The Alternative to Facebook is not Facebook 2


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(Written fully seriously with a little smile)

Draft 0.1 for comments

Many of us spend much of our time in the virtual world. In fact, while in the physical world we basically care to some basic needs, most of our creativity and spiritual revolution is cominginteraction take place in the net. Naturally, the design of the net has a crucial influence about our personal lives and our society. This by itself is a compelling reason to spare some time to understand this design, why is it the way it is, where does it help us and how does it hurt us. As a result we will be able to explore what we can do to make it better fit for our needs as human beings.

Why Change?

More than two hundred years ago, we thought we were entering the era of enlightenment. In addition to knowing more, this was supposed to imply that people will have basic rights and that they will take part in the design and control of social institutions. Through many struggles and some achievements, we even started to believe that some sort of progress toward these ideals was taking place on the political level…Stand For the Banned

But now, just as we make leaps forward in the accumulation of knowledge and science, we fell back in the framework of the social organizations that control the new domains of human behavior to a political paradigm that have more to do with slavery, feudalism, absolute monarchy and robbers capitalism.

Take, just for one example, Facebook, which controls most of the space of our social interactions. We are the tireless producers of the contents that give the net all its value, but we are not paid for producing it, neither own what we produce. Facebook is ruled by a single man for the goal of his own material profit. Even absolute monarchies will pretend to have some obligation to protect the common good. We are not citizens, neither subjects, nor have any bill of rights. The absolute rulers control what you can say and what you will hear from all that others are saying.

For any suspected activity the Facebook dictatorship may punish you by paralyze and bans, with no right to appeal. They will not hesitate to apply even the most extreme punishment – executing your virtual personality, cut you from your social contacts, wipe out your memories and destroy your accumulated creativity – with no pretense of due process.Facebook tyranny

Facebook also spies on all of us, helping governments to oppress restive citizens. The information that they collect about us, to which we are not allowed access, is sold to third parties that want to make a profit at our expense. They even sell our time and mind by spamming our walls and feeds with advertisement and trash.

And, even if all was well, change must come. Nothing stays like it is. With the rapid technological developments things change faster. So the right question is not “why change?” but is it really responsible of us to wait for changes to happen, or would it be more logical and beneficial to start planning for the next stage?

The Science of Social Change

I joined Facebook only after the Arab Spring proved it an indispensible tool for social change. I soon bumped against Facebook’s arbitrary rules. I issued a call for all of us, as good Facebook patriots, to make a revolution against the Facebook Dictatorship. I believe it is the duty of all patriots to struggle for democracy and justice wherever they are. Not surprisingly, nobody answered my desperate calls.your annoying ad here

This reminded me that social change is not the result of the wishes of individuals but of the accumulation, maturation and conjunction of material, cultural, social and political processes. If you want to work seriously for the future you should study the contradictions in the current order, identify the counter-currents that work for its destruction and develop potential agents of change and partners for the creation of a new, better, order.

In parallel to the search for the seeds of change within current conflicts, we should also try to define what is basically wrong in the current order and what should we do in order to make sure that whatever comes next will be better. The forging of the new order is dependant both on objective and subjective conditions: what material changes may make it more effective than the current one and what social forces may win the battle to establish it and go on to safeguard and develop it.

Also, when we look for the practical path to solve current problems and establish a better world, and in spite of the revolutionary appeal of destroying everything and building a whole new perfectly logical and just order, we must remember that real history is going through a much more complex process with many twists and bounds in the plot. You can start with a revolutionary movement and find that all that you achieved for now is frightening the current rulers into making some reform. Or you can start with a reformist movement but have all your efforts at polite protest produce more oppression, causing the situation to explode. To be really effective in your struggle you should be ready and able to exploit divisions and splits in the system and the ruling class to create space for your movement to grow and take hold.

Obstacles and Seeds of the Future

There are many reasons why Facebook netizens are not revolting. First, even by the standard of fast forward movement, typical to our modern times, we are still in the beginning of the new era. Many people still remember the days that they were not able to publish anything or express their opinions about what they read – and thank the new rulers for their generosity in providing whatever they give. We also lack the ideology and the organization that may produce a revolt. Our citizenship of Facebook and Google pretends to be voluntary, ignoring the fact that they control the global resources of networking that are vital for our lives. As a result many potential opponents and trouble makers simply stay out of the system – making life easier for our rulers.

