Washington, DC is the most powerful capital city in the world. But it’s also a city that is deeply divided between a wealthy and extremely influential minority and an impoverished and largely disenfranchised African American majority. The seat of global power is also home to a population that remains largely invisible to the politicians, journalists, lawyers, lobbyists and contractors around Capitol Hill. This other Washington, DC maintains the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of child poverty, the highest mortality rate from HIV/AIDS, and the lowest life expectancy in the country.
On Friday, Thailand’s Supreme Court ruled to seize over $1B in assets from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was deposed in a coup in 2006 on the pretext that he used his position to benefit his private businesses. The ruling prompted a few protests lead by the overthrown government’s red-clad supporters but the coup regime used the ruling to turn Bangkok into something of a police state.
Last week, Thai politics worked its way back onto Western newscasts when the supreme court in Bangkok convicted Thaksin Shinawatra on corruption charges and ordered the seizure of his assets. His conviction ostensibly lent legitimacy to the coup which forced him from power but as we all know, the first casualty of any war is the truth. What should we really know about Thaksin’s trial, its predictable conclusion, and the recent actions of the government?
The trial was supposed to “prove” that Taksin had used his position as Prime Minister to bring in regulations favouring his mobile phone company. Yet it was merely a political trial to give legitimacy to the illegal 2006 coup. A trial held in a society with double standards in applying the law and a judiciary eager to serve the generals.
In order to understand the technicalities of what is known as the Occupied Territories, you have to know about their inner control and administration divisions, set at the Oslo Accords. The occupied territories are divided into areas A, B and C. Area C is officially under Israeli control and administration. It covers the majority of settlements and cuts through and around areas A and B (creating 227 A/B islands) and keeps miraculously growing. That said, it doesn’t stop the Israeli army (and deportation unite) to come into oficially-Palestinian-controlled area A and abducting Palestinians and Internationals. Area B is the epitome of long-term occupation; A land where Palestinian Authority has “civil control” and the Israeli army has “security control”.
Hebron is in area B, but it gets even messier; In 1979, 40 settlers from the adjacent Kiryat Arba settlement (home to the ethnic cleansing advocate, Meir Kehana) took over a building known as Beit Hadassah, in the center of the city. Ever since then the population of Jews in Hebron reached the not-so-astonishing number of around 500, about 0.03% of the population. In 1994, after American born, Kiryat Arba settler , Kach party member, Baruch Goldstein, massacred between 29-52 (depends who you ask) people in the Mosque of the Cave of Patriarchs, Shuhada street, a main market street in Hebron was closed off to Palestinians. In 1997, then and now Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, redivided this area B city into areas H1 (=area A), which inhabited around 120,000 Palestinians and H2 (= area C), which inhabited around 40,000 Palestinians, half of which have fled after the redivision, for rather obvious reasons.
What does it mean to live in a city so technically divided?