Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hugo Chavez's Social Democratic Agenda

Hugo Chavez's Social Democratic Agenda - by Stephen Lendman

Hugo Chavez Frias was reelected by an overwhelming nearly two to one margin over his only serious rival on December 3, 2006 giving him a mandate to proceed with his agenda to build a socialist society in the 21st century on a Bolivarian model designed to meet the needs of the current era in Venezuela and Latin America overall. Chavez first announced his intentions on January 30, 2005 at the Fifth World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and his people affirmed they want him to proceed with it in his new term to run until December, 2012.

Chavez wants to build a humanistic democratic society based on solidarity and respect for political, economic, social and cultural human and civil rights, but not the top-down bureaucratic kind that doomed the Soviet Union and Eastern European states. He said he wants to build a "new socialism of the 21st century....based in solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality" as opposed to the neoliberal new world order model based on predatory capitalism exploiting ordinary people for power and profit that's incompatible with democracy. Newly appointed Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte expressed Washington's concern about the challenge to its hegemony in his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing saying Chavez's "behavior is threatening to democracies in the region (because he exports a form of) radical populism." He didn't mention how glorious it is.

He also never explained Venezuelans voted for it and love it and so do people throughout the region wanting what Venezuelans now have. Since first taking office in February, 1999, Chavez radically transformed the country from one of power and privilege to a participatory democracy governed by principles of political, economic and social equity and justice. He now wants to advance his social democratic agenda well into the new century, and his landslide electoral victory empowers him more than ever to do it. Like a true democrat, he intends to serve his people and deliver what they asked for.

Chavez began his new term with the formation of a new unity party called the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) to "construct socialism from below," built "from the base" in communities, patrols, battalions, squadrons, neighborhoods "to carry out the battle of ideas for the socialist project (to) build Venezuelan socialism." He wants it to be an "original Venezuelan model" to become the most democratic in Venezuela's history and include a coalition of many smaller parties along with his former Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) party that completed its work and "must now pass into history."

In December, 23 parties joined with the MVR to reelect Chavez, including three major ones that can add strength and credibility to the PSUV - For Social Democracy (PODEMOS), Homeland For All (PPT), and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV). The inclusion of all or most allied parties in the new PSUV will be a step toward building a foundational unity to address the agenda ahead - building 21st century socialism using state revenues to benefit people in new and innovative ways. Chavez wants to reform the constitution, eliminate a two-term presidential limit, and institute new progressive changes giving more power to people at the grass roots the way democracy should work.

He also wants to transform the country's economic model believing it's "fundamental (to do) if we wish to build a true socialism (therefore) we must socialize the economy (including the land and create) a new productive model." He wants all proposed changes submitted to popular referendum so Venezuelans decide on them, not politicians. That's how it should be in a participatory democracy from the bottom up Chavez says must "transcend the local framework (to achieve) "a sort of regional federation of Communal Councils."
There are 16,000 of them already organized across the country dealing with local issues, each with 200 - 400 families, and that number is expected to grow to 21,000 by year end 2007. "They are the key to peoples' power," Chavez stressed, and he sees them as the embryo of a new state driven by the PSUV.

Communal Councils are central to Chavez's plan for people empowerment. They were created in April, 2006 with the passage of the Communal Council Law. Once fully in place and operational, they'll represent true participatory democracy unimaginable in the US now governed from the top down by authoritarian rule allowing no deviation from established policies people have no say on and often don't know exist.

Councils work the opposite way. They're to deal with all community issues in local umbrella groups addressing matters of health, education, agriculture, housing and all other functions handled up to now by Social Missions and Urban Land Committees. They represent grass roots democracy in action giving them muscle and meaning and are administered by the Intergovernmental Fund for Decentralization that will distribute $5 billion to them in 2007 or more than triple the $1.5 billion allocated in 2006. Additionally, Chavez hopes $7 billion more will be put in the Venezuelan National Development Fund for industrial development use.

US Corporate Media Assaults Against Hugo Chavez

In an earlier article, this writer addressed how Venezuela's corporate media relentlessly beats up on Hugo Chavez to a degree unimaginable most anywhere else. The US corporate media never lets up either as evidenced on January 24 by New York Times correspondent Simon Romero's report from Caracas. He referred to the Councils as a plan to construct "socialist cities....to be settled in part by cramped city dwellers in Caracas and Maracaibo." He added: "Some of Mr. Chavez's critics compare the project to (1970s Cambodian Khmer Rouge leader) Pol Pot's emptying of Phnom Penh in his bloody effort to remake Cambodian society in the 1970s."

Romero's anti-Chavez polemic went further with inferences of authoritarianism, anti-semitism, equating him with (Libyan strongman) Muammar el-Qaddafi and accusing him of masking an opposition to liberal democracy beneath the facade of his "socialist ramblings" with a climactic final outrageous comment that most Venezuelans voted for Chavez "because (they) wanted a dictatorship."

This kind of slander actually gets printed in the so-called "newspaper of record" with "All The News That's Fit To Print" that has muscle and clout. Its reports get instant recognition and echoing throughout America's dominant media eager to pick up on and trumpet the most outlandish misinformation and distortions from the most influential publication on the planet. The NYT and entire corporate media in both countries play fast and loose with facts they never report unless they conform to their ideological view supporting power and privilege with the public being damned.

What they ignore about Chavez stands what they do on its head. It's his vision of participatory democracy rooted throughout the country in communities that the NYT portrays as potentially bloody communist takeover and population purging with implications of Pol Pot's Cambodian nightmare regime three decades ago. This is typical Times yellow journalism in its quasi-official state ministry of information and propaganda role meaning all of its reports should be viewed with grave suspicion or just dismissed.

So should Time Magazine's with its strident attack articles using language like "The Venezuelan strongman lurches even closer to one-party....one-man rule roiling democratic waters" (and Chavez is) "Stifling Dissent in Venezuela" also asking "Is Chavez Becoming Castro?" The articles refer to Chavez's nationalization plans, his new "enabling law" authority, and his government plan to control the Central Bank replacing a private banking cartel doing it for profit the way it works detrimentally in the US and West. Time's writers skip over inconvenient facts including how Chavez serves his people in full conformity to Venezuelan law unlike how Washington pols are bought, paid for and in office for the privileged alone including for the directors of Time's parent company, media giant Time Warner.

Another corporate press mainstay, the Washington Post, took its best shots too in a January 27 editorial claiming "democracy is dead, dying or in danger" in Venezuela because "Hugo Chavez began his (new) term this month with a flurry of authoritarianism, (including wanting) to rule by decree." It continued saying Chavez "hopes to convert (Nicaragua and Ecuador) into satellite leaders in a Venezuelan-led 'socialist' bloc (along with) Bolivia's Evo Morales and....Fidel Castro....already in Mr. Chavez's orbit (and) thanks to Venezuela's petrodollars, Cuba's 'totalitarian' system may survive Mr. Castro's demise." With this kind of "journalism," the Post writer may be up for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the US's highest civilian award for exceptional meritorious service surely including black propaganda for the state.

The above examples and countless more pass for what's called journalism in a country claiming dedication to press freedom but failing where it counts - reporting the truth. There's precious little of it about Hugo Chavez because he represents the greatest of all threats to US dominance - a good example that's infectious and spreading to growing numbers in the region no longer wanting democracy, American-style that's a one-way kind for the privileged alone.

Expect lots more hostile rhetoric ahead as Chavez advances new socially democratic plans and programs sure to be denounced in a collective drum beat of distortion and misinformation. They won't report the National Assembly democratically voted Chavez limited enabling law power for a fixed period after weeks of debate. They won't explain a fading US democracy with George Bush on his own "executive order" authority giving himself permanent "Unitary Executive power" to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law any time he alone decides a "national emergency" warrants it. They won't say Congress and the courts allowed him to do it. They won't ever let on that Chavez governs as a social democrat while George Bush rules by virtual "strongman" decree with no check or balancing restraint on him. Why would they when they won't ever tell the truth.

Nationalizing Key Industries

On January 8, Hugo Chavez announced plans to renationalize the nation's "strategic sectors" starting with two large partly US-owned companies. They're telecom giant Compania Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela (CANTV), 28.5% owned by Verizon Communications, and Electricdad de Caracas (EDC) that's part of Virginia-based AES Corporation. CANTV is Venezuela's largest privately-owned company, but it's not a telephone monopoly. Its land lines reach only 11% of the population, with three-fourths of it having none, while its cell phone unit, Movilnet, controls 35% of this larger, more profitable market. It does have internet monopoly power in the country controlling 83% of it that's enough to block competitors and make for an untenable situation now being rectified.

The situation is similar in the electric power industry with much of it already controlled by two state-owned companies. At a news conference on February 2, Chavez announced "The nationalization of the electrical sector is one of the first laws to be approved (because) it is a necessity....One of the priorities is the nationalization of the electricity. It was a monumental mistake to have it privatized (and now six electricity companies in all will revert to state ownership)."

Telecommunications Minister Jesse Chacon indicated CANTV will be the only telecommunications company returned to state control, but doing it disrupted Mexican billionaire and richest Latin American Carlos Slim's plans. Slim controls the Mexican telecommunications company Telmex as its chairman, along with other vast holdings in banking, insurance, technology and much more. Verizon planned to sell him its 28.5% of the company making him even richer, but that's now off the table with Chavez's plans to "enrich" the Venezuelan people, not a predatory billionaire tycoon wanting more billions at the expense of the public he got his other billions from.

Venezuelan National Assembly Finance Chairman Ricardo Sanguino said these and other previously-owned state companies will be nationalized with payments for them likely conforming to their fair market value with government input on what that is. Finance Minister Rodrigo Cabezas indicated the country's oil revenue reserves will be used to compensate shareholders who'll "receive the fair price for the value of their shares."

It wasn't good enough for US ambassador William Brownfield who's more politician than diplomat and often offensive and out of line. He challenged the transactions, and in so doing provoked Hugo Chavez to say he might ask the envoy to leave the country if he continues "meddling in Venezuelan affairs." He added doing it violates "the Geneva agreements and (its) getting yourself involved in a serious violation and could (get you) declared a persona non grata and would have to leave the country."

Brownfield didn't say it, but he's reinforcing false and misleading reports that privately-owned companies may be expropriated while ignoring Chavez saying that's illegal under Venezuelan law and won't happen. But in a move to boost state revenues in the face of lower oil prices, Chavez ordered his telecommunications minister to take control of CANTV ahead of paying compensation for it, and he may continue that practice with other nationalizations.

As announced on February 13, however, the CANTV matter is now resolved as the Venezuelan government and US owner Verizon Communications agreed on a deal to settle it. The government will buy out Verizon's 28.51% ownership for just over $572 million to raise its equity stake in the company from 6.5% to 35% in an important step to put the company back under state control, 15 years after it was privatized.

Another nationalization is also moving toward resolution as state-owned oil company PDVSA agreed to buy a majority share in the electric company EDC from US-based AES owning 82% of it. Remaining minority owner shares will remain in private hands. A memorandum of understanding was formalized with AES confirming the agreement, and both sides expressed satisfaction with it putting to rest unfounded fears the Chavez government might expropriate private property forbidden by Venezuela's nationalization laws requiring owners get fair compensation in any state takeover. Venezuelan Vice-President Jorge Rodriquez attended the public presentation expressing his satisfaction along with companies on both sides, and said this is the first of a series of further agreements to come involving nationalizations of strategic sectors.

Chavez plans other changes as well and will ask for a constitutional amendment to end Central Bank of Venezuela's (BCV) autonomy in a move responding to state strategies according to its director, Armando Leon. Leon said one of the bank's functions is to maintain medium and long term stability to guarantee economic growth, improve the population's wealth, and keep the international payment system. He added autonomy will let the bank continue developing more convenient policies for the country. It should also put the crucial power of money creation back in government hands where it belongs and out of the hands of private for-profit bankers.

Chavez also repeated what he's said before that he wants a bigger share of joint-venture profits and majority state control over Orinoco River basin lucrative oil projects (believed to hold the world's largest undeveloped oil reserves) where big US and other oil companies now operate including Chevron, BP Amoco, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil. At his February 2 news conference, he announced state oil company PDVSA will become the majority shareholder on May 1 in four basin projects with minimum 60% ownership with foreign joint-venture partners.

Negotiations toward agreement were stalemated for months finally breaking off January 15 with the government giving oil giants the option to stay on as minority partners or sell out to a competitor that will. Given the basin's future profit potential, it's hard imagining they'll want to leave. Chavez believes it but added if agreement isn't reached "they are totally free to leave." Minister for Energy and Mines Rafael Ramirez went further saying the oil fields will be seized if no agreement is reached. Watch for one ahead that will be fair and equitable to both sides as are all others in foreign investor joint ventures. Chavez wants similar arrangements to ones Western nations have that won't be strong-armed into bad deals like developing countries get. In Venezuela, those exploitive days are over.

Chavez also indicated he'll reverse 1999 legislation allowing 100% private ownership of natural gas projects. This sector will henceforth revert to majority state control in joint-venture operations. Still, this move and others aren't attempts to end private investment that's still welcome and likely always will be. From now on, though, the deals will have to be fair including allowing majority state ownership in them. It's to assure Venezuelan people benefit most from the nation's resource revenues and other businesses providing essential services like public utilities.

It's the way it should be, and based on last year's operating results private investors have little to complain about. In 2006, the private sector grew an impressive 10.3% or double the public sector rate. Financial firms did especially well under some of the most profitable conditions in the world including in its free market US epicenter. The Financial Times even admitted bankers were having a "party" in Venezuela because "rather than nationalise banks, the 'revolutionary' distribution of oil money has spawned wealthy individuals who are increasingly making Caracas a magnet for Swiss and other international bankers." It showed in total bank assets that increased by a third last year and may surge again this year promising to be another good one for bankers and other private enterprises in oil-rich Venezuela.

Changes ahead under Chavez won't make the country unattractive to foreign investors. They find it very profitable operating there and aren't about to leave or disinvest nor is Chavez pushing them out. It's just that from now on, private business will have to abide by new standards of fairness that will be a big adjustment for those used to having their own way. That was in the old days. Things are now different, the way they should be in a social democracy.

Chavez's Enabling Law Authority

On January 8, Hugo Chavez announced "we are now entering a new era, the National Simon Bolivar Project of 2007-2021" to achieve "Bolivarian Socialism" in the 21st century that will be "radicalized (and) deepened." He explained implementing the bold transformation will rely on five revolutionary "motors" including constitutional reform, "Bolivarian popular education," redefining and changing the organs of state power, an explosion of communal power at the grass roots, and the "mother (enabling) law" to make all other "motors" possible.

On January 18, the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) unanimously approved a resolution giving Hugo Chavez his requested "enabling law" authority. It then convened an open to the public session in Caracas' central Bolivar Square January 31 enacting the legislation shouting "long live socialism." The "mother law" will run for 18 months and then expire. It allows President Chavez authority to pass laws by decree in 11 key areas including the structure of state organs, election of local officials, the economy, finance and taxes, banking, transportation, the military and national defense, public safety, and importantly policies related to energy.