Like bourgeoisie democracy, which promotes the illusion of “democratic change“ within the system, the corporate monopolies hold the illusion that change can come through capitalist competition. You can always choose another supplier or build your own startup. But this is an illusion, as those that have the big money set the rules of the game and can always block or buy any competitor. The most that can come out of the current “competition game” is another predator dinosaur to share our stolen creativity.wikipedia logo

But this is not the whole story. While the corporates’ rule over our lives seems ever more total, there are other new continents (or at least some islands) that were occupied by free thinking people with other motives and a different way of social organization. Wikipedia is one astonishing example of what people can achieve by voluntary organization for the sake of humanity, with nobody becoming rich at the expense of our efforts. The community of open shared code is producing some of the most important pillars of the new technological order, between them Linux that drives most data servers and Android that manages most smartphones.

On another level, China, which blocked Facebook and Google, enabled the development of local alternatives. Today it is the source of some of the most advanced operating eco-systems for net users. Perhaps the Chinese net-corporates are not better, but, at least, they are a living proof that there is life after Facebook if you have the political and economic muscle to get out of the maze.

Some Possible Elements of a People’s Net

Facebook and Google developed from providers of simple services to be the emperors of data and connectivity. They didn’t plan the world order that they created and control.

But if we want to build a new net order that will be the result of voluntary collective effort of many developers and contributors, it might require deeper understanding of what is wrong and what we want to do. It will be a collective product that will develop over time and experience, but here are some small contributions for inspiring your imagination and creative thinking:

1.      Who owns the content?

Today all users have plenty of memory to hold their content. Cloud storage is a public utility that should be cared for by society like roads, parks, hospitals and natural reserves. There is no reason that if I want to share a picture with a friend it should become the property of any third party. Hands off our data!

2.      Who owns the knowledge?

The data that we place in the internet, including our activities there, are the source of the most valuable knowledge. In order to use our data in the most efficient way we have to gain control of the storage, organization and analysis exit no ads

3.      Who owns the net?

There should be no kings or central rulers. Services should be available on demand – like applications that you can download.

4.      Where is the money?

A world without advertisement is possible – Cuba has proved it. But if anybody wants to pay to make me read about his new product, they should pay me. I would still probably prefer to be a smart consumer and read an objective review about whatever service or product I might like to buy – but this is a personal choice.

Please leave your comments

This article was written with the purpose of instigating discussion.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thank you!


‘A Blade of Grass’: Support Ashraf Fayadh, Dareen Tatour, and New Palestinian Poetry

Arabic Literature (in English)

Smokestack Books is currently crowdfunding — through October 15 — for their forthcoming anthology A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry. Those pledging £20 or more will receive a copy of the book:

Designed by Belal Khaled.

By crowdfunding, the press seeks to raise money to help pay contributors’ fees and printing costs, as well as to donate to the legal campaigns of imprisoned poets Ashraf Fayadh and Dareen Tatour.

The title of the collection comes from a Mahmoud Darwish quote: “Against barbarity, poetry can resist only by cultivating an attachment to human frailty, like a blade of grass growing on a wall as armies march by.”

A Blade of Grass: New Palestinian Poetry will be a facing-page, meet-in-the-middle collection that brings together, in English and Arabic, new work by poets from historic Palestine and the diaspora, including work by Marwan Makhoul, Maya Abu Al-Hayyat, Fatena Al-Gharra, Dareen Tatour, Ashraf Fayadh, Fady Joudah, Naomi Shihab Nye, Deema K. Shehabi, Mustafa Abu Sneineh, Farid…

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Talking about Catalan Independence


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As if the world was lacking problems, with hurricanes and Trump and wars in the Middle East, we had two “new” topics to think about. The referendums about independence in Southern Kurdistan (Northern Iraq) on September 25, 2017, and in Catalonia on October 1, reminded the world about the aspirations of these two peoples.catalonia_peopes power

The initiatives to hold such referendums represent an optimistic approach, a belief that the expression of the will of the people carries a moral weight that may influence political events. But in both cases we also witnessed the refusal of the local and world ruling powers to accept the legitimacy of the referendum. The perspective of conflicts that might get out of control is looming. What is it all about and what does it teach us about the state of the world these days?

