Thursday, September 27, 2007

Human Rights in Argentina: A year without Julio Lopez

by Marie Trigona

Human Rights groups in Argentina rallied September 18 to mark the one year disappearance of a key witness who helped convict a former police officer for life in 2006. Rights representatives have expressed immediate concerns over missing witness Julio Lopez; a new name that has been inscribed on the doleful roll call of Argentina's disappeared. From the final courtroom proceedings to the search for the disappeared witness, a look at the events of the past year.

“The Federal Criminal Court number 1 in
La Plata, orders the following sentence. The court sentences Miguel Osvaldo Etchecolatz to life in prison.” As judge Carlos Rozanski read the sentence, Etchecolatz kissed a crucifix. Several spectators threw red paint on him as he was escorted out of the courtroom. Human rights activists and relatives of the disappeared celebrated the verdict while embracing each other inside and outside the court room in La Plata,

Julio Lopez, went missing exactly a year ago, on the eve of the land mark conviction of Miguel Etchecolatz, the first military officer to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and genocide committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. Lopez was last seen walking near his home in
La Plata, about 40 miles from Buenos Aires.

Lopez's testimony of his detention as a political prisoner from 1976-1979 in clandestine detention centers was key in the conviction of Etchecolatz. Testifying before a court in
La Plata, Lopez described the prolonged bouts of torture under Etchecolatz's direct supervision. “That day they electrocuted me with the electric prod using a lower voltage. The electric prod had a battery, so I couldn't feel it as much. ‘Now you're going to feel it,’ he said to me. He gave an order to the others: ‘Hook the electric prod up directly to the street line,’ he said. Etchecolatz said this. Mr. Etchecolatz.”

Since Lopez's disappearance, little headway has been made in the investigation of his whereabouts. Much of the evidence recently released has been tracked to the federal pr
ison where Etchecolatz and another 100 military officers are imprisoned. Phone calls from the prison and note’s from Etchecolatz’s personal agenda lead to a clear trail that Lopez was under surveillance in the days leading up to his kidnapping.

At a press conference, Myriam Bergman, human rights lawyer handling the case of Lopez's disappearance, says she worries that much of the evidence has been filtered to protect the kidnappers. “A year has gone by since Julio was kidnapped and the disappearance of th
e comrade and there's still no one under investigation in the case. Human rights organizations have given the only serious tip offs being investigated. The investigators have waited months to investigate them. They allowed the suspects under investigation to know they were being investigated.”

Human rights groups are pointing to Etchecolatz and other military officers currently jailed in the V.I.P. Marcos Paz Federal prison while facing trial for human rights crimes. For Margarita Cruz, a torture survivor from the northern province of Tucuman, Julio Lopez's disappearance is a sign of the long standing impunity for military personnel who killed an estimated 30,000 people during the military junta's reign of terror. “A year since Julio was disappeared, it's certain that impunity in the country is alive and well. All of the work of human rights organizations on each of the anniversaries, each month since Julio's disappearance, is going to bring change. That's what we hope, we are calling for a massive march, to demand real answers to the whereabouts of Julio Lopez.”

In total, 256 former military personnel and members of the military government have been accused of human rights crimes and are now awaiting trial. But only three trials have been held since Argentina's Supreme Court struck down amnesty laws in 2005 protecting military personnel who served during the seven-year dictatorship. Human rights groups in Argentina report that the trials to convict former members of the military dictatorship for abuses have advanced at a snails pace, if advancing at all. Victims blame an inefficient court system filled with structural roadblocks and uncooperative judges.

To listen to this radio story visit, For videos on human rights in Argentina visit, Marie Trigona

Renegade Eye Addendum: Mr. James Reiss wrote this very thoughtful review of a radio story produced for Free Speech Radio News on the one year anniversary of the disappearance of Julio Lopez.

Last week marked an important first anniversary. The Argentine human rights activist, Julio Lopez, disappeared on September 18, 2006, the very day that the Director of Investigations of the Buenos Aires Police, Miguel Etchecolatz, was imprisoned for human rights abuses, including the torture of Lopez.

Free Speech Radio News reporter Marie Trigona has been tireless in exposing military and police brutality in Argentina, reminiscent of much worse abuses during the "dirty war" military government years from 1976 to 1983. Under the current civilian Nestor Kirchner administration, 256 "bad cops," former military personnel and members of the military government, have been accused. So far, however, only 3 have been tried.

The situation in Buenos Aires may not be as bad as in, say, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), where an ultra-repressive military junta is now facing a standoff of thousands of protesting Buddhist monks. But Trigona's lone voice in the wilderness is a wakeup call for American listeners, distracted by huge headlines, who yawn at news stories relegated to the back pages of "The New York Times." Right now the kidnapped septuagenarian construction worker Julio Lopez may possibly be the equivalent of Myanmar's Nobel-Prize winning dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi -- if Lopez is alive. My guess is that he isn't. As to his whereabouts, the most we know is nada. The plot stagnates.

Back when he was on the scene, in his court testimony, Lopez's description of undergoing prolonged bouts of torture with electric prods in La Plata during 1976 makes for graphic radio. Otherwise, Trigona's matter-of-fact "Letter from Buenos Aires" passionately underscores her view that -- forget about Hamlet's Denmark -- something is rotten in Argentina.

(Reviewer) james reiss
Oxford, OH
September 24, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

USA: The Anti-War Movement, the Troops & Some Lessons from Vietnam

By Mark Vorpahl
Thursday, 20 September 2007

Life inside the U.S. military reflects the conflicting class interests in this country, often in its deadliest forms. While technically a “volunteer” military, the great bulk of its recruits come from working class families and are largely joining because of a lack of job and educational opportunities. For them, signing up is a chance to acquire the skills they need to get a decent job once they become civilians, though, in reality, military service has little to offer in this regard. On the other hand, the majority of the military’s professional officers and policy makers come from more privileged layers of the population. For them, the military is a career where they can take their “rightful place” lording over the grunts and climb the ladder as they would if they were working for a corporation or financial institution. Because of this divide in opportunity and expectations, which is rooted in class inequality, the great majority of soldiers are subject to the arrogance, lies, and disregard for their personal well-being at the hands of their superiors, as are workers are to the capitalists in civilian life.

Potential working class military recruits are promised money for college, a brighter job future, and sometimes even that they will be able to avoid combat, though few soldiers ever see any of these promises fulfilled. Once in the war zone, they are frequently given missions that unnecessarily put their lives in danger in order that some officer can get a promotion for having had his unit draw out and engage the “enemy”. Rank and file soldiers are exposed to depleted uranium, the anti-malarial drug Lariam, and infectious diseases, not to mention insufficient body and vehicle armor, much of which could be avoided if it wasn’t for the criminal disregard of the military’s higher ups. In Iraq, many troops have been deployed multiple times in tours of duty averaging eleven months each. 50 percent are on their second tour and 25 percent have toured three or more times. This is creating a tremendous strain on the soldiers’ families and their own mental health. Army studies have found that up to 30 percent of soldiers coming home from Iraq suffer from depression, anxiety, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Army’s suicide rate is the highest it has been in 23 years: 17.3 per 100,000. When the soldiers make it back home, they find that the VA is strained at the seams because of corruption and insufficient funding, and their attempts to get help with PTSD are frequently denied. For some, this lack of support leads to homelessness. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has so far had some 1,200 cases in which Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are dealing with homelessness, and this is likely only a fraction of their actual numbers.

While the Republican and Democratic politicians pontificate on the heroism of the troops, in practice they disregard their needs. The recent $100 billion bi-partisan vote to continue the war would have likely been enough to ensure that all returning veterans’ needs were met. Instead, the war continues and the troops are left hanging out to dry. The cost and effects of this criminal policy will grow exponentially as more soldiers return and their health requirements increase.

