Friday, February 27, 2009

US Discriminatory Immigration Policy Toward Haitians

US Discriminatory Immigration Policies Toward Haitians - by Stephen Lendman

It's a familiar story for Haitians - last in, first out for the hemisphere's poorest, least wanted, and most abused people here and at home. Most recently it was highlighted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announcing the resumption of over 30,000 deportations to a nation reeling from poverty, repression, despair, the devastation from last summer's storms, and occupation by UN paramilitary Blue Helmets - since 2004, illegally there for the first time ever to support and enforce a coup d'etat against a democratically elected president, at the behest of Washington.

On December 9, ICE resumed deportations after halting them in September following summer storms that battered the country leaving 800,000 people without food, clean water, other essentials, and for around 70,000 their homes.

ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas announced: "We fully expected to resume deportation flights when it was safe. And we made a determination that it was appropriate to (do it now) based on the conditions on the ground....The individuals being returned have final orders of removal and the necessary travel documents" - even though advocates say things are worse in Haiti, not better.

BBC called the situation "eye-popping," and the Miami Herald said it was "the worst humanitarian disaster (for) Haiti in 100 years" leaving:

-- Gonaives, Haiti's third largest city, uninhabitable;

-- most of the nation's livestock and food crops destroyed as well as farm tools and seeds for replanting;

-- irrigation systems demolished;

-- collapsed buildings throughout the country; 23,000 houses destroyed; another 85,000 damaged; 964 schools destroyed or damaged;

-- conservatively about $1 billion in storm damage;

-- the threat of famine, especially for children and the elderly;

-- 2.3 million Haitians facing "food insecurity," according to USAID, reeling under 40% higher prices than in January;

-- inadequate sanitation and clean water;

-- the widespread threat of disease; and

-- overall millions lacking everything needed to survive who in normal times struggle to get by.

In December, Director Randy McGorty of Catholic Legal Services for the Archdiocese of Miami said:

"After dealing with this administration on Haitian issues for eight years, I'm forced to conclude that its policy toward Haiti is based on racism. It's shocking. People (lack everything and) are starving. This callous disregard for human life is inexplicable. Many deported Haitians simply have no communities to return to. It is disappointing that the Bush administration would even consider sending people back to this incredibly fragile nation....(Haiti's) humanitarian crisis....continues and worsens."

(South) Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center's (FIAC) executive director, Cheryl Little, said: "We are attempting to do whatever we can to convince government officials to change their minds on this. It's an outrageously inhumane act."

On January 26, FIAC urged new DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to "immediately stay the inhumane deportations and to seriously consider granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians already in the United States." On December 19, former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff denied the Preval government's TPS request. As a result, Haiti won't cooperate, so ICE is making Haitians get their own travel documents (including passports) and assist in their own deportations.

Throughout 2008, around 1000 occurred in total. After a near-three month suspension (from September 19 - December 9), they resumed slowly, but picked up noticeably after Obama's inauguration. According to FIAC, men like Louiness Petit-Frere are affected, deported on January 23: "Here ten years with no criminal record, he leaves his US-citizen wife behind along with his mother and four siblings, all (with) legal status....One of his brothers, US Marine Sgt Nikenson Peirreloui, served and was injured in Iraq."

In 2008, Obama campaigned vigorously for South Florida's Haitian vote. Now he's betrayed it the way he's abandoning millions of distressed households by providing little in real relief compared to trillions in handouts to Wall Street and the rich.

After Congress established TPS in 1990, Washington granted 260,000 Salvadorans, 82,000 Hondurans, and 5000 Nicaraguans protection, then extended it on October 1, 2008. It lets the Attorney General grant temporary immigration status to undocumented residents unable to return home due to armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other "extraordinary and temporary conditions." Besides El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, past recipients included Kuwait, Lebanon, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Montserrat, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Angola. Six nations still have TPS, but all face expiration in 2009 unless extended.

Haitians never got it, yet granting it is the simplest, least expensive form of aid so Port-au-Prince can concentrate on redevelopment while Haitians in America help through remittances back to families. In 2006, they sent $1.65 billion, the highest income percentage from any foreign national group in the world.

In 1997, the Clinton administration granted Haitians Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for one year. Currently about 20,000 Haitians qualify for TPS, a much smaller number than for other recipient countries.

Nonetheless, deportations are proceeding with 30,299 on "final order of removal" status, meaning an immigration judge ordered them out. About 600 are in detention, 243 others are electronically monitored, and all 30,000 will be removed by an administration as callous to the poor as previous hard-liners under George Bush. In America, everything changes, yet stays the same, even under the first black president.

Some Background on Haitian Immigration to America

Haitians began arriving in South Florida about 50 years ago, but were denied the same rights and treatment as more favored immigrants like Europeans. Fleeing repressive dictatorships hardly mattered during years under "Papa" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier or when military dictatorships ran the country.

In September 1963, the first boatload claiming persecution arrived but were denied asylum and deported. Decades later, it's the same. After a 1991 coup deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, thousands of Haitians fled to America. Most were intercepted at sea and sent home while around 300 were detained at Guantanamo because tests showed they were HIV positive.

Conditions at the camp were deplorable. Treated like prisoners, they were held behind razor wire in leaky barracks with bad sanitation, poor food, and little medical care even for the sick and pregnant women. After protests and a hunger strike, crackdowns were severe, many were imprisoned, and Clinton White House justification was no different than today. The DOJ claimed Haitians had no legal rights under the Constitution, federal statutes, or international law. Wrong.

International law protects asylum seekers, Haitians as much as others.

Article I of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines one as:

"A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country."

Refugee-seeking persons are "asylum seekers." Post-WW II, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created to help them. To gain legal protection, individuals must:

-- be outside their country of origin;

-- be afraid of persecution;

-- be harmed or fear harm by their government or others;

-- fear persecution for at least one of the above cited reasons; and

-- pose no danger to others.

In the 1980s, Haitians fared no better than earlier. From 1981 - 1990, 22,940 Haitians were interdicted at sea, yet only 11 qualified for asylum compared to tens of thousands of Cubans who automatically get it if they reach South Florida.

After the September 1991 coup against Aristide, the OAS's strong condemnation forced the first Bush administration to soften its policy slightly, but not much. By November 11, about 450 Haitians were in detention while the State Department sought a regional solution, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees arranged for several Latin countries (including Belize, Hondorus, Trinidad, Tobago, and Venezuela) to provide temporary safe havens. Still hundreds were forcibly returned and thousands more interned at Guantanamo.

By May 1992, citing an inflow surge that month, president Bush ordered all Haitian boats interdicted and peremptorily returned without determining if their occupants were at risk of persecution. Repatriation continued until Bill Clinton offered to process arrivals at a regional location, but only as it turned out for three weeks because the flow was much greater than expected. Thereafter, refugee processing was suspended with arrivals offered regional "safe havens" but no option for US refugee status.

In October 1998, under the newly enacted Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA), eligible Haitians (who filed asylum claims or entered the US before December 31, 1995) were allowed to live and work in America permanently without applying for an immigrant visa in advance from overseas.

However, under the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), aliens arriving in America without proper immigration documents are immediately processed for removal. If they fear persecution, they're kept in detention until an asylum officer determines the threat's credibility. In 2005, 1850 interdicted Haitians were sent to Guantanamo. Only nine got hearings and of those, one man got refugee status.

Under the 2002 Homeland Security Act, at least five separate agencies handle Haitian migrants:

-- the Coast Guard for interdictions;

-- Customs and Border Protection for apprehensions and inspections;

-- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for detentions; and

-- DOJ's Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) for asylum and removal hearings.

Earlier and more recent policies highlight how Haitians are mistreated. On October 29, 2002, fleeing poverty, not repression, 212 Haitians arrived in South Florida, hoping for asylum and safety. Instead, they were rounded up, handcuffed, held in detention, and treated like criminals in gross violation of international law. Families were separated from children, husbands from wives, and siblings from each other, but it wasn't an isolated incident.

Unknown to most Americans, the Bush administration had a secret Haitian policy that took affect in late 2001. It authorized the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), now DHS/ICE, to detain all South Florida arrivals regardless of their asylum eligibility.

The result was dramatic, insensitive, and immediate. The Haitian release rate for those passing interviews dropped from 96% in November to 6% between mid-December and mid-March 2002. Even Haitians granted asylum weren't immediately released.

On February 25, 2004, days before the second February 29 coup, the US State Department urged US citizens in Haiti to leave. In addition, George Bush said all interdicted Haitians would be returned and those reaching shore would be held prior to deportation, regardless of their protected status.

Detention conditions then and since are appalling and for women dangerous with reports of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. Men and women both are subjected to frequent strip searches, lockdowns, nightly sleep interruptions, and often denial of needed medical care.

Official Haitian policy under George Bush and currently under Obama is:

-- deny asylum seeker status;

-- summarily return arrivals without screening their claims;

-- detain others under harsh conditions prior to deportation;

-- deny Haitians their rights under international law; and

-- now expeditiously deport over 30,000 refugees to desperate poverty and storm-ravaged conditions in a country under repressive military occupation.

Haitian and Cuban Policies Contrasted

Except for the Aristide and first Preval administration years, Haiti has a history of some of the worst regional repression. So did Cuba until Castro overthrew Batista and transformed the country politically and economically. For decades, refugees from both countries sought asylum in America. Yet Cubans and Haitians get vastly different treatment.

