Pakistani PM firmly rejects Israeli ties as ‘baseless’, publicity campaign

Source

Saturday, 19 December 2020 10:31 AM  [ Last Update: Saturday, 19 December 2020 11:45 AM ]

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan removes his facemask during a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on November 19, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has rejected as “baseless” reports of his government officials visiting Israel, insisting why would any of the ministers visit Tel Aviv when Islamabad does not recognize the occupying regime.

Khan made the remarks during an interview on Friday with the local Samaa TV emphasizing that the Israeli-based news story was part of “an entire campaign” targeting his administration.

The development came following a publicity campaign by Israeli regime’s news outlets alleging on Wednesday that a senior advisor to Khan had visited the occupied territories last month.

Israel stirs media hype as Pakistan comes under pressure to normalize ties
Israel stirs media hype as Pakistan comes under pressure to normalize ties
Israeli news outlets are spreading a rumor that a senior advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the Israeli-occupied territories last month, despite Islamabad’s repeated rejections of speculation about ties with Tel Aviv.

Citing a source close to the Tel Aviv regime, Israel Hayom and other Israeli dailies published a report claiming that the Pakistani aide had met with Israeli officials during an alleged trip to Tel Aviv.

The apparent propaganda story also said the Pakistani official was carrying a message from Khan that reflected his “strategic decision” to open political and diplomatic talks with the regime. The Jerusalem Post also covered publicity item but later removed it from its website.

Pointing to recent efforts by a coalition of 11 opposition groups — led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the now London-based former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted after being convicted and later jailed on official corruption charges – Khan said he was prepared to face everything the opposition alliance aims to throw at him.

“The PDM can do anything that it wants. I am ready,” said the premier, adding that PDM’s recent protest rally in Lahore had damaged the opposition’s alliance.

“I am a jalsa specialist and I am telling you that this was a flop show,” he said.

Khan’s administration had dismissed the Lahore rally as “more [of] a ploy” to distract from the corruption charges against Sharif.

Huge opposition rally in Lahore urges resignation of PM Khan
Huge opposition rally in Lahore urges resignation of PM Khan
Thousands of Pakistani opposition supporters stage a protest rally in Lahore to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan also touched upon the threat of mass resignations by opposition legislators, saying, “If they resign, it would be better for Pakistan.”

He went on to say he would even assist the opposition if they came to Islamabad, but noted, “They cannot even last a week [in Islamabad] even if I support them.”

The Pakistani leader defended the country’s top military commander General Qamar Javed Bajwa against the opposition’s persisting allegations against him and the army, saying that “anger” and “disappointment” prevailed among the ranks after Bajwawas was targeted by opposition leaders during public gatherings.

“Gen Bajwa believes in democracy. Had it been another general, he would have given a quick rebuttal,” Khan said, adding that the army chief was “angry” but he was “controlling it.”

He also emphasized that all institutions — including the army — stood beside him, saying, “There are excellent civil-military ties in the country.”

He said the army serves under him as he is the prime minister, and as the army is a government institution.

India’s scheme to discredit Pakistan

Referring to a recent report by the EU DisinfoLab, Khan said the NGO’s research had exposed India’s network that kept spreading misinformation about Pakistan.

The Brussels-based NGO, which works to combat disinformation against the European Union, unveiled earlier this month that a 15-year-old operation run by an Indian entity had used hundreds of fake media outlets and the identity of a dead professor to defame Pakistan.

The report – Indian Chronicles: deep dive into a 15-year operation targeting the EU and United Nations to serve Indian interests – described the effort as the “largest network” of disinformation they have exposed so far.

The report – released on December 9 – said the disinformation network run by the Srivastava Group, a New Delhi-based entity, was designed primarily to “discredit Pakistan internationally” and influence decision-making at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the European Parliament, Al-Jazeera reported.

The report also revealed that in order to “undermine Pakistan internationally,” the network “resurrected dead NGOs” at the UN, impersonated the EU and laundered content produced by fake media to real media, and reached millions in South Asia and across the world.


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Is the US a Global Leader Anymore?

Is the US a Global Leader Anymore?

August 13, 2020

by Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Currently, the biggest challenge faced by the world is Pandemic. Outbreak early this year has engulfed the whole world. Indeed, the COVID-19 is not too fatal, yet due to its highly contagious nature, it has impacted society adversely. It is a new virus, a lot of studies are going on, especially on its cure and vaccines. Yet, nothing is commercially available; all such R&D is at the laboratory level. Either it is stage one or two or any other advanced stage, yet it might take some time to make the vaccine available at a commercial scale for everybody to be benefitted.

The number of CVID-19 cases has exceeded 20 million, with a death toll of around 750,000. The economic impact is even more visible. And some of the countries are already slipped into recession, while few are almost near to collapse. Social distance has made everyday life more difficult, people are losing jobs, businesses are suffering, and some of the markets have been closed.

At this challenging moment, the whole world was looking toward the US as a global leader to rescue them. Developing countries and underdeveloped countries were more miserable and was expecting much more from the US. Even the developed nations and well-advanced countries were also expecting some kind of assistance or help from the US.

