NDP purge of pro-Palestine candidates plays into Harper’s hands

The Conservative Party is on the hunt, and with the help of the NDP and Liberals, they are cleansing Canadian politics of anyone who might think of Palestinians as human beings.

In the first weeks of the election campaign, two NDP politicians have had to distance themselves from statements about facts that are utterly obvious to anyone who knows Israel/Palestine, one nominated candidate has had to resign, and many more NDP members have been blocked by the party from seeking nominations to run for office.

Quebec NDP candidate Hans Marotte expressed past support for the first Palestinian intifada, a mass movement against Israel’s occupation to which Israel responded with the “broken bones” policy of violent repression. When the Conservatives dug up his comments, Marotte said it was proof they couldn’t find anything more recent. He didn’t recant, but he was effectively silenced.

Ontario NDP candidate Matthew Rowlinson had to issue a statement apologizing for signing an “incendiary and inaccurate” letter that included the documented and provable claim that ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is ongoing in Jerusalem. The “inaccurate” part of the letter said that Israel seeks a Jerusalem free of Palestinians. As for “incendiary,” we would do better to look at some of the weapons Israel deploys against Palestinians — more on that to come.

Then there are those who have been dumped by the party. Nova Scotia NDP candidate Morgan Wheeldon had to resign for calling Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, which killed more than 2,200 people including more than 500 children, a war crime. NDP member Syed Hyder Ali, who had wanted to run in Edmonton, was told to withdraw his name — because he also said that Israel was guilty of war crimes. Jerry Natanine of Nunavut, the mayor of Clyde River, was tossed because, in his words, “I often side with the Palestinians because of all the hardship they are facing and because nothing is being re-built over there.”
Out of date, out of touch

"Sovereign" Deportations: The Dominican Republic deportations cannot occur without US blessing.

If the Dominican Republic had decided in 2013 to nationalize its industries, announcing a deadline of June 17, 2015 for the expropriation of all foreign-owned enterprises on its side of the island, it is unlikely that the US would throw its hands up and say nothing could be done because the DR was a sovereign country. We know it is unlikely, because the US overthrew the president on the other side of the island in 1991 and in 2004 for trying to raise the minimum wage. More likely, there would be a regime change in the DR and a more friendly government would be put in place, to much celebration from US elites and media.

But when, a court in the DR pronounced "La Sentencia" in 2013, stripping Dominicans - people born in the DR - to undocumented Haitian parents of citizenship, and the Dominican Congress established a June 17, 2015 deadline for these hundreds of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent to establish residency by navigating a bureaucratic labyrinth of unbelievable complexity, US officials mumbled their concern. Since June, tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent have left the DR. Greg Grandin, writing in the Nation, has called it a "slow-motion, undercover pogrom". They have left under threat of violence. They have accepted "voluntary" deportation because their only alternative was involuntary deportation. They are living in camps on the border between Haiti and the DR, not unlike the camps where hundreds of thousands of people were forced to live after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Displaced people living in camps have reached the culmination of a process that renders them without power or protection. The natural disaster of the earthquake was prolonged and made vastly more deadly by Haiti's lack of sovereignty. This completely engineered disaster of deportation shows how Haiti's lack of sovereignty is intertwined with the DR's.

Now that North American media have begun to publish on the deportations, many of them discuss Haiti's invasion of the DR in 1822. Historian Anna Ellner helps make sense of this 19th century history, and reveals it to be completely distorted in most accounts. Ellner (whose excellent blog post was linked by Grandin, who has also helped maintain a focus on this issue) presents a different history, one in which Haiti and the DR were "siblings in a struggle for freedom".

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The state murder of an activist

By now, the facts are well known to millions, but it is worth going over them again. On July 10, a 28-year old woman, an activist with the Black Lives Matter movement, who had recently moved to Texas for a new job at a university, was being followed too closely by a speeding car on a highway. She changed lanes to get out of the driver's way, and that should have been the end of the story, a non-event in her life. But the driver, 30-year old Brian Encinia, was a police officer, and he put his flashing lights on and made her pull over.

Three days later she was dead in a jail cell.

I found out about Sandra Bland's death after I watched the video of her arrest and abuse by Brian Encinia. When I watched it, I thought it was another routine example of police abuse and violence against black women in the US, like the crazed attack on a 14-year old girl in a swimsuit by Eric Casebolt in June (also in Texas).

