Peace for the World

Peace for the World
First democratic leader of Justice the Godfather of the Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle: Honourable Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam

Friday, April 28, 2017

Clashes erupt across Palestinian cities following calls for 'day of rage'

A series of demonstrations have been held in the West Bank in support of the prisoners, resulting in clashes with Israeli forces

Friday 28 April 2017
Clashes hit several Palestinian cities on Friday after Palestinian protesters called for a “day of rage” in solidarity with more than 1,500 prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
A source on the ground told Middle East Eye that confrontations between Israeli army officers and hundreds of Palestinian protestors flared up across areas of east Ramallah, north Hebron, south Nablus and Bethlehem.
Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank village of Silwad, on April 28, 2017 (AFP)
Meanwhile, dozens of young Palestinians clashed with the Israeli army near Qalandia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, after the army used tear gas and rubber and steel bullets to disperse the demonstrations, the MEE source reported. The checkpoint, connecting Jerusalem and Ramallah, was closed off as a result.
In the village of Silwad, on the West Bank, Palestinian protesters hurled stones at Israeli troops manning a military tower, AFP reported. The soldiers retaliated by firing stun grenades and tear gas.
Palestinians protest in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, in front of the Dome of the Rock on 28 April 2017 (Reuters)
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that eight Palestinian were wounded in clashes across the West Bank.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that around 2,000 Palestinians took part in what she called "violent riots" across the West Bank and had been "dispersed". She gave no other details, reported AFP.

Call for solidarity

The day of action was called by Fatah, the political party of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and the national committee to support the prisoners’ hunger strike.
In a statement issued last week, Fatah called on Palestinians to instigate clashes with Israeli forces to express solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners, who entered their 12th day without food on Friday.
The statement said the "excessive" practices of the Israeli occupation, particularly by the Israeli Prison Service, meant Palestinians should "clash with the occupier everywhere across our homeland".
Clashes also occurred near Ofer Prison north of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank, where several dozen Palestinians protesters confronted Israeli forces last week after Israeli hardliners taunted Palestinian detainees on hunger strike by barbecuing outside a prison.
Protesters in the West bank village of Beita, near Nablus, on 28 April 2017 (Reuters)
Palestinian officials say some 1,500 prisoners are participating in the hunger strike that began on 17 April, with detainees ingesting only water and salt. Israeli authorities have put the number at around 1,200.
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently imprisoned by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes. Around 500 are being held under Israel's system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.

Prisoners want better care

Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale before.
The hunger strike is being led by Palestinian leader and prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, of 2000 to 2005.
The prisoners have issued demands ranging from better medical care to phone access.
Barghouti is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.
A Palestinian NGO said this week that Barghouti's health has seriously declined and that he was refusing medical treatment.
Palestinian leaders have denounced Israel's refusal to negotiate with the hunger strikers, warning of a "new intifada" if any of them die.

Leaked report highlights Israel lobby’s failures

The Reut Institute, founded by former government advisor Gidi Grinstein, has conceded in a secret report jointly prepared with the ADL that Israel’s efforts to thwart the Palestine solidarity movement have failed. (viaFacebook)

Ali Abunimah-28 April 2017

Key Israel lobby groups have conceded that they have failed to counter the Palestine solidarity movement, despite vastly increasing their spending. The admission is contained in a secret report that The Electronic Intifada has obtained.
The report, published here in full for the first time, outlines Israel’s failure to stem the “impressive growth” and “significant successes” of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.
It also sets out strategies, endorsed by the Israeli government, aimed at reversing the deterioration in Israel’s position.
But while calling for harsher measures against the Palestine solidarity movement, the report offers no new ideas to deal with how Israel is beset not by an image problem but a reality problem: its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid is increasingly viewed around the world as reprehensible and unsustainable, even by many of Israel’s defenders.
The report nevertheless identifies key concerns and likely targets of Israel’s propaganda planners.
Even while attempting to come up with a formula to defeat it, the report admits that the movement for Palestinian rights is based on “appealing and sophisticated” arguments which Israel has so far failed to match.

The “20X question”

The report is spurred by what it calls the “20X question” – the fact that pro-Israel groups have increased their spending to combat the Palestine solidarity movement twenty-fold over the last six years and yet despite these tens of millions of dollars, “results remain elusive.”
The existence of the report had been revealed in February by The Jewish Daily Forward.
It was prepared by the Anti-Defamation League and the Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank founded by former government adviser Gidi Grinstein, with the help of “experts” from Israel lobby groups and the Israeli goverment.
According to the Forward, Reut and the ADL were “only circulating print copies of the report” among selected pro-Israel operatives, and the newspaper had received it on condition that it not be published in its entirety.
The full document can be read below.

