Back with three cases

There appear to be some glitches (I still get the odd ‘Action Canceled’ and ‘This Page Cannot Be Displayed’ when trying to do things) and some casualties (notably all the thoughtful comments and discussions we’ve had below these blog posts — how are commentors ever supposed to trust again?) but it appears that we are back in the blogosphere. With a moment to comment on three different Israel/Palestine related cases.

The first is only peripherally related to Palestine, or rather, its relationship to Palestine is ambiguous and the full extent is unknown. It is of a resolution to the Daniel Freeman-Maloy case. Readers might recall this student who was expelled from his campus for ‘unauthorized use of a sound amplification device’. Rather flimsy, no? Well the courts thought so, and essentially struck down the University’s ruling. The University is not sorry, according to their spokesperson Nancy White. Though I can’t help but suspect that White’s comment was an attempt at satire: “We think we’ve made our point, and people are now very well aware that the university is quite serious about following the code of conduct.” Since the University has violated its own procedures and has shown to be anything but serious about following any kind of rational procedures, no other interpretation than the comical one can follow.

Now that we’ve had our laughs, though, there are more serious matters.

There has been a court order to halt the destruction of the Palestinian village of Barta, near Jenin. Isn’t it a shame that we only hear about these places when they are being destroyed? Here is a report with a photo of the destruction (looks a little like my own photo from nearby Jenin, no?) from an ISM activist.

And finally, a district court judge in Tel Aviv released Jewish ISM activist Anne Petter after her 28 day long detention. Petter is not, of course, allowed to visit the Occupied Territories. This is a frequent condition slapped on people trying to enter, and an odd one, since if the idea is that these people are a threat to Israeli security, one would think they would be allowed only into the Occupied Palestinian Territories and not into Israel. But then, that would require Palestinians to have a border of their own… details below.

Welcome back aboard.


Press Release

Judge Releases American Peace Activist Protesting Israel’s Separation Wall

Judge Dismisses General Security Service’s “Security Threat” Claims

Tel Aviv
21 July 2004

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Oded Mudrik dismissed the state’s allegations that Ann Petter poses a security threat to Israel and might participate in terrorist activity, allowing Petter, American peace activist detained 28 days, entry into the state of Israel. Petter was traveling to Israel/Palestine to document protests against the Separation Wall that Israel is constructing in the West Bank, which was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice on July 9.

The Judge called the State’s report “embarassing” and expressed reservations about the basis upon which the General Security Service recommended to bar Petter from entry. After he evaluated the secret evidence presented by the GSS behind closed doors, Judge Mudrik concluded that the GSS could not sustain their recommendation to deny the defendant entry based on involvement in terrorist activity or membership in an “extremist leftist organization.”

The Judge expressed doubt as to whether clear rules and regulations exist in the procedures of the Ministry of Interior that leaad to the recommendations denying people entry into Israel.

Petter will be released on bail on Friday under the conditions that she not enter the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Petter participated in a peace march last year organized by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which is a Palestinian-led movement working for Palestinian freedom and an end to the Israeli occupation.

Jamie Spector, a Jewish-American peace activist also denied entry into Israel, appeared in court this morning and the Judge will render a decision on Friday at 11:30 am at the Tel Aviv District Court.

Technical difficulties…

This blog is experiencing technical difficulties. Were it not, I would have definitely pointed out Forrest Hylton’s post on the Bolivian referendum, in which he argues that the result of that referendum is neither as bad for the movements nor as good for the government as it looks. I would also probably have pointed out Vijay Prashad’s review of Bob Jensen’s review of F9/11. I linked to Jensen’s review because his criticisms were right — but Vijay’s views about the film are much closer to my own.

Another thing I would be doing if the blogs were not in technical difficulty is following the story in Gaza and the trouble in the Occupied Territories, with parts of the Palestinian Authority as well as other political groups revolting against the PA. I would have pointed out other things too — like the UN resolution on the Wall, which Israel is of course going to ignore; the scaled-up violence in Nablus, with brutal killings right in front of internationals and cameras, assassinations in Jenin and Gaza…

And a lot of other things besides. But, since the blog is experiencing technical difficulties, I’ll hold off and hope things get better soon.