Under the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (as amended), a "wet foot/dry foot" policy applies under which interdicted asylum seekers are returned home, but those reaching shore are inspected for entry, then nearly always allowed to stay - in contrast to Haitians getting no equivalent treatment even after "the worst humanitarian disaster in 100 years" leaving the government unable to handle the overwhelming environmental and human fallout. TPS would help, but neither the Bush or Obama administration offered it, so Haitians are left on their own.

It's an old story in America. White Anglo-Saxons and most Europeans are welcome. For poor blacks, Latinos (except for Cubans) and most Asians, far different standards apply, none harsher than for Haitians despite dangers, poverty, and devastation at home, risks they take at sea, and rights international law grants them - ones America disdains or observes as it wishes.

In its 1996 Annual Report, the OAS' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concluded that America's Haitian interdiction and repatriation policy violated the following provisions of the American Declaration of the the Rights and Duties of Man:

-- the right to life;

-- liberty;

-- security of person;

-- equality under the law;

-- resort to the courts; and

-- to seek and receive asylum.

Conditions worsened under George Bush, especially after the February 2004 coup. Since January 20, the Obama administration is continuing the worst of his predecessor's policies. This from America's first black president who governs the same as white ones. Around 30,000 Haitians will be among first to learn how harshly firsthand.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions

Targeting Israel with Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions, and Prosecutions - by Stephen Lendman

Enough is enough. After 61 years of Palestinian slaughter, displacement, occupation, oppression, and international dismissiveness and complicity, global action is essential. Israel must be held accountable. World leaders won't do it, so grassroots movements must lead the way.

In 2004, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

"The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure - in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation."

In July 2008, 21 South African activists, including ANC members, visited Israel and Occupied Palestine. Their conclusion was unanimous. Israel is far worse than apartheid as former Deputy Minister of Health and current MP Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge explained:

"What I see here is worse than what we experienced - the absolute control of people's lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw....racist ideology is also reinforced by religion, which was not the case in South Africa."

Sunday Times editor, Mondli Makhanya, went further: "When you observe from afar you know that things are bad, but you do not know how bad. Nothing can prepare you for the evil we have seen here. It is worse, worse, worse than everything we endured. The level of apartheid, the racism and the brutality are worse than the worst period of apartheid."

Activist Opposition to a Fundamentally Evil Occupation

In July 2005, a coalition of 171 Palestinian Civil Society organizations created the global BDS movement - for "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights" for Occupied Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinian diaspora refugees.

Since 1948, hundreds of UN resolutions condemned Israel's colonial occupation, its decades of discriminatory policies, illegal land seizures and settlements, international law violations, and oppression of a civilian population, and called for remedial action.

Nothing so far has worked. Palestine remains occupied. Its people continue to suffer. Their human rights are denied. These abuses no longer can be tolerated. In solidarity, people of conscience demand justice and "call upon international civil society organizations and (supporters everywhere) to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to (apartheid) South Africa." Pressure is needed for "embargoes and sanctions....for the sake of justice and genuine peace."

Nonviolent punitive measures should continue until Israel:

-- recognizes Palestinian rights to self-determination;

-- respects international law;

-- ends its illegal occupation;

-- dismantles its Separation Wall;

-- grants Israeli Arabs equal rights as Jews; and

-- complies with UN resolution 194 affirming the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and property or be fully compensated for loss or damage if they prefer.

Dozens of Palestinian political parties, organizations, associations, coalitions, campaigns, and unions endorse the project, including:

-- the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine;

-- the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen's Rights (PICCR);

-- the Consortium of Professional Associations;

-- the Lawyers Association;

-- the Network of Christian Organizations;

-- the Palestinian Council for Justice and Peace;

-- the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); and

-- the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.


In April 2004 in Ramallah, Palestinian academics and intellectuals launched it by "buil(ding) on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 (followed by further calls) in October 2003."

In July 2004, its statement of principles read:

-- "to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem;

-- removes all its colonies in those lands;

-- agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugee rights; and

-- dismantles its system of apartheid."

PACBI states:

"Boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions is an urgently needed form of pressure against Israel that can bring about its compliance with international law and the requirements for a just peace." Israel won't comply. Why should it when world governments are supportive and complicit and offer Palestinians no relief. Thus, grassroots pressure is crucial. That's why organizations like PACBI are essential.

So is the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (CACBI). It's comprised of US academics, "educators of conscience....unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel's indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions." They call for:

(1) boycotting all "academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions" not opposed to their government's policies towards Palestinians;

(2) "a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels (including) all forms of funding and subsidies....;"

(3) divestment and disinvestment from Israel;

(4) academic, professional, and cultural groups condemnation of Israel; and

(5) support for Palestinian academic and cultural institutions.

Israel flaunts the rule of law, pursues violence, not peace, and discriminates against everyone not Jewish. Terror bombing Gaza and daily West Bank incursions illustrate its arrogance and intentions. CACBI "believe(s) that non-violent external pressure (through) academic, cultural and economic boycott" are crucial. Worldwide support and unwavering pressure must happen as well.

In solidarity with PACBI, CACBI, and non-academic bodies globally, Australian academics issued their own mission statement, calling on like-minded activists to join them. Others elsewhere have done the same.

Inception of the Academic Boycott Idea

On April 6, 2002, UK professors Steven and Hilary Rose first presented the idea in an open letter to the London Guardian. They wrote:

"Despite widespread international condemnation for its policy of violent repression against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, the Israel government appears impervious to moral appeals from world leaders." For its part, America "seems reluctant to act. However, there are ways of exerting pressure from within Europe....many national and European cultural and research institutions....regard Israel (alone in the Middle East) as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts. Would it not therefore be timely" for a pan-European moratorium of all further support "unless and until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinans" along the lines of proposed "peace plans."

By July, 700 signatures were registered, including from 10 Israeli academics, but not without controversy and opposition. Questions of ethics and effectiveness were raised. Academic freedom, anti-Semitism, and unfairly singling out Israel as well.

On April 22, 2005, the UK Council of Association of University Teachers (AUT - with support from 60 Palestinian academics) voted to boycott two Israeli universities - Haifa and Bar-Ilan. Haifa for wrongly disciplining a lecturer who supported a student's writing about 1948 Israeli attacks on Palestinians and Bar-Ilan for conducting courses in the West Bank, complicit with the occupation.

Criticism of the AUT was immediate and harsh by Jewish groups and its own members. Zvi Ravner, Israel's deputy ambassador in London, said the "last time Jews were boycotted in universities was in 1930s Germany." By May, pressure was intense, forcing AUT to cancel its boycott, but the idea stayed viable.

In May 2006, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) passed motion 198C, a call to boycott Israeli academics who refused to speak out against their government. As expected, criticism again was intense but those in support stayed firm.

On May 30, 2007, the congress of the University and College Union (UCU - created by AUT and NATFHE's merger) voted 158 - 99 on Motion 30 for a Palestinian trade unions boycott petition. It asked lecturers to "consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions."

On September 28, after considerable opposition, UCU abandoned its effort in a press release stating that lawyers advised that "an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and cannot be implemented."

Nonetheless, despite start-and-stop efforts and enormous opposition, the BDS movement remains viable and has taken root globally. In January 2009, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) proposed banning Israeli academics from teaching, speaking at, or doing research at Ontario universities unless they condemn Israel's war on Gaza. After CUPE national president's opposition, local branch officials removed the proposal from its web site but replaced it with a statement calling for a boycott "aimed at academic institutions and the institutional connections that exist between universities here and those in Israel." It will also introduce a resolution on the ban.

On January 31, hundreds of Irish activists ran a full page ad in The Irish Times condemning decades of Israeli militarism, oppression, occupation, and violations of international law. They called for the Irish government to:

-- "cease its purchase of Israeli military products and services and call publicly for an arms embargo against Israel;

-- demand publicly that Israel reverse its settlement construction, illegal occupation and annexation of land in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and to use its influence" to achieve this;

-- "demand publicly that the Euro-Med Agreement under which Israel has privileged access to the EU market be suspended until Israel complies with international law;

-- veto any proposed upgrade in EU relations with Israel; (and for)

-- The Irish people to boycott all Israeli goods and services until Israel abides by international law."

On February 1, a new alliance of American Jews for a Just Peace issued this statement against Israel's war on Palestine:

"Israel recent War on Gaza resulted in worldwide popular condemnation. Perhaps this marks an important turning point in the relationship between Israel and the world community. We will not stand by while Israel instigates a war, annihilates civilian infrastructure, targets civilian shelters, blocks medical teams from reaching victims, uses chemical weapons," and commits various other atrocities and illegal acts. This isn't how a democratic state functions, one that respects international laws and norms. "On the contrary, they are actions of a rogue state....fully supported by the US government."

"American Jews for a Just Peace calls for:

-- immediate suspension of all US military aid to Israel pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act;

-- the US Congress to open an investigation into possible war crimes as violations of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts in the war on Gaza;

-- businesses and individuals to refuse to purchase Israeli-made products that originate in or support Jewish settlements in Occupied Palestine and the apartheid system of racial separation and oppression in Israel/Palestine;

-- the Israeli government to sign the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid that was adopted by the United Nations in 1973...;

-- the Israeli government to end the blockade and siege of Gaza and allow unhindered access to all humanitarian aid organizations as well as international journalists; and

-- efforts by all activists to promote awareness of and resistance to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which continues through the ongoing blockade, siege, displacement, annexation, and Israeli state-sponsored terror."