Instead, it turned out I was watching the beginning of a long, drawn out sequence of torture and murder. Murder is the only word that can describe this, since, even if the extremely implausible story of her suicide turns out to be true, there is no way she would be dead now if she hadn't been arrested. Not unlike the murder of Eric Garner by a group of police in New York last year, the main killers being Daniel Pantaleo and Justin Damico of the NYPD. Or the murder of Walter Lamer Scott by Michael Thomas Slager, who gunned the man down while he fled. These are just a fraction of the cases that have been highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement (which numbered Sandra Bland among its activists).

And Black Lives Matter, while gathering the numbers and leveling a systemic critique, can conceivably only focus on a fraction of the hundreds of people killed by law enforcement personnel in the US each year. Killings by US police are far higher than most other Western countries. There are different ways of counting, and different institutions doing the counting. But whether you look at the Guardian's database, the Killedbypolice.net database, the Fatal Encounters database, or some other, we seem to be living in the midst of an upsurge of murders by police, targeting especially ordinary unarmed black citizens, male or (now) female.

#HackedTeam & Colombia: How Surveillance Helps a Violent State

In the past few years, debates about universal surveillance, software and internet freedom, privacy and civil liberties have opened through the efforts and sacrifices of people like Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Anonymous. The governments and private security industry that have been exposed through leaks, hacks, and whistleblowing, have been forced to respond. Some of these responses involved attacking and prosecuting the messengers. Others have involved denial, apology, and the perpetually fresh doctrine of the "change of course": "yes, we used to violate people's rights, but that's all over now". Some public figures attempted to argue against privacy on principle: "If you have nothing to hide, why should you need privacy?" But, as Glenn Greenwald wrote, none of these anti-privacy people were willing to give him their email passwords on television, despite having nothing to hide.

A small number of those implicated in surveillance violations took a defiant stance, as in: "yes, we violate privacy, and we are very good at it." One security company, dedicated to offensive hacking, stood out as particularly defiant: The Italy-based Hacking Team, headed by David Vincenzetti. Go to their website today and watch the banners flash along: "DEFEAT encryption." "Total control over your targets." "Thousands of encrypted communications per day. Get them. In the clear." While many of Hacking Team's competitors were more sheepish, or at least discrete, about their violations of people's privacy rights, Hacking Team staked out a marketing space based on flamboyance.

With such a casual attitude to violating citizens privacy on behalf of their clients, the hack against Hacking Team that occurred on July 5 was almost inevitable, and it is very difficult to find any sympathy for Hacking Team's cries that their privacy has been violated. The hashtag #HackedTeam trended for quite a while, along with others like #IsHackingTeamAwakeYet.

The hackers released into the public domain the specialized software that Hacking Team uses to violate people's systems, exploits HT had discovered and were keeping secret to sell, as well as 400GB of email archives, presentations and documents. Wikileaks speedily made the email archives searchable online.

The Beginning of the End for Kagame?

On June 22, 2015 it was reported that the director-general of Rwanda's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, was arrested in London. One report, by Judi Rever in the Digital Journal, refers to Karenzi Karake accurately as "Kagame's spy chief". Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, rose to power as an intelligence chief himself - working for Yoweri Museveni, the ruler of Uganda, during the 1980s Bush War in that country. Kagame would not choose a spy chief lightly, and Karenzi Karake is absolutely in Kagame's inner circle.

Interpol is responsible for the arrest, and was acting on indictments issued by a Spanish Judge, Fernando Andreu Merelles, in 2008. Merelles issued indictments for forty of Kagame's men, all of whom were in command positions of Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) at the end of the Rwandan Civil War and genocide of 1994. Having defeated and replaced the Rwandan government that committed the genocide, Kagame's RPF hunted and massacred Rwandan refugees during and after the Rwandan civil war, in the areas they controlled (and in the DR Congo).

The evidence of these massacres is irrefutable. In standard accounts of the genocide, including the basic Human Rights Watch book Leave No One to Tell the Story by Alison Des Forges, massacres by the RPF are presented, though no estimates are given on their scale. A famously buried report by UN investigator Robert Gersony, which has since surfaced, estimated the scale to be in the tens of thousands - during the civil war. Some of the largest, and best documented massacres by the RPF occurred after they had already won the war - the worst and most infamous being the Kibeho massacre of April 1995.