A Pillar Of Corporate Life (C.P. Pandya)

One can never accuse Riggs Bank of lacking a global perspective. Indeed, the American financial institution’s expansive scope of malfeasance makes it an international player on the corrupt corporate scene. With dubious deals in Saudi Arabia, Chile and Equatorial Guinea, Riggs’ underhanded schemes span three continents – what an equal opportunity brigand. Where to begin?

A recent Senate inquiry into the bank’s dealings in Chile alleges that Riggs helped U.S. dictatorial darling Augusto Pinochet hide millions of dollars in the Washington, DC-based bank’s coffers between 1994 and 2002. The millions of dollars were apparently transferred from his London account into Riggs’ at the same time Pinochet’s henchmen were claiming the dictator didn’t have enough money to pay for legal fees and fines. Mind you, throughout the years Riggs serviced Pinochet, he was under a world-wide court order to keep his assets frozen and was being (finally) investigated for the countless human rights abuses he inflicted on the Chilean population. Riggs, of course, didn’t have a problem with that – his millions fattened their balance sheet. The Senate panel concluded that Riggs “appeared to take active steps to hide the Pinochet relationship from bank examiners.” Now that shows a bank’s commitment to its clients, no?

Now onto Equatorial Guinea, where Riggs helped facilitate, through over 60 different accounts, the exchange of huge monetary gifts between U.S. oil companies such as Exxon and Marathon and the country’s first family. Exploitation of the country’s vast oil, petroleum, timber, manganese, uranium, titanium and iron ore resources couldn’t have been easier. Riggs carried between $400 million and $700 million from the government of Equatorial Guinea on its balance sheet during a time when, according to the Senate panel, there was “evidence suggesting the bank was handling the proceeds of foreign corruption.” Something about up to $700 million being in Riggs’ account from a country, which in 2001 took in $200 million in revenue (as recorded on its budget), just doesn’t add up.

Finally, for kicks, let’s rehash the recent past and mention Riggs’ $25 million fine after it was found at the heart of a Saudi Arabian money-laundering scheme.

Here are some interesting tidbits about this exemplary financial institution: Riggs is colloquially known as the bank of U.S. presidents; its chief, billionaire Joe Allbritton, is a long-time Bush family friend; and the bank has been at U.S. government’s beck and call for over a hundred of years, check out the timeline.

Coups are good for sweatshops

Here’s a good one that came via the Dominion. Apparently Gildan Activewear, one of the world’s leading T-shirt manufacturers, is closing its high-cost Honduras operation and moving the production to — Haiti! Why? The Honduran workers have been trying to unionize. After Gildan’s entry in Haiti and Nicaragua, Honduras became high-cost! Lucky for Haiti, its new police force (suspiciously like the old police force) and international occupation forces somehow seem to help it stay a low-cost place to make shirts.

You can read a little more about our friends at Gildan in this article by Stephen Kerr about Canada’s role in the Haitian coup.

MONTREAL — T-shirt maker Gildan Activewear Inc. is closing a major facility in Honduras that has been at the centre of a controversy over allegations of poor treatment of workers.

Company officials said yesterday the decision to shut the El Progreso plant, which employs about 1,800, is not connected to allegations regarding labour practices and is being made solely because of cost considerations.

“It’s purely an economically driven decision in light of our commitment to constantly driving down our cost structure,” chief financial officer Laurence Sellyn said.

“It became our highest-cost facility as we added sewing capacity in Haiti and Nicaragua,” he said.

But an official with a workers’ rights group yesterday questioned the logic of Gildan’s decision to shut the factory, saying it’s hard to believe the move isn’t related to the fact that workers have been trying to organize a union at El Progreso.

“What kind of message does this send to the workers? You try to organize a union, you try to exercise your internationally recognized rights and what happens? The plant is shut down,” said Lynda Yanz, a co-ordinator at the Toronto-based Maquila Solidarity Network.

