A military solution to Israel's savage war on Lebanon and the Lebanese people is both morally unacceptable and totally unrealistic. We in Lebanon call upon the international community and citizens everywhere to support my country's sovereignty and end this folly now. We also insist that Israel be made to respect international humanitarian law, including the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, which it has repeatedly and willfully violated.
As the world watches, Israel has besieged and ravaged our country, created a humanitarian and environmental disaster, and shattered our infrastructure and economy, putting an intolerable strain on our social and economic systems. Fuel, food and medical equipment are in short supply; homes, factories and warehouses have been destroyed; roads severed, bridges smashed and airports disabled.
The damage to infrastructure alone is running into the billions of dollars, as are the losses to owners of private property, and the long-term direct and indirect costs due to lost revenue in tourism, agriculture and industrial sectors are expected to be many more billions. Lebanon's well-known achievements in 15 years of postwar development have been wiped out in a matter of days by Israel's deadly military might.
For all this carnage and death, and on behalf of all Lebanese, we demand an international inquiry into Israel's criminal actions in Lebanon and insist that Israel pay compensation for its wanton destruction.
Israel seems to think that its attacks will sow discord among the Lebanese. This will never happen. Israel should know that the Lebanese people will remain steadfast and united in the face of this latest Israeli aggression -- its seventh invasion -- just as they were during nearly two decades of brutal occupation. The people's will to resist grows ever stronger with each village demolished and each massacre committed.
On July 25, at the international conference for Lebanon in Rome, I proposed a comprehensive seven-point plan to end the war. It was well received by the conference and got the unanimous and full backing of the Lebanese Council of Ministers, in which Hezbollah is represented, as well as of the speaker of parliament and a majority of parliamentary blocs. Representatives of diverse segments of Lebanese civil society have come out strongly in favor, as has the Islamic-Christian Summit, representing all the religious confessions, ensuring a broad national consensus and preserving our delicate social equilibrium.
The plan, which also received the full support of the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, included an immediate, unconditional and comprehensive cease-fire and called for:
· The release of Lebanese and Israeli prisoners and detainees through the International Committee of the Red Cross.
· The withdrawal of the Israeli army behind the "blue line."
· A commitment from the U.N. Security Council to place the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hills areas under U.N. jurisdiction until border delineation and Lebanese sovereignty over them are fully settled. Further, Israel must surrender all maps of remaining land mines in southern Lebanon to the United Nations.
· Extension of the Lebanese government's authority over its territory through its legitimate armed forces, with no weapons or authority other than that of the Lebanese state, as stipulated in the Taif accord. We have indicated that the Lebanese armed forces are ready and able to deploy in southern Lebanon, alongside the U.N. forces there, the moment Israel pulls back to the international border
· The supplementing of the U.N. international force operating in southern Lebanon and its enhancement in numbers, equipment, mandate and scope of operation, as needed, to undertake urgent humanitarian and relief work and guarantee stability and security in the south so that those who fled their homes can return.
· Action by the United Nations on the necessary measures to once again put into effect the 1949 armistice agreement signed by Lebanon and Israel and to ensure adherence to its provisions, as well as to explore possible amendments to or development of those provisions as necessary.
· The commitment of the international community to support Lebanon on all levels, including relief, reconstruction and development needs.
As part of this comprehensive plan, and empowered by strong domestic political support and the unanimous backing of the cabinet, the Lebanese government decided to deploy the Lebanese armed forces in southern Lebanon as the sole domestic military force in the area, alongside U.N. forces there, the moment Israel pulls back to the international border.
Israel responded by slaughtering more civilians in the biblical town of Qana. Such horrible scenes have been repeated daily for nearly four weeks and continue even as I write these words.
The resolution to this war must respect international law and U.N. resolutions, not just those selected by Israel, a state that deserves its reputation as a pariah because of its consistent disdain for and rejection of international law and the wishes of the international community for over half a century.
Lebanon calls, once again, on the United Nations to bring about an immediate cease-fire to relieve the beleaguered people of Lebanon. Only then can the root causes of this war -- Israeli occupation of Lebanese territories and its perennial threat to Lebanon's security, as well as Lebanon's struggle to regain full sovereignty over all its territory -- be addressed.
I believe that a political resolution rooted in international law and based on these seven points will lead to long-term stability. If Israel would realize that the peoples of the Middle East cannot be cowed into submission, that they aspire only to live in freedom and dignity, it could also be a stepping stone to a final solution of the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, which has plagued our region for 60 years.
The 2002 Arab summit in Beirut, which called for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace based on the principle of land for peace, showed the way forward. A political solution cannot, however, be implemented as long as Israel continues to occupy Arab land in Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights and as long as it wages war on innocent people in Lebanon and Palestine. As Jawaharlal Nehru said, "the only alternative to coexistence is co-destruction.
Enough destruction, dispossession, desperation, displacement and death! Lebanon must be allowed to reclaim its position in this troubled region as a beacon of freedom and democracy where justice and the rule of law prevail, and as a refuge for the oppressed where moderation, tolerance and enlightenment triumph."
In the Canadian media, Israel is provoked, and then responds. For the military attacks on the Gaza Strip in late June and early July, we are told that the provocation was the June 25 operation by Palestinian resistance fighters against a military outpost near Gaza, and specifically the capture of an Israeli tank gunner.
The Palestinian operation, according to most Canadian media, was unprovoked – it could not have been provoked by the Israeli attacks leading up to the operation, though in June alone these had already killed 49 Palestinians. Nor could it have been provoked by the imprisonment of 359 Palestinian children, 105 Palestinian female adults and another 9000+ Arab males (mostly Palestinians) in Israeli jails, or by the mass starvation of Gaza. As a June 30 editorial in the Globe and Mail put it, “the onus for resolving the confrontation lies with Hamas,” and while Palestinians must quietly endure tank shelling, air strikes and starvation, “Israel is within its right to respond to terrorism and violence.”
Without pause, Israel has since gone on to invade Lebanon, killing hundreds of Lebanese, while Gaza continues to starve. In the Canadian media, Israel was provoked to do so, in this case by the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah.
Hizbollah has not been provoked in the same way the Palestinians have been. So what prompted their action? An obvious possibility is that they were moved to action by the Israeli assault on Gaza. By the time Hizbollah carried out its July 12 attack, the Israeli escalation following June 25 had already claimed another 67 Palestinian lives. More direct grievances with Israel include the continued Israeli imprisonment of many Lebanese, particularly Hizbollah supporters, and the Israeli live ammunition training on the Lebanese border which recently killed several Lebanese villagers. But one could barely begin to consider this on the basis of information provided by Canadian media. No attacks on Israel can have been provoked. All of Israel’s attacks must be provoked and defensive.
On July 13, Prime Minister Stephen Harper revealed the extent to which this logic has come to dominate Canadian diplomacy. With the Israeli military intensifying its assault on the Lebanese population and on critical civilian infrastructure, Harper described the massive attack as a “measured” exercise of Israel’s “right to defend itself.” Mainstream media joined in the chorus: “Faced with such aggression, Israel had no choice but to strike back,” a July 15 Globe and Mail editorial declared. The next day, several Canadians were added to the sky-rocketing death count from Israeli massacres.
Israel’s massacres in Gaza and southern Lebanon coincide with a shift in Canadian foreign policy. Under the past two regimes (Martin’s Liberals and now Harper’s Conservatives), Canada has rapidly shed any pretense of having an independent foreign policy and has aligned itself completely with the United States, Israel’s chief financial backer and arms dealer. Where past Canadian regimes would have settled for silent complicity in war crimes, Harper actively cheers and participates in them. This drastic realignment of Canadian policy happens at a time when the U.S. and Israel are embarking on aggressive, criminal wars involving major human rights violations.
For Canadians to accept this, they will have to consume an equally drastic dose of racism, dehumanization, and distorted understanding. Getting them to do so may be somewhat of a challenge. The Canadian media have taken up the task with gusto.
Aggression and defense
“No nation would stand by while its enemies bombarded its towns and cities.”
–Globe and Mail Editorial, July 15
Of course, the Globe’s editors were not talking about the Palestinian nation. The Palestinians are expected to stand by while Israel bombards its towns and cities, as it has been doing continuously for the past six years, with a sharp escalation in June – well before June 25, by which time of the month 49 Palestinians had already been killed. But when Palestinians resist through armed struggle, we read on the Globe and Mail’s editorial pages that Israel’s “right to respond to the latest Palestinian provocations is beyond question.” We cannot expect “superhuman effort” from Israel, the editors explain, and this is what would be required “to resist retaliating.”
