Racism, inequality, and conflict: an interview with Prof. Robert Sapolsky

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Earlier this month, I conducted an interview with Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a professor of biological sciences at Stanford University, to discuss different issues such as racism, economic inequality, and partisan polarization. He was very generous with his time and provided us with in-depth analyses of such fundamental issues.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky is John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Stanford’s School of Medicine, and a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research of the National Museums of Kenya. He is a recipient of a MacArthur genius fellowship and the author of several books, including Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress-Related Diseases and Coping (1995) and Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (2017).

Our conversation, edited for length and clarity, is below.

Question: Thank you very much for being with me, Dr. Sapolsky. Now, let’s start with the recent events in the United States, especially the police killing of George Floyd and the protests that broke out afterward. When something like that happens, what’s the first thing that comes into your mind?

Answer: I think basically racism is the single biggest historical problem in the United States. To use a religious word that I use as someone who is not religious, I think it is the “original sin” of the United States. And it did not end with slavery ending in 1865. It did not end with racial segregation ending in the 1960s. It remains just as much of a problem.

The only difference between the George Floyd case and so many others is that somebody videotaped it this time, not that the police actions are new. This has been happening for more than a hundred years or so. All that is happening is people are being able to document it to prove what is actually occurring. All of that said, we’ve now had videotapes of numerous African-American men being killed by the police in the last few years, and each time it causes some protests. This is the first time it has caused protests this big, and maybe this is going to cause meaningful changes, but I’m not optimistic about that. People have short memories in this country.

Q: So, do you regard racism as a cultural issue, or is it an innate characteristic of human beings?


A: Well, in so far as I think the science shows, race is not a particularly strong innate category in our heads, and racism can be changed as an unconscious category surprisingly easily. We are not looking at biology here. It’s cultural, but it is very deeply cultural.
“I think basically racism is the single biggest historical problem in the United States,” says Dr. Robert Sapolsky.
In some ways, the most depressing version of it was a study in the 1950s by a husband-and-wife pair of psychologists that horrified anyone who thought about it. It was this famous first study where they took black kids and gave them a choice of playing with a white doll or a black doll and asked them which one they wanted to play with and why. It showed that black kids in America, even at age seven, were already saying the white doll “is prettier”, the white doll “is nicer”, and the white doll “isn’t scary”. Seven-year-old black kids have already been taught to think about themselves that way!
When there was this famous case in the 1950s in the Supreme Court, where they finally ruled that you cannot have racial segregation, that you cannot be like South Africa, and that you cannot have separate schools for black kids and schools for white kids, that study was one of the most cited reasons behind the court’s decision.
Researchers are STILL finding the exact same thing. Your average black kid today still prefers to play with white dolls, because they’re “nicer” and they’re “less likely to hurt you”. So, racism is such a deep, deep phenomenon here, and few things say that more clearly than when people have been conditioned to have negative, racist feelings about themselves.
Q: As a neurobiologist, what do you regard as viable solutions to the issue of racism?
A: Well, there are slight hints of things to be optimistic about from the standpoint of neurobiology. For instance, if you put a white American in a brain scanner, and you quickly flash up a series of pictures of faces on a screen, and you flash up the face of an African-American person, in approximately seventy-five percent of white people, there’s an activation of the amygdala, which is a part of the brain that has to do with fear and anxiety and aggression. Oh, my god! This is fascinating and so depressing at the same time.
Also, the part of the brain that processes “faces” (called the fusiform cortex) does not activate as much in those seventy-five percent of white people looking at a black face, because it doesn’t count as “a face” as much. It’s not as much of a person. So, oh my God, this is so depressing and so horrible!
But wait a second, what about the twenty-five percent of the people where that does not happen? The answer is those are white people who grew up with close friends who are African-American. Those are people who had a romantic relationship with an African-American somewhere along the way. In another word, it is not inevitable but some of the best solutions for that start when you’re two years old.
Current racial segregation in schools in the U.S. is not because of laws, but because of economic inequality and cultural factors, the professor remarks.
However, in many parts of the United States in the big cities, the level of racial segregation – the extent to which if you’re black you are likely to be going to a public school, where 95 percent of the other kids are black, and if you’re white, the same thing in that direction – is as bad as it was in the 1950s. It’s not because of laws, but because of economics and cultural factors.
So, it is the massive issues that need to be changed starting early in life. Although it is possible to take an adult who was a racist – even on the most implicit, unconscious level – and change him or her, but it’s hard work and it’s a lot harder than preventing a three-year-old from becoming a racist in the first place. But the other issue is just such enormous economic inequality in this country by race. It’s so deeply structured in the economic and educational system here that all it does is find ways to become stronger each generation.
Q: You mentioned economic inequality and how being poor or rich leads to some kind of economic segregation. Now, I want to know what the findings show about being poor, especially with regard to children who are born into poverty.
A: I spent years studying what stress and stress hormones and poverty can do to the hippocampus – the part of the brain relevant to memory and learning. That’s so important and so interesting. However, I now think I spent thirty years of my life wasted because I was studying the wrong part of the brain. Much more interesting is studying that a stressor such as poverty not only makes you have less of a memory, but it also makes you more prone to depression. Even more importantly, it makes you more prone to fear and anxiety. Even more importantly, it makes you prone to making bad decisions when you have to make them quickly. And what I’m now starting to think is the most important one, it makes you less empathic toward other people.
Everyone focused on how poverty makes people less healthy. Poverty also makes for a more violent world, and it makes for a less kind and less humane world. That last part I think is the most important one. Even today, we know a little bit about what’s going on in the brain, in a world in which people are stressed and their brains have changed in response to stress from the time they were a fetus because stress hormone levels in pregnant women vary as a function of poverty levels. In other words, higher stress hormone levels in pregnant women are already affecting the brain of the fetus. Even at that stage, you are already changing aspects of the brain that could be for your entire life, that are going to make for people who make a society that is less kind and less safe and less healthy and less intelligent in every possible way that could go wrong. That’s just enormously depressing.
Q: You have spoken and written extensively about how economic inequality affects an individual and a society. Could you explain how that works?
A: When you look at poverty, you see that it is a predictor of poor health, more violence, less kindness, and all of those things. But even more important than poverty is inequality, which is not so much about being poor, rather, it’s about being reminded every day of what you don’t have and what others have. It’s the comparison.
Researchers have spent a lot of time showing that when inequality increases, the health of the poor gets worse, their crime rates go up and all of those bad things happen. But something that is even more interesting in some ways is that when inequality goes up, the health of the WEALTHY gets worse too. Of course, not as much as the poor, but it gets worse for them as well.
It’s not that if you are in the right part of society you can selfishly say that it’s their problem, because even if you’re wealthy and you don’t care about anyone else, living in an unequal society is even bad for your health, because it stresses you. For example, you have to spend more of your income on your house alarm system. You have to spend more of your income sending your children to private schools because the public schools are “too dangerous”.
It’s very stressful to try to construct a world in which nothing stressful can happen to you. In other words, it’s every level of society that pays for it and I think we see that in the United States. That’s why most of the wealthy vote for Donald Trump. Because they suffer too.
The voting patterns show that the wealthy in the cities are more in the direction of supporting the Democrats and are a little more liberal, in contrast to the wealthy in the suburbs and in rural areas. If you’re wealthy in a city, for example, if you’re going to the opera and you’re paying a crazy amount of money for it and you’re wearing a tuxedo and your life is wonderful, even just getting out of your limousine and going to the opera, you’re gonna have to step over somebody who is sleeping on the sidewalk because he is homeless. Even on the level of selfishness, you would say, “We have to do something about the homeless because it’s really very uncomfortable to go to the opera and have to see homeless people.”
But if you live in the rural areas and you’re a billionaire and you go to a rodeo of cowboys steer roping, if that’s your idea of fun, you’re not gonna have to step over homeless people – it’s a different world than that. But even the wealthy here pay a price for inequality.
Q: So, inequality is generally another category to divide the world into Us-es and Thems, which in turn would lead to more public anxiety.
A: Absolutely. And as a measure of how fast that could happen, you do studies where university students play an economic game, and then you introduce inequality to the game. For instance, half of the subjects start the game with ten units of money, and the other half start with a hundred units. Two minutes ago, the students were economically roughly equal and they were from the same dormitory. But now, even within minutes of artificially introducing inequality to the game, you already begin to see some of those behaviors.
According to Dr. Sapolsky, when there’s rampant economic inequality in a society, even the wealthy are negatively impacted by it.
It is so fast and it is so strong. To see one of the reasons why kindness and empathy go down, suppose you have a world where everybody gets one of two different incomes: Fifty percent of people get ten units of money a year, and fifty percent get a hundred units a year. That’s so unequal! But even with that, at any given point, half of the people in your world at least have the same income that you do. At least economically they are somewhat equal to you.
But if instead, only one percent of people in the country are getting the same income you’re getting, the inequality spreads out enormously. There will be fewer people who are your peers. A greater percentage of the people around you are either poorer or richer than you. If they’re poorer than you, you are afraid of them, or you want to keep them away, or you’re disgusted by them. And if they’re richer than you, you resent them and you envy them. So, you don’t have equals. The more inequality there is, the more of a hierarchy there is, and the more of a hierarchy, the fewer peers you have whom you are more likely to be kind to, and who are more likely to be kind to you. It makes for a more awful world by definition.
Q: Like the U.S., my own country, Iran, has turned into a very divided nation in recent years. However, when I follow the U.S. news, I feel that the level of polarization in the United States is perhaps much worse than that of Iran. What are the roots of such polarization? And what do you think is the solution?
A: Well, to begin with, Donald Trump is not the cause of it. Donald Trump is a symptom of it. He is the complete logical outcome of what the issues are here. I think basically what has happened is inequality has gone up, employment has gotten worse, and poverty levels have gotten worse, because so many jobs have been sent to poorer countries by the corporations here that don’t care or because so many more jobs are being automated.
And what happens as people get more stressed and more angry and more worried is, whether you are a rat or a baboon or a human, the basic neurobiology is to turn on somebody else and to have a very hard time realizing that it’s the fault of the people up on top, instead of the person who’s standing right next to you hoping for the same job.
The people in power are brilliant at making you turn on the person standing next to you instead of on them. And all it does is make things worse. If you are in the most dangerous part of the population in the United States, which is if you are an older white guy who never got much education and has now spent thirty years getting less proportionate income each year, and thirty years watching more and more people competing for your job, especially people who do not look like you, and seeing more and more of the teachers at your children’s schools not looking like you, and the people on television not looking like you, and the people getting elected not looking like you, and all of that is unconsciously telling you over and over that it is not your culture anymore, that you do not rule this place anymore.
Q: So, in this context, the idea of bringing people of different backgrounds together doesn’t resolve that issue, right?
A: No, because you have to do it the right way. People used to say “Ooh, if you could take people from two different groups who don’t like each other, if you could bring individuals together and let them spend time together, they will learn to see each other as individuals and they will learn that there are more similarities than differences and it would be wonderful, etc.” However, sixty years’ worth of research on contact theory has shown that most of the time it does not work, because it has not been done in the correct way. And if you do it the really wrong way, you will make things worse.
It takes a lot for it to work correctly. You can’t do it for a weekend or even a week. It takes contact lasting for months. It has to be on equal grounds. It has to be in settings where you are not seeing the other group’s symbols, which are a constant reminder to you.
“What happens as people get more stressed and more angry and more worried is … they turn on somebody else and have a very hard time realizing that it’s the fault of the people up on top, instead of the person who’s standing right next to you hoping for the same job,” says the professor.
This past summer, my family and I went to Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other forever, and in the 1990s, they amazingly worked out a treaty and it has become much more peaceful. Nevertheless, the capital, Belfast, is still a completely divided city. There’s a Catholic half and a Protestant half, and there’s a wall in-between. We took a tour where, for the first half of the day a seventy-five-year-old man who used to be a fighter for the Catholic groups takes you on a tour through the Catholic area, and then around twelve o’clock, you go to the gate and he hands you off to a protestant guy, who was a gunman for the Protestant group for years when he was a young man but now runs the tour of his side. Both of those men had been in jail. Both of those men killed people.
Now, you go to one side, and it has nothing but Irish flags on every single house, and the other side has nothing but British flags on every house and pictures of Queen Elizabeth, and how wonderful she is, and so on. The point is, you know, you can’t do it where you are being reminded every minute what they [pointing to the right] did to your ancestors 200 years ago, or what they [pointing to the left] did to your ancestors in the seventh century.
So, it takes a lot of work to do it right. One of the areas where it has been most studied is in summer camp programs for Palestinian and Israeli teenagers, where you bring them together and you try to do it right. You get them in a neutral setting, and you give them something they all have as a shared goal. For instance, they’re brought to a place where they have no symbols – they cannot have flags or anything like that – then you show them this field full of boulders and rocks and weeds, and you say, “Okay, if you guys wanna work together like crazy for the next week to turn this into a football field, go for it. There you go. That’s the only way you’re gonna have a football field.” And then they work like crazy, and they work in teams together, which is the sort of thing that actually helps, and you show that when they leave at the end of these two weeks, some of them have had a change in their attitudes.
They’ve been doing that for twenty years, and despite that occasional good news, what the studies have also shown is that no person who ever went to one of those groups on either side has become a leader of a peace group; next to no person on either side has stayed in touch with the person they became friends with; no person has caused other people to change their opinions. What you get instead is that the researchers come back to them one year later to ask them about the other side, and they say, “Oh, those people? They’re terrible! They’ve stolen our land,” or “They’re terrorists. They’re terrible, rotten people.” But then they say, “Oh, I knew this one guy though… He was a good guy. You know, they’re not all that way. You know, but there was this guy… I should email him to see how he’s doing,” and then they never do that. But the overall prejudice does not go away, and whatever changes there have been in your attitudes, you do not spread them to anybody else. So, it takes so much work. It takes years.
Q: And goodwill on both sides.
A: And goodwill! You have to want the change to occur. You have to actually accept that the current situation is not good. People here often say, “Oh, what’s the cause of Islamic rage against the West? It’s history. They used to be the Ottoman Empire. They used to be the Moorish Empire. They used to be amazing and now look at them. They’re just upset at what they lost in history.” So, what’s Donald Trump about? “Make America great AGAIN!” AGAIN! And what does that mean? As a secret sign to the people who support him, make it a country again where, if you are a man, you rule your home. If you are white, you rule your country. If you are Christian, you are in charge of the religious culture in your country. It’s “Make America great AGAIN!” And you are saying, “I am part of the people who feel like history has left me behind, and this used to be my place to rule, and it’s no longer like that, and we need to go back.” It’s the same historicism.
Q: Now, I also want to talk about your book, “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”. In your book, you argue that “knowing a judge’s opinions about Plato, Nietzsche, Rawls,” and other philosophers “gives you less predictive power about her judicial decisions than knowing if she’s hungry.” Could you elaborate what that means?
A: Yeah, it’s wonderful! I love that finding – that finding and the finding that if you put someone in a room that smells bad, people become more politically conservative about social issues. I tell those findings to an audience and you could hear people say, “Whoa!” Or whenever I’m speaking to law students and I tell that one about judges, you can just hear people laughing a little bit in the audience and saying, “Oh, my God! What is wrong with us?”
Q: So, would you explain what happens in the study?
A: Okay. In this study, the researchers looked at parole boards. A parole board is a panel of people who decide whether a prisoner has behaved well enough that they should be released early. So, it was a study looking at parole board judges’ decisions, and it showed that the single biggest predictor of whether a prisoner was paroled or sent back to jail was how many hours it has been since the parole board judges had a MEAL. If you appeared before a judge right after they had a meal, you had a sixty-percent chance of being paroled. By three hours later, it was down to a zero-percent chance.
And then you ask the judge afterward, “Wow! That’s interesting! You let this guy [pointing to the right] free two hours ago, but now you sent this guy [pointing to the left] back to jail. How come?” And they will talk to you about Aristotle and Plato. They’re not gonna say because I’m hungry. But the biology of it shows that that’s the case. When their blood sugar levels are low, people become less generous, they become less empathic, and they become likely to cheat when they’re playing an economic game. And why is this? Because the parts of your brain that have to make you do the harder thing when it is the right thing to do have a higher metabolic rate than other parts of your brain. In other words, they demand more energy.
It takes energy to think twice about someone instead of just saying, “They’re rotten! Throw them back to jail.” Stopping and saying, “Well, let’s see. They grew up in a world that I never experienced. What was the world like for them? What is…” That takes more work! And that takes more brainpower in a very literal way. The frontal cortex, which is central for making you do the harder thing when the harder thing is the more difficult thing, needs more energy. Literally, your brain needs more energy to think about somebody else’s perspective on the world than thinking about your own.
After the study was published, everybody came up with what they thought was a confound, saying, “Here’s why they did the statistics wrong.” However, it has completely held up as a finding.
Q: That’s really interesting. You said that the finding has held up against criticisms. So, has it been replicated?
A: I do not know if it’s been replicated. But there were a number of responses to it. For instance, the critics said those who conducted the study had brought the prisoners from the less dangerous prisons early in the day and brought the more dangerous prisoners later in the day, and that’s why later in the day you’re more likely to send them back to jail. However, they controlled for that, and they showed a whole bunch of possible controls that ruled that out. Basically, all of the confounds that people have pointed out were found not to be real problems.
Also, another version of this same idea is one I just mentioned, which is you put someone in an economic game, and if they’re hungry, they cheat more, they’re less generous, and they’re less kind to other players. Now, showing what it’s all about, you either give them a drink of fruit juice that is full of sugar, or as an experimental control, a drink which is full of artificial sugar, which does not do anything to brain metabolism. So, give somebody actual sugar afterward and they will now become more generous. It’s the biology [laughing]. It’s not because of having a great meal. It’s literally the biology of it. And we’re biological machines. Big surprise!
Q: Let’s also talk about the roots of conservatism and liberalism and the studies with regard to this subject, which I believe are crucial in understanding the roots of conservatism and liberalism.
A: Sure. If you’re trying to understand why someone becomes a liberal or a conservative, or what their attitudes are about economic systems, causes of poverty, causes of violence, etc., I think there are two critical factors that no political scientist thinks of. The first thing is to find out how easily disgusted someone is. Because if they have a low threshold for feeling disgusted, they’re going to more easily be disgusted by people who need their help, instead of feeling empathy for them. The second thing is do they feel excited or scared by something that is new or uncertain to them? If it’s exciting, you’re likely to be a liberal. New people, new ideas, new facial appearances, new foods, new beliefs, etc. are exciting to liberals. But if those things are scary to you and cause you to have an anxiety response, you’re gonna be a conservative. Because it’s always gonna be the case that the past is more comfortable for you than the future.
Look at somebody’s heart rate in a circumstance like that and that is a predictor of what their attitudes are going to be about issues that split conservatives and liberals. Show people pictures of something like a wound that is infected and full of flies, and see how much their stomach lurches – and people whose stomachs lurch a lot are more likely to be social conservatives.
Take a five-year-old child and their mother in a room where there are some new toys to play with. The kid is excited to be playing with them, but after a certain amount of time the mother leaves the room and you measure how much time it takes for the kid to look around and see that mom is not there anymore and to begin to cry, versus continuing to play with the toys. How easily five-year-olds have an anxiety response to novelty is predictive of their voting patterns twenty years later.
This has been shown in different studies by now. Five-year-olds do not sit there and think, “Well, is a Marxist model or a free market model better for solving inequality?” Five-year-olds sit there and feel whether the world is a scary place or is it an exciting place. And that’s the most fundamental difference in terms of the novelty-anxiety connection.
Back to the finding about conservatives and liberals tending to differ on their thresholds for disgust – on average, conservatives have more different kinds of soap in their bathrooms. They have more cleaning products! If you are a conservative, the world is a place where you need to spend more time and money on cleaning than if you are a liberal. These findings tell you that political differences are about unconscious emotional issues, rather than you thinking about whether you can trust Vladimir Putin or not.
Q: I suppose people also move to the extremes on both sides based on the circumstances. What do you think about that?
A: Well, that’s certainly the polarization that has gone on in the United States. Traditionally, liberals and progressives are more tolerant of other opinions than conservatives are. They are more in favor of the freedom of the press. They’re more in favor of pluralistic societies. So, by definition, they are more open to other viewpoints. That’s always been the case. But even liberals have become less open over the last four years. Now, they’re now spending more time attacking other liberals for not being quite as perfect of liberals as they are. When the left – at least in a place like the United States – turns ugly, what they do is they write terrible, mean essays about other people on the left. When the right turns ugly, they kill black people, or gay people, or Jews, or immigrants. But when liberals become really scared, what they’re mostly good at is deciding that other liberals are not as good of liberals as they are!
As another example, when somebody asks people, “Would you be upset if your child married someone from the opposite end of the political spectrum?” even liberals are now more upset than they were four years ago at the prospects of that. Of course, they’re less upset than a conservative would be. But even they have become less tolerant. So, yeah, people move to the extremes.
Q: Dr. Sapolsky, this was such a fascinating conversation, and it was great to hear your thoughts on these issues. Thank you very much for your time.
A: Well, thanks. It was good to talk to you.
Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