“Significant successes”

Key findings of the ADL-Reut report include:
  • Palestine solidarity activists can boast “significant successes,” including creating an “unfavorable zeitgeist around Israel” in many parts of the world.
  • The Palestine solidarity movement has “expanded from Europe to the US and many other locations worldwide” and has “deepened its alliances with major minority groups and social justice coalitions.”
  • Palestine solidarity has “migrated into mainstream left-wing parties in Europe” and “may be gaining traction” in the US.
  • Israel’s repeated wars in Gaza – in 2009, 2012 and 2014 – have “boosted” support for the “delegitimization” of Israel.
  • “The targeted boycott effort against Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank, and particularly the settlements, is gaining momentum.”
  • Most of the “collateral damage” being done to Israel by the BDS movement is a result of a growing “silent boycott” – groups, individuals and companies who make undeclared decisions to refrain from engaging with Israel, either because of their support for Palestinian rights, or simply to “avoid unnecessary problems and criticisms.”

Endorsed by Israel

As The Electronic Intifada previously reported, based on the Forward’s summary, the document advocates “driving a wedge” between what it says are hard core “delegitimizers” who lead the BDS movement and “soft critics” of Israel. It advocates dealing with the hard core leaders “uncompromisingly” and “covertly.”
In 2010, Reut advocated for Israeli spy agencies to “sabotage” BDS as part of an “attacking” strategy.
The 2010 document shaped the strategy of Israel and its lobby groups around the world. The new report repeats key themes of the earlier document: it smears the Palestine solidarity movement as fostering anti-Semitism and attempts to tie that movement to Iran and “terrorism.”
This report carries a direct endorsement from a top official in Israel’s global battle against supporters of Palestinian rights.
“The correlation between the ministry’s mode of operation and what comes out of this document is very high,” Sima Vaknin-Gil, director general of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry is quoted as saying. “I am glad to see that we share a very similar point of view regarding the challenge and desired strategy.”
Under its minister, Gilad Erdan, the strategic affairs ministry has been engaged in what one veteran reporter on Israeli intelligence has termed “black ops” against the Palestinian rights movement.
According to the analyst, Yossi Melman, these attacks may include “defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists” as well as “infringing on and violating their privacy.”
The ADL-Reut report also reveals the identity of the strategic affairs ministry’s’ “director of intelligence.” Shai Har-Zvi is named as one of the many contributors to the document.
The report stresses the importance of gathering “intelligence” against the movement.
According to Melman, the ministry’s intelligence section is run by former spy agency operatives.

Trump bad for Israel?

The report recognizes that Israel is increasingly seen as a right-wing cause.
In the short term, the election of Donald Trump may lead to a “warmer relationship” with Israel, as compared with the supposedly stormy Obama years, the ADL-Reut report states.
But in the long run Trump may be bad for Israel by associating it with his right-wing administration’s policies that are deeply unpopular with “many American Jews and non-Jewish liberals and progressives.”
“US Jewry is undergoing its deepest-ever identity crisis, in which the future role of Israel in Jewish identity looms large,” the report states. It predicts a “decrease in mainstream Jewish activism for Israel” and says that “increased Jewish anti-Israel activism” is already evident.
This erosion of Jewish support for and identification with Israel is a result of the “perception” that Israel is moving away from the image it promotes of a “pluralistic, peace-seeking and democratic” country.
“The government of Israel seems to under-appreciate the collateral damage to Israel’s standing among Diaspora Jewish communities” of its policies, the report states.
Efforts to combat the Palestine solidarity movement “will fail if they are accompanied by anti-Muslim sentiments that push soft critics and bystanders” towards the Palestine solidarity movement, the report warns. Harnessing and promoting Islamophobia has been a key tactic of Israel advocacy in recent years.