Through most of June, the situation was quite different – but then it was only Palestinians who were being killed, only Palestinians who were starving. This was, in the words of the Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter, a period of “relative calm.” For disturbing this calm, Palestinians bear a double responsibility: for aggression against Israel, and for forcing Israel to attack Palestinians in response. As Potter insists on repeating, the ongoing Israeli assault was itself “sparked initially by the June 25 capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.”
In fact, if the notion of self-defense was applied with any consistency, the operation of June 25 would be beyond reproach. Following an economic siege and recurring air strikes on their communities, Palestinian fighters based in the Gaza Strip initiated an attack against the Israeli military. This is no small feat, since Gaza’s airspace and borders are under tight Israeli control, and it is difficult for a lightly armed popular resistance to bring down F-16s. Nonetheless, the fighters managed to tunnel their way underground for hundreds of metres, deep beneath Israeli fortifications, to reach a military outpost for their raid. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting, as were two Palestinians, creating a very rare symmetry in the death count. Palestinian fighters also destroyed an Israeli tank, likely one of those that regularly shell Palestinian communities from such outposts. They captured the tank gunner and brought him back to Gaza as a prisoner of war.
The Palestinian resistance thus had one Israeli detainee, as against some 10,000 prisoners on the Israeli side. The resistance group offered a limited exchange. They would release the tank gunner if Israel freed Palestinian child prisoners, female prisoners, and approximately 1,000 “administrative detainees” currently in Israeli prisons without charge. A negotiated settlement reached through conditions of reciprocity and dignity could well have seen the soldier released. But Israel had a different plan.
As former Israeli intelligence director Shlomo Gazit explained, the situation served as a “pretext” for escalating military operations in Gaza. Israeli forces began a series of forceful incursions, destroying critical civilian infrastructure though air strikes, shelling Palestinian communities, and instituting a comprehensive siege on the territory. These escalations quickly revealed the Israeli goal as regime change. The Israeli military rounded up and detained 64 political leaders from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, including elected legislators and a third of the Palestinian Cabinet. It began aerial bombardment of central civilian structures housing the Palestinian Authority.
The Israeli regime responsible for these attacks enjoys thorough support from the Canadian government. Its Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, visited Canada little more than a year ago. During the visit, he received a pledge from the federal government that it would maintain preferential trade policies towards Israel. Olmert also visited Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty at Queen’s Park, where he helped to set up a parallel provincial trade arrangement. Joking with reporters as he presented McGuinty with a gift, Olmert asked: “Do you want us to hug?”[http://www.cjnews.com/viewarticle.asp?id=6122&s=1] Olmert and Canadian officials did everything but.
The Harper government strengthened links with Israel further, making Canada still more complicit in ongoing Israeli crimes. As Israeli attacks ravaged Gaza, journalists with concern for ‘balance’ ought to have paid attention to who was doing the killing and who the victims were.
Instead, Canadian media continued shifting focus to Palestinian culpability and encouraging the government’s pro-Israel partisanship. The spin in news coverage was spelled out explicitly on editorial pages. The Toronto Star’s editors called attention to “the folly of what [Palestinians] wrought by electing a Hamas government,” while staking limited optimism on “the hope of a chastened Palestinian Authority.”(June 29) The editors of the National Post and the Globe and Mail held Palestinians directly responsible for Israeli attacks. “That there is a humanitarian tragedy afflicting the Palestinian people there can be no doubt,” a July 29 National Post editorial conceded, “but in the current context it is a tragedy entirely of their own making.” On June 30, the Globe’s editors hammered away at the same theme: “The main responsibility for the death and destruction that has followed [June 25] lies with Palestinian militants and leaders.”
The capture of a tank gunner as a prisoner of war was translated into an act of aggression, a “kidnapping.” Within a couple of weeks, the three leading Anglo Canadian dailies – the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post – had published the name of the captured (“kidnapped”) soldier more than 100 times, often alongside his age and other personal information. The Globe’s Shira Herzog, reflecting a broad journalistic consensus, explained that strong Israeli retaliation was necessary: Israel “is a country that takes collective pride in the sanctity of every life, an ethos that comforts Israeli soldiers in combat who know that no human effort will be spared to rescue even a single one of them from enemy territory, dead or alive.”
As for the apparent contradiction given Israel’s approach to the lives of Palestinian prisoners, the issue could not be ignored entirely. On the thorny issue of child prisoners, the Globe referred readers to a front-page article on the topic it had published on June 19, titled “Getting locked up to get away from it all.” The piece argued that Palestinian children view imprisonment in Israeli jails as “a dream vacation” and are getting themselves imprisoned willfully as part of a Palestinian cultural trend. Regarding female prisoners, the paper published a June 27 report titled “Palestinian female prisoners have ‘blood on their hands.’” The title was based on a quote from the Israeli prison authority, and the article assured readers that those Palestinian women convicted in Israeli military courts were quite guilty and very bad. The Post, for its part, ran an editorial referring without distinction to all the Palestinians whom the resistance was demanding be released – children, women and “administrative detainees” alike – as “fanatics now justifiably languishing in Israeli prisons.”
Canadian media thus followed the Israeli lead, prizing the sanctity of every Israeli life while holding Palestinian lives in utter contempt.
“It is our duty to prevent any danger of losing a Jewish majority or creating an inseparable bi-national reality in the Land of Israel.”
-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, June 20, 2006
(Speech to the 35th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem)
As disturbing as it is, contempt for Palestinian life on the part of Israel and its supporters is unsurprising. It is, in fact, a necessary cornerstone of the ideology of political Zionism, which guides the Israeli political establishment and determines the core of Israeli policy.
This policy is based on the determination to establish and maintain a state with a Jewish majority on lands that have long been home to a predominantly non-Jewish native population. Pursuit of this goal has involved expelling Palestinians from these lands, prohibiting their right to return to their homes, and encouraging large-scale Zionist settlement from abroad. This is a recipe for perpetual crisis and violence. Israeli forces effectively control all of historic (mandatory) Palestine, the territory stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. And despite Israel’s forced exile of millions of Palestinians from these lands, the present inhabitants of this territory are in the majority not Jewish.
For Canadians to support Israel, they must adopt the Israeli perspective regarding the native population of this land, the view that the Palestinian population is an ethnic imbalance to be corrected, a problem to be dealt with, a “demographic threat” to a state which must be made “Jewish” at all costs. This thoroughly racist position frames mainstream Canadian debate.
It is hardly worth quoting the National Post on this, given that the paper is operated by CanWest Global, a media conglomerate founded by two of Canada’s leading Israel lobbyists (Israel Asper and Gerry Schwartz). But the position holds firm on the liberal wing of the Canadian mainstream.
Consider, for example, the work of Mitch Potter, the Toronto Star’s leading Israel-Palestine pundit in recent weeks. Potter is aware that Gaza is not the planet’s most densely-populated area by accident, but largely as a result of the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the 78% of historic Palestine occupied by Zionist forces in 1948 (when Zionists took their first real stab at achieving a Jewish majority). Some 700,000 Palestinians were then expelled from the territory claimed as the State of Israel, forced into either neighboring countries or the 22% of Palestine still outside of Zionist control (the West Bank and Gaza Strip). With respect to the southern Israeli settlement of Ashkelon, for example, Potter offers the following background: “The modern city was formed by Jewish immigrants to Israel in the site of the Arab town of Al-Majdal, whose 11,000 residents were mostly driven into Gaza after the 1948 war.”
Potter does not even feel it necessary to explain why those driven out cannot return to their homes in accord with the basic, inalienable rights of refugees displaced during wartime. Instead, Potter automatically assumes the Israeli perspective. He correctly explains that the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza was simply an outgrowth of Israel’s agenda of ethnic and national discrimination. For obvious reasons, Israel has been finding it difficult to deny the indigenous presence on the land it has conquered. This difficulty, Potter explained, was addressed through an effort to permanently exclude the Palestinian refugees of Gaza from dominant settler society: “Analysts spoke of an emerging Israeli consensus that understood a bitter pill had to be swallowed once and for all in order for Israel to cure itself of the demographic realities of the burgeoning Palestinian birth rate.”
This is unabashed racism: the native majority population is described as a disease to be treated by state policy, though even conceding Palestinians a stretch of land to starve on is a “bitter pill.” None of the leading Canadian newspapers published a serious challenge to this racism.