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Israel's battles in sports, law, and science

Sports. In early 2014, two young athletes, named Jawhar (then 19) and Adam (then 17), were returning from a soccer training session in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers ambushed them, shot them, set dogs on them to maul them, dragged them across the ground, and beat them. The Israeli soldiers targeted their feet and legs - ten bullets in 19-year old Jawhar's feet, one bullet in each of 17-year old Adam's feet. No more soccer for Jawhar and Adam (1).

So, now, Israel's war on Palestinians is so comprehensive that it includes soccer. Jawhar and Adam are not unique for being targeted as Palestinian athletes. Sports writer David Zirin wrote about another player, Mahmoud Sarsak of the Palestinian national soccer team (2), who Israel seized on his way to a contest in 2009, and held without trial or charges for years. He was released after he went on a 92 day hunger strike in July 2012.

With such a determined, deliberate, violent campaign against soccer, Israel has generated some questions about its own status in the international soccer association, FIFA. Spurred on by the vicious attacks on Jawhar and Adam, as well as discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) led efforts to expel Israel from FIFA, and a motion was making its way to the 2015 international gathering of FIFA.

Then, in May, something happened. At the same time that FIFA was supposed to hear the motion on the expulsion of Israel for racism and its war on Palestinian soccer, the FBI moved against FIFA officials and arrested them for the corruption that FIFA has long been notorious for. Then the Palestinian Football Association amended the motion to expel Israel. Instead of expelling Israel, FIFA has struck a committee to 'monitor' Israel's compliance with FIFA rules. Some commentators have argued that the the passage of the amended resolution was still a major loss for Israel (3). Others have argued that the PFA last-minute amendment was yet another betrayal of principles by the Palestinian Authority (4).

Was the timing of the FBI raids completely coincidental, or were the raids timed to show that the US could create consequences for FIFA for trying to expel Israel? Did the Palestinian Football Association back down from its principled stand because of pressure applied behind the scenes?

ISIS Is The Child of Chaos, Not Religion

In the third week of May, ISIS took the city of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, in two, big, high-profile victories. Though ISIS has constantly been in the news for years now, these two cities seem to return the sense of an unstoppable march of Islamist forces across the Middle East. As the beheadings began almost immediately in Ramadi, ISIS also bombed a mosque in Qatif, a Shia-majority city in Saudi Arabia during Friday prayers. Qatif, incidentally, is a place where Saudi armed forces and police have violated human rights with their usual impunity for years, detaining and even opening fire on protesters from the Shia community. From all of these reports, the sense given to readers is one of unstoppable momentum.

But as Ahmed Ali, in the NYT Opinion section on May 21 clarified, the situation is otherwise: “…the Islamic State is not on an unstoppable march. In Iraq, and to some extent Syria, it remains on the defensive. In April, the Islamic State’s defenses in large swaths of Salahuddin Province and the provincial capital, Tikrit, collapsed.”

So, ISIS has not had unstoppable momentum. After spending many months and many lives trying to take the Kurdish city of Kobani, Syria, they have been repeatedly repulsed since the beginning of 2015. Kurdish forces in Iraq have counterattacked them in Mosul and are keeping them under pressure there. And, although each time there is a battle in an Iraqi city, the Western media discuss the close proximity of that city to Baghdad, that does not mean that Baghdad is likely to fall to ISIS any time soon.

Syria, though, is another story. The stage in both countries is set not for ISIS victory, but for perpetual conflict.

Why leftists should read John Ralston Saul — critically

John Ralston Saul — author, president of the writers’ organization PEN International, and former vice-regal consort to former governor general Adrienne Clarkson — has had considerable influence in Canada and elsewhere. His unique style of writing can be recognized after just a few lines. He is hyper-educated, filling his work with references from the West in the 1600s to the present day, with the occasional leap back to the ancient Greeks or Romans. He takes a much broader historical sweep than almost any other writer who touches contemporary topics. [1]

Read any of his books, and you will come away with new stories: about a French resistance fighter during WWII named Jean Moulin, about a female contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi named Elizabeth of Hungary, about the 18th-century Corsican patriot Pascal Paoli. You can read about how ancient Greece's civilization began to flower because of the cancellation of debts by Athenian statesman Solon, or how the current period of globalization looks from New Zealand and Malaysia.

In a series of books about Canada, he has resurrected the history of responsible government and the political leaders Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine and Robert Baldwin, arguing they showed the world that you could “talk your way out of the Empire,” a method that was adopted by dozens of other countries after Canada showed the way.

