Tuesday, August 15, 2017

ARNO press release on the latest human rights crisis in Myanmar

The Rohingyas of Myanmar are the most persecuted people on earth. Here below is a press release from its national organization, ARNO.
Stop military crackdown, conduct an independent inquiry into the killings of 8 Mros

Arakan Rohingya National Organisation strongly condemns the gruesome killing of 8 Mro villagers in the jungle close to Kaingyi Rakhine settler village in southern Maungdaw, Arakan/Rakhine State, on 3 August. 
It is deplorable that some news media, including BBC Burmese section, have deliberately pinned the blame on the Muslim Rohingya or alleged Muslim terrorist group, although the common talk among the people is that the murders were carried out by drug dealers, following serious quarrel among them, where some Mros and Kaingyi villagers are said to have been involved. Certain social media talk of the involvement of Myanmar security forces in the incident particularly upon discovery of empty bullet shells by the Mro villagers usually used by the Tatmadaw.  So far there is no evidence to determine who the real culprits are. 
However, we express our grave concern over the sudden deployment of an army battalion to Rohingya majority region of northern Arakan State imposing curfew and instilling fear in the Rohingya civilian population. There is also widespread panic of the repeat of last year military atrocities as reports emerge of atrocities including torcher, looting and extortion by the soldiers in some places. 
Capitalizing the Mro murder, on 9 August a group of Rakhine politicians led by ANP leader firebrand Dr. Aye Maung met with Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other military top brass raising false security alarm whereat the military deployment was made. We caution that this conspiracy of the Rakhine leaders, in league with the powerful military, aims at exterminating the Rohingya population is a boomerang for the Rakhine people. 
Moreover, on 9 August, the UN issued a “precautionary security notification” to the approximately 300 international NGO and UN workers in Arakan, warning of an escalation in violence by the Buddhist population. 
We welcome the statement of UN rights expert Yanghee Lee that “the government must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine state”.  
We demand that the Government of Myanmar stop the ongoing military crackdown, protect all the civilian population irrespective of their religion and ethnicity, and to conduct forthwith an independent inquiry into the gruesome killing of the 8 Mro people and bring the culprits to justice.  

For more details, please contact:
Australia: Dr. Hla Myint +61-423381904
Bangladesh: Ko Ko Linn: +880-1726068413
Canada: Nur Hasim +1 -519- 5725359
Japan: Zaw Min Htut +81-8030835327
U.K. Ronnie: +44-7783118354
USA: Dr. Habib Ullah +1-4438158609
Email: info@rohingya.org

US cities ramp up removal of Confederate statues

To read the news, click here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville and the Bigotocracy

Michael Eric Dyson is the author of “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America” and a contributing opinion writer. He writes, "The late, great Gore Vidal said that we live in “The United States of Amnesia.” Our fatal forgetfulness flares when white bigots come out of their closets, emboldened by the tacit cover they’re given by our president. We cannot pretend that the ugly bigotry unleashed in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., this weekend has nothing to do with the election of Donald Trump."
"This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures."
"President Lyndon Baines Johnson once argued, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
Dyson's latest article on bigotocracy of America can be read by clicking here.