It is therefore in the interest of the majority of soldiers to oppose the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They have a key role to play in ending them. The anti-war movement must find effective ways of supporting the growing discontent in the armed forces by linking the soldiers’ material needs to the anti-war movement’s aim of bringing all the troops home. This includes not only supporting conscientious objectors (CO’s) and AWOL soldiers in their legal and living challenges, but, even more importantly, engaging with and helping rank and file soldiers actively oppose the wars. Pacifist appeals to individual soldiers’ consciousness alone will not effectively utilize the discontent in the military. These isolated incidents of resistance, while symptomatic and symbolic, cannot end the war. In fact, this is precisely what the military would want in order to weed out and isolate the “bad apples” from the rest of the soldiers. The anti-war movement must do all it can to encourage and support the mass education, organization, and action of active duty soldiers, in order to bring the war to a grinding halt.

The experience of the anti-Vietnam War movement is rich with examples of what can be done to build unity between the anti-war movement and the troops. The popular image of anti-Vietnam War protesters spitting on troops has more to do with right-wing demagogy and urban legend than the actual attitude of peace activists toward the soldiers. In reality, the efforts of many of these activists to build solidarity with the troops, including going into the military when drafted in order to do anti-war work, helped to create one of the most powerful social movements in U.S. history. While the military during Vietnam was made up of draftees and today there is a volunteer army (more accurately described as a “poverty draft” army) many of the same approaches and tactics can and are being used today.

The first and foremost important aspect of the anti-Vietnam War movement was that it was broad-based and built through mass actions. The massive demonstrations proved to be the most effective tool for displaying the strength of anti-war sentiment, bringing more people in as organizers, and encouraging more people to take a stand against the war – including the troops. Without this approach the soldiers in Vietnam who questioned the war would have been left isolated and powerless.

Anti-Vietnam War activists recognized the need to develop ways to encourage troops to resist the war. Initially this started with publicizing and defending COs, AWOL soldiers, and those who refused deployment. The case of Lieutenant Henry Howe Jr. and the Fort Hood Three were some well-known examples of this work at the time. But it was quickly recognized that these efforts by themselves would not be enough. The anti-war movement needed to reach the active duty troops.

Activists passed out leaflets to GIs at bus stops and outside of military bases, engaged them in conversations where ever they gathered, and helped to set up GI coffee houses where the troops and anti-war activists could discuss and make plans. They also publicized and defended the right of soldiers to organize and speak out against the war, as was the case with the Fort Jackson Eight. All this work planted the seeds for active duty soldiers’ opposition to take on a massive character as the war wore on and moral plummeted.

Soldiers began to play a more active and prominent role in the movement. Numerous marches were led by active -duty soldiers such as the October 12, 1968 “GIs and Vets March for Peace” in San Francisco. There were many teach-ins and conferences focused on defending soldiers’ freedom of speech. Opposition to the war among active duty soldiers was beginning to swell.

Hundreds of anti-war papers such as “Vietnam GI” and “Stars and Stripes for Peace” began to circulate within the military’s ranks, with a combined total circulation in the tens of thousands. This was all the more remarkable since the editorial boards of these papers were subject to harassment and frequently broken up by arbitrary transfers.

The linking of the anti-war movement and the “grunt” soldiers’ interests began to translate into action on the battlefield. Whereas the troops had previously been considered mindless and disposable killing machines, they now began to assert their collective power. The “Search and Destroy” missions that officers sent their units on in order to increase the body count and earn the officer a promotion, became known as “Search and Evade” missions. Mutinies or soldier strikes began to spread to a degree never before seen in U.S. history. The military officially recognized 10 major occurrences of such actions, with hundreds of smaller mutinies during the course of the war.

“Fragging”, or the killing of a commanding officer by his own troops, became common during Vietnam. This practice, or even the threat of a fragging, proved to be an effective way for the soldiers to assert their control over battle plans and defend themselves from gung ho officers. Eventually, the soldiers’ rebellion became so widespread that the top-down command practices of the military were often replaced with a form of collective bargaining called “working it out.” No longer could a commander expect his troops to blindly obey. He had to negotiate with them. Since most of the troops no longer saw the point of fighting and dying in Vietnam, the officer corps lost their ability to conduct the war.

This history demonstrates a number of important lessons relevant to today’s anti-war movement. It shows the effectiveness of broad-based mass mobilizations. From these organizing efforts, activists were able to come together and effectively pursue different areas of anti-war work such as outreach to the GIs. These demonstrations also helped to reinforce a mood of wide opposition to the war that gave confidence to the troops to speak out and organize. It also shows how the initially modest and awkward attempts to build solidarity between the civilian anti-war movement and the troops helped to lay the foundation for a massive, united movement against the war. As the war wore on, the conflicting interests of the grunts on one side, and their commanders, the policy makers, and the war-profiteers on the other, became intolerable.

Most importantly, the experience of the anti-Vietnam War movement shows how the collective action of the youth and working class, both in and out of uniform, was able to help bring the world’s largest imperialist power to its knees, when previously it appeared unstoppable. Unfortunately, the anti-Vietnam War movement did not develop into a catalyst for the socialist transformation of U.S. society. However, the struggle against the war showed that even in times when capitalism was expanding, it was possible to strike a debilitating blow against imperialism to the benefit of the international working class and the oppressed in general.

The Iraq War is taking place in a different historical period. The U.S. is by far the largest imperialist power, but its economic and political foundation are more unstable then was the case during the Vietnam War. Furthermore, it is now more clear to tens of millions of Americans that the Iraq War is being accompanied by a war on workers’ historic gains, living standards, and democratic rights here at home. The situation today is potentially far more combustible then it was even at the height of the Vietnam War.

To take full advantage of this we must first have a united anti-war movement building the largest demonstrations possible to end the war now. We must link up opposition to the war with defending active duty soldiers’ democratic rights, including advocating, when possible, that they have the right to elect and recall their own officers, the right to trade union representation, freedom of speech, etc. We need to link the troops’ needs with those of the entire working class by fighting for quality jobs and universal health care for all. The anti-war movement can highlight the role soldiers have to play in our demonstrations, teach-ins and conferences. The anti-war movement must approach the rank and file soldiers as workers in uniform since the working class as a whole has nothing to gain from imperialist war but more misery.

With such an approach, the anti-war movement can and will help to end the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But in the final analysis, the problem of imperialist war cannot be solved under capitalism. To win a peace that is more then just an interim between further wars, we must fight for socialism based on workers’ democracy.RENEGADE EYE

Monday, September 17, 2007

25th Memory of the Sabra - Shatila Massacres/Story (September 1982)


The Sabra and Shatila massacres will always be remembered as the greatest butchery of civilian life in the history of Lebanon, and the second would probably be Tel el Zaatar. Unlike Tel el Zaatar though, Sabra & Shatila camps lacked any militants, and the camps were similar to what the US diplomat Morris Draper compared the entrance of Elie Hobeika’s elite squad (faction of the Lebanese Forces) to the camp as bunch of Ku Klux Klan militants, with most advanced weapons, unleashed on African – Americans surrounded by troops forbidding them to escape the camps. I recommend in order to understand better the overall story to read these two articles (Regarding Bashir Gemayel's Elections - The Other Story, Investigating Bashir Gemayel (Part I): Bashir and the Israelis
The Background:

Ever since Cairo 1969, the Palestinian Refugee Camps were transformed in general as military base-points for the PLO, under the hand of Yasser Arafat. With the war breaking out, Palestinian Camps outside the West Beirut became pocket enclaves for the PLO against their opponents and their allies the Lebanese National Movement.