“One Country, Two Systems”? Britain and Northern Ireland on Brexit

By Tom Clifford
Global Research, December 17, 2019

One country, two systems. Britain is leaving the European Union. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not leaving on the same terms.

In the UK election, more Irish nationalists than Unionists were elected in Northern Ireland for the first time since Ireland was partitioned in 1921. Not surprisingly, it led to Sinn Fein renewing its calls for a vote to leave the UK and unite with the Irish Republic. This is not going to happen for reasons steeped in history. But also crucially there is not a groundswell of opinion, on either side of the border, for it. But Northern Ireland feels a lesser part of the UK today than at any time since Lloyd George was prime minister.

Hold the front page, as they used to say in pre-internet and website days. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is talking nonsense. There was, he said adamantly, no question of checks being needed on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom under his European Union withdrawal agreement.
“There will not be checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain,” Johnson said in November.

Not so fast. His own Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, had to contradict him. Goods going from Northern Ireland will have to be accompanied by exit declarations and “targeted interventions” from customs officers, he said.

Brexit, The Tories and the “Irish Question”

Johnson, according to his own allies, is a non-starter regarding trust. Let us not forget, he is actually the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party. The Democratic Unionist Party feel they have been abandoned by him. On this, they are right. The DUP were convenient bedfellows when it suited him and when their usefulness was up, they were ruthlessly pushed out. This is no reason for non-Unionists to gloat. If the prime minister can dispatch his allies, then for those of a different political persuasion the occupant of No 10 Downing Street poses, at the very least, a troubling dilemma. Can he be taken at his word or trusted? The evidence suggests not.

Johnson is reneging on his absolute commitment to his allies in the DUP that a “border in the Irish Sea” is something “no British government could or should” ever accept.

DUP leader Arlene Foster was in no doubt. She said the British prime minister betrayed Unionist voters in Northern Ireland when he sealed a deal with the European Union that would introduce a trade barrier down the Irish Sea, jettisoning Northern Ireland from British customs procedures. He reneged on a promise he made when he spoke at their annual conference.