White-Power Movement Showing Its Strength

Jamelle Bouie is Slates chief political correspondent. His article in the Slate.com is shared below.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia—The proximate reason for Saturday’s Unite the Right event, a demonstration of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, was to “defend” the city’s memorials to Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Earlier in the year, city officials voted to remove the statues, which were erected in the early 20th century as monuments to white supremacy. For many residents of today’s Charlottesville, the statues were a blight—fraught objects that anchored racist propaganda in the city’s geography.
That move brought a backlash. Republican Corey Stewart nearly won his party’s nomination for governor on a pledge to protect these statues, leveraging Confederate nostalgia to surprising success. A local white supremacist, Jason Kessler, organized against removing the statues, bringing his supporters to bear on City Council. The Ku Klux Klan joined the protest against the city, gathering in defense of the statues last month. Unite the Right, which Kessler helped organize, was part of that reaction. But it wasn’t just that.
 None of the (mostly) men who came to Charlottesville wore masks or hoods. They didn’t on Friday night when they marched to the University of Virginia carrying torches and attacking counter-protesters, and they didn’t on Saturday, when they gathered in downtown Charlottesville with weapons, Confederate flags, and Nazi paraphernalia. They weren’t just unafraid; they were proud—proud to stand for racial hatred, eager to intimidate those opposed them.
Yes, the proximate reason for Unite the Right was to defend the city’s Confederate memorials, but the actual reason was for the marchers to show their strength as a movement.
You can argue easily that they failed. Hundreds came to march in support of white supremacy, but they were outnumbered by thousands of residents who turned out to oppose the rally. The rally was scheduled to last for five hours, but it was over after 15 minutes; police cleared the park when it was clear the demonstrators were angling for a fight. By the afternoon, the streets of downtown Charlottesville were controlled by cops and counter-protesters, and the white supremacists had either retreated to a different park or left entirely.
But this argument doesn’t quite stick. Yes, the Nazis and white supremacists retreated from their initial stand, but that didn’t stop a man who appeared to be one of their number from using a car to kill one counter-protester and injure 19 others. Yes, they were outnumbered on the ground, but they received tacit support from a White House that refused to condemn them by name. In their initial statements, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions condemned “hatred” and “violence” without naming the actual perpetrators, an abrupt shift away from their typical penchant for bluntness and clarity. And when speaking to the press, Trump accused “many sides” of fomenting violence, equivocating at a moment when white supremacists had just terrorized an American city. He even seemed to back their defense of Confederate memorials, asking all Americans to “cherish history.”
No, the white supremacists who came to Charlottesville couldn’t secure physical space in the city. But they can still claim a kind of victory. They revealed the extent to which they can threaten and intimidate with a certain amount of impunity. Compared with protests in places such as Ferguson, Missouri—where largely peaceful protesters were met with snipers, armored vehicles, and riot police—the response in Charlottesville was tame, with armed white supremacists facing restrained and measured law enforcement.
More importantly, they revealed the extent to which they hold political influence, such that the president of the United States refused to condemn them outright. The men who gathered under Unite the Right made clear that they saw Trump as an ally to their cause. And if Trump’s equivocation is any indication—if his unwillingness to name and shame the worst kind of racism is any sign—then that feeling is mutual.

The Real Meaning of “On Many Sides"

On Saturday afternoon, neo-Nazis; white nationalists; and open-carrying, camo-wearing militia members combined forces at a Charlottesville, Virginia, rally to “Unite the Right.” This congregation of white people who love the president of the United States and hate racial, ethnic, and religious minorities chanted “blood and soil” and extended their arms in stiff salutes. The rally culminated in the death of at least one person when the driver of a gray Dodge Challenger plowed through a crowd of counter-protesters, seemingly with the intent to maim and injure.
On Nov. 19, 1863, as the Union and Confederate armies waged a war to determine whether black people were property, President Abraham Lincoln stood up at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and articulated his vision of what the United States should be. He called for a promise that “these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
On Aug. 12, 2017, Donald Trump stood up at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and All Lives Matter’d a Nazi rally. “We’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia,” Trump said. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.”
He then said those three words again—“On many sides”—as if to emphasize that this throwaway phrase was in fact the only bit of his short speech that he truly believed in. He did not talk about white supremacy, and he did not note the prevalence of racist chants. The troubles in Charlottesville, the president said, were everyone’s fault. Or, to put it another way, nobody in particular was responsible than anyone else for what happened in Virginia this weekend. Not the president. Not the party that enabled him. Not even those who idolize Adolf Hitler.
Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacist violence, coming on the heels of his silence in the aftermath of last week’s mosque bombing in Minnesota, is just the latest affirmation of his fundamental immorality. The president’s racist, anti-Semitic, Muslim-hating acolytes heard the words Trump didn’t say on Saturday. They know they have an ally in the White House, a man who will abet anyone who abets his own hold on power.
As a candidate for office and now as president, Trump has made it very clear who his friends are. When Joe Scarborough said in 2015 that Vladimir Putin “kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” Trump answered “that our country does plenty of killing, too.” Call it moral relativism or whataboutism or false equivalence. So long as an atrocity is perpetrated by someone who’s said nice things about Donald Trump, it’s not really an atrocity.
“It’s been going on for a long time in our country,” Trump said on Saturday, speaking of the “hatred, bigotry, and violence” on display in Charlottesville. “Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”
There was no reason for him to invoke Obama, except that there is always a reason to invoke Obama. The politician who rose to prominence by casting doubts on the legitimacy of the first black president would have you believe that he himself is blameless for whatever unnamed, mysterious force may be dividing this country. Or, if Trump is to blame, then so is the 44th president, and so are the counter-protesters who took to the streets of Charlottesville to tell a band of white supremacists that they may represent what the country has been but will never embody what America should be. The counter-protesters, those marching for the proposition that all men are created equal—they’re apparently part of the problem, too. “On many sides,” Trump said. “On many sides.”
On a day that called for the president to take a stand, he instead made a perverse call for unity. “I love the people of our country,” Trump said at the end of his Bedminster Address. “I love all of the people of our country. We’re going to make America great again. But we’re going to make it great for all of the people of the United States of America.”
The neo-Nazis in Charlottesville heard that call, and so did the posters on the Daily Stormer. “On many sides,” Trump said. These are not anodyne words. They are dangerous ones. On Saturday, the president had the chance to tell the nation what it is he does and doesn’t believe in. That’s exactly what he did.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Why I Cannot be a Zionist: an Open Letter to Emmanuel Macron