On February 3, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that "The only Palestinian university (Al Quds) to maintain ties with Israeli colleges and oppose international calls for an (academic) boycott....suspended contacts with Israeli universities in the wake of the war in Gaza."

Al Quds has 10,000 students on three West Bank campuses - in El Bireh, Abu Dis, and East Jerusalem. By unanimous decision of its board on February 1, it froze (but didn't end) 60 joint projects for six months, pending a policy review and possible change. Its statement cited no justification for continued ties and that cutting them "is aimed at pressuring Israel to abide by a solution that ends the occupation, a solution that has been needed for far too long and that the international community has stopped demanding."

Al Quds' board called on local, regional, and international academics to support its position by halting their own cooperation with Israeli universities.

On February 5, Durban, South African dock workers refused to offload an Israeli ship docked in the city's harbor. At the same time, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called on "workers and activists for justice and peace to join the ever growing movement of people in solidarity with the suffering masses of Palestine." COSATU asked workers globally to follow their lead not to offload Israeli ships or handle Israeli goods in retail stores. It also affirmed its stand to "strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel."

Despite its efforts, the Port of Durban used non-union workers to offload the Israeli ship on February 6. On the same day, COSATU and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign affirmed their boycott initiative by protesting in front of the South African Zionist Federation offices in Johannesburg.

On February 6, reported a "Wave of Gaza solidarity action on UK campuses" over the past two weeks at 22 universities and colleges so far. Student demands include:

-- providing scholarships for Palestinian students;

-- sending books and computers to Occupied Palestine;

-- condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza; and

-- divesting from Israel and BAE Systems that supplies Israel with arms.

On February 7, the Church of England announced that late last year it divested over 2.2 million British pounds from Caterpillar, a company whose bulldozers and equipment is used to demolish Palestinian homes. It's a small step but an important one, given the Church's importance. Hopefully it will inspire others to take similar steps and divest entirely from Israel and companies with which it does business.

On February 9, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA became the first one in America to divest from companies involved in Israel's occupation of Palestine. It marked a successful outcome of an intensive two-year Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) campaign that pressured the school's Board of Trustees to act. Over 800 students, faculty and alumni were involved. Their efforts worked and shows that other campus campaigns nationwide and globally may as well. This is an important first step.

On February 10, the Belfast Telegraph reported that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) "launch(ed) a boycott of Israeli goods as part of a major campaign to secure a peaceful settlement in the Middle East."

Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dismissed the idea but Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams expressed support in saying:...."Gaza has been the target of an all-out military assault by Israeli forces. Over 1300 people were killed, many of them children."

Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party's (SDLP) Carmel Hanna said that her country's experience with the "Troubles" should inspire support for Middle East peace. "We have learned from the conflict here that violence does not work and creates bitterness."

On February 19, the Secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee called on "all (globally) to unite our different capacities and struggles in a Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and for a (BDS action) against Israel on 30 March 2009" - as part of a "Global Week of Action against the Crises and War from 28 March to 4 April."

March 30 actions will focus on:

-- "Boycotts and divestment from Israeli corporations and international (ones) that sustain Israeli apartheid and occupation.

-- Legal action to end Israel's impunity and prosecute its war criminals through national court cases and international tribunals.

-- Canceling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel and imposing an arms embargo as the first steps towards fully fledged sanctions against Israel."

The time for these actions is now. It must be sustained until Gaza is free, the occupation of all Arab lands ends, the Separation Wall is demolished, Israeli Arabs have equal rights as Jews, and Palestinian refugees get their international law right to return to their homes and property or receive full compensation for loss or damage if they prefer.

On February 23, Amnesty International (AI) issued a press release headlined: "Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories - Evidence of Misuse of US-Weapons Reinforces Need for Arms Embargo."

AI found evidence of US-supplied weapons and munitions and "called on the UN to impose a comprehensive arms embargo." It also accused Israel of using "white phosphorous and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure," according to Donatella Rovera, head of AI's Gaza and southern Israel fact-finding mission.

"As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights. The Obama administration should immediately suspend US military aid to Israel."

During the week of March 1 - 8, the fifth annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) will be held - last year in over 25 cities and this year likely many more in the wake of the Gaza war and subsequent world outrage. IAW is part of the growing global BDS movement - from Abu Dis to Atlanta, Barcelona to Bethlehem, Chicago to Copenhagen, Halifax to Hebron, New York to Nablus, Washington to Waterloo, and on and on in an effort to make it unstoppable.

Background Information and Member Global BDS Movement Countries

Organizations in 20 countries participate under the banner of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine (ICNP). Formed in 2002, it calls itself "a body of civil society organizations....under the auspices of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People."

Its mission "is to strengthen the role of civil society in supporting and demanding, of governments and international institutions, the full implementation" of all Palestinian rights under international law, including to self-determination, national independence, and sovereignty.

ICNP coordinates global campaigns; facilitates communication; aids local organizations; plans civil society conferences; and mobilizes global BDS support. In the spirit of internationalism, it strives for representation on every continent in many more nations than now.

Participating organizations are currently in the following countries:

-- Australia;

-- Belgium;

-- Canada;

-- the autonomous Catalonian northeast Spanish community and its capital, Barcelona;

-- Denmark;

-- France;

-- Egypt;

-- Greece;

-- Iceland;

-- Italy;

-- Netherlands;

-- Norway;

-- Scotland;

-- South Africa;

-- Spain;

-- Sweden;

-- United Kingdom; and

-- United States.

Formal Asian and Latin American representation is noticeably absent, but BDS leaders look for change. They also promote broad international BDS initiatives:

-- academic and cultural boycotts by "refusing to participate in cultural exchange, artists, and cultural institutions" to tell Israel that its "occupation and discrimination against Palestinians is unacceptable;" Israel promotes apartheid; non-Jewish voices are excluded; Israeli children are taught to deny a Palestinian identity; Israel monitors this closely and cracks down hard on non-compliers;

-- consumer boycotts of Israeli products and services through public awareness, bad publicity, pressuring stores to remove merchandise denoting Israeli origin, and encouraging companies to stop buying Israeli technology; overall, to create an inhospitable climate for Israeli commerce;

-- a sports boycott to highlight Israeli oppression and discrimination and to stop its self-promotion as a "fair player" by participating in bilateral and international competition; at the same time, to promote a Palestinian presence in these events to support their right to identity and self-determination;

-- divestment/disinvestment in Israel and companies globally that support its occupation and oppression; encourage and pressure individuals, businesses, organizations, universities, pension funds, and governments to shed their Israeli investments to provide pressure for change;

-- sanctions - starting with open debate and raising awareness on applying them; followed by implementing comprehensive economic, political, and military measures to isolate the Jewish state; ending Israel's membership in economic and political bodies like the UN, WHO, Red Cross, WTO, and OECD;

-- end cooperation agreements under which Israel gets preferential treatment on trade, joint research and development, and various other projects; Israel's Export and International Cooperation Institute reported in 2006 that participation of its companies in international projects in 2005 grew by 150% - from $600 million in 2004 to $1.5 billion in 2005; Israel is the only non-European country participating in the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for R & D and gets preferential treatment as a member; many international agreements have clauses that bind participating countries to human rights, international law, and democratic standards; Israel disdains them; it must be challenged and excluded as a result;

-- efforts at the local, regional, and institutional levels to build greater individual awareness and support;

-- ending military ties is also vital; Israel is a serial aggressor; militarism defines its culture and existence; despite its own technology, it's heavily dependent on America and other nations for hardware and munitions supplies; breaking that connection can curb its crimes of war and against humanity; raising public awareness is crucial toward accomplishing this goal;

-- involve faith-based bodies and institutions in the campaign; explain religion isn't the issue; morality and human rights are at stake; religious leaders can be enormously influential in building BDS support and enhancing its legitimacy; and

-- work cooperatively with trade unions; Palestinian ones faced Zionist attacks since the 1920s, especially from the Histradrut General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel; it's replaced Arab workers with Jewish ones; in 1965, the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW) was founded to organize West Bank, Gaza and diaspora labor; in 1986, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) grew out of Occupied Palestine's labor movement; today it's ineffective given conditions in the Territories and Israeli discrimination against its Arab citizens, consigning them to low wage, few or no benefit jobs; Histadrut represents Jews alone.

The Global BDS movement seeks worldwide support for Palestinian liberation and self-determination. Its campaign continues to grow.

Calls for Prosecuting Israeli Officials for Crimes of War, Against Humanity, and Genocide

For over six decades, Israel has tried to eliminate a Palestinian presence throughout Greater Israel - through occupation, oppression, impoverishment, discrimination, isolation, displacement, aggression, and genocide. The time for accountability is now. Efforts are going forward and were pursued earlier.

On February 3, the Australian Sun reported that International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo "was conducting a preliminary analysis of alleged (Israeli) crimes during (its) recent (Gaza) offensive...." He received communications from the Palestinian justice minister, Ali Kashan, the PA, and over 200 from others, including NGOs.

He wasn't encouraging in saying that he'll "examine all relevant issues, including on jurisdiction," (but) preliminary not indicative that an investigation will be opened." Earlier, his office stated that the ICC "had no competence over the Gaza situation." The court can only try individuals for crimes committed by a signatory to the Rome Statute. Israel is not. The prosecutor may also investigate at the behest of the Security Council or if a non-party state accepts court jurisdiction. A guaranteed US veto rules out the former. The PA is pursuing the latter even though Palestine is not an independent state.