I was lucky to meet a distinguished guest in Haifa a few days after the referendum, an intellectual activist from Catalonia.  He agreed to help me understand better what is behind the Catalan referendum and how people in Catalonia think about their future as an independent nation. I will try to summarize below what I heard from him as well as the result of some reading and research on my side and deliberations about current discussion of the issue in leftist circles.

The deep roots of Catalan aspirations

Catalonia‘s history as a nation with distinguished language, culture and history goes back many hundreds of years. But the roots of today’s struggle for Catalonian independence can be immediately traced to the harsh history of Spain in the 20th century. Being industrialized earlier than most of Spain, Catalonia became a hotbed of republican and democratic aspirations, as well as of social movements, with a big role to the trade unions and to anarchist and socialist parties and organizations.

Barricades in Barcelona in 1909

Barricades in Barcelona, 1909. Refusing to oppress rebellious Morocco

During the 1909 “Second Rif War”, waged by Spanish colonialism to oppress liberation struggles in Morocco, anarchists and socialists in Catalonia called for a general strike against forced conscription to the Spanish army. The people of Barcelona took control of the streets, and soldiers from the local units of the army refused to move against their brother workers. Soon army units were sent from other parts of Spain. They crushed the popular uprising by deadly fire, killing about 150 people. Later the Spanish courts ordered the execution of some of the political leaders of the movement, including anarchist thinker Francesc Ferrer.

The repressive dictatorship of Primo De-Rivera, a general who suspended the constitution and ruled Spain with the support of the king between 1923 and 1930, spent special efforts to suppress “separatists” in Catalonia and the Basque country. Economic crisis and mass protest forced the dismantling of the dictatorship and opened the door for the establishment of the “Second Spanish Republic” that lasted from 1931 until it was slaughtered in the bloody 1936-39 civil war by General Franco’s fascist forces.


Francesc Meciá addressing a rally

Just before the republic was declared, on April 1931, after parties supporting Catalan independence won local elections, Catalan republicans led by Francesc Macià declared the establishment of an independent Catalan Republic, hoping to be part of an “Iberian Confederation”. They were soon pressed by the new republican leadership in Madrid and agreed to settle for an autonomous Catalonia within Spain.

After the election victory of the right-wing and fascists and the formation of a republican government led by CEDA, the Catalan local government declared, on October 6, 1934, a “Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic”. It was meant to be part of a leftist resistance movement against the rising danger of fascism, which was threatening the PresidentCompanys imprisonedwhole European continent. Soon the Spanish army crashed the independent state, suspended local autonomy and arrested many activists including president Lluís Companys and all his government.

All this was just prelude to Catalonia’s special experiment during the 1936-39 civil war between the Spanish Republic and General Franco’s fascists. There are many books and films about this extraordinary social experiment aimed not only to defend the democratic republic but also to create a better society, led by workers and peasants in a real democratic and egalitarian spirit. In fact, my early love for Catalonia started with reading Orwell’s book “Homage to Catalonia”.

Later, of course, followed the bleeding experience of almost forty years of oppression by the Franco dictatorship. Mr. Companys, who was Catalonia’s president during the civil war, was among many who were executed in revenge for their struggle for freedom and justice. The Catalan language was outlawed and tens of thousands were imprisoned or had to go into exile.x-default

There is a direct line connecting the experiences of the 20th century and current events in Catalonia. Most people that are active today have living memories of parents, grandparents, relatives and friends who were killed, tortured, imprisoned or had to go into exile during the civil war or Franco’s dictatorship. The party of Macià and Companys, the “Republican Left of Catalonia” (ERC), is still leading the movement for independence and in the 2015 elections, as part of the “Together for Yes” coalition (JxSí), returned to be the biggest party in the Catalan parliament with 62 out of 135 representatives. And Spain is still a monarchy with institutions that have never completely broken with the tradition of Franco’s dictatorship. The “People’s Party” (PP) of Prime Minister Rajoy was actually established by a previous interior minister under the Franco dictatorship to assure this continuity.