Montreal-based Gildan employs about 5,000 people in Honduras, a favoured location for the garment trade because of its low-cost labour. Total worldwide employment at Gildan is about 9,500.

Gildan recently joined the Fair Labor Association, a U.S.-based labour rights organization that has prepared a report based on an independent audit of company practices in Honduras.

A second report, based on an audit that was done without the company’s collaboration, has also been prepared by another group, the Worker Rights Consortium.

Mr. Sellyn said Gildan has addressed several of the concerns raised in the FLA report, but he would not disclose what they are, saying only that they weren’t major.

However, the Quebec Federation of Labour’s Solidarity Fund, the province’s biggest labour fund, conducted its own investigation last year and concluded that Gildan fired about 40 workers involved in union organizing at the El Progreso facility.

The fund is selling its 11.2-per-cent stake in Gildan in protest.

The dictator-in-the-making meets the democrat

I can’t imagine two people who hate what one another stand for more completely than Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe. And yet, here they are, meeting, signing accords in principle, and even joking about life and death matters.

The idea is, as I blogged yesterday, for Venezuela to export its gas through Colombia, which is sort of the portal between the Americas. And apparently, not only were the discussions positive, but Uribe was trying to out-Bolivarian Chavez, saying: “Any work we can think of doing today was already been done by the Liberator (Bolivar)… today, 200 years later, we are trying to make these things happen, so that history doesn’t pass us by.” He apparently said it was time to leave rhetoric behind and said Chavez was “talking and doing, taking advantage of his vigor and dynamism.”

(And I am still wondering why Uribe didn’t wait a month to see how the recall vote went…)

But wait — it gets even better!

Apparently in the press conference Uribe said he hoped that Spain would sell Colombia something more useful than tanks!

“I don’t want the tanks any more; I hope that with the government of President Zapatero we can make a deal where, instead of selling us these tanks, they can sell us something more useful.”

Chavez, no less magnanimous, said that that decision was up to sovereign Colombia and that he wasn’t going to let any speculation get out of control. Chavez said that there had been bad relations between Colombia and Venezuela, including war plans between them, but that what was really needed was “a joint war against poverty and underdevelopment.” Uribe then replied that there would “never be war” between the two countries.

And then it gets even more surreal. Uribe said he would miss not being able to learn how to drive a tank, and that he wished Chavez could teach him how: “The only thing I deplore is that I’ve lost the chance to have President Chavez as my teacher. How many tanks will you loan me, President Chavez? Please loan me some tanquecitos!”

I will be trying to figure out what the hell is going on over the next few days. This is all rather out of the ordinary.

But there are some things going on that are completely within the ordinary on the Venezuela front.

For your first example, a recent Wall Street Journal article (pointed out to me by fellow killingtrain blogger CP Pandya and reproduced in full below) says that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation is going to make it extra difficult for companies to invest in Venezuela, exacerbating capital flight and harming the economy. Why? This is rich. Because Venezuela apparently illegally expropriated assets belonging to Science Applications International Corporation. If you are doing a double-take at the name of the company, that’s probably because you know what Hector Mondragon pointed out about this set of gangsters last year. A quote from that article:

“But the real strength of the strike in Venezuela has been in the computers that control the giant and highly automated petroleum industry. Even though the PDV is nominally state-owned and run, the computer system is in the hands of the ‘mixed’ (public-private) enterprise Intesa. The party with the technical skill in the partnership is the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)-a transnational computing company. Among its directors: ex-US Secretaries of Defense William Perry and Melvin Laird; ex-directors of the CIA John Deutsch, Robert Gates; Admiral Bobby Ray Inman (ex-director of the National Security Agency); other retired military staff including Wayne Downing (former commander in chief of US Special Forces) and Jasper Welch (ex-coordinator of the National Security Council).

“The hold-up of the oil-tankers was directed from these computing centers. The hold-up was welcomed by various captains, but the tankers were forced to shore in any case: nothing moves without direction from the computers, which also stopped key operations in the refineries and the entry of vital gas for the iron and steel industries of eastern Venezuela. ‘Lungos’ from Guayana had to recover the gas.”