Unfortunatetely, the US was the worst-hit country in the world, with the highest number of Coronavirus cases and the death toll. It was the time when the US can prove its global leadership role. NATO allies, other friendly countries were in award position, when the US showed cold shoulders.

It is entirely right; every country should look after its own interest and must say his own country first. But for a leader, one has to take everyone else along with and protect everyone.

Acknowledging the US’s global leadership, just after World War II (WWII), by launching the Marshal Program aimed to rebuild war-torn Europe was a successful model. As a result, the US gained a leadership role. But during the last couple of decades, the US policies witnessed a deviation from Global responsibilities.

The US was leaving International organizations and treaties, one after another, ignoring its global obligations and escaping from global responsibilities gradually.

  • In 1982, to maintain its maritime hegemony, the United States refused to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), of which it is still not a party. It has created an imbalance of power in the global maritime and vulnerability.
  • In 1984, the United States formally withdrew from UNESCO, dissatisfied with the gradual erosion of its social control by developing countries. After returning to the Organization in 2003, it once again withdrew in 2017 on the so-called ground of saving funds and urging reform. UNESCO suffered a considerable loss in its routine functions. It has impacted the capabilities of the Organization adversely due to a shortage of funds.
  • In 1985, the United States refused to recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) after Nicaragua complained that US armed intervention violated its sovereignty. A message that the US was not sincere about global justice. As a matter of fact, the US was extensively involved in war-crimes and international terrorism and scared of convictions.
  • In 1995, the United States withdrew from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and refused to pay arrears by claiming domestic budgetary constraints, damaging the global industrialization program. Yet increased its defense budget.
  • The United States has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol since 2001, saying it was not in its national interest to meet relevant environmental obligations. By withdrawing, the US denied its responsibility in protecting the global environment. It should be noted that damaging the environment is a severe collective crime with humanity.
  • In 2001, the United States withdrew from the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance after failing to prevent discussion of Israeli military action against Palestinians. Today, what is happening in the US is also the result of these policies.
  • In 2001, to strengthen its military advantage, the United States formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. However, it gave supremacy to the US but created an arms race world-wide, forcing other nations to compete in the US.
  • In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, citing unfavorable terms for American soldiers, diplomats, and politicians. It was a message that the US did not feel globally obliged not to commit war crimes, espionage, the aggression of sovereign states, etc.
  • In 2017, the United States announced its formal withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) because it believed that multilateral trade agreements were not in its best interests and hindered its “America First” policy. Although the US is the largest economy of the world, it yet believes in unfair practices.
  • In 2017, the US government announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, aimed to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, believing that it could hinder economic development. An irrational approach and wrong decision again.
  • In 2017, the United States withdrew from negotiations of the United Nations Global impact on Migration and cast votes against the UNGCM at the UN General Assembly.
  • In 2018, even though the IAEA confirmed Iran’s fulfillment of its JCPOA commitment and that the United States had no clear evidence to show Iran conducted nuclear tests in breach of the deal, the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, a deal that has been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and re-imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran. This decision has damaged the US image adversely. Contaraily imposed irrational sanctions on Iran, making the lives of Iranian more miserable.
  • In 2018, the US announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, claiming it failed to protect human rights adequately. The current violence in the US may also be the outcome of this decision.
  • In 2018, the United States withdrew from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes relating to the jurisdiction of the ICJ in order to avoid a Palestinian complaint filed legitimately to the ICJ. It has caused a strong wave of anti-American sentiments in the Arab world.
  • In 2019, the United States withdrew from the INF Treaty to develop short- and medium-range missiles without restraint. Again a wrong decision at wrong timings, pushing the world toward developing more lethal weapons.
  • In 2020, under the pretext of alleged Russian violations of the Open Skies Treaty, the United States announced steps to exit the Treaty.
  • In 2020, the US government, looking for scapegoats for its botched response to COVID-19, announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization. It should be noted that the United States still owes more than $200 million in assessed contributions. Will the US pay this sum before going out? Exactly, when WHO needs to be strengthened, the US decision harmed the Organization’s capabilities.

Notably, the Trump-Administration has focused only on “America First,” leaving the rest of the world ignored. The Pandemic has exposed Trump-administration’s policies further. Europe was suffering from COVID-19 and expecting that the US may come up with some kind of help and rescue. But, unfortunately, this was not in the minds of the Trump-Administration.

If the United States tries to escape from its global responsibilities, it may no longer enjoy the status of global leadership. The gap created by the US may be filled-in by some other powers. Enjoy authority, but with responsibilities!

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.

UN Rights Expert Lashes Out At ‘Israeli’ Anti-Palestinian ‘Collective Punishment’

UN Rights Expert Lashes Out At ‘Israeli’ Anti-Palestinian ‘Collective Punishment’

By Staff, Agencies

United Nations [UN] Human Rights Expert Michael Lynk slammed the ‘Israeli’ regime’s “collective punishment” against Palestinians, which is “most strikingly” in its persisting siege against the Gaza Strip, stressing that this must end.

“It is an affront to justice and the rule of law to see that such methods continue to be used in the 21st century and that Palestinians collectively continue to be punished,” Lynk said on Friday.

Lynk, who is the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, also warned that ‘Israeli’ punitive actions are harming millions of innocent people on a daily basis.