Chavez wants the power to accelerate democratic change ahead that's part of his socialist project. Venezuelans voted for it in December, and he promised to deliver. He had it two other times, used it responsibly, never abused his authority, and is the fifth Venezuelan president to use it as permitted by the constitutions of 1961 and in Article 203 in the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Chavez last used it in 2001 passing 49 new legal changes making them conform to the new Bolivarian Constitution in areas of land and banking reform and establishing more equitable revenue-sharing arrangements with foreign oil companies in joint-state ventures. Going forward, he wants to continue building strong participatory democracy at its grass roots in communities and end the country's ugly past practices serving capital interests alone. The new law gives him authority to do it in the following areas, all related to the country's internal functioning without infringing on foreign relationships. He'll be allowed to:

-- Transform sclerotic bureaucratic state institutions making them more efficient, transparent and honest while allowing greater citizen participation in them.

-- Reform the civil service and eliminate entrenched corruption that's a major uncorrected problem.

-- Advance the "ideals of social justice and economic independence" by continuing to build a new social and economic model based on equitably distributing national wealth through investments in health care, education and social security.

-- Modernize financial sectors including banking and insurance and reform tax policy assuring those paying too little are taxed fairly.

-- Upgrade science and technology benefitting all sectors of society and the nation in areas of education, health, the environment, biodiversity, industry, quality of life, security and national defense including state and local community co-responsibilities for the nation's defense.

-- Improve citizen and judicial security by modernizing and reforming public health, prisons, identification, migration regulations and the judiciary.

-- Upgrade the nation's infrastructure, transport and all public services including home construction, telecommunications and information technology.

-- Structurally improve and developmentally enhance the nation's military.

-- Establish territorial organization norms in states and communities relating to voting and constituency size.

-- Allow greater state control of the nation's vital energy sector including nationalizing oil production in the Orinoco Oil basin, arranging equitable joint ventures with private investors, taking state control of electricity and gas production, and restructuring tax rates making them fairer.

In these areas, Chavez's critics ignore the limits of his authority:

-- He's bound to govern within the limits of the law under the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

-- He's restricted to areas authorized by the National Assembly.

-- His authority will expire after 18 months.

-- He has no power to harm civil or human rights nor would he wish to as a social democrat believing in them for everyone, even for his opponents.

-- He'll address only internal areas unrelated to relations with other countries.

-- He has no authority to expropriate private property nor can he. Venezuelan law forbids it, and Chavez obeys the law.

-- The Venezuelan Constitution empowers the people to rescind all laws by popular referendum if 10% or more registered voters request a referendum vote be held, and for laws passed by decree if only 5% want it.

-- The democratically elected National Assembly can change or rescind decree-passed laws by majority vote. Chavez's 18 month authority doesn't override or interfere with citizen, judiciary or National Assembly "check and balancing" of presidential powers.

In short, Hugo Chavez's wants to reform and modernize a bloated, entrenched, and corrupted bureaucracy needing major change. Enabling power will help him do it as well as be able to strengthen grass roots democracy and direct more state revenues to social welfare services. He'll have no authority to rule by "dictatorial decree" as his critics falsely contend. Quite the contrary. He's responding to the popular mandate given him in December, he intends using it responsibly, and he'll do it according to Venezuelan law he's observed in all respects throughout his eight years in office. For that he should be lauded, not denounced, but don't expect that from Venezuela's dominant media or their US counterparts voicing a steady drumbeat of one-way vitriol that's long on noise and empty of truth.

Two Hemispheric Neighbors Worlds Apart

The two, of course, are Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and the US under George Bush, and the difference between them is Grand Canyon wide. In eight years, Chavez impressively transformed a state beholden to capital to one now serving all Venezuelans. He created real participatory democracy at the grass roots advancing the nation toward greater social equity and justice while George Bush neocons went the other way. Venezuela doesn't wage wars or threaten other nations. It engages them in solidarity offering no-strings-attached aid and mutually beneficial trade and other alliances. Chavez respects human rights, has no secret prisons, doesn't practice torture or state-sponsored murder, respects the law and rights of everyone under it, and is a true social democrat freely elected by his people overwhelmingly in elections independently judged free, open and fairly run.

For that, he's demonized as "another Hitler" by the man whose record is polar opposite. He took office twice through fraud-laden elections and considerable kick-off help from five Supreme Court justices deciding their votes outweighed the country's majority feeling otherwise. It gave George Bush power to pursue an imperial permanent war agenda, ignore constitutional and international law, contemptuously disregard human rights and civil liberties, wreck the state's already pathetically weak social contract obligations, and accelerate a generational process of transferring well over $1 trillion of national wealth yearly from 90 million US working class households to for-profit corporations and the richest 1% of the population creating what economist Paul Krugman calls an unprecendented wealth disparity getting worse that shames the nation.

Chalmers Johnson writes about it in his new book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic which this writer will shortly review at length. It's important instructive reading showing democracy and imperialism can't coexist. The latter path ends badly in military or civilian dictatorship eventually causing bankruptcy from a combination of "isolation, overstretch, and the uniting of (opposition) local and global forces."

Two classic examples prove it - ancient Rome that lost its republic and then its empire centuries later and Nazi Germany after democratic Weimar that lost it all in just 12. Johnson foresees a similar fate here but hopes "our imperial venture will end not with a nuclear bang but a financial whimper," even though dangers mount it may combine both. He explains the Greek goddess of vengeance, Nemesis, "is already a visiter in our country, simply biding her time before she makes her presence known." She may be quiet or noisy when she does and is like that "piper" (whose gender may be female) who's also very patient but always gets paid.

The due date draws closer because the man at the helm is one noted historian Eric Foner characterized as "the worst president in US history (who) in his first six years in office....managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuses of power of his failed predecessors." Under him, authoritarian extremists are in charge dedicated to savage capitalism and imperial conquest by permanent war. They've put the nation on the tipping edge of fascism combining its classic elements of corporatism, patriotsim, nationalism and the delusion of an Almighty-directed mission while pursuing an iron-fisted militarist agenda with thuggish "homeland security" enforcers illegally spying on everyone. They pathologically insist on secrecy and tolerate no dissent in an age where the law is what the chief executive says it is, and the separation of powers and checks and balances no longer exist because both dominant parties are in this together as allies, not adversaries. They put the republic on life-support that can't be sustained and won't be.

They harmed growing millions left on their own under market-based rules where everything's for sale for those who can pay. Our founding principles no longer matter in a brave neoliberal new world order on the march for key resources, markets and cheap labor where might is right and no challenge tolerated. Hugo Chavez presents one as leader of an alternate world order challenging the mighty but placing himself in jeopardy as hemispheric enemy number one marked for elimination. The Bush administration tried and failed three times but always readies a new scheme to unveil by whatever means and at whatever time it'll try again. Chavez knows the danger, won't be deterred, and intends governing responsibly regardless of the danger that's real and threatening.

Responsible Venezuelan government is what Paul Cummins wrote about in his January 17 Truthdig online article called We Reap What We Sow. It was from a recent Los Angeles Times story he called "A wildly successful Venezuelan program that makes free musical instruments and training available to all children who serve as a model for the US as we struggle to keep guns out of kids' hands." The music education program is called "El Sistema" (The System), and it's government sponsored. It's serving 500,000 children from all strata of society getting free training at more than 120 centers around the country, and from it more than 200 youth orchestras have been created.

The article explains Los Angeles street gangs are up against thuggish police strike forces and incarcerations only guaranteeing more violence while in Venezuela better societal crime control alternatives are far superior to failed more costly ones on US inner city streets. It proves again an ounce of prevention beats pounds of cures that don't work. It also proves Venezuela's social model works far better than state-sponsored iron-fisted militarism abroad, homeland security thuggery at home and multi-billions spent on both reaping what they sow - power and riches for the privileged and the public be damned. As Cummins puts it: "Sadly, we reap what we sow, and we don't harvest what we don't plant."

This is one of many examples showing the chasm between two states getting wider. Venezuela's resources go for essential social services and to build grass roots participatory democracy governed from the bottom up. In contrast, Bush administration policies prey on "The Wretched of the Earth" Franz Fanon wrote about in his best-known polemical work exposing colonialism's devastating effects. Today its modern neocolonial version targets the world with even more harmful effects than its antecedent. It exploits people everywhere for power and profit the way things worked in Venezuela before Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution new way. It's advancing because it works, and it's heading for a new level Chavez calls his "socialism in the 21st century" agenda.

It's name doesn't matter. It's achievements and goals do because they're what Lincoln at Gettysburg called "government of the people, by the people, for the people (he hoped would) not perish from the earth." In Venezuela today it's vibrant, flourishing, maturing and improving peoples' lives. They won't tolerate going back to the old way, and Hugo Chavez promised it won't happen. He's succeeding in spite of powerful enemies against him, mostly in Washington, determined to end his glorious experiment because it works so well.

It covers a broad array of vital and innovative social programs including free health and dental care and education to the highest level mandated by law. There's help with housing, subsidized food for the needy, land reform, job training, micro credit and more. Benefits like these are unimaginable in the US where most people can't afford their cost. The Bush administration exacerbates the problem by directing public resources for war and the military while millions sink economically, politically and socially in an uncaring society masquerading as a model democratic state. It shows in the above-highlighted wealth disparity and a government exploiting the many for those of privilege. It allowed its banking cartel-owned central bank power to erode middle and lower income households' purchasing power on top of a bipartisan commitment to end social safety net protection fast disappearing.

The damage shows in the following inflation data. A 1950 US dollar today is worth 12 cents or 88% less than 57 years ago, and it continues eroding annually. In 1952, a full years tuition at Harvard cost $600. Today it's over $30,000, a 50-fold increase in 55 years. With room, board, health insurance fees, books, supplies and miscellaneous expenses it costs $50,050 making it affordable only to the rich or students getting considerable aid.

In 1959, the average urban new home cost $14,900. Today it's $282,300 - a 1795% increase. In 1950, a dental crown cost $40. Today it's $740 - a 1750% increase and in larger cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and others it can exceed $1000. In 1970, the monthly Part B Medicare insurance premium for seniors was $5.30. It's now on average $88.50 - a $1570% increase and for some higher income seniors will rise in 2007 up to $163.70 with further exponential increases coming in succeeding years to shift the burden of providing senior health care from the state to private individuals with those unable to afford it out of luck. It's as bad getting prescription drug help after Congress legislated sham relief only benefitting the indigent paying nothing or seniors with very high drug expense getting some, but inadequate, relief because Big Pharma drug companies can charge whatever they wish and do.

Also endangered is the single most effective government-sponsored program for keeping millions of retirees out of poverty - bedrock Social Security protection. Republicans want to end it so far without success because of mass senior citizen opposition that won't stop powerful Washington interests from trying again. If they succeed they'll end the most vital of all social safety nets through "privatization" fraud meaning seniors are on their own in a heartless brave new world order for the rich alone.

Another example is homelessness that's addressed by one country and not the other. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wants to end it by offering street people communal housing, drug treatment and a modest stipend. Last year he said: "This revolution cannot allow for there to be a single child in the street...not a single beggar in the street." He's acting through Mission Negra Hipolita guiding the homeless to shelters and rehab centers providing medical and psychological care. Those joining get $65 a week in return for community service work.

Mission Negra Hipolita began about a year ago and is headed by retired general and former Defense Minister Jorge Garcia Carneiro. He said thousands are being helped but believes hundreds remain on Caracas streets in numbers too hard to quantify. Still, the Venezuelan government committed to action and has a program in place that's working.

Added help may come following Participation and Social Development Minister David Velasquez's announcement saying: "We believe that everything related to social protection aimed at helping people in a situation of risk and social exclusion should be a policy which embraces the whole process not just responding to specific situations or assistance." Part of it is strengthening Mission Negra Hipolita giving more power to Communal Councils as well as enhancing an integral social protection system implemented through equality and social protection committees (or Copis).

Compare that to the US under George Bush. No homeless help program exists nor is any planned. It shows in a report released in mid-January by the National Alliance to End Homelessness showing how bad it is. The report, called Homelessness Counts, estimates the US homeless population at 744,313 as of January, 2005 but indicated the assessment was limited and the true number likely much higher. An earlier estimate in 1996 had it at 842,000, and it affects families, singles, children and even working adults studies estimate are 25 - 40% of the homeless not earning enough to house themselves.

This issue alone highlights the savage effects of capitalism US-style based on one-way wealth distribution upward, varying crumbs to the middle, and nothing to growing millions on the bottom most in need and ignored hoping they'll go away. They won't and neither will their needs becoming greater.

Venezuela is dedicated to social progress and addressing unmet neets. It's reducing its homeless problem while Bush officials handle a growing one by eliminating vital welfare and federal housing programs once in place for the needy. It's happening in the richest country in the world where its largest corporation alone, Exxon-Mobil, had gross 2006 sales of $377.6 billion or about 2.8 times Venezuela's GDP. It also posted record profits of $39.5 billion for 2006, the largest ever for a US corporation, but isn't willing to sacrifice a few billion for more responsible behavior that won't help its bottom line. It wants more billions, not less, and has government help in Washington to get them at public expense.

More Evidence of Two Nations On Opposite Courses

In nearly every respect, the US and Venezuela are mirror opposites. US GDP is about 90 times Venezuela's with a population 12 times greater. It's huge resources could end the nation's poverty and much of it elsewhere. Tiny Venezuela's doing it because the law mandates it, and it's enforced. In the US, poverty is growing. In Venezuela, it's declining. In the US, Department of Education figures gloss over a deplorable functional illiteracy rate officially at 20% with real numbers far higher based on reports from urban school systems around the country graduating students without computer skills and only able to read, write, and do math at the elementary school level. It's from planned public school neglect for private sector gain and an overall disinterest in educating poor inner city children discarded like debris by an uncaring state.

Economic conditions are deteriorating as well for most, and for millions they're dire despite false and misleading reports to the contrary. They hide the true state of things for most people losing ground, not gaining. It shows in phony Labor Department unemployment figures hiding how bad things are. Based on how rates were calculated in The Great Depression when unemployment rose to 25%, the true figure today is about 12%, not the fictitious most recent official 4.6% number. In addition, poverty is rising annually despite overall economic reports of a healthy economy hiding its dark side. Well over 12 million Americans struggle daily to feed themselves and many, including children, go to bed hungry at night. And that's just one of many signs of neglect getting worse but kept under wraps in the mainstream.

In Venezuela, the opposite is true. Poverty levels are falling from a high in 2003 of 62% following the crippling 2002-03 "oil strike" and destabilizing effects of the 2002 two-day aborted coup against Hugo Chavez. They're down impressively now to levels nearing one-third or almost half the figure four years ago. Unemployment is also declining from a high around 20% in early 2003 to 8.4% in December, 2006 and likely to keep falling. Inflation is still a problem, but government efforts are being made to reign it in responsibly.