Earlier in September 2006, Al Jazeera reported that "Three Moroccan lawyers said last month they were suing (then) Israeli defence minister, Amir Peretz, over the recent (Lebanon and Gaza) offensives. Israel Radio reported that a Danish politician also tried to have (foreign minister) Tzipi Livni detained and prosecuted during a recent visit to Copenhagen but the request for an arrest warrant was" denied.

On January 24, Iran Daily reported that 30 "International attorneys have filed war crime charges against 15 Israeli political and military officials including Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak." The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) believes the evidence is compelling, including IDF use of illegal weapons and large-scale atrocities in Gaza.

Names of those accused were submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, even though Israel isn't a member. Nonetheless, Israelis have been warned to check before traveling abroad to be sure no arrest warrants for them were issued.

French lawyer Gilles Dovers is involved and called for an "open investigation into war crimes" committed by Israeli forces in Gaza. He said 500 complaints were submitted by Arab, European and Latin American officials. Venezuela and Bolivia are preparing their own cases.

Iran Daily said "a group of French lawyers (intend) to file a complaint on behalf of French citizens of Palestinian origin to the French courts against Israeli officials," and this effort "is gaining attention" in Paris and eastern France. "Coordination with other lawyers in Belgium and Spain is (also) Brussels and Madrid."

On February 6, AP reported that a Turkish prosecutor "launched a probe into whether Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip counts as genocide, torture and crimes against humanity." The prosecutor's office proceeded after an Islamic human rights group filed an official complaint naming Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Turkish laws allow for trials against persons accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Other efforts are proceeding as well. The Sabra Shatila Foundation issued a petition to hold Israel accountable for war crimes in Gaza and urged people of conscience to sign it. The International Organization for the elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), Tlaxcala Universal Petition, and International Lawyers without Borders also advocate Israeli war criminal prosecutions.

On December 31 in Global, international law expert Francis Boyle called for "An Israeli War Crimes Tribunal (ICTI as) the Only Deterrent to a Global War." He asked the UN General Assembly to "immediately establish an (ICTI) as a 'subsidiary organ' under UN Charter Article 22" similar to the Security Council's ICTY for Yugoslavia. Its purpose "would be to investigate and prosecute Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Peoples of Lebanon and Palestine."

It would provide "some degree of justice" and serve as a deterrent to future regional aggression and a potential "global catastrophe." Boyle also accused Washington of aiding and abetting Israeli genocide against the Palestinians. Instead of "rein(ing) in the Israelis (by cutting off all funding), the United States government, the US Congress, and US taxpayers instead support the 'Jewish' state to the tune of about 4 billion dollars per year...." He calls it "dishumanitarian intervention (or) humanitarian extermination" by both countries "against the Palestinians and Palestine."

"In today's world, genocide pays so long as it is done at the behest of the United States and its de jure or de facto allies such as Israel." Boyle wants Israel's UN General Assembly and entire UN System membership suspended. He also proposes imposing economic, diplomatic and travel sanctions and for "the Provisional Government of the State of Palestine to sue Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ)" for committing genocide in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention.

In his 2003 book, "Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law," Boyle states that world governments and people of conscience should organize a comprehensive economic divestment/disinvestment campaign against Israel. It can be modeled after the successful South African anti-apartheid one. The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid is the standard. It applies to Israel, defines apartheid as a "crime against humanity," and calls guilty parties international criminals.

In a May 20, 2002 Counterpunch article, Boyle wrote "In Defense of a Divestment Campaign Against Israel" and based it on his November 30, 2000 Illinois State University public lecture calling for a nationwide campaign. UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine responded with their own. Others followed, including Palestinian students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where Boyle teaches. Soon after, over 30 US campuses joined the effort and others later on.

Faculties as well, including at the University of California where 143 professors petitioned the UC system "to use its influence - political and financial - to encourage the United States government and the government of Israel to respect human rights of the Palestinian people" and for divestment until Israel complies with international law.

Last February, the London School of Economics Students Union (LSESU) voted overwhelmingly for its university and the National Union of Students (NUS) to divest from companies that have commercial and military ties to Israel.

On January 18 in the Electronic Intifada, Elna Sondergaard, Director of the Human Rights Program and American University (Cairo) Law Professor, said it's "Time for Israel to be put on trial." In the wake of the Gaza war, she cited atrocities and grievous crimes of war and against humanity that must not go unpunished.

"The crucial question is: To which courts of justice can Palestinian victims bring their claims?" Palestinian courts have no jurisdiction over Israeli crimes, and as stateless people can't adjudicate before the ICC. They're also denied "legal protection offered by classic interstate diplomacy," and pursuing claims in Israeli courts is fruitless.

Sondergaard suggests doing it in other countries on the basis of universal jurisdiction, even though past efforts in Belgium, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and America were unsuccessful. She also suggests an "ad-hoc tribunal," similar to what Boyle proposes, and said doing so "would cost the international community nothing." Abstaining, however, would leave Gazans "without remedies and hope" and would encourage politicians and soldiers to think they're immune and can get away with anything. "Thus," she concludes, "we cannot allow these crimes to remain untried."

Nor can we abstain from boycotting, divesting, sanctioning, and expelling Israel from the UN System until it complies with international law, recognizes Palestinian self-determination, ends its illegal occupation, disbands its settlements, dismantles its Separation Wall, grants Israeli Arabs equal rights as Jews, and lets Palestinian refugees return home to their property or be paid just compensation if they prefer. A vibrant, committed, grassroots global BDS movement is crucial to achieving these goals.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Economic Crisis

Dispatches from the Front Lines of Economic Crisis - by Stephen Lendman

The more they do, the worse it gets, and world headlines confirm it. Recent ones include:

-- The New York Times, February 17: "After Manhattan's Office Boom, a Hard Fall;"

-- Washington Post, February 17: "Obama signs $787 billion stimulus bill; Dow Jones industrial average drops nearly 300 points;"

Dow theorist, Richard Russell, called it "one of the damnedest closes I've ever seen," within one point of the November 20 low, and added: "I thought President Obama outlawed torture in the US. Wall Street is not listening."

The next day both the Dow and Transportation averages hit new bear market lows. For Dow theorists like Russell and others, it's confirmation of lower ones to come.

-- The Financial Times (FT):

February 17: "California dream turns into nightmare" given the housing collapse, slumping economy, and return of "widespread poverty;"

February 18: "Taiwan's GDP plunges more than 8%;" earlier, Japan reported a 12.7% annualized decline, its steepest drop in 35 years;

February 18: ILO says "Asia's jobless may hit 23.3m in 2009," three times last month's 7.2m estimate as regional woes deepen;

-- Wall Street Journal:

February 18: "GM Seeks $16.6 Billion More in US Aid; Plans to Slash 47,000 Jobs;" may need $100 billion or more if forced into bankruptcy; "Chrysler Mentions Bankruptcy Option for First Time;" asks $5 billion more in aid:

February 18: "Banks Reel on Eastern Europe's Bad News" of a full-blown "economic crash."

February 20: "Market Hits New Crisis Low; Analysts Warn They See Few Signs of a Bottom."

Market Watch:

February 20: "GM's market capitalization dips below $1 billion....touching levels not seen in 71 years."

February 20: "Citigroup, Bank of America spiral further downward.... to all-time (intra-day) lows....the KBW Banking ETF, which tracks the banking industry, also reached all-time (intra-day) lows."

February 19: for the week ending February 14, first-time jobless claims were unchanged at 627,000; continuing ones jumped 170,000 to 4.98 million in the week ending February 7, a 27-year high; the four-week continuing claims average rose 92,500 to 4.83 million, also a 27-year high as job losses keep mounting; according to economist John Williams, true unemployment is 18% when discouraged and part-time workers are included. According to Williams and economist Jack Rasmus, around 800,000 - 1,000,000 monthly job losses have occurred since November with no signs of letup in sight.

February 18: "Housing starts plunge nearly 17% to a record-low 466,000 rate," far below the weakest post-WW II levels, and at this rate "would fall to zero" by year end; annualized building permits of 521,000 also hit a record low.

Since construction peaked in 2005, starts are down around 77% and for single-family homes nearly 80%. Obama's mortgage relief plan (the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan) provides little help at best, nothing for second mortgage holders, or for millions of underwater homeowners and many more at risk as property valuations keep plunging. It's also limited to borrowers whose mortgages are owned or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

The plan may cost up to $275 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), $200 billion is for Fannie and Freddie and $75 billion "to encourage (but not require) lenders to modify loan terms for people at risk of foreclosure or already in foreclosure proceedings" who qualify. Many millions don't.

The idea is to lower monthly payments to 31% of household income, add the residual owed to principle, create a greater burden as property valuations fall, and postpone a likely default for later. The plan takes effect March 4 when its provisions and rules are published.

The WSJ says it will "prolong the housing downturn and make financing a home purchase more difficult for future borrowers." It also won't slow the decline in home valuations. Observer comments included:

-- UBS saying: "Obama Speaks, Market Listens, Sells Off;"

-- another observer: US mortgage lending is "the biggest racket since Al Capone," and Obama plans to subsidize it; and

-- housing and consumer finance expert Mike Larson:

"Taxpayers could ultimately get soaked here if home prices don't rise in the coming few years (and so far there's little chance they will)....Furthermore, the plan doesn't (address) the principal reduction issue head on," so lenders can add on unpaid balances as a tradeoff for lower rates and term extensions making the solution worse than the problem. Without principal reductions required, "redefault rates (on modified mortgages) will remain extremely high."

