Category Archives: Anti-War

Huge rallies for Palestine in Toronto


by Barry Weisleder

Thousands demanded ‘Israel Out of Gaza’, ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ against the Zionist state, and cried ‘Free, Free Palestine’ on the streets of downtown Toronto on July 30. A boisterous rally at Dundas Square heard Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan and other speakers denounce the Conservative federal government for complicity with the Israeli military onslaught in Gaza that has seen over 1,300 Palestinians killed, chiefly by the bombardment of residential areas, including schools and health clinics.

Spokespersons for the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, and some of the 40 other sponsors of the event, also sharply criticized Thomas Mulcair, New Democratic Party head and Leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa, for his strident and uncritical support of the Zionist state.

The rally fed a massive march of about 4,000 to the Israeli Consulate, across from the Royal Ontario Museum at Bloor and Avenue Road.

En route, protesters staged a ‘die-in’ at the Bed Bath and Beyond store at Yonge and Gerrard, chanting: ‘1, 2, 3, 4, SodaStream Out the Door!’ SodaStream supplies products to make carbonated drinks. Its main production facility is on an illegal Israeli settlement, Ma’ale Adumim, in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. CAIA urges a boycott of Israeli products and services, and those of international companies involved in Israel’s human rights violations. The most common Israeli exports include fresh fruit and vegetables (such as Jaffa citrus fruits and Israeli Medjoul Dates), Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream drinks machines, Golan Heights Wineries and other Israeli wines.

On July 26 an even larger gathering was held in connection with the annual Al Quds (Jerusalem Day) Muslim celebration. Official spokespersons claimed, at the concluding rally held across from the U.S. Consulate on University Ave., that it was the largest pro-Palestine, anti-Zionist gathering in North America that day, with over 25,000 participating.

Socialist Action participated with a banner, a contingent, and by setting up its display table at both ends of the protest. SA members sold $302 in literature, press and buttons. Twenty-five people signed up for more information.

Despite the huge crowd, many of whom came by bus from Mississauga, north-west of the city, there was a scarcity of union banners/flags. However, people carried a wide variety of placards, both professionally produced and home-made. The most common ones stated ‘Freedom for Palestine’, ‘Boycott Apartheid Israel’ and ‘No War on Gaza’. A huge hand-made sign read ‘Guatemala Supports Palestine’, and others stated ‘Stop Killing Children’ and ‘Zionism=Racism’.

Organizers at the concluding rally released over a hundred balloons, each representing a child killed by the Israeli military.

Rival gatherings contended for attention at Queen’s Park on July 26. A Toronto Star article reported that “critics of Israel’s military assaults, and defenders” of the Zionist state, stood opposed to each other, which was true.

But the article failed to mention that there were well over 20,000 in the pro-Palestinian rally, and its march down University Avenue, while less than 800 participated in the Zionist assembly. A posted video recording, taken from high above the crowds by a drone helicopter-mounted camera, as well as thousands of ground-level photographs, prove the point.

The ratio was 20:1 in favor of the supporters of the beleaguered residents of Gaza.

Was omission of the facts concerning the huge disproportion between the two sides that gathered in front of the Ontario Legislature, merely an oversight? Or was it a reflection of editorial policy?

***

Running Orders

by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
Run.
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of
war time courtesy.
It doesn’t matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and there are more human lives
packed one against the other
more than any other place on earth
Just run.
We aren’t trying to kill you.
It doesn’t matter that
you can’t call us back to tell us
the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
that there’s no one here
except you and your children
who were cheering for Argentina
sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
counting candles left in case the power goes out.
It doesn’t matter that you have children.
You live in the wrong place
and now is your chance to run
to nowhere.
It doesn’t matter
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.
Run.

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Israel out of Gaza! Justice for Palestine!

Aug. 2014 Gaza

By MICHAEL SCHREIBER

As we go to press on July 17, Israel has undertaken a ground invasion of the beleaguered Palestinian enclave of Gaza. Naval gunships, drones, helicopters, and F-16 fighters have kept up a constant bombardment of the territory to accompany the assault by infantry and tanks. Israel has called up at least 50,000 soldiers for the operation.

Three days earlier, Israel had dropped thousands of leaflets on some parts of Gaza, warning residents to evacuate since an attack was imminent. But few people left the area; they had nowhere to go.