With the brutal Israeli siege of West Beirut butchering the Lebanese civilians, Phil. Habib succeeded to broker a deal, against all odds and Sharon’s obstacles, between the United States and the PLO: which was to evacuate them outside Lebanon, and the militants to be distributed in Jordan, Syria, and Tunisia (all three countries accepted with severe hesitance because no country in the right mind would welcome the heavily armed PLO). The only country that fully volunteered to accept the whole PLO faction was Iraq, but the PLO were quick to decline Saddam’s offer because they didn’t want to be in the Iraqi fronts fighting Iran. In return, Bashir Gemayel gave his word of honor that the families of the PLO and the civilians shall not be touched. Sharon also was not supposed to enter West Beirut because it will backfire on the US Foreign Policy and the US administration’s ties with the Arab nations, specially Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.

The Multi-Nationals who oversaw the evacuation of the PLO militants were supposed to remain for a month after the PLO were evacuated from West Beirut. The purpose of the evacuation was to block the Israelis any alibi to remain in Lebanon, which primarily was the eradication of the PLO through their own forces and the Lebanese Forces. The Multi-Nationals, composed from the US (taking the primary role of the evacuation) Marines, the French (being second politically), and the Italians. Other than the fact several encounters between the US marines and Israeli Defense Forces took place during the evacuation, the PLO were evacuated up to suspected capacity of 95%. Philip Habib returned to his retirement, after Sarkis presented him with the highest medal of honor existent in the Lebanese Government (whatever was functional of it then), and everything went from bad to worse.

Bashir Gemayel was expected to last six years and bring order to Lebanon, according to US calculations; however, what the US didn’t calculate that the “other Lebanon” would do the impossible to assassinate him, since in their eyes he invited the Israelis over for his private usage. When Bashir Gemayel was assassinated, all hell broke loose. The Multi-Nationals already withdrew hastily (first by the decision of the new Secretary of State Schultz, and hence triggered a domino effect with the Italians and French to withdraw hastily). By the end of the month after the massacre, Reagan announced the return of the Multi-National Forces back to Lebanon. Morris Draper became the head of the US Presidential Diplomatic Convoy to Lebanon.

With Bashir Gemayel dead, the Israelis entered West Beirut under the allegation of protecting the Muslims of West Beirut (strangely they fired at the residents of West Beirut Smart Bombs and prohibited weaponry, not to forget the 16 hour marathon of bombing) whereby only Lebanese civilians were slaughtered.

You will notice, my fellow readers, that again I will quote my favorite two books, Boykin’s “Cursed is the Peacemaker”, and Traboulsi’s “A History of Modern Lebanon”, for one reason only, these two bothered heavily to reconstruct history as it happened with references that are rarely mentioned elsewhere.

Draper was informed by Begin that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) will move to checkpoints on West Beirut “with the object of keeping things quiet and insuring that there were no incidents to mar the peace.”

On the US Versus Israeli Level

And I start my quoting:

“Three hours later, Draper arrived in Beirut for Bashir’s funeral and saw that ‘the city was in flames.’ Despite Begin’s assurances that the IDF was taking ‘strictly limited precautionary measures,’ Draper saw the IDF going at it hot and heavy with tank and artillery fire. The funeral could wait. He ordered his car turned around and headed off to the IDF headquarters outside Beirut “where I essentially could get only incomplete information and pap to the effect that ‘everything was fine’. Draper felt he’ been had. “Begin told me as a representative of the United States government that the Isrealis were not going to move into the heart of Beirut..” He told a straight out, 100 percent, baldfaced lie to the United States government, his great friend. I mean, a solemn undertaking by the prime minister of a friendly state? Unheard of!.”

“In a nasty meeting the next day, Thursday, September 16, raper and Sam Lewis confronted Sharon about his violation of the Habib agreement and the damage it had done to Habib’s, America’s, and Israel’s credibility. Sharon’s icey reply: “Circumstances changed, sir.’”

“It was all the PLO’s fault, Sharon argued. They had violated the agreement. They had left behind vast stores of weapons and 2,500 terrorists to use them. Those terrorists, Sharon said, were hiding in the Palestinian refugee camps of West Beirut, including Sabra and Shatila. Sharon now had the camps surrounded.” (Cursed is the Peace Maker, Roy Boykin, Applegate Press – 2002 – P. 267 – 268).

The US diplomats knew that Sharon was exaggerating the numbers left behind.

Hence, “Draper kept asking the Israelis for the source of their belief in thousands of stay-behind terrorists, but he never got a good answer. ‘At most there were a handful of guerrillas; left behind, he says. “There were a few armed men in the camps… BUT THEY WERE ALL MEN OF SIXTY OR SEVENTY YEARS OLD. THEY MAY HAVE HAD OLD SHOTGUNS, BUT THEY WERE OT A THREAT. Essentially, THE CAMPS WERE DISARMED.” (Ibid, P. 269)

With Bashir Gemayel dead, the US diplomats lost a major actor on the Lebanese arena, and there was no one to control that powerful militant party Phalange/Lebanese Forces. The US would say the following: “

The nearest American equivalent to sending the Phalange into the camps would be sending heavily armed Ku Klux Kansmen into an African-American neighborhood with a license to kill. Chosen to lead the operation was the head of Phalange Intelligence, Elie Hobeika. Dillion knew him from his services as Bashir’s personal bodyguard and describes him as a “Pathological killer….”


Begin insisted to the US diplomats that he was entering West Beirut afterwards to protect the Muslims of West Beirut from Phalange aggression, which the US diplomats compared his justification of a coyote entering in to protect the chicken. IDF General Eitan told Morris Draper: “The Phalange… are obsessed with the idea of revenge…. I’m telling you that some of their commanders visited me, and I could see in their eyes that it’s going to be a relentless slaughter.” (Ibid, P.270) That was on September 16, and as Eitan was speaking, the massacres began in Sabra – Shatila. The IDF knew the Phalange will out of revenge for the assassination of their leader Bashir Gemayel will seek revenge blindly, but they had to make sure they are directed towards the Palestinian civilians rather the Muslims.

The Sabra-Shatila massacres lasted days. The Israeli intelligence informed Sharon that there were no terrorists four hours after this massacre of 3000 civilians began.

“But what Sharon apparently did not anticipate was that his intelligence reports were wrong: The Phalangists found rather few people in the camps who fit any but the most all-inclusive definition of terrorist. INDEED, THE IDF INTELLIGENCE OFFICER ON THE SPOT MONITORING EVENTS REPORTED WITHIN HOURS OF THE PHALANGISTS’ ENTRY, “THERE ARE EVIDENTLY NO TERRORISTS IN THE CAMP.” So the Phalangists slaughtered pretty much whoever they did find: defenseless women, children, old men, even cats, dogs, and horses. Whereas actual PLO fighters had fought rabidly earlier in the invasion, the Phalangists encountered hardly any resistance in the camps.

From the Earliest Hours, the IDF ha clear indications that the Phalangists were killing civilians, lots of civilians. To stanch that hemorrhaging, they again approached the Lebanese Army Forces (not to be mistake with Lebanese Forces) go into the camps,” Sharon said to Draper on Friday, apparently neglecting to mention that the Phalange was already in the camps. ‘They can kill the terrorists. But if they don’t, we will.” The LAF again refused, saying they could not cross the IDF ring around the camps to do anything without looking like a tool of the IDF.


From the very words of the US ambassador Dillon: “The Israelis, who had promised to stay out of Beirut, immediately invaded to ‘restore order’. That was just a pretext; there was no disorder.” He adds that restoring order doesn’t mean killing civilians. Morris Draper’s exact words to Sharon on Saturday morning: “You must stop the acts of slaughter. They are horrifying. I have a representative in the camp counting the bodies. You should be ahamed. The situation is absolutely appalling. They’re killing children! You have the field completely under your control and are therefore responsible for that area.” (Ibid, 271)

The Israelis openly sponsored Elie Hobeika’s elite squad. “The IDF quite openly sponsored their business, keeping the camps surrounded and the Palestinians trapped inside, allowing in Phalange reinforcements, hosting Hobeika in their forward command post near the camps while he stayed in radio contact with his men inside, and providing maps and aerial photos of the camps, a bulldozer, and illumination flares through the night.” (Ibid, P.270)

Phases/Summary of the Sabra-Shatila Massacre:

Fawaz Traboulsi, using latest references, divides the massacre into three phases.