Foster said the party could no longer take Johnson at his word and would have to check if what he said “was actually factually correct”.

“Once bitten, twice shy, we will certainly be looking for the detail of what this [Brexit] is going to look like,” Foster said.

In his victory speech on Friday morning, Johnson said the UK is “leaving the EU as one United Kingdom”. Even if we ignore the Scottish question, this is utterly fraudulent. It is a matter of fact that Northern Ireland is not about to leave the EU on the same terms as Britain.

Crown subjects in Northern Ireland have a right to be told by their prime minister the truth about their status. Johnson displays a reluctance to tell the obvious truth that on the border, borders, literally, on the schizophrenic.
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Tom Clifford is an Irish journalist based in China. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright © Tom Clifford, Global Research, 2019

 

British Election Heralds Collapse of United Kingdom

Image result for British Election Heralds Collapse of United Kingdom
Finian Cunningham
December 16, 2019

Boris Johnson is entitled to crack open a few bottles of champagne after being re-elected prime minister, with his Conservative party winning a landslide majority. But when the celebrations are over, Britain is facing a thumping hangover – from the inescapable fact that half of the United Kingdom is now on an irrevocable path of separatism and independence.

Johnson has won a decisive mandate to “get Brexit done”, at least from London’s perspective. His party now has a substantial parliamentary majority of 80 seats in the House of Commons which will ensure delivery on his promise to execute Britain’s departure from the European Union on January 31. The actual final severance will take another year or two to complete because of negotiations between London and Brussels to definitively hammer out divorce terms. But at least Johnson can claim that he has consummated the final journey to leave the EU on January 31, a journey which began over three years ago when Britons had originally voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.

However, crucially, the Conservative government’s mandate for Brexit only applies to England and Wales. It was in these two countries that saw the significant swing of voters from the opposition Labour party to Johnson’s Tories. Thus, in effect, his parliamentary majority stems from voters in England and Wales.

By total contrast, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the other two regions which make up the United Kingdom, the voters resoundingly rejected Johnson’s Brexit plans and voted for parties wanting to remain in the European Union. The outcome is consistent with the 2016 referendum results when Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted against Brexit.

Moreover, the latest election results have reinforced the call for independence in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Scottish Nationalists swept the election to enhance their already existing majority. They now control nearly 90 per cent of all seats in Scotland. Party leader Nicola Sturgeon says there is an unquestionable mandate to hold a second referendum for Scottish independence. The previous independence referendum held in 2014 was defeated. But Scottish nationalists claim that popular support for their cause has surged since the Brexit referendum in 2016. The Scots, by and large, do not want to leave the EU. To remain in the EU therefore necessarily means separating from the United Kingdom and its central government in London.

Boris Johnson has so far rejected calls for holding a second Scottish independence referendum. But his position is untenable. Given the parliamentary numbers for separation stacking up in Scotland, he will have to relent. Nationalists there are demanding the holding of another plebiscite as early as next year.

In Northern Ireland, the election outcome is perhaps even more momentous. For the first time ever, nationalist parties have a majority over pro-British unionist parties. Mary Lou MacDonald, the leader of Sinn Fein, the main nationalist party, says that there is now a clear mandate for holding a referendum on the question of Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom. Given the breakthrough nationalist majority in the latest election, that would inevitably lead to a United Ireland, from the northern state joining with the existing southern state, the Republic of Ireland.

Nationalists in Northern Ireland have long-aspired for independence from Britain. Northern Ireland was created in 1921 from an audacious act of gerrymandering by the British government when it partitioned the island of Ireland into an independent southern state (which became the Republic of Ireland) and a small northern state (which became Northern Ireland). The latter remained under Britain’s jurisdiction. The arbitrary, imperialist act of partitioning Ireland was done in order to give the British authorities in London a mandate to rule over a portion of Irish territory because in newly created Northern Ireland the pro-British unionists were in a majority over nationalists. It was British establishment cynicism par excellence.

The present political structure of the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is only a century old. (Before that, the UK included all of Irish territory, but London was forced to grant partial Irish independence due to an armed insurrection.)

In any case, nearly a century after the setting up of Northern Ireland the natural demographic changes in its population have now created a majority for nationalists. The outcome of the election on December 12 is an undeniably huge historic event. For the first time ever, the nationalist mandate has overcome the unionist vote. The historic violation by British gerrymandering against Irish nationalist rights to independence and self-determination has finally been reversed in terms of electoral ballot.

When the Northern Ireland peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 to bring an end to nearly 30 years of armed conflict, enshrined in that treaty is the “principle of consent”. The British government is treaty-bound to abide by the electoral mandate of a majority in Northern Ireland wanting a United Ireland.

The threshold for triggering a referendum on Northern Ireland leaving British jurisdiction has now been reached. And nationalist parties are openly demanding that the legislative process to achieve that separation is now implemented.

Jonathan Powell, a seasoned British diplomat who oversaw the negotiations of the Good Friday Agreement, is not one for hyperbole. But in an interview with Matt Frei for Britain’s LBC Radio on December 14, Powell said he expected to see the “collapse of the United Kingdom” within the next decade, if not sooner. He was referring specifically to the electoral results in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson’s seeming victory in the British election is a double-edged sword. He may claim to have a mandate to cut off ties with the European Union. But the results also mean Scotland and Northern Ireland are empowered to now cut off their ties with the rest of Britain. The separation of those two states, leaving behind England and Wales, spells the end of the so-called United Kingdom.

Johnson’s election success is not “unleashing great potential” as he claims. Rather, it is unleashing an existential constitutional crisis for the British establishment.

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Why the Protestors of Hong Kong Are Destroying the Prosperity of Their Country

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Martin SIEFF

September 14, 2019

The people of Hong Kong enjoy one of the highest standards of livings of any city across continental Asia. Since peacefully being reabsorbed into mainland China in 1997, they have confounded endless Western Prophets of Doom: These falsely claimed that Beijing would not maintain its solemn undertakings for peace and security in the city and territory. They maintained that Hong Kong’s historic position as one of the great business hubs of Asia and the world would rapidly be destroyed. Nothing of the sort happened.

But the prosperity of Hong Kong for generations to come is danger now – and the threat manifestly does not come from Beijing.

The mass protests for greater democracy and freedom continue. And following a grim dynamic that goes back well over two centuries to the French Revolution they can never be satisfied.

The more that the administration of Hong Kong led by Carrie Lam and the national Chinese government in Beijing seek to avoid the undue use of force and the infliction of casualties, the more violent, the demonstrations slowly and remorselessly become, the broader and more sweeping are their demands for political liberties – though these are invariably vague and ill-defined.

I predict here – simply and clearly – that no matter how many concessions allegedly for liberty are given they will never satisfy the protestors and the Western governments who at the very least are using them as political puppets and pawns. All that can possibly be achieved is to create an atmosphere of fear, insecurity and violence: That is toxic to attract both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and also regular investment from the rest of China.

Therefore Hong Kong’s economy will founder, while unemployment and economic suffering will grow. Then, those suffering from it will be encouraged to blame the very government that has sought so long and so hard to prevent disasters from happening.

I speak with a particular authority on these matters: Half a century ago as a teenage Irish boy, I watched the same kind of protests destroy forever the peace and prosperity of one of the most advanced industrial centers on the face of the planet in the city of Belfast.

The lessons I learned then would serve the people of Hong Kong well today before they bring an unimaginable disaster upon themselves.

For popular violent protests against authorities never bring peace: They only bring war – Almost always on a scale that none of the protestors dreamed of when they took to the streets.

Prosperity never follows. At best there is mass unemployment and despair as local businesses and national investment flee the territory for decades and generations. You do not build factories and hire workers for them when the factory will be burned down in one of the endless clashes that will soon follow.

The “freedom” that the protestors demand is illusory. It is fools’ gold: It is the fantasy of wealth at the end of the rainbow that is never found.

Hong Kong’s enormous economic advantage for nearly 180 years under first British and over the past two decades of enlightened Chinese autonomous rule has been that it has been a secure, predictable and safe place to do business with the Mainland and with the wider region.

But that is no longer true: The longer the protests rage and the wider and more serious they become, the more that incalculable advantage is eroded before our eyes.

When I was a young boy, my father on Sunday mornings proudly took me down to the Harland & Woolf Shipyard on Queen’s Island to see some of the biggest moving vehicles in the world – giant cargo vessels, tankers, aircraft carriers and cruise ships – being built.

My father was proud of his son, but he was proud of his city too: Belfast was still the largest ship building center on earth. The great shipyard at its peak employed 35,000 workers. Enormous rivers of humanity would flow back and forth on the bridge over the River Lagan every day as its workers streamed to and from their labors. But for most of the past 50 years, almost all of it has become an industrial wasteland peopled only by ghosts.

Peace finally returned to Northern Ireland after 30 years of civil strife, but it was too late. The great shipyard never recovered and it never revived. What had been done could not be undone.

If these riots continue, that will be the fate of Hong Kong too. Nearly two centuries of growth and prosperity will wither and die.

This is no wild prediction. It is tantamount to a mathematical inevitability: There is a remorseless tidal wave of fate to the pattern of rising political protests that escalate into a violent revolution that can only be contained by the use of military force.

The Civil War in Northern Ireland raged – sometimes horrifically, sometimes more subdued – from 1968 to the landmark Good Friday Agreement of 1998. My old, dear friend, British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Marjorie “Mo” Mowlam was the key figure driving the negotiations. She undermined her health doing so. Then a host of political parasites from US President Bill Clinton to British Prime Minister Tony Blair were eager to hog all the praise and credit for themselves years later as Mo lay dying from a brain tumor.

The decades that followed the collapse of law and order in Ireland in 1968-1972 were the darkest in the island’s troubled history since the Great Famine of the 1840s. The British government’s record of secret manipulation and involvement in dark excesses and crimes during those years gives London no moral standing today to lecture China on how it handles the unrest in Hong Kong, or anywhere else.

I never expected to see the end of apparently endless war in Ireland in my own lifetime. Thanks to Mo Mowlam’s selfless labors and those of countless other British and Irish figures great and small, peace finally came. The protestors of Hong Kong too now need to take a step back, suck in a deep breath and pause to think long and hard before they charge down that same doomed and awful path.

Belfast councillors vote against sending rep on Israel trade trip — — Rebel Voice

Belfast councillors have voted against sending a representative on a business and investment mission to Israel, reported the Belfast Telegraph.According to the report, councillors rejected a plan to send the council’s Director of Economic Development on the trip with local businesses during a meeting on Wednesday.The purported aim of the visit was to “facilitate access… via […]

via Belfast councillors vote against sending rep on Israel trade trip — — Rebel Voice

Ireland passes BDS bill banning israel (apartheid state) settlement goods

Ireland passes BDS bill banning Israel settlement goods

Israel summons Irish Ambassador over the BDS bill

Ireland has advanced a bill which will prevent the sale of goods from Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The lower house of the Irish parliament – the Dail – yesterday voted in favour of a bill which will ban the purchase of all goods and services from Israel’s West Bank settlements, which are considered illegal under international law. The bill was previously passed through the parliament’s upper house – the Seanad – before proceeding to the lower house and receiving a 78-45 majority in favour, Al Jazeera explained.

The bill – officially known as the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill – still needs to pass several more stages before being signed into Irish law, but it is expected to progress given its broad base of support from Irish opposition parties.

Once approved, the law would see fines of up to €250,000 ($284,000) or five years in jail be handed down for those found guilty of importing or selling any goods or services originating in the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem or West Bank settlements, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Though estimates put the value of settlement-made exports to Ireland at between only $580,000 and $1.1 million annually, the symbolic value of the bill and its potential to influence other European countries to follow suit has been hailed as a victory by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative party, said the bill is a “great victory for the BDS movement” and vowed that “we will seek to pass similar laws in a number of European countries in the near future”.

