Turkey: Kurdish politicians charged over Abdullah Ocalan appeal

Turkey has charged more than one 100 Kurdish politicians for demanding better conditions for the imprisoned ex-rebel leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Prosecutors said the demand, which the 98 former mayors and eight other politicians signed two years ago, constituted terrorist propaganda.

They could face up to 20 years in jail.

Tension has grown since Kurdish politicians declared autonomy in the south-east last month and PKK rebels killed 13 Turkish soldiers in clashes.

Abdullah Ocalan has been serving a life sentence in a prison on an island near Istanbul.

He was originally sentenced to death in 1999, but that sentence was commuted to life imprisonment three years later.

A court in the capital, Ankara, announced on Wednesday that the Kurdish politicians would be tried in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir.

Another 152 Kurdish politicians are already on trial in the city for alleged ties to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).

Any expression of support for the rebels, however mild, can be construed as a criminal offence in Turkey, the BBC’s Jonathan Head reports from Istanbul.

Tone changes

Among the latest batch of Kurdish politicians being charged are some who have done no more than call for improved living conditions for Ocalan, he notes.

But the sheer number now on trial – including respected community leaders – is a source of anger in much of the Kurdish south-east, our correspondent says.

The announcement of more trials came just 24 hours after a popular Kurdish politician elected to parliament last month was given a two-year sentence on similar charges.

Another elected MP was barred from taking his seat because of an outstanding sentence.

Kurdish leaders say the mass trials make a mockery of the government’s claim that it wants to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the south-east, which has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

But the recent upsurge of PKK armed activity seems to have hardened the government’s attitude, and there is no longer any talk of possible negotiations with Ocalan, our correspondent adds.



3 August 2011

Israeli courts must end anti-Arab discrimination

Israeli courts discriminate against Israeli Arabs. If there had been any doubt left about this, a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind study commissioned by Israel’s Courts Administration and the Israel Bar Association just determined it decisively.

According to the study, whose main findings were reported by Tomer Zarchin in yesterday’s Haaretz, Arabs are given jail sentences more often than Jews convicted of the same offenses, and Arabs receive longer sentences than Jews who are jailed. The study’s authors conclude that their most conspicuous finding is the tendency of Israeli courts to treat Arab defendants more harshly: When Arabs wind up in court, they are more likely to be convicted; when convicted, they are likely to receive a stiffer sentence than a Jew normally would. It’s hard to imagine a more disturbing fact.

This is no longer just a matter of discrimination on the basis of national identity by small communities’ admissions committees or by bouncers at nightclubs. This isn’t just a matter of budgetary discrimination. This worrisome paroxysm has already reached its pinnacle: the court system itself, which is supposed to serve as society’s beacon of law and justice.

The Courts Administration and the Bar Association did well to commission the study. But now, it is incumbent upon the court system to eradicate this plague of systematic discrimination.

Israel’s judges dwell among their people, but they must not allow themselves to become infected by the racist mood that is spreading through Israeli society. On the contrary, the court system must battle against this morally reprehensible attitude.

Arab citizens must have equal rights in every regard – but first and foremost when dealing with the law enforcement system. They must know they will never face discriminatory sentencing because of their national identity. This essential condition, however, is not currently being met.

Every level of the court system, from the Supreme Court down, must designate this as one of its most pressing and important missions – to grant equal treatment to all who appear before it. Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch must send an urgent and unequivocal message to every judge in Israel: Sentencing discrimination against Arabs must end. Racism? Not in the courts.

Because otherwise, those who accuse Israel of maintaining an apartheid regime will be justified with regard to Israel’s own Arab citizens.

Haaretz Editorial

August 3, 2011

Israel’s security complex

A little-noticed item in the military press reports that Israel has integrated all its missile-defence forces into a single air-force command. Wing 167 is located at the Palmachim air-force base near Tel Aviv and brings together three groups of anti-missile weapons: an upgraded version of the United States’s Patriot Pac-2 system, Israel’s own Arrow-2, and the new “iron dome” system, an Israeli-developed weapon for countering short-range rockets deployed in southern Lebanon and Gaza (see Barbara Opall-Rome, “Israel Creates Active Defense Wing”, Defense News, 18 July 2011).