Instead, they repeatedly published the flimsy argument that such a challenge would itself be racist. In a rhetorical sleight of hand that has become quite familiar, commentators repeatedly suggested that basic principles of human and national rights must be sacrificed on the altar of political Zionism, and that defending the rights of Palestinians (particularly those in exile) amounts to anti-Jewish racism. The point was put clearly in a July 3 column in the Globe and Mail: “it’s anti-Semitic to call, as CUPE did [http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/hanieh310506.html], for an unconditional right of return of all Palestinian refugees, since such a massive demographic change would mean the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.”
The Globe thus tells us that Palestine’s indigenous population is not only inferior and troublesome, but also oppressively racist by its very presence.
From this perspective, contempt for Palestinian life comes all too naturally. On June 29, the National Post, ever a mouthpiece for Israeli diplomacy, addressed the issue through an interview with Israeli foreign and deputy prime minister Tzipi Livni. For Livni, as reporter Douglas Davis uncritically relayed to readers, international contempt for Palestinian life is still insufficient: “She is particularly irritated by the equivalence given to the deaths of Palestinian and Israeli children … ‘Only when the world sends the right message to the terrorists will they understand that it’s not the same.’” Canada’s leading journalists have already gotten the message.
Consider, again, the work of Mitch Potter, who in his recent position as the Toronto Star’s leading Israel-Palestine pundit is a canary in the mineshaft of liberal Canadian racism. On June 30, just one day after the publication of Livni’s anti-“equivalency” plea, Potter made the following assertion: “Despite five days of international headlines there has been but a single death – that of kidnapped 18-year-old Israeli hitchhiker Eliyahu Asheri.”
Apparently, it was not worth counting the two Palestinian children, aged 2 and 17, who were killed on June 28 by an unexploded Israeli shell in the Gaza community of Khan Yunis (though this had even been reported in the New York Times). Nor was it worth retracting or correcting Potter’s statement in light of the Israeli military’s killing of a Palestinian in nearby Rafah at 2am on the morning of the 30th, or of another in the West Bank city of Nablus a little more than 3 hours later (already by 6:13am, Agence France Press had reported the Nablus killing). There were reports of other deaths during this period, which Potter or his editors could easily have investigated if they took Palestinian life seriously.
Evidently, they do not. As the Palestinian death toll mounted in the following week, denying the fatalities outright became untenable. Instead, Potter reduced Palestinian resistance to stubborn stupidity and described the fallen fighters as animals: “Another batch of Palestinian militants drawn out lemming-like and falling by the dozen to higher-calibre Israeli fire, just like their predecessors.” [For Potter to call Palestinians lemmings is certainly ironic].
Falling, he might have added, to U.S. weapons, with the support of Canadian foreign policy and its loyal pundits.
Whitewashing collective punishment
“Hezbollah and Hamas … triggered the current crisis by staging guerrilla raids into Israel” –Toronto Star, July 19 (reporter Less Whittington)
On July 12, Hizbollah, for decades the main southern Lebanese group in resistance to Israel, captured two Israeli soldiers and killed two more on the Israel-Lebanon border. That day, Israel not only killed 23 Palestinian civilians in Gaza, but also began to bomb Beirut. Israeli military action against Lebanon swiftly escalated. On July 15, for example, Reuters reported that Israel used loudspeakers to order Lebanese civilians to leave the village of Marwaheen. 20 people, including 15 children, got in a van to leave. Israel then bombed the van, killing them all.
Of all of Israel’s international allies, including the United States, the Harper government was widely regarded as the most outspoken diplomatic supporter of escalating Israeli attacks. For Canadian media, fully accustomed to whitewashing Israeli atrocities, this was only appropriate. Massacres and the war crime of collective punishment were sanitized and reduced to offhand euphemisms: “As in the Palestinian territories,” the Globe’s Orly Halpern reported, “Israel is ratcheting up the pressure on the civilian population in an effort to push the Lebanese to reject Hezbollah tactics.”(July 14)
And as in Palestinian territory, the attacks were a matter of defense. On July 15, the Globe editorialized: “The kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers, in a small country that holds the life of every soldier dear, was a grievous provocation. Coming just weeks after the seizing of another soldier by militants at the other end of the country, it looks like a coordinated campaign of intimidation.”
The imputed “coordinated campaign of intimidation,” which Globe editors disapprove of, is not to be confused with Israel’s “ratcheting up the pressure on the civilian population,” with which the Globe raises only strategic objections.
As Israel continued to kill and starve Palestinians, and as the Lebanese death toll from Israeli massacres mounted into the hundreds (with several Canadians killed in the indiscriminate bombardment), Mitch Potter explained that Palestinians now shared blame for the violence – with Hizbollah: “The words Hamas and Hezbollah may sound equally foreboding to most Western ears. And the militant merger of the two has brought the Middle East to the brink of regional war.” (July 16)
Even for the killing of Canadians, Israeli culpability was sidelined: “Lebanon terror hits home,” read a Toronto Star headline on the topic for July 17; “Canadians were killed in crossfire of fight with Hezbollah,” read another headline, this one from the July 18 issue of the Globe and Mail. In much of the coverage, it was as if Canadians were fleeing a natural disaster, not a campaign of collective punishment fully condoned by the Harper government.
The reliance on Israeli sources became almost comical. By July 19, the Lebanese death count from Israeli massacres had reached 312, with more than 100,000 civilians displaced. As Canadians scrambled to leave Lebanon amidst the Israeli assault, the public relations line of the chief Israeli diplomatic to Canada received the widest possible circulation through a story printed by the Canadian Press. Drawing entirely from unsubstantiated claims, the piece ran with the headline “Canadians fleeing Lebanon could be Hezbollah targets: Israeli ambassador.”
Israel has since pledged to continue its invasion of Lebanon for weeks to come, and both the Canadian government and Canadian media are lining up in support. The Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter continues to get front-page attention for his articles, led by prominent cover references to Lebanese “terror” (July 18) and the suggestion that Hizbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah could be the “next Osama bin Laden” (July 19). Potter’s journalism is shallow public relations, most recently for Israeli assassination efforts against Nasrallah. Potter has described the leader as an eloquent, strategic figure with a mass base for regional resistance to Israel. From his vantage point in “the corridors of power” in Israel, Potter notes that “the strategies for Israeli victory are converging on Nasrallah’s head.”
Israel, while pledging a prolonged attack on Lebanon, has continued its atrocities in Gaza and escalated attacks on the West Bank, with incursions into the Palestinian towns of Nablus (where the Israeli military took over the municipality building, smashed cars and shot indiscriminately at residents’ houses), Tulkarem, Bethlehem and Jenin.
The Harper government’s nearly unconditional support for this Israeli aggression is scandalous, matched only by the media’s support for Harper. On July 20, the Globe and Mail’s editors reaffirmed this. The title of the editorial in ‘Canada’s national newspaper,’ which praised Harper for his “refreshing” pro-Israel diplomacy, conveys the general tone of coverage: “Harper is right on the Mideast.”
Mounting a challenge
There are indications that the Canadian population may be lagging behind the political establishment in its contempt for Palestinians. At the end of 2004, the Canada-Israel Committee (CIC) released polls which offer some hope in this regard. They found that prior to the recent intensification of support for Israel, official Canadian pro-Israel partisanship was opposed by majority public opinion. The polls found that the more Canadians learn about the Israel-Palestine conflict, the more they sympathize with the Palestinian cause.
In recent months, this sympathy has found increasingly organized expression. The past week’s massive demonstrations in Montreal come on the heels of various important displays of regional solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. Prominent among these is the decision by the Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-Ontario), Canada’s largest union of public sector workers, to identify Israel’s regime of systematic ethnic and national discrimination as apartheid, and to join the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until apartheid is dismantled. This movement is continuing to spread, and is picking up momentum within the United Church and elsewhere.
As the Canadian government opts instead for open rejection of the rights of Palestinians (and Lebanese), “Israel advocacy” groups like the Canada-Israel Committee take comfort in support from the mainstream press. When the Harper government became the first of Israel’s allies to support renewed suffocation of the Palestinian economy (in March 2006), CIC communications director Paul Michaels commented happily that the “decision was greeted positively on the editorial pages of most Canadian newspapers.” Again in late June, Canadian media indifference to attacks on Palestinians occasioned the expression of satisfaction on the part of the CIC: “While events on the ground included several Israeli air strikes in which civilians were injured or killed, this week’s media coverage was fairly light.”
