal to buy a single product made in Israel or in Zionist settlements in the West Bank.

The Islamic State: Fundamentalism and Counterrevolution

Rumblings about the nascent peril of Islamic fundamentalism began after the 1979 Iranian revolution that overthrew the brutal US-backed monarchy of the Shah & replaced it with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Khomeini. It was a popular revolution against an extremely brutal, corrupt regime functioning as a US proxy in the region. For several reasons, including the weakness of revolutionary leadership, the ruling elite of Iran was able to salvage the state under the guise of religion and prevent the popular revolution from advancing further.

The events of 9/11 in New York City moved Islamic fundamentalism from rumblings in academia to a centerpiece of US war propaganda. And yet, in those many years there is little agreement among scholars and journalists on what exactly Islamic fundamentalism, often called Islamism, represents, other than paramilitary violence. That problem is compounded because so many analysts are beholden to US militarism–which is best served by ambiguity and obscurantism.

Of course, now we are told the peril grows and the spread of Islamic fundamentalism encompasses the Middle East as well as South Asia and Africa, especially with the emergence of Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab.

US and European regimes foster the explanation that Islamism is rooted in the Qu’ran, that violent extremism is the political expression of Islamic theology. This generates Islamophobic hysteria making military intervention acceptable. But other explanations have been offered, including radical commentators who see it as anti-imperialism gone awry and a misguided way of coping with colonialism among religious Muslims. We can dispense with contempt the often-cited explanations of evolutionary psychologists who see it as hormonal and genetic to the biology of men–the “warrior psychology.”

The religious character of Islamic paramilitary groups is disputed by Muslims with deep roots in the history of Islamic scholarship who claim fundamentalist xenophobia, violence, misogyny, autocracy, and sectarianism are right-wing appendages having nothing to do with Islamic theology or practice. The extremists are much more likely schooled in the sectarian political conflicts between Sunni and Shia than in scriptural exegesis. And of course that sectarian conflict is exacerbated and fomented by operatives from the US, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to serve their political purposes.

If Islam is a legitimizing factor and not the inspiration of fundamentalism, then is it anti-imperialism gone awry? Tis a peculiar form of anti-imperialism that is armed to the teeth with billions of dollars in armaments, including tanks, Humvees, AK-47s, rocket and grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, howitzers for launching explosives, anti-aircraft guns and missiles, infrared homing surface to air missiles, and machine guns. If we follow the armament trail back to the supply sources–and there is no question US, Saudi, Israeli, and Iranian operatives have done that–we will see who these fundamentalists politically serve–although the standard explanation is the weapons were confiscated from the retreating Iraqi army.

Some political writers characterize Islamic fundamentalist groups from the Taliban to the Islamic State as fascists because of their extreme barbarism and autocratic rule. The term fascism is now used epithetically but historically that designation was not just about the scale of brutality but about the relationship of paramilitary groups and goon squads to state power. In German, Italian, and Spanish fascism, the state bankrolled the goon squads. It isn’t certain what purpose is served by characterizing the Islamic State as fascist when the term is used so indiscriminately today. In many ways, the Islamic State has analogs in Zionist groups like the Irgun and other paramilitary thug squads who violently laid siege to Palestine with the support of European regimes.

What can be said with absolute certainty about the political character of the Islamic State and other fundamentalist goon squads is that they are a counterrevolutionary force in the Middle East and Africa. In that regard, they are a phalanx of US and European military strategy in the region–which explains their early connections to the US military and why they are armed to the teeth. Whether or not they are under direct imperialist sponsorship, their role is to divide Islam along religious lines and exacerbate sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia; create dissension and fracture the unity of ethnic groups; destabilize the region so that US bombers have an excuse to enter the fray.

For decades, the US has successfully worked with fundamentalists in several countries, including most notably Saudi Arabia, Egypt (the Muslim Brotherhood), Afghanistan and Pakistan (the Taliban and Mujahaddin), Somalia, and elsewhere. But the US cannot work with popular revolutions like the Arab uprisings, the Intifada of Palestinians, or the Kurds who defended Kobanî with arms.

It cannot be said the US exhibits a coherent, consistent strategy in the region because they are playing a dangerous game, jockeying the contending forces of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Syria, Egypt, and the Islamic State against popular revolution. Their strategy is necessarily improvised. They have to feed the propaganda front claiming they are militarily battering the Islamic State; they have to make sure those armaments get through the supply lines. They have to extemporize a strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq to maximize the Sunni-Shia civil conflict and another strategy for Syria to maintain the barbaric Assad regime.

The monkey wrench in all of this chaos is Palestinian Intifada which explains the extreme barbarism of Israel in Gaza and the US military support for Israel. Intifada stands as a symbol of revolutionary hope against the counterrevolutionary despair of the Islamic State. Netanyahu repeatedly attempts to equate Hamas in Gaza to the Islamic State but despite the political problems of Hamas, it is Israel that is best served by the Islamic State and counterrevolution. No matter what the rhetoric out of the White House, that barbarism is not at odds with US neoliberal strategy in the Middle East. The proxy bombing of Yemen is to destroy the popular revolution just as the Saudi and Pakistan military in league with the US and UK are trying to do in Bahrain, and as the Sisi regime in league with the US Pentagon did in Egypt.

The tragic dimension in all this is the disintegration of the radical and socialist movements that could provide political analyses, alternative programs for action, and political challenge to counterrevolutionary violence. The democracy and social transformation that millions fought for in the Arab uprisings are being swept into the vortex of counterrevolution and discredited as an exercise in futility. That makes the struggle of the Palestinians that much more important. Because still they stand.

We do not have to stand idle rueing for the good old days of Arab revolution. We can continue to educate, agitate, and organize to oppose US and European intervention into the region, including against the Islamic State; we can build the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. The Arab revolutions have been set back and maybe for a while; but they have not been unalterably defeated. The deciding element will be international solidarity with the forces of democracy and social transformation.

Long live the Arab revolutions! Long live Palestinian Intifada!

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