State Crime and Resistance in the South Pacific: Uncovering a Denied History

September 1, 2014

Kristian Lasslett gives a detailed overview of some of the issues discussed in his new book, State Crime on the Margins of Empire, recently published by Pluto.

Lasslett SCDuring a fiery Senate Estimates hearing in Australia earlier this year, a senior official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was asked by Senator Lee Rhiannon if she was aware of significant evidence on Australian state criminality published in the British Journal of Criminology.

The journal article cited by Rhiannon recounts Australia’s role in the perpetration of war crimes in neighbouring Papua New Guinea (PNG) during the bloody Bougainville conflict (1988-1997) – a war triggered by a large copper mine owned by Anglo-Australian giant, Rio Tinto.

George Brandis, Australian Attorney-General, interjected launching a broadside at Senator Rhiannon for even posing the question. This he claimed was a ‘scandalous allegation’. Brandis continued by demanding to know if the source was credible.

The journal article at the centre of this particularly hostile exchange, was the initial intervention, of which State Crime on the Margins of Empire is the final expression. To echo the words of the Attorney-General, the allegations are indeed ‘scandalous’ and, what is more, they are highly credible too.

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Making Our Own History

August 26, 2014

In an exclusive piece for Pluto, Laurence Cox and Alf Nilsen discuss the relevance and central message of their new book – We Make Our Own History.

Cox WMOOHApril 2014: In Dongguan in the Pearl River delta, tens of thousands of Chinese workers walk out of factories owned by a Taiwanese company that produces shoes for global brand leaders like Nike and Reebok in protest over the corrupt handling of their pensions. Following in the wake of the strikes at a Honda-owned factory in Foshan – also in the Pearl River delta – in 2010, the April walkouts in Dongguan are expressive of a new wave of labour militancy in China, which increasingly targets the transnational corporations that have been so central to the export-driven growth strategy of the Chinese authorities, and which have been successful in winning wage gains for the country’s working classes.

May 2014: In Spain’s elections for the European Parliament, a new political party – Podemos – wins 5 seats and 7.9 per cent of the vote (approximately 1.2 million votes). The unexpected levels of support for the party are seen as a continued expression of the widespread anger against unemployment and austerity policies that was initially voiced by the Indignados. “We want to build a political majority”, argued the party leader Pablo Iglesias as he described the politics of Podemos, ”that reflects the social majority of Spain.” In aspiring to do this, Podemos is developing and deepening the project of mass-based, participatory democracy that started to take shape in public squares around the country during the 15-M protests of 2011 and 2012.

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From Captive Revolution to Grand Gaza Prison

August 21, 2014

By Nahla Abdo

 

In her new book Captive Revolution, Nahla Abdo talks to Palestinian women imprisoned within the Israeli prison system and analyses the apparent gendered forms of oppression and resistance in such extreme conditions. For this article in time for the book’s publication, she discusses the concept of the entire Gaza Strip as a prison colony, and reveals the attitude of the Palestinian people who resist within it.

Captive Revolution‘Today in the Gaza Strip, we are witnessing a new chapter in the story of Israel’s ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. On the twenty-ninth day of Israel’s bombardment of the Strip, more than ten thousand women, children and men were killed and injured. In a population of about 1.8 million people, half a million have been displaced, most of these women and children. All these crimes against the Palestinian’s human rights were committed while the rest of the world (including most Arab governments) watched the massacres silently and in complicity with Israeli state terrorism. On the thirtieth day, reporters were able to visit areas previously kept out of reach from their own inhabitants and rescue teams. One announced: “I was there, and it was very difficult to watch the catastrophe which befell the people in areas such as Khuzaa’a, Beit Hanoon, Jabalia and Rafah to mention just a few. Several women interviewed declared the situation as “Another Nakba!” However, the situation is even worse than that. In addition to the 1948 Nakba which resulted in the permanently high ratio of refugees in Gaza (around 80 percent), we have seen three Israeli wars in the last six years. These wars destroyed the Strip’s infrastructure, its social, cultural and economic institutions and turned it into a place where even human survival was questionable. The current attack is, more and more, being seen as the most vicious.

Most shockingly, perhaps, today, not unlike yesterday and the day before; in 1948, 1967, 2008 and 2012, Palestinian women and children appear to have been targeted by the Israeli state. They continue to be used by Israel as a colonial tool aimed at forcing the population into submission.

In Captive Revolution special emphasis is placed on the gendered methods of torture that Israel is using against Palestinian women political detainees. By its colonial logic, Israel believes that in frightening the women, through sexual threats, torture, displacement and murder, it can control the rest of the population, silence them into submission and kill their spirit of resistance.

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Before the Next Gaza War – John Strawson

August 18, 2014

In this specially commissioned article for the Pluto Press blog, author John Strawson puts the Gaza conflict in a broader, regional context. His book, Partitioning Palestine: Legal Fundamentalism in the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict (Pluto, 2010) is available to buy from the Pluto website, here.

John Strawson, 18/08/14

Partitioning Palestine-.inddThe Middle East is facing its most serious crisis since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. The Gaza war has to be seen not only another grizzly episode in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but as part of broader regional civil war. This is quite definitely not a war between Shi’a and Sunni as many commentators lazily suggest. It is rather the latest act in a struggle between nationalism and Islamism. The creation of the so-called Caliphate by the Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq is the clearest expression of this process. However in 2013 we saw mass demonstration in Egypt, which brought down the Islamist government of President Morsi. The same struggles are evident in Tunisia, Libya and most tragically in Syria. The Hamas-Israel confrontation in Gaza is in many ways a proxy war between Hamas and Fatah. It is in the contours of the new Middle East that we need track the route to preventing another Gaza war.