“The next morning, Israeli troops entered West Beirut, which had resisted them for over three months, ostensibly ‘in order to prevent a bloodbath’; in fact, they initiated one. On Wednesday the 15th and for a whole of Thursday the 16th and early Friday the 17th, hundreds of special security units of the Lebanese Forces, seconded by regular troops stationed at the airport, were mainly responsible for committing the massacre of more than a thousand Palestinians (and no less than a hundred Lebanese) in the twin camps of Sabra and Shatila, not to speak of hundreds who disappeared. They were let in by the Israeli troops who were encircling the camps and helped by the hundreds of flares launched by these same troops. Ariel Sharon had visited Bikfaya the day beore and informed the mourning Jumayils that Bashir ha been killed by Palestinians. George Schultz , then US Scretary of State, later recalled that on Friday 17 September 1982, Ariel Sharon informed Maurice Draper that he had asked the Lebanese army to enter the camp and ‘clean them out’. He added: ‘They can kill the terrorists. But if they don’t we will.’ The Lebanese army failed to do so. [MFL notes: Phase 1]: On Wednesday 15th, units of the elite Israeli army ‘reconnaissance’ force, the Sayeret Mat’kal, which had already carried out the assassination of the three PLO leaders in Beirut (the one Ehud Barak led in Verdun in the early 1970s), entered the camps with a mission to liquidate a selecte number of Palestinian cadres. [MFL notes: Phase 2 & 3] The next day, two units of killers were introduced into the camps, troops from Sa’d Haddad’s Army of South Lebanon, attached to the Israeli forces in Beirut, and the LF security units of Elie Hobeika known as the Apaches, led by Marun Mash’alani, Michel Zuwayn, and Georges Melko.” [Fawaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, Pluto Press – 2007, P. 218]

He adds: “Ariel Sharon was found ‘indirectly responsible’ for the massacre by the Israeli Kahan commission of inquiry and had to resign his post as minister of defense. The US administration’s responsibility was considerable. The American peace-keeping force that oversaw the evacuation of the PLO was also assigned the task of guaranteeing the safety of ‘law-abiding Palestinian non-combatants in Beirut, including the families of those who have departed’. However, the US administration withdrew the Marines detachment two weeks before the end of its 30 days mandate, forcing the French and the Italian forces to follow suit. George Schultz later confessed to the fact that the Marines of the MNF had been ‘hurriedly withdrawn.

On 20 September, President Reagan recalled the MNF back to Beirut. [Ibid, P.219]

Couple of years ago, Elie Hobeika was assassinated in a bomb explosion, one week before he was traveling to Belgium to testify against Ariel Sharon in the International Court Tribunal. His assassins are unknown,it can be the Israelis, it can be one of his previous allies, Palestinians, or anybody as a matter of fact.

May the innocent killed find peace, and the living find peace with themselves…


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Maryam Namazie: Borders Exist To Be Crossed

This is reprinted from Gallery.Net. It is a story concerning Renrgade Eye Blog team member Maryam Namazie. This article will be for long time readers of this blog, a walk down memory lane. Almost every inch of this article has been debated on this blog.

Borders Exist To Be Crossed
By Anthony McIntyre

As I write it is the 26th anniversary of the death of IRA hunger striker, Bobby Sands. His tenacity and endurance in the face of ponderous adversity has inspired many souls throughout the globe to make that daunting step into the cauldron of injustice, the heat of which is only ever tempered by the determination of the human psyche to douse it.

It is often tempting to feel that there is nothing that can be done for Bobby Sands other than to remember him. Perhaps cherish the last few seconds of snatched conversation ever shared with him in a freezing and filthy prison cell on the 18th of December 1980; a mere five months before he succumbed on the 65th day of his hunger strike in demand of recognition that he was political prisoner. Yet to leave it at that would be a disservice to one of the modern era’s most iconic symbols against repression. Bobby Sands was an internationalist. Recognising in other activists throughout the globe the sense of purpose that so animated him affords both further meaning and significance to his life and death.

On the 26th anniversary of his prolonged and torturous demise it is fitting to write of the Iranian exile Maryam Namazie whose activism and writing mirror in so many ways the activities of one unbreakable Irishman who in his own words stood trembling but undeterred on the precipice of finality.

What gives people the strength to cope with adversity is a question often posed when the majority would rather sit in silent anonymity and allow others to risk immolation as a consequence of carrying the torch that casts light into dark corners where injustice mushrooms. Maryam Namazie was never content to view the act of sitting as a strategic option. On many occasions she moved lock stock and barrel from one country to another in furtherance of the justice she thinks is lacking in a heartless world. Nor is she any stranger to torch carrying. Frequently she thrusts it into the vampire-like faces of the things of the night that promote religion as a power structure. Her most recent project, promoting the Third Camp as a radical and humane path between US militarism and Islamic fundamentalism, is only the latest in a long line of initiatives which have placed her at the coalface of confrontation armed only with a voice that so audibly speaks truth to power.

In the campaigning crucible for quite some time, she first came to my attention when she lent her name to a manifesto against totalitarianism. The manifesto was drafted in the wake of the racist religious violence directed against the Danes as a means to discourage Danish artists from exploring perceptions of Mohammed. Namazie was uncompromising in her defence of free speech. One of her co-signatories had been a colleague of the late Theo Van Gogh, hacked to death by a religious bigot as he cycled the streets of Amsterdam in November 2004.

I was appalled as many were by his murder. His ideas and beliefs are not relevant here. He was murdered for expressing them. I think his murder brought home to many the dangers of the political Islamic movement – since assassination has been one of their tools for many decades in the Middle East and also Europe, against, for example, Iranian dissidents.

Her determination in facing down such theocrats and their allies in the totalitarian left has been inspirational to those favouring a broader discussion of the matters that shape their daily lives. When she was profiled in the web journal The Blanket a year ago, her views and activism led to many people professing a better understanding of the issues that so concern her. Seemingly, there had been a pervasive belief that political Islam somehow could be reduced to an anti-imperialist impulse, the dominant strand of which was resistance. Maryam Namazie more than any of the 12 manifesto signatories profiled in The Blanket disabused its readers of that notion. It was uplifting to find amongst their number men who had stood shoulder to naked shoulder with Bobby Sands.

It is this fundamental mischaracterisation of political Islam based on Islam’s own depiction of itself as a resistance force or as a voice for the oppressed and voiceless which annoys her most. ‘I understand the concept that one person's terrorist can be another's freedom fighter but there is no freedom for those the Islamists claim to represent.’ Another bugbear is ‘the somewhat fashionable notion that criticizing Islam and the movement is a form of racism - the deceptive concept of Islamophobia.’

Important as her observation is, there is a strong feeling in particular amongst the left that Islamophobia is the racism of our time. Many Muslims claim to be victims of the phenomenon. Namazie remains to be persuaded:

It’s deceptive because opposition to or criticism of, or even 'phobias' of ideologies, religions, cultures or political movements are not racism. It is only in the bizarre world of the New World Order's cultural relativism that Islamophobia has been increasingly given legitimacy as a form of racism. This is an important point and one I have stressed on numerous occasions because I believe the use of the term 'Islamophobia' is in itself an attempt to silence a critique of Islam, political Islam and its oppression by deeming all those who do as racist.

For Namazie it seems Islamophilia, an ailment peculiar to sections of the European left, is the equal and opposite of Islamophobia but it goes unaddressed. Consequently, issues that are in need of public airing go unexplored.

At present, the life of Maryam Namazie strikes observers as pretty packed and hectic. She campaigns against stoning, the veiling of children, Sharia law, executions, sexual apartheid, and women's rights abusers. A prolific writer and social commentator she also serves as the Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran's International Relations Committee, host to TV International English and has worked in Amnesty International.

