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The mis-named 'Fair Work' Commission has delivered its decision to cut Sunday penalty rates, slashing the take-home pay of around 700,000 workers in retail, hospitality and fast food.
Workers gathered outside the offices of the Fair Work Commission in Melbourne in the lead up to the announcement.
Following the decision, Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary, Luke Hilakari told the crowd, "This is disgusting. These are young people, these are older workers, who rely on this money to make sure they can put food on the table and they can pay their bills."
"We've had penalty rates in this country since 1919. This is an attack on hospitality and retail workers. And if you think this is going to stop here, you've got rocks in your head. It'll start here and then it will go to our emergency services workers. then to the nursing community. It will go to anyone who works on the weekend."1127Australian News
Immediately after contributing to his team’s Super Bowl victory on February, Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots was asked what he thought about an upcoming visit to Mexico to represent the National Football League (NFL).
“Tear down the wall! Tear down the wall! That’s what I think about going to Mexico,” he cried.
Bennett then became the first of a number of Patriots players to confirm they would skip a visit with President Donald Trump at the White House.
But it was reported Bennett would be taking a different trip. Along with 11 other NFL players, he would be “heading to Israel after the team’s historic win on a hasbara, or Israeli public relations tour for American football players”.
Palestinians living under a system Human Rights Watch has labelled “separate and unequal” would surely wonder how Bennett could oppose Trump’s plans to extend the wall on the US-Mexico border, but be unconcerned about the impact of Israel’s wall on occupied Palestinian land. Trump has explicitly praised Israel’s wall-building as his model.
But in a week of sudden reversals, Dave Zirin reported for The Nation that despite media reports that Bennett would go to Israel, he had “confirmed that this is not the case”.
Zirin noted that other players named in a Times of Israel report on the planned junket “are reevaluating whether they will attend.”
By February 10, three of the players named as potential participants — Martellus Bennett, his brother Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks and Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins — had repudiated the trip.
In an open letter published by The Nation on February 9, activists, writers and athletes appealed to the NFL players to reconsider participation in the trip.
They urged the players not to allow themselves to be used as part of a propaganda campaign “to help the Israeli government normalize and whitewash its ongoing denial of Palestinian rights”.
In a statement released on Twitter and Instagram on February 10, Michael Bennett said he would “not be used” by Israel’s government. He recalled that the late Muhammad Ali, one of his heroes, “always stood strongly with the Palestinian people”.
“I want to be a ‘voice for the voiceless,’” Bennett added, “and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel.”
Stills retweeted Bennett’s statement, adding, “Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m in!”
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) national committee, which launched the BDS campaign against Israel in 2005, thanked Michael Bennett “for standing on the right side of history, for justice and equality”.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been in the public eye due to his decision not to stand for the national anthem in support of Black Lives Matter activists, tweeted to his 1 million followers that anyone protesting Trump’s Muslim ban would surely also have to be “livid about the apartheid tactics Israel forces on Palestinian Muslims”.
Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett also announced on February 11 that he would not be going on the trip, and shared Michael Bennett’s statement. However, at least eight other NFL players will take part in the junket.
BDS activists will be encouraged by another victory. BDS campaigners have been urging Australian singer Natalie Imbruglia to cancel a March 1 concert in Israel. JPost.com reported on February 12 that Imbruglia had cancelled the event, with organisers citing “logistic constraints”.
[Abridged from Electronic Intifada.]1127Cultural Dissent
Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir
By Salman Abu Sitta
American University in Cairo Press
Given the centrality of memory and history to the modern Palestinian identity, it is fitting that the number of memoirs and diaries being published by Palestinians seems to be rising.
In recent years, two subgenres of Palestinian autobiography and memoir have emerged. First are accounts by diarists who witnessed World War I and British Mandate rule in Palestine, and experienced the Nakba — the mass displacement of Palestinians during the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 — as adults.
Second are memoirs of those who were children or young adults when the Nakba occurred. These are often written with a more explicit purpose — memoirs of lives as exiles and refugees fighting for Palestinian rights, rather than diaries kept for personal use.
These common themes are also found in Mapping My Return, including the trauma of war and refugee life, lives of constant struggle (with Israel, but also often with Yasser Arafat) and fierce love for their homeland.
Abu Sitta’s autobiography, however, gives a unique insight not only into refugee life and Palestinian politics throughout the decades, but into how he, as a Bedouin Palestinian from the southern Naqab desert within the Israeli state, experienced the Nakba and its aftermath.
His life story is rooted in the vast, fertile plains of the south-western Naqab, and the bayt al-sha’er (literally “house of hair” or tent) in which his mother lived. The family’s fields were plowed by camel, and many of the men and women who came to work on the harvest were from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
Rather than flee north into Lebanon or east towards Jordan, his escape from the Zionist forces who destroyed his childhood home was to Khan Younis near the border between Gaza and Egypt, ultimately attending school and university in Cairo.
As the son of a paramount chief of the Tarabin Bedouin, whose influence stretched from Cairo to Bir al-Saba, Abu Sitta frankly admits that his tale is not one of “the most tragic, painful or traumatic fates of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians made refugees”.
His elite background and family connections cushioned him from the grinding poverty that hundreds of thousands of refugees in Gaza faced.
But the trauma of the night-time attack on his father’s home in the village of al-Ma’in during the Nakba, the destruction and theft of its fields and the sight of Israeli massacres in Gaza started off his “life’s mission … to try to put a face to this invisible enemy”.
Although Abu Sitta forged a career as an acclaimed engineer, he also became a historian of Palestine. He meticulously documented the villages, shrines, homesteads and traditions that Israeli laws, bulldozers and museums have sought to eradicate or appropriate.
Abu Sitta’s childhood reminiscences evoke a time when Palestine was undergoing rapid change. His grandfathers and uncles lived in constant tension with the Ottoman Empire, sometimes going into hiding in Jordan. Even so, they fought on the Ottoman side in World War I, against British forces invading Palestine from the south.
Abu Sitta’s father had to adapt to change under the British Mandate. He opened the area’s first school in 1920 — some of the students, already regarded as men at 16, arrived to class wearing swords — and introduced new plant strains.
The contradictions in Palestinian life at this time are encapsulated in Abu Sitta’s observations on the education he received. He writes: “The British Mandate saw fit to impose Roman history and Latin on the Arab students’ curricula at the expense of Arab and Palestinian history.”