“These practices entail serious violations against Palestinians, including the right to life, freedom of movement, health, adequate shelter, and an adequate standard of living,” the UN official further stressed following the submission of a report to the 44th session of the Human Rights Council this week.

Gaza has been under a Zionist siege since June 2007.

Since 2008, the occupation regime has waged three wars against Gaza, where two million Palestinians live under a 12-year Zionist blockade. Thousands of Gazans have been killed in each of these deadly wars.

The crippling blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the Gaza Strip.

“The extent of the devastating impact of ‘Israel’s’ collective punishment policy can be most strikingly seen in its ongoing 13-year-old closure of Gaza, which now suffers from a completely collapsed economy, devastated infrastructure, and a barely functioning social service system,” Lynk further said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the UN official touched on Tel Aviv’s condemned policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, stressing that such practice is in clear violation of Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“Since 1967, ‘Israel’ has destroyed more than 2,000 Palestinian homes,” Lynk said.

Zionist occupation authorities usually demolish Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, claiming that the structures have been built without permits. They also sometimes order the Palestinian owners to demolish their own homes or pay the demolition costs to the municipality if they do not.

مداخلة السفير اللبناني في منظمة حقوق الإنسان الأممية في جنيف رداً على ممثل كيان الاحتلال

Lebanese representative at the UNHCR Ahmad Sweidan
Lebanese Envoy at UNHRC: Hezbollah Lebanese Resistance Which Repelled Israeli Aggression

التعليق السياسي

أثارت مداخلة السفير اللبناني في منظمة حقوق الإنسان الأممية في جنيف رداً على ممثل كيان الاحتلال الذي وصف حزب الله بالإرهاب تردّدات واسعة في الرأي العام اللبناني والعربي، وقد أثبت السفير سويدان أن بمستطاع الدبلوماسية الشجاعة أن تحفظ كرامة الأوطان وتضع حداً للاستباحة المتمادية التي يمارسها كيان الاحتلال ويدعمه الأميركيون ومعهم فريق من الغرب والعرب.

الصفة الشرعيّة التي يستند إليها كل سفير يمثل لبنان في الخارج وقوة الحق السيادي برفض التدخل الخارجي وتقديم التوصيفات لشؤون وطنية لبنانية تعني الدولة اللبنانية، أسباب كافية لتمنح أي سفير لبناني في أي منظمة عالمية قوة لا يملكها المتدخلون في شؤون لبنان لشيطنة مقاومته.

يكفي أن يكون السفير ملتزماً بدستور البلاد لجهة حماية السيادة ورفض التدخلات وينطلق من موقفين لبنانيين لا يملك أحد قدرة الانتقاص منهما، الاعتداءات التي يتعرض لها لبنان من كيان الاحتلال هي الإرهاب، وحزب الله مكوّن سياسي لبناني وهو جزء من الحكومة ومجلس النواب ولا يملك أي طرف خارجي حق إطلاق تصنيفات على الأطراف اللبنانية، خصوصاً ذات التمثيل في المؤسسات الدستورية.

كلمات السفير سويدان أخرست مندوب كيان الاحتلال، وعبّرت عن وجدان اللبنانيين والأصوات النشاز التي اعترضت على كلامه لم تخجل من كونها بالتشكيك بما قال تضمّ صوتها لصوت مندوب كيان الاحتلال في هذا السجال.

الوطنية ليست خدمة تقدم للوطن ولا هي تضحية لأجله بل هي الحد الأدنى الأخلاقي بالدفاع عن حقوقه. وهذا درس للسلك الدبلوماسي اللبناني، ومن لا يملك شجاعة تحمل تبعات هذا الدفاع حرصاً على مكسب مالي أو سلطوي أو خشية تعرضه للضغوط فليترك المسؤوليات العامة لمن لا يقيمون حساباً إلا لمقتضيات الواجب الوطني، فهذا هو نوع السفراء الذين يحتاجهم لبنان ليكون بالفعل قوياً

“Greater Israel” in the Making: Netanyahu Regime’s Illegal Annexation Scheme Nears Implementation

By Stephen Lendman

Global Research, June 24, 2020

Trump’s unlawful Deal of the Century scheme green-lighted Israeli annexation of illegally established settlements on stolen Palestinian land and the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu earlier vowed to press ahead with annexation. 

Reportedly on or around July 1, he’ll initially announce the annexation of what the Times of Israel called “three West Bank (settlement) blocs,” not the Jordan Valley for now, adding:

“Well-placed sources told The Times of Israel last week that the joint mapping committee tasked with delineating the contours of the annexation move still had weeks if not months of work, and the IDF has not been told precisely what Netanyahu has in mind.”

For starters, Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion, three large settlements, will be annexed in the coming days, ruling coalition partner Benny Gantz reportedly going along with what’s clearly a flagrant breach of international law.

According to the broadsheet, there’s “relative consensus, domestically and in Washington,” to making the move.

Or is there? The Times of Israel added the following:

“The US initially said it would recognize annexation immediately, but subsequently appears to have at the very least tempered its enthusiasm for the controversial move before the joint mapping committee can complete its work.”

“The (Trump regime) is highly unlikely to approve an Israeli move to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank by the July 1 date envisioned by Netanyahu,” according to an unnamed “well-placed source.”