"With (millions of) borrowers deeply underwater, the new refinance standards....won't help. Nor will the (proposed) small incentive payment encourage many to stay put. Result: We're going to see tons of 'walk-aways' and 'jingle mail' - homeowners abandoning their homes and mailing their keys to their lenders - despite the Obama plan."

It will have no effect on home prices. They'll "continue to fall this year and into 2010, given the very large (property) overhang and rising unemployment." As the saying goes, Obama's plan is mostly "show," little "dough," and more betrayal for the money trust he represents.

Increasing Talk about Nationalizations

Deepening gloom has even Republicans thinking the unthinkable - nationalizing insolvent banks with Senator Lindsey Graham (R, SC), on February 15, telling ABC's This Week:

"This idea of nationalizing banks is not comfortable. But I think we've got so many toxic assets spread throughout the banking and financial community, throughout the world, that we're going to have to do something that no one envisioned a year ago (and) no one likes....I'm very much afraid any program to salvage the banks is going to require the government....I would not (rule out) the idea of nationalizing the banks."

In the Chicago Tribune on the same day, writer Frank James headlined: "Nationalizing banks gains GOP steam? What's....astonishing is for a (conservative) Lindsey Graham (to suggest it). And he wasn't alone. Rep. Peter King (R, NY) also allowed for this possibility."

Then on February 18, the FT headlined: "Greenspan backs bank nationalisation....on a temporary basis to fix the financial system....facilitate an orderly restructuring (and) restore the flow of credit....I understand that once in a hundred years this is what you do." At the same time, he wants bailouts for senior debt holders to "anchor" the financial system.

This from the maestro of misery:

-- free-market capitalism's high priest;

-- responsible for engineering the 1990s and post-2000 bubbles and greatest ever wealth transfer from the public to the rich until Paulson, Geithner, Bernanke, and Summers bettered him or at least aim to;

-- the man who just weeks before the 2000 market peak claimed: "the American economy was experiencing a once-in-a-century acceleration of innovation, which propelled forward productivity, output, corporate profits and stock prices at a pace not seen in generations, if ever;"

-- who enriched Wall Street while tripling US debt on his watch;

-- who takes no responsibility for today's turmoil and claimed he never saw it coming in spite of providing generous liquidity and no restraints to curb it;

-- who still derides critics and champions deregulation;

-- he's the Fed's second longest ever serving chairman who'll be remembered as its worst unless the current incumbent outdoes him.

In his latest February 17 column, the FT's Martin Wolf highlights the fallout by comparing Japan's "lost decade" and early 1980s America to today. He calls similarities with the latter misguided:

-- in 1981, US credit market debt was 123% of GDP; by third quarter 2008, it was 290% and is now around 350% or double its 1929 level; 2007 household debt equalled GDP compared to 48% of it in 1981 and interest rates were mirror opposite - 20% then, zero now.

As rates in the 1980s dropped, borrowing and economic activity rose. Chances of a surge in borrowing now are nil.

As for Japan, it had a "lost decade" but no depression. America may not be as lucky given the importance of its financial system, how it affects the overall economy, the fact that huge debt accumulations were by households and the FIRE sector, not non-financial corporations. Today's crisis is global and growing, and proposals out of Washington "look hopeless."

"It is, for this reason, fanciful to imagine a swift and strong return to global growth. Where is the demand to come from? From over-indebted western consumers? Hardly. From emerging country consumers? Unlikely. From fiscal expansion? Up to a point. But this still looks too weak and too unbalanced, with much coming from the US. China is helping, but the eurozone and Japan seem paralyzed, while most emerging economies (are so troubled that they) cannot now risk aggressive action."

"Last year marked the end of a hopeful era." More likely it was early 2000. "Today, it is impossible to rule out a lost decade for the world economy." Some economists are even gloomier given the depth and breath of world crisis, the dearth of credible policies to combat it, and ones being implemented doing more harm than good.

Martin Weiss on the "Truth and Consequences (of) Stimulus"

Financial expert and investor safety advocate Martin Weiss believes that post-2007 policies "have failed." Over $9 trillion and counting "were designed to stimulate the economy, avoid a housing bust, restore public confidence, contain the credit crunch, reduce the danger of a global debt collapse, and shore up sinking banks."

So far, "every single (measure) is an outright, unambiguous, proven failure." Here's the score:

-- the economy wasn't stimulated; it's been plunging - by an annualized Q 4 3.8% rate and projected to deepen to 5.2% in Q 1, according to a Philadelphia Fed survey of economists;

-- housing valuations have fallen for 28 straight months and continue to plunge with recent declines the "worst on record;"

-- the University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index is its lowest in 28 years;

-- the credit crunch persists; "we've seen the biggest contraction in credit availability in recorded history - new home mortgages shrinking at an annual rate of $327.5 billion, commercial mortgages (dropping) $56.7 billion, (and) commercial paper plunging $291 billion;"

-- a potential global debt collapse is more possible than ever:

(1) America's 25 largest banks increased their holdings of "the single most dangerous form of derivatives - credit default swaps (CDSs);"

(2) on average, America's five largest banks increased their CDS exposure from 264% at yearend 2007 to 317% nine months later; and

(3) "similar risks are rising dramatically in Western Europe, Japan and emerging market economies."

As a result, "a global debt collapse is even more likely today than (before Washington) began its massive interventions." Instead of shoring up the nation's banks, they've gotten worse because offenders get bailout rewards, and they're counterproductive and don't help.

Bottom line: "As the housing bust progressed and the foreclosure epidemic spread," bank asset valuations plunged further. Their losses "multiplied," and their balance sheets "have sunk into an even deeper hole." They're insolvent and operating only with federal bailout help.

Many economists agree, with a February 12 New York Times article calling them "dead men walking." Yet new policy failures follow old ones. Trillions are being ill used as a result. The Japanese spent $6.3 trillion and failed to fix their economy. Matching them would take over $29 trillion, given the US economy's size, with much the same result in the end plus a debt burden that will crush us.

Further, today's crisis is global, and America's problems far exceed Japan's in the 1990s. They're getting worse, not better "with deeper deflation, bigger debt collapses, and far larger financial losses." Japan is a creditor nation with 1980s and early 1990s personal savings at around 14% - at the time, the highest of any major industrial nation in the world.

In contrast, America is the world largest debtor with personal savings at minus 0.5% until it rose to 2.9% just recently. Japan pursued bad policy and failed. Its economy today is in shambles. America's on the same path. Throwing good money after bad with failed policies, not sound ones, assures painful fallout coming, higher costs in the long run, an economy heading for ruin, and dragging most others down with it.

False Signal from the Baltic Dry Index (BDI)

Issued daily by London's Baltic Exchange, it provides "an assessment of the price of moving the major raw materials by sea. Taking in 26 shipping routes measured on a timecharter and voyage basis, the index covers Handymax (terminology for bulk carriers), Panamax (maximum ship size for the Panama Canal), and Capesize (ships using the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn) dry bulk carriers carrying a range of commodities including coal, iron or and grain."

In December, the BDI hit a low of about 660 off its 11,000 May 2008 high. On February 10, it reported a rise to about 1800 and a glimmer of hope for the global economy. Not for long.

On February 17, Lloyd's List, "The Leading Maritime & Transport News Portal," headlined: "Asian box ports see alarming drop in throughput," and are bracing for a grim 2009 after "alarming drops in (January) volumes." Here's the tally:

-- Singapore: "the world's largest container port" down 19% from a year ago reflecting sharp drops in Asian - Europe trade; Indonesia is also down as most of its cargo is transhipped through Singapore;

-- Hong Kong: down 23% with reports calling February "challenging;"

-- Port Klang, Malaysia: down 16% with 2009 estimates of 10% down and the likelihood those numbers will be revised higher;

-- China overall dropped 17.5%; in ports besides Hong Kong: down 15% and down 10% from December alone; Shenzhen dropped 18%; Xiamen down 10%; Ningbo down 9%;

-- one of Southeast Asia's largest exporters, Mari Pangestu, forecasts a 2009 decline of 20%;

-- on February 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that South Korea's January exports fell 32.8% from a year ago, far higher than expected;

-- earlier, reports from Japan were that December exports plunged by a record 35% from the previous year.

Analysts expressed shock over these and other regional results with IMA Asia's Richard Martin saying: "It's a bit like watching a train wreck in slow motion. North Asia is suffering the biggest collapse in demand since World War II." Westpac's Richard Franulovich called it "on a par with the collapse in the US during the 1930s Depression." Bank of Japan chief economist Kazuo Momma said his economy faced an "unimaginable" contraction with huge output drops and large numbers of layoffs. Deutsche Bank's Tokyo branch was even blunter in predicting a "severe depression" at least through late 2010, and it's evident in the numbers.

The world's largest automaker, Toyota, saw January sales fall 30% and predicts its first ever loss in its 70 year history. The 10 largest electronics firms collectively expect to lose $20 billion, and the Reuters Tankan corporate sentiment survey hit its lowest ever reading of - 74.

India is also bleak with the ENS Economic Bureau reporting (February 4) that January exports fell 20%, sparking fears of further declines. According to commerce secretary GK Pillai, the "sharp drop came as a surprise and was not expected."

In America, December exports fell 6% while imports dropped 5.5% as recession deepens globally and economists see steeper declines ahead.

Great Depression II?