Airstrikes at the start of the land invasion killed at least four Palestinian children playing on a rooftop, while several nurses were injured when Israeli tanks barraged the al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital. The hospital had also been hit by airstrikes a week earlier, destroying the holding tanks that supply water to patients.

Since July 8, when Israel began air and missile strikes on Gaza, numerous incidents have taken place that demonstrate the Zionist government’s wanton disregard for civilian casualties. On July 9, for example, a popular seaside café was bombed, killing nine Palestinian men who were watching a World Cup match on television. Nearby on the same day, eight members of a family were killed when their house was bombed. Also on July 9, a Palestinian journalist, Hamed Shebab, was mangled and burned to death when an Israeli missile struck his vehicle—clearly marked “TV” in large red letters.

Israeli officials have admitted targeting mosques, schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings with air strikes. Although such atrocities can never be morally justified, Israel has arrogantly claimed that it has a “right” to destroy civilian facilities when it believes that members of Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, are hiding there.

Especially egregious has been Israel’s policy of employing collective punishment against families of people whom it suspects of having a political connection to Hamas or other Islamic groups. In this way, several families have seen their homes destroyed and many of their loved ones murdered. The Kaware family, for example, got a phone call from the Israelis warning that their house would be bombed. A number of neighbors stood on the roof of the building with them, in a clear signal to Israeli airplanes that it was full of civilians. Nevertheless, the jets struck—killing eight people, including six children under 13 years old. Twenty-five others were injured.

Immediately prior to the Israeli land invasion, health officials in Gaza reported that over 1500 Palestinians had been injured in the conflict and at least 233 killed. A few days earlier, a Human Rights Watch report cited UN data showing that close to 80 percent of the deaths were civilians. In addition, said the report, about 7500 residents of Gaza had been displaced or rendered homeless because of Israel’s demolition of 1255 houses.

These statistics registering death and destruction will undoubtedly escalate as a consequence of the Israeli ground assault. Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories in the world; many civilians will be unable to escape the volleys from tanks, artillery, and aircraft—let alone the crossfire of close fighting in the streets.

The Israeli government cynically chose the very day that it invaded Gaza, July 17, to indict three Israeli settlers who had tortured and murdered a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The accused people (one adult and two minors) had acted in retaliation for the earlier kidnapping and murder of three young Israelis. The Israeli government blamed the earlier incident on Hamas—although no evidence of a culprit has yet come to light—and initiated a drive in which hundreds of alleged Hamas members were arrested.

Simultaneously, Israeli authorities and the press whipped up a campaign of mass hysteria against Palestinians, a witch-hunting atmosphere that was geared for incidents like the murder of young Abu Khdeir to take place. Protests by Palestinians were attacked by Israeli police, which in turn helped provoke rocket attacks by Hamas and led to the massive Israeli bombing campaign and ground invasion.

It must be remembered, of course, that although the kidnappings and deaths of the youths provided a spark for the current conflict, Israel has systematically repressed the Palestinian people for generations, jailing or killing anyone who resists. Palestinians—those who are not refugees living in other countries—have been relegated to apartheid conditions, while Israel seizes more and more Palestinian land for its settlements.

In particular, Israel has reduced Gaza into a poverty-stricken prison house, in which it has carried out bombings and assassinations with impunity. After Hamas came to power in Gaza, the Zionist regime tightened its economic blockade of the territory, which it had first imposed following the capture of an Israeli soldier. The Israelis hoped that the descent into utter poverty and degradation would force Gazans to reject Hamas in favor of a regime that might be more apt to accept onerous concessions. More recently, the accession to power of the military-backed al-Sisi regime in Egypt, which is hostile to Hamas, has meant that even the small lifeline of smuggling through tunnels straddling the Egyptian border has been blocked.

Israel has undertaken the current war against Gaza with the expectation that it will, as always, be backed to the hilt by the United States—which gives $3.15 billion a year to prop up the Zionist state. While Obama has affirmed that he is “heartbroken by the violence,” he also piously declared, “Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks.” The fact that Israel has been the prime aggressor in the region, and that its sham claims of “defense” have resulted in untold death and suffering for civilian populations in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, obviously does not bother Obama sufficiently for him to cease support of Israel’s military—let alone to back the cause of self-determination for the Palestinian people.

People around the world who care about justice for oppressed peoples and the continuing plight of the Palestinians should join the growing campaign for BDS—boycott, divestment, and sanctions on Israel. A mass BDS campaign can be instrumental in forcing the Israeli government to desist from its murderous policies.