Free expression is another fundamental issue in an open democratic society. One country pays it lip service, but the other practices and respects it. In Venezuela, it's championed, and it shows in government tolerance for the dominant media's strident anti-Chavez rhetoric broadcast to over 90% of the country's potential televiewers. It's from the country's five electronic media majors' relentless denunciation of government policies and their leading role in instigating and supporting the April, 2002 aborted two-day coup and 2002-03 management-imposed oil industry lockout and "general strike" destabilizing the country for 64 grim days. In the US, these kinds of actions could be considered capital offenses subject to long prison terms or even the death penalty for offenders found guilty.

Not in Venezuela. After restoring stability, Chavez never punished media transgressors despite having every legal right to do it. Only with RCTV's VHF operating license expiring in May did he act against the worst of the lot announcing its renewal won't be granted and its channel will be put under new management for socially responsible programming as it should be in a democracy. Chavez is acting within the law and is moving to democratize public airwaves that should be used for the people and not for black propaganda against them.

But that's not how Reporters Without Borders ("for press freedom") sees it. It condemned the non-renewal disingenuously claiming it violates free speech and press freedom. It put its one-sided corporate media support in writing in its 2007 Annual Report falsely claiming Chavez passed a "spate of laws" in 2005 and 2006 "greatly curbing press freedom" while failing to acknowledge every government action fully complies with Venezuelan law. It also ignored Venezuela's highest standards of press freedom in the free world tolerating the most outrageous corporate media attacks against Hugo Chavez and finally only punishing one offender with a mere hand slap.

Contrast this with life under George Bush. A climate of fear is pervasive. No dissent is tolerated and opponents are denounced as traitors and terrorists. The dominant media are supportive acting as little more than thought-control police mocking the notion of free expression vital to a healthy republic now passing from democracy to tyranny. Nothing is off the table to "homeland security" enforcers using hardest of hard ball tactics with no regard for law and justice this administration disdains endangering the last remaining free and open public space now under attack. It's online digital democracy supporters call internet neutrality heading for final debate and resolution in Congress in the coming weeks. The outcome will determine its fate affecting every computer user and web editor contributing material to the public domain. Saving this venue is vital for any hope to remain to revive a flagging democracy somewhere between life support and the crematorium.

But the struggle just got harder because of Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill now before the Senate, that, if passed, will require bloggers and others communicating online to 500 or more people to register and report quarterly to Congress just as lobbyists must do. The legislation's on hold, but it follows from Senator John McCain's proposed "Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children's Act" that will fine bloggers up to $300,000 for posting offensive statements, photos and videos online. This is thinly veiled hardball to stifle anti-war voices, under the guise of protecting children. They oppose Bush administration plans threatening Hugo Chavez after it's done ousting the Iranian mullahs and country's president.

McCain's bill is a leading Republican's effort to regulate online speech and let the federal government decide what parts are acceptable and what are not with heavy fines imposed on violators. At the same time, it's quite acceptable for government, Pentagon and corporate media propagandists to promote wars and anti-populist programs through the internet or in any other way. If the McCain legislation or Section 220 of S. 1 passes, the only voices heard online will be those supporting government policy while critics Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff calls "dissaffected people living in the United States (developing) radical ideologies and potentially violent skills" will be banned. That includes the web site posting this article.

And if Republican-led bipartisan efforts fail, planned Democrat-led ones are poised to go through in the form of new federal "hate crimes" legislation called The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (aka The Thought Crime Act). Democrats are closely aligned with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith that's been unsuccessful getting this type law through a Republican-controlled Congress for eight years. It now has a friendly Democrat-led one that never votes against bills outlawing hate crimes. This one supposedly criminalizes hate talk against gays, minorities and other often-persecuted groups, but it's really about banning speech government opposes (including online) making it punishable by heavy fines, imprisonment or both.

These are dramatic examples of two nations going opposite ways. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez supports free expression, social democracy, and using state revenues to insure and improve both. In the US, both parties support wealth and power, are jointly running a criminal enterprise masquerading as legitimately elected government, scorn the law and constitutional freedoms, are heading the country toward despotism in a national security police state conducting wars without end, and want to rule the world including its oil-rich parts inside Venezuela's borders.

In Venezuela, people live freely in peace and their lives are enhanced. In the US they're threatened by state-sponsored terrorism and harsh repression against anyone challenging state power. The majority finds its welfare eroding under a system of authoritarian rule keeping a restive population in line it fears one day no longer will tolerate being denied essential services so the country's resources can be used for imperial wars, tax cuts for the rich and outrageous corporate welfare subsidies for boardroom allies in turn supplying politicians with limitless cash amounts in a continuing cycle of each side feeding the other so they benefit at our expense with growing numbers left out entirely now suffering terrible neglect and abuse. If able to choose, imagine what type government and leader they'd want. Venezuelans have it under Hugo Chavez and are blessed for it. It's about time Americans got treated as well.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcgloobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and tune in each Saturday to hear the Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on The Micro Effect.com each Saturday at noon US central time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ecuador's President Embraces Bolivarianism

Ecuador's President Embraces Bolivarianism - by Stephen Lendman

Hugo Chavez Frias gained an Ecuadoran ally last November when voters rejected Washington's choice and the country's richest man and elected Raphael Correa its President by an impressive margin. Correa is a populist economist and self-styled "humanist, leftist Christian" promising big changes for another Latin American country long ruled by and for the elite and against the interests of ordinary people Ecuador abounds in whose voices finally spoke and prevailed.

Correa took office January 15 in a country of 13 million, over 70% of whom live in poverty. They voted for a man promising social democratic change and the same kinds of benefits Venezuelans now have under Hugo Chavez they too now have a chance to get. Correa is the country's 8th president in the last decade including three previous ones driven from office by mass street protest opposition against their misrule and public neglect.

Correa campaigned on a promise of change including using the country's oil revenue for critically needed social services Ecuadoreans never before had. He promised a "citizens' revolution" and to be an "instrument of change" beginning by drafting a new Constitution in a Constituent Assembly he hopes will be authorized by popular referendum following the same pattern Hugo Chavez chose in 1999 following his first election as Venezuela's President in December, 1998.

Ecuador's majority right wing Christian Democratic Union (UDC) party tried stopping him but overwhelming popular support for it finally got enough members in it to go along. The vote came February 13 and won out 54 - 1 with two abstentions in the nation's single-seat legislature. Most opposition deputies walked out before the vote when it was apparent they'd face defeat.

Following the vote, Ecuador's Supreme Electoral Council (TSE) set April 15 for the referendum vote that's virtually certain to pass as popular support for its purpose runs around 77%. After passage, as expected, voters in June or July will select 130 delegates to the Constituent Assembly that should begin meeting in August or September. It then will have six to eight months to write a new Constitution that would go before voters to be ratified, and if it changes the Congress or presidency would require new elections be held for legislators and the nation's highest office.

It things go as planned, Ecuador is now poised to change its method of governance the same way Venezuela did it eight years ago. Raphael Correa promised it, and he's now moving ahead to give his people the same kind of 21st century socialism Venezuelans now have and embrace. Ecuadoreans want it too and now have their best chance ever to get it under a leader working for them just as Chavez does for Venezuelans with overwhelming approval.

Correa is confident of success and told his people on February 17 on his weekly radio program he'll resign if his supporters don't win a majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly. He said he'd rather go than "warm the bench and be just another of the bunch of traitors and impostors we've had in the presidency...." That's not likely as long-denied Ecuadoreans overwhelming support their new President and the process of change he's now poised to deliver for them the same way Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela that works.

It's one more step left in Latin America but just a small one on a continent long under Washington's ominous shadow watching events closely and not about to let its control slip away without resisting. Any leader trying knows the threat, but those willing to risk it are the ones to watch. Hopefully others in the region and beyond will join them, and they have a courageous model in Hugo Chavez who defied the odds and continues moving ahead boldly after eight successful years. If Chavez can do it, why not others if they'll try. The more who do, the stronger the process for real social change becomes that with luck could be unstoppable. What a glorious impossible dream, but even those kinds come true.

Correa intends a further challenge to US hegemony by following through on another campaign promise to close the major US military base at Manta when the 10 year treaty authorizing it expires in 2009. Doing it won't make Pentagon top brass happy as it's their largest base on South America's Pacific coast and one costing many millions to build. It's certain they'll try getting Correa to reconsider and won't go light on the pressure doing it. But as of now Minister of Foreign Relations Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated her country's position: "Equador is a sovereign nation, we do not need foreign troops in our country (and they likely will have to go)."

Correa also plans a new relationship with US-dominated international lending agencies following through on his campaign to renegotiate the country's $16 billion foreign debt and hasn't ruled out an Argentine-style default to free up revenue for vitally needed social programs including 100,000 low-cost homes, raising the minimum wage, and doubling the small "poverty bonus" 1.2 million poor Ecuadorans get each month. For now, Correa opted to make a scheduled $135 million debt payment to foreign bond holders while pursuing his greater aim to renegotiate the whole debt and annul the odious part of it resulting from previous governments' corrupt dealings it profited from at the peoples' expense.

Correa is also negotiating bilateral trade and other economic deals with Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales based at least in part on Venezuela's Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas or ALBA model. It's the mirror-opposite of FTAA or NAFTA-type one-way pacts sucking wealth from developing states agreeing to them. Instead it's based on sound principles of complementarity, solidarity and cooperation to achieve comprehensive integration among Latin American nations agreeing to them and being willing to work together toward developing their "social state" in contrast to US-type deals being all for its corporate giants and the privileged.

These are the early bold steps of a courageous new leader promising and now proceeding to follow in the footsteps of the example Hugo Chavez set. He's off to a fast start on a road sure to have promise and perils but with great potential payoff for his people if he can persevere and succeed. He's showing he intends to try.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and tune in each Saturday to hear the Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on The Micro Effect.com each Saturday at noon US central time.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

UN Peacekeeping Paramilitarism

UN Peacekeeping Paramilitarism - by Stephen Lendman

The world community calls them "Blue Helmets" or "peacekeepers," and the UN defines their mission as "a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace" by implementing and monitoring post-conflict peace processes former combatants have agreed to under provisions of the UN Charter. The Charter empowers the Security Council to take collective action to maintain international peace and security that includes authorizing peacekeeping operations provided a host country agrees to have them under Rules of Engagement developed and approved by all parties. At that point, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations enlists member nations to provide force contingents to be deployed once the Security Council gives final approval.

Once in place, Blue Helmets are supposed to help in various ways including monitoring the withdrawal of combatants, building confidence, enforcing power-sharing agreements, providing electoral support, aiding reconstruction, upholding the rule of law, maintaining order, and helping efforts toward economic and social development. Above all, "peacekeeping" missions are supposed to be benevolent interventions. They're sent to conflict areas to restore order, maintain peace and security and provide for the needs of people during a transitional period until a local government takes over on its own.

Far too often, however, things don't turn out that way, and Blue Helmets end up either creating more conflict than its resolution or being counterproductive or ineffective. In the first instance, peacekeepers become paramilitary enforcers for an outside authority. In the second, they do more harm than good because they've done nothing to ameliorate conditions or improve the situation on the ground and end up more a hindrance than a help. This article focuses mostly on the former using Haiti as the primary case study example after reviewing peacekeeping operations briefly in six other countries. In each case, the examples chosen show people on the ground as helpless victims of imperial exploitation (usually US-directed) with UN Blue Helmets used by outside powers for social control and domination, not keeping the peace.

First, a brief account of other failed "peacekeeping" missions is reviewed after an overview of the UN, its founding purpose and how the US dominates and undermines the world body for its own interests.

The UN - Its Founding Purpose and Mission

The UN was established in 1945 after WW II when 50 original member countries signed its Charter in San Francisco. Today 192 nations are member states. Its founding Charter states its purpose and mandate is: "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war....reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights....(support) equal rights of men and women....of nations large and small....establish conditions under which justice....can be maintained....promote social progress....practice tolerance and live in peace (and promote) economic and social advancement of all peoples." From its founding date till now, the world body failed on all counts even though some of its agencies (like UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR and UNESCO) have a history of providing important services in areas of health, education, food assistance, aiding refugees, social development and more.

Nonetheless, the UN is hamstrung by a serious obstacle. Its dominant member is the US that undermines the world body's authority and effectiveness for its own imperial interests. It does it through its Security Council veto power, by withholding dues, disengaging from UN activities or just muscling or bribing member states to get its way. It gets away with it by being the world's leading economic, political and military superpower beholden to no interests but its own. It takes full advantage, and for over half a century used the UN as its foreign policy instrument or rendered it ineffective by inaction or obstruction. If allowed to be a voice for all member states, the UN could be a powerful one for global democratic governance and promotion of social equity and equal justice. Instead one dominant nation's veto power trumped the will of all others causing a shameful history of UN failure and ineffectiveness. As long as a single nation's monkey wrench can jam its works, the UN will never fulfill its founding purpose.

It's apparent in its Charter-mandated peacekeeping role. If the UN functioned as a neutral international body pursuing its founding mission, it would always act to establish and maintain peace in every conflict area. It doesn't because its dominant member won't let it. So it failed to act when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 slaughtering hundreds of thousands in a secretly US-authorized aggression including the arming and supporting of Indonesian military TNI forces. It stood by again after the East Timorese voted by referendum for independence in 1999 after which TNI forces attacked and slaughtered thousands more.

The UN did nothing during South Africa's border wars and invasion of Namibia in the 1960s and 70s and allowed a 36 year civil war to go on in Guatemala following the CIA fomented coup in 1954 ousting the country's democratically elected leader Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. It ignored a succession of oppressive military and civilian governments still ruling the country. It allowed them to compile the hemisphere's worst human rights record even after the UN brokered a Peace Accord formally ending the civil conflict mainly against the country's indigenous Mayan majority slaughtering 200,000 of them. It still ignores the government's shameless human rights abuses in a country Amnesty International calls a "land of injustice." But it happens to be one the US considers a close ally, and that's all that counts as Washington has the final say on most everything at the UN.

These are a few of the many examples of UN failures to address injustice throughout the world on every continent. It belies discredited former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's standing up for the Security Council claiming it has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. It can't even prevent human rights abuses because it's mostly a talking shop, and the world body overall is a wholly owned subsidiary of the nation where its headquartered. It uses it to pursue its imperial agenda knowing no nation will dare try stopping it most often. And when the threat arises, Washington ignores it to do what it pleases like attacking Iraq without required Security Council approval and threatening now to extend the conflict to Iran on blatantly false cooked up charges that smell as bad as the WMD ones about its occupied neighbor.

UN Peacekeeping Operations

UN peacekeeping operations began in 1948 with its first one ever UNTSO mission to monitor the Arab-Israeli first of two brief failed truces in Israel's "War of Independence" beginning in June, 1948. The operation is still ongoing, peace was never achieved, the UN plays no active role, and UNTSO wastes money and takes up space observing and reporting what it wishes selectively while Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have total control of everything on the ground. UNTSO ineffectiveness shows in the way the IDF continues repressing and assaulting defenseless Palestinians while the UN gets out of their way functioning as little more than worthless window dressing. In 2006 it had a meager staff of 371 military and civilian observers and a budget of $30 million, all of which could have been better spent elsewhere on a real mission for a real purpose if there are any.