Despite this, Abu Sitta notes: “But perhaps it was not so strange. After all, Palestine had more and longer-running cultural, political and commercial links with Rome (and Greece) than England.”
The story of Abu Sitta’s community highlights Gaza’s historical connections to Egypt. Family members supported the 1879–82 Urabi rebellion, in which Egyptian officers tried to declare independence but were defeated by a British invasion.
Despite the value attached by Western culture to written tales, Abu Sitta asserts that they just made him more “confident that, in the end, it is those storytellers at the shigg [a place where men met to drink coffee] who are the real source of our history”.
As an adult, Abu Sitta became a successful engineer and urban planner, working and teaching around the world.
These later sections of his memoir highlight the diversity — and often the anguish — of refugee existence, and lift the message of the book beyond that of one man’s story.
This is a highly readable book, much recommended to anyone with an interest in Palestinian history. More than that, it is a significant piece of documentation, recounting events and ways of life that have largely been forgotten or erased.
As the generations who directly experienced the Nakba are slowly lost, writings of this kind will only become more important.1127Cultural Dissent
Nearly 2 million Britons have signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to be canceled. On February 20, thousands of protesters gathered outside Parliament in London as British lawmakers debated whether to deny Trump a formal state visit. Democracy Now! spoke to Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth International. He spoke at the protest in London on February 20. The video and transcript are below.TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, nearly 2 million Brits have signed a petition calling on President Trump’s official state visit to be canceled. On Monday, thousands of protesters gathered outside Parliament in London as British lawmakers debated whether to deny Trump a formal state visit. Inside Parliament, MPs debated for three hours. This is Labour MP Naz Shah.
NASEEM SHAH: In the last 31 days, what we have seen has, in many ways, been chilling. The executive orders that have dominated Donald Trump’s first weeks in the White House have been frightening. And the question many of us are asking: Where does this slippery slope really lead? If we take only one of the groups of people he has sought to divide, those of the Muslim faith, not necessarily distinct to one country or another, his rhetoric has been so broad that even I, personally, as a Muslim, feel attacked and misrepresented. And no doubt, many of my constituents, who make wonderful contributions to this country on a daily basis, feel the same way. We have to take every opportunity to show that his negativity and divisive messages are not going to divide us. And just as importantly, we cannot let them define us.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, Tory MP Julian Lewis said he supported the state visit and hopes the United Kingdom can influence Trump, who he referred to as a, quote, "inexperienced individual." This is Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, followed by Labour Party’s—the Labour Party’s Paul Flynn.
JACOB REES-MOGG: What complaint did the honorable gentleman make when Emperor Hirohito came here, who was responsible for the Rape of Nanking?
PAUL FLYNN: Certainly, we can’t try to imitate the errors of the past. We should set an example by making sure that we don’t make those mistakes again.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re going to London, where we’re joined by Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth International, who spoke at the protest outside Parliament yesterday.
Asad, thanks so much for being with us again. We usually speak to you at the U.N. climate summit, wherever it’s happening in the world. Talk about what’s happening right now and what you think is going to happen with the state visit of President Trump.
ASAD REHMAN: Well, since the—both President Trump’s various executive orders targeting the Muslim—with the Muslim ban and, of course, his outrageous comments, or against women and migrant communities, the normalizing of a really—of hatred, bigotry and xenophobia, a large number of British people, and I think right across the political spectrum, find it absolutely abhorrent that this government should roll out a red carpet for President Trump. And the state visit is an honor that is bestowed by the U.K. government. It’s not something that happens automatically. And nearly 2 million people signed a petition asking the government to withdraw its offer of a state visit. Hundreds of thousands of people have now been mobilizing on the streets. In fact, yesterday, there was the fourth big mobilization that there’s been to send a message to this government that they should listen to British people.
And there has been already a commitment that if Donald Trump steps inside this country, and when he does, that there will be a huge mobilization. We intend to put millions of people on the street, not only to oppose Donald Trump and his agenda, but also to hold up a mirror about what’s happening both in the U.K. and across Europe, and, listening to your previous guest talking about the normalization of racism and attacks on migrants and refugees, talking about how we are slowly moving into a space where the far right and extreme right-wing parties are dominating our political space, and how we have to be able to oppose that, and we have to actively oppose that.
And to do that, we need to build a movement, a movement that is much more inclusive and brings together a different spectrum of views and organizations. And that’s why Friends of the Earth, we’re one of the organizers of the Stop Trump Coalition. And we, together with trade unions, Muslim organizations, migrant organizations, have been organizing these huge protests that have been taking place, because we think that the struggle for climate justice, for climate refugees, is a struggle for justice. And it’s the same struggle against—whether we’re talking against sexism, sexist violence, racism or bigotry.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Asad, I wanted to ask you about Theresa May, the prime minister, who has obviously extending her hand to Trump, and her relationship, her reaction to what’s happened here. And, of course, famously, when she did visit Washington, Trump tried to grab her hand as they were walking in the White House, and she pulled back.
ASAD REHMAN: Well, that image, I think, will live on in most people’s minds, and it sort of sums up the picture of that relationship. I mean, many people felt, you know, that, of course, we have—we’re in a post-Brexit world. And the U.K. has voted in the referendum last year to leave the European Union. There’s a great deal of uncertainty as to what that actually means. Many people are arguing for a hard Brexit, which could lead to real crisis in terms of our economy and jobs. And, of course, the issue of migration is being played very much by some forces to justify a vote to leave the European Union.
Now, all of those things means that this government is basically willing to accept anything from the U.S. administration. And that’s part of what I think has angered so many people, that what the U.K. is hoping, that by cozying up to Donald Trump, by accepting the kind of views that he’s espousing, that somehow we will manage to get a trade deal. Unfortunately, we know what kind of trade deal that will be. The trade deal will be that we will have given up our rights. We would have given up decency. We would have accepted this agenda of hatred. And in return, we would have had a trade deal of deregulation, of weakening labor laws, environment protection. We would had to give up in terms of our controls around our food, our health. And all of those things are just—
AMY GOODMAN: Asad, we—
ASAD REHMAN: —I think, unacceptable. And all of that is part of the agenda of actually making Theresa May say—take a step back and think again about rolling out this red carpet.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to go back to Monday’s parliamentary debate on whether the state visit of Donald Trump should be canceled. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said Trump’s climate change denials alone should disqualify him from being invited.
CAROLINE LUCAS: Many of them have raised not only Trump’s misogyny and racism, but also his contempt for basic climate science. Would the honorable member agree that to have a state visit for someone who has shown such effrontery to basic climate science is another reason to say that he should not be coming here?