Driving people away

While Israel’s base of support has become narrower, the report sees a major challenge in the “rise of intersectionality” – the fact that other peoples struggling against violence and oppression see their situations as linked to that of the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian cause has been widely adopted” by “many marginalized groups” it states.
The report mentions LGBTQ communities, Latinos and African Americans as groups increasingly sympathetic to Palestinian rights that should be intensively targeted by Israel lobby “engagement” efforts.
Israel, the report argues, has defined the enemy too broadly, lumping in “soft critics” who can be co-opted and even turned into allies against BDS, with the “delegitimizers” and “harsh critics” who must be fought uncompromisingly.
Yet Israel and some of its most vocal surrogates are ignoring this advice. At a recent Israel-sponsored anti-BDS conference in New York, a panelist attacked a Jewish student from the liberal Zionist group J Street as a representative of an “anti-Semitic organization.”
At the same conference, Reut Institute founder Gidi Grinstein stressed the need for Israel to win the support of progressives as it is only “through progressive groups we can win.”
Even more starkly, this week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu antagonized one of Israel’s closest allies and arms suppliers when he canceled a meeting with Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel.
Gabriel’s crime was that he planned to also meet with two leftist Zionist organizations, the human rights group B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies from Israeli soldiers about their violations of Palestinian rights.
Doubling down, Israel’s deputy foreign minister termed Breaking the Silence an “enemy” of Israel.
Gabriel said that if German leaders had acted in the same manner as Netanyahu, they would be called “crazy.”
The report warns that just such a “heavy-handed approach to soft critics may actually drive them away and closer to the anti-Israel camp, rather than bring them closer to Israel.”
The report also acknowledges that the anti-BDS laws pushed by Israel and its lobby in various countries have “raised concerns regarding their possible violation of free speech,” which is also turning off potential supporters of Israel.

No good answers

The 30-page report devotes a few sentences to acknowledging – at least partially – some of the root causes of Israel’s deteriorating global situation: “Israel’s policies regarding Palestinians in the West Bank, the absence of a peace process and the continuation of the settlements policy.” It also points to the “mistreatment of the indigenous population – the Arab citizens of Israel.”
But the report ignores the obvious, that Israel can end the BDS movement by ending the reasons for it: the systematic denial of Palestinian rights.
Instead, it recommends that Israel and its lobby double down on “positive messaging and branding” to portray Israel as a hub of “innovation” and “creativity” – deflection strategies that have failed so far.
The report acknowledges that what it calls the “delegitimization movement” is “founded on intellectual arguments that challenge the foundations of Zionism.” It identifies “a need to intellectually match those arguments in an equally appealing and sophisticated manner.”
Yet it is readily apparent that Zionist intellectuals have no compelling answer to arguments that there can be no such thing as a “Jewish and democratic state” without massive and ongoing violations of the basic rights of millions of Palestinians, especially refugees who are barred from returning to their homes solely because they are not Jews.
This is precisely why Israel and its lobby groups are attempting to redefine any questioning of Zionism’s political claims as a form of anti-Semitism.
This report sets as a goal to make “delegitimization” – any questioning of the “right” of Israel to exist as an explicitly Jewish state regardless of what that means for Palestinians – “socially inappropriate.”
By this definition, calling for a modern, democratic state in which Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of all national identities have full, equal and protected rights constitutes an anti-Semitic attack.
The ADL and the Reut Institute effectively acknowledge that Israel has no winning arguments that can sway so-called bystanders, people who don’t already have a view on its treatment of Palestinians. They warn that a “ ‘pre-emptive’ strategy of showcasing Israel’s side of the conflict among the bystanders, is unlikely to be effective. Only once the positive emotional connection has been set, then hasbara tactics may be effective.”
Hasbara is the Hebrew term for Israel’s state propaganda.
Asa Winstanley contributed analysis.

Trump Is Afraid of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Muslim Comic Emcee

Hassan Minhaj of ‘The Daily Show’ is hosting the WHCD Saturday. Given his history, and Trump’s own at the WHCD, the president has reason to fear him.