At the same time, it is essential that antiwar and social justice forces pour into the streets to protest Israeli aggression and U.S. support for the Zionist regime. The United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) is calling for mass street protests throughout the United States. Even before the land invasion of Gaza, Israel’s bombing attacks sparked outrage around the world. Protests took place in many U.S. cities—including 1500 people who rallied in San Francisco and 1000 in Chicago.

We must demand an end to the slaughter! Israel: Withdraw all troops from Gaza! Stop the bombing! End the blockade of Gaza! No U.S. aid to apartheid Israel! Free Palestine!

Harper’s Hypocrisy on Ukraine

by Evan Engering

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. But in the dark days of late capitalism we have learned one more thing. From the tall tales about murdered “incubator babies” and alleged “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, we know that even before a war is declared, the truth comes under withering assault.As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sends fighter jets and troops to NATO bases in Poland, this becomes evident. After over 80% of the people in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, western media and politicians went on a propaganda rampage, posing any argument they could imagine to de-legitimize the referendum. While Putin’s actions were heavy-handed, Russia was not alone in recognizing the validity of the vote. Many countries in the global South did. But the Western media played its usual role in trumpeting the claims that the election was held at “gunpoint”, ignoring the fact that Russian soldiers were already legally stationed in the region, by treaty, as they had been for years.

The most brazen display of Western hypocrisy came courtesy of political leaders after the vote in Crimea. Prime Minister Harper flew to Ukraine in March for the purpose of expressing support for the new Ukrainian government and to shake his fist at Russia. Even after flying there and back, Canadian politicians and media were silent on the ultra-nationalist character of the new regime in Kiyiv.

Taking advantage of folks with a short memory, Harper did a double about-face. Late last year he visited Israel. Even writers at the right wing Sun newspapers and the National Post expressed their loathing to hear the tired old argument that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Of course, the ongoing illegal and expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank were not mentioned. Fast forward to Harper’s recent visit to Ukraine. Suddenly his viewpoint is reversed: annexation of another country or region is instantly outrageous, whereas anti-Semitism (this time not from the dark crevices, but from the junior partner in the ruling coalition government in Kijiv) is ignored. If Harper were a man of democratic principles, such cognitive dissonance would make him dizzy!

The Ukrainian Jewish community was shamelessly used by US Secretary of State John Kerry. A distributed leaflet, purportedly from the “pro-Russian” group, the Donetsk People’s Republic, ordered all Jews in the area to surrender their money and register themselves. But the document was a fraud. Despite Kerry’s fast and furious condemnation of the document, nobody claimed authorship for this supposedly public edict.

Again, Kerry has no known history of speaking out against the actual proven racism of Svoboda or any other pro-Maidan fascists. He does, however, have a history of speaking out against a foreign adventure that was started and waged under a US president from the Democratic Party. Kerry served in the Vietnam war under US President Lyndon B Johnson and, upon his return to the US, joined the anti-war movement as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Now that he is in a position of influence and power, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, he has metamorphosed from anti-war activist to imperialist war hawk.Fortunately for Harper and Kerry, they can maintain these positions and contradict them freely, for it is clear as day that their actions are not motivated by principle or respect for international law at all, but by crude geo-political strivings for power and profit abroad. Unfortunately for Canada, the media’s rabid focus on Putin’s wrongdoings have blown the situation out of proportion. While condemnation of his oligarchical regime is justified, it is no reason to take our own government’s sabre-rattling rhetoric at face value.

Canadians who are outraged Russia’s actions, but were not so opposed to Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, or who don’t mind Ottawa’s role in NATO, should be mindful of the narrative they are being sold by politicians and media. Canada just happens to be on one side of the geo-political divide. Russia is on the other. Considering that this whole situation started with protests against the refusal of Yanukovich to accept a deal with the EU, and that the US (which is no objective party to any conflict in the world) has picked a side, there is no reason to believe this is anything other then an inter-imperialist conflict. We should be calling for NATO to pull back; and for the US to stop funding the ultra-nationalist, rightist regime in Kiyiv. Neither intervention from Russia or Western forces is needed, but for Ukraine to exercise its sovereignty through democratic elections – and to allow its regions more autonomy, outright independence, or if they wish, to choose merger with Russia.