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was inside Parliament, as thousands were outside. What’s coming of this vote? And what actually will happen?
ASAD REHMAN: Well, the vote is not a binding vote. But I think it was very clear from the speakers who spoke in Parliament yesterday, the number of people who contacted their members of Parliament, that the overwhelming majority of members of Parliament also oppose that this government—the state visit of Donald Trump. We’ve heard, unprecedented, that the speaker of the House, one of the most powerful positions in the House of Commons, has himself said he thinks it’s absolutely inappropriate that if Donald Trump comes on a state visit, that he should be allowed the honor of speaking in Parliament to our Parliament, both the House of Commons and House of Lords. This is an incredible rejection of Donald Trump and his agenda. And we heard it last night, and we heard it from right across the political spectrum. And it’s really now up to the government to listen to those voices, because we have been here in the past, where, of course, we have had a prime minister who has been willing to accept an American agenda, and that led us into a really disastrous war. Two million people marched on the street. And, of course, that prime minister’s reputation is in tatters now. And I think there’s a stark warning to Theresa May that cozying up to Donald Trump could end up with her and her reputation being in similar tatters.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us, Asad Rehman, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth International.1127International News
Jews Against the Occupation released this statement on February 21, as the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Sydney for a four-day visit.
* * *
Jews against the Occupation are strongly opposed to the red carpet welcome being given by the Australian Government and Opposition to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu is Prime Minister of a state which has consistently defied international law by seizing land under occupation, driving out and dispossessing the Palestinian inhabitants, demolishing their homes and farmlands, to enable them to be taken over by Jewish Israelis.
The daily restrictions on freedom of movement of the Palestinians make economic life, effective health care and education near to impossible.
The ongoing siege and blockade of Gaza, with periodic invasions and massacres by the Israeli Defence Forces, amount to war crimes.
The refusal to address even minimal legitimate expectations of the Palestinians, while accelerating colonial dispossession and construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem, has sabotaged any possibility of a peace process.
Israel's annexation of a large part of the West Bank, if not all of it, looks likely.
Netanyahu's closeness to the newly-elected President of the United States, Donald Trump, is a cause for serious concern.
His apparent indifference to the anti-semitism and Islamophobia promoted by the US government, casts serious doubt on Netanyahu's support for Jews world-wide.
Australia should not give comfort to a man responsible for such lawlessness and inhumanity.
[There will be a protest against Netanyahu's visit on Thursday February 23 at 6.30 at Sydney Town Hall.]1127Comment and Analysis
Visiting Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged Sri Lankans held in immigration detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to come home. “Come back. All is forgiven,” he said in Canberra on February 15 after talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Even though they had broken the law in trying to flee to Australia he insisted they would not face prosecution if they returned.
“They left Sri Lanka illegally. They are welcome to return to Sri Lanka and we won’t prosecute them, so they can come back to Sri Lanka, and we will have them, but remember, they broke the law in coming to Australia, attempting to come to Australia.”
Tamils from Sri Lanka, along with Iranians and Afghans, are the largest national groups among more than 2,000 asylum seekers held in immigration detention on Nauru and Manus Island.
Lionel Bopage was jailed twice and tortured for his role as a leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People's Liberation Front), a mass liberation movement in Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 1980s. He was eventually forced into political exile and now lives in Melbourne, where he continues to be an outspoken defender of the right of national self-determination for the Tamil people. His biography, The Lionel Bopage Story by Michael Colin Cooke, is available from Resistance Books.
He had this response to Wickremesinghe’s comments.
* * *
The current Prime-minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremsinghe’s comments on refugees fly in the face of the facts.
Despite the relaxation of the social and political environment under the new regime led by President Maithripala Sirisena and the Prime Minister, the repressive machinery and logistical approach of the governance system towards its political critics and opponents have not changed.
This is evident from a number of incidents that have taken place in Sri Lanka recently, giving the impression that the current regime may have started resorting to old repressive strategies and tactics. For example, the killing of two university students in Jaffna; continuing police torture island-wide; a lax approach to investigations of the criminal activities of the previous regime; continued repression of trade union and student protests; the abduction of the leader of the telecommunication trade union; and the creeping closure of the democratic space gained after the elections.
There is also evidence of several cases where the returning asylum seekers were arrested and subjected to ill treatment. Voices critical of the current regime are again being reinterpreted as supporting a separatist agenda. The reconciliation agenda of the current Sri Lankan regime and its efforts toward that end are yet to be demonstrated in practice, despite the rhetoric of its representatives at overseas forums such as the United Nations.
By his statement, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister has concurred with the Australian regime's repression of the asylum seekers and their off-shore detention in Nauru and Manus Island, while Australia' refugee policy is being subjected to intense and severe criticism by the United Nations.
Until the impunity given to perpetrators of human rights abuses is rescinded, the organs of the state are reformed, the mindset of many working for the state who see dissent as unpatriotic is changed and the rule of law becomes paramount, then and only then can the prime minister welcome refugees safely back to the country.
Otherwise the current government will also be seen in the cold light of history like other previous governments — of 1970, 1977 and 1994, among others — who promised much in terms of good governance and reconciliation but in the end made democratic spaces in Sri Lanka even narrower.
While supportive of the current government’s reform and reconciliation agenda, I am at the same time sceptical, given the past history of the United National Party and other members of the coalition, including the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, as reflected in the government’s inability and or hesitance to deliver the reforms promised during the presidential and parliamentary elections, in any concrete manner.
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the government need to deliver their promises first, then welcome back refugees.1127Comment and Analysis
“The United States has almost 1000 military bases around the world, covering every continent, every ocean,” filmmaker John Pilger says. “China has one!”
He points out: “The US Pacific Command in Hawaii claims responsibility for 52% of the Earth’s surface.”
After a sold out Melbourne screening of his latest master class in documentary filmmaking, The Coming War on China (his 60th film for ITV), Pilger is stark when speaking with Green Left Weekly: Undeniably, he insists, US island bases surround China like a noose, and new US-Australian bases amplify the “Asian pivot”.
The new film offers strident counterpoint to the perpetual frame and lens of the representation of China in West as the “aggressor” in the South China seas.
But tellingly, Pilger also offers a moral equivalence. China, currently reclaiming small islands for what it calls defensive purposes, is contrasted and contextualised with the numerous US military bases, island apartheid and previous island nuclear tests.
