Derailing Veolia in the UK

Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns are succeeding all around the world, and the boycott of Veolia is having an impact in France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Following on the heels of a successful four month campaign to boycott Connex as Melbourne’s rail provider in Australia, Ruth Tenne turns our attention to efforts to apply pressure on UK councils such as Camden to behave ethically and reject Veolia due to its direct involvement in building light-rail to link illegal Jewish settlements.

veoliagraffitionthewallIn his visit to Israel and the OPT in November 2008, the Foreign Secretary spoke out against settlement activity and has said on numerous occasions that continued settlement construction is an obstacle to peace. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office clearly states on its website that “The UK considers that Israeli settlement building anywhere in the OPTs is illegal under international law. This includes settlements in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank”. Yet, local authorities in Britain defy the declared policy of the FCO by employing Veolia – a multi-national French waste company. Veolia Environment is a leading partner in the CityPass consortium which is contracted to build a light rail tramway system linking Israel to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

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The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free

Journalist Chris Hedges writes of a Kafka-esque landscape in the world today where corporate advertising, lobbying and control of media fogs the distinction between lie and fact.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, left, and Miles O’Brien rehearse with the network’s “news wall” in the background.
CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, left, and Miles O’Brien rehearse with the network’s “news wall” in the background.

The ability of the corporate state to pacify the country by extending credit and providing cheap manufactured goods to the masses is gone. The pernicious idea that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the freedom to accumulate vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others has collapsed. The conflation of freedom with the free market has been exposed as a sham. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out and people get a taste of Bill Clinton’s draconian welfare reform. And class warfare, once buried under the happy illusion that we were all going to enter an age of prosperity with unfettered capitalism, is returning with a vengeance.

Our economic crisis—despite the corporate media circus around the death of Michael Jackson or Gov. Mark Sanford’s marital infidelity or the outfits of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest incarnation, Brüno—barrels forward. And this crisis will lead to a period of profound political turmoil and change. Those who care about the plight of the working class and the poor must begin to mobilize quickly or we will lose our last opportunity to save our embattled democracy. The most important struggle will be to wrest the organs of communication from corporations that use mass media to demonize movements of social change and empower proto-fascist movements such as the Christian right. Continue reading “The Truth Alone Will Not Set You Free”

Zelaya exiled in Honduran military coup, Chávez vows to help ally

A supporter of the exiled president in Honduras

A supporter of the exiled Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, protesting against the coup in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

Elsewhere dubbed Obama’s First Coup D’Etat, the Guardian’s lead article on the military coup in Honduras that follows here makes scant mention of General Romeo Vásquez’s earlier training at the School of the Americas, and the curious headline ‘Hugo Chávez vows to ‘bring them down’ after seeing Honduran ally ousted in military coup‘ appears to make Chavez’s comment rather than the coup the news. It will be interesting to see if this receives nearly as much attention in western media as Iran has, which is fast becoming the comparison benchmark when we see the blatant double standards and dearth of similar coverage accorded to Palestine and Gaza in particular; have a look also at Johann Hari’s coverage of the important uprising in the Amazon. Venezuelanalysis and Eva Golinger’s blog have extensive updates on the situation in English and for those in New York there will be a gathering in front of the Honduran Mission to the United Nations, 866 UN Plaza, today, Monday 29th between 3 and 6pm.

The army in Honduras has ousted and exiled its leftist president, Manuel Zelaya, in Central America’s first military coup since the cold war, after he upset the army by trying to seek another term in office.

The US president, Barack Obama, and the EU expressed deep concern after troops came at dawn for Zelaya, an ally of the socialist Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, and took him away from his residence.

