The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Undermining Peace in Gaza and Israel in One Minute Flat | Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich

Undermining Peace in Gaza and Israel in One Minute Flat How the House Defeated the Democratic Process “Unanimously” Washington, Nov 20 -

On November 16, 2012, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution, H. Res 813, expressing “vigorous support” and “unwavering commitment” to the State of Israel while bombs were being dropped on Gaza and missiles were launched toward Ashkelon. The resolution expresses the official opinion of the House of Representatives. The resolution was passed “without objection.”

It is unusual that legislation addressing a topic of such importance would be brought up without giving members of Congress any prior notice. The bill was introduced at 12:04 pm. The resolution was “agreed without objection” by 12:05 pm.

“There was no notice, no committee hearing, no discussion and no debate. In such a fashion, we achieve unanimity on great matters related to the Middle East,” said Kucinich.

Concerning this abnormal set of circumstances and addressing the tragic violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today released the following statement.

“I object to H.Res.813, an unfortunately and unnecessarily one-sided resolution that was brought up on Friday, November 16th for consideration without any advance notice to members of Congress and which was completed in about a minute without any discussion. The hasty nature in which this resolution of such significance was considered undermines the unspoken, but operationally essential understanding, that bills of great importance will not be quietly tiptoed through Congress. A loss of Members’ confidence in Leadership results when House floor procedures are conducted in a manner frustrating to good faith. Such conduct can only add to the hyperpartisanship and the breakdown of comity in Congress that Americans find objectionable.

“Members must be given the opportunity to debate U.S. support of a military operation that is likely to be of significant consequence in talks between Israel and the Palestinians. This impacts the region and the world.

“Only one minute for consideration of a most consequential resolution in the House, when in the past week, the death toll in Gaza has climbed past 100, including 24 children. Over 800 people are reported to have been wounded. Rockets from groups in Gaza have landed in several Israeli towns. Three Israelis have been killed.

“This latest military escalation began after Israel assassinated Ahmed Al-Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing. According to Israeli negotiator Gershon Baskin, who secured the release of Gilad Shalit, Mr. Jabari ‘wasn’t just interested in a long-term cease-fire; he was also the person responsible for enforcing previous cease-fire understandings…On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance.’ Could anything be more destructive of peace than the assassination of a principal to ceasefire negotiations? And the House only has one minute to consider the ramifications of such action?

“The root of this latest flare up in hostilities is deep. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on a two-state solution have been virtually non-existent. Innocent people in Gaza continue to suffer under a blockade that has deprived them of everything from food and clean water to educational opportunities. Illegal settlements continue to be built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, further diminishing prospects for a negotiated two-state solution.

“The hastily written, and even more hastily passed resolution, fails to mention any of that. In its deficiencies are writ the failures of our own Middle East policies. This latest outbreak in violence is deplorable and I am strongly supportive of Egyptian efforts to negotiate a ceasefire. Innocent people on both sides deserve to live without fear. Can the House Leadership spare a minute for that point to be made?”

Ali Ferzat: the satirist who defied Assad

Bashar al-Assad’s henchmen came for Ali Ferzat in the small hours of Thursday 25 August 2011. Ferzat, a cartoonist celebrated throughout the Arab world for lampooning dictators and their oppressive techniques, had already survived a death threat from Saddam Hussein, as well as being banned from Iraq and Libya.
But as he left his studio in Damascus after a night working late, his luck ran out. Masked men from Assad’s feared shabiha (state-sponsored militia) rammed his car, then ripped the doors off and handcuffed him. They forced him into their own van, where they symbolically smashed his hands before beating him around the face and leaving him at the side of a road with a bag over his head.
[…]
For four decades he’d survived the strictures of one of the most repressive regimes in the world, which even before the present uprising was languishing in the bottom ten of the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. (It is now in the bottom four.) But a recent cartoon had proved a provocation too far: in it, he had directly linked the fate of Assad with that of Muammar al-Gaddafi, showing him sweatily running along a road to hitch a lift with the dead Libyan leader in a getaway car.
The extraordinary story of the dealings between the cartoonist and the president holds up a cracked mirror to Assad’s relationship with the Syrian people as a whole. It reflects the political positioning that has made him so hard to pin down as a leader and as a man, encompassing the journey from the phoney liberalism of his early days in office to the mass-murdering paranoia of his endgame.
[…]
“My city [Hama] has witnessed three massacres – the first in 1963 under the Ba’athist coup led by Amin al-Hafez, then in 1982 under Hafez al-Assad, and now under Bashar, whose middle name is also Hafez. The name Hafez haunts my dreams now. It gives me a physical spasm every time I hear it.”
He leaned forward to give me a high-five again, indicating that this was a joke, but shook his head at the same time. For him, anger and humour are very close, as indeed they should be for a satirist – a gleam in the eye can quickly become a glare and a grin a grimace. I decided to ask him about the moment that proved critical in his career: the point at which he stopped sketching types and decided to caricature Assad.
“A few months before the uprising started, I could sense that things were moving much faster – shifting by the minute and hour, and I needed to respond to those changes without reflecting for long enough to create something symbolic. But I also wanted to break the fear by portraying him personally. Not least because what the revolution needs right now is for caricatures for people to carry while protesting – they can actually hold them up on the streets. I have seen again and again examples of protesters across Syria carrying my caricatures, and I’m very proud of that.”