Like a left-wing David Attenborough, Pilger has again donned his khaki journalism suit and travelled around Asia to break the silence on the human rights abuse of the ordinary people on Asian Islands. US bases in Japan, Korea and Marshall Islands subjugate islanders, but these same islanders are the resistance on the front line: protesting, blocking and obstructing the coming war.
Bases, missiles, navigation of the South China sea and Trump’s US secretary of State Rex Tindlerson threatening a blockade, is altogether a rejig of historical actions against China.
Pilger tells Green Left: “The ‘real face’ of American imperialism has been on show in Asia since the US joined in the European plunder of China in the nineteenth century, notably the ‘opium trade’ that made fortunes for US industrialists.”
Before the 19th century western occupation, the Chinese bloomed in 10,000 years of protective isolation and were sea-traders, who even traded peacefully with Australian Aboriginals. Now in the 21st century, China is the new economic power. It holds more than US$3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves the reserve; is a world manufacturing hub; and has helped form the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — which by itself challenges the Washington census. China also lays claim to a modern Sputnik moment: sending into orbit the world’s first quantum computer.
Pilger has returned to China for the first time in years and says China has matched US with capitalism and at their own game. He notes ongoing issues “with human rights, especially the right to speak against the state and challenge its power”.
“Since I was last here, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, many into a new middle class.” This has been accompanied by mega-infrastructure developments.
Pilger believes the origins of the tensions and conflict between the US and China is relatively simple: the US Empire is in decline and China is an economic powerhouse on the rise.
“The origin of the tensions in the Asia-Pacific is Washington’s determination to remain the world's top dog — by military means. Its logo is an eagle with one talon in America and the other in China.”
He notes: “It was Hillary Clinton who, as US Secretary of State in 2009, transformed a regional dispute in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea to ‘a matter of US national interest’.”
Turning geopolitical competition into wars has been a long-standing US approach. “Since the Second World War, according to the historian William Blum, the US has attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of them democratic; bombed more than 50 countries; and attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.”
Rather than thrust the world into a devastating war, Pilger, like most citizens of world, prefers a peaceful resolution. “As the new president of the Philippines has demonstrated, the dispute can be peacefully negotiated and perhaps even solved if the US stays away,” he says.
Even after disastrous nuclear testing on civilians on Asian Pacific islands, the US has never stayed away from Asian Islands. In all the horrible detail, The Marshall Islands nuclear testing on civilians is given a historical overview.
In the documentary, Pilger voices over nuclear blasts that: “the United States exploded 66 nuclear devices in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 — the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.”
Marshal Islanders, impoverished and homeland occupied, still carry the radioactive-caused deformities and cancers. Still, to this day, new US missile bases gate and separate the poor townships of the Marshal islands.
A less known hotspot where Pilger visits is JeJu — a beautiful South Korean island. Called the Hawaii of Asia, JeJu hosts US bases just 400 miles from Beijing.
Pilger says in the film: “People’s resistance to these war preparations has become a presence on JeJu for almost a decade. Every day, often twice a day, villagers, Catholic priests and supporters from all over the world stage a religious mass that blocks the gates of the base.”
In Australia, the latest announcement features US F22 raptors to be based in Darwin. Foreign bases remain a historical theme for Australia, with Pilger noting: “Military service to the foreign power is as Australian as Vegemite. Today, Australia's military, intelligence, political and media establishments are fully integrated into US power structures and designs.
“This is remarkable, of course, when you consider that Australia is a country with no foreign enemies.”
Astoundingly in the film, a top US official denies there are any US bases at all in Australia. Pilger tells Green Left he wasn’t surprised, as “governments, especially rapacious governments, lie routinely”.
In Australia, the anti-war movement can learn much from the resistance (disinvestment, protests, blockades) to US bases on island’s like Japan’s Okinawa and Korea’s JeJu, from the Asian resistance.
Pilger believes, “The anti-war movement needs to move from marches and slogans to direct action and civil disobedience.”
Outside the traditional anti-war movement, soft-power, money and influence from Australia’s biggest trading partner China, may well be tipping the balance of power away from the US. There is also a growing Chinese peace movement powered by Chinese Australians.
A slight shift in Australian politics can seen by the reactions of former prime ministers like Paul Keating and the late Malcolm Fraser, who called for a shift in foreign policy. Like it did before with Britain to the US, Australia could eventually shift allegiances.
But Pilger remains sceptical of Australian politicians still very much tethered to the US alliance. He notes, on the other hand: “I think many ordinary Australians fear the US and want a peaceful relationship, if not friendship, with China.”
Polls certainly show Australians more fearful of the US than China. Donald Trump’s nuclear weapons comments have scared Australians and then in recent weeks, China deployed nuclear missiles to the north, which can easily reach US cities.
A “mutually assured destruction” situation, as in the Cold War, underpins a simmering of tensions. But these are unusual times, where the US has carried out new simulations of nuclear war and survival simulations and there’s palpable uneasiness about just where are we headed.
“Trump has blustered a great deal,” says Pilger, who believes Obama laid the groundwork for the conflict. “Whereas Obama committed the US to spend $1 trillion on nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future.
“Having promised to help rid the world of the nuclear threat, he secretly authorised an escalation of nuclear warhead spending greater than any president since the Cold War. Obama’s drones campaign has murdered, according to one estimate, 4700 people; he also holds the record for running seven simultaneous wars.
“It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to guess where this may be heading — if the rest of us don't wake up.”
[Read Green Left Weekly's review of The Coming War on China, which is screening around the country. Visit http://thecomingwarmovie.com for screening details.]1127Cultural Dissent
The Coming War On China
Written & directed by John Pilger
Screening now, visit site for details
The Coming War on China is possibly John Pilger’s best film in years.
In classic Pilger style, the Australian-born filmmaker — responsible for dozens of films critical of great power — depicts the threat the US war machine poses in the Asian region in the context of the rise of China.
Most importantly, he shines a light on the frontline resistance to it. Despite its title, the film does not suggest a US war against China is inevitable — merely a growing threat that can be stopped by popular opposition.
At a time when US President Donald Trump is launching aggressive tweets and slogans at China, the film is given added pertinence.
It is a film of two parts. The first traces the history of US nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands — particularly the effects on the people in Bikini Atoll, systematically lied to and used as human guinea pigs.
The second covers the China-US relationship and resistance to the US military machine in the region.