Wing 167 integrates the missiles with data from early-warning and targeting sensors. It will be progressively upgraded with two further Israeli anti-missile weapons, the planned Arrow-3 and David’s Sling systems. In the coming years, a joint US-Israeli programme will see advanced infrared sensor systems fitted to high-altitude drones that can loiter at altitudes of 40,000 feet to track incoming missiles (see Barbara Opall-Rome, “U.S., Israel Pursue Two Anti-Missile Sensor UAVs”, Defense News, 18 July 2011).

Wing 167 will, according to defence officials, “be one of the [Israel air force’s] fastest growing organisations, with staffing growing three- or four-fold to manage billions of dollars worth of technology”.

Israel’s focus on missile defence is part of a longstanding pattern. But much of the current integration stems from two earlier conflicts in particular.

The first is the war that followed Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in January 1991. The United States started a huge aerial bombardment of Saddam Hussein’s forces on the evening of 16 January, amid a widespread view that the vast coalition forces ranged against the Iraqis would ensure a quick capitulation. Within twenty-four hours the near-euphoria roused by that air assault turned to alarm as Iraqi Scud missiles landed on Israeli cities; a moment with deep-rooted resonance in Israel.

The second is the war with Hizbollah in July-August 2006, which caused Israel severe problems. The worst of these was the ability of the Lebanese movement to fire hundreds of short-range missiles into northern Israel in barrages that continued to the last day of the war (see Zaid Al-Ali, “‘Whatever happens, Hizbollah has already won’“, 9 August 2006).

The three risks…

Israel now faces three further developments that cause renewed concern – to the extent that the authorities are obliged to sell the public a narrative of guaranteed security via missile protection. The very term “iron dome” is intended to convey an assurance of invulnerability.

The first development is that the Arab awakening in Egypt is having the effect of making the Egypt-Gaza border far more porous, making it much easier to transfer a range of weapons into the strip. These are reported to include anti-tank missiles and high-trajectory rockets, perhaps even an anti-aircraft missile that could seriously constrain Israeli reconnaissance and strike-operations in the event of another war (see Amos Harel, “Israeli sources: Arab Spring let Palestinians ramp up Gaza arms smuggling“, Ha’aretz, 25 July 2011).

The second is a report that Hizbollah is acquiring the Scud-D surface-to-surface missile (see  Yaacov Katz, “Syria increasing arms shipments to Hezbollah”, Jerusalem Post, 16 July 2011). The Scud-D, like earlier variants of the missile, is 1950s-era Soviet technology, but its 700-kilometre range bring the whole of Israel within range from launch-sites deep in Lebanon and thus distant from the Israeli border. This, moreover, follows reliable accounts that Hizbollah has since the war of July-August 2006 hugely expanded its arsenal of short-range missiles and now has tens of thousands at its disposal (see Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, “The Hizbollah project: last war, next war“, 13 August 2009).

The third development is fresh deployments of medium-range Iranian missiles. Two are particularly relevant: the liquid-fuelled Shabab-3 and the much newer solid-fuelled Sejil-2. Both are reported to have ranges close to 2,000 kilometres, easily exceeding the range required to target Israel. They were test-fired from northern Iran into the Arabian Sea in covert tests conducted since October 2010 (see Alon Ben-David, “Expanded Reach”, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 18 July 2011).

As many as 500 Shabab-3 missiles are reported to have been deployed, some on mobile launches. There is scarce information about their accuracy and reliability. Indeed, Both sides have an interest in exaggerating these: the Iranians to demonstrate their national prowess, Israel defence sources in order to ensure increased spending on defensive systems.

In practice, both are probably overrating the Shabab-3, which is liquid-fuelled and based partly on fairly old North Korean technology. The Sejil-2 is another matter, since storable solid-fuel missile-motors allow for much greater readiness. But here too there are questions over capability. One recent report suggests that Revolutionary Guard units have already deployed a handful of Sejil-2 missiles at Khorramabad, northwest Iran, but others suggest that it is still under development, and that a test in October 2010 ended in failure.