Annexation of historic Palestinian land in whole or in part will formally end the two-state illusion — what long ago was possible, clearly not now.

Trump regime hardliners are on board with the most extremist of Netanyahu regime policies — time and again blaming victims of US/NATO/Israeli high crimes for what’s committed against them.

At most, Trump and Pompeo et al may only press Netanyahu to slow, not abandon, illegal annexation of Palestinian land.

It’s highly unlikely that Biden will soften US policy toward long-suffering Palestinians if he succeeds Trump in January.

Throughout his time as US senator and vice president, he one-sidedly supported Israel, including three preemptive wars on Gaza based on Big Lies.

On June 16 at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and four Palestinian human rights groups discussed the illegality of Israel’s annexation scheme.

They warned that it’ll “normalize Israel’s colonial project and amounts to apartheid via the continued expansion and construction of illegal settlements, displacement and dispossession of Palestinians, and demographic manipulation,” adding:

“The Israeli plan would further entrench racial, ethnic, and religious segregation as a legal norm, and Israel will formally establish itself as the sole sovereign regime over the Palestinian people in historic Palestine.”

On the same day, 47 UN special rapporteurs denounced the annexation scheme as “a vision of 21st century apartheid.”

A presentation by Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies’ international advocacy officer Nada Awad to the UNHRC on behalf of Adalah and the four Palestinian human rights groups said the following:

“Last month, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel swore in a new government seemingly committed to formally annexing parts of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) in the West Bank in July, in a blatant violation of international law.”

“This annexation, part of the so-called Trump-Netanyahu ‘Deal of the Century’ and the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition agreement, normalizes Israel’s colonial project and amounts to apartheid via the continued expansion and construction of illegal settlements, displacement and dispossession of Palestinians, and demographic manipulation.”

“The principles of this plan are enshrined in Israel’s Jewish Nation-State Basic Law enacted in July 2018.”

“This law established a constitutional order based on systematic ethnic supremacy, domination, and segregation in the so-called ‘Land of Israel’ and the denial of the realization of national self-determination for the Palestinian people.”

“Article 7 of this law provides that Jewish settlement is a national value to be encouraged and strengthened, giving the state authorities further constitutional legal tools to justify the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories.”

“This law intends to justify as constitutional segregation in land and housing that targets all Palestinians in historic Palestine, including Palestinians citizens of Israel, who have suffered decades of systematic oppression.”

“Annexation would further entrench racial, ethnic, and religious segregation as a legal norm.”

“In this context, Israel will formally establish itself as the sole sovereign regime over the Palestinian people in historic Palestine.”

“We call on the UN and the international community to call for the dismantling of all settlements, to vehemently oppose any annexation, and to guarantee the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right of return to their homes and property.”

Separately, Adalah called Netanyahu’s annexation scheme a flagrant breach of the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and other international law, including binding Security Council resolutions.

Israeli occupation, settlements, land confiscations, resource theft, and related abusive practices are “profound” high crimes against peace and the fundamental rights of all Palestinians.

If annexation proceeds as planned, the West Bank will resemble Gaza, a second open-air prison for a bludgeoned into submission people.

It’ll resemble Dante’s hell, its gate bearing the inscription: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

A Final Comment

On Monday, thousands of Palestinians rallied in Jericho against Netanyahu’s annexation scheme.

Dozens of foreign diplomats joined them, including Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for Middle East peace — a position accomplishing nothing because of the US/Israeli regional imperial project.

As long as Washington supports Israeli aims, views of other nations never made a difference because a price to pay by the world community on its ruling authorities for the worst of their high crimes was never imposed.

The so-called peace process was and remains a colossal hoax, a notion the US, NATO and Israel reject.

Yet the illusion of what never was and isn’t now persists, establishment media, Western officials, and UN secretary general fostering it.

Palestinians were abandoned over a century ago by the infamous Balfour Declaration, the beginning of the end of historic Palestine.

Generations of political, military and cultural repression of its people followed, including dispossession from their land, other property, their fundamental rights, and in countless thousands of cases their lives.

Establishment of a nation for Jews on stolen Palestinian land was and remains a scheme to advance Western interests in the oil-rich region.

It led to over 100 years of endless conflict, occupation, dispossession, and repression, along with social and cultural fragmentation,

Historic Palestine and rights of its people were and continue to be abandoned in deference to Western/Israel regional control.

Palestinians are largely on their own, resistance their only option, staying the course no matter the long odds against them.

The world community never offered more than lip service help — the plight of ordinary people everywhere, exploited to benefit privileged interests.

It’s much the same in the West as in the Middle East and Occupied Palestine.

Ordinary people are largely on their own to press for positive change they’ll never get any other way.

*

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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Featured image is from Another Day in the EmpireThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2020

Rohingya Refugees on Boats in ‘Grave Immediate Risk’ – UN

Rohingya Refugees on Boats in ‘Grave Immediate Risk’ - UN

By Staff, Agencies

The UN refugee agency UNHCR voiced mounting concern on Thursday over a “grave immediate risk” to Rohingya refugees aboard boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, urging Southeast Asian nations not to close avenues to asylum.