Both would make solid films individually and at times it feels like you are watching two TV episodes stitched together. There is an element of repetition — I lost count of how many times the map of US military bases in the world was shown. Admittedly, it is an alarming graphic, in which Australia is well represented.
This structure does serve a purpose. We get to see and hear the complete disregard the US military machine has for the people of the Marshall Islands — the victims of great, yet little known, crimes.
Pilger digs up a trove of archival footage: from US officers visiting the Marshall Islands to “sell” nuclear testing, the magnitude of the nuclear tests, how the people of the Marshall Islands are prodded and probed like test animals and finally the role of Greenpeace helping to evacuate people from the radioactive Bikini Atoll in the 1980s, after the US has abandoned them to a radioactive hell.
This illustrates how US imperialism views the likes of the Marshall Islanders — as lesser, and expendable, people.
It is also a warning to the rest of the world of what happens if your home becomes part of the US military’s plans. This adds urgency to struggles against US bases in Japan depicted later in the film.
Pilger highlights the hundreds of US bases in the Asian region surrounding China — described as a “noose” by a US official. This “noose” includes Australia, with several US bases such as Pine Gap in the Northern Territory.
In one of the film’s multiple “gotcha” moments that Pilger is known for — whereby he interviews representatives of great power and lets them condemn themselves with their own words — a US official tries to argue, straight-faced and against known facts, that the US has no military bases in Australia.
Pilger runs through a history of US and Chinese relations that includes how the opium trade forced on China generated great wealth for the US and was crucial to US industrialisation in the 19th century.
Then he depicts the Mao-led Chinese Revolution when US corporations fled China, before exploring China’s current development, single party and capitalist system.
Pilger argues that China has undergone significant change over recent decades — developing along capitalist lines, remaining “communist” in name only. As China grows and the world’s political and economic centre of gravity shifts east, a new middle class is being created with tens of millions rising out of poverty.
However, the film also delves into the human rights abuses that mark China — in particular the terrible working conditions and mass poverty that underpin China’s growth.
Unlike in some of Pilger’s recent films, it does not stop at depicting injustice, but highlight the outbreak of strikes as working people fight for better working conditions.
Rather than seeking to work constructively with a capitalist China, the film paints the US’s approach as that of an aggressive militarist bully.
Pilger then depicts the powerful grassroots resistance to US bases in the region.
Stylistically the film is classic Pilger. It is the no nonsense reporter on a mission to uncover the truth and speak truth to power.
In keeping with one of his trademarks, Pilger manages to wheel out all manner of former US military and foreign policy officials. Grilling them, he manages to show both how absurd and dangerous their views are.
The cinematography has also got an old-school news style to it — with lots of footage of Pilger meeting people and exploring the Marshall Islands and the locations of US bases. Music, graphics, visual effects and editing pace are all kept to a minimum.
It is certainly no atmospheric cinematic masterpiece. It bucks the trends seen in social change documentaries over the past decade that have explored new styles to advance their message — such as the more cinematic style used in This Changes Everything or the fast paced action-adventure style in Gasland.
Pilger’s blunt voice of god narration is the glue that holds the film together as it moves across the world and through history. If you are looking for more personal story-driven narrative with little analysis, this may prove off-putting.
Rather, it gets its message across through the strength of its analyses and harrowing first-hand accounts of the US military machine.
Its greatest strength is perhaps its portrayal of social movements — something that was noticeably lacking in Pilger’s recent films The War You Don’t See and Utopia.
It has footage, incredible in its rarity, of daily protests stretching back decades outside US military bases on Japanese and South Korean islands. Seeing communities take on the might of the US military machine is inspiring — even more so when they win victories.
As Pilger concludes: “We don’t have to accept the word of those who conjure up threats and false enemies to justify the business and profit of war. We have to recognise there is another superpower, and that is us, ordinary people everywhere.”1126Cultural Dissent
The slogan “We Want to Welcome Them” rang in the streets as up to half a million people demonstrated in Barcelona on February 18 to demand their government accept more refugees. It came after Spain accepted just 1000 of the 17,000 it had promised.
"It is very important that in a Europe of uncertainty where xenophobia is on the rise for Barcelona to be a capital of hope," said Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau, who took part.
Colau, from the left-wing Barcelona For All platform, came to office as an organiser with an anti-eviction campaign, an offshoot of the Indignados movement that also produced the group that organised the march, the pro-refugee Cosa Nostra Casa Vostra.
Police put attendence at about 160,000 protesters, but estimates from activists were much higher, with representatives from various social groups present. Although Spain had pledged to accept 17,337 refugees in the next two years, as of Bebruary 16, it has only accepted 1100 in a year-and-a-half.
Reposted from TeleSUR English1126
Since then, he has been under interrogation while his detention was repeatedly extended.
He announced his hunger strike after he was issued with an administrative order — special orders issued by Israeli courts that allow prisoners to be held indefinitely without trial. Orders for administrative detention can be indefinitely renewed.
Less than a year ago, al-Qiq refused meals for more than 90 days while being held indefinitely without trail, to protest the use of the administrative detention order against him.
Al-Qiq ended his hunger strike after Israel agreed not to renew the administrative detention order. He was released in May.
Fayha Shalash, al-Qiq’s wife, said the latest administrative detention order was proof of Israel’s failure to find any evidence on which it could indict her husband.
At the time of his arrest last month, a spokesperson for Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic spy agency, told The Jerusalem Post that al-Qiq was arrested “on the basis of suspicions of involvement in incitement to terrorism against Israel and renewed activity with Hamas”.
But the Israeli authorities have yet to present any evidence to support those accusations. That is despite Israel expanding its definition of “incitement” over the past two years.
Jointly issued by a number of Palestinian human rights groups, the report states that dozens of aggressive night-time raids were conducted against Palestinians held in Israeli jails at the end of January and start of February.
Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian Authority head of prisoner affairs, reported that prisoners were forced to fully undress and stand naked outside, in the cold weather, while guards ransacked their belongings.
Other raids by officers at Nafha prison were, however, before the stabbing incidents. Some prisoners were reportedly assaulted during those raids.
About 530 Palestinians are now being held under administrative detention by Israel. A total of 590 Palestinians — including 128 children — were arrested by Israel in January alone.
[Reprinted from Electronic Intifada.]1126International News
A strike at Chile's Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, entered its fifth day on February 13 with few signs of speedy resolution as workers threaten to stop production for up to two months.
Workers began a strike at the Australian-run BHP Billiton mine on February 9 to put pressure on the company after failing to reach an agreement in wage negotiations.