…and the fourth

None of this means that war is imminent, but it is part of a complex set of developments across the region where each side is seeking military advantage. The Iranians are intent on developing a powerful missile force (whether or not they also opt for nuclear weapons): they see such systems as deterrents, principally against the United States, as well as being symbols of power in a regional competition with – among others – Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hizbollah in Lebanon has expanded its capabilities to deter Israel; and some of the more radical elements in Gaza, even if largely held in check by the Hamas leadership, also want to increase their military resources.

Israel too is determined to remain “impregnable in its insecurity”. It has hugely powerful armed forces backed up by as many as 200 nuclear weapons, and its strike-aircraft and ballistic missiles can range across the region. Yet it also has a deep enduring perception of vulnerability that it thinks can best be countered by a protective “dome” over the whole country. This amounts to little more than benign reassurance of an insecure population that allows the genuine situation facing the country to be evaded (see “Israel’s security: beyond the zero-sum“, 26 August 2010).

Israel simply cannot come to terms with the idea that it is impossible to build walls hundreds of kilometres high – and that it must deal in peace (see “After Gaza: Israel’s last chance“, 17 January 2009). There is little sign of that recognition at present. As a result, and in the context of this semi-integrated and multifaceted arms-race, the risk of another war in the region increases.

Paul Rogers

Open Democracy.net

28 July 2011

Antonio Negri: Diary of an Escape – Review

“The recent days have shown the enormous gap that exists between our capacity to produce truth and the court’s inert expression of its unbelievable desire to repress it.” Antonio Negri.

Diary of an Escape is Antonio Negri’s version of truth. Negri was accused of conspiring with the Red Brigades, of creating conditions for an insurrection in Italy, as well as charged with seventeen murders and the murder of Aldo Moro, which he deems, “A high level accusation, sustained by lies, and one which cannot be criticized once it has been consecrated by justice.”

Placed in preventive detention for four years, Negri was released from prison in July 1983, after being elected to the House of Representatives. His release and foray into politics created a frenzied debate, which was exploited by the media. A few months later, he was stripped of parliamentary immunity and took up residence in France.

Negri’s book is at once a narration of philosophy, politics and personal memoir. Departing from Marxism as opposed to oppressive democracy, the concepts of truth, justice and exile resonate throughout the book. The experience of the oppressed political prisoner divests the courts of their own web of rationality, exposing the system, which upholds the semblance of justice. Negri portrays justice as a procedure, which disrupts the reason behind the trial.

The necessity of vilifying communism went beyond the objectives of the trial. A spectator as well as participant, Negri discerns the court’s motives; the mandatory expectation of morality to be upheld through the immoral culture of power. The court’s sanctioning of the ‘pentiti’ – people in the communist movement who defected to gain some semblance of immunity from prosecution was a reminder that courts consider themselves to be above all definitions of justice. “…this is just what one would expect: that corruption, dissolution and decadence should give each other a deformed reflection in this infamy.”

Justice manages to deform reality beyond its own illusion. “Democratic prison and democratic political trials – democratic exploitation.” The consequences of conspiracy charges tarnish the eloquence of language and actions. Viewed from the democratic bench of justice, truth and exile become terms, which represent a distorted image of the oppressed person’s reality. To the political prisoner, truth is entwined within the revolutionary struggle – it is not to be separated, forged or diminished because to do so would mean annihilating the concept of revolution. Truth was the weapon, which flung the conspiracy theories back to the mahogany benches.

Once released from prison, Negri hardly had time to savour freedom. Each time he visited his comrades in prison, whom he had left with the promise of campaigning for their release, they urged him to flee Italy – the threat of re-arrest remained relevant. Negri ponders the spectrum of freedom and exile.

Once stripped of immunity, he decides to flee to France out of the desire to safeguard his freedom from the hypocrisy of the courts. Also, Negri realises that mediation with regard to political prisoners is destined to fail. Here again, exile is destined to be mangled by the court’s power. But for the political prisoner, exile is a means of regeneration. An escape which defies the torture of corrupt justice and, even then, it is a last resort, when one realises that to remain within the confines of a country results in deterioration of identity. Therefore, exile is preservation of freedom, a transformation of survival.