With support from the government and the corporate press, Israel’s allies pretend to near universal Canadian representation. They are in turn able to depict Palestine solidarity as a rejection of the popular consensus: “This week,” a Globe article on July 8 declared, “public opinion was inflamed again when, contrary to the outrage [against CUPE for its Palestine work], the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada commended CUPE Ontario for its stand, and echoed the union’s call for a boycott of Israeli goods.”
There is no denying the real strength of Canada’s institutional base of support for Israel. However, there is good reason to believe that this does not flow from “popular opinion.” Rather, it results from the eagerness of the Canadian government to harmonize its foreign policy with the U.S., the support of corporate Canada for this agenda, and the strength of Canadian “Israel advocacy” groups which draw support from corporate organization, the United States and Israel itself. Mainstream media are reflecting and shaping the pro-Israel consensus determined by these powerful interests. But they have yet to bring a real public consensus behind them.
In this context, opportunities for a successful challenge to Canadian support for Israel remain very real. But it is only outside of the political establishment that this challenge can be built, and only through alternative information systems that it can be sustained. In any event, it is clear that while genuine awareness of the Israel-Palestine conflict may translate into Palestine solidarity, the mainstream press, far from the solution, is quite near to the core of the problem.
Doctor Naser Dine Muhammad Ahmad Shaer is the Vice- Prime Minister and Minister of Education and higher learning in the Palestinian government formed by Hamas. Born in 1961, originally from Nablus, father of six children, this professor of law and legislation, rector of the Faculty of Law at the National University of Al Najah, hunted by Israel, finds himself obliged to live in clandestinity. He talks here about a subject the "West" refuses to admit: that Hamas is well integrated into the social fabric and that, confronted with Israeli oppression - as with the Lebanese and Hezbollah -Hamas is "like a fish in water" in Palestine.
Silvia Cattori: The Palestinians voted for Hamas in an election considered as free and honest by the international observers. However, the result wasn't accepted by the United States and the European Union both of whom still refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the new government. The West tells you: "We will give you our financial support only if you put Hamas aside". Moreover, the European Union stopped its financial aid until the new government is put aside. So, for the first time in history, we could see a people under occupation submitted to international sanctions for having voted freely. How will you overcome these obstacles and avoid even more suffering for your people already stricken by the occupation?
Naser Shaer: There is a misunderstanding, an incredible misunderstanding on the part of the "West" about us and about our government. We must remember that two-thirds of the Ministers and MPs who accepted to work with the government formed by Hamas are not members of the Hamas movement. This government is formed by technocrats, professors, men and women educated in and graduated from western universities, and who are specialists in such and such fields.
S.C.- Which party do you belong to?
Naser Shaer: I was never involved in politics, and I don't belong to any party.
S.C.- The Palestinians I meet day after day do not understand the punishment imposed by these states, states that always speak about human rights and disregard the crimes committed by Israel. In order to get out of this impasse, will you not be obliged to form another government?
Naser Shaer: When Hamas won the elections, it had three ways of forming a government. The first one was to form a government composed only of people belonging to Hamas. The second one was to compose a government comprised of all the parties. The third one was to form a government composed in part of people belonging to Hamas, and in part of people who do not belong to Hamas. Hamas acted in a pragmatic way. The choice was made based upon people's competences and not on the basis of the fact they belonged to Hamas. We have Christians in the government. The Minister of Planning, for example, has worked previously in this field, demonstrating real competence. As for me, as Minister of Education, I have fifteen years of experience in this field. That is to say that this government, which was wrongly qualified as Islamic, includes a majority of technocrats and of highly qualified specialists. The ministers who belong to Hamas are a minority.
S.C.- At the end of June when the Israelis kidnapped half of your government here in the West Bank - that is to say 8 ministers and 15 MP - was your name not on their list?
Naser Shaer: They tried to arrest me, but I was not at home the evening when the soldiers came. That is why I have to be very careful not to be arrested. Look, I shut off my phone. I never sleep at the same place; I change places every night. I hope now that it will become easier than it was during these last weeks.
S.C.- Can the Israeli army suddenly appear?
Naser Shaer: Yes, they can. That is why I spend just a few minutes in an area, and why I will to leave you soon.
S.C.- Is it possible to govern under such conditions?
Naser Shaer: It is very difficult. But, even so, we still work. Our employees go on working in the ministries. When the Hamas government was formed, the employees of the ministries were not changed except in the leading positions.
S.C.- Was there not some reticence on the part of those who, feeling attached to the former government, didn't accept the arrival of Hamas?
Naser Shaer: Before they arrested some of the members of the government, there was some tension among Palestinians. We did our best to put an end to dissensions. We work together, we are united, we help each other. We are happy now that there is no serious problem, even if we have some disagreements on this or that point. But, in general, we have agreement. We are happy to work and to share power with our President Abou Mazen. We plan to form a new government. But not before the Israeli release the ministers and MP they arrested.
S.C.- You seem to be optimistic?
Naser Shaer: Optimistic, yes.
S.C.- Through their sanctions, Israel, the United States and the European Union did not hide that they wanted to bring down the Hamas government. They are waiting until the people, in complete distress, end up by revolting against you. Will their strategy fail?
Naser Shaer: They have already failed. They didn't succeed changing the minds of the people. That is why in the last few days they have allowed for several tens of millions of dollars to be paid by an Egyptian Bank. That means to us that they find themselves in a position which is morally unacceptable and that they will have to find a way out to put an end to these sanctions.
S.C.- Can you understand why the European Union is aligning itself with the positions advocated by Israel and the United States, thus classifying your government as a terrorist organization?
Naser Shaer: Because of Israeli propaganda which is overwhelming in the "West", and also, maybe, because the United States and Europe do not want to listen to our voice, to our suffering. As you know, most of us studied in the West, most of us spent five, ten, fifteen years in America and in Europe. We know western culture. Myself, I studied at Manchester University. After getting my PhD, I went to New York University. We know everything about the West. The problem is not with us as persons, our culture, our religion; the problem is that Israel does not want this government to succeed. Israel would like us to fail. That is why Israel is goes on saying to the world that there is not any Palestinian that they can talk to. First, I reiterate here that our government does not close the door, everyone is welcome. We are open and ready to get in touch with all states and their representatives. We keep the door open, we are ready to have relations with any government in the world. Secondly, when people outside think that we might fail, after six months of this regime of sanctions they can see that our people are still with us, at our side, even though there is no money, no salaries and a worsening situation.
You can go into the street, and you can ask the people what they think. They will tell you that they like us, that they need us to continue with dignity, and that they need us go on maintaining an honourable stand.
Believe me, should some Israeli soldiers come now in order to arrest me, you would immediately see people coming to warn me to leave the area. In a minute I will be in shelter far from here.
S.C. - Do you mean that the majority of the people here will not move away from Hamas, even though the "West" goes on with its policy designed to strangle them?
Naser Shaer: Yes. And why? Because they know that this government that the "West" is punishing is working for the interests of all the Palestinians, and not of the interest of this or that group. We do not work alone; we work with our people, for all the Palestinians. That is why people like us so much. That is why this government will not fail. It is clear for them that the authorities they elected want their weal, want to succeed, want to do everything to ease their difficulties and to force the occupation. That is why the western governments tried to divide us and to make pressure on us through money.
S.C.- The problem is that, on December 27, 2001, The Council of Ministers of the European Union put Hamas-Izz al-Din al-Qassem on the list of terrorist organizations. Then on September 6, 2003, Hamas itself was put on the list, responding to the will of Israel and the United States. If there is no hope that these latter states reconsider their position, do you think that the Europe will end up revising its position?
Naser Shaer: It is my wish. The Palestinians need a support in many fields, and the Ministry of Education I am heading is badly affected by that situation. Education is of utmost importance for our youth brutalized by the occupation and we cannot leave a vacuum.
S.C. - Some countries, like Switzerland, for instance, did not put the Hamas movement on the "terrorist" list. They are not bound to the sanctions. Can they partly fill the vacuum?
Naser Shaer: Yes, they have to know that every country is welcome. We are open to work with everybody without any condition.
Some of you may have noticed that Signs of the Times was down three times today. This was a result of threats by abovetopsecret.com's attorney to our website host. It seems that abovetopsecret.com finally could no longer stand the negative attention they were getting from our exposure of them as a probable CoIntelPro operation, initially in the form of Joe Quinn's article: Evidence That a Frozen Fish Didn't Impact the Pentagon on 9/11 - and Neither Did a Boeing 757
which was an analysis of the "catherder" article on abovetopsecret.com which essentially was support for Bush and the Neocon's conspiracy theory about the events of September 11.