READ: Israel accuses EU of funding NGOs that support BDS

Irish politicians also welcomed the move, with Irish Senator Frances Black tweeting: “Ireland will always stand for international law + human rights, & we’re one step closer to making history. Onwards!” She added: “We have now united every opposition party behind this bill, because it is *not* a radical ask: we want to give effect to basic provisions of int [international] law & human rights.”

However Israel has reacted with anger at the bill, summoning the Irish Ambassador to Israel, Alison Kelly, to be reprimanded.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s office said that “Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism”. It added: “Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace.”

Meanwhile Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the vote “an expression of pure hostility on the part of its initiators,” adding: “This is a clear expression of obsessive discrimination that should be rejected with disgust.”

Ireland has been a long-time supporter of the BDS movement. In October, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ announced that it will not sanction any staff members who refuse to travel to Israel for the Eurovision Song Contest, due to be held in Tel Aviv in May. RTÉ’s decision came after the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) called for a boycott of the competition “due to Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people”.

Other Irish organisations have also expressed support for BDS, with the Dublin City Council voting in April to back the movement. In March, students at one of the country’s most prestigious universities – Trinity College Dublin – voted to support BDS, meaning the Students Union will support the movement and “comply with the principles of BDS in all union shops, trade, business and other union operations”.

READ: UK band boycotts Eurovision to be held in Israel

American interference: US tries to stop Ireland banning imports from israel’s (apartheid state) settlements

US tries to stop Ireland banning imports from Israel’s settlements

Veteran US lawmaker Peter King has lobbied against an Irish attempt to ban goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Bill Clark CQ Roll Call Photos/Newscom

A prominent US politician has lobbied Irish lawmakers to reject a proposed ban on imports from Israel’s illegal settlements.

Peter King, a member of Congress for New York, is among those who have opposed a bill being debated in Dublin.

Although the bill – aimed at forbidding goods from Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank – seeks to uphold international law, King has depicted it as subversive.

King has tried to convince Fianna Fáil, one of Ireland’s largest parties, to withdraw its support for the proposed ban.

“It is critical that countries and leaders interested in facilitating a lasting peace amongst Israelis and Palestinians not serve to empower the most radical, who have no interest in seeking peace,” King stated in an email message addressed to Fianna Fáil’s team in the Oireachtas, Ireland’s national parliament.

He argued that the proposed ban on settlement goods “does just that by undercutting Palestinians truly interested in peace and empowering Hamas terrorists and recalcitrant Palestinians who refuse even to approach negotiations.”

King’s appeal was made in July and has not been previously reported.

Despite his strong connections with Ireland’s politicians, King could not persuade Fianna Fáil to change its stance. The party’s lawmakers have twice voted in favor of the Occupied Territories Bill, as the proposed ban on settlement goods is known.

Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on foreign affairs, confirmed that King had been in contact with the party. Collins added that staff from the US embassy in Dublin had visited him “a couple of times,” urging him to oppose the bill.

“Huge issue”

During a trip to the West Bank in the summer, Collins was taken aback by the scale of Israel’s settlement activities.

“I struggle to see how a two-state solution can ever be achieved because of the whole proliferation of the settlements,” Collins told The Electronic Intifada. “The whole West Bank now is so fragmented that I struggle to see how that pipe dream can occur.”

The position taken by Fianna Fáil has proven vital towards having the bill approved by the Seanad, the upper house in the Oireachtas. Nominally in opposition, Fianna Fáil is enabling the work of a minority government led by its rival Fine Gael through a “confidence and supply” arrangement.

Whereas Fine Gael has tried to torpedo the Occupied Territories Bill, Fianna Fáil has backed it.

Fianna Fáil has previously proven accommodating to the US elite. While in government, it allowed the US to refuel military planes in Shannon Airport at the time of the 2003 war against Iraq.

But on the issue of Israel’s settlement goods, Fianna Fáil has listened to public opinion.

Collins acknowledged that he was unaware of the depth of Irish empathy for the Palestinians until he became his party’s foreign affairs spokesperson earlier this year.

“I was very surprised at the time,” he said. “But I understand now that Palestine is a huge issue for people in Ireland.”

Reactionary

The arguments made by Peter King smack of double standards. His use of the term “terrorists” to describe Palestinian resistance fighters is at odds with how he has previously defended Irish republicans involved in an armed struggle.

Although he suggests that Hamas should be isolated, King encouraged dialogue with Irish republicans at a time when the British government was refusing to deal with them. He has taken credit for persuading Bill Clinton, then US president, to issue a visa for Gerry Adams, then leader of the political party Sinn Féin, in 1994.

Adams’ visit to New York is widely recognized as having helped to advance the Irish peace process.

Equally, King is wrong to assert that a ban on settlement goods would undercut Palestinians “truly interested in peace.” His argument overlooks how Israel’s apartheid system – including its relentless colonization of the West Bank – is the primary obstacle to peace and justice.

The ban being considered in Ireland aims to make Israel pay a price for its settlement activities. Under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, building settlements in a territory acquired by force is a war crime.

In the recent past, King has proven to be an especially reactionary member of Congress. He has, for example, supported President Donald Trump’s attempts to prevent residents of seven largely Muslim countries from entering the US.

King did not respond to a request for comment.

Inspired by a strike

Advocates of the ban on settlement goods have drawn inspiration from a strike by staff of the Irish retailer Dunnes Stores in the 1980s. By refusing to handle South African goods, the Dublin strikers made a significant contribution to an international campaign that would ultimately result in sanctions being imposed on Pretoria’s apartheid government.

“We are being watched from all over the world,” said Frances Black, the Irish senator who formally proposed the Occupied Territories Bill. “If this legislation gets through here in Ireland, I have no doubt that other countries will follow suit – just like what happened with the Dunnes Stores workers in Dublin.”

Black, also a well-known singer, has been touring Ireland over the past few months to promote a ban on Israeli settlement goods.

She has been critical of the uncooperative response from Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister and a leading figure in the Fine Gael party.

Coveney’s claims that – as a European Union member – Ireland may not unilaterally ban Israel’s settlement goods have been disputed by a number of lawyers. The lawyers insist that individual countries are entitled to restrict trade for reasons of public policy.

“I think the Irish government is probably fearful of Ireland leading on this,” said Black. “They are fearful of what the European Union and the United States might say. They said the same thing with the Dunnes Stores workers – that we couldn’t lead on this – but I’m saying that we can lead on this and that the people of Ireland want this.”

Ciaran Tierney is a journalist based in Galway, Ireland. Website: ciarantierney.com.

 

Protesters confront Israel envoy at Queen’s University in Belfast

Rebel Voice

Students have long been to the fore of movements for social change across our world, and Ireland is no different. As an ambassador for the rogue state of Israel recently visited Queen’s University in Belfast, in the Irish Occupied Six Counties, he was met with strong protest by both students and their supporters. The Israeli politico and his Unionist acolytes were left in no doubt that the students in this part of Ireland will not stand quietly by when representatives from a state guilty of multiple crimes against humanity waltz brazenly into Belfast. Maith sibh to all those who demonstrated.

There were reports of “angry scenes” at Queen’s University in Belfast yesterday, as protesters “confronted” the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev. According to the Belfast Telegraph, some 70 pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the university, as the Israeli envoy gave a guest lecture to postgraduate students. Earlier in…

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ملاحظات حول «الترتيبات النهائية» أو «صفقة القرن»

سبتمبر 27, 2018

زياد حافظ

خلال اجتماعات الأمانة العامة الجديدة المنتخبة للمؤتمر القومي العربي واجتماعات لجنة المتابعة للحوار القومي الإسلامي تمّت مناقشة ما يُسمّى بـ «صفقة القرن». أشار بعض المشاركين إلى أن ذلك المصطلح غير دقيق لسببين: فالسبب الأول هو أن المصطلح يفترض وجود على الأقل طرفين أحدهما يمثل الشعب الفلسطيني، وبما أن الشعب الفلسطيني ومن يمثله غير موجودَين للموافقة على ما يحصل أو يُعرض فلا يجوز التكلّم عن صفقة. أما السبب الثاني، فهو أن ذلك المصطلح ترجمة غير دقيقة لما أطلقته الإدارة الأميركية كـ «ترتيبات نهائية» لحل الملف الفلسطيني. وبالتالي من الصعب التكلّم عن صفقة تفرض موافقة «أطراف». ولكن بعيدا عن الجدل المصطلحي فلا بد من إبداء ملاحظات حول تلك «الترتيبات» سواء كانت «صفقة» أو «مخططات» أو أي شيء آخر.

الملاحظة الأولى هي أنه لا يجب أن نقلّل من خطورة ما نشهده من أفعال تقوم بها كل من الإدارة الأميركية والكيان الصهيوني وفقاً لمسار واضح الهدف وهو إقفال الملف الفلسطيني عبر تصفية القضية الفلسطينية برمّتها وجعلها فقط قضية اقتصادية اجتماعية لمجموعات أي الفلسطينيين من دون أي حقوق سياسية كوحدة تراب فلسطين، والاستقلال الوطني، وحق العودة، والتعويض عن القتل، والتهجير، والتدمير، وطمس الهوية، والمسّ بالكرامة. ويعدّد المراقبون هذه الخطوات بدءاً من قرار نقل السفارة الأميركية من تل أبيب إلى القدس وهو قرار تمّ التصويت عليه بشبه إجماع في الكونغرس الأميركي خلال ولاية الرئيس كلنتون، أي منذ حوالي 25 سنة ، مروراً بقرار تصويت الكنيست الصهيوني على قرار القومية اليهودية، وإيقاف الولايات المتحدة تمويل منظّمة الاونروا، واقفال سفارة فلسطين في الولايات المتحدة وطرد الدبلوماسيين وعائلاتهم من دون سبب، وتجميد المساعدات لفلسطين. كما أن بعض الدول العربية التابعة للولايات المتحدة اتخذت قرارات بعدم تجديد الإقامات للفلسطينيين الحاملين لجوازات سفر فلسطينية غير جوازات سفر صادرة عن الدول التي يقيمون بها كخطوة عملية قسرية للتوطين في بلاد الشتات. هذه الإجراءات شكّلت بداية «الترتيبات النهائية» على أن تليها «ترتيبات» أخرى تحرم الفلسطينيين من أي وطن وحقوق سياسية وجعلهم فقط «مقيمين» في فلسطين مع حق الكيان الصهيوني بطردهم متى شاء.