That inauspicious start was symbolic of what lay ahead in 61 total peacekeeping missions undertaken to date ignoring all the other conflicts it should have intervened in but didn't. Currently 16 missions are ongoing as of year end 2006 plus two other small special political and/or peacebuilding ones with 113 countries contributing 99,817 military troops, observers, police and civilians budgeted for the 12 months through June, 2007 at $4.75 billion under names like UNIFIL in Lebanon created in 1978 for the same purpose it's still there for and now enlarged following Israel's withdrawal from the country last summer after its horrific invasion and assault weeks earlier.

UNIFIL Blue Helmets in Lebanon

Israel attacked and invaded Lebanon last July 12 following Hezbollah's cross-border incursion that was used as a pretext to ignite pre-planned aggression against the country and its people. The result was mass killing, crippling destruction, and a huge refugee problem all without Israel achieving its planned aim - to destroy Hezbollah resistance in South Lebanon. It proved too much for the world's fifth most powerful military equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry courtesy of the most powerful Washington-based one.

UNIFIL was established to restore and maintain peace in South Lebanon one week after Israel's invasion of the country in March, 1978. It's been there since including throughout the period from 1982 when Israel again invaded and remained until withdrawing its forces in May, 2000. Despite its mandate, UNIFIL never established peace and security and did little more than take up space allowing the IDF free reign to control everything on the ground along with its proxy Christian South Lebanon Army acting as paramilitary enforcer thugs of a largely Shia Muslim population.

"Proxy" describes UNIFIL's current role in Lebanon that has little to do with keeping peace and everything to do with being NATO's Israel enforcer. In that role, it can engage Hezbollah in confrontation if it chooses and do Israel's fighting and dying for it. It also represents a continuation of nearly three decades of "peacekeeping" failure in South Lebanon. The current one won't work any better than all efforts preceding it because UNIFIL is beholden to Israel, the US and NATO and will follow their mandate having nothing to do with peace and stability and everything to do with imperial control and dominance. The people of South Lebanon know all about UNIFIL's "benefits," but you won't hear them say thank you.

UNAMIR in Rwanda

UNAMIR was set up to help implement the Arusha Accords in 1993 to ease tensions, secure the capital, and monitor a ceasefire and security agreement prior to the outbreak of ethnic slaughter that began after CIA surface-to-air missiles shot down the aircraft carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira in April, 1994. That "unfortunate" plane accident made way for US-trained Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) Major-General Paul Kagame to take power so Washington could use the country as a base to pursue its greater prize in resource-rich Congo (DRC). It didn't matter that hundreds of thousands died and millions in Congo where war subsided, but instability remains because warring sides and Western interests still contest for control of the country's immense resources.

Canadian General Romeo Dallaire led a UN 400 troop contingent in Rwanda, got no additional force help, mostly stood aside as thousands were slaughtered, and was only authorized to act in self-defense meaning his orders were do nothing. He left the country in August, 1994 followed by the departure of his replacements when UNAMIR's mandate ended in 1996 long after the damage was done. The result - a dismal mission failure in UN peacekeeping with hundreds of thousands dead because Blue Helmets were told to ignore it.

UNIMIK in Kosovo

UNMIK was created in 1999 for war-torn Kosovo as an interim civilian administration to remain in place until the Serbian province's fate is decided. Its stated mission includes maintaining the rule of law, protecting human rights, coordinating humanitarian and disaster relief, supporting reconstruction efforts, and assuring refugees and displaced persons can return to their homes. As always, stated goals are noble, but results shameful - another mission failure staying longer will just exacerbate, not ameliorate.

The mission language hides the grim history of the 1990s Balkan wars. They destroyed a nation making its new pieces easy pickings for US and Western imperial exploitation and control. It had nothing to do with removing a "bad guy" Serbian leader and everything to do with installing new leadership more responsive to Western interests - meaning unconditional surrender to imperial authority. The US-led 1999 NATO assault was called an humanitarian intervention. It's real aim was to finish breaking one nation into six more easily handled ones plus deciding the fate of Serbia's Kosovo province to be dealt with later.

In Kosovo, Washington and NATO collaborated with Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) paramilitary thugs ignoring their connection to organized crime. They got free reign to commit terrorist attacks including ethnic cleansing of Serbs and other minorities in the province. The US-led war caused massive population displacement, not the other way around as news reports claimed. Nor did the war bring Kosovo peace and stability. Far from it. The province is part of Serbia, and Serbs want to keep it that way. But it looks like they won't as Albanians in the majority have other ideas with assurance their US ally will help them.

After the war, the former Serbian province got semi-autonomy as a UN protectorate with its final status nearly decided by the world body intending to make Kosovo semi-independent because the US wants it that way. It doesn't matter what Serbs want for territory they're about to lose. The scheme was unveiled on January 26 to the six-member contact group of major powers including the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Russia all of whom approve except Russia that remains skeptical enough to try to scuttle the plan. It supports Serbia that rejects the deal but has little power to stop it unless Russia vetoes it in the Security Council with final say on the matter.

That verdict isn't in yet, but some things are clear. Whatever Kosovo's nominal disposition, Serbs will be losers and US and Western imperial control will continue by virtue of a proxy repressive UNIMIK/NATO Blue Helmet contingent remaining in place for an indefinite time likely to be lengthy. It's how imperial management works. People lose out so hegemons can win, and when it involves the US the price paid is big and painful.

MONUC in the Democratic Republic of Congo

MONUC began its operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1999 and is the largest peacekeeping force now in place but one hardly adequate (if it mattered) for a country the size of Western Europe. MONUC was authorized to monitor a ceasefire agreement between waring sides as well as be involved in the usual kinds of things peacekeeping entails. After years of unresolved conflict, few places anywhere need peace and stability more than DRC in the wake of the country's long-running war taking 4 million or more lives causing immeasurable human misery and harm.

All along, the UN was inept, counterproductive and out of the loop. It was more part of the problem than its solution. It knew all about legal and illegal arms trading fueling conflict but didn't stop it because its controlling members did the selling like they always do in war zones everywhere. In addition, Blue Helmets weren't where most needed and didn't help when able because direct orders said not to. Kofi Annan was part of the problem as he was as UN head of peacekeeping in 1994 allowing Rwandans to be slaughtered when his efforts at least might have ameliorated conditions. Instead, he kept his mouth shut and head down, refusing to act as he later did as Secretary-General serving imperial interests he was beholden to. That meant ignoring desperate people in Congo and all other warring regions.

The DRC is a major one even though things are mostly quieted down - for now. The country's cursed by being the likely most resource-rich piece of real estate in the world (except for not having large oil reserves). That makes it a key target for imperial exploitation and control with Congo's people suffering just by being there. Sending Blue Helmets to keep peace is just a fig leaf hiding the dark side of the conflict and who stands to gain with US interests always topping the list and acting as guarantor nothing interferes with what Washington has in mind.

So all parties ignore the situation on the ground, and Blue Helmets just make it worse. The evidence shows UN forces engaged in sex trafficking, using children as prostitutes. They abused young girls and got away with it because MONUC officials took no preventive action in spite of pious claims decrying it. What's common in Congo happens everywhere with so-called "peacekeepers" acting as thuggish enforcers for imperial powers. Their mission is "keeping the rabble in line" with free reign to do it harshly as long as it's kept under wraps. What happens in Congo goes on in Kosovo, Liberia, Sudan (discussed below) and Haiti also discussed in detail shortly. It's an ugly story of crackdown, repression or indifference hidden under the cover of "peacekeeping."

UNMIS in Sudan

UNMIS was established in 2005 to implement the January, 2005 Comprehensive Peace Treaty between the Sudanese government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army. It ended the protracted North-South 22 year civil war killing and uprooting millions in one of the continent's most costly wars, but not freeing the nation from conflict still ongoing in Darfur. UNMIS has authority to administer there once hostilities subside, waring sides allow them entry and agree to cooperate, and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir decides if he's willing to risk a regional occupying force hostile to his interests. Currently a 7,000 force African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) operates in Darfur that's pathetically slim for an area the size of France in a country the size of Western Europe.

The Sudanese government is justifiably reluctant for Blue Helmets to come knowing how they behave elsewhere. It also knows what fuels the conflict and what interests the US and West in the area. Like most everywhere, it's about valuable resources, and in Darfur it's mainly oil as it is in Somalia where Washington is involved in another proxy war with US supportive air and ground involvement this time using an Ethiopian force to be supplemented or replaced by other regional country contingent "peacekeepers."

The Darfur conflict is falsely portrayed in Western media reports as atrocities committed by Arab Jan jawid militias supported by the Khartoum government against black African people. The truth is all parties involved are indigenous Arabic-speaking black Sunni Muslims involved in intertribal fighting over increasingly scare water and grazing rights in an area hard hit by draught and famine. If Blue Helmets come in, they'll make things worse because they'll be sent for imperial control further harming the people enduring more than they can already handle.

MINUSTAH in Haiti - Our Main Focus

Since European settlers first arrived in Haiti 500 years ago, this nation experienced an almost unparalleled legacy of colonial violence and exploitation. Even when the country gained freedom from France on January 1, 1804, it lay in ruins. Its plantations and sugar works were burned and large parts of its cities were rubble from many years of conflict. It cost the nation half its population of former slaves on top of its indigenous population nearly exterminated by Spanish Conquistadors beginning with the arrival of Columbus.

Things got no better when Spain kept the Eastern two-thirds of the island in what's now the Dominican Republic leaving the Western third for French colonization beginning in the early 1600s. France brought over black African slaves controlling it till after the 1789 French Revolution that inspired Haitians to wage theirs for the same freedoms French people got briefly. Led by Toussaint L'Overture, they prevailed establishing the first free independent black republic anywhere on their New Years liberation day in 1804.

It was short-lived as France regained control holding it till America took over later solidifying its regional lock when Woodrow Wilson sent in Marines in 1915 to protect US investments, doing it in typical US fashion - at the barrel of a gun. Nineteen years of brutal exploitation followed with massacres like the kinds seen in Haiti today. The worst of them was in 1929 when US Marines slaughtered 264 protesting peasants in Les Cayes. There were also smaller incursions, forced labor, and aerial bombing years before the Nazis' infamous attack on Spain's Republican government at Guernica supporting opposition fascist dictator, Francisco Franco.

Except for a decade of relief under Jean-Bertand Aristide and Rene Preval, nothing improved for Haitians after US occupiers left in 1934. Aristide and Preval brought hope in spite of great Western constraint imposed on them. It didn't last courtesy of US Marines again ending a brief grace period of relief and deliverance for people having precious little of it for 500 years.

In its wake, MINUSTAH was established by UN Security Council vote on April 30, 2004 two months after the US-led coup ousted President Aristide now in forced exile in South Africa. From inception, it's mission was flawed as it had no right being there in the first place. Blue Helmets, in principle, are deployed for peace and stability even though they seldom bring it. In this case, peacekeepers have may been illegally sent for the first time ever supporting and enforcing a coup d'etat against a democratically elected president instead of staying out of it or coming to back his right to office.

The US runs everything in Haiti, and MINUSTAH became its repressive arm against Haitian people wanting their President back and their freedoms under him restored. The result is no surprise. MINUSTAH's mission is disastrous, disgraceful and in violation of the rule of law including UN's own Charter as explained below.

Before it began, the UN lied claiming Aristide was less than democratically reelected in 2000 with under 10% of Haitians participating. UN officials further implied his Fanmi Lavalas party manipulated results allowing him to win. The truth was otherwise showing Aristide won with a 92% majority and a turnout of around 62% of eligible voters or a figure exceeding that in most US elections. The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) suggested turnout was even higher, but mainstream reporting never lets facts conflict with official US government versions of truth that hide it when it isn't the kind it wants.

The line on Haiti came from the US State Department's affiliated Agency for International Development (USAID) claiming the opposition boycotted the election and Aristide won by default with a low voter turnout. This got reported as anti-Aristide black propaganda contradicting mass-Haitian support for a beloved leader twice elected the country's President. Haitians demand his return but won't get it as long as the US remains in charge. Washington will ignite a firestorm if he tries coming setting off the kind of ugliness leading to what happened in February, 2004 that repeated similar events in September, 1991 after Aristide's first election. The result for Haitians is nightmarish courtesy of the Bush administration with complicit Security Council support in the form of Blue Helmet "peacekeepers" enforcing their kind of peace.

They're on the ground along with mobilized death squads, otherwise known as the hated Haitian National Police (PNH), acting as a main duel proxy force serving their masters in Washington. They've done it by destroying all democratic freedoms in a country subjugated for 500 years under outside authority or one imposed on them from within. In 1990, Haitians hoped it ended when they elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide President with 67% of the vote. He took office in February, 1991, but his tenure was short-lived. It ended in September by the first of two US-instigated coups removing him from office for a more compliant military ruler beholden to Washington and its capital interests.

Aristide returned to Haiti in 1994 regaining nominal power through a deal Clinton officials arranged. It included a largely US-led UN peacekeeping force remaining until 1999 to assure political and economic continuity by IMF-imposed neoliberal structural adjustment policy diktats of privatizations, debt serving and cuts in vitally needed social services. Under these conditions and with little financial support when he tried going around them, Aristide governed like a social democrat compiling an impressive record given the constraints on him. Under Haitian law, he was unable to succeed himself in 1996, but his ally Rene Preval ran for President and won with an 88% majority. Aristide then ran again in 2000 winning big as explained above.

From then until 2004, Aristide instituted a host of important programs in areas of health, education, justice and human rights. He did it by maneuvering around the kinds of harsh dictates imposed on him out of Washington. It led to his second ouster reinstituting a US-directed reign of terror with MINUSTAH Blue Helmet proxies in the lead implementing harsh repression still ongoing and unaddressed by a world community mindful of conditions but turning a blind eye or playing a supportive role. Blue Helmets do this everywhere, but it gets no worse than in Haiti. It's the poorest country in the hemisphere, conditions continue getting worse, people are suffering, and MINUSTAH is there to keep it that way, not bring peace, security, stability or freedom to people desperately needing it.

It's all about the rules of imperial management Washington forces on all nations but especially ones with strategically important resources, markets or in the case of Haiti cheap labor. Haiti has lots of it, and it's some of the cheapest in the world. It's an offshore US manufacturer's paradise where many garment and other workers earn as little as 12 cents an hour or near-slave wages. It's far below the poverty level even in Haiti, and after transportation and other expenses an average Haitian worker earns around $6 a week for those able to get any work in a country plagued by high unemployment running as high as 50% and at times much higher. During his tenure, President Aristide alleviated this and much more in spite of great constraints on him. He did it with scant outside help in spite of overwhelming pressures from Washington not to do anything affecting capital interests.

With him gone and reelected President Rene Preval hamstrung under foreign occupation masquerading as "peacekeepers," Haitians have lost everything. Conditions have never been worse, and it goes on daily in Haiti's bloodstained streets patrolled by MINUSTAH, PNH and militarized gangs of enforcers with license to kill and brutalize freely. The Western media ignore it in a country the US controls as a de facto colony using violence for social control just like in Iraq with its own and proxy Iraqi forces.