Several fishing trawlers carrying hundreds of Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority from Myanmar, are bound for Bangladesh, after being turned back from Malaysia where they were seeking asylum, according to rights groups.

Last week, a boat carrying nearly 400 starving and emaciated Rohingya arrived on the southern coast of Bangladesh after drifting for weeks in the sea between Thailand and Malaysia, the Bangladesh coast guard said. Survivors said dozens had died.

Indrika Ratwatte, director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, said it was urging “greater coordination and responsibility-sharing by states” to avert a crisis.

“We are increasingly concerned by reports of failure to disembark vessels in distress and of the grave immediate risk this poses to the men, women and children on board,” he said, Reuters reported.

“In the context of the unprecedented current COVID-19 crisis, all states must manage their borders as they see fit. But such measures should not result in the closure of avenues to asylum, or of forcing people to return to situations of danger.”

Malaysian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Human rights groups fear restrictions to stem the spread of the virus across Southeast Asia could trigger a repeat of a 2015 crisis when a crackdown by Thailand prompted smugglers to abandon Rohingya at sea on crowded, rickety boats.

Bangladesh officials have said they will not accept new arrivals, but a coast guard official said a search was underway for the boats.

“If we cannot rescue these Rohingya people then who will take the responsibility for their lives?” another official said.

More than a million Rohingya live in refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, the majority having been driven from homes in Myanmar after a 2017 military crackdown which the Myanmar army claimed was a response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

Myanmar denies persecuting Rohingya and claims they are not an indigenous ethnic group but rather immigrants from South Asia, even though many Rohingya are able to trace their ancestry back centuries.

Avoidable Humanitarian Crisis at Lebanon Border Crossing Sparks Anger in Syria

Syrian refugees

Franklin Lamb

Syrian Immigration HQ, Damascus neighborhood of Marjeh

Chest high metal crowd control barriers manned by armed guards—since late September they have stood outside the Arrivals Hall on the Lebanon side of the Masnaa border crossing with Syria. For Syrian and Palestinian refugees fleeing the continuing violence next door and trying to get into Lebanon the message is clear:

almasnaa55Don’t come within 40 meters of the Immigration building, and don’t even dream about coming to the staffed counter with any documents. None of you is welcome. Ninety eight percent of you will not be allowed in, and those who are better leave within 24 hours and have a valid airline ticket to prove your intention to depart.

Over the past few years, this observer has crossed at the Masnaa border crossing fairly frequently. Yet never have I seen such an avoidable humanitarian disaster for families seeking to get out of war-torn Syria. And it is reportedly much the same at the Jordanian border. Many refugees have found themselves squatting here—first in the heat, and now in the cold autumnal nights that increasingly are seeing cold rainfall. No other option seems available to them than to try to enter Lebanon, this as they express the forlorn hope that God in his mercy will help them.

Syrian refugees patiently wait

And so here they sit, bewildered, outside the Immigration building, exhausted, little if any money in their pockets or purses, with their children thirsty, hungry, and often crying. Nearby are the local offices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but the staff are overwhelmed, and the fact that Lebanon hasn’t signed the 1951 Refugee Convention doesn’t make things any easier for them. Extending humanitarian assistance to refugees has never been embraced by certain anti-Palestinian politicians in Lebanon, who apparently see no value in it for themselves, but that being said, it is a fact that the sheer numbers of refugees entering Lebanon now has added to pre-existing problems with respect to infrastructure, chronic water and electricity shortages, massive unemployment, exploding sectarian conflicts, and the like.

Mideast-Lebanon-Syria_Horo

All of which can make for some harrowing scenes at the border checkpoint. During this observer’s most recent crossing, a Syrian gentleman sat on the roadside with his wife, five children, and one grandchild, explaining to me how the family had lost everything in Homs. No other choice had they than to try and seek safety in Lebanon, since Egypt and Jordan are refusing entry to Syrian refugees. His oldest child, a lovely girl named ‘Rasha,’ who appeared to be in her mid-20s, sat nursing her infant son as we talked. Rasha’s husband, he informed me, had been killed by a mortar last spring on a day he had gone out shopping for food near the old city of Homs. In desperation, the gentleman suggested that I purchase his daughter and her baby, because he saw no future for them and he could no longer provide a home for them. Plus the baby appeared ill.

After my long explanation of why, for several reasons, this was not possible, he stated his belief that my being an American meant that the Lebanese guards would allow me to enter with Rasha and her baby; they in turn could live with me until the crisis ended, and on second thought, I did not even have to pay him anything. Just save her and her baby. With respect to the Lebanese border guards, his idea was unrealistic. Most Americans do tend to be liked around these parts, and most of us try to be goodwill ambassadors because we love our country and her ideals. But it is not the case that Americans can bend immigration regulations, nor should it be. Before the crisis, Syrians and Lebanese could simply take a road not patrolled, avoiding border crossings and formalities altogether, but these days that is very dangerous.