الملاحظة الثانية هي أن هذه الإجراءات تدلّ على إصابة الإدارة الأميركية وقيادة الكيان الصهيوني وبعض دول مجلس التعاون الخليجي بمرض التوحّد السياسي، حيث يضربون على نغم واحد غير مكترثين بالنتائج وردود الفعل على قراراتهم، وكأن ليس هناك من شعب فلسطيني، ولا قوى عربية من دول وفصائل تقاوم ما يُخطّط. وكأن المسألة «كن فيكون»! فجولة المبعوثين الأميركيين كوشنر وغرينبلات لم تسفر عن أي نجاح في محادثاتهما مع مسؤولين عرب يستطيعون التأثير على القرار الفلسطيني. ما تمّ عرضه كان خالياً من أي مضمون سياسي وكأن المسألة فقط مسألة تسوية أوضاع عقارية أو نهاية خدمة موظفين. فالعقلية السائدة عند الإدارة الأميركية وخاصة عند الرئيس الأميركي هي ذهنية الصفقات العقارية دون الاكتراث للبعد السياسي الذي يحيط بالملفّ الفلسطيني. وبالتالي، لن تلقى هذه المحاولات أي نجاح حتى على الصعيد الرسمي العربي رغم دفع بعض دول الخليج لتلك المبادرة التي يعتبر البعض أنهم وراءها. فصهر الرئيس كوشنر المولج بالملف لا خبرة سياسية له ولا معرفة إلاّ ما تلقّاه من صديق عائلته رئيس وزراء الكيان بنيامين نتنياهو. أما شريكه جاسون غرينبلات فهو «أكثر اتزاناً» وإن كانت معرفته بالملف محدودة. فأفكار تلك «الترتيبات» النهائية تحاكي عقلية السمسار غير البعيدة عن كل من بعض المسؤولين الخليجيين ورموز الإدارة الأميركية المولجين بالملف. وما يمكن أن يعزّز ذلك الاستنتاج هو تاريخ الفشل المتراكم لصهر الرئيس في الصفقات العقارية التي ورثها عن والده. فليس معروفاً عنه أي قدرة بعقد صفقات ناجحة كما تشير وسائل الإعلام الأميركية التي تتابع أخبار الرئيس الأميركي وأفراد عائلته.

الملاحظة الثالثة تتعلّق بجدوى «الترتيبات» التي اتُخذت. فقرار الرئيس الأميركي بنقل السفارة لم يحظَ بأي تأييد دولي. فالتصويت في الأمم المتحدة، سواء في مجلس الأمن أو في الجمعية العمومية، كشف مدى عزلة الولايات المتحدة رغم صلافة تهديدات سفيرة الولايات المتحدة للدول التي «خالفت» القرار الأميركي. أما قرار الكيان باعتبار فلسطين وطناً لليهود فقط، فهو قرار ينسف سردية الكيان وكل مَن تضامن معه ودعمه طيلة سبعين سنة بأن الكيان هو «الواحة الوحيدة للديمقراطية في صحراء الاستبداد». فهذا القانون يكرّس علناً عنصرية الكيان ويجعله الكيان الوحيد العنصري رسمياً في العالم. والقانون يشكّل إحراجاً للأمم المتحدة التي تقبل في عضويتها دولة تجاهر بعنصريتها. أما «الترتيب» الثالث بإيقاف الإدارة الأميركية تمويلها منظمة الاونروا فهو ترتيب لم يلاق أي تأييد دولي. فحتّى الدول التابعة للولايات المتحدة من بين الدول العربية دعت إلى سدّ الثغرة التي شكّلها انسحاب الولايات المتحدة من التمويل. و»الترتيب» الرابع المتمثّل بإقفال سفارة فلسطين وطرد الدبلوماسيين الفلسطينيين من الولايات المتحدة من دون أي سبب غير رفض انصياع السلطة الفلسطينية لإملاءات الإدارة، فهو دليل على صلافة الإدارة وعدم احترامها أياً من المواثيق الدولية والشرعية الدولية ما يزيد في عزلتها. فما إذن قيمة تلك «الترتيبات» الأحادية التي لا تحظى بأي تأييد دولي ولا حتى القانون الدولي والشرعية الدولية؟ كما ما قيمة تلك الترتيبات التي تتجاهل عمداً الحقوق الأساسية للشعب الفلسطيني؟

الملاحظة الرابعة هي أن خلال كل تلك «الترتيبات»، فعدد من الدول الأوروبية تفكّر جدّياً بالاعتراف بفلسطين كدولة وإن كانت تحت الاحتلال. فكل من ايرلندا واسبانيا على وشك إعلان ذلك. من جهة أخرى، الدولة الوحيدة التي تراجعت عن قرارها بنقل سفارتها من تل أبيب إلى القدس هي دولة براغواي بعد الانتخابات التي جرت فيها، والتي أتت بحكومة تناهض سياسة الولايات المتحدة. فحتّى «الحديقة الخلفية» للولايات المتحدة تنتفض ضد قرارات الإدارة.

الملاحظة الخامسة هي مسألة «تمويل» ما سينتج عن تلك «الترتيبات». فتوطين الفلسطينيين حيث يقيمون أو خلق أوطان بديلة أو إيجاد مناطق اقتصادية يتمّ من خلالها توظيف الشباب الفلسطيني تحتاج إلى تمويل. فالولايات المتحدة تقول صراحة أنها لن تموّل وتحثّ دول الخليج للقيام بتلك المهمة. وإذا فرضنا تلك الدول راضية عن تلك «الترتيبات»، وهذا ما نشكّ به، فإن إمكانية التمويل محدودة جدّاً بسبب تحوّلات سياسية واقتصادية جعلت من تلك الدول تفكّر بشكل جدّي مقاربة أوضاعها الداخلية لمنع الانفجار الاجتماعي الذي يهدّدها. فلا حكومة الرياض ولا حكومة أبو ظبي المستنزفتان بسبب الحرب العبثية على اليمن والإنفاق غير المسبوق على إشعال حروب وقلاقل في عدد من دول المشرق العربي تجعلها مؤهّلة لحمل العبء الذي تفرضه «الترتيبات النهائية».

ملاحظة أخيرة في «الترتيبات النهائية». فهذا المصطلح يذكّرنا بـ «الحل النهائي» للمسألة اليهودية في ألمانيا النازية التي اعتمدت سياسة الإبادة الجماعية للجاليات اليهودية في ألمانيا والدول التي احتلّتها خلال الحرب العالمية الثانية. فهل الإدارة الأميركية تفكّر بـ «حلّ نهائي» للفلسطينيين على الطريقة النازية؟

كل تلك «الترتيبات» تسير في عكس مسار الأمور، وخاصة في ما يتعلّق بموازين القوّة التي لم تعد لصالح الولايات المتحدة والكيان الصهيوني. فهذه الموازين كاسرة للهيمنة الصهيونية الأميركية ومعهما بعض الدول العربية. فكيف يمكن لتلك الترتيبات أن تلاقي أي نجاح؟ الردّ بالنسبة لنا يكمن في الاستمرار في مقاومة الاحتلال الصهيوني لكل فلسطين ودعم مسيرات العودة التي ينظّمها الشعب الفلسطيني المبدع في ابتكار وسائل المقاومة، ودعم محور المقاومة الذي يقف سدّاً منيعاً ضد كل المحاولات المشبوهة.

الأمين العام السابق للمؤتمر القومي العربي

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The Judgment of Jeremy Corbyn

The Judgment of Jeremy Corbyn

MARTIN SIEFF | 13.08.2018 | WORLD / EUROPE

The Judgment of Jeremy Corbyn

For a man who is assailed and accused of lacking judgment even more than US President Donald Trump, it’s amazing how often British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has already been proven courageously and presciently right.

In 1990, Corbyn opposed the most powerful and successful peace time prime minster of the 20th century, Margaret Thatcher when she tried to impose a so-called poll tax on the population of the UK. His judgment was vindicated: Thatcher’s own party rose up and threw her out of office.

At the beginning of the 21st century Corbyn was pilloried throughout the UK media for his outspoken opposition to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s support for the US invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Blair was prime minister for a full decade and won three landslide general elections, yet today he is discredited and politically virtually a recluse. Corbyn‘s opposition to both wars looks wise, as well as principled and courageous.

Corbyn’s support for the revolutionary Irish Republican movement was so strong that the UK security service MI5 monitored him for two decades listing him as a potential “subversive” who might undermine parliamentary democracy. On the contrary, in the late 1990s, Prime Minister Blair engaged the Irish Republican Army and its political wing Sinn Fein in a peace process that has led to a lasting peace in Ireland. Corbyn, who supported strongly the 1998 Good Friday Agreement proved once again to be ahead of his time.

Corbyn has never been afraid of taking ferociously unpopular positions. In 2015, after shocking Islamic State terror attacks in Paris he advocated the urgent need for a political settlement to end the Syrian Civil War. His advice was ignored by every major Western government. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more turned into destitute refugees flooding into the European Union since then.

Corbyn was also ahead of his time in seeking to engage Iran constructively. He hosted a call-in show on an Iranian TV channel for three years from 2009 to 2012 even though he knew that at the time such activities would seem to rule him out from ever being a serious contender to lead the Labour Party. But in 2015, the Conservative government of the UK, along with those of the United States, France and Germany joined in signing a far reaching nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Corbyn’s economic positions have long been despised by the Western liberal intellectual elites who have been spared the price of having their livelihoods destroyed by such policies. He strongly advocates using the power of government to encourage the rebuilding of major national industries and manufacturing power. These views are hardly radical, Robert Skidelsky, one of the most influential UK economists of the past generation has given significant support to Corbyn’s proposal of a National Investment Bank. These policies are neither Marxist nor revolutionary. But they can certainly be described as Social Democratic and humane.

Corbyn is no unprincipled careerist either. In voting his convictions and his conscience, he puts 99 percent of the UK parliamentarians of his generation to shame. Between 1997 and 2010, during the Labour governments of Blair and Gordon Brown, Corbyn voted most often against the official party line than any other member of parliament (MP) – a total of 428 times and an astonishing figure. In 2005 he was labeled the second most rebellious Labour MP of all time when his party ran the country.

One of the few areas Corbyn was clearly ambiguous on was the question of whether the UK should remain in the 28-nation European Union or leave it, and even here his ambivalence appeared honestly come by and reflected the genuine divisions in his country. Corbyn recognized the enormous differences between both extremes that have been tearing the British public apart on the EU issue.

Ironically, only Donald Trump in the United States – a figure for whom Corbyn certainly has no personal or policy sympathy whatsoever – is comparable to the degree to which he has defied the Conventional Wisdoms of the political media establishment yet done impressively well in fighting elections that were supposed to be impossible.

In fact, the record and pattern of Corbyn’s career has been very clear: His real “crime”- which he has repeated consistently – is to be years, often decades, ahead of Conventional Wisdom.

In routine, tranquil times, people like Corbyn are usually seen as troublemakers or even as dangerous lunatics. But at times of crisis when the wisdom of mediocrities is exposed as worthless, such figures prove vital to national survival.

When told that General James Wolfe, the UK’s one brilliant general of the mid-18th century, was believed to be insane, King George II replied “Mad is he? Then I wish he’d bite some of my other generals!”

The UK political establishment has sneered at Jeremy Corbyn’s bark. Perhaps it is time they need to experience his bite.

What absolute nonsense: israel diplomats say Irish bill banning settlement produce will ‘empower terrorists’

MEMO | July 4, 2018

People come together to support Palestine as they walk to the Israeli embassy in Dublin, Ireland [Tommy Morrin/Facebook]

The Israeli embassy in Ireland has claimed that a draft bill calling for a ban on the sale of goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) will “empower terrorists”.

The Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 was launched by Independent Senator Frances Black in January and will be voted on in the Seanad on 11 July at 2.45pm.

The embassy’s remarks came after opposition party Fianna Fáil announced yesterday that they intend to back the bill, with spokesperson Niall Collins TD saying it had “the potential to send a strong message that the issue of illegal settlements is being taken seriously and needs to be addressed”.

The Occupied Territories Bill wants to make it an offence “for a person to import or sell goods or services originating in an occupied territory”.

The Israeli embassy said such bills “further the divisions between Israel and the Palestinians”, without clarifying what this precisely meant.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has called for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to expel the Israeli ambassador.

“The Irish Government must give a strong and unambiguous statement that there can be no impunity for Israel’s mass killing of Palestinian citizens and its continued illegal occupation of Palestine”

said Sheehan.

“It’s long past time for An Taoiseach to expel the Israeli ambassador and officially recognise the State of Palestine as approved by the Dáil in 2014. There can be no further delay.”