The union said its 2500 members are committed to action and threatened a two-month work stoppage, leading BHP to admit that it will not be able to meet its contractual obligations.
As the world’s largest copper mine, the strike threatens to disrupt global supplies of one of the most widely used industrial metals.
Escondida produced 1.15 million tons of copper in 2015, or 6% of global output that year.
World supply concerns have led copper prices to hit a 20-month high, as Indonesia's Grasberg, the world's second largest copper mine, has an export ban, and Peru's large Las Bambas mine also faces protests.
In Chile, copper makes up more than half of all exports.1126International News
Members of the Argentine Metal Workers’ Union (UOM) marched to the Ministry of Labour in Buenos Aires on February 14 in protest of thousands of jobs cut from electronics manufacturing companies.
The cuts came after a government decision to eliminate a 35% tax on computer imports.
Protesters gathered in front of the National Congress of Argentina before marching to the offices of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, with many banging drums and waving flags.
Other unions also took part in the demonstration.
“Last year, we had 9000 colleagues who were unemployed and 15,000 colleagues who are suspended and we do not know what can happen to those colleagues now when they have to reintegrate into their jobs in March, if they are going to have work or if they are not going to have a job,” said UOM Secretary General Antonio Calo.1126International News
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on February 14 denouncing a move by the Trump administration to sanction Venezuelan Vice-President Tarek El Aissami over drug trafficking allegations.
On February 13, the Treasury Department froze all of El Aissami’s alleged assets in the US under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. This makes Venezuela’s vice-president the top-ranking official of any country to be sanctioned in this way.
In particular, the sanctions target 13 companies owned by Samark Jose Lopez Bello, who is accused of being a “key frontman” for the Venezuelan official.
According to a Treasury statement, El Aissami is alleged to have “facilitated shipments of narcotics from Venezuela, to include control over planes that leave from a Venezuelan air base, as well as control of drug routes through the ports in Venezuela” — reportedly in connection with the Las Zetas Cartel in Mexico.
The Trump administration has yet, however, to release any evidence to bolster the accusations. The US Justice Department has not publically opened investigations into El Aissami or his alleged associate.
Venezuela’s foreign ministry, for its part, denounced the move as an “unprecedented act” in US-Venezuelan relations, accusing the Trump administration of violating international law.
“These actions, which attempt to validate the vulgar and inadmissible existence of an imperial law, granting special police powers to US government entities, lacks the most minimum legality under international law,” the ministry said.
The foreign ministry also noted that since the government of former President Hugo Chavez’s expulsion of the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2005 over espionage accusations, Venezuela has increased its efficiency in drug seizures by 60%.
During El Aissami’s tenure as interior minister, he reportedly oversaw the arrest and prosecution of 102 drug kingpins, extraditing as many as 21 accused drug traffickers to the United States.
However, the Treasury measure was applauded by US Congress members on both sides of the aisle. Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez issued a joint statement on February 13 calling the step “long overdue”.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said he hoped the sanctions were “only the beginning”.
The move marks an escalation of the Obama administration’s aggressive policies towards Venezuela, which saw Washington designate the South American country an “unusual and extraordinary threat” and sanction top officials.
The former Aragua governor is not the first senior Venezuelan official to face these accusations. In 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran a story accusing then Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello of heading a drug cartel, citing anonymous US Justice Department officials.
However, no charges have ever been brought against the socialist lawmaker.
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]1126International News
Despite global financial crises that have rocked the small South American nation in recent years, Ecuador has managed to achieve landmark social and economic progress in the past decade under the left-wing government of President Rafael Correa, according to a new report from the Centre for Economic and Policy Research.
Released on February 13, the report, titled Decade of Reform: Ecuador’s Macroeconomic Policies, Institutional Changes, and Results, looks at key economic and social indicators. It also looks at policy, institutional and regulatory changes in Ecuador since Correa took office in 2007, highlighting positive developments despite economic recession and plummeting global oil prices.
The country’s most striking achievements in this period include slashing the poverty rate by 38% and the extreme poverty rate by 47%. This has been fuelled by economic growth and employment programs that have boosted many of the country’s poorest communities.
The report also says Correa’s administration has ushered in historic political stability after a tumultuous period that saw eight presidents in 10 years before the left-wing government came to power.
“Despite some turbulence and the harsh economic shocks associated with the 2008–09 world financial crisis and recession, and then a second oil price collapse beginning in 2014 … the government achieved unprecedented political stability,” the report stated.
As part of a battle against inequality, the government also doubled social spending from 4.3% of the country’s GDP in 2006 to 8.6% last year. This included rises in spending on education, health, urban development and housing.
Government expenditure on health services doubled as a percentage of GDP from 2006 to 2016. Spending on higher education also increased from 0.7 to 2.1% of GDP, the highest level of government spending on higher education in Latin America.
“The experience of Ecuador over the past decade is also relevant because it indicates that a government of a relatively small, lower-middle income developing country is less restricted by the global economy, or ‘globalisation,’ than is commonly believed,” the report said.
“The government was able to take advantage of a much wider range of policy choices than those generally thought to be available to developing countries of its size and income level, or even to developing countries generally,” it concluded.
According to the report, these results were not driven by a “commodities boom”, but from deliberate policy choices and reforms that Correa championed. These included defaulting on illegitimate debt, taxing capital leaving the country and responsible and “solidarity-based” fiscal policy, among others.
General elections are scheduled for Ecuador on February 19. Correa will not stand, due to a constitutional restriction on presidents serving more than two terms in office.
However Lenin Moreno, from Correa’s PAIS Alliance party and renowned disability rights activist, has a clear lead in the polls.
[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]1126International News
As anti-choice protestors revved-up to demonstrate at Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the United States on February 11, pro-choice activists beat them at their own game: the organisation's supporters outnumbered those calling for it to be defunded.
Throughout the country, the counter-demonstrations featured larger crowds than the anti-Planned Parenthood ones.
In St Paul, Minnesota, while the anti-choice camp had 500 people in attendance, the counter-protesters numbered at least 5000.
In New York, the contrast was even starker. A couple dozen demonstrated against funding Planned Parenthood, but hundreds came out in support of the health provider. In fact, counter-demonstrators showed up in attendance well before the anti-choicers did.
President Donald Trump has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood. At least 14 states have tried to pass legislation or taken administrative action to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funding — a federal grant program that supports family planning and preventative health services.
However, those in support of the clinic and reproductive rights in general are inspired by the movement’s energy.