Through the book, Negri maintains the fact that courts are frequently irrational and out of contact with society. Due to the strict interpretation of defining guilt and innocence within their own parameters, as well as within the laws that function in favour of power, resistance, especially Marxist and communist ideologies of resistance are considered subversive and therefore negativity accumulates in their regard. With the distinct ideology of class struggle, justice is tasked with forging a strategy, which seeks to accommodate society. It fails to identify the minorities or else seeks to engulf them through forced assimilation.

Negri’s language and philosophy is brimming with revolutionary consciousness. In a simpler reflection towards the end of the book, the regeneration of ideals and humanity is pondered upon, as a means to combat the cycle of vengeance found in the halls of justice and oppressive politics. “There is no struggle between nature and liberty – there is a continuity of struggle and of continuous building, of the one and the other.”

Irish Left Review

July 29, 2011

Antonio Negri, Diary of an Escape. Polity Press, 2010.

Jailed journalists write for freedom in Turkey

Dozens of Turkish journalists writing for the Tutuklu Gazete newspaper have very personal reasons to be concerned about media freedom in their EU-candidate country. They are all in jail.

From prison cells across Turkey, they contributed articles to a special edition protesting against restrictions on freedom of expression, which have drawn criticism from the United States and Europe.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern about the issue on a visit to Istanbul this month, saying it was not in Turkey’s interest to be “cracking down”.

A report by the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental pan-European human rights body, has called for urgent measures to address a “particularly worrying” situation for media freedom.

Writing from jail in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, Kurdish newspaper editor Vedat Kursun says it is particularly tough for journalists who write about a 27-year-old Kurdish separatist insurgency in which more 40,000 people have died.

“Journalists in this country have been put in a situation where they virtually can’t practice their profession. They always feel the cold breath of the authorities on their neck,” he wrote in Tutuklu Gazete, published as a free supplement in leftist Turkish newspapers on Sunday.

Kursun was sentenced to 166 years in jail for membership of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), viewed by the U.S. and EU as a terrorist group. He, like other journalists, says he was only convicted for articles in his newspaper.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan rejects such an argument, saying journalists are not in jail because of what they wrote. They are generally prosecuted under widely implemented laws against membership of terrorist groups or spreading their propaganda.

Since coming to power in 2002, Erdogan’s government has earned praised internationally for political reforms aimed at bringing Turkey in line with European Union political norms, and for liberalising an economy that now ranks among the fastest-growing in the world.

However, the ruling AK Party, which polled 50 percent of the vote to win a third term in power in parliamentary elections in June, also faces accusations of trying to tame the media and smother opposition to its power.

Turkey has fallen to 138th out of 178 countries reviewed for the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders, a media freedom pressure group, from 101st in 2007 due to the proliferation of lawsuits.


Tutuklu Gazete’s publication date of July 24 was symbolic. It marked the anniversary of the official abolition of censorship in the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Abdul Hamid II at the time of the Young Turks revolution in 1908.

“Resistance to Censorship,” the newspaper proclaimed in a front-page headline above a picture of people protesting against media restrictions at a demonstration attended by thousands in Istanbul earlier this year.

The Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), which organised the project, says the paper is part of a year-old campaign to secure the release of 70 jailed journalists and prompt changes in the anti-terrorism laws.

“If journalists are prosecuted on charges of being terrorists due to their professional activities, it means there must be a mistake in those laws and they must be changed,”  says TGS Chairman Ercan Ipekci.

“We hope public opinion will be influenced by these articles and that this wave of public opinion will hit parliament and that it will make the necessary changes in the laws,” he said.

The organisers wrote to all the jailed journalists about the project and published articles from 39 of them. For now, there are no plans for further editions of the paper.


While charges of links to the PKK predominate in the prosecution of reporters, some of the journalists in jail are among hundreds of people detained over a series of alleged coup plots against Erdogan’s government.

Among them is the Kanalturk television channel founder Tuncay Ozkan, who has been in jail since September 2008 charged with seeking to overthrow the government in a trial which is still continuing. He says his opposition to the ruling AK Party is the reason for his prosecution.

“I was jailed for conducting my profession without compromise, for exercising my right to freedom of thought and dissidence,” Ozkan said in an article written from Silivri prison, near Istanbul in northwest Turkey.