JRS brings fascinating characters to life, as well as tragic statistics. From one of his books I found out that in some years Alberta brought in more money from gambling revenues than from tar sands royalties, so low were the royalty rates and so high was the stealth tax set up through promotion of gambling among society’s elderly and vulnerable. Elsewhere he describes how Canada entered a health care crisis not because single-tier public health care is unaffordable but because of a decision in the 1990s to lower the number of doctors available to the population.

We are all Farkhunda

On March 19, a 27-year old woman named Farkhunda was leaving the Shah-e Doshamshira mosque, the shrine of the King of Two Swords, in Kabul. The shrine is a place where people all over Kabul, and indeed Afghanistan, go to make wishes, to ask the saint, who is said to have brought Islam to Afghanistan, for favour.

Farkhunda was a religious studies student and taught at the mosque. She was there as part of a religious ritual common in Kabul (though not necessarily common elsewhere the Islamic world) where the mullah would sell charms, sometimes including bits of text from the Quran written on paper and folded tightly. People could take the charms for good luck, protection, or making a wish. Some say that she was upset because the charms had not worked for her. She may have told others to stop buying the charms - a source of business for the mullah and for men who hung around outside the shrine (1).

An argument started with the mullah. The mullah, rather than taking this up as a matter of discussion, decided to incite a crowd of men outside the mosque by telling them that Farkhunda burned the Quran. The crowd formed a mob, who killed Farkhunda horribly over a period of minutes, in a scene captured on numerous cell phone video cameras and uploaded to the web. Police were on the scene - the shrine is a site of importance in Kabul - and did not intervene to save her.

Up to this point, the story is one of religious conservatism, misogyny, mob hatred, incitement, police inaction, and it might be explained away as an eternal problem of Islam, or of Afghanistan, or both.

But the popular reaction to Farkhunda's murder does not fit into these frames. Instead, what occurred was a sustained mobilization exponentially larger and more powerful than the gang of misogynists who murdered her.

It was quickly explained by her family and widely understood after her murder that Farkhunda was religious and would never have burned the Quran. But, while many protesters chanted slogans about Farkhunda's innocence, others were saying things like "so what if she burned the Quran?" And while there were those who tried to protect the mullah and the killers, the movement was using the cell phone videos and social media to track down each of the people in the mob who played a role in her death.

What should the West do about dictatorships? Profit from them, of course.

In 2008, a Libyan graduate student at the Arab Academy for Maritime Transport was arrested, deported, blacklisted, and banned from Egypt on suspicion of "homosexual practices". On April 14, 2015, an Egyptian court upheld the decision, preventing him from re-entering, on grounds of protecting the public morality (1). Last December, a TV presenter named Mona al-Iraqi led a televised raid on a bathhouse in Cairo, which led to mass arrests, "compulsory medical examinations", and prison sentences.

On April 16, 2015, Egyptian-Canadian Khaled al-Qazzaz, who was an advisor to the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mohammed Morsi, was at the Cairo airport with his family, having been released after nearly two years in an Egyptian jail, awaiting deportation on medical grounds. They had been promised that Khaled had been cleared of all accusations, was not under investigation, and they could leave the country - Khaled, who had been in jail since 2013, and his wife and children, who had come from Canada to get him. They were detained at the airport for seven hours, their passports confiscated, and left the airport with no information (2).

On April 11, Egypt's famous "hanging judge", Nagy Shehata, sentenced 14 Muslim Brotherhood members to death, and 36 others to life in prison, including US-Canadian citizen Mohammed Sultan (3). Shehata is quite a countenance, pictured always in sunglasses. Human rights researcher Priyanka Motaparthy summarized Shehata's methods in a tweet (4) "#Egypt judge Shehata sentenced 204 people to death & 534 ppl to 7395 years in prison in just 5 rulings. Probably w/o removing his sunglasses."

Back in February, Egypt's president Sisi gave an interview to Der Spiegel, which provides insight into his mind (5). Given that power in Egypt is concentrated in Sisi's hands, his beliefs have consequences. This exchange, in which Sisi explains his massacre of hundreds people in terms of a "civilizational gap" is remarkable:

SPIEGEL: What happened on Rabaa Square was a massacre in which at least 650 Morsi supporters were killed by security forces. Those events represent an abuse of power.