In May this year Hamas agreed to form a unity government with Fatah in attempt to overcome the split between the West Bank and Gaza initiated by Hamas in 2007. In many ways Hamas was forced by weakness into agreeing to the creation of government in which it would not have any ministers and which was committed to negotiations with Israel. This was seen by some Hamas members as a capitulation to President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. However the Hamas political leadership was in a difficult position; it had lost its international allies, it was nearly bankrupt and it was loosing popular support in Gaza. The unity government offered the possibility that civil servants might get paid and Hamas might be able to gain some influence over Fatah policy. Its military wing, the Izzadin Al Qassam Brigades remained quite separate from the agreement. Read the rest of this entry »


Need for Tough Love: Defending the Gaza Assault Hurts Israeli, American Interests

August 14, 2014

The following article by Gregory Harms, co-author of The Palestine-Israel Conflict, first appeared on Jan Cole’s ‘Informed Comment’, on Wednesday 13th August. We have reproduced it below courtesy of the author. To go to Juan Cole’s original article on Informed Comment, click here.

Almost two-thirds of Americans feel Israel’s operations in Gaza were justified. When given sufficient information, and when thinking outside ideological parameters, Americans commonly draw reasonable conclusions and are in agreement by a two-thirds majority. In the case of the Gaza-Israel conflict, a knowledge deficit and ideology are to explain why the population misjudged what is morally unambiguous.

Shared values

HarmsAfter World War II, novelist George Orwell stated in an essay, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” His point was that defending any of the war’s savagery required a vocabulary that softened the realities; one could not support a brutal policy or campaign and, at the same time, use precise language. Exact wording, which exposes the brutality, doesn’t tell the right story. The feeling of moral righteousness must remain intact.

Many ethical situations are clear and, as a result, we draw the appropriate moral conclusions. Be it child abuse, or murder, or rape, there is general agreement on these issues and therefore societies across the globe do not accept such acts within their value systems. There might be disagreements in deciding when to apply these labels; but one would be hard pressed to find a community that openly accepts, for example, mistreating infants or random killing. Human societies depend on such values and would disappear if they didn’t.

Shown one man, in the abstract, wantonly murdering another, most are likely to judge the act negatively. We see the situation for what it is and assess it accordingly. The reason is simple enough: we have all the facts (which are few: one guy murdering another) and we are thinking clearly (uninvested, clinical, impartial). Oftentimes, however, within the political realm a fog settles in. While we retain our core values, label application becomes more contentious.

A recent CNN/ORC poll revealed that 57 percent of Americans were in agreement with Israel’s operations in Gaza. This level of approval also existed during Israel’s previous two major campaigns there, in 2008-09 and 2012. Americans in general view Israel favorably, a statistic that is quite stable. And while not an issue in itself, approval of Israel’s military conduct, as the numbers indicate, is reflexive. This isn’t the product of mere fondness and suggests other forces are at work. Read the rest of this entry »


Hashtag Genocide: Why Gaza Fought Back

August 12, 2014

Ramzy Baroud

My old family house in the Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza was recently rebuilt by its new owner, into a beautiful three-story building with large windows adorned by red frames. In Israel’s most recent and deadliest war on Gaza, the house sustained significant damage. A large hole caused by Israeli missiles can be seen from afar, in a part of the house where our kitchen once stood.

It seems that the original target was not my house, however, but that of our kindly neighbor, who had spent his entire working-life toiling between manual jobs in Israel, and later in life as a janitor for UN-operated schools in Gaza. The man’s whole lifesavings were invested in his house where several families lived. After “warning” rockets blew up part of his house, several missiles pulverized the rest.

My entire neighborhood was also destroyed. I saw photos of the wreckage-filled neighborhood by accident on Facebook. The clearance where we played football as little kids was filled with holes left by missiles and shrapnel. The shop where I used my allowance to buy candy, was blown up. Even the graveyard where our dead were meant to “rest in peace” was anything but peaceful. Signs of war and destruction were everywhere.

My last visit there was about two years ago. I caught up with my neighbors on the latest politics and the news of who was dead and who was still alive underneath the shady wall of my old house. One complained about his latest ailments, telling me that his son Mahmoud had been killed as he had been a freedom fighter with a Palestinian resistance movement.

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Is there a review of British arms export licences for Israel?

August 6, 2014

Nicholas Gilby

04/08/14

The current conflict in Gaza is resulting in grievous loss of civilian life. Three Israeli civilians have been killed and around 1,800 Palestinians.  Atrocities have been committed against civilians, almost all by the Israeli Defence Forces (as follows from the above figures), including well-publicised ones condemned by the US Government and UN Secretary-General.

There have been reports in the media that the British Government is “reviewing the sale of £8bn in arms and military goods to Israel to see whether each licence is appropriate in light of the conflict in Gaza”. The Government Department that issues export licences, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is (according to this report) checking whether the extant licences allow the sale of equipment which could be used for “internal repression”, or to “provoke or prolong conflict”.   However, there is nothing about this on the the Number 10, FCO and Export Control Organisation websites.

So what is going on?  In the recent past, export licences already approved and held by exporters have been suspended during moments of crisis.  For example on 21 August 2013 in response to “increasing levels of violence in Egypt”, EU states agreed to review approved export licences.  One week later, the Export Control Organisation suspended all existing licences for equipment which might be used for internal repression to various Egyptian military or security bodies.  On 18 March 2014 the then Foreign Secretary announced the suspension of all licences “for direct export to Russia for military and dual use items destined for units of the Russian armed forces or other state agencies which could be or are being deployed against Ukraine”.

What about Israel?  No such announcement has been made, despite the suffering we see reported in the media daily. Read the rest of this entry »


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