I gave the gentleman my card and a little money in case his family and he were somehow able to get over the border, and promised him that if they were successful I and friends would try to help. I have heard nothing more from him. But I have learned, from a couple of NGOs, that encounters such as I experienced are not all that uncommon these days, with women and children stuck at the Syrian-Lebanese border being bought and sold—and with bribes sometimes offered, and occasionally paid. The frequency of this is difficult to assess, and the reality may be exaggerated, but certainly not exaggerated are the facts of the increasingly inhumane conditions that Syrian and Palestinian refugees face in Lebanon—a country in which they are denied some of the most basic, elementary rights by the government, and where they also run the risk of harmful brushes with various militias and hooligans.

A man walks in a burnt makeshift Syrian refugee camp after it was attacked by residents of the neighboring eastern Lebanese village of Qsarnaba near Zahle in the Bekaa valley on December 2, 2013. (Photo: AFP / STR)

Discussions I have had—with staff at the central Immigration office in Damascus as well as Syrian human rights associations and Syria-based Arab journalists who have researched and written about this subject—reveal not only a bleak picture of the humanitarian situation, but also a growing level of disgust in Syria over what is happening to their countrymen in Lebanon. Cases of Lebanese discrimination and harassment targeting Syrian refugees, including violations of international customary law and the 1951 Refugee Convention, have become commonplace. In addition, Syrians increasingly are falling prey to violence. Human Rights Watch said it had documented a string of attacks by Lebanese residents against Syrian refugees in August and September. Those interviewed described being stabbed, shot and beaten, and several claimed that they were either too afraid to report the crimes, or that they had and their stories had been dismissed by security forces when they did. HRW said that attacks it documented were most often carried out by private citizens, but in several cases they appeared to have “the tacit support” of authorities, and the international organization has urged security forces and local authorities to step up protection of Syrian refugees.

“Lebanon’s security forces should protect everyone on Lebanese soil, not turn a blind eye to vigilante groups who are terrorizing refugees,” said HRW Deputy Middle East Director Nadim Houry.

One especially taxing problem is the financial cost exacted by Lebanon for Syrian refugees to register a baby. In Syria, anyone from Lebanon, or from any country for that matter, can register a newborn for the equivalent of 1,000 Lebanese lire (around 66 US cents). The process takes around fifteen minutes. But not so in Lebanon. According to a report by the Taanayel General Hospital in central Bekaa, the number of new babies born to Syrian refugees, since March 2011 when the crisis began, has exceeded 15,000, just in the Bekaa Valley alone. In North Lebanon, the UNHCR estimates more than 5,000 births, and the Syrian Embassy in Beirut says there are now approximately 6,000 births per year among displaced Syrians in Lebanon. But for many of these parents, the registration process is nearly impossible.

First they must obtain a certificate from the hospital or midwife indicating the date of birth—generally not a big problem, but then the baby must be registered at the office of the local Muktar. That is if they can prove legal residence, and if the local Muktar is willing to help, which is not always the case. Sometimes he wants a fee, and in some reported cases a bribe, in order to forward the paperwork to the Directorate of Personal Status. If the parents are lucky, their application might then be sent to the Exterior Ministry for another approval, and finally may reach the Syrian Embassy to complete the process of registering the newborn. But the process can be delayed or scuttled along the tortuous procedural path for any number of reasons, including escalating anti-Syrian sentiment in government offices and among certain confessions and political parties. According to one Syrian refugee, the minimal fees charged by Lebanon, plus the traveling back and forth to different offices and locations so as to follow up on the procedures, can cost close to $500, with no success guaranteed. The amount is a fortune for most refugees, but an even greater concern for Syrian parents is having no nationality for their children. Says Joelle Eid, of the UNHCR press office, the offspring risk being added to “the stateless Kurds of Syria, since 1960, whose number of births in Lebanon is currently around 840 children.”

One chilling reason that the Kafkaesque procedures violate basic humanitarian principles is that they are forcing Syrian refugees to smuggle their babies into Syria in bags, since of course the infants would not be allowed to cross the border from Lebanon without full documentation. It is estimated that over the past 24 months more than 50 Syrian newborns, passing through Masnaa, have died from suffocation or drug overdose while being hidden from immigration officials. Parents usually are not sure how much of what drug to give their babies in order to keep them quiet and sleeping as they sneak them through the border, and too many are not waking up—all so that the parents can make it back over the border, back into their perilous, war-torn homeland, so that they may register their children’s births—in Syria, since it’s practically impossible to do so in Lebanon.

It is but one of the current abuses that are causing outrage in Syria and among advocates of human rights everywhere but it is not the only one. Both the UNHCR and HRW are accusing the Lebanese Army of committing “serious” violations against refugees, including in Ersal, where more than 200 Syrian refugees, including minors, were arrested without charge. The arrests took place September 19-24. Other reports accuse the Army of evicting, without any pretense of due process, a large number of refugees living in private homes. Then on September 25, the retaliatory measures reached a peak with a crackdown in the area of Ras al-Jafar, affecting nine informal communities with a total population of around 5000. One report states that during the raids, tents were burned in one of the random communities, completely destroying 96 tents. The raids were coupled with a large campaign of arrests targeting especially males. Some 300-500 people were detained, and while most, though not all, have been released, reports have emerged of physical and verbal assault, intimidation, and humiliation—claims that are corroborated by UNHCR photographs, including of shackled Syrian refugees laying on the ground exposed to the elements.

