El Comal mine collapse and neoliberal mining

Nicaragua miners August 30 2014

These men are part of rescue operations at the El Comal gold & silver mine which collapsed trapping 24 miners underground. The mine is in Bonanza, in northern Nicaragua. Media reports on this collapse are outright sneaky, calling the mine an illegal, artisanal operation. That would suggest the miners are working on their own like prospectors & if conditions are unsafe, it’s their own responsibility. But that’s not how mining works in countries under neoliberal plunder.

The mine is actually owned by a Colombian company named Hemco. The miners are not hired as workers but contracted as freelancers if they agree to sell the gold they find to Hemco. Of course if they attempt to walk away with any gold to get a better price elsewhere, there are company good squads to dole out frontier justice. The purpose of this labor arrangement for Hemco is to have a weak, unorganized work force. If workers start squawking about safety, work conditions, or pay, their contracts are cancelled & the next desperate guy is hired.

The World Bank actually promotes & bankrolls artisanal mining precisely because it maintains labor in such a vulnerable position & unable to challenge neoliberal plunder. Part of the arrangement is that workers take all the risks without deriving any benefits since the wages are chump change. In many countries in Africa & Latin America, artisanal gold mining is a major industry & includes thousands of children. Mercury & other toxicities are involved in the processing, creating massive health problems & environmental catastrophe. The miners without knowledge of the international market in gold (now over US $1,000 an ounce) sell the gold to middle men who deal it on the market.

Hemco is trying to walk away from responsibility at El Comal saying they warned the workers things were unsafe. The Nicaraguan government may not have made the mine legal but they knew damn well it was operating unsafely. Any attempt to blame this collapse on the miners is rubbish.

Unions have taken a beating in most countries. Not the least of their problems is a leadership of insuperable stupidity & servility to the status quo of power. Neoliberal plunder depends on an unorganized, weak work force. That’s one reason it promotes child labor who are defenseless against bullying & violence. This is a political problem facing working people in every country & one of the historic tasks that must be addressed with intelligence & commitment. Neoliberal capitalism isn’t moving backwards to feudalism; it skipped right over that stage & headed straight to barbarism. Working people need to stop it in its tracks.

(Photo by Esteban Felix/AP)

Tribute to Hajo Meyer: may he RIP

Hajo Meyer August 29 2014

We should take a moment to pay respect to Hajo Meyer, an anti-Zionist Auschwitz survivor who died August 23rd at the age of 90. One of his last political acts was joining with forty other survivors of the Nazi genocide in a public letter condemning Israeli genocide in Gaza. The letter was a direct rebuttal to Eely-Oily Weasel (known by his stage name Elie Wiesel), a rabid Zionist who milks his status as a survivor & accused Palestinians of using their children as human sacrifice.

In a recent interview, Meyer denounced Netan-psycho-yahu’s claim that Palestinian solidarity protests are an expression of increasing anti-Semitism. He said, “If we want to stay really human beings, we must get up & call the Zionists what they are: Nazi criminals.” He added that Zionist brainwashing of Israelis means “They cannot see a Palestinian as a human being.” His message to Palestinians was that “they should not give up their fight.”

Hajo Meyer was one of the toughest & may we say most decent among human beings–a man who could have & did not exploit his own suffering to make a bundle on the Zionist speaking circuit. We salute & honor him. May he RIP.

(Photo of Meyer is screenshot from “My Good Fortune in Auschwitz”, a documentary by Reber Dosky about Meyer’s survival)

Resistance in the time of genocide

Gaza; Palestinian flag Augsut 29 2014

These boys are walking past the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza City, an area where Israel employed a scorched earth policy, including bombing a marketplace during one of the umpteen ceasefires they broke.

The purpose of Israel targeting children & “Hamas age” young men was to destroy & demoralize the spirit of intifada which they have not been able to do in over 66 years. Israel succeeded in igniting an international solidarity movement of hundreds of thousands in hundreds of countries; of stirring governments from political torpor & silent collusion in response to popular pressure to actually take measures against Israel (even if it it’s still in the lip service stage); & in bringing into action the divestment part of Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions, with many companies canceling contracts with Israel. Nice work Netan-psycho-yahu!