Read also:

Dublin City Council backs BDS, urges expulsion of Israeli ambassador

Universalising the Holocaust

April 12, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon

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By Gilad Atzmon

Israel is upset!  Ynet reports today that Dublin Mayor Mícheál Éamonn Mac Donncha addressed a Palestinian Authority international conference in Ramallah on Wednesday, despite the Israeli Interior Minister instructing authorities to stop him from entering the country.

Mac Donncha boasted at the conference that his city’s council adopted a resolution calling for the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Ireland. Such a move didn’t make Mac Donncha popular in the Jewish State.

The symposium titled ‘Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Palestine’ focuses on Jerusalem’s significance in the eyes of Palestinians in the light of American president Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Jerusalem is of paramount importance in the world. I think an attempt by any one state or religion to exclusively reign supreme over Jerusalem is wrong. The American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is therefore very wrong,” Mac Donncha said expressing a universal ethical position.

Palestinians are not used to seeing Western politicians taking their side. Such an ethical move never goes unpunished as Jeremy Corbyn and thousands of his party’s members can tell.

Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Occupied Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai questioned yesterday whether “the honourable Mícheál Mac Donncha chose the event and its timing intentionally or not.” Today Israel marks the Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Perhaps tomorrow’s siren will remind him that (Mufti) Amin al-Husseini met with the mass murderer Adolf Hitler, and then he’ll try to come up with things to tell his city’s Jewish community.” I want to believe that Maj.-Gen. Mordechai doesn’t expect Dublin’s mayor to compromise on basic ethics just to appease Dublin’s Jews. Needless to mention that it may also be possible that some of the 1500 Jews who live in Dublin may actually support the Mayor’s humanist approach.

Maybe Maj.-Gen. Mordechai should use the occasion and contemplate himself over the meaning of Holocaust day. He can, for instance, delve into the racist Israeli Law of Return. He can ask himself how is it possible that just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz the newly formed Jewish State ethnically cleansed Palestine of its indigenous population (The Nakba). Maj.-Gen. Mordechai should ask himself if it is a coincidence that on the week that commemorates the holocaust, IDF soldiers filmed themselves ‘having fun’ shooting Palestinian protestors as if they were sitting ducks.

https://youtu.be/EjTkJIPKj80

I do believe that time is ripe for the Jewish State to tell us what is the universal moral lesson it drew from the Holocaust.

If they want to burn it, you want to read it!

cover bit small.jpg

Being in Time – A Post Political Manifesto,

Amazon.co.uk , Amazon.com and  here (gilad.co.uk).

Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, Calls for Irish Government to Recognize Palestine

Gerry Adams, president of the Irish Republican political party Sinn Féin, has called upon the Irish government in Dublin to recognize the state of Palestine.

 Adams has served as Sinn Féin president since 1983, and has been a member of the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament, since 2010. He plans to step down as Sinn Féin leader next month to make way for a new generation of leadership. He will be replaced by Mary Lou McDonald.

On a related note, it is reported that Israel is planning to close down its embassy in Dublin, this apparently in response to Ireland’s vote against Trump’s embassy move at the UN.

Irish Minister Advocates Palestinian State, Calls for Boycott of israel

Source

Irish Minister Finian McGrath. (Photo: Finian McGrath Page)

Irish Minister Finian McGrath has expressed support for boycotting Israel over “unfair” treatment of Palestinians. Reported the Irish Examiner.

The Irish Independent politician, who has served as Minister of State for Disability Issues since May 2016 made his comments following Trumps declaration of Jerusalem being the capital of Israel and after threatening to cut off aid to UNRWA, the main UN agency established in 1949 to provide relief assistance to millions of Palestinian refugees.

In a recent interview with The Irish Examiner McGrath was critical of the US role in inciting violence in the area, and expressed that his views are shared by many Irish citizens.

Talking about an Irish prioritization of a Palestinian state in 2018, McGrath said, “It is something that we all feel very strongly about and that is something that I put into the program for government.”

 

“We want to make sure that that message goes to the United Nations and we are advocating that at the UN and that is our position. It is non-negotiable; it is a very important issue for us.”

He also advocated for boycotting Israel until they comply with international law:

“I don’t like boycotts in my heart because I prefer dialogue and interaction but I think we have reached the stage now and particularly in recent weeks now where [Donald] Trump and the Israelis were saying that Jerusalem will become a capital of Israel. And that has provoked me, that has provoked me very seriously.

“So my personal view is we have to start looking at the whole economic sanctions area now because it just is unfair. The vast majority of the international community, they want to see Palestine recognized, they want to seem treated with respect and their human rights recognized and that’s not going to happen, so I think we have to up it a gear.

“But we have to up it a gear at the UN and at the EU. But also in relation to if it comes to it [boycotting] I will support it.”

 

McGrath’s determination to declare a Palestinian state in 2018 is shared by other Irish Ministers, such as Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who declared that Trump’s decision was “premature and ill advised”.

“Jerusalem is one of the permanent status issues which is to be settled in a final peace agreement in the Middle East. It has been the united position of the international community for decades, as set out in UN Security Council resolutions, that a resolution of the Middle East conflict will include agreement for Jerusalem to be the capital of both Israel and the future state of Palestine,” Coveney said to the Irish Times.

#Brexit Underscores Case for a United Ireland

Brexit Underscores Case for a United Ireland

Brexit Underscores Case for a United Ireland

Call it poetic justice, or plain old natural justice. For centuries, Ireland has always been on the receiving end of Britain’s collateral damage from its imperial intrigues. Now, however, Ireland could have the last laugh as Britain wades further into a quagmire of trouble over the Brexit debacle to leave the European Union.

Irish sentiments on both sides of the border within that small island country are clamoring for special status which would de facto create an island-of-Ireland unity. A country which would in effect be independent from British rule and moving closer towards the long-held aspiration of Irish nationalists and republicans for a united Ireland, distinct from the rest of Britain.

As Britain stumbles towards its eventual departure from the EU scheduled for March 2019, the historic break raises special problems for Ireland. Northern Ireland, which is under British jurisdiction, will be obliged to follow the Brexit path of quitting the EU, while the Republic of Ireland will of course remain an EU member. That potentially creates the unique scenario of an EU border being imposed on the island, separating the Northern and Southern territories.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of indicators showing that most people on the island of Ireland, North and South, want the continuation of a “soft border” arrangement which has existed since the signing of a landmark peace deal in 1998 to end decades of conflict. This makes sense from an economic and cultural point of view since the ease of transport and travel is a vital daily convenience. This has become ever-more the case in recent years to the point where there are no visible signs of two different jurisdictions. For example, a motorway now links the northern city of Belfast to Dublin and Cork, in the far south, in a seamless corridor. Elsewhere in rural areas, people criss-cross easily like birds on the wing as if there is no border. In effect, Ireland has become closer to being one country, as would seem to be the natural order of things on an island with centuries of a distinct and common Celtic culture.

However, if the British government’s negotiations with the EU continue on their present rocky path, there are real fears that a so-called “hard Brexit” will bring about a return of the hard border in Ireland which existed before and during the recent conflict up until 1998, when the Good Friday Peace Accord was signed.

Hardline Brexiteers within Theresa May’s Conservative government cabinet are pushing for an abrupt break with the European Union. Ministers like Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, want to quit the EU altogether and pursue a vision of Britain as a global trading buccaneer nation.

Other British ministers, and many British citizens, as well the opposition Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn, and business leaders, would prefer a “soft Brexit” where Britain still remains part of the European single market and customs union. It would have to pay a fee for such membership and accept Brussels’ rules on EU citizens’ rights in an arrangement similar to that existing for Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

A “soft Brexit” would leave the situation in Ireland much as it is today, where movement of goods and people is seamless without regulatory controls.

The trouble is that achieving a soft Brexit is far from certain. There are numerous signs that the EU and its chief negotiator on the matter Michel Barnier are becoming increasingly exasperated with London over its bumbling and incoherent stance.

British premier Theresa May faces a tough summit next month at the European Council in Brussels, at which the other 27 member states are to decide whether negotiations can proceed to substantive talks on the final trade deal with the EU.

May’s government is expected to show progress in commitment on three issues: a divorce bill with the EU; the guarantee of EU citizens’ rights in a post-Brexit Britain; and guarantees to uphold the soft border situation in Ireland.

The London government has so far dithered on all three issues. On the divorce bill, Theresa May last week, after months of wrangling, finally doubled the British offer of paying Brussels £40 billion (€45 billion). This is still way short of what the EU is demanding at around €60 billion. But the financial outlay has infuriated the hardline Brexiteers in her cabinet like Johnson who at one time arrogantly said the EU can “go whistle” – meaning, accept no payment at all.

On the Irish question, the British government has also shown an arrogant complacency. Last weekend, international trade minister Liam Fox asserted that London would give no commitment to the nature of the border in Ireland until a final deal with the EU was signed.

“We cannot come to a final answer on the Irish question until we get an idea of the end state [with the EU],” Fox told British media.

The London government is being supported by a small hardline pro-British Unionist party within Northern Ireland, the rather misnamed Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). It says that Northern Ireland must go the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom in its Brexit arrangement. That is, if the Brexit is a hard one resulting in strict external borders, then Northern Ireland should erect a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, according to the pro-British DUP.

But such an outcome is infuriating majority public opinion in both North and South Ireland. It should be noted that when Britain held its Brexit referendum in June 2016, the electorate in Northern Ireland voted clearly in favor of remaining with the European Union. Given the rupture to social and economic relations that the return of a hard border would create in Ireland, it is a safe assumption that a strong majority of people across the entire island would be firmly opposed to such an arrangement.

There is a deep resonance here with how the British political establishment in London has always ignored and indeed violated democratic mandates on the island of Ireland.

In a general election back in 1918, when the entire country was at that time under British colonial rule, the vast majority of the electorate – over 70 per cent – voted for the pro-independence Sinn Fein party. The response to that democratic Irish mandate by London was to artificially partition the country in order to create a British-run Northern state where formerly minority Unionist parties would thereby become the majority, thus providing London with a “mandate” to retain its jurisdictional presence in Ireland.

Likewise today, the British government is ignoring the majority wish across the whole of Ireland for the de facto non-existing border to be maintained. London seems though to be using the eventual border status within Ireland like a bargaining chip in its negotiations with the EU.

However, such British attitude is likely to rile the rest of Europe. The EU has so far shown solidarity with Ireland and the maintenance of the invisible border that has existed for the past two decades. No doubt the EU is mindful that the resurrection of a hard border could reignite conflict in Ireland. Irish republicans agreed to the peace deal in 1998 largely because it held out the promise of a gradual, eventual reunification of Ireland. The British government is now threatening to undermine that peace deal.

Brussels also backs a soft border in Ireland because it does not want to cause harmful economic repercussions for the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU. For London to harm a EU member in this way is seen as unacceptable by Brussels.

Here’s where the history of British meddling in Ireland and the denial of natural democratic rights of the Irish nation comes back to haunt.

The government of the Irish Republic, in Dublin, is stepping up a tougher line on the Brexit negotiations. The Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar says that his country will veto any moves towards a final trade deal between the EU and Britain at next month’s summit in Brussels – unless London gives a written guarantee that it will make a special case for Ireland by maintaining a soft border regardless of the Brexit outcome.

If London refuses to comply with the Irish demand, then it faces a even more tortuous process in negotiating Brexit and on less favorable terms. That will, in turn, pile on even more problems for Britain’s ailing economy which is already floundering over Brexit anxieties.

In many ways therefore, the fate of post-Brexit Britain is now in the hands of the Irish. After centuries of being collateral damage for British political rulers, that makes for a certain poetic justice.