Guatemalan UN Special Envoy Edmond Mulet calls it needing to "liberate" neighborhoods from "thugs, criminals, gangs (and) drug dealers." He characterizes indiscriminate killing of unarmed civilians as "collateral damage" with UN forces coming "under attack (from gangs in Cite Soleil)." What he won't address is MINUSTAH'S role as enforcer to make Haiti safe for predatory capitalism with harsh repression the method of choice to do it. It's aim is to destroy all vestiges of democratic Lavalas and Jean-Bertrand Aristide's influence, but it resulted in mass-people resistance on the streets protesting their plight and demanding restitution of their rights as free people. Their answer is armed attacks and regular assaults.

It goes on daily with punishing effects against helpless people. They're led by Blue Helmet thugs attacking Haitians in impoverished areas like Cite Soleil, Bel Air, Solino and elsewhere indiscriminately killing men, women and children. They work with PNH enforcers incarcerating or murdering Aristide supporters and advocates for freedom and justice, forcing many others underground or to flee the country even after Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party was effectively destroyed.

Before Preval's reelection last February, MINUSTAH helped reinstitute Haiti's brutal and hated former military that Aristide disbanded and put Haiti again at the mercy of predatory international lending agencies. It also worked with the so-called Interim Government of Haiti (IGH) under US-installed puppet prime minister Gerard Latortue ending Aristide's social programs and returning the country to capital interests with lots of infused cash ending up in the pockets of the interim government Transparency International (TI) called the most corrupt in the world, but not enough to bother its US boss looking the other way and ignoring it. The IGH even locked up dissenters and emptied prisons of real criminals for service in the PNH. It also reconstituted Haiti's military and allowed private paramilitary gangs to operate as brutish enforcers of their own defenseless people.

It's gone on since the 2004 coup in splendid fashion through bloody street crackdowns including massacres against people protesting their plight in a country returned to serfdom under repressive overlords. Haiti is short on law, order, justice and freedom and long on paramilitary thuggishness keeping things that way including the private paramilitary ones like the Little Machete Army that was implicated in the July 6, 2006 Grand Ravine massacre of more than 20 people along with burning scores of houses in an act of pure savagery. It was after the August 21, 2005 slaughter in a Grand Ravine soccer field in front of 5000 fans when as many as 50 people were shot or hacked to death with machetes by PNH thugs and red-shirted killers.

A recent horrific incident happened in the early morning hours of December 22, 2006 in Cite Soleil when UN Blue Helmets assaulted the community killing more than 30 people with some reports claiming much higher numbers. It happened in random mass shooting striking people everywhere including in their homes with bullets easily penetrating paper-thin walls. The UN claimed it was after a young man named Belony, supposedly the head of a kidnapping gang, but the story is pure "baloney" like all other MINUSTAH ones. It's UN's way to justify repression and killings saying it's targeting bandits that are really ordinary Haitians protesting their misery or who happen to be in the line of fire that's deliberately indiscriminate as an added form of terror.

Disturbingly, President Rene Preval apparently approved the December 22 operation and now has blood on his hands to answer for. He likely knew it's purpose was to punish an impoverished community that put 10,000 people on the streets a few days earlier demonstrating for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and condemning a US-directed militarized occupation of their country. Video footage and eye witnesses captured and verified the retaliatory response on the streets with unarmed civilians shot by random gunfire including from helicopter gunships. At first the UN denied it but finally admitted what video footage and digital photos showed conclusively. They also showed wounded and dying with no medical help on the scene and people left to bleed to death on the streets or in their homes.

This assault was like an earlier one against Cite Soleil on July 6, 2005 when UN forces attacked the city with hundreds of heavily armed troops using M-50s and 60s mounted on armored personnel vehicles. It also used high-powered telescopic rifles for accuracy in singling out targeted dissenters for assassination and a type of gattling gun firing armor-piercing bullets believed to be depleted uranium tipped to slice through metal like butter. This time about 70 people were shot indiscriminately from thousands of rounds of ammunition fired. Again those hit were left to bleed to death unattended on the streets or in their homes.

A more recent documented incident happened in Cite Soleil on January 23, 2007 with MINUSTAH forces again randomly shooting for hours including from helicopters while people ran for their lives or were gunned down indiscriminately as they did. No accurate count of casualties is known so far, and the number killed may never be known as Blue Helmets often remove bodies to conceal the extent of their handiwork. Another attack followed on January 24 with MINUSTAH acknowledging it killed six people and wounded others in the same targeted community. Haitians won't ever be free of this until peacekeepers leave, Blue Helmet terrorism ends and people can choose their own leaders, free from outside control, or not live under ones imposed on them.

For now, that seems light years away, and all reports out of Haiti are grim including a January 23 one by the National Bishops' Justice and Peace Commission (JILAP), a human rights commission of Haiti's Roman Catholic church. It reported at least 539 people died violently in Port-au-Prince alone in the three month period ending December 31, 2006 with the true number likely higher as it only counted dead bodies on the streets. Most of the victims were in impoverished communities like Cite Soleil, Grand Ravine, Martissant and Bolosse, and the main cause of death was from gunshot wounds. JILAP also attributed most of the violence to MINUSTAH and PNH with most deaths just local residents in targeted areas. Other violence was blamed on street gangs like the one led by the Little Machete Army that may have murdered Haitian independent journalist Jean Remy Badiau in Martissant because he "dared practice journalism in a country where the press (today) is never free."

Sadly, Haitians have no freedom because the extent of occupation-led terror is greater than Haiti's ever had in its 200 year history as a sovereign state. It amounts to collective punishment of an impoverished people living under US-imposed police state type daily killings, massacres, rapes, arbitrary arrests, mass incarcerations, beatings and horrific immiseration of millions of people defenseless against it. It also includes human trafficking of women and children for forced prostitution and men and women for forced labor amounting to chattel slavery. Additional thousands of men have been forcibly taken to the Dominican Republic and other regional countries to work for wages so low they're called "sugar slaves."

Still more abuse came out in the September, 2006 Lancet reported study conducted by Wayne State University, School of Social Work researchers Athena Kolbe and Dr. Royce Hutson. They exposed and documented massive human rights violations in Haiti under the puppet Latortue government using random Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinate sampling of 1260 households and 5720 individuals. 90.7% of them were interviewed using a structured questionnaire by trained interviewers to learn about their experiences since Aristide's ouster.

The study findings estimated 8,000 people were murdered and about 35,000 women (over half under 18)sexually assaulted in the greater Port-au-Prince area between February, 2004 and December, 2005. 21% of killings were attributed to the PNH, 13% to the demobilized army and another 13% to anti-Aristide paramilitary gangs like the Little Machete Army. Known criminals were the worst sex offenders, but officers from the HNP accounted for 13.8% of assaults and armed anti-Lavalas groups another 10.6%. The report also documented kidnappings, extrajudicial detentions, physical assaults other than rape, death threats, physical threats and threats of sexual violence against helpless people.

The report concluded that "crime and systematic abuse of human rights were common in Port-au-Prince" involving criminals but also "political actors and UN (Blue Helmet) soldiers." It also stressed an overwhelming need on the ground for attention to "legal, medical, psychological, and economic consequences of widespread human rights abuses and crime."

The study ended in December, 2005, but the same abuses go on daily in Haitian communities around Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the country. It's a picture of UN failure and its top officials and Secretary-General corrupted and criminally complicit with its authorized missions' worst crimes and abuses going on everywhere. It also shows the world body as a servant of power, defiling its founding mandate and damning the poor and weak to pay for its failure to protect them. Nowhere are things worse than in Haiti, and nowhere are UN representatives more culpable starting at the top where the buck stops with its former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. His tenure ended in December as it began - in disgrace but whose record went unreported because he served power interests well who'll now reward him in his new endeavors.

Haitians hoped things might not be this way last February 7 when they reelected Rene Preval their President in an electoral process orchestrated, controlled and rigged by the US-installed puppet government but not enough to override the will of the people. For the first time in two years, desperate Haitians had reason to celebrate with a leader again in charge who once served their needs as President. But nothing is ever simple in Haiti, and long knives in Washington were out to undermine and destabilize Preval's rule from its outset or simply work around him and ignore it. The result to date is capital rules the country, and Rene Preval has little to show for his first year in office. Haitians continue suffering, and 9,000 repressive Blue Helmets, PNH and other paramilitaries are on the ground keeping it that way.

It affects the lives of helpless people in ways beyond brute force and economic depravation. Blue Helmet attacks in Cite Soleil severely damaged the community's public water system as random gunfire hit pipelines and a water tower. It forced area residents to walk long distances with heavy buckets for what's unavailable close by while private speculators truck in drinking water for sale at prices Cite Soleil's half million residents can't afford. It's one more part of marketplace rule leaving most Haitians out of it with no resources to participate.

The UN peacekeeping mandate expires on February 15, but Haitians won't see the end of it. The Security Council is about to extend the mission with disagreement over its length that comes up for review every six months. Before leaving office, Kofi Annan recommended a year's extension, but unanimity hasn't yet been reached by Security Council members. When it is, it won't reflect the peoples' will demanding Blue Helmets leave that's loudly heard on the streets and ignored as it always is.

Protests and demonstrations are on the capital's streets all the time, but a major one happened on February 7 as well as in six other Haitian cities and many around the world in solidarity. They dramatically dispelled the UN's false assertions that Lavalas is dead. It lives, it's vibrant, and it puts a lie to UN Envoy Edmond Mulet's claim that "the issue of former President Aristide is not present anymore....in Haiti....and his (Fanmi Lavalas) movement is very much divided, weakened."

The date marked the 16th anniversary of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's first inauguration as Haiti's first elected President in 1991 and 21st anniversary of the end of the hated Duvalier father-son dictatorship in 1986. Tens of thousands of Fanmi Lavalas supporters took to the streets peacefully to protest their occupation and violence from it. They called for the release of all political prisoners and demanded return of those in forced exile starting with their former President deposed on February 29, 2004. Protestors joined with them in solidarity in 53 cities around the world on five continents against Blue Helmet massacres in an "International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People." On the same day, protesters went to Haiti's UN heavily guarded Port-au-Prince military headquarters demanding Aristide's return and confronting soldiers with shouts of "Down with the UN." Hundreds were back the following day repeating their chants and risking the kind of retaliation they've come to expect before.

They got their answer on February 9 when hundreds of UN peacekeepers again raided Cite Soleil before dawn continuing their ritualized crackdown and retaliation against courageous people resistance. It's made Blue Helmets a hated symbol of imperial repression and all the terror from it. For Haitian people, it's just the latest chapter in their 500 year struggle never losing hope one day they'll be free at last. No people deserve it more than do Haitians.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and tune in online to hear The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on The Micro Effect.com each Saturday at noon US central time.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Review of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe

A Review of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe - by Stephen Lendman

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and senior lecturer at Haifa University. He's also Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace at Givat Haviva and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies. Pappe is an expert on Israel and Zionism and the Palestinians' Right of Return to their homeland, is considered "an honourable academic with integrity and conscience," and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Council for Palestinian Restitution and Repatriation (CPRR), an organization declaring that "every Palestinian has a legitimate, individual right to return to his or her original home and to absolute restitution of his or her property."

Pappe is also one of Israel's "new historians" whose scholarship and writings are based on access to material now available from British Mandate period and Israeli archives that provide the most accurate and authentic documented history of Israel before and after it became a state and which now serve to debunk the myths about the years leading up to the Jewish State's founding and those following it to this day.

Pappe has also authored, contributed to or edited nine books. His latest is the one this review covers in detail so readers will know about its powerful and shocking content, unknown to most in the West and in Israel, that hopefully will arouse them enough to get the book and learn in full detail what Pappe documented. He proves from official records how the Israeli state came into being with blood on its hands from lands forcibly seized from its Palestinian inhabitants who'd lived on it for hundreds of years previously. Since the 1940s, they were ethnically cleansed and slaughtered without mercy so their homeland would become one for Jews alone.

The shameful result is that Palestinians then and today have almost no rights including being able to live in peace and security on their own land in their own state that no longer exists. Survivors then and their offspring either live in Israel as unwanted Arab citizens with few rights or in the Occupied Palestinians Territories (OPT) where their lives are suspended in limbo in an occupied country in which they're subjected to daily institutionalized and codified racism and persecution. They have no power over their daily lives and live in a constant state of fear with good reason. They face economic strangulation; collective punishment for any reason; loss of free movement; enclosures by separation walls, electric fences and border closings; regular curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, loss of their homes by bulldozings and crops and orchards by wanton destruction and seizure; arrest without cause, and routine subjection to torture while in custody.

They're targeted for extra-judicial assassination and indiscriminate killing; taxed punitively and denied basic services essential to life and well-being including health care, education, employment and even enough food and water at the whim of Israeli authorities in a deliberate effort to destroy their will to resist and eliminate those who won't by expulsion or extermination. Palestinians have no power to end these appalling abuses and crimes against humanity or receive any redress for them in Israeli, the West or through the International Criminal Court Israel ignores when it rules against its interests.

How can they as Muslims in a racist Jewish state where Israelis oppressive them with impunity, the US goes along with huge financing and supplying of the most modern and destructive weapons of war, and the West and most Arab states are indifferent preferring to ally with Israel and the US for benefits received while writing off Palestinians as a small price worth paying. It created state of appalling human misery and desperation severely aggravated by crushing economic sanctions for the past year imposed for the first time ever on an occupied people. They're responsible for poverty and unemployment levels of 80% or more and increasing instances of starvation and unreported deaths from all causes because Israel controls everything and everyone allowed in and out of the territories. Those inside them suffer painfully as a result. Others with power to help, don't care and do nothing.

Pappe documents how it all began in 12 chapters with a short epilogue plus 18 graphic pictures needing no explanation. He calls the book his "J'Accuse against the politicians who devised the plan and the generals who carried out the ethnic cleansing" naming the guilty, the villages and urban areas destroyed, and the cruelest crimes committed against defenseless people only wanting to live in peace on their own land and were willing to do it with Jews as neighbors but not as overlords or oppressors.

This review is lengthy so readers will know in detail what Israeli authorities successfully suppressed for decades. Pappe courageously revealed it in a book begging to be read and discussed by all people of conscience and good faith. They need to take the lead building a groundswell consensus to stand up to this long-festering injustice against defenseless people fighting for their rights and existence against overwhelming odds.

Pappe provides them help with his extensive documentation and other suggested reading on the origins of Zionist ideology leading to the ethnic cleansing in the 1940s and thereafter. He particularly mentions two of Nur Masalha's important books - Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of Transfer in Zionist Political Thought, 1882 - 1948 and The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem. Readers are encouraged to explore this issue further with these and other books exposing ugly truths long suppressed in the West and needing to be freely aired.