Here below is an open letter to Macron from Shlomo Sand.
As I began reading your speech on the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv round-up, I felt grateful toward you. Indeed, in the light of the long tradition of political leaders, both Left and Right, past and present, who have denied France’s participation and responsibility in the deportation of Jewish-origin people to the death camps, I was grateful that you instead took a clear position, without any ambiguity: yes, France is responsible for the deportation, yes there was anti-Semitism in France before and after the Second World War. Yes, we must continue to fight all forms of racism. I saw these positions as standing in continuity with the courageous statement you made in Algeria, saying that colonialism constitutes a crime against humanity.
But to be wholly frank, I was rather annoyed by the fact that you invited Benjamin Netanyahu. He should without doubt be ranked in the category of oppressors, and so he cannot parade himself as a representative of the victims of yesteryear. Of course, I have long known the impossibility of separating memory from politics. Perhaps you were deploying a sophisticated strategy, still yet to be revealed, aimed at contributing to the realisation of an equitable compromise in the Middle East?
I stopped being able to understand you when, in the course of your speech, you stated that “Anti-Zionism … is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.” Was this statement intended to please your guest, or is it purely and simply a marker of a lack of political culture? Has this former student of philosophy, Paul Ricoeur’s assistant, read so few history books that he does not know that many Jews or descendants of Jewish heritage have always opposed Zionism, without this making them anti-Semites? Here I am referring to almost all the old grand rabbis, but also the stances taken by a section of contemporary orthodox Judaism. And I also remember figures like Marek Edelman, one of the escaped leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, or the communists of Jewish background who took part in the French Resistance in the Manouchian group, in which they perished. I also think of my friend and teacher Pierre Vidal-Naquet and of other great historians and sociologists like Eric Hobsbawm and Maxime Rodinson, whose writings and whose memory are so dear to me, or indeed Edgar Morin. And finally I wonder if you seriously expect of the Palestinians that they should not be anti-Zionists!
Nonetheless, I suppose that you do not particularly appreciate people on the Left, or, perhaps, the Palestinians. But knowing that you worked at Rothschild Bank, I will here provide a quote from Nathan Rothschild. President of the union of synagogues in Britain, he was the first Jew to be named a lord in the United Kingdom, where he also became the bank’s governor. In a 1903 letter to Theodor Herzl, the talented banker wrote that he was anxious about plan to establish a “Jewish colony”; it “would be a ghetto within a ghetto with all the prejudices of a ghetto.” A Jewish state “would be small and petty, Orthodox and illiberal, and keep out non-Jews and the Christians.” We might conclude that Rothschild’s prophecy was mistaken. But one thing is for sure: he was no anti-Semite!
Of course, there have been, and there are, some anti-Zionists who are also anti-Semites, but I am also certain that we could find anti-Semites among the sycophants of Zionism. I can also assure you that a number of Zionists are racists whose mental structure does not differ from that of utter Judeophobes: they relentlessly search for a Jewish DNA (even at the university that I teach at).
But to clarify what an anti-Zionist point of view is, it is important to begin by agreeing on the definition of the concept “Zionism,” or at the very least, a series of characteristics proper to this ter. I will endeavor to do so as briefly as possible.
First of all, Zionism is not Judaism. It even constitutes a radical revolt against it. Across the centuries, pious Jews nurtured a deep ardour for their holy land, and more particularly for Jerusalem. But they held to the Talmudic precept intimating that they should not collectively emigrate there before the coming of the Messiah. Indeed, the land does not belong to the Jews, but to God. God gave and God took away again; and he would send the Messiah to restore it, when he wanted to. When Zionism appeared it removed the “All Powerful” from his place, substituting the active human subject in his stead.
We can each give our own view on the question of whether the project of creating an exclusive Jewish state on a slice of land with a very large Arab-majority population is a moral idea. In 1917 Palestine counted 700,000 Arab Muslims and Christians and around 60,000 Jews, half of whom were opposed to Zionism. Up till that point, the mass of the Yiddish-speaking people who wanted to flee the pogroms of the Russian Empire preferred to migrate to the American continent. Indeed, two million made it there, thus escaping Nazi persecution (and the persecution under the Vichy regime).