But, more importantly, what the whole debacle demonstrates more than ever is that Irish independence and territorial unity is an ineluctable case of natural justice. It is only British intransigence and intrigue that has impeded the natural democratic rights of Ireland and the Irish people. That kind of baleful British interference in Irish national interests is no longer acceptable, no longer tolerable.

No longer an imperial power, in fact a shambolic decrepit Little England, the case for a united independent Ireland is again clearer than ever

Irish politician to ST: The West, EU, US aggravate Syrian people’s suffering by sanctions

 Thursday, 02 November 2017 09:54

Irish politician to ST: It is not up to anybody other than the Syrian people to decide their representation

The Irish politician Clare Daly, who recently visited Syria along with European delegation, has affirmed that the West and the European Union are aggravating the Syrian people’s suffering by sanctions and the U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and Israel in the region.

She has spoken for many times before the Irish parliament about the terrible suffering that the Syrian people have had to endure and she pushed her country’s government to argue in the EU to lift sanction imposed on Syria and to oppose the influence of Israel as well as to stop the west’s facilitation to those who are waging war on Syria.

“Ireland is a small country in Europe but internationally we punch well above our weight. Our country is supposed to be neutral and our people are very proud of that position, even though our government bends the rules and facilitates the US military in using one of our airports in the west of Ireland. They say this is only allowed on the basis that the planes are unarmed and not involved in military exercises. This is ridiculous. Why do they keep flying through our airport every day if they are not involved in military exercises in the Middle East? We have used the parliament to highlight these issues, have been arrested breaking into the airport at Shannon to try and search the planes ourselves. This put a lot of attention on the issue and what is going on in the Middle East. We push our government to argue in the EU to lift the sanctions and to oppose the influence of Israel, and for the West to stop facilitating those who are continuing to arm and finance those waging war in Syria,” the politician said in an email sent to the Syriatimes newspaper about the role of the Irish Members of Parliament in explaining the reality of events in Syria.

She underlined that western powers or those they are bolstering, who are arming and financing the ‘rebels’ need to back off and facilitate an agreed negotiated settlement to end the war through the offices of the UN or an agreed international body.

“Pre-conditions to such negotiations like the removal of president Bashar al-Assad are unacceptable. It is not up to anybody other than the Syrian people to decide their representation,” Daly added, indicating that the EU delegation’s members, who recently visited Syria, will do what they can to allow Syria decides its own fate far away from outside interference.

“Incredible experience”

The Irish MP told us that the EU delegation came to Syria to see for themselves what life is like for ordinary Syrian people after seven years of war and their real feelings about what the future should hold.

“We had an incredible experience in a very short time. Syria is obviously a very beautiful country with an almost unrivaled history, wonderful food and friendly people. People have suffered much and the presence or effects of war are very obvious everywhere, but we met so many people who are proud of their country and want the chance to rebuild it, that it was a very humbling experience for us. People proudly spoke of Syria’s mosaic of different religions and traditions but all united by the love of their country,” Daly asserted.

She pointed out that the delegation visited areas that had been secured by the Syrian army after they had experienced terrible destruction of homes, buildings, and families.

“There was a strong determination to get things back to the way they were. The people we met who have been displaced are the most vulnerable, many are deeply traumatized and sad and they will need a lot of help and support to move on with their lives,” Daly underscored.

She concluded by saying: “To witness the resilience of the human spirit in the face of huge challenges was really striking. We look forward to our return and will do what we can to urge the world to allow Syria decides its own fate, free from outside interference.”

By the end of last month [October], a delegation composed of activists from Ireland, Romania, Spain, Norway and Sweden visited Syria.

Since 2011, a foreign-backed terror war has been waged against Syria targeting its people, army, civilization and infrastructures in accordance with US-Zionist plot that aims to fragment the region and to have hegemony over its wealth.

Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour

#Ireland Deportations and Harassment of Irish Group Traveling to West Bank

Deportations and Harassment of Irish Group Traveling to West Bank

By Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin,

A trip to Palestine resulted in deportations and harassment by security as the Israel authorities step up attempts to intimidate or frighten future travelers to the area. During our trip we experienced CS gas, checkpoints, apartheid in action and military harassment of Palestinians. Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin relates his experiences as a member of the group.

Departure

I joined the group in Dublin airport on the morning of September 8th and we flew out to Istanbul where we waited in a transit area cafe for a couple of hours. As it turned out our flight departure lounge for Tel Aviv was next to the cafe where we were sitting and we noticed that an extra layer of security was being prepared by ground staff for the Tel Aviv flight. After boarding, and a smooth Turkish Airlines flight to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, we disembarked and queued up for passport control. I was on my own and after 2 or 3 questions (what was the purpose of my trip, had I been to Israel before, etc). I was given a one month visa and waved through.

Meanwhile, however, trouble was brewing as I could hear the two Irish girls at the kiosk next to me being asked to bring the group leader over. I went directly through to the arrivals hall as I had not checked in any bags. Then began a long wait as myself and the few who got through unhindered discovered that security had rounded up as many of the group as they could find including those who had decided to wait in the luggage hall rather than in the arrivals hall. In all 21 were detained and 6 questioned, and of those 4 were deported (Elaine Daly, Fidelma Bonass, Joan Nolan and Stephen McCloskey) a few hours later. The four who were detained were informed that they were being deported to prevent ‘illegal immigration’ even though they had valid passports and return tickets. Around 4am the others were released and we finally boarded the bus and made the journey to our hotel in Bethlehem.

West Bank wall and turnstiles

Fact Finding Program

Our tour, though coordinated in Dublin, was organised by the Siraj Centre, a non-profit organization licensed by the Ministry of Tourism and based in Palestine. Our Fact Finding Program included meetings with prominent peace activists, political officials, human rights organizations, settlers and Jewish tour guides. This makes the deportation of our group leader, Elaine Daly, even stranger as she has been organising trips with the Siraj Centre every year from Ireland since 2006.

Sat 9th Sept: Day 1 Bethlehem

On our first morning we attended a talk by Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a local university professor and activist, at the Natural History institute who emphasised the strong link between biodiversity, political struggle for the land and its safeguarding for future generations. It was interesting to note that it had been his son who had first drawn the infamous ‘shrinking’ map of the Palestinian territories showing their loss of land from 1946, 1947, 1967 to the 2000s.

Entrance to Aida refugee camp

CS gas

Afterwards we headed over to the Lajee Center, a cultural centre beside the main Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem for a talk and a traditional dance display from the local children. Soon however they switched off the air-conditioning and when we asked why we were told that tear gas was coming through the system. Directly outside the window local youth were throwing stones at the Israeli army at the far end of the road. Soon more and more tear gas came into the building and the windows and doors were shut. For most on the tour it was their first experience of the burning effects of CS gas yet for the members of the Lajee Center it had become merely a nuisance. After about a half hour we were able to leave and go for a short tour of the area. We passed under the arch of Aida camp with a giant key symbolising the principle that Palestinian refugees, both first-generation refugees and their descendants have a right to return. On our left were simple concrete buildings while on the right the street is cut off from Jerusalem by the Israeli West Bank wall and covered in murals and graffiti.

Wall mural, Aida refugee camp

Sun 10th Sept: Day 2 Hebron

The next day on the way to Hebron we stopped off at a small park beside a main road containing the tomb of Baruch Goldstein, the religious extremist who carried out the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in Hebron. Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers and wounded another 125. He was then overpowered and beaten to death by the survivors. Goldstein was not allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery but his current burial site still attracts Jewish extremists. We drove on to the Cave of Patriarchs or Ibrahimi Mosque where the Goldstein massacre took place. There are now two separate entrances, one for Muslims and one for Jews, both of which we were able to enter. This building is over 2,000 years old is believed to be the oldest continuously used prayer structure in the world. However, it was outside the Mosque at the military checkpoints we witnessed Israeli apartheid for the first time. Palestinians are barred from the using the street and our guide was apprehended by two soldiers. Our group complained to the soldiers but only our guide responded saying he would get a taxi and meet us elsewhere. In the end, the group spontaneously applauded our guide for his patience and perseverance as he was removed from the area. Our waiting bus had only been 50 metres around the corner…

Ibrahimi Mosque, Hebron

We walked through streets of Hebron going through different stages of clearance. In some places only a few Palestinians were left in the old stone buildings and Israeli street signs had been erected pointing to Jewish places of interest. In other streets nets had been used to stop settlers throwing objects on the shoppers below. Afterwards we were brought to meet with a settler where some asked questions about the settlements and their legality but this ended up with some storming out and others realising how it easy it was to become an Israeli citizen and participate in the land confiscations.

Mon 11th Sept: Day 3 Jerusalem

Our guides were Palestinian and Jewish and both were equally as good when it came to explanations and answering questions from our group. As we drove through East Jerusalem it was pointed out by our Jewish guide that Palestinians pay taxes yet their areas had bad roads and poor rubbish collection services.

Tues 12th Sept: Day 4 Nablus

In Nablus we visited Jacobs Well Church, and then to Balata Camp to meet with a representative from the Yafa cultural Center. The centre was set up in 1996 by the Committee for the Defence of Refugee Rights and offers a range of educational and creative programs to camp residents. We were brought around the closely-built neighbourhoods of the camp where some ‘streets’ were less than one metre wide. After lunch we had a tour in the old city of Nablus and visited the Samaritans Museum. The bustling old city gave us a feel for what many areas should have looked like and felt like without occupation.

Yafa cultural Center, Nablus

Wed 13th Sept: Day 5 Ramalah

We began the day driving to Ramalah to meet with a speaker from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS). BDS has become an extensive movement against Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism. It is also a Palestinian-led movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world. We also met with a representative from Al Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organisation also based in Ramallah. According to their website: ‘Al-Haq documents violations of the individual and collective rights of Palestinians in the OPT, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator, and seeks to end such breaches by way of advocacy before national and international mechanisms and by holding the violators accountable.’ In the afternoon the group were brought on a sightseeing tour of Jerusalem which I did not participate in due to feeling unwell. Instead, I went with our Palestinian tour guide back to Bethlehem on the public bus instead. As the bus approached the wall we all had get off and pass through the many turnstiles and barricaded-off pathways to get to the other side of the wall. The queues moved quickly enough as the military generally do not carry out checks on Palestinians going home to the West Bank from Jerusalem in the evening. It is in the early morning that the long queues form as workers are stopped and permits scrutinised on the way to work in Jerusalem.

Old City, Nablus

Thurs 14th Sept: Day 5 Bethlehem

The next day I went back to Jerusalem from Bethlehem on public bus No. 231. At a major checkpoint a male and female soldier got on the bus while about a third of the bus got off to have their permits checked outside. They questioned a Palestinian woman with children for about ten minutes on the bus before suddenly leaving the bus again and letting the others back on. These checks, the roadworks and traffic jams into Jerusalem added up to about 30 minutes onto our journey, a journey which should have taken only around 20 minutes. In the centre I crossed the road and entered into the Old City through Herod’s Gate. I headed through the old city markets to the Al-Aqsa Mosque but at various Israeli military check points I was stopped and informed that the Mosque was only open in the mornings. There were 4 or 5 groups of about 20 Israeli soldiers each walking and singing down the narrow streets towards the Western Wall. The area was being prepared for a swearing-in ceremony for Paratrooper recruits taking place that evening. After walking the Via Dolorosa and around to the Damascus Gate I got the bus back to Bethlehem. Later, after dinner with the group in a Palestinian restaurant in Bethlehem, a few of us took a taxi to visit the Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel about ten minutes drive away. The ‘Walled Off’ sits beside the massive wall which is covered in graffiti executed in many styles by various artists. Boasting the ‘worst view in the world’ the lobby contains a collection of art and there is a museum upstairs. People sat outside on the veranda between the hotel and the wall having a quiet drink in this most incongruous of places.