Harper claims Afghanistan ‘better off today’ What’s the truth?

by Evan Engering
The Stephen Harper-led Conservative federal government announced the end of Canada’s large armed presence in Afghanistan on March 12. Harper told returning Canadian troops that “you fought to loosen the grip of terror and repression.” He added, “the people of Afghanistan are better off today because of Canada’s investments.” 

The occasion, at least officially, marked the end of 12 years of Canadian military intervention in the country. The war aligned Canada closer to American foreign policy. It claimed the lives of 158 Canadians, along with those of many thousands of Afghani civilians. 

But how true are Harper’s claims?
Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In the wake of massive protests across Canada against joining the US war in Iraq in 2003, Chretien instead began ramping up the Afghanistan ‘mission’. Despite the Taliban’s initial willingness to co-operate in pursuing Al Quaeda, NATO forces occupied the country and waged the conflict themselves, only to have Taliban fighters retreat to mountainous regions to pursue a painfully protracted war.

Canada’s participation stirred domestic political unrest. A majority of Canadians opposed the intervention from the start, and through most of the 12 years of the debacle. In 2009, Prime Minister Harper prorogued Parliament for a second time, then to shield his government from mounting allegations of handing over prisoners to Afghan authorities for torture – a war crime in violation of the Third Geneva Convention. In 2006, New Democratic Party convention delegates, led by the Socialist Caucus, debated and passed a resolution calling for an end to Canada’s role in the war. Anti-war opposition was visible in the streets, where large demonstrations took place at least annually.

Canada’s many years of involvement in Bush’s jingoist ‘crusade’, indifferent to the lessons learned by Stalinists during the ten year Soviet Union occupation, failed to win over many Afghani hearts and minds. In fact, it only retarded Afghani political progress, and fuelled religious fanatics in their jihad against the West.

So what is the ‘success’ that Harper and the business media are touting? Decades of conflict driven by foreign powers have left Afghanistan one of the poorest countries on Earth. Over one third of the population is unemployed and living below the poverty line. Even with all the foreign aid, the country is ranked last, or in the bottom ten for every category in the Human Development Index. The only industry in which Afghanistan leads the world is the production of addictive drugs. The opium industry has accounted for over a third of the country’s GDP, with 10% of the population working in the poppy fields to generate almost all of Asia’s supply of heroine. No solution to the problem of poverty is here though, as most of the profits go to drug lords.

Perhaps the most tragic failure is insecurity – still a major problem, underscored by the March 20 attack on Kabul’s luxury Serena Hotel which left nine dead, including two Canadian aid workers.

The Taliban is hardly gone, and given the country’s stagnation and rampant corruption, Afghanistan is doomed to the same cruel fate of countries devastated by foreign intervention – until the menace of imperialism is ended. Foreign powers, whether Russian, Pakistani or Western, can drop bombs and kill people, but only democratic grassroots organizing by the Afghani people themselves can make their country self-governing and prosperous.
Fight Imperialism! Canada out of NATO!

Manning sentenced to 35 years

Sept.-2013-Manning-1-e1377148076318-582x297

By ANN MONTAGUE – Socialist Action USA

U.S. Army whistleblower Pfc. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, offered no explanation for her sentence. As military guards conducted Manning from the courtroom on Aug. 21, his supporters shouted out, “We will keep fighting for you!”

The response to the sentence was swift. Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, stated, “The only person prosecuted for the crimes and abuses uncovered in the WikiLeaks’ releases is the person who exposed them. That alone proves the injustice of even one more day in prison for Bradley Manning.”

Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said, “This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”

“It seems clear,” Wizner noted, “that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”

Three and a half years will be credited to Manning’s sentence for time served. This will include time for the period that the judge ruled he was mistreated at the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Va., before being moved to the prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Throughout his time at Quantico, he was designated a “maximum custody” detainee and locked up alone for at least 23 hours a day. He was forced to sleep naked for several nights and required to stand at attention naked in the morning. He will have to serve one-third of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Manning faced a possible 90-year sentence. The government had denied him a whistleblower defense and the right to describe intent or to show that his actions harmed no one. U.S. prosecutors asked for a sentence of 60 years while acknowledging Manning’s youth. But it was clear that the true motivation for the prosecution’s request for the extremely long sentence was to deter future leaks. Prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow stated, “There is value in deterrence.”