TGS says journalists are the subjects of some 4,000 investigations. Many of those are for articles about the alleged anti-government plots of the shadowy “Ergenekon” network since the investigation was launched four years ago. Some 2,000 cases have been opened against reporters.

Well-known journalist Ahmet Slk was detained earlier this year. The co-author of a book about Ergenekon, Slk faces a jail sentence of up to four years on a charge of “violating the secrecy of an investigation”.

Turkey has long faced criticism from campaigners over its human rights record. Writers including Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk and slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink were prosecuted under laws restricting freedom of expression.

A Reporters Without Borders report in June called on Turkish authorities to boost the status of journalistic principles in the law to counterbalance the protection of legal confidentiality, state security and personal privacy.

“A legislative straitjacket continues to stifle journalists,” the report said.

“Reporting of some topics is still routinely punished by the courts. Journalists are arrested and tried for doing their job or expressing an opinion,” it said.

Daren Butler

July 28, 2011


Water is life! Water is humanity!

“Water is life. Water is humanity. How could it be part of the private business?” asks Bolivian President Evo Morales, stressing the social and economic consequences of the growing trend of private ownership over water supply and delivery systems in many parts of the world.

Morales, the first-ever indigenous president of Bolivia and an outspoken advocate of the rights of “Mother Earth”, also criticised capitalist countries of the North for failing to adopt a rights-based approach towards the problems of global warming and the rapid loss of plant and animal species.

“If we don’t respect the rights of Mother Earth, we cannot respect human rights,” he told a news conference at U.N. headquarters before heading to the U.N. General Assembly where he addressed a meeting on water and sanitation.

More than two billion people across the world have no access to sanitation facilities and clean water. Numerous U.N. studies have shown a strong link between deadly diseases and the lack of access to clean water in many countries of the South.

Research shows that inadequate access to clean and safe drinking water remains a major obstacle for the success of international initiatives on sustainable economic and social development in financially impoverished regions of the world.

The international community has pledged to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, a target that is unlikely to be met on time.

“Progress is on track,” said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, but warned diplomats at the General Assembly gathering that the world “will miss the water and sanitation target”.

“It is not acceptable that poor slum-dwellers pay five or even 10 times as much for their water as wealthy residents of the same areas of the same cities,” he said. However, in the same breath, Ban added: “Let us be clear: a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free.”

Morales’s stance on this issue reflected a completely different worldview.

“Without water, there can be no food, no life,” Morales said, challenging the notion that water management by private corporations will accelerate the process of development. “Competition of any sort cannot resolve the issue of poverty.”

The first-ever indigenous president of Bolivia, who is well-known for his outspokenness and socialist views, said his government had already expelled some multinational companies that were seeking privatisation of water in his country.

“Water is a basic public need that must not be managed by private interests, and that it should be available to all the people,” he said, a view endorsed by a number of diplomats from the developing countries who spoke at the General Assembly meeting.

According to Food and water Watch, a non-governmental organisation- based in Washington, many women and children in rural areas in developing countries spend hours each day walking kilometres to collect water from unprotected sources such as open wells, muddy dugouts or streams.

In urban areas, they collect it from polluted waterways or pay high prices to buy it from vendors who obtain it from dubious sources. The water is often dirty and unsafe, but they have no alternative.

Carrying the heavy water containers back home is an exhausting task, which takes up valuable time and energy, according to the group. It often prevents women from doing vital domestic or income-generating work and stops children from going to school.

“Water is a human right. We believe that corporations cannot provide better service to consumers,” said Kate Fried of the Water and Food Watch in support of Morales’s views. “Water service can be provided more effectively by public-public partnership.”

Water Aid, another non-profit organization, says the total global investments in water and sanitation would need to double for the Millennium Development Goals’ target of halving the proportion of people living without water and sanitation by 2015 to be met.
Haider Rizvi

Jul 27, 2011


North Atlantic Alliance of Neo-Fascists

Common to the informal North Atlantic neo-fascist coalition is the hatred of Islam, the radical opposition to immigration and to multicultural society, the belief in white racial supremacy and in Christian fundamentalism, the unconditional support of Israel, sympathies for the U.S. ‘Tea Party’ movement, and contempt for democratic institutions.