The Daily BeastDean ObeidallahDEAN OBEIDALLAH-04.28.17 1:00 AM ET

Donald Trump really doesn’t want you to watch Muslim comedian Hassan Minhaj comically filet him at this Saturday’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner (WHCD). So much so that Trump announced a few days ago that he would hold a “BIG” campaign type rally opposite the dinner to commemorate his first 100 days in office. This despite Trump telling us that the 100-day mark is “ridiculous” and that it “doesn’t matter.”
Keep in mind when Trump first announced in February that he was skipping the WHCD—making him the first President to do since Ronald Reagan missed it in 1981 because he was recovering from an assassination attempt—Trump spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wanted to “spend the night focused on what he can do to help better America.” Apparently spending taxpayer dollars to congratulate himself on his failed first 100 days is Trump’s way “to help better America.”
We all know why Trump is really steering clear of the WHCD. First, like Third World dictators, he hates being laughed at because he wants to be feared. Secondly, the last time Trump attended the WHCD in 2011 he got his ass kicked comically by both President Obama and the emcee for the evening, Seth Meyer.
And third, Trump would be compared to Obama in terms of delivering jokes. The problem here is that Obama was the best president to deliver jokes at a WHCD. Period. In contrast Trump’s joke delivery, as we saw in October at the Al Smith diner, is awful. I’ve seen dead people with better comedic timing. The idea that Obama would be seen as being far better than Trump at anything would turn him a brighter orange.
Now add in the fact that the comedian for the WHCD this year, Daily Show correspondent Minhaj, is brown and Muslim. The idea that Minhaj could get headlines ripping Trump for views on Muslims, such as Trump’s claim “Islam hates us,” and for his Muslim ban must trouble him. And this has to especially piss off Steve Bannon, a man who while running made it a platform for some of the vilest anti-Muslim bigots America has seen. So voila, here comes the campaign rally Saturday to take media attention from Minhaj.
True, Trump hates being ridiculed by any comedian, regardless of their background. This is the same Trump who in October demanded that Saturday Night Live be cancelled for mocking him in a way Trump deemed unfair. Trump also lashed out at Jon Stewart in 2013 for his Trump jokes on The Daily Show via Twitter, calling Stewart “overrated” and “no talent.”
But it has to be even more stinging for Trump if the jokes decimating him are coming from a person who is a member of one the groups he demonized during his campaign. The only comedian who would be a better fit to get under Trump’s skin would’ve been a Muslim, Latino, female, immigrant comedian who was disabled. That would be all the things Trump demonized in one person.
Making matters worse for Trump is that Minhaj is a great comedian. I’ve been in several shows with him and seen it firsthand.
Plus in 2016, Minhaj was the comedian at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association (RTCA), which is in essence the “JV” version of the WHCD. And there Minhaj got headlines for his jokes and for taking on the NRA. His performance at that event offers a glimpse into what we can expect Saturday at the WHCD.
Minhaj opened his twenty-minute plus performance by referencing a possible Trump presidency: “Brown people, we’re going to get deported. This is just my farewell tour, I’m saying goodbye to America.” Adding, “I got to do all my American stuff, like go to Costco for the last time.”
Minhaj later called out Trump’s bigotry with a cutting joke about The New York Times and The Washington Post referring to Trump’s comments as being “racially tinged.” Minhaj retorted, “No, I’m racially tinged. That dude is racist, straight up.”
And later he went after the Muslim-bashing of Fox News: “I’ve never seen so many people with spray tans hate people of color…and line up for halal chicken and rice.” And: “I love that all morning they’re like ‘Mexicans, #AllLivesMatter, A-rabs.’ But come 12:01 it’s ‘shawarma time.’”
I hope, and expect, that Minhaj will use his punchlines at the WHCD to comically destroy Trump, his bigoted views and his failed policies. Nothing—I mean nothing—should be off limits for Minhaj in his jokes about Trump and his history of hate.
For so many Americans, Trump’s words aren’t simply political talk. Rather they are personal in that Trump’s rhetoric has ginned up fears of our communities. Well, come Saturday’s WHCD, Minhaj will get a chance to use comedy to even the score a bit at the expense of the pathetically thin skinned Trump. And that is something we all need to watch.

Trump now agrees with the majority of Americans: He wasn’t ready to be president

In an interview on April 27, President Trump said he misses aspects of his life before the presidency and that he thought being president "would be easier." (Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)


Donald Trump spent a great portion of 2016 insisting that being president would be easy — at least for him. HuffPost compiled a number of examples of him dismissing the problems that accompany the job as being easily dispatched. Building a wall on the border with Mexico is easy. Beating Hillary Clinton would be easy. Renegotiating the Iran deal would be easy. Paying down the national debt would be easy. 

Acting presidential? Easy.

To a reporter from Reuters this week, though, Trump had a slightly different assessment of the presidency.
“I love my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life,” Trump said. “I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a … I’m a details-oriented person. I think you’d say that, but I do miss my old life. I like to work so that’s not a problem but this is actually more work.”