A lot of this is actually in the mainstream coverage, though the idea that these companies might have done something wrong by locking out local workers, trying to shut down an economy, and imposing massive suffering on a population in order to force a government that they don’t like (precisely because it is trying to alleviate the suffering of that population) out of power doesn’t seem to get across in these articles. If it did, perhaps that would make it more difficult for the same companies to be doing the exact same thing right now.

The WSJ story is below. But before the WSJ article, your second example. The Venezuelan ‘opposition’ has declared its ‘program’ for the Venezuelan people should Chavez be recalled on August 15 (Uribe doesn’t seem to think that will happen…). The ‘opposition’ got a lot of help with its ‘plan’ from the United States. See the article below the WSJ piece for details.

Allow me to sum up today’s Venezuela news:

1) Bizarre (Uribe’s visit and behaviour)
2) Predictably appalling part 1: Sanctioning Venezuela because US companies participated in the coup attempts of 2003
3) Predictably appalling part 2: The US-authored ‘plan’ for ‘transition’ after Chavez’s recall in August.

Details below.


U.S. Ruling May Curb Investment to Venezuela

July 15, 2004; Page A9

In a further blow to Venezuela’s reputation among international investors, a U.S. government agency has ruled that Venezuela illegally expropriated a U.S. company’s assets — a move that could make it harder for U.S. companies to invest in the politically volatile Andean nation.

The United States Overseas Private Investment Corp., an agency that provides financing and insurance against political risk for American companies investing in the developing world, ruled this week that it would pay insurance compensation to a San Diego company, Science Applications International Corp., for having had its assets illegally seized in late 2002 by the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez. A spokesman for OPIC, as the agency is known, said the payout was roughly $6 million.

Science Applications, known as SAIC, ran a joint venture with Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, to provide information-technology services to the oil giant. SAIC says that when Mr. Chavez became president in 1998, its relations with the government soured. After both sides failed to resolve a dispute over continuing the joint venture, called Intesa, the company’s assets were taken over by Venezuela’s military during a general strike in late 2002. The company received no compensation, according to the company and OPIC.

The Venezuelan state oil company criticized the decision yesterday, saying it was based on politics — and the U.S. government’s dislike of Mr. Chavez –rather than the facts. PdVSA chief Ali Rodriguez said the company wouldn’t pay “money that is not lawfully due.” A fiery populist, President Chavez has presided over an increasingly volatile country and faces an Aug. 15 recall vote.

OPIC is seeking damages of $6 million from PdVSA through an independent arbitration panel for the case. If Venezuela doesn’t agree to arbitration, OPIC is “very unlikely” to support new investments in Venezuela, OPIC communications director Larry Spinelli said yesterday. OPIC has provided financing or insurance for more than $900 million in current foreign direct investment in Venezuela, he said. “We are generally a very important catalyst for investment…and a bellwether for political risk in a country.”


Published: Friday, July 09, 2004
Bylined to: Eva Golinger-Moncada

Venezuelan opposition’s new plan of government is “Made in the USA”

Venezuela Solidarity Committee (New York) Eva Golinger-Moncada writes:

The Venezuelan opposition has today announced their long-awaited “plan” for a post-Chavez government and society.

Denominated “Plan Consenso Pais” (Country Consensus Plan), this new agenda attempts to seek “reconciliation” and “reconstruction” in Venezuela and to bring “peace”, “reactivation of the economy” and the “creation of a social and educative political sphere that includes all citizens, without exception.”

* The proposed Plan was presented by Diego Bautista Urbaneja, Coordinator of the Committee for the Country Consensus Plan of the Democratic Coordinator, the opposition umbrella group.

At a press conference early Friday, Urbaneja explained that the Plan was the product of a process of consultations and consensus of 9 political parties, 26 social organizations from civil society, 27 labor and workforce organizations and 5 opinion groups.

The Consensus Plan is a pact amongst the opposition, who (allegedly) are committing to adopt such plan as the base of transitional government, post-Chavez. Urbaneja claims that the Plan will last from once President Chavez is recalled in a referendum to be held on August 15, 2004 until January 2007, the end of the constitutionally allotted presidential term.

