by Leila Al Shami
Once more the western "anti-war" movement has awoken to mobilize around Syria. This is the third time since 2011. The first was when Obama contemplated striking the Syrian regime's military capability (but didn't) following chemical attacks on the Ghouta in 2013, the crossing of a supposed a "red line." The second time was when Donald Trump ordered a strike which hit an empty regime military base in response to chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. And today, as the US, UK and France take limited military action (targeted strikes on regime military assets and chemical weapons facilities) following a chemical weapons attack in Douma which killed at least 34 people, including many children who were sheltering in basements from bombing.
The first thing to note from the three major mobilizations of the western "anti-war" left is that they have little to do with ending the war. More than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been through the use of conventional weapons and 94 percent of these victims were killed by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. There is no outrage or concern feigned for this war, which followed the regime's brutal crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. There's no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities, or target hospitals and rescue workers. Civilians are evidently expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not. In fact the slogan "Hands off Syria" really means "Hands off Assad," and support is often given for Russia's military intervention. This was evident yesterday at a demonstration organized by Stop the War UK where a number of regime and Russian flags were shamefully on display.
by Moien Odeh, Jurist
In 2017, two bills were introduced from the Israeli government coalition's members—the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel (Amendment No. 2) Bill and the Greater Jerusalem Bill—both designed to substantively alter the borders of Jerusalem and to change its demographics. Introduced during the 50th anniversary year of the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, their shared objective was the de facto annexation of the settlement blocs surrounding Jerusalem and the displacement of approximately 140 thousand (one third) of the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem living in the neighborhoods already effectively detached from the city by the Separation Barrier. These proposals were not raised in a vacuum; they are part of a continuum of initiatives advanced in recent years, all of which aim to unilaterally force determinative territorial-political facts on Jerusalem in the guise of "municipal measures."
Following the Israeli occupation of the Holy City in 1967, the Israeli authorities annexed approximately 70 square kilometers of West Bank land to the boundaries of the Jerusalem Municipality and imposed Israeli law on it. The annexed land did not include only the eastern city with its borders that were under Jordanian control, but also included an additional 64 kilometers that were located in the surrounding Palestinian villages and towns. Almost a third of the annexed territory was expropriated in order to build expansive Israeli neighborhoods/settlements along the annexation line. Additional areas were expropriated officially while others were declared national parks or green areas, effectively resulting in the expropriation of those areas as well.
The Mapuche Struggle in Chile
by Jesús Sepúlveda, Fifth Estate
During his visit to Chile in January 2018, Pope Francis officiated a mass in the Araucania region—the ancestral territory of the Mapuche people.
The night before, unknown individuals burned three forest company helicopters, three churches, and a school. Fliers demanding the liberation of Mapuche political prisoners were found nearby.
So far, no one has been charged in connection with these acts.
The Mapuche are indigenous people of South America who have been involved in a long struggle for cultural autonomy and territorial independence since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. They call themselves the "people of the earth," which is the meaning of the word Mapuche in their language. Their ancestral territory, known to them as Wallmapu, stretches across the Chile-Argentina border.
From 2001 on, the Chilean state used the Pinochet-era Anti-Terrorism Law against the Mapuche. Since then, police and landowners have killed sixteen Mapuches. One of the most controversial cases was the assassination of the activist Matias Catrileo, shot in the back by an officer in 2008.
In 2013, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera's government prosecuted protesters for Anti-Terrorism for the death of landowner Werner Luchsinger and his wife Vivianne Mackay in an arson attack which occurred during a protest in commemoration of Catrileo’s death.
The Fate of Lawyer Liu Yao
by Elizabeth M. Lynch, China Law & Policy
Since 2004, it has been illegal to build golf courses in China. Not only do they suck up a tremendous amount of water, but all too often local officials unlawfully appropriate farmers' land for these golf courses. In 2015, President Xi Jinping focused his anti-corruption campaign on the sport, forbidding Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials from playing the game. But even with these prohibitions, golf still reins. Since 2004, over 400 new golf courses have been illegally built.
Thus, one would think that the Chinese government would welcome a local tip that an official was appropriating village land to sell to a developer to build a golf course. But that is not how the Chinese government responded when, in August 2015, Guangdong attorney Liu Yao reported precisely that. Instead, Liu Yao now sits in a jail cell, serving a 20-year sentence on what most believe are trumped-up charges in retaliation for his whistle-blowing.
Like many Chinese human rights lawyers, Liu Yao is not a stranger to the inside of a Chinese prison. In 2008, Liu was given a four year sentence for leading a demonstration of farmers who had not been properly compensated when government officials took their land. His sentence was decreased to 18 months after the Shenzhen Lawyers Association began a campaign to expose the sham that was his conviction.