Since giving birth to her child a year and a half ago she senses that the volume of her political activity has lessened. Holding down a full time job while bringing up a child that is breast fed means long hours and sleepless nights. Quitting however is not a feature to be sketched into the landscape of Maryam Namazie. When asked by her father would she give up political activism with the birth of her son her response was to tell him that she had more incentive to engage politically because it has become even more important to have a better world for her child.

Although an unalloyed secularist she was brought up in a Muslim household by parents who were not strict on applying the teachings of Islam. As a result being Muslim never figured as part of her identity. This fortified her emotionally for the intellectual challenge involved in viewing Islam through a critical prism, a path she wandered onto as a result of the Islamic regime being established in Tehran where she had been born and raised as a child. With her family she left Iran in 1980 after the installation of the Islamic regime. Since then her odyssey against oppression has seen her domiciled in the US, Sudan, India and Britain where she currently resides. Her departure from Iran was initially considered only a temporary measure:

Since the schools had been shut down in order to Islamicise them, my mother brought me to India (the only place we could get into at the time because of someone my parents knew) to put me in a school and return but then she never did. My dad had to leave with my baby sister and joined us a few months later.

Life in India was not a matter of simply settling down. The family could not gain residency in the country and so after sitting her O-Levels it packed suitcases and moved to Bournemouth in the UK where Maryam began studying for her A levels. But acquiring residency in Britain proved no easier than it had been in India. The family was on the trek once more, crossing an ocean and state borders. The US became ‘the place that gave my family a home and a place to belong.’ A two year interregnum from the US was spent in Sudan where she worked assisting Ethiopian refugees. A newly installed Islamic government, however, threatened her for setting up a human rights body. She fled the country and returned to the US.

The major influences in her politically nomadic life have been ‘the Iranian revolution, my family, worker-communism and Mansoor Hekmat.’ Tragically, the life of Hekmat was to be cut short by cancer in 2004. He was part of the leadership of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran which was surviving in exile in London. This ultimately brought her to the British capital. She first heard of Hekmat in Turkey ten years before he died and was impressed by his humanity. In distilling the influences in her life down it is evident Hekmat was the most important:

The Iranian revolution gave me first hand experience of the power of people to overthrow a dictatorship. Unfortunately, the revolution was expropriated and crushed by the Islamic movement. A revolution gives you hope, reveals the power of human will, and politicizes you. The experience of flight and the seeking of another home as well as starting over for my family and many others we knew was another. So was the reliance on family and loved ones to get through difficult times.Finally, the most important influence on my life was that of worker-communism and Mansoor Hekmat.

When asked to detail the purpose of the Third Camp she is clearheaded in her presentation of the crucial issue, the intellectual cataract that fails to see that by focussing on US militarism alone, the problems of oppression and injustice are not addressed in a holistic fashion.

The third camp is an attempt to provide people with a principled and human way to mobilize against war without falling either for US militarism or Islamic terrorism. Right now, much of the mainstream 'stop the war' coalitions are focused on US militarism alone and are apologetic towards the political Islamic movement. But a vast majority of people across the world are very opposed to political Islam and Islamic terrorism too. On the other hand those who have seen the atrocities of the Islamists and Islamic terrorism sometimes support US militarism. The third camp is the voice of the majority of people who see both as guilty of crimes against humanity and want to defend and represent humanity instead.

It is difficult for many on the left to see an equivalent threat posed by political Islam and US militarism. Some have expressed abhorrence that people claiming to be progressive argue that the greatest threat faced by global civilisation today comes from Islamic totalitarianism. Namazie responds:

Islamic totalitarianism poses such a great threat because it is spearheading a right-wing restructuring of the ruling class in the Middle East which is in essence anti-Left and inhuman.

Like Professor Fred Halliday she is amazed and appalled at the support the ‘anti-imperialist nationalist left’ has given to this phenomenon. She firmly believes that Western governments have been instrumental in developing political Islam and fails utterly to comprehend why the anti-imperialist left would therefore want to support something that was deliberately fostered and nurtured by imperialism as a battering ram against the Soviets in Afghanistan and left movements in countries like Iran. There is now an added dimension:

Since September 11, its reach has moved beyond the Mid East to affect societies across the globe. It has helped pave the way for political religion's revival. Not to forget though that it is a creation of Western governments vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union and has a lot in common with the right wing US administration.

Despite leftist discourse having a long history of opposition to totalitarianism Namazie feels much of it is posturing. Totalitarianism represents a strong current within political Islam.

Sadly, much of the anti-imperialist nationalist left have fallen for this movement and they see the political Islamic movement as a 'third worldist' resistance force to US militarism; quite ridiculous actually when you think about it because the political Islamic movement is a right wing reactionary movement that has state power and or is vying for power in many places and which has a lot in common with the US right wing administration. It is a great threat because of what it means for human beings and their lives. Anywhere it rules or has power, it means nothing but human suffering in its most medieval forms (including stoning and amputations). But it is also a huge threat for universal human values in places where it is not necessarilya state power but is vying for access like in Europe. It is paving the way for an increase in religion and its influence in society at large.

Unlike others who distinguish between Islam and political Islam Namazie makes no such distinction. But does this not make more difficult the task of winning allies within the Islamic world?

I am wary of the term Islamic world as it associates millions of people as being represented by the political Islamic movement. But more to the point, the relation between Islam and political Islam is the same as between nationalism and fascism. One provides the feeding ground for the other. Islam is the banner of political Islam. You cannot fight one without also fighting the other. It's important to do so from a left and anti-racist perspective so that in fact those deemed or labelled Muslims or who consider themselves Muslims are supported and defended. As the right to religion is a private affair, criticizing Islam has nothing to do with attacking Muslims. The Islamic movement wants to portray it as such. It is our task to show that this is not the case.

It was the Islamic regimes in both Iran and Sudan that showed her ‘the true role of religion and in particular the inhumane capacity of Islam to violate the most basic of rights.’ But becoming an ‘ardent atheist and secularist’ was far from being an overnight event. Working for eighteen years with refugees and asylum seekers, whom she terms, the victims of Islam and political Islam, alienated her from any concept of Islam as a spiritual property. It became clear that religion was a material power structure. Complementing her growth as a human being unfettered by spiritual chains was the thinking and activism of Mansoor Hekmat. He provided a generation of activists in Iran with a framework for developing critical thought and a Marxist humanism. One of her co signatories to the manifesto against totalitarianism, Taslima Nasrin, once asked her how come so many Iranians are such ardent and passionate defenders of secularism and rights. ‘I would say Mansoor Hekmat had more to do with it than anything else.’

One of her most burning campaign issues concerned the brutal Islamic murder of 16 year old Atefeh Rajabi.

She was a 16 year old girl who was hung in a city square in Iran for 'crimesagainst chastity'. The wasted hopes and dreams and life of a sweet 16 girl.I remember being 16 and what I had to look forward to. I think the victimsof political Islam are so great - that sometimes people don't understand itsscale - otherwise how could they ever excuse it. I think Atefeh for me isthe human representation and personification of what it means for people's lives.

Unmitigating in her defence of women against Islam does she fail to see that there are other women in Britain with origins in the Muslim tradition, who claim to be radical yet who sit on the opposite end of the continuum from herself? The Respect activist Salma Yaqoob, for example, has defended the wearing of the veil. How does Namazie explain this?

I think Yaqoob does so in order to defend the political Islamic movement and justify it. With regards the veil, I couldn't say it better than Salman Rushdie – ‘the veil sucks’. It is a tool for suppression and repression. Defending it is like defending the chastity belt or foot binding. It's an abomination.

Another of her more provocative concepts is her characterisation of cultural relativism as ‘this era's fascism.’ She condemns it on the grounds that it excuses violations of rights and holds culture and religion above the human being.