image source

Ali Ferzat: the satirist who defied Assad

Bashar al-Assad’s henchmen came for Ali Ferzat in the small hours of Thursday 25 August 2011. Ferzat, a cartoonist celebrated throughout the Arab world for lampooning dictators and their oppressive techniques, had already survived a death threat from Saddam Hussein, as well as being banned from Iraq and Libya.

But as he left his studio in Damascus after a night working late, his luck ran out. Masked men from Assad’s feared shabiha (state-sponsored militia) rammed his car, then ripped the doors off and handcuffed him. They forced him into their own van, where they symbolically smashed his hands before beating him around the face and leaving him at the side of a road with a bag over his head.

[…]

For four decades he’d survived the strictures of one of the most repressive regimes in the world, which even before the present uprising was languishing in the bottom ten of the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. (It is now in the bottom four.) But a recent cartoon had proved a provocation too far: in it, he had directly linked the fate of Assad with that of Muammar al-Gaddafi, showing him sweatily running along a road to hitch a lift with the dead Libyan leader in a getaway car.

The extraordinary story of the dealings between the cartoonist and the president holds up a cracked mirror to Assad’s relationship with the Syrian people as a whole. It reflects the political positioning that has made him so hard to pin down as a leader and as a man, encompassing the journey from the phoney liberalism of his early days in office to the mass-murdering paranoia of his endgame.

[…]

“My city [Hama] has witnessed three massacres – the first in 1963 under the Ba’athist coup led by Amin al-Hafez, then in 1982 under Hafez al-Assad, and now under Bashar, whose middle name is also Hafez. The name Hafez haunts my dreams now. It gives me a physical spasm every time I hear it.”

He leaned forward to give me a high-five again, indicating that this was a joke, but shook his head at the same time. For him, anger and humour are very close, as indeed they should be for a satirist – a gleam in the eye can quickly become a glare and a grin a grimace. I decided to ask him about the moment that proved critical in his career: the point at which he stopped sketching types and decided to caricature Assad.

“A few months before the uprising started, I could sense that things were moving much faster – shifting by the minute and hour, and I needed to respond to those changes without reflecting for long enough to create something symbolic. But I also wanted to break the fear by portraying him personally. Not least because what the revolution needs right now is for caricatures for people to carry while protesting – they can actually hold them up on the streets. I have seen again and again examples of protesters across Syria carrying my caricatures, and I’m very proud of that.”

image source

(Source: theamericanbear)

It is not enough that you obey; you must be seen to obey. You must obey cheerfully, without complaint — just ask any of thousands and thousands of your fellow citizens who have been tasered or beaten or arrested for failing to show due deference to a police officer or security guard or any of the many other heavily armed figures out there who can stop us, hold us, put us away — or put us down — on the merest whim. Chris Floyd

John Rees on democracy and the age of mass movements | Counterfire

On what Rees refers to as the “Age of Mass Movements”.

The key determinants of this phase of struggle are as follows:

Firstly, the anger generated over decades by the failure of neo-liberal economics as instituted since the late 1970s when the welfare state consensus of the long post war boom was abandoned by the political elites.

Secondly, the new phase of imperialist conflict opened by the end of the Cold War in 1989. This phase is characterised by the US’s strategic dilemma of trying to arrest its relative economic decline by using its overwhelming military superiority to overawe its competitors and secure its imperial control of resources and geo-political bases of operation, particularly in the Middle East.

Thirdly, the fissure this has produced between the ruling class and a majority of the people on a range of important political and economic issues. This was later described as a ‘democratic deficit’. The term should be seen as describing the declining popular faith in some of the main institutions of capitalist society: government, parliament, elections, corporations, the press, the police and so on.

Fourthly, there is weakness of the trade unions, the main reformist parties and the radical left. The unions have been weakened by structural changes in the economy, by successive attacks by the ruling class and the inability of the existing trade union leadership to deal with these attacks. The reformist parties have, at least at a leadership level, adopted neo-liberal economic and social policies and neo-conservative foreign policies that are indistinguishable from main stream conservatism. The radical left has been unable to fill the vacuum created by this crisis in the mainstream organisations of the labour movement.