It wasn’t the first time that Trump copped to the job being trickier than he anticipated. In November, NBC News reported that Trump had told former House speaker Newt Gingrich that “This is really a bigger job than I thought.” (Gingrich’s response? “…good. He should think that.”) Then there are individual issues. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he said at one point. At another, he revealed that it took a conversation with the president of China to realize that the situation on the Korean peninsula was “not so easy.”

There’s an element of surprise in Trump’s comments, a hint of bafflement that having responsibility for the welfare of 320 million people entwined in a global economy and international relationships might end up being trickier than running a real estate and branding shop from midtown Manhattan. One group that probably wasn’t surprised that Trump wasn’t prepared? The majority of Americans.

At no point over the course of the 2016 campaign did a majority of Americans think that Trump was qualified for the job of the presidency. Polling from The Post and ABC News shows that views of Trump as unqualified dominated throughout the campaign. The only group that consistently viewed him as qualified to hold the position were the working-class white voters that constituted the core of his support from early in his candidacy.
More to the point, polling from CBS News showed that, consistently, Trump was viewed as unprepared for the job. In June, July and September — before, during and after Trump began making his general election case — the majority of Americans thought he wasn’t ready to hold the nation’s highest position.
Avoid war and save Mother Earth
The earth continues its rotation on its axis and moves along its orbit around the Sun, suffering in silence and not knowing what poisonous attack it will suffer next.  Most of the Earth’s inhabitants go about with their daily chores without pausing for a moment to take a look at the danger lurking in the shadows.  They apparently know not that tomorrow will not be like today, if war erupts in the Korean peninsula.

Driven by excessive greed, man has made the Earth, which we fondly referred to as Mother Earth, increasingly an unlivable place. The world temperature is rising, glaciers are melting and the sea water level is increasing as we produce more and more greenhouse gases that damage the protective ozone layer. On top of this environmental damage, wars aggravate the woes of the Earth. 
Two weeks ago, the United States’ President, Donald Trump, who believes that climate change is a hoax, dropped a vicious bomb ostensibly on a terrorist target in Afghanistan. But hardly a major news outlet raised the environmental impact of the 9,800 kg bomb dropped by Trump on a village where some 150,000 people live.  The media merely parroted the generals’ count: One horrible, two horrible, three horrible Afghans and the count went up to 92. It was history in the making.  For the media, the dropping of GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), dubbed the Mother of All Bombs -- the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb -- was, news-wise, more important than any adverse impact the bomb would have on the unfortunate people. When they heard the blast from the bomb, which is said to be as powerful as a tactical nuclear weapon or an earthquake measuring 6.0, the villagers thought the sky had fallen. For obvious reasons, the Nangarhar Province bomb site was declared a no-go zone by the US troops. 
How many children would have suffered internal injuries such as eardrum ruptures because of the sheer sound of the blast when the Mother of All Bombs exploded?  
Mother epitomizes compassion, love and care. Using the word mother to describe a destructive weapon that kills mothers and children or make them to suffer from its effects for years only shows the appalling degeneration of civility.
No wonder, most world leaders today fail to see that war is an environmental issue and a health issue that affects us all.  No saner person will deny that wars and explosives pollute the environment. Although the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 declared November 6 of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, and the world has seen the horrors of the atomic bomb attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, very little attention is paid to the environmental and health cost of wars by nations engaged in wars. 
During the Gulf War and the US invasion of Iraq, the black smoke from burning oil wells turned the day into night. The air of Iraq and Afghanistan, being two of the most bombed countries, is saturated by toxins produced by millions of tons of explosives. It is said quite a number of US veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from various pulmonary disorders. 
Every war will make the condition of our ailing common mother worse, the air we breathe more polluted and the people more unhealthy. 
But the Earth is not threatened by conventional wars alone. The danger of a nuclear war is more than a possibility now, with the rhetoric of the United States and North Korea pointing to a do-or-die showdown which is very well explained in terms of the Game of Chicken. This dangerous game is played by two speeding drivers on a collision course. One must swerve, or both will die in the crash. The one who swerved will be called a “chicken,” meaning a coward.
In the game being played in the Korean peninsula, the two players are driving vehicles loaded with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. One false move will start a war that will see tens of thousands of deaths in the first hour alone. Yet, President Trump and his military advisors feel that the time has come to disarm North Korea. They believe that if Pyongyang is not stopped now, it will soon develop weapons deadlier than what it has now to attack not only US allies in the region but also the US mainland itself. True, the US is also vulnerable to attacks from other nuclear powered nations such as Russia and China. But the peace of the graveyard is assured by the fact that these countries are headed by supposedly rational leaders who understand that nuclear wars only lead to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
North Korea is, however, different. Even China, North Korea’s only ally, is apprehensive about North Korea’s next move. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not the person to swerve and to be called chicken. With little or no action being taken to deescalate the crisis, Kim Jong-un may misread even a routine US move such as the current military exercise between the US and South Korea – and launch a preemptive nuclear strike. When supposedly rational British and Indian leaders say they have no qualms about declaring that they would not hesitate to launch a nuclear first strike, it is naïve to assume that maverick Kim Jung-un would act charitably. 
Given the military imbalance between North Korea and the United States, Kim Jong-un is more likely to launch a preemptive strike at a US target in the region. On the other hand, military wisdom may prompt the US to launch the first strike with the aim of severely weakening North Korea’s ability to strike back. Trump could fire Tomahawks or drop the so called Mother of All Bombs on North Korean nuclear weapon dumps or even fire a nuclear missile. Whatever the weapon is, the consequence will be unprecedented devastation, whichever party makes the first strike.  
Remember, North Korea also has deadly chemical and biological weapons. In February, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother and critic Kim Jong-nam died at the Kuala Lumpur airport minutes after two women allegedly working for North Korea flashed a few drops of nerve agent VX on his face.  Trump will be completing his first one hundred days in office tomorrow. To make his record card good, he has apparently resorted to militarism, firing Tomahawk missiles at Syria and dropping the Big Bomb on Afghanistan. 
On Wednesday, Trump invited all one hundred senators to the White House to explain to them his North Korea response. The policy is: The United States will seek stability and the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. 
We welcome this stance, if it is not a strategic retreat aimed at a surprise attack on North Korea later. The North Korean issue requires delicate handling. The best option would be engaging North Korea and resuming the dialogue that collapsed in 2009.  The US and China should try to bring North Korea out of its self-imposed isolation and make it a partner in the search for peace in the Korean peninsula.