After removing this "offending material", we published the letter from abovetopsecret.com's attorney on our forum. Within FIVE minutes, the Signs page was taken down again by the website host. When we called our server to ask "what now," we were informed that abovetopsecret.com's attorney had called again and was claiming that in the five minutes the forum posting was up, he had already received death threats because we had published his name and location! (which, incidentally, is freely available on the web.) We were forced to remove that information also. It seems that abovetopsecret.com's attorney is also well-versed in the tactics of CoIntelPro.
As anyone who is familiar with copyright law knows, our rebuttal of the 'Catherder' article is perfectly legal under standard copyright law. However, abovetopsecret.com, like Bush and the Neocons, make up their own laws and enforce them with intimidation and bogus threats from their 'hired-gun' attorney. As Laura has chronicled on her blog, abovetopsecret.com's urgent demands that we remove this article because it was a violation of their "creative commons" copyright was absurd and simply evidence of their position as an active cointelpro/psy-ops propagator on the internet. It isn't copyrights that abovetopsecret.com is concerned about, it is google bombing and running psy-ops. And now, they have proven it.
This action also is highly suggestive of the idea that the Pentagon issue is a LOT more sensitive than anyone has thus far suspected! Do take note of THAT!
We hope that everyone who reads this will spread this information far and wide because these people are covert Bush supporters, Cyber Nazi Brown Shirts.
Don't worry, there will be lots more information on this matter available soon and we will keep our readers updated. Check back regularly, and it will help a LOT if you can find some spare change to put in the legal defense kitty.
But I make no apologies for bringing it to you alongside whatever celebrity news we have on the other pages.
In fact, the only thing I regret is not doing so sooner.
Canadians, and the Canadian media in general and in particular, including those who have no trouble bashing the Bushies for their intervention in Iraq, have had this collective see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hands-over-eyes and ears la! la! la! I can't hear you attitude towards our role in the hellhole that is Haiti.
We have much to answer for, starting with that economic strangulation — more politely called the "embargo" — we supported along with the U.S. and France, which was all part of the "resignation" of the democratically elected (with a whopping 91.8 per cent mandate) President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.
Said U.S. President George W. Bush (whose father George H.W. Bush was in the White House when Aristide was deposed in 1991, after winning with 67 per cent of the vote): "President Aristide resigned. He has left his country. The constitution of Haiti is working. There is an interim president, as per the constitution, in place.
"I have ordered the deployment of Marines, as the leading element of an interim international force, to help bring order and stability to Haiti. I have done so in working with the international community. This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country's history.
"I would urge the people of Haiti to reject violence, to give this break from the past a chance to work. And the United States is prepared to help."
Since then, countless Haitians, men, women and children, whose lives grow more miserable by the minute, have been shot, hacked, imprisoned and subjected to state terror.
There appears to be blood all over Canada's hands: first because it was on board for the removal of Aristide and second because it is supporting, both politically and financially, an illegitimate government that appears dead set on violently crushing any opposition.
It also has a contingent of some 125 police officers who train the Haitian National Police accused of massacring civilians.
And yet, the fate of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, perfectly situated between Fidel Castro's Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, sweatshop armpit to Canadian T-shirt manufacturers, the mine pit to Canadian copper companies, is scarcely discussed or covered by Canadian media. (I should note that the Star has been running extensive reports by freelancer Reed Lindsay.)
To my knowledge, but for a Sue Montgomery column in the Montreal Gazette and an op-ed in the Star by Yves Engler, whose slim volume co-written with Anthony Fenton, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority, is a primer on our shameful presence there, our role was never raised as an issue during the election campaign.
(That said, foreign policy barely registered at all during the campaign, except when critics accused the Liberals of "anti-Americanism.")
Some Haiti-watchers believe that's because no politicians wanted to upset the Haitian diaspora, much of it educated elite, now resident in Montreal.
Last month, the shooting death of retired Mountie Mark Bourque, in Haiti to help with the repeatedly postponed elections, received a lot of ink, but there was scarcely any discussion of the context.
Next Tuesday, Haiti is yet again scheduled to go to the polls — although the most recent reports are that there will be none in Cité Soleil, the unspeakable slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince where an estimated quarter million, and I use this word guardedly, live.
Of course giving them the vote could result in a government that would soon have to "resign" anyway.
Which is not unlike what is going on with Palestinians. You will have democracy but only if the United States approves it.
It can't be easy to cover this. Haiti is a dangerous place, a Baghdad with beaches. But to ignore it from the cushy safety of editorial boards is inexcusable.
If you're interested in learning more about what is happening in Haiti, check out Amy Goodman's very fine reportage at http://www.democracynow.org
Australia's decision to ban the import of live birds from Canada has sparked a terse reaction from Ottawa, where officials are convinced the pigeons in question pose no threat to human health.
The import ban was announced after three racing pigeons imported from Canada tested positive for bird flu antibodies.
According to Australian Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran, the birds were mistakenly given the go-ahead in Canada.
"I am disturbed that the Canadian authorities certified these birds as disease-free when in actual fact a number of them were afflicted with Avian Influenza antibodies," McGauran said. But in Canada, officials insist infectious birds would never have been shipped.
On Friday, federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh stressed that Canada is not exporting the bird flu, but said he will nevertheless review testing protocols with his Australian counterparts.
"When you have people that sensitized and worried across the world about these issues, I can't fault them for being worried," Dosanjh said. "I believe the best way to deal with that is sharing information talking to them."
In his reaction to the ban, the acting director of the animal health and production program at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency blasted Australia for reacting prematurely.
"Due to the sensitivity concerning H5N1 in Southeast Asia, there appears to be a knee-jerk reaction that we're seeking to clarify with the Australian agricultural officials,'' Dr. Jim Clark said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
In fact, Clark said, he expects the Australians to recognize Canada's adherence to international standards of animal health. And, he hopes they will do their best to dispel the sudden international perception that Canada has a problem with bird flu.
"We're seeking that the Australian officials will make public statements to the effect that they don't have those concerns," he said.
Blood samples from three pigeons in a shipment of 102 were found to contain antibodies to common family of avian bugs, Influenza Type A. The Australians did not conducts tests to determine exactly which virus subtype they corresponded to.
That means the three birds weren't infected with avian flu, but rather that they had been fought off a previous infection.
Antibodies help strengthen the immune system and, unlike the viruses they fight, aren't infectious.
Most avian flu viruses pose no threat to human health. But the H5N1 variant now worrying health officials worldwide has proven deadly to many of those it's infected.
Since late 2003, 118 human cases of H5N1 infection have been confirmed; 61 have died. All those cases occurred in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia, where outbreaks in poultry have been widespread.
Migratory birds are being credited with the recent spread of the virus across Asia and into Europe.
So far, the Asian H5N1 strain has not been found in Canada, where the H3 and H6 subtypes are the most common.
Al-Qaeda in Gaza JERUSALEM (JTA) ‹ Al-Qaeda has a presence in the Gaza Strip, according to a Hamas official.
"Yes, it is true what they say. A couple of men from al-Qaeda infiltrated into Gaza," Hamas chief Mahmoud Al-Zahar told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera last week. Zahar added that Palestinians had also been in touch with al-Qaeda by telephone but did not say whether he was referring to members of Hamas.
Israel's decision to turn over security on Gaza's southern border to Egypt last week stoked fears that the strip could be flooded with arms and terrorists, as Egypt allowed Palestinians to flow across the border without any checks or control. Thousands of weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles and ground-to-ground rockets, were smuggled across the border, Israeli officials say.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israel launched a "crushing" retaliation Saturday against the Palestinian organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip with deadly air strikes, troops massed at the border and a planned ground incursion after militants fired 35 rockets at Israeli towns - their first major attack since the Gaza pullout.
Israeli aircraft pounded suspected weapons facilities and other militant targets throughout the Gaza Strip late Saturday and early Sunday, wounding at least 19 people, Palestinian officials said. Earlier, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at cars carrying militants in Gaza City, killing two Hamas militants.
The escalation threatened to derail a shaky seven-month-old truce and quashed hopes Israel's ceding the coastal strip to the Palestinians would invigorate peacemaking. Israel's reprisals drew new Hamas threats of revenge, while Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas came under growing Israeli pressure to confront the militants.
Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz told security chiefs in a meeting that "the ground of Gaza should shake" and he wanted to exact a high price from Palestinians everywhere, not just the militants, participants said.
The crisis erupted just before a major challenge to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's leadership in his Likud party and could strengthen the hand of Sharon's main rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has warned the Gaza pullout endangers Israel. A Likud vote Monday could determine whether Sharon quits the party - a move that would likely bring early elections and prompt Sharon to form a new centrist party to capture mainstream voters.
On Saturday evening, Sharon convened his Security Cabinet, a group of senior ministers, to approve a series of military operations proposed by Mofaz, culminating with a ground incursion into Gaza.
Security officials said Operation First Rain would include artillery fire, air strikes and other targeted attacks. The operation will grow in intensity, leading up to a ground operation unless the Palestinian security takes action to halt the rocket attacks or Hamas ends the attacks itself. The ground operation would require final approval from the full cabinet, the officials added. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicize the operation's details.
The officials said the army planned to create a buffer zone in northern Gaza by ordering residents to leave their homes and said a closure barring Palestinian labourers from entering Israel would remain in effect.
Shortly after the Security Cabinet's meeting, Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets throughout Gaza, including three weapons-storage facilities and a Gaza City school the army said served as a front for Hamas.
Other targets included the offices of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a small militant group. The Popular Resistance Committees, another armed group, said the home of one of its commanders was targeted. The commander, Amer Karmout, survived the attack but two relatives were wounded, the group said.
Israeli military officials said the attacks were aimed at any group possessing weapons. But the offensive was focused on Hamas, the largest Palestinian militant group.
The Gaza City air strike caused heavy damage to the Al-Arkam school, which was founded by Yassin. The army said Hamas used the building to raise funds for attacks, recruit militants and assist families of suicide bombers.
The attack occurred in a crowded neighbourhood, damaging at least five nearby homes. Fifteen people were lightly wounded, medical officials said.
"It was decided to launch a prolonged and constant attack on Hamas," said Maj.-Gen. Yisrael Ziv, the army's head of operations, hinting Israel was preparing to resume targeted attacks against top Hamas leaders. Asked whether the leaders were in danger, he said: "Let them decide for themselves."
Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa called the Israeli retaliation plan a "serious escalation that will lead to a new era of violence."
A statement from Kofi Annan's office said the UN Secretary General was "alarmed" by the escalating violence between Israel and armed Palestinian factions.
Annan urged "all Palestinian factions to heed President Mahmoud Abbass call on them to cease the public display of weapons, as a step towards abandoning weapons altogether and joining the construction of a democratic Palestinian society."
The chain of events began Friday afternoon, with an explosion at a Hamas rally in Gaza's crowded Jebaliya refugee camp in which at least 15 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded.
Hamas blamed Israel for that blast, claiming Israeli aircraft fired missiles into the crowd and said its rocket attacks on Israeli towns were meant as retaliation. However, the Palestinian Authority held the Islamic militants responsible, saying they apparently mishandled explosives at the rally. Israel denied involvement.
In a speech Saturday, Abbas also blamed Hamas and renewed demands armed groups stop flaunting their weapons in public.
"We are required more than ever before to end this frequent tragedy that resulted from chaos and military parades in residential areas," he said.
A senior Palestinian security official said the Jebaliya deaths were caused by a rocket-propelled grenade that exploded as a result of friction and in turn ignited about 10 other grenades on the back of a truck. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
Hamas has taken centre stage since Israel's withdrawal, holding several large victory parades. But the latest bloodshed appeared to put Hamas on the defensive.
Hamas called Abbas' position "a stab in the back of the martyrs" and a blow to efforts to work out differences between the factions.
Abbas has been trying to co-opt Hamas and has rejected calls by Israel and its allies to confront and disarm the militants.
On Saturday afternoon, Israeli aircraft fired five missiles at two cars carrying Hamas militants in Gaza City, killing two Hamas militants and wounding nine other people, officials said. Earlier, officials put the death toll at four. Officials blamed confusion at the scene for the discrepancy. Hamas identified the dead as Nafez Abu Hussein and Rwad Farhad, local field commanders.
Several hundred gunmen, some firing into the air, joined a funeral procession for Farhad, who was 17.
Farhad's mother, known as Um Nidal, said all three of her sons have been killed in fighting with the Israelis.
"I am so proud," she said.
"I wish I had more sons to offer."
Hamas threatened to avenge the attack, calling on its militants in a statement to strike Israel "in every spot of our occupied land."
At least four more rockets fell in Israel after the air strike.
The Israeli army said it targeted two Hamas vehicles - one carrying weapons and the other carrying militants. The strikes signalled a resumption of Israeli targeted killings of Palestinian militants, a practice it suspended during the truce. During more than four years of fighting, Israel killed scores of militants and bystanders in such attacks.
In an unprecedented step, Israel set up five cannons elsewhere on the border. In the past, Israel retaliated for Palestinian rocket fire with missile strikes from the air or with ground incursions.
Israel sealed the West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza, barring thousands of Palestinians from jobs in Israel.
PLACHIMADA, India - In the end it was the 'generosity' of Coca-Cola in distributing cadmium-laden waste sludge as 'free fertilizer' to the tribal aborigines who live near the beverage giant's bottling plant in this remote Kerala village that proved to be its undoing.
On Friday, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) ordered the plant shut down to the jubilation of tribal leaders and green activists who had focused more on the 'water mining' activities of the plant rather than its production of toxic cadmium sludge. Women from near Plachimada begin their milelong trek in search of water in a region suffering from three years of scant rainfall. Mathruboomi Daily photo by Madhuraj''
One way or another, this plant should be shut down and the management made to pay compensation for destroying our paddy fields, fooling us with fake fertilizer and drying out our wells,'' Paru Amma, an aboriginal woman who lives in this once lush, water-abundant area, told IPS.
Chairman of the KSPCB, G. Rajmohan, said the closure was ordered because the plant ''does not have adequate waste treatment systems and toxic products from the plant were affecting drinking water in nearby villages'' and that the plant ''has also not provided drinking water in a satisfying manner to local residents''.
Apparently, the generosity of the Coca-Cola plant was limited to distributing sludge and waste water free and did not extend to providing drinking water to people seriously affected by its operations.
In a statement Saturday, Coca-Cola said it was ''reviewing the order passed by the chairman of the Pollution Control Board, Kerala state,'' and that ''going forward, we are in the process of evaluating future steps, including a judicial review''.
The KSPCB closure order is only the latest episode in a see-saw battle between Coca-Cola and the impoverished but plucky local residents ever since the Atlanta-based company began operating its 25 million-dollar bottling plant in this village, located in the state's fertile Palakkad district, in 2001.
Along the way, pollution control authorities, political parties, the judiciary and global environmental groups, starting with Greenpeace International, became involved in the dispute and Plachimada grew into a global symbol of resistance by local people to powerful trans-national corporations trying to snatch away their water rights.
Although the local people had begun protesting against their wells running dry months after the plant began operations, serious trouble for the company began a little more than two years ago when a local doctor declared the water still available in the wells unfit for consumption.
In July 2003, a BBC Radio-4 report, after carrying out tests at the University of Exeter in Britain, pronounced the sludge as dangerously laden with heavy metals, especially cadmium and lead and already contaminating the food chain. The sludge also had no value as fertilizer, the report said.
Cadmium is a known carcinogen which causes kidney damage while exposure to lead can lead to mental derangement and death and is particularly dangerous for children causing them severe anemia and mental retardation.
The BBC report quoted Prof. John Henry, leading toxic expert and consultant at St Mary's Hospital in London, warn of ''devastating consequences for those living near areas where this waste has been dumped and for the thousands who depend on crops produced in these (paddy) fields''.
In August 2003, the KSPCB, ordered the plant to stop distributing sludge to farmers, but then its official, K.V. Indulal, charged with carrying out investigations, unexpectedly announced that he found contamination levels ''not beyond tolerable limits''.
Allegations of bribery and corruption by Coca-Cola followed and the official Indulal is presently under investigation by the state's Anti- corruption Bureau which carried out raids on his residence and properties spread across three Kerala cities earlier this month.
The Kerala High Court initially supported the Plachimada villagers and in a Dec.16, 2003 ruling, ordered Coca-Cola not to mine water through its deep bore wells but allowed the plant to draw water in amounts comparable to that normally used for agricultural or domestic purposes in the area.