“Pfc. Manning was one of the brave Americans who was not willing to remain silent,” defense attorney David Coombs told the media. “Instead he decided to provide us with information that he believed would spark reform, would spark debate and he provided us with information that he believed might change the world.”

“Perhaps the biggest crime was that he cared about the loss of life that he was seeing and couldn’t ignore it, and was struggling with it.”

The forensic psychologist who testified in Manning’s defense, Capt. David Moulton, told the military court, “Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and future wars. … It was his opinion that if through crowd sourcing that enough analysis was done on these documents, that it would lead to greater good.”

Three days before Manning was sentenced, British authorities made their own effort to intimidate whistleblowers when they detained David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and confiscated his laptop. Greenwald has been writing articles based on leaked information from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Officials told Miranda that he was being held under Britain’s Terrorism Act, and threatened him with prison if he didn’t “cooperate.”

It was reported recently that the NSA has no idea what or how much information Edward Snowden has in his possession.  Clearly, the United States and Britain are terrified about what information might be revealed next concerning their war machines and surveillance networks.

Manning downloaded the leaked material to his computer when he was deployed as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010. What did he actually reveal? The most widely seen information was seen in the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed an Apache helicopter attack on a group of people walking in a Baghdad street in 2007. Two of the victims were employees of Reuters news agency. A member of the helicopter crew yelled “dead bastards!” at those they killed. They also blew up a van of civilians who had stopped to help the initial victims of the first round of gunfire.

The “Reykjavik-13 Cable” was the first leak to be published by WikiLeaks; it describes frank discussions of meetings between the U.S. embassy chief in Reykjavik and members of the Icelandic government. The scornful attitude of the U.S. representative towards their nation in the middle of its banking crisis so angered activists in Iceland that they edited the “Collateral Murder” video, which was soon released worldwide.

The “Iraq War Logs” were 75,000 Army documents that detailed U.S. nighttime raids with reports from U.S. troops on the ground. These reports have been used to track civilian casualties that officials previously had said were not available.

The “Afghanistan War Logs” were 75,000 pages of documents that The New York Times described as “a ground level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is more grim than the official portrayal.”

The “Guantanamo Files” included 700 detainee files and 250,000 State Department cables detailing CIA extraordinary renditions, in violation of international law, of people suspected of “terrorism.” Shane Kadidal, a lawyer for the Center For Constitutional Rights, believes the volume of the material is part of the importance of these leaks: “It is one thing to tell a few anecdotes based on a few items, but to be able to say across the board that most of the men that are there shouldn’t be there and are people that could be safely released, that is pretty staggering.”

The leaks also showed the hypocrisy of the U.S. collaboration with Arab dictators while proclaiming a commitment to democracy.

The Bradley Manning Support Network will continue to keep the spotlight on Manning. They have organized international support through education and activism about his case as well as raising $1.4 million for his defense. Even as the sentence was handed down, the network announced that they were teaming with Amnesty International to launch a petition asking President Obama for a pardon.

At the same time, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, is preparing to bring the case to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to address violations of due process rights. Manning was detained without trial for more than three years in violation of his Constitutional right to a speedy trial. He was only awarded four months off of his sentence for the psychological torture he suffered while in solitary confinement for more than nine months.

The U.S. Marine Corps was never held accountable for Manning’s treatment. Also, President Obama declared Manning guilty in April 2011, more than two years before the trial began. This constitutes unlawful command influence, in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Center For Constitutional Rights has made clear that all of the supporters of Bradley Manning must continue to struggle for his freedom and raise the demand that President Obama issue a pardon for Manning.

[Update: Aug. 23] The campaign to free Manning immediately showed that the push for a presidential pardon will be more aggressive than simply a legal maneuver and e-mail petitions. On Aug. 22 Ursula Rozem and Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre interrupted President Obama’s speech at Henninger High School in Syracuse by raising a sign saying, “Free Bradley Manning,” and shouting, “President Obama, you must free Private Manning. With all due respect sir, Private Manning exposed war crimes. Private Manning exposed torture. Private Manning aided the public, not the enemy. Private Manning is a hero.” The two women were then escorted off the premises. They then issued a longer statement about why they had interrupted the president and detailed his record of prosecuting whistleblowers.]

[Update: Aug. 23] This article was written immediately after the sentencing, on Aug. 21. The next day, Manning provided a statement to the press, “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”  In future articles, Socialist Action will respect Chelsea Manning’s wishes, and refer to her using female pronouns.