The opposition has come under attack recently in the international press and by its own members for not offering any concrete alternatives to the Venezuelan people, but merely clamoring for the ouster of the current President. Many of the key political parties and members comprising the Democratic Coordinator umbrella group are members of former governments and of political parties, such as Accion Democratica (AD) and COPEI, which lost power based on their lack of policies to address the vast majority of poor and working class Venezuelans and their exclusionary politics that catered to Venezuela’s elite.

The new Consensus Plan offered today may, on its face, appear as a viable alternative, yet there exists one major fact that chips away its credibility: The Plan is a creation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government entity that has been funneling in millions of dollars to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela to aid their coup and strike efforts back in 2002-3, and now to springboard the referendum campaign and this new transitional government “Plan.”

The National Endowment for Democracy awarded a grant of approximately US$300,000 in early 2003 to The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a US-based entity and one of four core NED grantees, together with the Center for Dissemination of Economic Information (CEDICE), a Venezuelan organization. CEDICE is presided by Rocio Guijarra, one of the initial signors of the now infamous “Carmona Decree” enacted during the brief dictatorship that took control of Venezuela’s government during the 48-hour coup d’etat against President Chavez back in April 2002. The “Decree” authorized businessman Pedro Carmona as “President” and dissolved all of Venezuela’s democratic institutions, such as the National Assembly (and all its elected members), the Supreme Court, the Constitution, the General Attorney and the Public Defender’s office.

The CIPE-CEDICE grant was entitled “Project Consensus to Build a National Agenda” and featured prominent radical opposition leaders and coup participants as project committee members. Organizations comprising the “Project” included many of the same groups that led the coup efforts in April 2002 and the illegal strike in December 2003-February 2004 that crippled Venezuela’s economy, such as Gente de Petroleo, Fedecamaras, Alianza Bravo Pueblo, CTV, COPEI and the Democratic Coordinator, amongst others.

Another key organization figuring in the Consensus Plan Committee is Liderazgo y Vision, a direct NED grantee led by Oscar Garcia Mendoza, head of the Banco de Credito. Mr. Garcia Mendoza published an advertisement in Venezuela’s national newspapers during the April 2002 praising the coup for bringing back “liberty and democracy with solid institutions and respect for the Law.” Garcia Mendoza also signed a business announcement published in national press on April 13, 2002, recognizing and supporting the “transitional government” of Pedro Carmona … despite the fact that Carmona had taken power via an illegal coup and had unabashedly violated Venezuela’s Constitution.

In a March-May 2003 quarterly report by CEDICE to NED, the Consensus Plan Project is justified by comparing the Chavez administration to the German Nazi Party: “The one thing separating the country from full revolutionary control is the fact that the Chavez Government was the result of free elections (as was the Nazi regime in its inception)

More than two years after the coup against President Chavez, the opposition has become increasingly dependent on the US government for economic help, political guidance and support.

The NED funds over nineteen (19) organizations operating in Venezuela — all on the anti-Chavez side, a fact which the NED themselves have admitted on various occasions. (Bart Jones, The National Catholic Reporter). Other financing sources, such as USAID, fund more than US$5 million annually to “democracy building” activities in Venezuela that are entirely within the realm of civil society and not government-based.

Now, the opposition’s one-time shot at offering a real alternative to Venezuelans dissatisfied with the current government is none other than a creation of the US government together with organizations and individuals who figured prominently in the April 2002 coup.

* The US government has chosen coup leaders and Constitutional violators to create an alternative agenda for a transitional government in Venezuela.

Will Venezuelans allow their futures to be placed in the hands of a foreign government that doesn’t have their best interests in mind?

Eva Golinger-Moncada

Uribe visits Chavez!

