Thinking about VENEZUELA:

May 23, 2018
From FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting):
Across media, coverage was eerily similar. Indeed, most media outlets even used the same word choice and structure in their headlines, declaring Maduro the winner while undermining the system’s legitimacy with the helpful preposition “amid”:
“Venezuela’s Maduro Re-elected Amid Outcry Over Vote” (Reuters, 5/20/18)
“Venezuela Election Won by Maduro Amid Widespread Disillusionment” (New York Times, 5/20/18)
“Venezuela Election: Maduro Wins Second Term Amid Claims of Vote Rigging” (BBC (5/21/18)
“Venezuela’s Maduro Wins Re-election Amid Opposition Boycott” (Wall Street Journal, 5/21/18)
“Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Wins Re-election Amid Charges of Irregularities” (Chicago Tribune, 5/20/18)
“Venezuela Election: Maduro on Course for Re-election Amid Low Turnout: US Mulling Oil Sanctions After ‘Sham Election’” (London Independent, 5/20/18)
“Venezuela’s Maduro Wins Boycotted Elections Amid Charges of Fraud” (NPR, 5/21/18)
“Vote Under Way in Venezuela Election Amid Opposition Boycott” (Al Jazeera, 5/20/18)
“Venezuela Keeps Voting Stations Open Amid Light Turnout” (Washington Post, 5/20/18)
“Venezuela’s Socialist Leader Nicolas Maduro Elected Amid Allegations of Irregularities” (Huffington Post, 5/21/18)
In their crusade against Maduro, they are not above publishing fake news or deliberately misleading content, such as the infamous “condoms costs $755 in Venezuela,” which was picked up across the world (Time, 2/5/15; CNN, 2/6/15; Newsweek, 2/5/15). The originator of this story was unrepentant, claiming he would continue to use “sexy tricks” to get his point across.
The typical tricks used to discredit the Venezuelan are less sexy—such as Bloomberg’s Andrew Rosati (5/21/18) declaring that victory in the “widely derided election” gives Maduro “sole ownership of the nation’s crushing economic crisis”—then in the very next sentence gloating that “US and regional leaders” will punish Venezuela for holding the vote by imposing “further isolation and sanctions on the crisis-stricken nation’s all-important oil industry.” You have only yourself to blame, apparently, for defying the will of Washington.
From Alba Movements:
5 Answers to 5 Statements Made About Venezuela
By Alba Movements on May 14, 2018
1. “There is no democracy”: In Venezuela there have been 23 elections since 1998, the year in which Hugo Chavez was elected as President and began a process of democratization of the State’s powers with high level of public participation in the decisions they make in their political, economical, cultural and organizational life. This is known as Participative Democracy with Protagonism from the people. Furthermore in Venezuela, voting is not obligatory, and still the participation levels in the last decades has been more than 70%, higher than what is there in United States, Spain, Colombia, Peru and Chile. For 11 years, Venezuela has used electronic or automatic voting system, which allows accelerating the voting process and protecting the results.
2. “The elections are fixed by Maduro”: The National Public Power (Government of Venezuela) is divided into 5 powers: Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Civic and Electoral, in other words, it is different from Argentina (where there are only 3 powers), where the electoral processes are organized by the Ministry of the Interior (a power in the hands of President). Whereas in Venezuela, a power other than Executive exists that takes on the election processes. The Venezuelan electoral system has been recognized as one of the most reliable and modern voting processes in the world by international observers, like the Union of South-American Nations (UNASUR) and the Carter Centre (not-for-profit organization founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter).
3. “There is economic crisis”: Yes there is, but it is important to differentiate the crisis generated by one’s own government (like that of Macri and his neoliberal policy that only benefits the financial system) from the crisis induced by national and international financial sectors managed by United States government against Venezuela through: freezing of accounts, sabotage on exchange rate, extraction of paper currency, monopolization, scarcity and media war. Despite the effects of 5 years of economic war, the Bolivarian government is implementing actions to guarantee stability and peace in the country: increase in minimum salary every 2 months, permanent growth of social investment, construction of 2 million houses and their entrustment to the families belonging to the most vulnerable sectors, direct delivery of foodstuff to more than 6 million families through Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP) and launching of Petro, a crypto-currency system supported by real estate in oil reserves.