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A Global Recovery Needs A Global Response

Amidst the ongoing financial crisis, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz writes that in the modern era of globalization it is developing countries which provided important engines for economic growth, and therefore any global recovery will only be achieved in which they play a central role. The G20 continues to lack the political legitimacy required to represent so many citizens outwith their own borders, in which they channel their recovery packages through the IMF, an organisation whose policies “remain controversial-so much so that many countries are reluctant to turn to it for assistance”. Stiglitz writes:

This is not only the worse global economic downturn of the post World War era, it is also the first serious global downturn of the modern era of globalization. There is need for a global response to this global downturn. But our responses are framed at the national level, and often take insufficient account of the effect on others. The result is that there is less coordination than there should be, a smaller stimulus than would be optimal-and well less designed. Every crisis comes to an end, and this one will too. But a poorly designed stimulus means that the downturn will last longer, and the recovery will be slower, and more innocent victims will be hurt badly. Among the innocent victims of this crisis are the many developing countries-even countries that have had good regulatory and macro-economic policies-far better than those pursued by the US and some European countries-are being badly affected. While in the US, a financial crisis transformed itself into an economic crisis, in many developing countries, the economic downturn is creating a financial crisis. While the U.S. may have the resources to bail out its banks and to stimulate its economy, the developing countries cannot. Continue reading “A Global Recovery Needs A Global Response”

Demonising Iran

This was published in the Sunday Herald.

Two manifestations of Iranian Modernity
Two manifestations of Iranian Modernity

The mainstream media narrative of events unfolding in Iran has been set out for us as clear as fairytale: an evil dictatorship has rigged elections and now violently suppresses its country’s democrats, hysterically blaming foreign saboteurs the while. But the Twitter generation is on the right side of history (in Obama’s words), and could bring Iran back within the regional circle of moderation. If only Iran becomes moderate, a whole set of regional conflicts will be solved.

I don’t mean to minimise the importance of the Iranian protests or the brutality of their suppression, but I take issue with the West’s selective blindness when it gazes at the Middle East. The ‘Iran narrative’ contains a dangerous set of simplicities which bode ill for Obama’s promised engagement, and which will be recognised beyond the West as rotten with hypocrisy. 

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Maximizing Rights: The One State Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Palestinian-American law professor and commentator George Bisharat.
Palestinian-American law professor and commentator George Bisharat.

In April George Bisharat wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle titled Changing the Rules of War giving a legal perspective on Israeli conduct in Gaza.  He stated that “what is less appreciated is how Israel is … brutalizing international law, in ways that may long outlast the demolition of Gaza.”  I’m sure if you read it in April, you’d remember it, and if you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it more highly.

Maximizing Rights is a previous work of his, published 2008 in the Berkley journal Global Jurist.  In it he states that it’s time to face the painful truth: the two-state solution has failed.  He argues for a new paradigm, with a rights-based approach, that favours a one-state solution as it provides “the widest array of rights to the greatest number of Palestinians and Israelis.”  Simply put: the one-state solution is the most just solution and is most likely to bring lasting peace.

The article can be downloaded for free on the journals website. I’ve included the abstract below.

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Illuminated Pages

Michael Palin, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Jeremy Harding in a 'qasr' near Ain Qenya, Ramallah
Michael Palin, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Jeremy Harding in a 'qasr' near Ain Qenya, Ramallah

Another fine LRB diary piece by Palfest participant Jeremy Harding. A visit to the al-Khalidi library leads Jeremy to consider “the war for control of East Jerusalem that Israel has been waging, slowly but surely, by non-military means.” More pieces by Jeremy are here , here, here, and here.

Haifa al-Khalidi says that she’s not a librarian. Fine. But the al-Khalidi collection on 116 Bab al-Silsilah Street in the old city of Jerusalem doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a library so maybe Haifa simply means she’s not a scholar, even if she’s now acquainted with a thousand rare manuscripts and many more works in print that are housed here. One of the first she shows us is a beautifully decorated Arabic translation of a work on poisons and remedies by a 12th-century Indian physician. (Later I learn it contains a tale about metabolic resistance and how it’s possible, carefully and slowly, to administer a poison to a subject whose antibodies enable him to survive, even though someone else who touches him will die. Actually, that ‘he’ in the story is a her, tanked up to become a poison pie and set before a king.) 

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