So it seems because of what Martin Weiss calls "The Great Credit Crunch and Real Estate Crash of 2009." Its fallout hits everywhere and in some places disastrously. On The Global Research News Hour (February 16) and in his latest Global February 18 article, F. William Engdahl headlined an example:

"Next Wave of Banking Crisis to come from Eastern Europe (with) an entirely new wave of losses in coming months not yet calculated in any government bank rescue aid to date." They're from "massive" 2002 - 2007 Western European risky bank loans to Eastern European countries, now in big trouble "with unpayable loan debts."

"The dimension (of the problem) pales anything yet realized. It will force a radical new look (at nationalizing troubled banks) in coming weeks." According to Engdahl's "well-informed City of London sources, (these concerns) will define the next wave of the global financial crisis (with impact) more devastating than the US sub-prime securitization collapse which triggered the entire crisis of confidence."

The risk amounts are "staggering" for banks in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece," and likely Germany. Other troubled countries include Ireland, Spain and Portugal as pain heads everywhere across the continent and beyond. "Perhaps most alarming is that the EU institutions don't have any framework for dealing with this. The day they decide not to save (one country, it will) trigger....a massive crisis with contagion spreading into the EU."

According to UK-based Market Oracle editor Nadeem Walayat, add Britain to the troubled country list from his article headlined: "UK Recession Watch - Britain's Great Depression?" In a lengthy analysis, he cites why:

-- Q 4 GDP contracting 1.5% (or an annualized 6% loss) compared to 2009 forecasts of 2%;

-- like America, enough "money (being printed to) bankrupt" the country;

-- today's deflation will be tomorrow's inflation, and it's likely to be severe;

-- sterling falling over 30% in six months to a 23-year low against the dollar;

-- it still failed to boost manufacturing as the global slump hits everywhere;

-- a growing conviction that Britain is contracting fastest since the 1930s;

-- slumping oil prices exacerbated trouble as UK North Sea foreign exchange earnings have plunged;

-- British banks are in crisis with Northern Rock nationalized last February and Royal Bank of Scotland RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group PLC last October classified "public-sector entities," meaning their liabilities are included in public finances;

-- last September's "shot-gun wedding between HBOS and Lloyds increasingly blowing up in Lloyds face;"

-- as in America, nationalizations loom as the only viable solution;

-- on February 22, after Walayat's article, the UK's Sunday Times reported that RBS will be "split into a 'good bank' and 'bad bank' in a dramatic restructuring in which assets worth several hundred billion pounds will be put up for sale." RBS will also "place at least 200 billion pounds of toxic assets into the government's asset-protection scheme, a controversial insurance scheme designed to protect banks against further losses." RBS' losses and job cuts were reported earlier. The "bad bank" idea is similar to the insurance plan for Citigroup and B of A, although both banks so far remain whole.

-- further UK evidence shows in sharply rising unemployment, slumping retail sales and housing, commercial real estate in trouble, and so is the entire financial sector in a crisis-ridden country like most others.

It's why economist Michael Hudson calls the "financial 'wealth creation' game....over....The economy has hit a debt wall and is falling into Negative Equity....A quarter to a third of US real estate (is) in Negative Equity." It will stay there "for as far as the eye can see until there is a debt write-down....debt deflation threatens to keep the economy in depression until a radical shift in policy occurs - a shift to save the 'real' economy, not just the financial sector and the wealthiest 10% of American families." Obama's "recovery" plan is ruinous by adding mountains of new debt and ignoring "the need for a write-down."

World markets may agree as a February 20 Wall Street Journal online headlines: "Wave of Selling Spans Globe....prolonging a market swoon that has dragged major averages down to levels not seen in years."

Bellweather General Electric is around 85% off its valuation high and year to date down around 43% in less than two months. At the same time, gold touched $1000 an ounce before pulling back intra-day. Spot gold reached $1030.80 last March with analysts predicting much higher prices going forward given strong physical demand and investors seeking the traditional safe haven in troubled times.

It's why financial expert and consumer advocate Catherine Austin Fitts recommends:

-- "Vote with your feet;"

-- take your money out of "big money-center, tapeworm banks and financial institutions and put it in local credit unions, thrift institutions, savings banks and state chartered banks;"

-- control your own retirement savings in troubled times, and above all:

-- "Bail out of Wall Street" and "nationalize" the Fed. In other words, drop the fiction that it's a government agency. Expose its status as a private for-profit cartel, abolish it, and obey the Constitution's Article I, Section 8 that gives Congress alone the right to coin (create) money and regulate its value.

A Final Comment

Today's crisis should bury the myth about "free-market" fundamentalism as the best of all possible worlds. History proves otherwise by clearly showing that it fails the many to advantage the few because it's arranged that way:

-- nearly everywhere earlier and now.

In 19th century America:

-- through indigenous slaughter, slavery, financial panics, child labor, sexism, racism, and worker exploitation;

In 20th century America:

-- much the same in most respects;

-- the 1930s depression;

-- repeated recessions, inflation, deflation, instability, unemployment, under-employment, and the erosion of job security, high wages, good benefits, and reliable pensions;

-- wealth and want extremes;

-- a plutocracy masquerading as democracy; according to Gore Vidal, most people never question "the inequality of a system (under which they) drudge along, pay heavy taxes (and) get nothing (back) in return;"

-- government of, by, and for the privileged;

-- elections reduced to theater in a de facto one-party state;

-- a corporate state placing profits over people;

-- essential needs left unmet; and

-- imperialism, militarism, foreign wars, homeland repression, government and business corruption, a broken media, a prison-industrial gulag, wage slavery, social decay, growing poverty, inequality, injustice, and racism under a system where the business of America is business; where never have so many lost out to the few; where capital is empowered to get more of it; where it's sucked from the public to the privileged; and where government is indifferent to human needs, rights and civil liberties.

Enough is enough. Bury the monster, its crimes, its inhumanity. End its poison and bandit ideology for egalitarian freedom and equal justice. Marshal collective defiance for real change. It's high time we got some.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national topics. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fascist Rule in Israel

Fascist Rule in Israel - by Stephen Lendman

On February 10, Israel held parliamentary elections for 120 seats in its 18th Knesset. The process repeats every four years unless the body calls an earlier election by majority vote. The prime minister may also ask the president to request one early that will proceed unless the Knesset blocks it. Parliamentary terms may be extended beyond four years by special majority vote. Israel has no constitution. Under Article 4 of its Basic Law: The Knesset:

"The Knesset shall be elected by general, national, direct, equal, secret and proportional elections, in accordance with the Knesset Elections Law." Every Israeli citizen 18 or older may vote, including Arabs who are nominally enfranchised, may serve in the parliament, but can't govern or in any way influence policy.

Knesset seats are assigned proportionally to each party's percentage of the total vote. A minimum total is required to win any seats. Jewish parties alone are empowered. Arab parliamentarians have no decision-making authority. They're also constrained by the 1992 Law of Political Parties and section 7A(1) of the Basic Law that prohibits candidates from denying "the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people."

Under the law for Arabs and Jews, no candidate may challenge Israel's fundamental Jewish character or demand equal rights, privileges, and justice. The essential Zionist identity is inviolable. The law works only for Jews. Israeli Arabs have no rights. They're denied equal treatment and justice, even those elected to public office. Israel calls this democracy. South Africa called it apartheid. Nazi Germany called it fascism.

On January 12, the Central Elections Committee (CEC) banned two Arab parties from participating in the February elections on grounds of incitement, racism, supporting terrorist groups, and refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist. Two extremist right wing parties requested it - Yisrael Beiteinu and National Union. Named were United Arab List-Ta'al and Balad. All charges were bogus and hateful.

On January 21, Israel's High Court unanimously reversed the ban after Arab politicians appealed, but this behavior shows what Arab citizens face in a country affording rights only to Jews. Nonetheless, election law states that all votes are of equal weight, without saying
only Jewish ones matter, not those of Arabs or members of other faiths. Israel is a Jewish state. Others are outsiders, unwelcome, unwanted, disadvantaged, without rights, and criminally abused at the whim of the government.

Israeli Election Results

Given the number of Israeli parties, coalitions are needed to govern as no single party ever won enough Knesset seats to do it on its own.

Below are the results of the February 10 elections:


-- 28 seats, one less than previously. Founded by Ariel Sharon and 13 other Likud members in November 2005, Kadima (meaning "forward" or "in-front"), calls itself "a broad popular movement which works to ensure the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state." It's now Israel's largest political party. Its ideology is center-right and very militant.


-- 27 seats compared to 12 in the previous Knesset. It was founded in 1973 as a right wing union of the revisionist Herut party with the Gahal and center Zionist parties. Its former prime ministers include Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu again leads it. Its ideology is hard right and like Kadima is very militant.

Yisrael Beiteinu (or Israel is Our Home):

-- 15 seats, four more than the previous Knesset. It was founded in 1999 by Avigdor Lieberman, an ultranationalist and revisionist Zionist. In its January/February 2007 issue, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs said his rise "makes (the) US - Israel alliance more dangerous," given his extremist views.

On Israeli Radio in November 2006, he called for the assassination of "militant" Palestinian leaders (meaning from Hamas and other resistance groups) and added: "They have to disappear, to go to Paradise, all of them and there can't be any compromise." He also wants all peace agreements (like Camp David and Oslo) abandoned, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas ignored, and earlier urged that Israeli Arabs be deported and Arab Knesset members who met with Hezbollah or Hamas executed.