4. “Migrations and political exiles”: As a result of the conditions in which the economic war suppresses the Venezuelan people, many Venezuelans have decided to try luck in finding temporary jobs outside their country, just like millions of Central-American and the Andean region people who for decades have been migrating from their countries. But a discourse has been constructed by the anti-Chavista sectors that Venezuela is a catastrophe because it governs populism, communism, etc. Well, what should we say about Mexico? 41 million Mexicans are living in U.S. What should we say about Colombia? Around 5 million Colombians are living in Venezuela, 900 thousand in U.S. and 135 thousands in Spain. Some 32 thousand Venezuelans live in Argentina, while there are 87,574 temporary and permanent residential applications of Colombian citizens.
5. “Many countries denounce Venezuela”: The Latin American governments [close allies with the U.S. government– Neal] whose international policies are based on denouncing exclusively Venezuela are:
Mexico: With 1,035 journalists murdered in last 15 years, more than 50 in only 2017, Mexico is the country with highest number of intended deaths to silence the investigations. The campaign “War on Drugs” was unsuccessful as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned that Mexico leads the market of exportation of methamphetamine and opium in America. Moreover the cultivation of opium poppy in Mexico has increased to 60% in last 6 years. In terms of human lives, we have some 23,000 people dying every year because of reasons associated this “war” and that counts more than 200,000 since it began 12 years ago with the government of Felipe Calderón.
Colombia: Besides those exiled in the exterior, it is important to count the internal displacements caused by paramilitary terror and Colombian army’s repression. There have been some 7 million displaced because of this reason. Colombian government who is so worried about Venezuela is unable to prevent assassinations in its own territory, for example, more than 80 social activists and trade unionists have been murdered in 2018 and the peace agreements signed in 2016 have only been respected by FARC while the state has breached 85% of them.
Brasil: Michel Temer’s government emerged after the coup d’état against President Dilma Roussef that was disguised as a political verdict against a lawsuit with evidences. The alleged corruption that served to throw off Dilma doesn’t seem to be serious enough to address Temer and his allies. He is the president with zero percent votes to become the president but with hundreds of judicial proceedings for corruption (including the recent video with coima). It is Brazil who started the labor reform, which destroys all labor rights; where the city councilperson from the opposition is killed like Marielle Franco and the candidate with the greatest possibility of votes is illegally detained in face of the next presidential elections.
Argentina: Macri’s government took on the flag of anti-Maduro since its electoral campaign in 2015. The fair government of price hike, not of salary increase, the government of dismissals, of adjustment after adjustment, of handing over political sovereignty to the IMF. The same government that doesn’t listen to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the seriousness to hold political prisoners without a due process, the same that suppresses the protests against the economic policies and that is responsible for the deaths of Santiago Maldonado and Rafael Nahuel. A government that justifies the shooting in the back of an 11 years old child brags to tell others how to “respect” international law that itself doesn’t respect.
Spain: With the exception of not being a Latin American country and a republic, Spain uses Venezuela to cover-up its own internal political crisis. Let us not forget that it remains a monarchy and the People’s Party is involved in hundreds of corruption cases the same or more as the royal family itself.
Source: Alba Movements, translation Dawn News