Sympathy and ambivalence about separatism

Some young comrades here see this reference to Catalonia’s idealistic and rebellious past as pure nostalgia. They say that now Catalonia is simply richer than most of Spain, and wouldn’t like to share its affluence. Comparing the current complaints of the Catalan with those of the Kurds (or the Palestinians), outside observers may say “they have nothing to complain about”.

It reminds me of the response of some poor people, which are used to the view of women being abused, beaten and prevented from going out of the house, to hearing of a middle-class woman that asks for a divorce just because there is no love in her marriage. “Let her be beaten and shut up”, they might say. But don’t we all believe that unity, in state or marriage, should be the result of free will?

catalonia police attack 2

“You say that Spain is not a democracy?”

Well, now, with the clumsy attempts by the Spanish state to oppress the referendum, and the views of police beating citizens furiously just for their will to cast their vote, Catalonia can show the blooded noise and bloated eye that turn public opinion in its favor. Wasn’t all the argument about staying in Spain based on the assumption that Spain is now a democracy? What is more democratic than letting people express their opinion? Britain allowed the Scots to vote on independence. British politicians campaigned to convince them to vote “No”, and won in a democratic way.

All the idea of “the right of nations for self-determination” is not about the argument whether staying in one state is better or worse than separation. It states the obvious fact that keeping a nation within a state contrary to its will is basically wrong, both morally and practically. Even if initially there were no compulsory reasons for separation, the oppression and enmity that are the inevitable results of trying to forcefully suppress separatism are making life miserable for the oppressed, and awkward in many ways for the oppressors, and undo any possible benefit of unity. This was recognized by the greatest leader of Arab nationalism, Egypt’s president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who let Sudan separate peacefully.CATALONIA-demo_independencia

I learned from my Catalan guest that the same effect worked also within Catalonia itself. Initially many more people supported the referendum than supported total independence. They were saying: “We may agree to be part of Spain, but this should be decided by our free will”.  And after the brutal assault on the referendum, Catalan people who supported unity with Spain joined the protesters for the first time, some of them waving Spanish flags.

I find it especially wired while some leftists consider the corrupt rightist ultra-centralist government in Madrid as God’s invisible hand that was sent to redistribute Catalonia’s excessive wealth to Spain’s poor regions. It is doing much better job at holding Barcelona back than at helping anybody else.

The long road to the current referendum

There is also a more recent historical experience that led to the current surge in support for Catalan independence. It goes back to the previous decade, when the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) was in government in Madrid, under Prime Minister José Zapatero. At the same time the socialists were also in government in autonomous Catalonia, and there was a long process of negotiations to redefine the place of Catalonia within Spain, to satisfy the demand for greater autonomy. After compromises on both sides, the agreement was approved in 2006 by both Parliaments, in Barcelona and Madrid, and in a special referendum in Catalonia.

The Spanish rightist party, PP, then in opposition, objected to the 2006 agreement and appealed against it to the constitutional court. In 2010 the court decided by 6 to 4 judges to rewrite and re-interpret the status of Catalonia, annulling most of the achievements of the Catalan people in terms of language, legal rights and economic autonomy. This intervention by the court, based on laws that are mostly relics of the fascist era, which overthrew all what was agreed upon in long negotiations and approved by a democratic process, convinced many Catalans that they can’t rely on Spain’s democracy to meet their aspirations.Catalonia is not Spain

The immediate response to the annulment of the autonomy status by the court was the first mass pro-independence rally, which was estimated to number more than a million people. The main slogan of the protest was “We are a nation. We decide.” Since then mass independence demos continued in Catalonia every year.

Opponents of Catalonia’s independence emphasis polls in which respondents were given three options: Full independence, wider autonomy or preserving the status quo. Those clearly stating their preference for independence usually fall short of outright majority. Catalonia-regions-mapBut the option for greater autonomy was unilaterally blocked by Madrid, so it is hardly a viable alternative. And, put together, there is a clear majority that is unsatisfied with the status quo.