Coca-Cola approached the court after the panchayat (elected local body) cancelled the plant's operating licence for mining water and a single judge ruled that the state government had no right to allow a private party to extract large quantities of ground water which it deemed ''property held by it (the government) in trust''.
But on Apr. 7 this year, a High Court bench allowed the plant to extract up to 500,000 liters of water a day saying that existing laws on water ownership were inadequate. The ruling angered activists and triggered off a series of clashes outside the gates of the plant between agitating local people and police.
''The High Court ruling is a great disappointment to everyone concerned with Coke's abusive practices around the world,'' said Corporate Accountability International's executive director Kathryn Mulvey in a statement.
Mulvey predicted that resistance to Coke's practices in Plachimada and throughout India would only grow. ''We join with community leaders and allies around the world in calling on Coke to close the Plachimada facility permanently, and to pay back the community for the damage it has caused,'' she said.
Nevertheless, on the strength of the court ruling, the plant resumed what were described as 'trial operations' on Aug. 8 after the 561,000- liter capacity plant that manufactures such brands as Coca-Cola, Limca and Fanta had lain shut for 17 months.
Barely ten days later, on Friday, the KSPCB stepped in with its closure order for inability to explain the high cadmium levels and for failing to provide piped drinking water to people, whose wells had become contaminated, as required by the body.
Internationally-known environmental scientist and activist, Vandana Shiva, who leads the New Delhi-based, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, has alleged that after Coca-Cola was restrained from dumping sludge or distributing it as fertilizer, it had begun injecting waste into dry boreholes and contaminating deep-water aquifers.
It has not helped Coca-Cola that the discovery of heavy metal in the sludge in 2003 followed findings by the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), another well-known, New Delhi-based non-governmental organization, that nearly all colas and 'mineral water' produced in India contained unacceptably large doses of commonly-used pesticides.
The CSE findings seriously dented the image of Coke and its rival Pepsi, both of which were banned by nationalist governments for decades in India and allowed to return only when this country began a process of economic reforms following a serious balance of payments crisis in 1991.
Said Veerendrakumar, member of parliament and editor of the influential 'Mathrubhumi' newspaper: ''The fact of the matter is that that water from underground sources is being pumped out free, bottled and sold to our people to make millions for cola companies while destroying the environment and damaging public health''.
''We welcome the order shutting the factory down,'' said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, which was largely responsible for approaching the KSPCB. ''We have to continue to work with the state government to ensure that Coca-Cola abides by the order and that there are no more violations''.
Coca-Cola is already in deep trouble in India, its sales having dropped 14 percent in the last quarter (April-June), and the company is presently undergoing major reorganization and changing its top leadership in an effort to stem plummeting popularity.
The state government has announced that it will also challenge in the Supreme Court Coca-Cola's claim to extract water taking advantage of the fact that existing laws on who owns groundwater are vague.
''We welcome the actions by the state agencies in Kerala to stop the arrogance and criminal activities of the Coca-Cola company,'' said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigner. ''These actions are major victories for the community of Plachimada, which has all along been demanding that the state do what it is supposed to do - safeguard the interests of the community''.
Sunita Narain, who led the CSE's high-profile investigation and exposure of the presence of pesticides in colas manufactured in India, said the real value of the Plachimada struggle lies in the fact that it has highlighted the role that local communities can have in protecting groundwater resources.
In January 2004, the agitating villagers received a boost when global activists converged on Plachimada for a three-day World Water Conference and joined in demonstrations in front of the main gate of the Coca-Cola plant, one of the largest in its chain of 27 plants in India.
Jose Bove, who leads 'Confederation Paysanne' (a left-leaning union of peasants and farmers in France), declared that the struggle at Plachimada was '' part of the worldwide struggle against trans-national companies that exploit natural resources like water''.
Bove was joined by Maude Barlow, the Ottawa-based author of 'Blue Gold', a book on corporate theft of water resources, in pledging to turn Plachimada into another Cochabamba -- the city in Bolivia where people- power thwarted plans to turn the water supply system over to the U.S. transnational Bechtel five years ago.
The question of toxic materials in the sludge distributed to farmers by the Coca-Cola factory as fertilizer was also highlighted, among others, by Inger Schorling, a delegate from Sweden and a green member of the European Parliament.
A tip for those who, like myself, are squawked at and dive-bombed by crows during the baby season - wear a hat. They don't seem to see me when I do that. There's something about my brown-grey hair that sets them off when seen from above. Works for me, might work for you.
Another tactic is to "out-macho" the crow that is on the attack. You can't ruffle your feathers to look bigger, which is one of their tricks, but a gaulic shrug is a good substitute while looking it straight in the eye. They seem to be hard-wired to submit if you stand up to them.
I've read that backing away slowly works, but I haven't tried that so I don't know.
If you act defensively or run off, they will press the advantage and keep after you.
It's all part of the predator/prey dichotomy of this world. Your body-self knows what to do if you can allow it.
“This is going to be a heavy-duty series of articles this week. In the first place, I have been told that Fat Karl the Eunuch is trying to spread rumors that I am actually someone else; that I do not exist and that everything I write about is all fiction and left-wing garbage. Fat Karl is losing his grip and if he is not careful, he might soon lose his head.
From two sources, neither of whom know each other and both of whom are well-placed in the system, I have been receiving information that indicates that a coup d'etat against the Bush administration is apparently being seriously contemplated in certain circles.
The first of these is the higher commands of the U.S. military which is disgusted with Bush and his ruination, as they see it, of the discipline and legitimate tasks of the military and the other is a loose confederation of very high level American businessmen who see Bush as a complete and fatal disaster to American business, most especially in the areas of foreign trade.
Bush has harassed the high military command for not being sufficiently servile to him and for not going along with his outrageous and weird ideas. He has insulted, in public, a number of their top officers and now has decided to supply commercial mini-vans to transport the troops in Iraq. A mini-van is about as safe to ride around in as a go-cart but Bush’s friends in the collapsing auto industry have bribed him to demand this change. All that will happen is that more soldiers will die quicker. It is not possible to adequately armor plate a mini van and there is no intention of armor plating them. Bush has also enraged veteran members of the CIA , not because they did not give him adequate intelligence concerning Iraq but because they did. Bush does not want facts. He demands obedience to his whims and because the CIA reports did not favor his propaganda, he hated them and trashed their abilities in public. They retaliated by releasing material that made Bush look like the vicious fool that he is and he cracked down on them, appointing the awful Porter Goss to control them. Goss, acting like a drunk bull in a china shop, has fired very competent personnel and replaced them with obedient, and worse, Republican faggots who will do the Head Queen’s biddings.
The CIA has joined the ranks of the military in hoping for an end to the Bush Adiministration.
The United States is not run by the President or Congress. It has always been run by a power elite composed of major business interests, the military and a few other, often changing, groups. The present elite members are almost totally unknown to the public but they set up the scenarios and call the turns.
Bush was elected by a coup, not by the American people. He was seen to be crooked, rather stupid, vicious and frantic for some kind of recognition. He is grossly incompetent as a manager so this new American oligarchy jobbed him into the White House with the open connivance of his brother, Jeb, in Florida and the reluctant aid of the Supreme Court. Bush is totally under the influence, and control, of a group of fascistic Republicans, a gang of twittering gays and a coven of Likudists. They have made common cause to run the United States for Bush but the fascist movement is running into serious problems with more powerful elite groups. I am quoting here from a document with an interesting analysis of the modern fascist, not the old Mussolini-Hitler and Franco fascist.
"A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party."
As a result of the economic and military disasters the narrow-minded and ignorant President is creating, there is now a very powerful internal movement to get him out of the White House, either by turning Congress and the people against him (with the willing assistance of the media barons) or by more forceful means…a coup d’Etat.
I do not have any concrete knowledge of the specifics of this alleged putsch but my sources are certain that it is being very seriously pursued with at least one study group working on control of internal communications (my sources' specialty) and a banker friend of mine, another source, has said almost the identical thing to me. They do not know each other and, to the best of my knowledge, have no points of contact.
One of them said that Bush is afraid of such possible actions and has gathered a huge number of security people around his person to prevent his being siezed or assassinated. Cheney is also terrified of this and spends most of his time in a very heavily guarded underground bunker. A source has supplied me with the location of this but I am leaving that bit of information strictly private.
An unsuccessful grenade attack on Bush in Georgia was deliberately underreported and there was a plot uncovered by the German security people to blow Bush up when he came to Mainz, Germany, earlier this year.