Fifthly, this combination of factors – economic and imperial crisis, democratic deficit and weak union and reformist organisation – has produced the mass movement as the characteristic response of those that want to fight the system. Stronger unions might have produced a response that involved greater levels of industrial action. Stronger reformist parties might have produced left reformist currents of greater attractiveness. But in the absence of these alternatives many people take to the streets and create movements of protest based on this kind of action, or on forms of direct action. [++]

You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. … The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public. He offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin—and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost. Vaclav Havel

Leading Bahrain activist Zainab al-Khawaja detained

goldenplatform:

SOURCE

A prominent pro-democracy activist in Bahrain has been detained for seven days after being arrested for allegedly insulting police, rights groups say.

Zainab al-Khawaja was held on Saturday night after sitting in a road leading to the Bahrain International Circuit, a day before the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

She was demanding the cancellation of the race, the end of the crackdown on dissent, and the release of her father.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on a hunger strike in prison for 76 days.

Activists said Zainab al-Khawaja was arrested while sitting peacefully in the middle of a main road in protest at the detention of her father, and that she had been charged with disrupting traffic and insulting an officer.

Her sister, Maryam, said: “I can guess it’s because nobody really believes in the legal system. Zainab’s mentality is you can only bring about the fall of the regime when you stop treating it as a government.”

On Tuesday morning, both the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said Ms Khawaja had been remanded in custody for another seven days pending an investigation.

‘Toying with life’

Amnesty International said on Monday that the authorities were “toying with the life” of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, himself a leading human rights and opposition activist, after Bahrain’s highest court postponed an appeal against his life sentence until 30 April.

The Court of Cassation did not give any reason for the second postponement since it started considering Mr Khawaja’s case on 2 April.

He told his family on Sunday night that he was happy with his decision to remain on hunger strike and that if it killed him he would “at least be free”.

“The Grand Prix has come and gone but for the people of Bahrain the media spotlight has moved on while Bahrain’s authorities have yet to turn the corner on the human rights situation in the country,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director, Hasiba Hadj Sahraoui.

(via sharquaouia-deactivated20121015)

Josh Wood: Underground In Beirut

One night last January, Rami Nakhle bounced toward the Lebanese  border on the back of a motorcycle. A gang of smugglers—the kind who  usually transport guns, drugs, fuel, and more mundane commodities—had  agreed to take him from Homs, Syria, to Beirut, less than one hundred  miles away.
To get out of Syria, Rami had promised to pay  $1,500—six months’ salary for the average Syrian—cash to be paid on  arrival, by a friend. The smugglers ordered him to ditch his small bag  by the side of the road and proceed with only the clothes on his back,  though this may have been a trick to cheat him out of his belongings.  Smugglers can be dangerous people to deal with, but it was a risk worth  taking. Rami had just been discovered by the Syrian security services.  He had few options but to leave.
On a dirt track leading to the  border, Rami waited with one of the smugglers until after dark. When the  lights of the nearby Syrian military outpost finally flickered off, the  pair inched toward the border. Everything was going according to plan.
Suddenly  a Syrian soldier jumped out of the brush, rifle in hand. It was an  ambush—a rare trap set to combat smuggling. As the soldier let loose  several warning shots, initial shock gave way to survival instincts.  Rami and the smuggler jumped off the motorcycle and fled in opposite  directions as more soldiers started to appear, drawn by the gunshots and  shouts. While border guards usually turned a blind eye to contraband,  smuggling people was another issue entirely.
Rami ran as fast as  he could for a couple of miles, until he figured he’d lost his pursuers.  He was safe for the moment, but in the middle of nowhere. He stayed in  the brush through the rest of the night, unsure of what to do. [read more]

Josh Wood: Underground In Beirut

One night last January, Rami Nakhle bounced toward the Lebanese border on the back of a motorcycle. A gang of smugglers—the kind who usually transport guns, drugs, fuel, and more mundane commodities—had agreed to take him from Homs, Syria, to Beirut, less than one hundred miles away.

To get out of Syria, Rami had promised to pay $1,500—six months’ salary for the average Syrian—cash to be paid on arrival, by a friend. The smugglers ordered him to ditch his small bag by the side of the road and proceed with only the clothes on his back, though this may have been a trick to cheat him out of his belongings. Smugglers can be dangerous people to deal with, but it was a risk worth taking. Rami had just been discovered by the Syrian security services. He had few options but to leave.

On a dirt track leading to the border, Rami waited with one of the smugglers until after dark. When the lights of the nearby Syrian military outpost finally flickered off, the pair inched toward the border. Everything was going according to plan.

Suddenly a Syrian soldier jumped out of the brush, rifle in hand. It was an ambush—a rare trap set to combat smuggling. As the soldier let loose several warning shots, initial shock gave way to survival instincts. Rami and the smuggler jumped off the motorcycle and fled in opposite directions as more soldiers started to appear, drawn by the gunshots and shouts. While border guards usually turned a blind eye to contraband, smuggling people was another issue entirely.

Rami ran as fast as he could for a couple of miles, until he figured he’d lost his pursuers. He was safe for the moment, but in the middle of nowhere. He stayed in the brush through the rest of the night, unsure of what to do. [read more]