The idea of difference has always been the fundamental principle of a racistagenda. The defeat of Nazism and its biological theory of difference largelydiscredited racial superiority. The racism behind it, however, found anothermore acceptable form of expression for this era. Instead of expression inracial terms, difference is now portrayed in cultural terms. Culturalrelativism is this era's fascism. Cultural relativists are defenders of thisera's holocausts.

For Maryam Namazie, Western societies are under threat from an insidious political Islam. She strongly advocates that the West defends the rights of all political refugees and that no amount of multicultural positioning should ever allow any group within society to claim special privilege for itself in which it is free to pursue its culture over the human rights of others.

Maryam Namazie is nothing if not someone who pushes and probes at the boundaries of life. In ways her writings resonate deeply of those of the anti-fascist Chilean writer Ariel Dorfmann who also explores the imposition of boundaries. Hers has been one of breaking the mould, leaping the barriers that are sometimes called borders, and which delineate and constrain our identities.

I really feel I have crossed so many of the boundaries - much of them constructed - that restrict people, whether it is that of religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, gender. I have come to understand that none of them are sacred; none of them matter; only human beings do.Maryam Namazie

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Iraq War Comes Home to Roost

Like the Katrina disaster two years ago, the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, MN is yet another reminder of the real effects of the capitalist policy of “guns before butter”. A key bridge in a city with some of the worst rush hour congestion in the country, it is just one of the 73,784 U.S. bridges found by the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) to be “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete” – including 64.8 percent of the bridges in Washington, DC. The thirteen people who lost their lives are just part of the tragedy.

The disrepair of the country’s roads and the lack of an efficient public transportation system results in an incalculable amount of lost time, stress, and exhaustion, as over ten million U.S. workers now spend an hour or more each way on their way to work. In the ten years beginning in 1995, the number of miles driven has increased by 23 percent, while the length of the roads has gone up by 2 percent. That’s a tremendous increase in traffic and wear, particularly on urban arterial roads, 27 percent of which are now classified as “poor”. Between 1960 and 1965 the U.S. built 144,000 miles of new highway. Between 2000 and 2005 it added just 59,000 miles, although the population has grown by over 60 percent since 1960. This graphically reflects the real priorities of the ruling class – to invest the minimum necessary to keep commerce moving and profits flowing.

During the post-WWII economic boom, the capitalist class could afford to make some concessions to the working class while still pursuing its aggressive foreign policy. Now, faced with a looming economic crisis and a choice between imperialist adventures abroad and fixing crumbling schools, social services, and infrastructure at home, the ruling class’ only solution is to increase the attacks on workers at home and around the world.

The ASCE report gave U.S. public infrastructure an overall grade of “D”, concluding that $1.6 trillion would be needed over a five-year period to address problems with roads, bridges and other systems. This seems an incredible amount of money, which we are constantly told is not there. And yet billions upon billions of dollars have been spent in Iraq, which has benefited no one but the big corporations and their cronies in government. It has certainly not benefited the 3,750 U.S. soldiers killed so far in the war, or the 1,809 Iraqi civilians killed in July alone. And just think how many bridges, schools, and hospitals could be built with the estimated $12 million being spent every hour on the occupation?

A safe and efficient transportation network is clearly in the public interest. Massive investment is needed to rebuild and modernize it, including the expansion of rail, light rail, bus, and other forms of mass public transportation, which will not only increase the system’s efficiency, but also reduce fuel costs and the impact on the environment. Further privatization of the system is not the answer; a “solution” some have advanced in the aftermath of the Minneapolis collapse. On the contrary, the entire system should be nationalized under democratic public control.

To ensure that public resources are put to efficient and fully accountable use, the government must end the practice of using private contractors, and instead launch a massive program of public works, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs with union wages, benefits and representation. It is clear that the current big business government will never do this. Nor will the big business government to follow. For this to happen, U.S. workers will need a party of their own, a party that puts the interests of the majority first. We cannot expect the representatives of another class to defend our interests.

For its part, the Bush administration is in a mess, with the rats jumping ship faster than ever. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and chief architect of Bush’s electoral campaigns and presidency, Karl Rove, have all left in recent weeks, the latter two under a cloud of scandal and controversy.
With the Iraq War rapidly draining the national treasury and the public’s patience, it’s no wonder they want to get out while they still can, most likely into lucrative careers in the private sector. A recent opinion poll showed that Americans are as concerned about corruption in government and the economy as they are about the war in Iraq. This is an indication of things to come, as opposition to the war begins to shift to domestic issues, as the war inevitably starts to wind down.

General Petraeus’ much-anticipated report will be more of the same: partially-reached benchmarks that herald “progress”; vague promises of at least a partial withdrawal of the troops at some point in the future; an impassioned appeal for “just a little more patience and time”; and the assertion that the light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. General Westmoreland dragged out the Vietnam War in much the same manner.
U.S. imperialism has already been strategically defeated in Iraq, it is now a question of what they can salvage. Although they will eventually be forced to pull out the bulk of the combat troops, they will resist and delay a total withdrawal as long as possible, as they are compelled to defend their interests in the region, chiefly the Saudi oil fields and to combat Iran’s growing influence.

Even more alarming for the ruling class is the danger to the economy presented by the meltdown in the housing and mortgage market. The stock market has swung wildly up and down over the last few weeks, as investors alternate between extreme panic and irrational euphoria. The Federal Reserve has been forced to lower interest rates, which will only exacerbate already rising inflation. Despite this effort to loosen credit, demand for homes fell 12.2 percent to a six-year low in July. Home foreclosures rose 9 percent in July from June, a 93 percent increase from a year ago, as once white-hot housing markets now suffer the greatest number of loan failures.

According to Martin Feldstein, president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The multiplier effect of home price declines and declines in consumer spending could push the economy into recession.” Ironically, even “free marketer” President Bush has promised a government bail out to prevent the total collapse of the sector and its spread to the rest of the economy.

This is the picture confronting U.S. workers as we enter the 2008 electoral campaign. None of the main candidates are speaking seriously about universal health care and education, repealing anti-labor laws, immediately ending the war or creating jobs through massive investment in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. Working people are being made to pay for the crimes and greed of the capitalist class. The end of even the illusion of an economic “boom” will mean an intensification of the class struggle. The only lasting solution is a fundamental transformation of society: socialism.
John Peterson

Friday, September 07, 2007

New Writer Added To This Blog

John Peterson will be posting stories occasionally on this blog.

John's grandfather fled Spain after the Spanish Civil War and moved to Mexico, where John was raised. He later moved to Fargo, North Dakota and went to college there. He later continued schooling in London, where he became politically active, after meeting Ted Grant, the famous Trotskyist. John founded the Workers Int'l League and is the national chairperson of the Hands Off Venezuela group in the US. He lives currently in the Twin Cities. Peterson is also a percussionist and future mixed martial arts fighter.Renegade Eye

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Blanket Boycott of Israel??

This article by an Israeli Trotskyist is dated, but still relevant.

By Yossi Schwartz in Israel
Thursday, 31 May 2007

Following the war in Lebanon where the Israeli army failed in spite of its barbaric actions, and the new more recent barbaric attacks on Gaza which are aimed at bringing down the Palestinian elected government, many honest people around the word who are aware of what is going on in the Occupied Territories, want to support the struggle against Israeli oppression.

This is the background to the growing movement to "boycott Israel". This Wednesday Britain's University and College Union (UCU) voted to promote a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, protesting Israel's policy on the Palestinians. The vote was preceded by a heated discussion in which Israel was repeatedly referred to as an apartheid state, engaging in crimes against humanity in the occupied territories. The motion was approved by a 158 to 99 vote, and called for freezing European funding for Israeli academic institutions, while condemning "Israeli academia's cooperation with the occupation.