In 1948 in Palestine there were 650,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arab Muslims and Christians, 700,000 of whom became refugees. It was on this demographic basis that the State of Israel was born. Despite that, and against the backdrop of the extermination of the European Jews, a number of anti-Zionists reached the conclusion that in the name of avoiding the creation of fresh tragedies it was best to consider the State of Israel as an irreversible fait accompli. A child born as the result of a rape does indeed have the right to live. But what happens if this child follows in the footsteps of his father?
And then came 1967. Since then Israel has ruled over 5.5 million Palestinians, who are denied civil, political and social rights. Israel subjects them to military control: for part of them a sort of “Indian reservation” in the West Bank, while others are locked up in a “barbed wire holding pen” in Gaza (70% of the population there are refugees or their descendants). Israel, which constantly proclaims its desire for peace, considers the territories conquered in 1967 as an integral part of the “land of Israel,” and it behaves there as it sees fit. Thus far 600,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers have been moved in there… and this has still not ended!
Is that today’s Zionism? No!, reply my friends on the Zionist Left — which is constantly shrinking. They tell me that we have to put an end to the dynamic of Zionist colonisation, that a narrow little Palestinian state should be created next to the State of Israel, and that Zionism’s objective was to establish a state where the Jews would be sovereign over themselves, and not to conquer “the ancient homeland” in its entirety. And the most dangerous thing in all this, in their eyes, is that annexing territory threatens Israel’s character as a Jewish state.
So here we reach the proper moment for me to explain to you why I am writing to you, and why I define myself as non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, without thereby becoming anti-Jewish. Your political party has put the words “La République” in its name. So I presume that you are a fervent republican. And, at the risk of surprising you: I am, too. So being a democrat and a republican I cannot — as all Zionists do, Left and Right, without exception — support a Jewish State. The Israeli Interior Ministry counts 75% of the country’s citizens as Jewish, 21% as Arab Muslims and Christians and 4% as “others” (sic). Yet according to the spirit of its laws, Israel does not belong to Israelis as a whole, whereas it does belong even to all those Jews worldwide who have no intention of coming to live there. So for example, Israel belongs a lot more to Bernard Henri-Lévy or to Alain Finkielkraut than it does to my Palestinian-Israeli students, Hebrew speakers who sometimes speak it better than I do! Israel hopes that the day will come when all the people of the CRIF (“Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France”) and their “supporters” emigrate there! I even know some French anti-Semites who are delighted by such a prospect. On the other hand, we could find two Israeli ministers close to Netanyahu putting out the idea that it is necessary to encourage the “transfer” of Israeli Arabs, without that meaning that anyone demanded their resignations.
That, Mr. President, is why I cannot be a Zionist. I am a citizen who desires that the state he lives in should be an Israeli Republic, and not a Jewish-communalist state. As a descendant of Jews who suffered so much discrimination, I do not want to live in a state that, according to its own self-definition, makes me a privileged class of citizen. Mr. President, do you think that that makes me an anti-Semite?

Myanmar sends hundreds of troops to Rakhine state

Myanmar has sent hundreds of soldiers to beef up security in northwestern Rakhine state after a recent spate of killings, military sources said on Friday, fuelling fears of yet more violence and instability in the troubled region.
Muslim-majority northern Rakhine was plunged into violence last October when Rohingya Muslim insurgents allegedly killed nine police, setting off a brutal counteroffensive beset by allegations of rape, killings and torture by government troops.


"This development, which reportedly took place yesterday, is a cause for major concern," said Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
"The government must ensure that security forces exercise restraint in all circumstances and respect human rights in addressing the security situation in Rakhine State," she said in a statement issued in Geneva.
United Nations investigators who interviewed some of the nearly 75,000 people who fled to neighboring Bangladesh last year said troops probably committed crimes against humanity.

Click here to read the latest development in the Rakahine state of Myanmar.