As for Palestinian intifada? Resistance in the time of genocide stands undefeated.

(Photo by Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Demeaning the minimum wage worker

Taiwan worker in wings August 28 2014

Anyone who’s ever worked a minimum wage job (often where you stand for hours) or been forced to wear a demeaning uniform on the job, knows exactly how this young woman in wings feels. She works in the fashion district of Taipei, Taiwan where people buy their haute couture & she’s forced to dress like a clown.

In a humane society such uniforms should be outlawed but if justice existed they’d be just the thing for war criminals like Henry Kissinger, Pinochet, or Omar Suleiman. In place of the accoutrements of power they’d be strutting round their cells in maid uniforms. It’s an idea whose time has grown old with impatience.

(Photo by Wally Santana/AP)

Love in the time of genocide

Israeli wedding August 28 2014

Love in the time of genocide: This wedding photo of an Israeli couple taken yesterday has the incongruence of surrealism–but in it’s worst moments. It’s being “shot” (apropos the setting) in an army staging area on the Israel-Gaza border near a kibbutz. Is the groom on furlough from driving the tank? Are they from the kibbutz? Wouldn’t they have preferred a bucolic pastoral setting to celebrate their nuptials? What will the grandkids say when they look at the wedding album?

Or does this reflect the militarism of Israeli life? Rusted out, abandoned military tanks & equipment are the backdrop in many public parks where children play & families picnic. But this young couple selected this place. Is this the Promised Land envisioned by Theodor Herzl? When Zionists cooked up their colonial schema, was this their vision of Jewish freedom from persecution? Because to most people it looks a lot like hell. And the Hallmark moment doesn’t alter that an iota.

(Photo by Oded Balilty/AP)

“We have nothing…”

Gaza 1988 Intifada (August 28 2014)

Poetic tribute to the children of Gaza, August 2014 by Musab Iqbal:

we have nothing
but wall of words to lean
we have nothing
but sky of promise to look for
we have nothing
but blood stained land to learn history
we have nothing
but flesh of our father in this plastic bag as inheritance
we have nothing
but some empty gaze for meaningful dialogue
we have nothing
but stock of precise smile between two airstrikes
we have nothing
but a soulful resistance against mournful silence
we have nothing
but a dream of being bird and butterfly
we have nothing
but songs of despair and broken jaws
we have nothing
but timeless echo, tireless eyes, deceitful shadows

Photo is some “rascals of Gaza” giving the “V” sign, from the annals of the First Palestinian Intifada, Gaza 1988.

(Photo by Robert Croma)

Women in the First Intifada, Gaza 1988

First Intifada Gaza 1988 (August 28 2014)

From the annals of Palestinian Intifada, Gaza 1988: this is the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza where the women are confronting Israeli soldiers about assaults & arrests of children. The injury rate of children was sky high because under Israel’s “Iron Fist” policy, Israeli soldiers were ordered to break the bones of kids caught throwing rocks.

After this photo was taken the women were assaulted & dispersed with truncheons & tear gas.

(Photo by Robert Croma)

From the annals of Palestinian intifada: Gaza 1988

Intifada 1988 (August 28 2014

From the annals of Palestinian Intifada, Gaza 1988: when Israeli tanks entered Gaza on their murderous mission in July 2014, soldiers gave the “V” sign long associated with peace, not ethnic cleansing. We think now it must have been an unintentional sarcasm. This young boy is from Intifada 1988 in Gaza.

What is called the First Palestinian Intifada lasted six years between 1988 & 1993 when Palestinians rose up en masse against Israeli occupation & it’s “Iron Fist” policy of repression including curfews, murder & assassinations, mass incarceration, land expropriations & house demolitions, forced mass migrations & deportations.