Also, many of those that avoid calling for separation from Spain do it out of fear from outright repression and economic sanctions that may follow. The nightmares of the civil war and the dictatorship are still a strong force in Spain as a whole. Of course, these are legitimate considerations that should be taken into account while choosing your path. But it means that not all those that prefer to stay in Spain do it because this is what they really want.

Popular movement

What the Spanish government doesn’t understand, explains my guest, is the deep popular nature of the quest for independence. They negotiate with political leaders, hoping to convince them to abandon the call for independence. But now, as so many

Ballot box saved

One ballot box saved

people are active and emotionally involved and the ideas are so widely spread, this is not an option. If some leaders will give up, they will immediately lose their popular support.

He describes the political map in Catalonia. The support for independence is strong both among local establishment (pro-capitalist) parties and among the different leftists, socialist and anarchists. Parties that didn’t join the movement, like the local socialist party, were split and abandoned by many of their grassroots activists as well as intellectual highlights. Podemos, the new alternative left on the Spanish level, is supporting independence in Catalonia and gained farter credibility by defending Catalans’ right to choose their way in the Parliament in Madrid.

The day of Truth

The popular character of the movement was strengthened and highlighted toward the referendum, as the challenge of oppression by Madrid became more threatening. My guest tells the story of thousands of ballot boxes that were bought in China, flown to France and smuggled through the borders by thousands of ordinary Catalan citizens, many of them farmers, hiding them under beds and in cowsheds. In spite of the efforts of the Spanish regular police and aggressive “civil guards”, which were sent in in great numbers by Madrid, almost none were caught.


Hooded police confiscating ballot boxes – can they confiscate the will of the people?

He also tells the story of the defiance of more than five hundred local mayors, the great majority of them, who openly defied the orders of the central government and supported the referendum. Will they all be arrested?

His two sons, he tells, woke up at 04:00 on the morning of Sunday, October 1, their day off work, in order to be, with many others, at the gates of the polling center before 5 am, four hours before voting started, to prevent any attempt by the police to disrupt the voting. He also didn’t only vote “Yes!” but stayed the whole day to guard his vote lest it will be stolen by a police raid. They were all tuned to hear the news from friends’ phones of brutal police attacks on nearby polling centers. Fortunately the police had a hard time where they did attack and couldn’t disrupt the voting in most centers.

The rest of it is the history that everybody knows; the 90% yes vote for independence and the denial by Madrid that there was a referendum at all. And, of course, King Philip the sixth expressed his disappointment with the disloyalty of his subjects in Catalonia. He should really consider choosing another nation to rule over.

The vision

I ask my guest how the Catalans view their future independent state. He explains that it is not a return to old style nationalism. Actually, most Catalans feel very much part of Europe. They speak from the beginning on limited sovereignty within the European Union, with common market, free movement of people and no visible borders. But if they anyway belong to the European club, why do it through the mediation of Madrid and not directly through Barcelona?

Anarchist collectives 1936

Agricultural Anarchist Collective – Catalonia 1936

But not all Catalans are to this level mainstream Europeans. There is a strong anarchist tendency, which enjoys the support of more than 10% of the electorate. And there is the radical left that is critical of Europe’s conservative economic policies. My guest is concerned with the radicalism of these parties, but he can’t deny that they are integral part of Catalan political history and culture. In the framework of Free Catalonia Podemos might well be the next government party.

He stress that Catalan nationalism is not xenophobic. Because of Catalonia’s economic prosperity it drew economic migrants from all over Spain and from other countries. He says the independence movement take care to put in the front not only people from Catalan origins but also immigrants from different races and regions of the world.

Catalonia’s people have all different views about the future. Now they are (or most of them) united in a struggle for independence. When this struggle will be won they will have the chance to pursue their dreams, free of outside chains and interventions.

To some extent this vision may be viewed as converging toward a modern concept  of trans-national unity, with no physical borders, combined with decentralized democracy and multiculturalism, which distribute as many powers as possible to all local levels, where the people are. The Kurdish left, confronted with the much more complicated quagmire of the Middle East, developed it into a comprehensive concept of Democratic Confederalism.