The Beginning - Initial Planning for Ethnic Cleansing

In his preface, Pappe writes about the "Red House" in Tel-Aviv that became headquarters for the Hagana, the dominant Zionist underground paramilitary militia during the British Mandate period in Palestine between 1920 and 1948 when the Jewish state came into being. He details how David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, met with leading Zionists and young Jewish military officers on March 10, 1948 to finalize plans to ethnically cleanse Palestine that unfolded in the months that followed including "large-scale (deadly serious)intimidation; laying siege to and bombarding villages and population centres; setting fire to homes, properties and goods; expulsion; demolition; and finally, planting mines among the rubble to prevent any of the expelled inhabitants from returning."

The final master plan was called Plan D (Dalet in Hebrew) following plans A, B, and C preceding it. It was to be a war without mercy complying with what Ben-Gurion said in June, 1938 to the Jewish Agency Executive and never wavering from later: "I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it." Plan D became the way to do it. It included forcible expulsion of hundreds of thousands of unwanted Palestinian Arabs in urban and rural areas accompanied by an unknown number of others mass slaughtered to get it done. The goal was simple and straightforward - to create an exclusive Jewish state without an Arab presence by any means including mass-murder.

Once begun, the whole ugly business took six months to complete. It expelled about 800,000 people, killed many others, and destroyed 531 villages and 11 urban neighborhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. The action was a clear case of ethnic cleansing that international law today calls a crime against humanity for which convicted Nazis at Nuremberg were hanged. So far Israelis have always remained immune from international law even though names of guilty leaders and those charged with implementing their orders are known as well as the crimes they committed.

They included cold-blooded mass-murder; destruction of homes, villages and crops; rapes; other atrocities; and massacres of defenseless people given no quarter including women and children. The crimes were suppressed and expunged from official accounts as Israeli historiography cooked up the myth that Palestinians left voluntarily fearing harm from invading Arab armies. It was a lie covering up Israeli crimes Palestinians call the Nakba - the catastrophe or disaster that's still a cold, harsh festering unresolved injustice.

Even with British armed presence still in charge of law and order before its Mandate ended, Jewish forces completed the expulsion of about 250,000 Palestinians the Brits did nothing to stop. It continued unabated because when neighboring Arab states finally intervened, they did so without conviction. They came belatedly and with only small, ill-equipped forces, no match for a superior, well-armed Israeli military easily able to prevail as discussed below.

Ethnic Cleansing Defined

Pappe notes that ethnic cleansing is well-defined in international law that calls it a crime against humanity. He cites several definitions including from the Hutchinson encyclopedia saying it's expulsion by force to homogenize the population. The US State Department concurs adding its essence is to eradicate a region's history. The United Nations used a similar definition in 1993 when the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) characterized it as the desire of a state or regime to impose ethnic rule on a mixed area using expulsion and other violence including separating men and women, detentions, murder of males of all ages who might become combatants, destruction of houses, and repopulating areas with another ethnic group.

In 1948, Zionists waged their "War of Independence" using Plan D to "cleanse" Palestine according to the UN definition. It involved cold-blooded massacres and indiscriminate killing, targeted assassinations and widespread destruction as clear instances of crimes of war and against humanity, later expunged from the country's official history and erased from its collective memory. It was left it to a few courageous historians like Ilan Pappe to resurrect events to preserve the truth too important to let die. His invaluable book provides an historic account of what, in fact, happened. It needs broad exposure but won't get it in the corporate-controlled Israeli, US or Western media overall. It will on this important web site with the courage to publish it.

Zionism's Ideological Roots

Pappe traces the roots of Zionism to the late 1880s in Central and Eastern Europe "as a national revival movement, prompted by the growing pressure on Jews in those regions to assimilate totally or risk continuing persecution." Founded by Theodor Herzl, the movement became international in scope supporting a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel, or Eretz Israel, even though early on many in the movement were ambivalent about its location. That changed following Herzl's death in 1904 when it was decided the goal was to colonize Palestine because of its biblical connection that happened to be land occupied inappropriately by "strangers" meaning anyone not Jewish having "no right" to be there.

So as justification, the myth was created of "a land without people for a people without a land" even though this "empty land" had a flourishing Palestinian Arab population including a small number of Jews. Zionist leaders wanted a complete dispossession of indigenous Arabs to reestablish the ancient land of Eretz Israel as a Jewish state for Jews alone and got help doing it from the British after Palestine became part of its empire post-WW I. With duplicity, the Brits crafted the 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting the notion of a Jewish homeland in Palestine while simultaneously promising indigenous Arabs their rights would be protected and land would be freed from foreign rule.

Palestinian Arabs saw through the scheme wanting no part of it. It was their land, and they weren't about to give it up without a struggle. They strongly opposed further Jewish immigration but to no avail, as their wishes conflicted with British plans for the territory. It set off decades of conflict leading to the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 with British help under their Mandate and neighboring Arab state indifference doing little to prevent it. Palestinians lost their homeland, their struggle for justice goes on unresolved, and these beleaguered people are virtually isolated from the West and their Arab neighbors preferring alliance with Israel for their own interests that exclude helping Palestinian people get theirs served including a viable independent state free from Israeli occupation.

Pappe traces the early post-Balfour history when Palestinians comprised 80 - 90% of the population. Even then they fared poorly under British Mandate rule giving Zionist settlers preferential treatment. It led to uprisings in 1929 and 1936, the later one lasting three years before being brutally suppressed. In its wake, Britain expelled Palestinian leaders making their people vulnerable to Jewish forces post-WW II that led to their defeat and subjugation. The sympathetic British Mandate made it possible by helping Jewish settlers transform their 1920 paramilitary organization into the Hagana, a name meaning defense. It then became the military arm of the Jewish Agency or Zionist governing body now called the Israel Defense Forces or IDF.

Planning the Expulsion of the Palestinians

David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, led the Zionist movement from the mid-1920s until well into the 1960s. He played a central role and had supreme authority planning the establishment of a Jewish state serving as its "architect" with full control over all security and defense issues in the Jewish community. His goal was Jewish sovereignty over as much of ancient Palestine as possible achieved the only way he thought possible - by forceable removable of Palestinians from their land so Jews could be resettled in it.

To do it, he and other Zionist leaders needed a systematic plan to "cleanse" the land for Jewish habitation only. It began with a detailed registry or inventory of Arab villages the Jewish National Fund (JNF) was assigned to compile. The JNF was founded in 1901 as the main Zionist tool for the colonization of Palestine. Its purpose was to buy land used to settle Jewish immigrants that by the end of the British Mandate in 1948 amounted to 5.8% of Palestine or a small fraction of what Zionists wanted for a Jewish state. Early on, Ben-Gurion and others knew a more aggressive approach was needed for their colonization plan to succeed.

It began with the JNF Arab village inventory that was a blueprint completed by the late 1930s that included the topographic location of each village with detailed information including husbandry, cultivated land, number of trees, quality of fruit, average amount of land per family, number of cars, shop owners, Palestinian clans and their political affiliation, descriptions of village mosques and names of their imams, civil servants and more. The final inventory update was finished in 1947 with lists of "wanted" persons in each village targeted in 1948 for search-and-arrest operations with those seized summarily shot on the spot in cold blood.

The idea was simple - kill the leaders and anyone thought to be a threat the British hadn't already eliminated quelling the 1936-39 uprising. It created a power vacuum neutralizing any effective opposition to Zionists' plans. The only remaining obstacle thereafter was the British presence Ben-Gurion knew was on the way out by 1946 before it finally ended in May, 1948.

Partition, Ethnic Cleansing, War, and Establishment of the State of Israel

Ethnic cleansing began in early December, 1947 when Palestinians comprised two-thirds of the population and Jews, mostly from war-torn Europe, the other third. The British tried dealing with two distinct ethnic entities choosing partition as the way to do it. By 1937, this solution became the centerpiece of Zionist policy, but it proved too hard for the Brits to resolve and be able to satisfy both sides. It instead handed the problem to the newly formed UN to deal with before their Mandate ended.

It put the Palestinians' fate in the hands of a Special Committee for Palestine (UNSCOP) whose members had no prior experience solving conflicts and knew little Palestinian history. It was a recipe for disaster as events unfolded. UNSCOP opted for partition favoring the Jews as compensation for the Nazi holocaust that became General Assembly Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947 giving them a state encompassing 56% the country with one-third of the population while making Jerusalem an international city. Palestinians were justifiably outraged. They were excluded from the decision-making process concluded against their will and at their expense.

From that moment on, the die was cast leading to partition, ethnic cleansing, the first Arab-Israeli war, the others to follow, and decades of disregard for their rights to this day creating their desperate state with no resolution in prospect. Resolution 181 was even worse than an unfair 56 - 44% division of territory as it allotted the most fertile land and almost all urban and rural territory in Palestine to the new Jewish state plus 400 of the over 1000 Palestinian villages their residents lost with no right of appeal.

Pappe explains Ben-Gurion simultaneously accepted and rejected the resolution. He and other Zionist leaders wanted official international recognition of the right of Jews to have their own state in Palestine. He was also determined to make Jerusalem the Jewish capital, intended final borders to remain flexible wanting to include within them as much future territory as possible, and today Israel is the only country in the world without established borders. Ben-Gurion decided borders would "be determined by force and not by partition resolution." He headed the Consultancy or Consultant Committee, an ad-hoc cabal of Zionist leaders created solely to plan the expulsion of Palestinians to cleanse the land for Jewish habitation only.

The process began in early December, 1947 with a series of attacks against Palestinian villages and neighborhoods. They were engaged ineffectively from the start on January 9 by units of the first all-Arab volunteer army. It resulted in forced expulsions beginning in mid-February, 1948. On March 10, final Plan Dalet was adopted with its first targets being Palestinian urban centers that were all occupied by end of April with about 250,000 Palestinians uprooted, displaced or killed including by massacres, the most notorious and remembered being at Deir Yassin even though Tantura may have been the largest.

Deir Yassin was Palestinian land on April 9 when Jewish soldiers burst into the village, machine-gunned houses randomly killing many in them. The remaining villagers were then assembled in one place and murdered in cold blood including children and women first raped and then killed. Recent research puts the number massacred at 93 (including 30 babies), but dozens more were killed in the fighting that ensued making the total number of deaths much higher.

The Arab League finally decided on April 30 to intervene militarily but only after the British Mandate ended on May 15, 1948, the day the Jewish Agency declared the establishment of the state of Israel in Palestine. The US and Soviet Union officially recognized the new state legitimizing it, and on the same day Arab forces entered the territory.

Pappe details the Zionist leadership's plan and steps it followed to gain as much of Palestine as possible with the fewest number of Palestinians remaining in it, irrespective of Resolution 181 it ignored. They wanted over 80% of Mandatory Palestine or over 40% more land than the UN allotted them taken forcibly from the Palestinians. To get it, they colluded tacitly with the Jordanians, effectively neutralizing the strongest Arab army, buying them off with the remaining 20% of the territory.

On the eve of battle in 1948, Jewish fighting forces were around 50,000 (increasing by summer to 80,000). They included a small air force, navy and units of tanks, armored cars and heavy artillery. The army was comprised of the main Hagana force plus elements of the two extremist terrorist groups - the Irgun led by future prime minister and fanatical Arab-hater Menachem Begin and the Stern Gang whose most notorious member was also a future prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, another extreme racist. It also included special commando Palmach units, founded in 1941 and whose leaders included future Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and noted general and war hero Moshe Dayan. They faced a hopelessly outmanned and outgunned Palestinian irregular force of about 7000.

Outside Arab intervention only began on May 15, 1948, five and a half months after UN Resolution 181 was adopted and during which time the Palestinians were defenseless against the Zionist ethnic cleansing onslaught against them. Arab states waited because they were indifferent, and when they finally acted they sent an inferior force proving no match for the superior Jewish one it faced to be discussed further below.

Finalizing Plans to De-Arabize Palestine

In December, 1947, the Palestinian population numbered 1.3 million of which one million lived in the territory of the future Jewish state. The Jewish minority stood at 600,000. Zionist leaders needed a way to dispose of this large number of people "cleansing" the land for Jewish habitation only. They weren't planning to do it gently. Instead it became a systematic campaign of state-sponsored terror against a near-defenseless population unable to withstand the horrific onslaught unleashed against it step by step. It included threats and intimidation, villages attacked including while its inhabitants slept, shooting anything that moved, and blowing up homes with their residents inside plus other violent acts sparing no one, especially fighting-age men and boys who might pose a combat or determined resistance threat.

Ben-Gurion exulted in the progress as events unfolded with comments like: "We are told the army had the ability of destroying a whole village and taking out all its inhabitants, let's do it." Another time he explained: "Every attack has to end with occupation, destruction and expulsion." He meant the entire population of a village had to be removed, everything in it leveled to the ground and its history destroyed. In its place, a new Jewish community would be established as part of the new Jewish state he and others in the Consultancy believed wasn't possible without a mass ethnic cleansing transfer and/or extermination of Palestinians living there.

Their plan also included cleansing urban neighborhoods that were attacked beginning with Haifa picked as the first target. It was where 75,000 Palestinians lived in peace and solidarity with their Jewish neighbors until it ended with the outbreak of violence. It moved on to other cities including Jerusalem where initial sporadic attacks later became intense. It was part of an overall initiative of occupation, expulsion and slaughter of anyone resisting or just having the misfortune to live on land Zionists wanted for themselves and intended taking by force.

As ethnic cleansing progressed, it got more vicious as the Consultancy decided to ransack whole villages and massacre large numbers in them including women, children and babies. Shamefully, it began and intensified under Mandate authority with a large British military presence on the ground to maintain order that never did. It chose instead to look the other way and let all horrific events on the ground go on unimpeded. By March, 1948, Plan Dalet became operational as the battle plan to remove the entire Palestinian population from the 78% of the country Zionists established as the state of Israel on May 15 when the Mandate ended.

The campaign included disingenuous rhetoric and propaganda about Jews in Palestine being under threat from a hostile population having to go on the offensive in self-defense. The truth turned that notion on its head because of the military, political and economic imbalance between the two communities. It was so lopsided, the outcome was never in doubt as long as the British stayed out of it. They did, and after the Mandate ended in mid-May it was the UN's problem to deal with. It also failed the test as discussed below.

Plan Dalet began in the rural hills on the western slopes of the Jerusalem mountains half way on the road to Tel-Aviv. It was called Operation Nachshon, and it served as a model for future campaigns. It employed sudden massive expulsions using terror tactics that proved the most effective way to clear an area preparing it for Jewish resettlement to follow. Early on, the plan wasn't to spare a single village, and orders given to carry it out were clear: "the principle objective of the operation is the destruction of Arab villages (and) the eviction of the villagers so that they would become an economic liability for the general Arab forces."

To motivate attacking Israeli forces, Palestinians were dehumanized as sub-humans worthy of no respect or consideration making them legitimate targets for destruction. It's the same tactic US forces used against the Japanese in WW II, in Vietnam and today in Iraq and Afghanistan. In each instance, targets were people of color or others not white enough like Arabs.