Sympathetic to these neo-fascist groups are extreme right wing parties functioning in practically all European countries, from the Norwegian Progress Party, the Sweden Democrats, the True Fins, and the Danish People’s Party, to the French Front National (FN), and the Italian Lega Nord. The perpetrator of the massacre on Jul. 22 was a long-standing member of the Norwegian Progress Party.

Further evidence of the pervasiveness of extremist right wing views is the fact that 14 of the 27 countries represented in the European Parliament have at least one MP who defends xenophobic views and calls for stern anti-immigration policies.

While some of the parties – such as the FN in France, the Freedom Party in Austria, and the Lega Nord in Italy – have a relative long history, most of them were founded in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in reaction to the growing multiethnic character of European communities and to immigration, especially of Muslims.

Leaders of all these parties and groups, including the Norwegian Progress Party, are trying to disassociate themselves from the mass murders in Oslo and on Utoya Island.

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, who has reached global notoriety thanks to his speeches against Islam, and who recently faced legal proceedings under charges of instigating racism and for having called Mohamed “a child abuser”, described Behring Breivik as “a psychic ill, violent man”. Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate of the French FN, also called the Norwegian killer “a crazy guy”.

Siv Jensen, head of the Norwegian Progress Party, called Behring’s deed “abhorrent” and said her party was “an innocent victim” of the tragedy.

All these parties have become popular in their respective countries precisely for attacking migration policies, and for expressing openly racist views. Typical of these parties is the Swedish Democrats’ repeated description of Sinti and Roma and other minorities as “parasites”; and immigration, multiculturalism, and Islam as “Europe’s worst dangers”.

Meanwhile, blogs and Internet forums expressing extreme right wing views emerged practically simultaneously with the popularisation of the Internet, and multiplied and became stronger after the terror attacks against New York and Washington in Sep. 2001.

“Right wing extremists were among the first political groups to use the new media,” said Rick Eaton, researcher for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. “The first neo-Nazi website ‘Stormfront’ appeared 1995, that is shortly after the emergence of the World Wide Web. By now, there are more than 10,000 forums and blogs on the Internet in the U.S.”

Contrary to the established parties, the moderators of extremist right wing forums and blogs adopted an ambiguous position towards Behring Breivik. The German forum Politically Incorrect (PI), which describes itself as “a bastion against Islam”, endorsed Behring’s 1,500-page strong manifesto saying, “Most of what he writes could be published in this forum”.

Elsewhere, though, PI calls Behring “a psychopath” and his crime “an abhorrent, inhuman deed”.

At the same time, some of the authors who publish their views in such forums tried to trivialise the mass murder in Oslo and Utoya. “While some 17,000 terror attacks by Islamist groups have killed more than one million people, one single Christian terror attack just killed 90,” one author wrote in another blog. The author also called the mass murder of Oslo and Utoya “the beginning of the civil war against Islam in Europe”.

Such forums “set the blaze for [racist] violence, even though they do not explicitly call for terror acts,” said political scientist Sabine Schiffer who is a researcher on anti-Islamic movements and media and the director of the German Institute for Media Responsibility. “The repetition of phrases such as ‘when will we [Europeans] start to defend ourselves’, or ‘let’s do something against Islam in Europe’,” constitute an implicit appeal to terror, she said.

Schiffer is joining political leaders in calling for a redefinition of freedom of expression, to “set a clear line between legitimate criticism and commentary and racial and religious hatred,” she said.

But some conservative politicians are using the mass murder in Oslo and Utoya to repeat past calls to censor Internet. “The mass killings in Norway were born in the Internet,” said Hans Peter Uhl, who is in charge of home security for the conservative Christian Social Union party. “Although Behring appears to be a lonely killer, he had numerous contacts with likeminded people through the Internet.”

“What should the state do in such cases, when there is a clear violation of laws that criminalise sedition and racial hatred,” Uhl asked. “Should we be perplexed in the face of such crimes? No, we must better control the Internet,” he said.

Eaton warned that the attacks in Oslo and Utoya “surely were not the last acts of terror in the name of the armed fight against Islam”.