So in spite of all the strange border incidents of the past year and a half, Colombian paramilitary raids into Venezuela, attempted deployment of Colombian tanks against Venezuela, displacements of Colombians to Venezuela due to paramilitary massacres, all the while Colombia accusing Venezuela of aggression, it seems that Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe Velez is in Venezuela right now for meetings with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias. On the agenda: a 205km, $98 million natural gas pipeline project that will cross both countries and make it possible for countries to export gas through Central America.

Again, for all the trouble on the border, it’s important to remember that these two countries are very closely linked, as are the fates of their peoples, politically, geographically, culturally, historically. They do $2.5 billion USD of business per year. There are some 2 million Colombians in Venezuela.

If there is any news of what was discussed at the meeting tomorrow, I’ll report it here.

Strategy session

I’ve been wondering about a lot of different things lately.

I have thought of myself as an opponent of nation-states and national ‘sovereignty’, for example. I believed that nationalism (or what Basil Davidson called ‘nation-statism’ in his useful book ‘The Black Man’s Burden’) was usually exclusive (in North America, for example, it is often a kind of settler ideology that excludes both exploited immigrants, displaced indigenous people, and african-americans) and often destructive. I thought of national ‘sovereignty’ as an excuse used by elites to do terrible things to their populations. I made some of these arguments in an interview with Mike Albert.

But recently, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between nationalism and imperialism, and it seems to me that in this world national sovereignty is one of the only possible political defenses against imperialism that has some power. You can attack Colombia’s Uribe or Israel’s Sharon for their vicious mobilization of nationalism for murderous purposes. But you can’t forget that Venezuela’s ‘proceso’, or Bolivia’s movements, are about developing a country for the benefit of the people of that country — a nationalist idea, that ends up being an anti-imperialist idea. And indeed, it seems to me that the strongest grounds for opposing the US occupation of Iraq (or the coup in Haiti) is the nationalist idea of “Iraq for the Iraqis.” Tricky there, too, because there are losers in these national projects — certainly Saddam’s version of nationalism was a horrific one for those excluded from his notion of the national identity.

The question is, what is the next step? If you don’t like imperial occupation and colonization, what do you fight for? A vision of a different global order, open borders, some innovative protections for culture and freedom, the kinds of things I was arguing for in the interview? Or should we dream first of nation-states of citizens who can democratically control their own fates, decide on their own development, decide on their own resources, without interference or imposition from outsiders?

The United Nations is supposed to be a body that balances the universal needs and rights of all people with the reality that national states are the arena where most rights and responsibilities are exercised. I don’t think we’re going to jump from the current imperial nightmare into a just global order without something happening in between (maybe what happens in between is something like what George Monbiot proposes for a global order?)

Is the arena for that the national state? Is the mobilizing force behind it nationalism? It has certainly been one of the strongest anti-imperialist forces in the past, for all its flaws.

Let’s change scales and look at a different strategic question. Vijay Prashad’s latest ZNet Sustainer Commentary makes some interesting points about relating to electoral politics (something I try to think about as well). He says that the Anybody But Bush argument is the wrong one to have: it’s ineffectual, it’s the wrong issue — “Nader’s 2.9 million votes in 2000 is far less than the number of people who went to see Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 on its opening night: the point is not to fight over those who come to the polls, but to engage those potential voters who have either been deviously disenfranchised, or who feel no stake at all in either the democratic institutions or else in the movement for social change.”

To Vijay, “Our communities are active in many arenas (against police brutality, against workfare, against racism, against warfare, against domestic violence, against ecocide, against homophobia, against the working-class, against local sovereignty, against injustices of all kinds) – we need to move from these vibrant, often successful struggles to a different level. We have to have the courage to move toward the electoral domain to solidify our gains and to risk governance, with all its problems.”

The idea is that we “already have a social movement that has made many gains, and it is up to us to move our base to the polls to elect viable and decent local candidates who are accountable to our movements.” Examples? “The successful candidacies of Boston’s Felix Arroyo, Providence’s Miguel Luna, Austell’s Alisha Thomas, Tucson’s Raul Grijava, Newark’s Ras Baraka, New Platz’s Jason West…” I don’t know anything about these folks — but I would be interested to learn more about them… perhaps from the book Vijay cites, called “How to Get Stupid White Men Out of Office” by the League of Pissed Off Voters. They have a 30 year plan. I like the last line of Vijay’s comment — the task is to make “the link between the struggle and the election. This is a far more important task than to treat our vote as a commodity and decide which shop to sell it to in exchange for some measure of personal satisfaction.”