Anarchist Scene Survives 'Clean-Up' in Lima, Peru
by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate
When Lutxo Rodríguez recalls the local punks and social outcasts of the downtown district he habituates "dressing in black in the '80s," I smile wryly, remembering the Lower East Side of my own youth. But the urban decay that allowed for the florescence of bohemia and an anarcho-punk scene in this small enclave of a South American capital came "in the context of political violence."
This is Jirón Quilca, a narrow street just off downtown Lima's Plaza San Martín. Follow it west, and the stately old hotels and restaurants around the plaza quickly give way to dusty second-hand bookstores, where surviving murals on the exterior walls speak to a recent past of oppositional culture. Quilca, and the warren of small streets surrounding it, was long the haunt of Lima's "poets, punks, writers, and marginalized people," Rodríguez recalls.
A veteran leading figure in the scene, Rodríguez himself looks like he’s changed little. He is still dressed in a black-and-red color scheme, with long partly dyed hair, black beard and nose-ring. "But Quilca is not the same," he says. "It is full of lumpen as well as bohemia. There are still lots of bookstores, people still gather there in the evenings to drink and talk. But it isn't a focus of resistance the way it used to be."
Interview with Teesta Setalvad
by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex
Teesta Setalvad is a social activist and an ardent defender of India's secular tradition, which is now under attack. She is founder of Citizens for Peace and Justice, a non-profit organization formed to seek justice for the victims of the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002. She and her husband Javed Anand started Sabrang Communications and co-founded the magazine Communalism Combat in 1993 to highlight and oppose both majoritarian and minority communalism—which in India is used to refer to narrow allegiance to one's own ethnic or sectarian group. A feminist and defender of minority rights, she has supported the efforts to prosecute Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged approval of the pogroms when he was chief minister of Gujarat. The Modi government has accused Setalvad of coaching witnesses, violating India's Foreign Contributions Regulation Act by taking money from the Ford Foundation, and misappropriating money that was earmakred for constructing a "Museum of Resistance" in honor of those who died in the pogroms. None of these accusations have been proven in court. Critics decry the allegations as politically motivated and meant to intimidate Setalvad and her husband. Teesta is the author of Foot Soldier for the Constitution: A Memoir, and is a contributor to the book Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy.
What has led to the ascension of Hindu Right in India? Did corruption in the [previously long-ruling] Congress Party help give rise to this movement?
I don't think corruption is the only reason. The single biggest presence in education today is the Hindu Right. They are working to change the mindsets of people. I think a lot of the current success and presence of the Hindu Right in the public sphere is because of their high level of organization. Americans even fund Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh- and Vishwa Hindu Parishad-run schools that promote Hindu supremacy—and often even hatred against minorities—because they think they are charity schools for tribal children. What they actually are doing is trying to re-fashion a culture and education that is inherently unequal and anti-Constitutional.
But Has Disney Been Revolutionized? The Paradoxical Politics of Black Panther
by Khaleb Khazari-El, CounterVortex
For some intransigent radicals, the movie Black Panther can only be seen as recuperation and exploitation of radical legacies by the capitalist Spectacle—specifically, Disney and its Marvel franchise. But the film is more morally serious—and morally complex—than simple blanket dismissal will allow. That Disney has decided that such a film is in the interests of its bottom line is itself a kind of victory. It reflects progress in mass consciousness won by the very social struggle that the Spectacle now seeks to capitalize on—from the real Black Panthers of the 1960s, to Black Lives Matter and the anti-Trump Resistance today.
First the good news...
Turkey's Offensive in Afrin Follows Assad's Offensive in Idlib
by Aron Lund, IRIN
A Syrian government offensive in northwestern Syria has already forced more than 200,000 civilians to flee in less than a month, with tens of thousands more at risk as fighting escalates. And with Afrin now under fire from the Turkish army and its allies, it could get much worse still.
Over the past month, Syrian government forces have been pushing into rebel-controlled Idlib Province, and Turkey is now in the early days of an attack on the nearby Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
Both areas, particularly Idlib, house large numbers of civilians who have already been internally displaced. While Afrin’s crisis is just beginning, some 210,000 people are on the run in Idlib Province. More than half are minors, and Save the Children describes this wave as one of the worst displacement crises of Syria’s nearly seven-year war.
"Many are sheltering in the open in freezing temperatures or in abandoned buildings," the group said in statement. "With fighting closing in on all sides, many are trapped with nowhere left to flee."