May 23, 2018

TOMORROW at 57th Street Books

May 22, 2018

May 21, 2018
Phyllis Bennis

In These Times
The Gaza massacre is a war crime. And the United States is complicit alongside Israel.

A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag as Israeli soldiers crack down on demonstrators to remark the ‘Great March of Return’ east of Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on April 11, 2018, Photo by Hassan Jedi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


We watch a split screen. On one side: celebrations of the new U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem. The president’s daughter, son-in-law, cabinet officials, Congress members, all smiling, proud. The U.S. ambassador, longtime settlement financier David Friedman, joins Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, his family, cabinet officials, Knesset members—all waiting for President Trump to join their festivities.

There is little question that the U.S. decision to schedule the embassy opening for May 14 was designed to be a major provocation.

The other screen: solemn faces, tears, teenagers splayed across makeshift stretchers carried by other teenagers to waiting ambulances. Tear gas so thick one can’t see through it even on a television or computer screen. Sharpshooters, with live fire coming so fast that casualty counters can’t keep up. It’s 38 dead—just in one day. No, it’s 40. And then it turns out it’s nearly 60. Another 1,500 injured, no it’s more than 2,000 already. Twenty-four hours later it turns out to be more than 2,400. Not a single Israeli has been killed—the dead are all Palestinians. The killers, the maimers, the shooters, the gassers, are all Israeli soldiers.

And Jared Kushner says that the Palestinian protesters, whom he defines as “those who provoke violence,” are “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

But the split screen is an illusion: There is only one screen, framing both the embassy carnival and the Gaza massacre. The same screen includes Netanyahu and Trump, as well as people like Sheldon Adelson and the rest of their joint backers across the United States. And the same screen includes Palestinians. Some appear as they are killed in unprecedented numbers, shot by Israeli sharpshooters who claim their commanders approve every bullet’s target. And the others, the living, continue to remind the world that they are here. They are human. They are a nation, and they have human rights.

Some of the embassy backers, like the evangelical Christian Zionists John Hagee and Robert Jeffress who offered prayers and praise of Israel and racist hatred towards Palestinians, claim to speak in the word of God. They celebrate U.S. collaboration with the Israeli government to the tune of 3.8 billion American tax dollars that Washington sends directly to the Israeli military every year.

Trump says the United States will always be a friend to Israel “and” support a lasting peace, only one of many such lies. The Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is about reminding the world that Israel is the strategic ally of the United States, and that Palestinians are not. This U.S. maneuver is not about protecting Jews: This is about Israel’s claim to the land of the Palestinians. Israel’s mass killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza is part of that message: Palestinian land belongs to Israel, and Palestinian lives don’t matter.

There is little question that the U.S. decision to schedule the embassy opening for May 14 was designed to be a major provocation. Of course, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the embassy to Jerusalem in violation of international law and a host of UN Security Council resolutions, constituted major acts of aggression to begin with. Trump said the festivities were timed to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday—citing the declaration of the state on May 14, 1948. But Israelis’ own celebration was based on the Hebrew lunar calendar, which placed the anniversary back in April. The United States chose May 14 because the day after is the Palestinians’ annual commemoration of the Nakba: the catastrophe of dispossession from their land, the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, and Israel’s continuing denial of those Palestinians and their descendants to exercise their internationally guaranteed right to return to their homes. And Nakba Day, as it is widely known, was to be the culmination of the Great March of Return.

But plans for the Gaza protests were underway before the embassy opening was announced. Palestinians were continuing to protest the devastation of their lives in Gaza caused by Israeli wars against the impoverished, crowded strip of land. They were protesting the 11-year-old siege that has kept 2 million Gazans locked into an open-air prison, denied food, clean water, electricity and contact with the outside world, as well as air, the right to breathe, to travel, to leave and to return. Their demands started with the right to return, guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions and specifically guaranteed to Palestinians by UN resolution 194. So the protests on Monday were not primarily about the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Now, among the thousands of Palestinian casualties, among the scores of Palestinians dead, have been many children. They were shot by Israeli sharpshooters, whose targets were approved by Israeli commanders. Israeli Brigadier General Zvika Fogel defended the practice. In a radio interview last Saturday, he was asked specifically about the killing of children, and answered that “anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation.” The interviewer says, “Then his punishment is death?” And the general responds, “His punishment is death.”

It is a familiar refrain. In another settler-colony, a couple of hundred years earlier, another high-ranking military officer, Col. John Chivington, commanded his Colorado militia to attack Chief Black Kettle’s Cheyenne encampment at Sand Creek. It was November 29, 1864, in the middle of the Indian Wars raging against indigenous people across the United States. Chivington ordered his soldiers to attack the families camped in the pre-dawn morning. Some soldiers resisted, saying that it would violate the military’s promise of protection to the peaceful village. Chivington, a Methodist minister, was having none of it. “I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice,” he said. An estimated 200 Cheyenne, most of them women and children, were killed in the Sand Creek Massacre.

The Gaza massacre is a war crime. And the United States is complicit alongside Israel. U.S. funding of the Israeli military, U.S. protection of Israel in the UN so that Israeli military and political leaders are never held accountable in the International Criminal Court, U.S. provision of its own most advanced weapons systems to Israel—all of these actions make the United States a partner in crime and responsible for the slaughter of children, teenagers, women and men, journalists and medics.