Haaretz called him an "unrestrained and irresponsible man....a threat (to Israel for) his lack of restraint and his unbridled tongue (that may) bring disaster (to) the whole region." Confrontation with Iran is one of his top priorities as well as continued illegal settlement expansions. Lieberman is hard-line and uncompromising. His party surpassed Labor to rank third in popularity.


--13 seats compared to 19 in the previous Knesset. Founded in 1968 by the union of the Mapai, Ahdut HaAvoda, and Rafi parties. Its ideology is Zionist, neoliberal, and militant like the above three parties. Former prime ministers include David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ehud Barak. Barak is its current leader.

Shas :

-- 11 seats, one less than the previous Knesset. Founded in 1984 by rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Elazar Shach, it's an extremist right wing religious party led by Eli Yishai, Israel's deputy prime minister in its 17th Knesset.

The National Union Party:

-- 4 seats. Founded in 1999 by Rehavam Ze'evi and Avigdor Lieberman. Now led by Ya'akov Katz, it's extremely militant, supports settlements in all the Land of Israel (as biblically defined), and advocates expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, preferably on a voluntary basis.

Jewish Home Party:

-- 3 seats. It was founded in 2008 by a merger of the National Religious Party, Moledet, and Tkuma. Modelet then broke away, and half of Tkuma rejoined National Union. Now led by Daniel Hershkovitz, it's a moderate right wing, pro-settler, religious Zionist party.

Hadash-Democratic Front for Peace and Equality:

-- 4 seats, a gain of one. Founded in 1977, it's a Jewish-Arab party led by Mohammad Barakeh. Its ideology counters the above right wing bloc with little public support. It's anti-Zionist, favors dismantling Israeli settlements, ending the occupation, and backs the right of return, full equality for Israeli Arabs, and a comprehensive stable peace.

New Movement Meretz:

-- 3 seats compared to 5 in the previous Knesset. Founded in 1992, it's a labor Zionist, social democratic party led by Haim Oron.

United Torah Judaism:

-- 5 seats, one less than previously. Founded in 1992, its ideology is strict adherence to the laws of the Torah. Its current leader is Yaakov Litzman.


-- 3 seats compared to none in the previous Knesset. Founded in 1995, its ideology is Arab nationalism and democratic socialism. Its current leader is Jamal Zahalka.

United Arab List-Ta'al:

-- 4 seats, up from none in the previous Knesset. Founded in 1996, it represents Israeli Arabs under its current leader Ibrahim Sarsur.

Israel has about 20 other minor parties. None got enough votes to win seats. The big loser was Gil. It had seven previously. Now it has none. Led by Rafi Eitan, it's ideology is social welfare and pro-elder care.

Israel Shifts to the Right

On January 15, a Haaretz-Dialog poll showed widespread support for the Gaza war with less than 10% of Israelis calling it a "failure." Despite mass slaughter, destruction, and human suffering, 82% of respondents believed the IDF hadn't "gone too far."

It played out strongly in the February elections with center to far right parties winning decisively - 104 of the 120 seats or 86.6% of the Knesset. In spite of mass global condemnation, Israelis stood firm on hard-line militarism, candidates favoring conflict over conciliation, and continued occupation of Palestine in lieu of peace.

Negotiations continue for a new government, but policy is clear whoever becomes prime minister. Under Tzipi Livni or Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza's siege will continue. So will West Bank oppression, conflict over peace, leaders affirming it in rhetoric and policy, and international community support will back them. Grim times persist for Palestinians, isolated and on their own after decades of occupation and abuse.

On February 11, Juan Cole's web site headlined: "Right Wing Sweeps Israel" in an election that "sounded the death knell for the two-state solution." One never existed, of course, because separation accelerates land annexation, and equity demands one democratic state for members of all faiths equally.

After the February 10 elections, that possibility is more remote than ever with figures like Avigdor Lieberman emerging as "kingmaker." He rose in prominence on a racist platform against 20% of the population and now wants them "executed," expelled, or at least forced to sign loyalty oaths.

Under a hard-line Netanyahu or Livni government, Cole sees one of three possibilities:

-- a hardened apartheid giving Palestinians fewer rights than ever and no control over their land, borders, water and air; Palestinians won't accept it, so conflict ahead is assured;

-- a violent expulsion policy affecting all Palestinians, including Israeli Arabs to purify Greater Israel for Jews; Cole believes that "This option would almost certainly end the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan" because a population outflow this great would create tensions in both countries and they'd react; they and other Arab states might also ally with Iran and create a new problem for America and Israel.

-- a single-state solution; impossible now but over time economic, technological, and political boycotts may force one.

As for Obama reviving the peace process and a viable two-state solution, both prospects aren't possible given Israel's shift to the right and the Israeli Lobby's influence against it.

In a February 10 Nation magazine article, Neve Gordon disagrees. Headlined: "Few Peacemakers in Israel's Knesset," he believes it's for "the world, and particularly the Obama administration, to respond," unmindful of his one-sided Israeli support and reluctance to counter its policy.

Nonetheless, Gordon hopes that Obama "will make good on his promise for change and introduce a courageous initiative that will finally bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians" under a two-state solution "to resolve this bloody conflict once and for all."

"With determination and political boldness he can do just that." Perhaps so but he won't. Obama is timid, not bold. He "crossed the River Jordan," according to James Petras. His administration is filled with Zionist zealots professing unconditional support for Israel. With that team in place, Israeli interests matter. Palestinian ones don't. Change awaits a new day in Israel and Washington, and given Tel Aviv's likely government, it's more in the future than ever.

Prospects are grim with Israeli Arab Knesset member (MK) Ahmed Tibi calling Livni "90% Lieberman and 10% Netanyahu." For his part, Netanyahu is 100% hard-line, and won't give an inch on compromise. As head of state, he promises to destroy Hamas. As 1996 - 1999 prime minister, his agenda was three "nos:"

-- no Golan Heights withdrawal;

-- no discussion, division, or relinquishing of Jerusalem, and

-- no precondition negotiations with Arafat, meaning Palestinian relations depend on full compliance with Israel demands.

Today he's more hard-line than ever, vows as prime minister to "thwart the Iranian threat," and sabotage Tehran's nuclear program once and for all by any means necessary. He also opposes the peace process, wants expanded illegal West Bank settlements, and, like Lieberman, called for "mass deportations of Arabs from the Territories."

For her part, Livni is no less hard-line in vowing to overthrow Hamas if elected and finish subduing Gaza. As kingmaker, Lieberman won't join any government that will "agree directly or indirectly to Hamas staying in power." He opposed last month's ceasefire that "prevented the IDF from finishing the job" and stops just short of demanding renewal.

As a result, AP reported on February 11 that Arabs see little chance for peace under any new government and fear the emergence of Israel's far right. It cited Middle East newspapers decrying Lieberman's rise, denouncing him as racist with Syria's Al-Thawra saying: "The Israelis are electing war and long as the Israel street is extremist and racist, the government would be like it."

In Iran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi called it "regretful" that all sides were hard-line in their campaigns. "Each party tried to show a more brutal, aggressive and pro-occupation face...." He added that Iran has no official position on the election as it doesn't recognize any Israeli government.

Oraib al-Rentawi, head of the Al Quds Center for Political Studies, said a Livni government may market an illusory peace process, but under Netanyahu, "the mission will be far more difficult." Others think it impossible no matter who's prime minister given that 61 years of oppression prevented any from emerging thus far. With Israel's far right shift, it's less likely now than ever.

Forming A New Government

Under Israel's Basic Law, the president (a symbolic, ceremonial post), lets one Knesset member form a new government and head it as prime minister.

The law reads as follows:

"When a new government has to be constituted, the President of the State shall, after consultation with representatives of party groups in the Knesset, assign the task of forming a Government to a Knesset Member (MK) who notified him that he is prepared to accept the task."

Time constraints are imposed - a maximum 28 days but the President may extend it for an additional 14. If a government can't be formed or if the Knesset rejects the one proposed, "the President may assign the another Knesset Member who has notified him that he is prepared to accept the task...." No mention of a "she."

"When the Knesset Member has formed a Government, he shall notify the President of the State and Speaker of the Knesset" within a designated period. The MK who "formed a Government shall head it."

On February 16, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu "said earlier that he would begin forging a coalition with his party's 'natural partners' as soon as possible" even though Kadima bettered Likud by one seat.

Livni said she'd only join a Netanyahu coalition on a rotating prime ministerial basis. Jockeying for position continues amid conciliatory and hostile rhetoric with one Likud MK (Silvan Shalom) accusing Livni of "shtick, tricks, (and) scheming (that could) sabotage the standard political process." He added that election results affirmed Netanyahu as the rightful prime minister so allow him to "form a government as soon as possible."

Prime minister Olmert mentioned post-election uncertainty and suggested that Livni join a Likud coalition "with Kadima as a central factor." At the same time, Olmert advised Livni to head the opposition to ensure a clear victory next time.

On February 17, Labor's Housing and Construction Minister, Isaac Herzog, told Haaretz that neither Livni or Netanyahu can form a new government that will hold. "At this rate, (he suggested) we will find ourselves in the midst of new elections within a few months" because Livni agreed to ally with Yisrael Beitenu.

Labor whip, Eitan Cabel was even more strident saying: "The scam that is Kadima has now been exposed before all. If the leftist voters who gave their ballot to Livni would have known (they'd be) in bed with Lieberman, they would have demanded their votes back."