Julio Godoy


July 27, 2011


Picasso In Palestine

When it was reported that Picasso’s Buste de Femme arrived in occupied Ramallah, after crossing a number of heavily guarded Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, including concrete barriers armed with soldiers and fortified by tanks, another one of Picasso’s paintings should be viewed too. The other painting, of course, is the legendary Guernica, one that should not be seen by Palestinians but by those living in Israel and United States.

In 1937, while Palestine was under a British mandate and Israel was not yet a new nation, Adolf Hitler’s Condor Legion, using the Spanish Civil War as a testing ground, experimented with its new weaponry and blitzkrieg techniques on the residents of the historic Basque town of Guernica. For German military forces, it was a tremendous victory. But for Guernica, its population of 7,000 civilians was utterly decimated.

New fighter planes, like Heinkel 111’s, flew over in waves and for hours, dropped high-explosive and incendiary bombs on Guernica. While innocent civilians tried to flee from a massive inferno, they were strafed by Junkers. German Nazis and Spanish Fascists were quick to use propaganda and blame the atrocity on revolutionary forces. Even though there was international outrage over the destruction of Guernica, no action was taken.


It was Pablo Picasso who painted the bombing and destruction of Guernica, an artistic reminder and monument to “never again.” Sadly, and during World War Two, there were many more Guernicas such as Warsaw, Coventry, London, Berlin, Dresden, and Tokyo. Guernicas have also occurred after World War Two in places like Deir Yassin, Hanoi, Beirut, Santiago, Kabul, Baghdad, Fallujah, and present-day occupied Palestine.

In Picasso’s revolutionary Guernica painting, he reminds one of the horrors of war. On the left, a mother’s face is turned upwards. She screams and cries holding her dead child. In the center, a horse is frantically bellowing while standing over a dismembered revolutionary, who is holding a shattered sword and flower. At right, a woman is falling from a burning house, hands and eyes raised towards heaven, begging for help.

Picasso also discarded his usual colors of blue and pink to intensify the drama of Guernica. The reportage-like photographic mural depicts death raining down. Appalling images of mutilation, death, and destruction are everywhere. But Guernica also centers around a central pyramidal structure. The monumental painting is a powerful political statement against Fascism and the chaos, disorder, and fragmentation that it produces.

Regarding Israeli relations with Palestine, the need for “living space” has been used to raze Palestinian homes and build illegal settlements. Peace and security has been an excuse for war. Blitzkrieg-like tactics have stopped humanitarian flotillas bringing food and medicines to Gaza, and used to raid Palestinian villages. Palestine has served as a laboratory for weaponry, like U.S. fighter jets, drones, and white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

According to news reports, it seemed ridiculous and impossible to bring Picasso’s multi-million dollar Buste de Femme to Palestine. But after a two-year odyssey, the Dutch Van Abbemuseum succeeded in delivering the painting to the International Academy of Art-Palestine in Ramallah. Evidently, Picasso was the academy’s choice nor his iconic status, his political consciousness, and his artistic activism on behalf of peace.

The Palestinian art museum voted to view Buste de Femme, a portrait of a beautiful woman. This is in sharp contrast to the ugliness of Guernica, something that Palestinians have had to endure for years. Picasso was greatly influenced by impressionist and romantic painters who explored the inner world of emotions and imagination. He is also known for Cubism, where natural shapes are transformed into exaggerated shapes and forms.

Cubism was mainly about interpretation rather than realistic depiction. Therefore, Picasso painted people and objects and events as one knew it to be, bringing together in one image many different angles and perspectives as possible. Although criticized by more conservative artists, Picasso helped “free” art from realism. He used sharp angles, various planes and collages which helped pave the way for more abstract artistic expression.

Since Palestinians have no access to import or export artistic items, artists have to work with an Israeli company. Picasso’s painting, then, symbolizes the inner emotions and imaginations of Palestinians and their desire for freedom and a Palestinian state. They also hope that the beautiful and abstract will someday replace the ugly reality Israeli occupation forces and having to live under the shadow of American-made weaponry.

Abdul Karim of the museum in Ramallah said: “The lesson of Picasso in Palestine is that there are possibilities in impossibilities.” The possibilities in impossibilities were evident when thousands of Palestinian and Israeli peace activists marched united to help support a Palestinian state, one that is soon to be endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. Equality and freedom, not segregation and occupation, leads to an artistic peace.