Keeping that link alive though is tricky, because what inevitably happens is that elected politicians cease to be accountable to their constituencies. And progressive local politicians quickly discover that the real power lies elsewhere. How can a movement that can achieve a degree of local power make a transition to real power at the national or international level, without getting stuck?

Lives that matter…

Making the blog rounds (well, in this case the blob rounds), I came across various posts of David Peterson’s on Israel’s Wall and the World Court ruling. This one is a good example. As is David’s wont, he provides the full article with his blob. But the quote he pulled out, from our old friend Netanyahu, is quite telling:

“Because the court’s decision makes a mockery of Israel’s right to defend itself, the government of Israel will ignore it. Israel will never sacrifice Jewish life on the debased altar of ”international justice.”

I added the emphasis on ‘Jewish life’. I thought it quite telling. Kind of reminds me of Howard Dean saying that 400 PEOPLE had been killed in the Iraq War, when thousands of Iraqis had already been killed.

Unfortunately for Palestinians, Israel is willing to sacrifice Palestinian life on the debased altar of ‘security’. For example, the life of Mahmoud Khalafallah, a 75 year old man who was crushed in his house by an Israeli bulldozer. Unfortunately for Jewish activists against the occupation, Israel is willing to sacrifice even their ‘right’ to enter Israel to prevent protest against the wall, as Jamie Spector learned when she tried to join the ISM there.

Of Latin American Referenda

Referendum fever is on in Venezuela, with 1.4 million people having registered to vote in the referendum, setting new records for voter registration in a place where records of participation have been repeatedly broken in recent years. There are now 14 million Venezuelans who are able to vote on August 15 — earlier this year, there were 12.5 million, according to the Electoral Council’s figures. Remember that Chavez was re-elected with 3.7 million votes in 2000. As I understand it, the opposition needs to either beat that number or beat the number of ‘No’ voters in the recall vote, whichever is higher. The population of the country is 24 million (according to this El Tiempo article I’m quoting from — I thought it was 22 million).

Venezuela has formally asked the US to stop helping the coup plotters and the ‘opposition’.

But Venezuelans aren’t the only people going to a major referendum soon. There’s also Bolivia.

This coming Sunday, Bolivians will vote on the future of their natural gas resource. This was the promise of Carlos Mesa, the Vice President who took over after President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was ousted by a popular uprising. Some movements had sought a question about nationalization of the resource, in addition to the question about whether or not to export the gas. Mesa didn’t listen — he was trying to placate the multinationals as much as the powerful social movements. So as it stands, it seems to me that if Bolivians vote against the exportation of gas, they will avoid losing a huge amount of control over their resources, but they won’t gain much in the way of control, since really important questions are not on the table.

I have heard that the Bolivian social movements are working and strategizing slowly and patiently: knowing that they can overthrow Mesa the same way they overthrew Sanchez de Lozada any time they want doesn’t get them the democratic control over their lives that is their right.

And while Venezuelans and Bolivians are struggling to express their democratic will, the US is fining companies for providing vaccines to Cuban children. Thanks a lot.

Iraq news

The Phillippines is thinking of withdrawing its token troops involved in the US occupation of Iraq, due to the kidnapping and threat against a Filipino national there. If you take a look at the article, there is a breakdown of the troops in Iraq by country. I knew that the ‘coalition’ was a sham, but I was surprised that the numbers of troops from countries other than the US was so low. While the Filipino withdrawal is good for Filipinos and Iraqis, Australians are stepping in to fill the breach. The Australian elections, coming up, it seems aren’t going to give Australians a chance to punish their regime for its warmongering. If you can stomach the unsophisticated propaganda, you can read about how the Iraqi insurgents have been attacking Abu Ghraib prison.

As usual, much of the above via News Insider.