Pappe details what he calls the "urbicide of Palestine" that included attacking and cleansing the major urban centers in the country. They included Tiberias, Haifa, Tel-Aviv, Safad and what Pappe calls the "Phantom City of Jerusalem" changed from the "Eternal City" once Jewish troops shelled, attacked and occupied its western Arab neighborhoods in April, 1948. The Brits stood aside shamelessly doing nothing to stop it except in one area, Ahaykh Jarrah, where a local British commander intervened.

It was a rare exception proving how much better Palestinians would have fared if their British "protectors" had actually done their job. They didn't, and the result was anarchy and a state of panic with Israelis having free reign to ravage Northern and Western Jerusalem with heavy shelling, pillaging and destruction while ethnically cleansing the population in eight Palestinian neighborhoods and 39 villages in the greater Jerusalem area transferring them to the Eastern part of the city.

The urbicide continued into May with the occupation of Acre on the coast and Baysan in the East on May 6. On May 13, Jaffa was the last city taken two days before the Mandate ended. The city had 1500 volunteers against 5000 Jewish troops. It survived a three week siege and attack through mid-May, but when it fell its entire population of 50,000 was expelled. With its fall, Jewish occupying forces had emptied and depopulated all the major cities and towns of Palestine, and most of their inhabitants never again got to see their former homes.

Pappe explains this all happened between March 30 and May 15, 1948 "before a single regular Arab soldier had entered Palestine (to help Palestinians which they did ineffectively when they finally came)." His account also undermines the Israeli-concocted myth that Palestinians left voluntarily before or after Arab forces intervened. Nearly half their villages were attacked and destroyed before Arab countries sent in any forces, and another 90 villages were wiped out from May 15 (when the Mandate ended) till June 11 when the first of two short-lived truces took effect.

The UN's partition plan caused the problem, and yet the world body did nothing to remediate a situation that was out of control. Early on it was clear a potential disaster loomed that, in fact, ended up worse than first imagined. Still, the British through May 15, the UN, and neighboring Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq procrastinated as long as possible before reluctantly stepping in, and when they did it was too little, too late. Pappe calls Jordan's (Transjordan then) King Abdullah "the odd man out." He had army units inside Palestine, some were willing to protect villagers' homes and lands, but they were restrained by their commanders.

It was because earlier the King and Zionists cut a deal allowing Jordan to annex most of the land the partition allocated to the Palestinians that became the West Bank. In return, Jordanian forces agreed not to engage Jewish troops militarily. To their shame and discredit, the Brits agreed to this scheme effectively sealing the Palestinians' fate. Still, once the British Mandate ended, Jordan had to fight Jewish forces for what it got because Ben-Gurion reneged on his deal. All along, he wanted as much territory as possible for a new Jewish state on more land than the 78% he ended up with. The Jordanian military prevailed, spoiling his plans. It saved 250,000 Palestinians in the West Bank from being ethnically cleansed the way other Palestinians were who weren't as fortunate.

As already explained, after waffling during March and April, the Arab League finally sent regular armies to intervene in Palestine. Ironically at this time, it was learned the US State Department on March 12, 1948 drafted a new proposal to the UN suggesting the partition plan failed and an alternate approach was needed. The proposal was for an international trusteeship over Palestine to last five years during which time the two sides would work out a mutually agreed solution. It concluded partitioning failed and was causing violence and bloodshed. Pappe notes in the long history of Palestine and its relationship to the West, this was the most sensible proposal ever made.

Shamefully it was stillborn because even then a Zionist lobby was influential in Washington, it dealt with Harry Truman in the White House, and it succeeded in derailing the State Department's efforts even though Department Arabists convinced Truman to rethink the partition plan and proposed a three month armistice to both sides to consider it. That also failed as a new Jewish People's Board was created and met on May 12. Ben-Gurion and almost all others present rejected Truman's offer. Three days later they established the state of Israel which the White House recognized almost immediately.

The Phony and Real Wars Over Palestine

As explained above, Jordan's King Abdullah cut a deal with Zionists to get what turned out to be the West Bank in return for not committing troops to the short-lived conflict beginning in May although Abdullah, if fact, had to fight for what he got because of Jewish duplicity. Zionists needed to neutralize Jordan because it had the strongest army in the Arab world and would have been a formidable threat had it become part of the overall Arab force that went to war with the new Jewish state. Their staying out of it was the reason the Arab League's English Commander-in-Chief, Glubb Pasha, called the 1948 war in Palestine the "Phony War." Pasha knew Abdullah cut a deal for his own territorial gain and other Arab armies entering the war planned to do it "pathetically" as some on the Arab interventionist side called their campaign.

Cairo only committed forces the last minute on May 12. It set aside 10,000 troops for the engagement, but half of them were Muslim Brotherhood volunteers opposed to Egyptian collaboration with imperialism, and they'd just been released from prison because of their opposition. They had no training, were likely picked as convenient cannon fodder, and despite their fervor were no match for the Jewish military.

Syrian forces were better trained, their political leaders more committed, but only a small contingent was sent, and they performed so ineffectively the Consultancy considered seizing the Golan Heights later gotten in the 1967 war. Even smaller and less committed were Lebanese units most of which stayed on their side of the border defending adjacent villages. Iraqi troops were also involved but only numbered a few thousand. Their government ordered them not to attack Israel but only to defend the West Bank land allocated to Jordan. Still, they defied orders, became more broadly engaged, and temporarily saved 15 Palestinian villages in Wadi Ara until 1949 when the Jordanian government ceded the area to Israel as part of a bilateral armistice agreement.

Overall, invading Arab forces performed "pathetically." They overstretched their supply lines, ran out of ammunition, used mostly antiquated and malfunctioning arms, and there was no command and control coordination vital for a successful campaign. It showed their lack of commitment to the final outcome although in fairness to them their main British and French suppliers declared an arms embargo on Palestine hamstringing their effort.

In contrast, Jewish forces had a ready source of armaments from the Soviet Union and its Eastern bloc countries like Checkoslovakia. As a result, their weapons easily outgunned the combined Arab force, and its force size outnumbered and outclassed them. Jewish forces were never threatened, and Pappe exposed the Israeli-concocted myth that the very existence of a Jewish state was at stake. It never was, and Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders knew it early on.

The war's outcome was never in doubt, and it allowed ethnic cleansing to go on unimpeded. It spared no one from removal, slaughter and loss of their homes and land. They were dynamited, torched, and leveled to the ground to make way for new Jewish settlements and neighborhoods to be built on vacated land. Still Arab forces continued fighting getting Israelis to agree to the first of two brief truces. The first one was declared on June 8 and begun on the 11th. It lasted until July 8, during which time the Israeli army continued its cleansing operation that included mass destruction of emptied villages.

A second truce began on July 18 that was violated immediately. The Israeli leadership was undeterred and continued engaging in widespread ethnic cleansing and seizure of as much land as possible. Truce or no truce, the campaign went on unhindered to conclusion that was mostly completed by October and wrapped up finally in January, 1949 except for some mopping-up operations that continued until summer.

In September, 1948, the war, such as it was, continued but subsided. It finally ended in 1949 when Israel signed separate armistice agreements with its four major warring adversaries. The agreements allotted Israel 78% of British Mandatory Palestine, over 40% more than the UN partition allowed. The cease-fire lines agreed to became known as the "Green Line." Gaza was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan. For the victorious Israelis, this was their moment of triumph in their "War of Independence", but for the defeated and displaced Palestinians it became known as "al Nakba" - "The Catastrophe." An unknown number of Palestinians were killed and about 800,000 became refugees. Their lives were destroyed, and they were left to the mercy of neighboring Arab countries and conditions in the camps where they barely got any.

Toward the end of 1948, Israel focused on its anti-repatriation policy pursuing it on two levels. The first was national, introduced in August that year, with the decision taken to destroy all cleansed villages transforming them into new Jewish settlements or "natural" forests. The second level was diplomatic to avoid international pressure to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and villages.

Nonetheless, Palestinians had an ally in the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC) that spearheaded efforts for refugees to return and called for their unconditional right to do it. Their position became UN Resolution 194 giving Palestinians the unconditional option to return to their homes or be compensated for their losses if they chose not to. This right was also affirmed in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted as General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) on December 10, 1948, the day before it passed Resolution 194. To this day, all Israeli governments have ignored both resolutions and gotten away with it because of support and complicity by the West and indifference by Israel's Arab neighbors preferring strategic alliances for their own benefit and writing off the Palestinians as a small price to pay for it to their shame and disgrace.

The Ugly Face of Occupation

Even at war's end and Israel's ethnic cleansing completed, Palestinians' agony and hardships were only beginning. Throughout 1949, and beginning a precedent continuing to this day, about 8,000 refugees were put in prison camps while many others escaping cleansing were physically abused and harassed under Israeli military rule. The Palestinians lost everything including their homes, fields, places of worship and other holy places, freedom of movement and expression and any hope for just treatment and redress according to the rule of law not applied to them. They were afflicted with such indignities as needing newly-issued identity cards. Not having them on their person at all times meant imprisonment up to 1.5 years and immediate transfer to a pen for "unauthorized" and "suspicious" Arabs. This went on in cities and rural areas as undisguised racism and persecution.

Other kinds of Israeli harshness were also introduced at this time that all Palestinians are still subjected to today in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). There were roadblocks that now include checkpoints and curfews with violators shot on sight. These conditions were imposed to make life so unbearable, those subjected to them might opt to leave the territories for relief elsewhere.

Worse still in 1949 were labor camps where thousands of Palestinian prisoners were held under military rule for forced labor for all tasks that could strengthen the economy or aid the military. Conditions in them were deplorable and included working in quarries carrying heavy stones, living on one potato in the morning and half a dried fish at noon. Anyone complaining was beaten severely, and others were singled out for summary execution if they were considered a threat.

Life outside prison and labor camps wasn't much better. Red Cross representatives sent their Geneva headquarters reports of collective human rights abuses including finding piles of dead bodies. Overall, Palestinians surviving expulsion and now Israeli citizens gained nothing. They had no rights and were subjected to constant random violence and abuse with no protection from the law applying only to Jews. Their places of worship were profaned and schools vandalized. Those still with homes were robbed with impunity by looters in broad daylight. They took everything they wanted - furniture, clothing, anything useful for Jewish immigrants entering the new Jewish state. Palestinians reported that there wasn't a single home or shop not broken into and ransacked. The authorities did nothing to stop it or prosecute offenders. It was like living under a perpetual "Kristallnacht."

Further, Palestinian areas were "ghettoised" as a way to imprison people other than by putting them behind bars or in camps. In Haifa, for example, they were ordered from their homes and transferred to designated parts of the city, then crammed into confined quarters the way it was done in Wadi Nisnas, one of the city's poorest areas. The UN and Red Cross also reported many cases of rape, confirmed by uncovered Israeli archives and from the oral history of victims and their boasting victimizers.

Finally, with the war over and ethnic cleansing completed, the Israeli government relaxed its harshness and halted the looting and ghettoisation in cities. A new structure was created called The Committee for Arab Affairs that dealt with growing international pressure on Israel to allow for repatriation of the refugees. Israeli officials tried to sidestep efforts by proposing instead refugees be settled in neighboring Arab states like Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. Their efforts succeeded as discussions produced no results nor was there much effort to enforce Resolution 194.

Other issues also remained unresolved including money expropriated from the former 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Mandatory Palestine as well as their property now in Israeli hands. The first governor of the Israeli national bank estimated it was valued at 100 million British pounds. There was also the question of cultivated land confiscated and lost that amounted to 3.5 million dunum or almost 22,000 square miles. The Israeli government forestalled international indignation by appointing a custodian for the newly acquired properties pending their final disposition. It dealt with the problem by selling them to public and private Jewish groups which it claimed the right to do as the moment confiscated lands came under government custodianship they became property of the state of Israel. That, in turn, meant none of it could be sold to Arabs which is still the law in Israel today.

As this took place, the human geography of Palestine was transformed by design. Its Arab character in cities was erased and with it the history and culture of people who lived there for centuries before Zionists arrived to depopulate their state making it one for Jews alone. They only succeeded partially but managed to transform ancient Palestine into the state of Israel creating insurmountable problems Palestinians now face in it and the OPT. In 1949, about 150,000 Palestinians survived expulsion in the territory of Israel and were now citizens designated by the Committee of Arab Affairs as "Arab Israelis." That designation meant they were denied all rights given Jews.

They were put under military rule, comparable to the Nuremberg Laws under the Nazis and no less harsh. It denied them the basic rights of free expression, movement, organization and equality with the "chosen Jewish people" of the new Jewish state. They still had the right to vote and could be elected to the Israeli Knesset, but with severe restrictions. This regime lasted officially until 1966, but, in fact, never ended to this day and has been especially severe since the democratic election of Hamas in January, 2006 as well as throughout the Second Intifada that began with Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque on September 28, 2000.

The Committee of Arab Affairs continued meeting, and as late as 1956 considered plans for mass removal of all remaining Arabs in Israel. Even though ethnic cleansing formerly ended in 1949, expulsions continued throughout this period until 1953, but never really ended to this day. Palestinians surviving it paid a terrible price with the loss of their possessions, land, history and future still unaddressed with justice so far denied them and ignored.

The theft of their land by ethnic cleansing led to new Jewish settlements in their place and now are built on occupied Palestinian land in the OPT. In 1950, disposition of it was placed in the hands of the Settlement Department of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF law was passed in 1953 granting the agency independent status as landowner for the Jewish state. That law and others, like the Law of the Land of Israel, stipulated the JNF wasn't allowed to sell or lease land to non-Jews. The Knesset passed a final law in 1967, the Law of Agricultural Settlement, prohibiting the subletting of Jewish-owned land to non-Jews. The law also prohibited water resources from being transferred to non-JNF lands.

After ethnic cleansing completion, Palestinians remaining comprised 17% of the new Israeli state but were was allotted only 2% of the land to live and build on with another 1% for agricultural use only. Today, 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs are Israeli citizens or about 20% of the population. The still have the same 3% total, an intolerable situation for a population this size. The 1.4 million Palestinians in occupied, ghettoized and quarantined Gaza live under even harsher conditions in what's now considered the world's largest open air prison with a population density three times that of Manhattan. The 2.5 million others in the West Bank aren't treated much better living under severe repression from a foreign occupier.

"Memoricide" of the Nakba

Palestinian lands under JNF control also included authority to rename them to destroy centuries of history they signified. The task went to archaeolgists and biblical experts volunteering to serve on an official Naming Committee to "Hebraisize" Palestine's geography. The goal was to de-Arabize the lands, erase their history, and use it for new Jewish colonization and development as well as create European-looking national parks with recreational facilities including picnic sites and children's playgrounds for Jews only. Hidden beneath them were destroyed Palestinian villages erased from the public memory but not from that of people who once lived there who'd never forget or allow their descendents to.

The JNF website features four of the larger, most popular resort parks belying and defiling the long history beneath them - the Birya Forest, Ramat Menashe Forest, Jerusalem Forest and Sataf. They all symbolize Pappe's poignant prose that: "better than any other space today in Israel, (these lands represent) both the Nakba and the denial of the Nakba." Today, descendents of families displaced six decades ago still live in refuge camps and diasporic communities in neighboring Arab countries and elsewhere. Their collective memories won't ever be erased nor will justice be served until they receive redress for the crimes committed against their ancestors and those still living.