The movement to boycott Israel is not limited to Britain. Last year the largest union in Canada the Ontario division of Canada's largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) voted to support the international campaign that is boycotting Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

Now we are informed that South Africa's largest trade union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions also seeks to boycott Israel. The president of the Congress of COSATU, Willy Madisha, announced the launching of the campaign last week in Johannesburg, calling on the government to boycott all Israeli goods and cease all diplomatic relations with Israel after its attacks on Palestinian leaders.

"The best way to have Israel comply with United Nations resolutions is to pressure it by a diplomatic boycott such as the one imposed on apartheid South Africa," Madisha said. COSATU belongs to a recently-formed coalition of organizations operating under the banner "End The Occupation". This runs contrary to South Africa's official stance, and to President Thabo Mbeki's decision to strengthen trade ties with Israel. Mbeki, who heads the ANC ruling party, even appeared as a guest at Israel's Independence Day celebrations in Durban last month.

The Campaign organizers intend to picket outside selected stores selling Israeli goods.

The supporters of the Israeli ruling class are very upset of course and are try to accuse the growing International movement in support of the boycott of being Anti-Semitic. Israel's ambassador to Britain, Zvi Hefetz, responded to the UCU's resolution by saying that the resolution was offensive to Britain's Jewish community. "Its slanted phrasing reeks of ignorance," he added. Adrian Fronda, a senior mathematics lecturer who had joined the union solely to vote against the boycott, was less diplomatic. "I came here to oppose the prevalent anti-Semitism we see all around us here," he said. Israeli Education Minister Yuli Tamir condemned the British union's decision, saying she would address the British education minister on the matter, and the chairman of the Committee of University Heads, Professor Moshe Kaveh, called on British scientists to continue conducting joint projects with Israeli scientists.

The supporters of the Israeli ruling class are the last ones who can complain about boycott. Last year the Israeli liberal journalist Gidon Levi, in his article titled "With a little help from the outside", pointing out to their cynicism replied to them:

"The laugh of fate: The state waging a broad international campaign for a boycott is simultaneously waging a parallel campaign, no less determined, against a boycott. A boycott that seriously harms the lives of millions of people is legitimate in its eyes because it is directed against those defined as its enemies, while a boycott that is liable to hurt its academic ivory tower is illegitimate in its eyes only because it is aimed against itself. This is a moral double standard. Why is the boycott campaign against the Palestinian Authority, including blocking essential economic aid and boycotting leaders elected in democratic and legal elections, a permissible measure in Israel's eyes and the boycott of its universities is forbidden?

"Israel cannot claim the boycott weapon is illegitimate. It makes extensive use of this weapon itself, and its victims are suffering under severe conditions of deprivation, from Rafah to Jenin. In the past, Israel called upon the world to boycott Yasser Arafat, and now it is calling for a boycott of the Hamas government - and via this government, all of the Palestinians in the territories. And Israel does not regard this as an ethical problem. Tens of thousands have not received their salaries for four months due to the boycott, but when there is a call to boycott Israeli universities, the boycott suddenly becomes an illegitimate weapon." (Gidon Levi, Haaretz, June 4, 2005)

The supporters of the oppression of the Palestinian are trying to hide the role of the Israeli academic institutions in helping the Israeli war machine and propaganda. Most academics and intellectuals in Israel have never condemned the Nakba - the massive dispossession and ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Zionists around 1948, transforming close to 800,000 Palestinians into refugees. Nor are they supporting the right of return of the refugees. Nor have they condemned Israeli boycotting of other countries like Cuba for instance. Israeli universities - all government controlled - have not only been complicit in justification of various aspects of the occupation, but have also directly participated in acts of robbery of the occupied Palestinians.

The Hebrew University has been engaged in expropriating lands and expelling their Palestinian owners in occupied East Jerusalem. Tel Aviv University (TAU) refuses to date to acknowledge the fact that it sits on top of an ethnically cleansed Palestinian village. Some of TAU's departments are also organically linked to the military and intelligence establishment.

Bar Ilan University not only operates a campus on the illegal colony of Ariel near Nablus, but has also awarded Ariel Sharon an honorary doctorate for his role in the March 2002 reoccupation of Palestinian cities, which witnessed atrocities in Jenin and Nablus as well as the destruction and indiscriminate killings in all the major Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the West bank. Ben Gurion University has supported in various ways the discrimination of the Bedouins in the Negev.

Haifa University not only employs one of the most racist academics in Israel, Professor Arnon Sofer, who relentlessly and influentially provides academic justification for ethnically cleansing Palestinians - including citizens of Israel but the University has itself sponsored a wide campaign attempting to cover up a Zionist massacre in the Palestinian village of Tantura, near Haifa, during the Nakba, and went through motions to fire, discredit or silence Professor Ilan Pappe and one of his students for daring to reveal the facts about this massacre.

The political question however is not about whether boycotting the Israeli ruling class and its academics servants or particular departments of the universities is justified on moral grounds - this is obvious. This however, is not the same as boycotting all the academic institutions that will hurt all the students and teachers.

The real question we should be discussing is what is the programme and perspective that will end the occupation and the repression. What will end the misery of the masses?

Those who advocate the boycott of Israel as their strategy refer to the boycott of the Apartheid regime in South Africa as their model. They claim that it was the international boycott of South Africa that brought down the Apartheid regime. That is totally false! What brought down the Apartheid regime was the mobilisation of the black masses of South Africa. In particular the organisation of the working class into massive trade unions, eventually leading to the formation of COSATU, combined with a wave of strike action and mass mobilisation is what forced the hated, white capitalist class to look for a way out of the impasse they were facing. That is what forced them to bring to an end the hated Apartheid laws and the regime that went with them. If this mass movement had not developed the boycott would not have brought an end to the Apartheid regime.

However, the fall of the Apartheid regime was not the end of the story! Anyone who is familiar with the history of South Africa knows that the revolutionary struggle of the black masses was eventually betrayed and instead of overthrowing the capitalist system that gave birth to the Apartheid regime, as was possible in 1994, the outcome of this heroic struggle of the workers and poor ended with a counter-revolution in democratic clothing. The reformist leadership of the ANC and the SACP saved the capitalist ruling class and their bourgeois state.

The gulf of inequality between the poor and the wealthy is as great or greater today than it was under white minority rule, although a slight redistribution has taken place, but only to the benefit of a thin layer of blacks brought into government and onto corporate boards. For the broad masses, conditions have grown increasingly desperate, with nearly one third of the population unemployed and a quarter infected with the HIV virus. While these conditions are justified as the "legacy of apartheid," they are also the legacy of a power transfer that kept capitalism intact, an outcome that was realized in part through the boycott campaign.

The boycott movement that many people around the world supported, but that was led by liberals and reformists with a wrong perspective, in the end played into the hands of the ruling class of South Africa. The same wrong perspective is being offered today.

The reason this movement is growing today 40 years after the 1967 war has nothing to do with the "newly" discovered evils of the Israeli occupation on the part of the likes of Jimmy Carter and imperialist politicians like him. It has to do with the failure of Israel as the major local power as a tool of imperialist control of the Middle East.

Following the UCU's resolution the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued the following statement. (PACBI, May 30, 2007) In spite of its length we reproduce it word for word.

"The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the historic decision by the University and College Union (UCU) Congress today to support motions that endorse the logic of academic boycott against Israel, in response to the complicity of the Israeli academy in perpetuating Israel's illegal military occupation and apartheid system.

"Academic boycott has been advocated in the past as an effective tool in resisting injustice. In the 1920s, Mahatma Gandhi called for boycotting British-run academic institutions, to increase Indian self-reliance and also to protest the role of those institutions in maintaining British colonial domination over India. In the 1950s, the African National Congress (ANC) called for a comprehensive boycott of the entire South African academy, as a means to further isolate the apartheid regime. To their credit, British academics were among the very first to adopt the latter boycott. Moral consistency makes it imperative to hold Israel to the same standards.