The first incident was reported because the foreign media got their hands on it but the second has never surfaced. The putative assassins were not German, nor Arabs, but instead were reported to me by one source to be "most probably under American hire."
I have also learned from a source in the Chase Manhattan bank that his people are scared literally shitless over the news, gleaned from a very competent German intelligence service, that a group, totally off the screen, not Muslim and probably American-based, have managed to crack the entrance information into the electronic, international banking wire and transfer system.
The writer of this article seems to have done a lot of research to expose the roots, methods, and goals of those who rule the roost in the US of A.
EXPOSÉ: THE “CHRISTIAN” MAFIA
Where Those Who Now Run the U.S. Government Came From and Where They Are Taking Us
By Wayne Madsen
After several months of in-depth research and, at first, seemingly unrelated conversations with former high-level intelligence officials, lawyers, politicians, religious figures, other investigative journalists, and researchers, I can now report on a criminal conspiracy so vast and monstrous it defies imagination. Using “Christian” groups as tax-exempt and cleverly camouflaged covers, wealthy right-wing businessmen and “clergy” have now assumed firm control over the biggest prize of all – the government of the United States of America. First, some housekeeping is in order. My use of the term “Christian” is merely to clearly identify the criminal conspirators who have chosen to misuse their self-avowed devotion to Jesus Christ to advance a very un-Christian agenda. The term “Christian Mafia” is what several Washington politicians have termed the major conspirators and it is not intended to debase Christians or infer that they are criminals . I will also use the term Nazi – not for shock value – but to properly tag the political affiliations of the early founders of the so-called “Christian” power cult called the Fellowship. The most important element of this story is that a destructive religious movement has now achieved almost total control over the machinery of government of the United States – its executive, its legislature, several state governments, and soon, the federal judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
The United States has experienced religious and cult hucksters throughout its history, from Cotton Mather and his Salem witch burners to Billy Sunday, Father Charles Coughlin, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite, and others. But none have ever achieved the kind of power now possessed by a powerful and secretive group of conservative politicians and wealthy businessmen in the United States and abroad who are known among their adherents and friends as The Fellowship or The Family. The Fellowship and its predecessor organizations have used Jesus in the same way that McDonald’s uses golden arches and Coca Cola uses its stylized script lettering. Jesus is a logo and a slogan for the Fellowship. Jesus is used to justify the Fellowship’s access to the highest levels of government and business in the same way Santa Claus entices children into department stores and malls during the Christmas shopping season.
When the Founders of our nation constitutionally separated Church and State, the idea of the Fellowship taking over the government would have been their worst nightmare. The Fellowship has been around under various names since 1935. Its stealth existence has been perpetuated by its organization into small cells, a pyramid organization of “correspondents,” “associates,” “friends,” “members,” and “core members,” tax-exempt status for its foundations, and its protection by the highest echelons of the our own government and those abroad.
The Roots of the Fellowship
The roots of the Fellowship go back to the 1930s and a Norwegian immigrant and Methodist minister named Abraham Vereide. According to Fellowship archives maintained at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, Vereide, who immigrated from Norway in 1905, began an outreach ministry in Seattle in April 1935. But his religious outreach involved nothing more than pushing for an anti-Communist, anti-union, anti-Socialist, and pro-Nazi German political agenda. A loose organization and secrecy were paramount for Vereide. Fellowship archives state that Vereide wanted his movement to “carry out its objective through personal, trusting, informal, unpublicized contact between people.” Vereide’s establishment of his Prayer Breakfast Movement for anti-Socialist and anti-International Workers of the World (IWW or “Wobblies”) Seattle businessmen in 1935 coincided with the establishment of another pro-Nazi German organization in the United States, the German-American Bund. Vereide saw his prayer movement replacing labor unions.
A student of the un-Christian German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, Vereide’s thoughts about a unitary religion based on an unyielding subservience to a composite notion of “Jesus” put him into the same category as many of the German nationalist philosophers who were favored by Hitler and the Nazis. Nietzsche wrote the following of Christianity: “When we hear the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: Is it really possible! This, for a Jew, crucified two thousand years ago, who said he was God’s son? The proof of such a claim is lacking.”
One philosophical fellow traveler of Vereide was the German Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger, a colleague of Leo Strauss, the father of American neo-conservatism and the mentor of such present-day American neo-conservatives as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Strauss’s close association with Heidegger and the Nazi idea of telling the big lie in order to justify the end goals – Machiavellianism on steroids -- did not help Strauss in Nazi Germany. Because he was Jewish, he was forced to emigrate to the United States, where he eventually began teaching neo-conservative political science at the University of Chicago. It is this confluence of right-wing philosophies that provides a political bridge between modern-day Christian Rightists (including so-called Christian Zionists) and the secular-oriented neo-conservatives who support a policy that sees a U.S.-Israeli alliance against Islam and European-oriented democratic socialism. For the dominion theologists, the United States is the new Israel, with a God-given mandate to establish dominion over the entire planet. Neither the secular neo-conservatives nor Christian fundamentalists seem to have a problem with the idea of American domination of the planet, as witnessed by the presence of representatives of both camps as supporters of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century, the neo-conservative blueprint for America’s attack on Iraq and plans to attack, occupy, and dominate other countries that oppose U.S. designs.
What bound all so-called “America First” movements prior to World War II was their common hatred for labor unions, Communists and Socialists, Jews, and most definitely, the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Vereide’s Prayer Breakfast Movement, pro-Nazi German groups like the Bund, and a resurgent Ku Klux Klan had more than propaganda in common – they had an interlocking leadership and a coordinated political agenda.
Not only was Vereide pro-Hitler, he was the only Norwegian of note, who was not officially a Nazi, who never condemned Norwegian Nazi leader Vidkun Quisling, a man whose name has become synonymous with traitor and who was executed in 1945. Vereide and Quisling were almost the same age, Vereide was born in 1886, Quisling in 1887. They both shared a link with the clergy, Vereide was a Methodist minister and Quisling was the son of a Lutheran minister. The Norwegian link to the Fellowship continues to this day but more on that later.
Another pro-Nazi Christian fundamentalist group that arose in the pre-Second World War years was the Moral Rearmament Movement. Its leader was Frank Buchman, a Lutheran minister from Philadelphia. Buchman was a pacifist, but not just any pacifist. He and his colleagues in the United States, Britain, Norway, and South Africa reasoned that war could be avoided if the world would just accept the rise of Hitler and National Socialism and concentrate on stamping out Communism and Socialism. Buchman coordinated his activities with Vereide and his Prayer Breakfast Movement, which, by 1940, had spread its anti-left manifesto and agenda throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Buchman was effusive in his praise for Hitler. He was quoted by William A. H. Birnie of the New York World Telegram, “I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism.” Buchman also secretly met with Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Gestapo and controller of the concentration camps. Buchman was at Himmler’s side at the 1935 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg and again at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The predecessor of Buchman’s Moral Rearmament Group, the Oxford Group, included Moslems, Buddhists, and Hindus. Buchman and Hitler both saw the creation of a one-world religion based largely on Teutonic, Aryan, and other pagan traditions mixed with elements of Christianity. Buchman saw Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism as being compatible with his brand of Christianity. Hitler, too, had an affectation for Islam and Buddhism as witnessed by his support for the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the anti-British Muslim Brotherhood, and Tibetan Buddhists. But Buchman had no sympathy for the Jews who Hitler was persecuting. Buchman told Birnie, “Of course, I don’t condone everything the Nazis do. Anti-Semitism? Bad, naturally. I suppose Hitler sees a Karl Marx in every Jew.”
Such global ecumenicalism is a founding principle for today’s Fellowship. With total devotion to Jesus and not necessarily His principles at its core, the Fellowship continues to reach out to Moslems (including Saudi extreme Wahhabi sect members), Buddhists, and Hindus. Its purpose has little to do with religion but everything to do with political and economic influence peddling and the reconstruction of the world in preparation for a thousand year Christian global dominion. Post-millenialist Fellowship members believe that Jesus will not return until there is a 1000-year pure Christian government established on Earth. It is this mindset that has infused the foreign policy of George W. Bush and his administration. The desire for a thousand year political dominion of the world is not new. Hitler planned for a “Thousand Year Reich” over the planet. It is not a coincidence that Hitler desired and the so-called Christian dominionists/reconstructionists now contemplate a thousand year reign. The Christian dominionists are the political heirs of Hitler, the Norwegians Vereide and Quisling, Buchman, Opus Dei founder and fascist patron saint Josemaria Escriva and their political and religious cohorts.