Pappe emphasizes what other regional experts like him believe - the key to peace in the Middle East is a just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem as well as equity for those living in the OPT and all Palestinian Israeli citizens long denied any rights and forced to live in an Israeli apartheid state under harsh conditions of severe repression.

Pappe believes two main factors deter conflict resolution today - the Zionist ideology of ethnic supremacy and the so-called "peace process" that's always been structured to avoid peace at all costs. The first factor continues denying the Nakba's legitimacy, and the second one always succeeds in foiling an international will to bring justice to the region by maintaining a state of conflict to justify Israel's harsh response to it pretending it's for self-defense. It works because the US supports and funds the Jewish state allowing it to get away with mass-murder, property destruction, land theft and denial of everything Palestinians hold dear including their lives and freedom. Nothing has changed since 1948 because the West goes along as well as do most Arab states for their own political and economic gain. Palestinians have no bargaining power and can do nothing to alleviate their plight.

The UN world body should have aided them but never did. It's flawed partition plan caused the conflict to begin with. It cost Palestinians everything, and nothing happened since to win them redress. Even after its early missteps, the UN might have made a difference but erred again by not involving the International Refugee Organization (IRO) that always recommends repatriation as a refugee entitlement. Instead it backed Israel's wish to avoid IRO involvement by creating a special agency for Palestinian refugees that became UNRWA in 1950 or the UN Relief and Work Agency. UNRWA wasn't committed to the Right of Return and only looked after refugees' daily needs to provide employment and fund permanent camps to house them. Its efforts amounted to little more than putting band-aids on gaping wounds still raw and unaddressed.

It's typical of how the UN still operates today under the thumb of its dominant member country where it's headquartered. It's so-called "peacekeeping" function is a pathetic and disgraceful example as keeping the peace is the one thing Blue Helmets almost never do. Its first ever operation began in 1948 as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) mandated to supervise the armistice agreements and earlier uneasy truces between warring Israeli and Arab forces. It's been there ever since, never prevented wars in 1956, 1967 and 1973 nor did it ever succeed in establishing or maintaining peace. The operation is still active, but it's little more than a pathetic presence without purpose observing violations on the ground and doing nothing to stop them or even report them properly to superiors. The IDF controls everything, operates freely, and UN "peacekeepers" keep quiet but no peace.

Out of this mess earlier, Palestinian nationalism emerged as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that became the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. It was founded by the Arab League in 1964 and committed to the Right of Return. It also had to confront what Pappe calls "two manifestations of denial" - international peace brokers' denial of Palestinian concerns as part of a future peace arrangement and refusal to deal with Israelis' denial of the Nakba and their unwillingness to be held accountable for it. To this day, refugee issues and Nakba crimes are excluded from the so-called "peace process" assuring there never will be a one unless that changes.

At first, in the spring of 1949, the UN made some conflict resolution effort by organizing a conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. Nothing came from it, however, because prime minister Ben-Gurion and King Abdullah scuttled it to get on with their partition scheme. Two more decades were then lost until after the 1967 war when the US got more involved, began colluding with the Israelis, and couched all new peace efforts within an overall context of a Middle East Pax Americana. It meant from that time till now, an equitable resolution of the conflict and attention to Palestinians' needs and rights were sidelined in favor of addressing Israeli needs and those of its US partner.

In 1967, Israel excluded the 1948 Nakba and Right of Return from any peace discussions. Thenceforth, it based all negotiations on the notion that the conflict began in 1967 when Israel seized and occupied the West Bank and Gaza in the June Six Days' War that year. This was how Israel sought to legitimize its 1948 "War of Independence" and all its crimes it wanted erased from the public memory. No longer were they on the table to be considered in any future conflict resolution negotiation. For Palestinians, the 1948 Nakba is their core issue, and without it being settled equitably there can never be closure or a real lasting peace in the region.

Nonetheless, by the mid-seventies, the PLO softened its stance enough to accept a US-led international consensus favoring a two-state solution. It led to the 1978 Camp David Accords and peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, but it left Palestinians out in the cold by implicitly renouncing their Right of Return and failing to address the issue of an independent state.

The predictable result was festering anger in the OPT that led to the first Intifada in 1987 that, in turn, led to the Madrid peace conference following the 1991 Gulf war. From it, the 1993 Oslo Accords and so-called Declaration of Principles emerged that once again betrayed Palestinian hopes for redress denied them to this day. Israel got an agreement to establish a new Palestinian Authority (PA) to act as its comprador enforcer to control a restive people. All the tough issues were left unaddressed meaning they never would be - an independent Palestinian state, the Right of Return, status of Jerusalem, settlements in the OPT and established borders.

Oslo I led to Oslo II in 1995 and further betrayal. The new agreement divided the West Bank into three zones - Areas A, B, and C plus a fourth area of Israeli occupied East Jerusalem. It established a complicated system of control allowing Israel in Area C to build settlements on the most valuable land with its water resources mostly denied the Palestinians. By 2000, 59% of the West Bank was in Area C. Israel is slowly annexing more of the territory by expanding settlements and building new ones. It's also getting it by its Separation or Apartheid Wall on seized Palestinian land, building new roads for Jews only on more of it, and defining one-third of the West Bank as Greater Jerusalem.

So-called "permanent status" talks began in July, 2000 at Camp David that once again resulted in betrayal. Israelis never made a good faith offer in writing or intended to. They provided no documentation or maps. All Palestinians got was a plan dividing the West Bank into four isolated "Bantustan" cantons surrounded by Israeli settlements and continued occupation with no resolution of their fundamental long-standing problems and core issues.

Predictably it led to the second al-Aqsa Mosque Intifada triggered by Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Muslim Noble Sanctuary on September 28, 2000 as explained above. It then spun out of control when Palestinians, fed up with Fatah betrayal, democratically elected a Hamas government in January, 2006 foiling Israeli efforts to assure their complicit allies would again prevail. When they didn't, Israel denounced the results, never accepted Hamas as a peace partner, refused to negotiate with them in good faith, and acted ever since in bad faith to destroy Hamas and punish the Palestinian people for their "wrong" choice. That's how things always work under rules of imperial management practiced by the US and its Israeli partner complicit in their collective attempt to destroy a democratically elected government misportraying them as "terrorists" to get the West to go along and the public to believe it.

Today, Israel is slowly annexing more of the West Bank in a relentless process wanting all useful parts of it for exclusive Jewish habitation only. It made the job easier by defining one-third of it as Greater Jerusalem while expropriating Palestinian land to expand existing settlements, build new ones, add new roads for Jews only, and erect the Separation Wall falsely claimed for security to disguise its real land-grab purpose plus another way to cantonize Palestinians in isolated areas cut off from all others and effectively enclose them in large open-air prisons.

This is part of the appalling daily oppression and persecution ongoing against Palestinians in the OPT and also against Israeli Arab citizens living in Israel. Former US president Jimmy Carter pierced the "last taboo" daring to open a forbidden window on part of it in his new best-selling book Peace Not Apartheid that got him vilified by the Israeli Lobby implying he's anti-semitic. He courageously wrote about a rigid system of segregation in the OPT even though he failed to acknowledge the same injustices go on inside Israel he called a model democratic state which it is not.

Palestinian Israeli citizens living get none of the democratic rights afforded Israeli Jews, and Carter, of course, knows that or should know it. He distanced himself from that consideration that might have been too much truth to reveal at one time. Nonetheless, his bold, if partial, step represents an important breakthrough that may encourage other high-level officials in the US and elsewhere to add their voices to his exposing all Israeli crimes demanding redress. They won't ever be addressed until enough prominent figures step forward to denounce them and finally reveal their extent to an uninformed public.

Redress one day will come just like it did for Jews no longer persecuted as they were for centuries. But it won't happen until the power of the Israeli Lobby is neutralized by forces for truth and justice surpassing it in power and influence. That day is nowhere in sight, but when it arrives, Jews and Arabs will again live in peace the way they once did in pre-Zionist times. It's the way Jews and Christians now easily mix in the US unlike decades ago when anti-semitism was significant enough to deny Jews the kinds of opportunities and rights they now take for granted including achieving positions of high influence in government, business, academia and other prominent public and private institutions in the country. There's no reason Jews and Arabs can't coexist as easily provided there's a will to do it or events intervene.

An Intractable Problem Caused by "Fortress Israel"

Pappe's final chapter deals with what Israel calls its "demographic problem" and need to limit future Palestinian population growth. The problem is an old one understood by early Zionists as the major obstacle in the way of their dream of a homeland for Jews alone. Theodor Herzl wrote his solution in his diary in 1895: "We shall endeavour to expel the poor population across the border unnoticed, procuring employment for it in the transit countries, but denying it any employment in our own country."

In 1947, Ben-Gurion adopted his own version of Herzl's solution with his ethnic cleaning plan that's gone on ever since in various forms under succeeding prime ministers to this day. It's meant continual displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank by new and expanded Israeli settlement developments and Separation Wall land seizures. Pappe explains the "Zionist project (today is trying) to construct and then defend a 'white' (Western) fortress in a 'black' (Arab) world. At the heart of the refusal to allow Palestinians the Right of Return is the fear of Jewish Israelis that they will eventually be outnumbered by Arabs." To assure this won't happen, Israel intends to maintain an overwhelming Jewish majority regardless of world public opinion. There's no dissent in the West or among most Arab leaders because US administrations won't tolerate any.

Pappe believes the consensus in Israel today is for a state comprising 90% of Palestine "surrounded by electric fences and visible and invisible walls" with Palestinians given only worthless cantonized scrub lands of little or no value to the Jewish state. In 2006, 1.4 million Palestinians live in Israel on 2% of the land allotted them plus another 1% for agricultural use with six millions Jews on most of the rest. Another 3.9 million live concentrated in Israel's unwanted portions of the West Bank and concentrated in Gaza that's three times the population density of Manhattan. It's made for intolerable conditions throughout the OPT that guarantee resistance to them and the same harsh Israeli responses in an unending cycle of violence, repression and unresolved and unaddressed injustices.

The growing demographic imbalance only exacerbates things, and it's already a nightmare for Israeli leaders. They haven't gotten enough new Jewish immigration or adequately increased Jewish birth rates to counteract it. They also haven't been able to reduce the number of Arabs in Israel. All solutions so far considered only lead to an Arab population increase barring mass expulsion or worse some extremists in Israel favor and one day may be able to make policy unless cooler heads stop them.

For Pappe and all people of conscience and good faith, there's only one solution - Israel's willingness one day to transform itself into a civic and democratic state ending the last postcolonial European enclave in the Arab world. The Palestinian people will accept nothing less nor should they, and growing numbers of Israelis are aware of the horror and injustice of the Nakba. So far, they only comprise a small minority, but they may hold the key to a future resolution if their numbers grow enough and they become vocal as is now slowly happening.

Today, however, the situation for Palestinians is grim with unrelenting daily Israeli assaults against them in Gaza and the West Bank along with Jerusalem slipping away by an ethnic cleansing process to make the city one for Jews only. At the end of his book, Pappe explains "The problem with Israel was never its Jewishness....it is its ethnic Zionist character." It represents a "tempest that threatens to ruin (Jews and Palestinians alike)," and it's now raging in the OPT as it did in Lebanon over the summer where an uneasy peace could again erupt in conflict on any pretext.

The future of Jews and Arabs depends on finding an equitable solution to their unresolved problems and issues and avoiding further escalation that threatens to engulf the whole region in raging conflict if extremists in Israel and Washington get their way and extend the Iraq war to Iran and Syria. Kuwait-based Arab Times Editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Jarallah cites what he calls a reliable source saying a military strike against Iranian oil and nuclear facilities is planned before April to be launched from warships in the Persian Gulf that grow in number and readiness.

He may be right based on former Russian Black Sea Fleet commander Admiral Eduard Baltin's judgment about US activity in the Gulf. Currently, US nuclear submarines are maintaining a vigil there and Admiral Baltin told Interfax News: "The presence of US nuclear submarines in the Persian Gulf region means that the Pentagon has not abandoned plans for surprise strikes against nuclear targets in Iran. With this aim a group of multi-purpose submarines ready to accomplish the task is located in the area." Admiral Baltin added the presence of these submarines indicates the Pentagon wants to control navigation in the Gulf and conduct strikes against Iranian targets.

One other report adds still more credibility to the current danger of a wider regional war. It comes from former US State Department Middle East intelligence analyst Wayne White who said: "I've seen some of the planning....You're not talking about a surgical strike. You're talking about a war against Iran. We're talking about clearing a path of targets" against the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles and even ballistic missile capability that could target commerce and US warships in the Gulf as well as the country's nuclear infrastructure.

More pressure still is coming from Israeli officials calling Iran's nuclear program an "existential threat" and Israeli opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu whose rhetoric makes him sound like he's criminally insane. On January 21, he addressed a security conference in Herzliya stoking the flames of war by calling the Iranian government a "genocidal regime" and adding "Either it will stop the nuclear programme without the need for a military operation, or it could prepare for it....who will lead the charge if not us. No one will come defend the Jews if they do not defend themselves." Also at the conference, US Under-Secretary Nicholas Burns spoke hawkishly saying "There is no doubt Iran is seeking nuclear military weapons (and) the policy of the United States is that we cannot allow Iran to become a nuclear weapons state....Iran has refused to back down in its attempt to destabilize the region....We have an absolute right to defend our soldiers."

If the US and/or Israel attack Iran, all bets are off, and Palestinians already under an Israeli siege will suffer even more. It means cooler heads on both sides must denounce this kind of talk and find a way to avoid a wider war and bring the present conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine to an end. It won't be easy at a perilous time looking like conflict escalation is planned, not its resolution with the potential fallout from it too horrendous to allow for all parties in the region, but especially for those suffering under occupation.

Now there's the further threat of one Palestinian faction facing off against the other. On one side is the besieged Hamas-led government already in tatters from months of harsh sanctions and daily Israeli assaults. On the other are corrupted Fatah forces loyal to PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas acting as a quisling proxy comprador enforcer for Israeli and US imperial interests for everything he stands to gain selling out his people for crumbs handed him and his cronies. They're being armed to the teeth to do it, and George Bush announced he's helping further by transferring $86 million to Abbas while starving Hamas and most Palestinians. It's taken the lives of dozens of Palestinians in recent days. They're in the middle having no dog in this fight except their oppressive occupier they want expelled.

They cry out as a colonized people struggling to be free with things at this stage looking pretty grim. But sooner or later conflicts and repression end when bloodshed and suffering from them no longer are tolerated and outside forces see the injustice and futility and are willing to help. It's happening in Iraq and will in Afghanistan, and it's coming to the OPT with force strength too great to be restrained. When it arrives, ethnic cleansing and injustice will end, replaced by ethnic victory for Jews and Palestinians alike and others in the region who'll model their own struggle for justice on the one they saw succeed in Palestine.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.