Mural near ‘Walled Off’ hotel

Fri 15th Sept: The Dead Sea

For our last day the group decided to visit the Dead Sea. After arriving at the resort, getting to the water’s edge meant walking down layer after layer of beaches as the Dead Sea evaporates. The recession of the water’s edge is believed to be about 1 m (3 ft) a year. The speed and breadth of the recession of the Dead Sea was a fitting symbol for the recession of the West Bank itself as more and more settlements and walls reduce further the size of the Palestinian territories.

Early the next morning we were back on the bus to Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport where there was some anxiety as the security checks were known to be more stringent in the departures area than in arrivals area. (Why? a form of damage limitation?) Once again our group was held up to the last minute for our flight to Istanbul. We had a much more pleasant time in Dublin airport where a welcoming committee was waiting for us with a Palestinian flag. Elaine and the other deportees had decided to hold off publicising the deportations so as not to create any unnecessary difficulties for the rest of the group’s departure from Tel Aviv. Of course, our problems were nothing compared to the daily experiences and hardships of the Palestinian people being forced through turnstiles, having to obtain multivaried permits, losing land and dwellings, enduring constant military checks and an oppressive political/legal system (like the 17C Penal Laws in Ireland) all because of a particular nationality or religion. The trip left an indelible impression on us as individuals and as a group which would not be easily removed by the self-serving rhetoric of an all-powerful occupying force.

Since our return the issue of the deportations has been raised in various articles in the national newspapers. It has also been brought up during question time in the Dáil (the Irish parliament). Despite not being able to return to the West Bank again, Elaine is already planning to organise two trips to the West Bank from Dublin for 2018. All aboard!

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country at http://gaelart.blogspot.ie/.

All images in this article are from the author.

Ireland to Recognize Palestinian Statehood

Ireland to Recognize Palestinian Statehood

Israel is its own worst enemy. Its new land grab law is the latest example – stealing privately owned Palestinian land for exclusive Jewish development and use.

Germany bashed the measure, discussed in a previous article. UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbin oppose it.
French President Francois Hollande called for its annulment. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said it “crosses a new and dangerous threshold.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said its breach of international law will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel – Trump so far largely silent ahead of meeting with Netanyahu next week in Washington. His administration supports unlimited Israeli settlement expansions, flagrantly illegal under international law.
According to a Haaretz report, Israel’s ambassador to Ireland Ze’ev Boker informed Netanyahu or his office of Dublin’s intention to officially recognize Palestinian statehood.
Over two-thirds of UN member states recognize its sovereignty – largely symbolic gestures.
Palestine remains illegally occupied, no prospect of it ending, its people denied virtually all fundamental rights, its puppet Ramallah regime subservient to Israel, not its own people.
According to Haaretz, Ireland decided to move on recognition in response to Israel’s land grab law – a lawless act against a people defenseless to stop it.
The world community failed to make Israel pay a stiff price for decades of viciousness against defenseless Palestinians, including wars of aggression and daily persecution – stealing their rights, welfare, land and lives.
Boker’s cable reportedly urged Tel Aviv to ask Trump for help. It recommended Netanyahu call his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny to discourage Ireland’s extending recognition to Palestine.
In 2014, both houses of its parliament urged it. EU envoy to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen hinted at possible punitive measures never before imposed on Israel, most unlikely now.
Ireland was the first European country to extend recognition to the PLO. Its government criticized Israeli policies numerous times before, meaningless lip service alone.
No action was taken to help long-suffering Palestinians. Recognizing their sovereign rights is a friendly gesture far short of aiding their liberating struggle

US-EU Supported Terrorists Contaminate Syria’s Water Reservoirs: Complicity of “White Helmets”

US-EU Supported Terrorists Contaminate Syria’s Water Reservoirs: Complicity of “White Helmets”By We Save Syria,

Syria’s Water, Irish Fascism & the White Helmets Murder Gang

Just before Christmas 2016, NATO’s Syrian rebels threw thousands of tonnes of diesel into Damascus’ water reservoirs before blowing up the wells to divert the water into nearby rivers, which immediately flooded. The result of this war crime is that the 5 million civilians of Damascus have been without water since then.

Mothers do not have water for their babies, hospitals do not have clean water and, incredibly, Irish aid organisations are directly complicit in this war crime by giving succour to the White Helmets who, as the above letter shows, have given their imprimatur to this war crime.

The White Helmets themselves are a NATO funded ISIS auxiliary force, the worst of the Black and Tans with the best PR agents and crocodile smiles Gulf State money can buy. Even though not a single one of the 100,000 civilian hostages rescued from East Aleppo had ever heard of them, let alone seen the White Helmets in action, Western organisations paid this al Nusra and ISIS affiliated group tens of millions of dollars supposedly to rescue women and children, with USAID alone paying them a whopping $23 million to spread their fictions and their bile

Such was the mega hype around this fraudulent group that brain-dead Hollywood actors, British MPs and Irish aid organisations all heavilypimped them for the Nobel Peace Prize – despite their documented serial collusion in al Nusra’s war crimes and despite there being no independent evidence of them ever having performed even one rescue mission.

Irish groups which supported these war criminals’ attempts to win the Nobel Peace Prize include GOAL, Trócaire and the Irish branch of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Controversial Irish journalist Mary Fitzgerald has predictably been unstinting in her praise of this gangster group, which has even been allowed to address the Irish Parliament on more than one occasion.

The Irish edition of the Daily Mirror even says the main thing Irish people can do to help Syria is to donate to the White Helmets, a group which acts as al Nusra’s undertakers and which thinks poisoning the water supply for Damascus, which has a population akin to that of the entire island of Ireland, is an acceptable tactic, whereas such barbarities have always been regarded as the war crimes that they are.

The Daily Mirror is wrong. The worst thing Irish people can do is to support terror groups like the White Helmets. The best thing they can do is to do their humanitarian duty and oppose them and all in Ireland who give them succour.

If that includes Trócaire as well as GOAL and Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF), so be it.

Syrian Mufti Gives Stunning Talk on Visit to Ireland – updated

Syrian Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun is part of a delegation of Syrians currently visiting Ireland. The delegation consists of medical professionals as well as religious leaders. The above video shows Mufti Hassoun giving a talk before the Irish Parliament on December 1, comments in which he discusses the toll the war has exacted upon the Syrian people as a whole as well as a personal tragedy in his own family, with the death of his son.

The delegation’s visit reportedly also included a visit to Trinity College Dublin, and the visit has been reported on by a Catholic website (see article below).

Back in August I put up a post on a visit to Syria by a US delegation of peace activists, who had a chance to meet with Mufti Hassoun while they were in the country. Upon returning to the US, the delegation gave a presentation at the UN. You can find more on that here.

***

In Ireland, Doctors, Church Leaders Tell Horrors of Life in Syria

By Sarah Mac Donald

DUBLIN (CNS) — Fifty percent of Syria’s hospitals and medical centers have been destroyed or looted and their staff kidnapped, tortured or slaughtered, a leading Syrian surgeon told members of the Irish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Dr. Bashir Mohammad, a cardiologist, was part of a delegation of high-profile Syrian medical and religious leaders who appealed Dec. 1 for an end to punitive European Union sanctions against his country.

Mohammad was accompanied by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; Syria’s grand mufti, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun; and Dr. Ahmad al Khaddour, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Khaddour, a professor of medicine at Damascus University, explained that the group had come to Ireland “to pass the message that Syria needs help.”

“The European sanctions have affected our medical system very badly. We have a shortage of medical supplies on a daily basis. We have children dying because there is no medicine and children suffering because there is no fuel for heating.”

He highlighted how the sanctions had depleted Syria’s “capacity and capability in a very devastating way to manufacture medicines and to treat our patients.”

“The sanctions have killed more people than ISIS,” he said, referring to the Islamic State.

Prior to 2011, when the conflict in Syria erupted, hospitals had always been a safe place, but they became a “soft target,” and the country’s pharmaceutical industry was now no longer able to meet Syria’s medical needs, Mohammad explained.

He contrasted this to the situation five years ago when the country was able to meet up to 95 percent of its own medical needs and was exporting its products to more than 54 countries.

Syria is now “reliant on medication from the black market and, with the weak purchase power of our currency, we are unable to buy medication,” he said.

He told Catholic News Service: “We have lost half of our hospitals and three-quarters of our factories for medication — lift the sanctions please. We are friends to America and to the West.”

Patriarch Laham described the delegation as “ambassadors for peace.” He also asked, “as patriarch, that the bishops’ conferences of Europe gather together to raise their voice for peace.”

Speaking to CNS, the 83-year-old indicated his own personal exhaustion with the conflict. “It is war, war, war. Enough war!”

Referring to the 1,435 years in which Christians and Muslims co-existed together in Syria, Patriarch Laham stressed that faith is “part of the solution” to Syria’s war.

“Faith can really help us to make peace in the world. My slogan is ‘We should stay together to build a new world; we can stay together to build the world; we want to stay together to build a new world,” he told the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Patriarch Ignatius told the committee, “We feel sometimes we are abandoned by the international community because all they talk about are the rebels and what the rebels are suffering. But nobody is talking about the real Syrian people who are under government-controlled areas and what they are suffering.”

“Suffering has gone beyond all bounds,” Patriarch Ignatius said.

The Orthodox patriarch, who escaped a suicide bomb attack last June, spoke about the difficulty of trying to live life in such a dangerous context.

“I live in Old Damascus, not far from the street where St. Paul was led to be baptized. Occasionally we get bombs thrown on us by rebels who live about 2 kilometers away. There is no safe place left in Syria for anyone, and all Syrians need peace.

“We want a new Syria — for all Syrians — that respects diversity and gives a chance to every Syrian to serve Syria. I don’t think that having an opposition that is armed will help Syria; no country in the world would accept that, be it a moderate or unmoderate opposition. Obama and the U.S. government trained thousands of people and spent $500 million on the so-called moderate opposition, but they all joined Daesh (Islamic State) or al Nusra — except for maybe four or five groups.”

As to the situation of Christians in Syria, he confirmed that, along with other people of faith, Christians were being targeted because they were not willing to take sides.

“Our archbishops have been kidnapped and we don’t know anything about them; there are many priests who have been killed and many churches have been destroyed and Islamic scholars are also being killed. All people of faith are being targeted because Daesh and others act in the name of Islam, but they do not represent the real Islam,” he said.

Hassoun, the grand mufti, recalled how when the conflict erupted in 2011, he was told to leave but refused because he wanted to be a “bridge of peace between the opposition and the regime.”

His refusal to leave resulted in his son’s assassination outside his university. Later, his son’s remains were dug out of his grave by the rebels and have never been recovered.

“This is the revolution in Syria — if it were a revolution to reform the regime I would have been with them, but it is a revolution to kill men,” he said, urging legislators to go to Syria and see for themselves “what they have done to us.”

Related VIDEOS

Published on Dec 2, 2016

The goals of the visit are to firstly send a fact-finding medical, religious, political and humanitarian mission to the Syrian Arab Republic from Ireland, as well as from other independent-minded countries; to encourage Irish charity and NGO groups to send aid to Damascus via Trócaire/Caritas and other transparent and credible conduits Syria’s venerable religious leaders recommend and to lay the foundations for a major international fact-finding and medical delegation to visit Damascus and environs on March 17th 2017, St Patrick’s Day.
The situation in Syria, as East Aleppo’s human shields show, remains very grave for all Syrians. Although this visit is strictly non-political it must be clearly stated that EU sanctions, in which Ireland is fully complicit, are responsible for more deaths than even ISIS. The bulk of the Irish people do not accept that rampant collusion or that of our media, which is a crimson blight on our neutrality.

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