An Army spokesperson has dismissed as “lies” another allegation about the torching of tents in Ersal last week, yet random raids are becoming commonplace at scores of these “informal tent settlements,” as UNHCR refers to the fetid, sewage-soaked camps—camps which soon will be covered in snow and ice. Often in these camps more than 20 people will live in a tent that is intended for one family. Most of the tents are covered with nothing more than nylon, and more than 50,000 Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley are now living in these kinds of settlements—that’s 50,000 out of a registered total 275,000 in the area.

In addition to these calamities, more than 45 municipalities have imposed curfews on Syrian nationals, a move widely seen as a racist practice and one also in violation of international humanitarian law and the 1951 Convention. HRW comments that the curfews “contribute to a climate of discriminatory and retaliatory practices against” the refugees. Curfew violators are reportedly given a warning or, in some cases, are “taken to the municipality for questioning” where they may be detained for hours.

The reports have fueled anger among lawyers in Damascus, at the Lawyers Syndicate across from the Cham Palace Hotel, where seminars have discussed the legal problems facing Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In addition, the Faculty of Law at Damascus University is considering setting up a legal defense team to help Syrians in Lebanon challenge arbitrary and discriminatory applications of Lebanese laws.

“Syria helped them (the Lebanese) many times during their 15-year civil war and during the 2006 July war!” commented a teacher at a government primary school visited by this observer last week. “We gave them everything they needed. Our government buildings, social services, free medical care, free education, schools, hygienic conditions, peace and quiet, food and sometimes cash stipends. What about us? Is this the Lebanese way of saying ‘thanks’ to the people of Syria?”

She then exclaimed, “Someone must stop these attacks on our families.”

A savvy graduate student in Damascus by the name of “Ahmad” commented to this observer and to his Palestinian friend from Yarmouk camp, who having lost her own home due to shelling, now volunteers helping Syrian refugees forced to live in some of the parks in Damascus, that ISIS (Da’ish) and al-Nusra will almost assuredly be cognizant of these problems, and poised to capitalize on them, as they prepare to extend their caliphate into Lebanon—and he probably has a point.

Among the many reasons Lebanon should immediately desist in the targeting of Syrian and Palestinian refugees is that they are pushing many toward supporting those that the Lebanese government claims to be opposing.

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Biased Human Rights Report on Ukraine

by Stephen Lendman

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay is gone. She served from September 2008 through August 2014.

She won’t be missed. disgraced the office she held. She lacked credibility altogether.

She served Western interests. She was a reliable imperial tool. She buried truth.

She irresponsibly bashed Assad. She blamed him for Western-sponsored death squad crimes.

She published misinformation on Obama’s war on Syria. She supported illegitimate Ukrainian fascist putschists.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein replaced her. He’s Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid’s son. He heads the so-called Royal Houses of Iraq and Syria.

He represents business as usual. From 2000 – 2007, he was Jordan’s UN envoy.

From 2007 – 2010, he was Amman’s ambassador to America. In January 2014, he was Security Council president. He served as chairman of two SC committees.

He’s Jordan’s so-called “Sherpa” on nuclear security. In 2011, he chaired the International Criminal Court’s search efforts for a new pro-Western prosecutor.

He held various other establishment posts. He picked up straightaway where Pillay left off. He was chosen for that purpose.

He hasn’t disappointed. His agenda reflects double standards. Duplicity dots his rhetoric. He lied saying:

“There is no justification ever, for the degrading, the debasing or the exploitation of other human beings – on whatever basis: nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste.”

His job is serving wealth, power and privilege. Claiming otherwise is willful deception.

His newly released human rights report on Ukraine didn’t surprise. It covers the August 18 – September 16 period.

It’s hugely biased. It largely points finger the wrong way. It mostly pays lip service to Kiev high crimes. On the one hand, it said without detailed elaboration:

“During the reporting period, international humanitarian law, including the principles of military necessity, distinction, proportionality and precaution continued to be violated by armed groups and some units and volunteer battalions under the control of the Ukrainian armed forces.”

“(B)eatings, poor nutrition and lack of medical assistance” were reported. So were “enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention(s) and ill-treatment allegedly perpetrated by members of the volunteer battalions.”

Especially Aydar, Dnepr-1, Kiev-1 and Kiev 2. Since so-called “anti-terrorist” operations began in late August, over 1,000 Ukrainians were lawlessly detained.

On fabricated charges. Unsubstantiated allegations about being “militants and subversives.

UNHCR’s report was its 6th on Ukraine. It’s based on information supplied by the so-called UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission (HRMMU).

It calls Southeastern Ukrainian freedom fighters “armed groups.” It ignores their democratic struggle.

It said in mid-August, government forces regained control of some Southeastern areas. They restored “law and order.”

Through shelling, bombing and mass murder. UNHCR didn’t explain.

It lied claiming “(g)overnment ministries and volunteer groups began restoring essential services, clearing away rubble and unexploded ordnance, and rebuilding damaged areas.”

It turned truth on its head saying residents in some areas got “social welfare benefits and pensions that had not been paid since April when the city first fell under the control of the armed groups.”

A litany of additional Big Lies followed. False allegations about Russian forces in Ukraine. Fighting government troops.

Along with Russian citizens, former and current Russian soldiers on leave.