Israel targeted children during that rampage also; 241 of the 1,204 killed were children but hundreds of kids were beaten, tear gassed, shot at, & jailed. One NGO estimated “23,600 to 29,900 children required medical treatment for their beating injuries in the first two years of the intifada”. One-third of these were children under the age of ten.

Images from the First Intifada show many children giving the “V” sign. The photojournalist who took this photo said “”Wherever I went in the West Bank & Gaza Strip in 1988, Palestinian children spontaneously gave ‘V’ signs in response to my camera.”

It’s this tough-minded resolve that makes the Palestinian struggle a beacon for suffering humanity everywhere & an inspiration to those who have not yet acted in solidarity.

Boycott all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729); demand “No military aid to Israel!” Keep the pressure on!

(Photo by Robert Croma, Gaza 1988)

Let’s talk about Sderot where they cheered on genocide

Sderot August 27 2014

So let’s talk about Sderot for a minute since it played such a big role in exposing the Exodus narrative as an orchestrated fairy tale. On the one hand, there is burlesque involved because they were whimpering about Hamas rockets while sitting in the direct line of fire. But on the other hand, it is deeply troubling that Zionism has corrupted people so profoundly that they could set up parlors to watch & cheer ethnic cleansing with equanimity. And their children were witness to this derangement. Will anyone who saw this scene & know it went on day after day ever be able to forget it?

When you read Zionist apologetics for Operation Ethnic Cleansing & their attempts to rationalize it with that crap about human shields, you realize what a corrosive ideology Zionism is & how it rots the human spirit. That is what makes so many skeptical that there can ever be a democratic secular state where Jews & Palestinians live together. The end of slavery was wrenching for the plantation class too. There’s a lot of things like that in history but justice must be respected whether everybody likes it or not. No one said it would be easy or without some scuffles.

If Sderot stands for anything, it is the transformative power of the Palestinian struggle over the rancidity of Zionism which is rooted in 19th century racism & colonialism. No one need feel pity but neither should we feel superior to Israelis who’ve been schooled in this supremacy. Truth of the matter is, it’s a manifestation of the white supremacy that continues to justify a dozen wars & neoliberal colonialism. Most of us live under regimes up to their eyeballs in this plunder.

Sderot isn’t just a symbol or a metaphor because it happened but it sure as hell provides insight into what happens if you let your government use racism as a weapon against anyone. There isn’t a person on planet Earth that doesn’t know what that means.

(Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinian solidarity making history

Vancouver rally August 27 2014

In 51 days of bombardment over Gaza, Israel dropped 20,000 tonnes of explosives. It displaced over 485,000 people, destroyed 16,000 homes & several apartment buildings, 21 hospitals, 167 schools, 108 mosques, 5 universities, 8 water & waste plants, & a power plant. It did a lot of damage.

On the other hand, over one million people were in the streets in dozens of countries & hundreds of cities & small towns demanding “Stop the slaughter in Gaza!” They weren’t just Palestinians & they weren’t just Muslims–though both groups played central roles in organizing political solidarity–but every nationality & religion under the sun.

Zionists continue to berate Palestinian solidarity for not focusing on Syria (as if they gave a rat’s ass about any place other than Israel); others are bewildered by the groundswell for Palestinians when there has been no mass response to Syria or for that matter to Afghanistan, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Somalia, or any of the many conflicts. It’s important to assess why Palestinians have evoked such massive solidarity, especially since they stood alone for over 66 years. But to attempt in any way to challenge the importance of the Palestinian struggle or to suggest it is hogging all the attention from more important struggles or to compare body counts to rate importance is unworthy of any respect whatsoever. It means something when you find your views in accord with Zionists (& what it means ain’t that swell) but it is colossal hubris to challenge or second guess why a million people rise up to stand with justice.

No one wants to let history pass them by. These protesters in Vancouver, BC, Canada are making history by the simple act of standing up for Palestinian justice. When they’re old & gray they will look back & say proudly they were there when one of the most important struggles of our era began to get it’s due. And when there is a democratic secular state where Jews & Palestinians live in harmony, they will know their contribution to human civilization was monumental.

(Photo by Roger Pimenta)