"Israel is now widely recognized as a state that actually practices apartheid, as evidenced in recent declarations by international figures from Jimmy Carter and UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, among many others. During the ongoing occupation of Palestinian land, Israel's policies have included house demolitions; Jews-only colonies and roads; uprooting hundreds of thousands of trees; indiscriminate killings of Palestinian civilians, particularly children; relentless theft of land and water resources; and denying millions of their freedom of movement by slicing up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans - some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks.

"Throughout forty years of Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Israeli academics have duly continued to serve in the occupation army, thereby participating in, or at least witnessing, crimes committed on a daily basis against the civilian population of Palestine. No Israeli academic institution, association, or union has ever publicly opposed Israel's occupation and colonization, its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens, or its obstinate denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties. Furthermore, the Israeli academy has been in direct or indirect collusion with the military-intelligence establishment, providing it with ‘academic' research services to sustain its oppression.

"This courageous and morally laudable decision by the UCU to apply effective pressure against Israel in the pursuit of justice and genuine peace is only the latest measure adopted by an international community that can no longer tolerate Israel's impunity in trashing human rights principles and international law. In the last few months alone, groups heeding - to various degrees - Palestinian calls for boycott and effective pressure against Israel have included the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ); Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; Congress Of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); and prominent British and international architects led by Architects for Peace and Justice in Palestine (APJP).

"Once again, the taboo has been shattered. It has now become more legitimate than ever to denounce Israel's oppressive policies and to hold the state and all its complicit institutions accountable for human rights abuses, war crimes, and the longest military occupation in modern history. The Israeli academy will no longer be able to enjoy international recognition, cooperation, and generous support while remaining an accessory to crimes committed against the Palestinians.

"Palestinians are now more confident than ever that international civil society is indeed capable of shouldering the moral responsibility of standing up to injustice and demanding freedom, self-determination, and unmitigated equality for all."
This is an utterly reformist perspective that seeks a solution to the Palestinian national question within the confines of the imperialist order and capitalism, the economic foundation of the imperialist order. This is the perspective of Mahatma Gandhi, who served British imperialism in India and whose perspective led to the partition of India while helping to block the mass movement in India from overthrowing the capitalist system. This is the perspective of the imperialist politicians, of the former president of American imperialism, Jimmy Carter, the perspective of the leadership of the ANC that now that they are in power have close ties with the Israeli ruling class.

It is not by mere chance that the resolution does not deal concretely with the question of how the refugees would return. Palestinian refugees who will never be allowed to return as long as Israel remains capitalist and the imperialist order continues. It ignores the fact that the only power that can overthrow the Israeli capitalist ruling class and offer a genuine solution to the refugee question among other questions is the working class struggling for a socialist transformation of society.

As Marxists we support trade unions in other countries that come out in defence of the right to self-determination of the Palestinians. However, we would ask one thing of our brothers and sisters around the world. They should word their protest resolutions and develop their activities in such a way as to differentiate between the rulers of Israel and the workers and the poor who also live here.

Many academics in Israel do indeed oppose the occupation. The average Israeli worker is not the one to be blamed for the reactionary ruling class and politicians who run Israel. It would be much better to formulate resolutions and actions clearly aimed against the Zionist ruling class and its interests, to organize a workers' boycott of Israeli military equipment that is sold to reactionary regimes around the world.

Israel is not one reactionary bloc, as many people on the left unfortunately believe. It is a class society. There are Jewish capitalists and Jewish workers. The Jewish bosses exploit the Jewish workers. There are class antagonisms. Yes, it is true that these are blurred by the national question. But is it not obvious that it is in the interests of the Israeli bourgeoisie to make the Jewish workers of Israel feel that they can only protect their interests through "national unity"? This means oppressing another people, the Palestinians.

It is the duty of genuine Marxists to work to break down this false unity. The same Israeli ruling class that oppresses the Palestinians is also cutting pensions for Jewish workers, increasing fees for Jewish students, sacking Jewish workers. So long as this situation is maintained, the workers in Israel will never really be free. It is in the interests of the Jewish workers to transform capitalist society, and their only real allies in this struggle are their Arab sisters and brothers, the workers in the Occupied Territories and beyond.

Unlike the whites in South Africa, Israel is a relatively new nation. It is a nation that oppresses another nation. Marx pointed out that a nation that oppresses another nation can never be free itself.

In spite of all this, however, sooner or later class contradictions will prevail in Israel. There is an ideological stranglehold at the moment, and the politics of the Labour Party right-wing bureaucracy is an important contributing factor in maintaining the present status quo. But the workers of Israel have no other choice. Poverty and unemployment are growing. There are constant attacks on their living standards. The objective situation will push the workers of Israel into struggle. If they want a better future they must struggle for a new society, namely socialism.

We do not believe that the struggle against the oppression of the Palestinian people will find a solution either in the creation of a Palestinian mini-state, or in the creation of a bourgeois state for all the people who live in this country. For almost 60 years, the national question has appeared to many to be the axis of the Middle East conflict. However, the bitter experience with the existing nationalist movements, all of which have proven politically bankrupt, everywhere, has shown - as Trotsky explained already in the "Permanent Revolution" - the organic incapacity of the national bourgeoisie to establish genuine independence from imperialism or lay the foundations for economic development capable of improving the life of the masses of the workers and oppressed. This is the task of the workers once the class takes power.

The idea behind indiscriminate boycott of all Israelis regardless of their social class is wrong. Israel is a capitalist state, which means it is founded on the exploitation of the working class. While characterizing these workers as "colonialists" may satisfy those venting their frustration and moral outrage, it does not provide the basis for a revolutionary perspective.

The conditions that presently exist in Israel are the product of a complex historical development. The lack of a socialist consciousness among the Israeli workers is the product of the betrayal of the international working class by Stalinism, Social Democracy and, of course, the bourgeois nationalist movements in the Arab world as well.

Today the Israeli army is killing innocent people in Gaza but the Qassams are falling not on the Israeli generals or the capitalists in Israel but on the working people of Sderot. This is not an accident but the result of the belief that all Israelis are one reactionary bloc.

Those who advocate boycott of indiscriminate boycotting of all Israelis as a strategy should be asked: why should the boycott be limited only to Israeli academics for instance? Why should it not include US and British academics, given that Washington and London have long supplied the money, and bombs to Israel to be used to kill Palestinians, and that both governments are responsible for crimes even worse than those carried out by Israel?

The reason the left reformists advocate the strategy of indiscriminate boycotting of all Israelis regarding of class, is to be found in the lack of authority of the ideas of Marxism among the new generation. The legacy of decades of Stalinism has been to undermine the influence and prestige of genuine Marxism.

What we are witnessing at this stage in the West is the strong influence of petty bourgeois ideas, which unfortunately have even penetrated the workers' movement, especially its upper layers. The middle class intellectuals who are "leading " the masses have introduced all kinds of alien ideas and prejudices into the Labour movement. The defenders of these ideas imagine that they represent "new" ways of thinking that have overcome the "old" and "irrelevant " ideas of Marxism. In reality they are simply repeating the ideas of the "True Socialists" whom Marx and Engels already answered over 150 years ago in the Communist Manifesto.

It is an elementary duty of the Marxists to initiate, support and encourage each and every protest against imperialism, especially to support the most militant forms of mass protest. But our fundamental aim is to involve the masses at every stage in every country including in Israel.

For this reason we call for a trade union based, workers' boycott of all the shipment and transporting of all military hardware and weaponry from and to Israel. The ports, trains and trucks must not be allowed to be used for the war effort of the Israel ruling class. The dockworkers', the railway workers', the truck drivers' unions must be called upon in every country to use such a boycott systematically. This however is very different than boycotting all the Israeli academics, and very different from boycotting all Israelis regardless of class.RENEGADE EYE