It said escalated conflict killed at least 3,517 people. It reported “indiscriminate shelling in residential areas and the use of heavy weaponry.”

It attributed “some” of it to Ukrainian armed forces. Doing so largely pointed fingers the wrong way.

Kiev bears full responsibility for war on its own citizens. Washington shares it. So do rogue EU states.

UNHRC didn’t explain. In late August, so-called Trilateral Contact Group representatives met in Minsk.

On September 5, ceasefire terms were agreed on. To be implemented straightaway.

Conditions on the ground are fluid. Extremely fragile. Skirmishes, shelling and fighting continue.

“(T)here are reports that the Ukrainian military has been shelled by the armed groups many times,” it claimed.

False! Kiev National Guard hardline elements and extremist so-called volunteer battalions bear full responsibility.

Area freedom fighters respond in self-defense. Doing so is a universal right. UNHCR didn’t explain.

Misinformation, deception and Big Lies substituted for truth and full disclosure. Similar to UNHCR’s previous reports on Ukraine.

Largely pointing fingers the wrong way. Blaming courageous freedom fighters for Kiev’s crimes.

UNHCR’s new report lied claiming “(a)rmed groups (continue) terroriz(ing) the population in areas under their control, pursuing killings, abductions, torture, ill-treatment and other serious human rights abuses, including destruction of housing and seizure of property.”

“They abducted people for ransom and forced labour and to use them in exchange for their fighters held by the Ukrainian authorities.”

“They also continued to practice forced mobilisation of civilians and threatened the local population with executions.”

“Reports also continued of parallel governing structures being set up in the ‘Donetsk and Luhansk peoples’ republics.’ ”

“An unlawful ‘criminal code’ was adopted by the so-called ‘presidium of the council of ministers’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic…’ ”

It “entered ‘into force’ on 18 August. Modeled on the criminal code of the Russian Federation, its provisions include the establishment of military tribunals to implement death sentences to be applied in cases of aggravated murder.”

Exaggerations, distortions and Big Lies substituted for explaining what’s actually going on.

It bears repeating. Kiev bears full responsibility for months of high crimes. Washington supports and encourages them.

Claiming otherwise is false. Willful deception. Freedom fighters are maliciously blamed for Kiev high crimes against peace.

UNHCR paid lip service alone to their human rights violations. It said government officials “need to exercise more control over (its) forces…to ensure accountability for any violations and crimes committed by their members.”

It failed to say high crimes against peace reflect official Kiev policy. They’re not happenstance conflict exceptions.

They’re ongoing daily. Civilians suffer most. Months of conflict took a terrible toll. No end of fighting looms.

Ceasefire terms are largely illusory. Kiev’s military is regrouping. It’s rearming.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said doing so violates ceasefire terms.

“All agreements that have been recently reached – those in Minsk on September 5 and 19 – clearly stipulate the necessity of a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry and concrete steps in disarmament, rather than boosting up the strength of Kiev-led forces,” he said.

US and other Western arms supplies are “not something that is needed to ensure political settlement in Ukraine.”

They sabotage one. They assured continued conflict, instability and many more casualties.

At the same time, Russia’s Foreign Ministry raised concerns about catastrophic Southeastern Ukrainian humanitarian conditions.

Especially with winter approaching, it said. Residents lack adequate food, water, medical care and housing.

Russia alone provides humanitarian aid. Despite Kiev’s efforts to block it with full US support.

UNHCR’s report criticized Moscow for doing the right thing. It lied claiming international law was violated.

Russia went out of its way to comply. Inspections showed vital aid alone was supplied. No weapons or efforts to assist area self-defense forces.

UNHCR didn’t explain. Or cover ongoing Kiev state terror.

Its responsibility for Maidan killings, Odessa’s massacre, other egregious human rights abuses, downing MH 17, and hundreds of murdered Southeastern Ukrainians buried in unmarked graves.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich commented, saying:

UNHCR’s report lacked “objectivity in (its) portrayal of events in Ukraine, making selective use of information to reach politically motivated conclusions.”

“We were perplexed by the absurd allegations of Russia’s ‘direct intervention’ in the conflict in southeastern Ukraine, based on information provided by NGOs.”

“Let’s recall that the International Red Cross has officially designated it a ‘non-international armed conflict.’ ”

“The mission’s attempts to deny the obvious only serve to further undermine confidence in its conclusions.”

They largely have no credibility whatever. They turn truth on its head. They suppress what’s ongoing. What’s most important to know.

“While (UNHCR’s) report acknowledges the deteriorating humanitarian situation in southeastern Ukraine, Russia’s humanitarian assistance to Donetsk and Lugansk is portrayed in a negative light, in step with Western propaganda,” said Lukashevich.

“Russia’s aid deliveries fully complied with international law. Kiev recognised the humanitarian nature of the Russian convoys, and workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) oversaw the distribution of essential supplies to those in need.”

Lukashevich hopes future reports will explain what previous ones suppressed.

State-sponsored high crimes against peace “demand an urgent, impartial, unbiased and comprehensive investigation,” he stressed.

It’s been entirely lacking so far. Whitewash substituted with full US support and encouragement. Accountability remains nowhere in sight.

-###-

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached atlendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III“.

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.t]

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