President Peres spoke about the complicated task he faces:

"On Wednesday (February 11) at 6PM, I will get the official results," and will then try to form a unity government. "The nation told me to consider the election results honestly and as the law prescribes, so I will make my decision after I hear out all the parties."

On February 15, the Jerusalem Post reported new developments in a story headlined: "Police have evidence of money laundering against Lieberman." Quoting former National Fraud Unit's Boaz Guttman, writer Yaakov Lappin said "Police amassed sufficient evidence to link....Lieberman" with these charges. It's believed that he used Cypriot bank accounts under his daughter's name - for money laundering and possible fraud and bribes. "The police source said there was no doubt about money laundering," but that prosecution could be a long way off given complex hurdles to be overcome before charges lead to a trial.

Guttman added that fallout affecting Lieberman could be considerable since he's now damaged goods. Forming a new government is more complicated and important positions for Lieberman are off-limits - including finance and public security.

On the same day, Tehran's Press TV reported that "An Israeli defense strategy report for 2009 has tasked the military with making preliminary preparations for launching a war against Iran." It calls the country "the No. 1 threat the IDF is now preparing for," and cites Tehran as "a threat to Israel's existence" without any evidence to prove it. There is none because Iran threatens no other country but is prepared to defend itself if targeted.

Nonetheless, "Israeli officials argue that a military attack is a legitimate option for taking out Iran's nuclear infrastructure" even though the IAEA says it complies with NPT provisions. Israel is a nuclear outlaw non-signatory.

Earlier, Tel Aviv asked the Bush administration for bunker-buster bombs, green light permission to attack, and overflight and refueling rights over Iraq. It was rebuffed in favor of covert sabotage efforts.

For its part, Iran is seeking sophisticated Russian S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles. They can intercept aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles so pose a formidable defense against attack. Lexington Institute vice-president and Pentagon advisor Dan Goure said "If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for (targeting) Iran." It might also prevent a Middle East holocaust if Washington and/or Israel seriously consider one, something even the Bush administration didn't pursue.

On February 16, the UK Telegraph headlined: "Israel launches covert war against Iran" with writer Philip Sherwell calling it "an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran's nuclear programme, US intelligence sources have revealed."

It includes planned assassinations of "top figures involved in Iran's atomic operations" as well as "sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's 'illicit' weapons project, the experts say."

According to a former (unnamed) CIA officer, the idea is to slow progress without Iran knowing what's happening. "The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution" because the Obama administration may prefer non-military efforts for now.

Rumors are that Mossad was behind the mysterious 2007 "gas poisoning" death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, Iran's top nuclear scientist at its Isfahan uranium plant. Other suspicious deaths were also reported, and according to an unnamed European intelligence official, "Israel (doesn't hesitate) assassinating weapons scientists" or anyone else for that matter.

Israeli security and intelligence journalist, Yossi Melman, said that "Without military strikes, there is still considerable scope for disrupting and damaging the Iranian program, and this has been done with some success." Tehran is alerted to the threat and has measures in place to counteract it.

Observers are following the rhetoric and watching as events unfold. In the meantime, jockeying and deal-making continue as Netanyahu and Livni try outmaneuvering each other to form a new government. Whoever wins, Palestinians, Israelis, and most others will be losers.

On February 19, AP reported that Lieberman endorsed Netanyahu, "all but guaranteeing that (he'll) be the country's next leader." Haaretz went further saying that "65 MKs announced (for) Netanyahu (so) it appears that his path to the premiership is (now) paved." Livni called it "the foundation....for an extreme right-wing government." Lieberman wants Kadima in it. Likud said it would try to forge a broad coalition, and Peres may shortly announce Netanyahu will lead it.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national issues with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bolivarianism Triumphs in Referendum Vote

Bolivarianism Triumphs in Referendum Vote - by Stephen Lendman

On February 15, Venezuelans voted on whether to let presidents, National Assembly representatives, governors, mayors, and state legislators run indefinitely for re-election after Chavez last December proposed a national referendum for constitutional change - so voters, not politicians could decide.

Sunday they spoke decisively in favor by a 54.4% to 45.6% margin with over 94% of votes counted. Chavez didn't win. Venezuelans did for Bolivarian continuity and against oligarch dominance, no democracy, and back to an impoverished state.

Since 1999, Chavez transformed Venezuela to what it is today:

-- a Bolivarian republic based on "solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality" beyond the "free-market" model of worker exploitation for capital;

-- politically, economically, and socially changed; affirming quality health care for all as a "fundamental social right and....responsibility....of the state;" also education; affordable housing, food and other essentials; pensions; the highest minimum wage in Latin America; land reform; job training, micro-credit; free speech, ending discrimination, indigenous rights, and much more;

-- a participatory democracy empowering people at the grassroots;

-- a Constitution serving people, not elite interests;

-- using the nation's oil wealth for all Venezuelans, especially those most in need;

-- overall, a government of, by, and for the people; one that cares; an unimaginable one in America where freedoms are eroding, wealth is sucked from the public to the powerful, and elections are reduced to theater.

On February 16 at 2.41AM, Reuters reported that "Chavez wins re-election chance in economy's shadow." Around the same time, AP said "Chavez calls Venezuela vote mandate for socialism," and The New York Times headlined: "Chavez Decisively Wins Bid to End Term Limits."

From Caracas, reporter Simon Romero wrote:

"President Hugo Chavez (won a mandate that) inject(s) fresh vibrancy into his socialist-inspired revolution. The results (showed) his resilience after a decade in power as well as (a) fragmentation of his opposition....The vote (lets Chavez run again) in 2013, (and) could bolster his ambitious agenda as an icon of the left and a counterweight to American policies in Latin America."

"It also (poses) a challenge for the Obama administration," and a US president who claims that "Chavez has been a force that has impeded the progress in the region....We must be very firm when we see (that) Venezuela is exporting terrorist activities or backing malicious groups like the FARC. That creates problems that are unacceptable."

For his part, before and after America's election, Chavez offered friendship and conciliation, a change from George Bush's hostility and confrontation, and a new page between two hemispheric neighbors to advantage them both.

In Caracas, supporters were jubilant when Chavez appeared on the Miraflores balcony in triumph. Thousands turned out. Fireworks exploded, bugles blared, and people waved red flags, honked horns, sang the national anthem, and shouted "Chavez no se va" (Chavez isn't going anywhere), and "Viva Chavez."

Chavez answered: "Today we opened wide the gates of the future....Truth against lies (and) the dignity of the homeland have triumphed....Venezuela will not return to its past of indignity....Any attempt to take us down the path of violence, by failing to recognize the results of the people's will, will be neutralized....In 2012 there will be presidential elections, and unless God decides otherwise, unless the people decide otherwise, this soldier is already a candidate."

He read a congratulatory note from Fidel Castro quoting Bertolt Brecht to Jorge Luis Borges, then declared Bolivarianism is re-invigorated. "God grants victory to perseverance," he said. Even Brazil's Lula told Germany's Der Spiegel that "Chavez is without a doubt Venezuela's best president in the last 100 years," and an opposition Venezuelan journalist admitted privately that he didn't trust the old regime to take over again so he backed the referendum. One Chavista agreed saying: "They're not coming back. This is another victory for the revolution."

Romero also admitted that Chavez is "by far Venezuela's dominant political personality" and immensely popular. Opposition forces were subdued but not silent with Sumate leader Maria Corina Machado saying: "This was a victory imposed by the abuse of state power. This should not be seen as a defeat but as a national challenge" ahead of next year's National Assembly elections. For now, she accepts the results but not happily.

So did Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue, yet his comments were hostile in saying: "Chavez's intention is clear. He aspires to be president for life. He is convinced he embodies the popular will and is indispensable to the country's progress. But his capacity to pull this off is far from assured" given his ability to maintain social spending with much lower oil revenues after prices fell around 75% and may drop further.

Pomona College professor Miguel Tinker Salas had another view saying: "The greatest challenge the government now faces is governing in the face of crisis and not falling into triumphalism."

Opposition leader Omar Barboza unapologetically denounced the outcome: "Effectively this will become a dictatorship. Its control of all the powers, lack of separation of powers, unscrupulous use of state resources, (and) persecution of adversaries." Comments like these are typical and a clear case of sour grapes.

In contrast, Louis Riel of Toronto's Bolivarian Circle was joyful in "congratulat(ing) the people of Venezuela for a clean, transparent, orderly, efficient, and DEMOCRATIC voting process that allows ALL major elected officials to stand for election so that the people" can decide up or down whether to keep them."

"This is an enormous victory for the people of Venezuela who have once again shown their satisfaction and their confidence in President Chavez, in his long term vision for the country (for) a truly democratic, participatory, humanist, socialism of the XXI century....VIVA VENEZUELA AND VIVA CHAVEZ!"

At 9:35PM Sunday, however, Venezuelans rejoiced when National Electoral Council (CNE) President, Tibisay Lucena, announced the results with 94.2% of votes counted - an impressive Bolivarian triumph. Another defeat for generations favoring power over people. A hopeful sign that continuity under Chavez will inspire others to take over when he's gone.

Venezuela has 16,767,511 registered voters, 11,422 voting centers, and 126 others in overseas embassies and consulates. Turnout was nearly 70%. Voting proceeded smoothly with very few problems reported. Polls opened at 5:30AM and remained open as long as people were in lines. For the most part, they were short and moved quickly. Venezuela's electoral system is a model democratic process, a far cry from America's sham one.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of world and national issues with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.