“It’s so beautiful because people need to know — they need to see and feel the energy,” Marcella Tillett, vice-president of Planned Parenthood’s Project Street Beat, told Mic after the rally in New York.
“You know that people are supporting you, you know that there are plenty of Americans and plenty of people in this country who don’t support the Muslim ban, who don’t support shutting down Planned Parenthood … but you need to be in the midst of it and you need to know that you are in a community of people who are really energised about fighting back to feel that internally.
“Rallies like this do that.”
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]
The resistance is taking many forms in the United States, Common Dreams said, with some constituents showing up to lawmakers' town hall events to demand accountability and others taking to the streets to protest the Trump administration and its draconian policies.
Nearly 1,00 people marched in Dallas on February 18, demonstrating solidarity with refugees and immigrants impacted by President Donald Trump's recent executive orders as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.
Meanwhile, thousands attended a February 18 "Free the People Immigration March" in downtown Los Angeles, whose organisers have drafted a "People's Declaration" that declares the city to be "a sanctuary for all". Among other demands, the march organizers call for "an immediate stop to the ICE raids and deportations" and vow to "rebel against Trump's actions at every step of the way."
Other anti-Trump events took place in New York City and Sarasota, Florida on Saturday, while additional protests are slated for Sunday and Monday. NBC News has a run-down of some of the largest planned demonstrations.Hundreds form 'human wall' in Mexico to protest Trump
Hundreds of people in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico formed a "human wall" at the edge of the Rio Grande on February 17 to protest President Donald Trump's proposed border wall, Common Dreams said.The demonstrators held up flowers and colored flags reading the word "Peace" and waved to residents of the neighboring town of El Paso, Texas.
Organisers told the Associated Press that the event was meant to symbolize that uniting people was better than dividing them. "We have, as it is being demonstrated here, many friends on the other side of the river, on the other side where they intend to build this wall that will never separate two friendly peoples," said former Mexican presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas.'Truths Not Tweets': Protesters greet Trump at Boeing Plant
President Donald Trump was met with peaceful protesters in North Charleston, South Carolina on Friday as he gave a speech at a Boeing plant in his first visit to the state since winning its Republican presidential primary last year.
Members of Indivisible Charleston, a local resistance group, rallied at the North Charleston Coliseum near the plant, which produces the massive Dreamliner aircraft. At least 100 people gathered to listen to speakers, wielding signs that read, "Truths not tweets," and "No one is free when others are oppressed."In blow to Trump, anti-worker Labor Dept. nominee Puzder withdraws
In a blow to US President Donald Trump, his nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration on February 15. It came amid concern he would be unable to garner enough Senate votes to be confirmed after accusations of abuse against workers at his company, TeleSUR English said that day.
Puzder’s decision to withdraw is yet another setback this week for a White House still grappling with the fallout from the abrupt resignation on February 13 of national security adviser Michael Flynn, after less than a month in the job.
Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, which franchises fast-food chains including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr, has been at the centre of a swirl of controversies, complaints and potential conflicts. Workers at some of CKE's restaurants have filed claims in recent weeks alleging they were victims of wage theft or victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.Almost every member of the White House Asian-American advisory council resigns in protest of Trump
Ten out of the 14 people on a White House advisory board for Asian-American issues have officially resigned, protesting Trump’s harsh policies on immigrants, US Uncut said on February 17.
On February 15, 10 members of the White House Initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) co-signed a letter to Trump tendering their resignation. Their reason was based on his policies of banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, targeting of sanctuary cities, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, according to Fusion.
Six others had resigned when Trump was inaugurated on January 20, meaning only four members remain.
In the resignation letter, the co-signers said they felt the Trump administration was ignoring the concerns of their community and could no longer stand by while he disrespected immigrants and refugees. The council also wrote a letter to Trump on January 13, a week prior to his inauguration, asking for a meeting, but got no response from Trump or his staff.Trump faces high disapproval
Trump’s approval rating reached a new low on February 11, according to a poll from Gallup, as the new administration has struggled to find its footing nearly a month into the term, CNN said.
The daily tracking poll found that just 40% of Americans approve of Trump’s job as president so far, compared to 55% who say they disapprove. The negative 15-point spread is the highest recorded in the poll since Trump took office January 20.
Trump’s approval rating has hovered in the mid-to-low 40s since the second week of his presidency, but the new poll suggests growing dissatisfaction with his performance amid the chaotic rollout of his controversial travel ban and a series of divisive Cabinet confirmation fights.
Trump's low approval rating is atypical for a new president. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton all enjoyed approval ratings in the high 50s in Gallup tracking polls during the early months of their administrations.1126International News
"McDonald's workers clearly aren't lovin' Trump's immigration policies," Mashable.com said. "On Thursday, McDonald's restaurants across the United States, along with a variety of other businesses, closed their doors as part of a nationwide 'Day Without Immigrants' protest."
"The protest, which was intended to show how heavily America relies on immigrants in the workforce, took quite the toll on the fast food chain's employee count, causing many die-hardMickey D's fans to miss a day of burgers and fries."
Common Dreams reported:
In response to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders and sweeping deportation raids that have led to nearly 700 arrests nationwide, immigrants in cities across the country walked out of work on February 16 for a “Day Without Immigrants” strike.
The day of action aimed to demonstrate how much the United States depends on immigrants. Businesses, including restaurants and shops, as well as schools, museums, and even federal government offices faced strikes and protests by workers.
“Mister President, without us and without our input, this country will stand still,” declared a poster promoting the strike that was widely shared on social media.
“From doctors to dishwashers, immigrants are integral to daily life in the U.S.,” tweeted National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguia.
In Washington, DC, alone, more than 60 restaurants closed, with many more only offering a limited menu as owners scrambled to cover for the absence of their entire kitchen staff.
Other businesses shuttered for the day in solidarity, such as the Sweetgreen salad chain, which decided to close its 18 restaurants in the DC area.
Several famous chefs are also using their platform to publicly stand with immigrants. Prizewinning Phoenix chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, for example, announced that she was closing her three restaurants, telling USA Today: “You know what, my restaurants don’t function without immigrants.
“That starts in the field, people who pick our food, the processing plants, the slaughterhouse, I could go on.”
Students around the country also boycotted classes, with at least one school in Washington canceling classes in advance.