Challenging that U.S. support, demanding accountability for both Israeli and U.S. officials, remains a critical task, however distant its completion. People in the United States should be demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel, petitions to congress, vigils outside the White House, sit-ins at the offices of Congress members determined to back Israel’s most extreme violations of human rights. All are needed, but none are sufficient. The legacy of Sand Creek, the legacy of Gaza, remain the legacies of massacres. It remains our obligation to respond.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Her most recent book is Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer (Interlink, 2015).

Neoliberal Fantasy Undone

May 21, 2018


May 18, 2018

Blaming the Victims of Israel’s Gaza Massacre

by Gregory Shupak

Israel massacred 60 Palestinians on Monday, including seven children, bringing to 101 the total number of Palestinians Israel has killed since Palestinians began the Great March on March 30. In that period, Israel has killed 11 Palestinian children, two journalists, one person on crutches and three persons with disabilities.

Monday’s casualties included 1,861 wounded, bringing total injuries inflicted by Israel to 6,938 people, including 3,615 with live fire. Israel is using bullets designed to expand inside the body, causing maximum, often permanent damage: “The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities,” says Medicins Sans Frontiers (Ha’aretz4/22/18).

On the 70th anniversary of Israel’s so-called “declaration of independence,” the United States opened its new embassy in Jerusalem—a city Israel claims as its own, despite what international law says on the matter—and Palestinians undertook unarmed protests in reaction to the move and as part of the Great Return March. Although to this point, the only Israeli casualty during the entire cycle of demonstrations has been one “lightly wounded” soldier, considerable space in coverage of the massacres is devoted to blaming Palestinians for their own slaughter.

NBC: Scores Dead in Gaza Fence Protest as US Moves Embassy to Jerusalem

NBC (5/14/18) mentions “what Palestinians refer to as their ‘right of return’”; actually, it’s what international law calls it, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘ proclamation that “everyone has the right…to return to his country.”

Two of the first three paragraphs in an NBC report (5/14/18) provided Israel’s rationalizations for its killing spree. The second sentence in the article says that the Israeli military

accused Hamas of “leading a terrorist operation under the cover of masses of people,” adding that “firebombs and explosive devices” as well as rocks were being thrown towards the barrier.

Washington Post article (5/14/18) devoted two of its first four sentences to telling readers that Palestinians are responsible for being murdered by Israel. Palestinian “organizers urged demonstrators to burst through the fence, telling them Israeli soldiers were fleeing their positions, even as they were reinforcing them,” read one sentence. “At the barrier, young men threw stones and tried to launch kites carrying flames in hopes of burning crops on the other side,” stated the next one, as though stones and burning kites released by a besieged people is violence remotely equivalent to subjecting people to a military siege and mowing them down.

The New York Times (5/14/18) said that “a mass attempt by Palestinians to cross the border fence separating Israel from Gaza turned violent, as Israeli soldiers responded with rifle fire,” painting Israel’s rampage as a reaction to a Palestinian provocation. Like FAIR (2/21/18) has previously said of the word “retaliation,” “response” functions as a justification of Israeli butchery: To characterize Israeli violence as a “response” is towrongly imply that Palestinian actions warranted Israel unleashing its firing squads.

Yahoo headline (5/14/18) described “Violent Protests in Gaza Ahead of US Embassy Inauguration in Jerusalem,” a flatly incorrect description in that it attributes the violence to Palestinian demonstrators rather than to Israel. The BBC (5/15/18) did the same with a segment called “Gaza Braced for Further Violent Protests.”

Bloomberg: Hamas Vows to Keep Targeting Fence After Gaza Bloodshed

In Bloomberg‘s account (5/14/18), the fence seemed to be the real victim.

One Bloomberg article (5/14/18) by Saud Abu Ramadan and Amy Teibel had the same problem, referring to “a protest marred by violence,” while another one (5/14/18) attributed only to Ramadan is headlined “Hamas Targets Fence as Gaza Bloodshed Clouds Embassy Move,” as though the fence were Monday’s most tragic casualty. Ascribing this phantom violence to Palestinians provides Israel an alibi: Many readers will likely conclude that Israel’s lethal violence is reasonable if it is cast as a way of coping with “violent protests.”