On the other hand, the lesson of Picasso’s Guernica in Israel and United States is the futility of establishing a nation in lands that belong to other people, and then attempting to maintaining a “total” military occupation. Occupations that are backed by punitive blockades and shock and awe campaigns, intermixed with military interventions directed against civilian populations like Operation Cast Lead, paints only broad strokes of death.

Memory and imagination, not war and endless military occupations, are the greatest instruments for peace. Will Picasso’s mysterious, yet realistic, artistic activism in Guernica-indiscriminate death from the air and land and sea-allow us to feel and act with new perspectives, especially when thinking about life and death, both our own and other people? Will his artistic language free us from our addictions to militarism and war?

Dallas Darling

Palestine Chronicle

July 27, 2011

Glasgow: The battle of George Square (1919)

On Friday 31 January 1919 upwards of 60,000 demonstrators gathered in George Square in support of the 40-hours strike and to hear the Lord Provost’s reply to the workers’ request for a 40-hour week. Whilst the deputation was in the building the police mounted a vicious and unprovoked attack on the demonstrators, felling unarmed men and women with their batons. The demonstrators, with the ex-servicemen to the fore, quickly retaliated with fists, iron railings and broken bottles, and forced the police into a retreat.

On hearing the noise from the square the strike leaders, who were meeting with the Lord Provost, rushed outside to restore order. One of the leaders, David Kirkwood, was felled to the ground by a police baton, and along with William Gallacher was arrested by the police.

After the initial confrontation between the demonstrators and the police in George Square, further fighting continued in and around the city centre streets for many hours afterwards. The Townhead area of the city and Glasgow Green, where many of the demonstrators had regrouped after the initial police charge, was the scene of running battles between police and demonstrators.

In the immediate aftermath of ‘Bloody Friday’, as it became known, other leaders of the Clyde Workers’ Committee were also arrested, including Emanuel Shinwell, Harry Hopkins and George Edbury.

Government concerns about industrial militancy and revolutionary political activity in Glasgow reached new heights after the events of 31 January 1919. Fears within government of a workers’ revolution in Glasgow led to the deployment of troops and tanks in the city.

An estimated 10000 English troops in total were sent to Glasgow in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of George Square. This was in spite of a full battalion of Scottish soldiers being stationed at Maryhill barracks in Glasgow at the time. No Scottish troops were deployed, with the government fearing that fellow Scots, soldiers or otherwise, would go over to the workers side if a revolutionary situation developed in Glasgow.

On 10 February 1919 the 40-hours strike was called off by the Joint Strike Committee. Whilst not achieving their stated aim of a 40-hour working week, the striking workers from the engineering and shipbuilding industries did return to work having at least negotiated an agreement that guaranteed them a 47-hour working week; 10 hours less than they were working prior to the strike.

Red Clydeside
July 26, 2011

Europe: Rising Extreme Right-Wing Ideology

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) has expressed its utter condemnation of the bombing and mass murder that took place in Oslo and surroundings last Friday, resulting in the violent death of more than 90 innocent civilians.

“As it appears that the main perpetrator of those horrible acts is linked to and influenced by the extreme-right ideology, ENAR urges the European mainstream political leadership to consider this as an urgent wakeup call,” it said in a statement.

“Indeed, most of the people from the European majority community have remained relatively insensitive to the numerous victims of extreme-right movements that often stemmed from minority communities: Jews, Blacks, Muslims, Roma, among others,” it noted.

“However, the Oslo killings dreadfully demonstrate that extreme-right ideologies are a danger for the whole society and not only for minorities. Anyone can become victim to the violence of extreme-right fanatics, intent on wiping out diversity from our societies,” it warned.

ENAR is a network of NGOs working to combat racism in all EU member states and represents more than 700 NGOs spread around the European Union.

Political leaders who shamelessly borrow from the extreme-right narratives with a view to winning some of the extreme-right electorate not only trivialize the heritage of democracy but also share responsibilities for extreme-right violence in Europe, it added.

European Network Against Racism (ENAR)


July 26, 2011