No War Against North Korea!

by Dr Lionel Bopage-
Lionel Bopage( April 28, 2017, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) The rapid journeys the leaders of the US and Australia executed recently appear to indicate that Donald Trump, Malcolm Turnbull and several other leaders supporting them, may be planning another war in the Korean Peninsula or against Iran; a tried and true policy many of the world’s political leaders have used since time immemorial to cover up their economic failures and the increasing unpopularity.
The main cause for the current tensions in the Korean peninsula is the presence of the US troops in South Korea. Therefore, the easing of tension in the peninsula lies in the withdrawal or reduction of US troops stationed in South Korea and Japan. North Korea rightfully believes that these troops are stationed there to change the regime in the North.
Despite North Korean leaders’ rhetoric and verbal threats, it has not launched any military attacks against a foreign country that I know of. Whereas many nuclear powers in the western camp including the United States have created ground zeros, using their nuclear weapons. At their initiative we have seen many wars for regime change, created or imposed on many foreign countries causing unforeseen devastation and humanitarian catastrophes in those countries. No one can forget the recent regime changes in Iraq and Libya, and the attempted regime change in Syria.
I am not a supporter of the despotic leaders that exist or existed there. I believe any regime change needs to happen internally as a result of mass action by the inhabitants of the country in question, if they are desirous of such action. Regime changes by external forces such as the US and its allies like the UK and Australia, have created the prevailing catastrophic global refugee issue, for which the countries and leaders, who initiated and took part in such regime changes, have neither been held accountable nor taken responsibility for causing such catastrophic situations. A new war in the Korean peninsula will create unforeseen devastation, catastrophe and human displacement, that would be tantamount to another crime against humanity in global history.
At the end of a war the US, Australia and their allies appear to be planning now, the US will remain untouched, just like it did in all the foreign wars it had become embroiled in. North Korea would undoubtedly end up losing a war against the United States. I do not envisage China will come to protect North Korean interests, if Chinese interests are threatened. But South Korea will end up as devastated as North Korea itself.
It is time now for the Australians to demand that Australia should help resolve the existing tensions, rather than encouraging a war against North Korea!

How the State of Russian Media Becomes the State of International Media

How the State of Russian Media Becomes the State of International Media

No automatic alt text available.BY EMILY TAMKIN-APRIL 28, 2017

It was a bad week for reports on freedom of the media in Russia.

On Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders released its 2017 world press freedom index. Russia came in at 148, after such bastions of independent media as South Sudan and Thailand.

On Thursday, a Ukrainian human rights delegation briefed the Helsinki Commission on the case of Oleg Sentsov — a Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned in a Siberian penal colony for his opposition to the annexation of Crimea — and abuses of Ukrainian journalists and creative professionals more broadly.

On Friday, Freedom House unveiled its Freedom of the Press 2017 report. That report gives Russia partial credit for the world’s 13-year low in press freedom. “Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia has been a trailblazer in globalizing state propaganda. It continues to leverage pro-Kremlin reporting around the world,” the report states.

The three taken in tandem tell a story — one in which violence against journalists in Russia and the region is connected to violence against journalism around the world.

Consider the case of Oleg Sentsov.

In 2015, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison for planning terrorist attacks in Crimea. In his trial, he said he had been tortured. The international human rights community believes this to have been payback for the filmmaker’s outspoken stance against the annexation of Crimea (it is also worth noting that Russia treated Sentsov, a Ukrainian, as though he were a Russian citizen; after the annexation of Crimea, Russia considered all who did not explicitly apply for Ukrainian citizenship to be Russian, to which Sentsov objected in court by saying, “I am not a serf to be transferred with the land”). Russian-backed media reported it as a terrorism case.

And so the case contains both the physical threat that looms over journalists and creative types who fail to parrot the party line and also the threat that Russian state-backed media can pose to understanding in the wider world.

“Many people perceive [Russian state-backed media] not as propaganda, but as an alternative point of view,” Natalya Kaplan, Sentsov’s cousin, told Foreign Policy in an interview before heading to the Helsinki Commission briefing. “They tend to trust what Russian propaganda says.”

In the case of Sentsov, that means some outside of Russia (to say nothing of those in it) thought he was neither filmmaker nor terrorist, but some combination of the two. Americans can no longer tell the difference between actual fake news and fake fake news, Ukrainian PEN member Halya Coynash told FP.

“The thing is that you really think the media and information you get from Russian media, it is media. Which is wrong. We have state media, and state media are part of [the] strategy of [the state],” said Mustafa Nayyem, journalist turned Ukrainian member of parliament.

Alternative facts are not facts, and false equivalences are not equivalent. But consumers of Russian state-backed media around the globe can be duped into treating them as such, Nayyem said. He argued Russia presents reality and a bold-faced lie as though they are but two different perspectives, the truth of which lies somewhere in the middle, for viewers to decide for themselves.

“We know that [Sentsov] never was involved in some attacks, or in some revolution, in terroristic things.
 He’s a filmmaker, and his movies are recognized internationally. The lie is that this guy was a terrorist, and no one even tried to understand the basis of this [accusation] … There is guy: a filmmaker, and a terrorist. What is true? They think that maybe he’s some filmmaker-terrorist. It’s insane.” Nayyem ardently believes those who want to protect freedom of media and speech need to build up conventions regulating what are accepted as media outlets and news.

But there’s a thin line between banning propaganda and furthering censorship and repression. Russia’s independent Dozhd (TV Rain), for example, was recently banned in Ukraine for reporting that Crimea is part of Russia.

“Recent democratic gains have bolstered media freedom overall,” the Freedom House report states, “but restrictions on Russian outlets and attempts to foster ‘patriotic’ reporting raise questions about the government’s commitment to media autonomy.”

And besides, even Ukrainians, more prepared for Russian media influence than their western counterparts, are not entirely immune. “The Russian media are much better funded” than their Ukrainian counterparts, Kaplan said, and it takes time and resources to counter reports put out by the Russian state-backed media machine. “Even my Ukrainian friends who live in Kiev, after watching two hours of Russian TV, start to question themselves. ‘Am I a fascist?’”

Kaplan does not, at present, see much reason for optimism. While it was a bad week for reports on the state of Russian media, it was inevitably a much worse week for those trying to correct or improve it.

“Journalism in Russia is dead. It happened quite a while ago,” Kaplan said. “There are small islands of freedom of speech in Russia,” she said, but they aren’t on TV, and they aren’t available to those who don’t know how to access certain sites. Besides, she said, the sophisticated propaganda machine will figure out how to move onto the internet, too. “Russian journalists face the biggest challenge. Their job is simply to survive.” Hanging in the air is the idea that, at present, surviving is actually journalism’s job, too.
Photo credit: DENIS SINYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images