The second paragraph of the Bloomberg article solely written by Ramadan says that

Gaza protesters, egged on by loudspeakers and transported in buses, streamed to the border, where some threw rocks, burned tires, and flew kites and balloons outfitted with firebombs into Israeli territory.

This author—like the rest in the “Palestinians were asking for it” chorus—failed to note that Israel’s fence runs deep into Palestinian territory and creates a 300-meter “buffer zone” between Palestinians and Israeli forces, which makes it highly unlikely that the kites and balloons of the colonized will have an effect on their drone-operating, rifle-wielding colonizers, let alone on people further afield in Israeli-held territory.

The New York Times editorial board (5/14/18) wrote as though Palestinians are barbarians against whom Israel has no choice but to unleash terror:

Led too long by men who were corrupt or violent or both, the Palestinians have failed and failed again to make their own best efforts toward peace. Even now, Gazans are undermining their own cause by resorting to violence, rather than keeping their protests strictly peaceful.

The board claimed that “Israel has every right to defend its borders, including the boundary with Gaza,” incorrectly suggesting that Palestinians were aggressors rather than on the receiving end of 100 years of settler-colonialism.

Moreover, like the Times and Bloomberg articles discussed above, the editorial attempts to legitimize Israel’s deadly violence by saying that it is defending a border that Palestinians are attempting to breach, but there is no border between Gaza and Israel. There is, as Maureen Murphy of Electronic Intifada (4/6/18) pointed out, “an armistice line between an occupying power and the population living under its military rule” that Palestinians are trying to cross in order to exercise their right to return to their land.

WaPo: Hamas Has Launched Another War. Israel Needs a Better Response

The Washington Post (5/15/18) condemned the “cruel, cynical tactic” of trying to exercise the internationally guaranteed right of return.

Washington Post editorial (5/15/18) called the Palestinians hunted by Israel “nominal civilians.” Apart from being a logical impossibility (one either is or isn’t a civilian), the phrase illuminates how too much of media think about Palestinians:  They are inherently threatening, intrinsically killable, always suspect, never innocent, permanently guilty of existing.

Business Insider piece (5/14/18) by columnist Daniella Greenbaum described “Palestinian protesters who ramped up their activities along the Gaza strip and, as a result, were targeted by the Israeli army with increasing intensity.” Greenbaum’s use of the phrase “as a result” implies that it was inevitable and perhaps just that Palestinians’ “ramped up activities” led to Israel mowing down a population it occupies, 70 percent of whom are refugees Israel refuses to allow to return to their homes.

Greenbaum then climbs into the intellectual and moral gutter, claiming that

absent from the commentary that children have unfortunately been among the injured and dead are questions about how they ended up at the border. On that question, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the extent to which Palestinians have glorified violence and martyrdom — and the extent to which the terrorist organization Hamas has organized the “protests.”

In her view, dozens of Palestinians died because they are primitive savages who take pleasure in sacrificing their own children, not because Israel maintains the right to gun down refugees in the name of maintaining an ethnostate.

In a rare instance of a resident of Gaza allowed to participate directly in the media conversation, Fadi Abu Shammalah wrote an op-ed for the New York Times (4/27/18) that offered an explanation of why Palestinians are putting their lives on the line to march. Life for the people of Gaza, including for his three young sons, has been “one tragedy after another: waves of mass displacement, life in squalid refugee camps, a captured economy, restricted access to fishing waters, a strangling siege and three wars in the past nine years. ” Recalling the concern for his safety expressed by his seven-year-old child, Shammalah concludes:

If Ali asks me why I’m returning to the Great Return March despite the danger, I will tell him this: I love my life. But more than that, I love you, Karam and Adam. If risking my life means you and your brothers will have a chance to thrive, to have a future with dignity, to live in peace with all your neighbors, in your free country, then this is a risk I must take.

Palestinians have a right to liberate themselves that extends to the right to the use of armed struggle, yet as Shammalah wrote, the Great Return March signifies a “nearly unanimous acceptance of peaceful methods to call for our rights and insist on our humanity.” Nevertheless, based on media coverage, readers could be forgiven for concluding that it was Palestinians, not Israel, who carried out what Doctors Without Borders called “unacceptable and inhuman” violence.

Saree on Killing

May 17, 2018