In Washington, federal contract workers also held a huge strike in Upper Senate Park to protest low wages and pay cuts. “Trump can’t break a promise to the working class and get away with it,” said Ben Jealous, former NAACP president and the founding chair of Good Jobs Defenders, the coalition of unions and advocacy groups behind the federal contract workers’ strike.
“Striking workers put Trump on notice in December after his election. This will be the first strike after Trump took the oath of office.”
Some places got creative with their protest. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, for example, shrouded or de-installed all works of art created by immigrants or donated to the museum by immigrants, to highlight the invaluable contributions of immigrants to American arts.
“We’ll see pockets of absence all over the museum,” the museum director told The Art Newspaper about the project starting on February 16 called “Art-less”. “The African art section is almost entirely lost to view.”1126International News
In the first ever visit by a serving Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Australia this month as part of an international tour aimed at shoring up Israel’s reputation abroad.
The visit has actually attracted attention — but not the kind Netanyahu would like.
In the wake of a growing corruption scandal around the PM and the recent passage of the so-called regularisation law that retrospectively “legalises” illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the situation of Palestinian communities across the occupied territories is becoming increasingly desperate.
With increasing rates of demolitions of Palestinian houses, Netanyahu’s whirlwind international tour seems to be about shoring up both his and Israel’s reputations in the face of criticism over the contentious law.
Last year featured a record number of housing demolitions across the West Bank, which led to a record number of displaced people — of which more than half are minors. In what amounts to a policy of “de-Palestinianising” previously Palestinian territories, the numbers of demolitions and displacements last year outstripped 2014 and 2015 combined.
The destruction of Palestinian homes and the displacement of Palestinian families across the West Bank have combined with the ever-growing numbers of illegal Israeli settlements to set the stage to complete the de facto annexation of the whole West Bank.
The West Bank is divided into three areas. Area C, for example, is under direct Israeli administrative control and makes up 60% of the West Bank. The practical consequences of Israeli administration of security and land management includes almost total refusal of any Palestinian application for building permits.
Palestinians are effectively prevented from building on about 70% of Area C.
Palestinians in the area also face outright seizures of property for live firing exercises (declaring a “closed military zone”), encroachment onto their land by the notorious “separation barrier” (as Israel calls the Apartheid Wall), the declaration of areas as “state lands” that can only be used by Israelis, and even “nature reserves” from which Palestinians are forbidden.
Responses around the world to the regularisation bill, passed on February 6, have been muted. No leader or foreign minister has really challenged the tired orthodoxy of the two-state solution.
However, a dramatic exception came on February 15 when Donald Trump used a joint press conference with Netanyahu on February 15 to seemingly imply support for a one-state solution — in which Israel would exercise total control over historic Palestine.
Of course, being Trump, the actual meaning of his statement was unclear. One interpretation of Trump’s garbled comments was support for officially establishing what increasingly exists on the ground: one state with two very different systems — or apartheid, as many observers label it.
For their part, Germany, France and Britain have issued cautious statements about the dangers posed to the two-state solution by the new law and growth of Israeli settlements. European Union representatives came closest to outright condemnation by warning that the law would entrench a single state, but with very different rights and consequences for Israeli versus Palestinian citizens.
Israel’s own attorney-general has said that he will not defend the bill should it be brought before Israel’s high court.
Former Australian politicians have queued up to offer modest support to the idea of Palestinian statehood, while neatly sidestepping the issues brought to a head by the regularisation law and growing demolitions and evictions.
Former Labor PM Bob Hawke and Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans have joined calls to recognise the state of Palestine — albeit with a view to continuing negotiations for a peaceful, two-state solution.
Another former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr has been the most critical. Carr dared suggest the “slew of additional settlements on the West Bank” might indicate Israel’s desire to annex the West Bank and finally torpedo any remaining chance of a negotiated settlement.
Naming settlements as an obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine is a bold move — and will most likely be ignored by Israel.
What almost no one outside progressive media is saying — even the EU — is that the never-ending expansion of settlements are an insurmountable stumbling block to any negotiated solution. Nor is it noted that this is actually what Israel intended all along.
The more Israeli settlements and Palestinian housing demolitions frustrate peace talks, the more time Israel creates for itself to consolidate its hold on stolen Palestinian territories.
While mainstream media is distracted by Netanyahu’s PR tour, the expansion of Israeli settlements continues unchecked and towns throughout the West Bank are rapidly becoming de-Palestinianised.
[Protests have been called against Netanyahu’s visit for Melbourne on February 19 and Sydney on February 23. Visit the Australian Friends of Palestine Association website for details.]1126International News
Vegetation creates rain. That is one of the conclusions of a review of more than 150 scientific papers on land-clearing’s impact on rainfall, conducted by Dailan Pugh for the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA). The review, Clearing Our Rainfall Away, reveals how land-clearing affects rainfall and its impact on the climate.
“Climate change results from many human activities, one of which is land-clearing and deforestation,” Pugh said.
“The evidence is overwhelming: clearing native vegetation reduces rainfall, increases temperatures and intensifies droughts. With NSW experiencing record-breaking temperatures it's time for the governments to end the policies that are contributing to it.
"Vegetation does not just respond to rainfall. It recycles water from the soil back into the atmosphere through transpiration; creates the updrafts that facilitate condensation as the warm air rises and cools; creates pressure gradients that draw moist air in from afar; and, just to be sure, releases the atmospheric particles which are the nuclei around which raindrops form.
"The transpiration of vegetation also results in evaporative cooling whereby the surface heat is transferred to the atmosphere in water vapour. The resultant clouds also help shade and cool the surface.
"It has been estimated that since European settlement, land-clearing in eastern Australia has directly resulted in an average summer rainfall decrease of 4–12% and a warming of around 0.4–2°C.”
Evidence from around the world shows land-clearing has directly caused a significant reduction in regional rainfalls and an increase in land temperatures. The release of CO2 stored in trees has contributed about a third of the world's CO2 emissions in the past two centuries.
NEFA called on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to reconsider the previous Mike Baird Government's draconian legislation that has reopened NSW's remnant native vegetation for broadscale clearing.
"Removing deep-rooted forests and woodlands has also resulted in rising water-tables and brought long-buried saline ground-waters towards the surface,” Pugh said. This has already put 7.5 million hectares of NSW's agricultural lands at risk of dryland salinity.
"It is important that Premier Berejiklian recognises that if she approves the clearing of our forests and woodlands, she is approving rainfall reductions, temperature increases and making more farmland unproductive.
“She must take action to rein in the worse aspects of Baird's climate vandalism.”1126Comment and Analysis