Reality check

I ask my Catalan guest about the danger of violent oppression. What will really come next after a declaration of independence?

The immediate expected response is more oppression from Madrid. But the worst he can think about is hundreds of political prisoners, mostly the imprisonment of the political leadership. He doesn’t think that in democratic Spain that wants to stay as part of democratic Europe there could be massacres or uncontrolled violence.

I hope he is right, but Madrid’s refusal to negotiate before the referendum will be “annulled” and threats to abolish Catalonia’s limited autonomy and force direct rule don’t bode well. As the people of Catalonia are mobilized in the struggle and the government only opts for more repression there are unlimited options for friction and confrontation to escalate and get out of control.

The Catalan leadership is striving for negotiations. Their main hope is that the European Union will intervene to find an agreed solution. But they are ready for any other kind of mediation, including Pope Francis who already intervened to solve sharp internal conflicts in other countries.

We like to think that the world is moving forward toward a more democratic order, where conflicts are solved by arguments and votes, not by guns and violence. The two referendums in Kurdistan and Catalonia pose an intriguing test to this assumption.

The Kurds know that they live and the most dangerous and politically oppressive region of the world, where hereditary kings and dictators rule by the power of the sword, and nationalism and sectarianism mix to create a combustive atmosphere.  They don’t dare to declare independence as the armies of all neighboring states are ready to intervene to crush their dreams,

The Catalan referendum poses the question of how different Europe has become, has it really left behind its not so far violent past?  It will test Europe’s pretension to represent a more democratic order that others may take inspiration from.  If the holy unity of the state will prove stronger than the will of the people, than democracy is only a thin mask over the ugly face of dictatorship.


World Economy with Chinese Characteristics


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I started following China’s Rise in detail from the nineties, as the West was celebrating the victory of the capitalist system after the collapse of the Socialist Block around the Soviet Union. The rented ideologues of capitalism, including most of the world media China Rise US Falland academy, wanted us to believe that Communism is dead because it was a wrong idea (not to say evil) from the beginning. But could it be that the failure was not due to the principles of the proposed communist system but to their distorted implementation in Russia, led by brutal self-serving bureaucratic elite that found in Stalinism a new version of its former Tsarist central rule and world power-struggle?

If one prototype was flawed and failed, could another team build a better implementation?

The Riddle of the Chinese Miracle

The phenomenal development of China from one of the poorest nations on earth to the world’s leading economic power is the central feature of the world scene over the last decades. But how should it be explained? Is it because new Chinese capitalism is even more exploitative and ruthless, as many critics from both left and right want us to think? Or is there something different, maybe they are doing something right? Could it be that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party learned how to initiate and control economic development in a more scientific way, synchronizing social economy, market forces and some capitalist initiatives, inducing them all to drive its grand plan, instead of unleashing the destructive rule of Greed?The economist reporting China capacity cuts

One special characteristic of the Capitalist system are cyclical booms and busts. As capital is in constant movement in search of wider profit margins, investment is flowing into the most profitable sectors. This creates over-capacity, which causes a fall in prices and profits, which in turn causes withdrawal of investment, destruction of productive forces, layout of workers and so on. Finally the reduced production can’t meet the demand in the market, prices, profits, production and employment surge again, toward the inevitable next bust.

Somehow China’s economic development over the last decades succeeded to avoid these cyclical crises that continue to haunt the capitalist system like seasonal storms. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was not a typical cyclical crisis, but it provided a good example how China played differently to avoid it. The reason for the crisis was the reckless behavior of Western bankers, taking ever greater risks to maximize profits while relying on the state to come to their rescue when their gambles fail.  Western governments poured money to the broken bankers while many poor people where kicked out of their homes to restore some of the banks’ bad debts.

In China’s export oriented economy millions of workers faced the sack as Western consumers had to cut spendings. China’s government mitigated the situation by handing-out money to poor families to buy electric appliances to keep its factories going, avoiding the worst of the crisis.

China Going Global

One of the numbers that I was following closely, like many other observers, was China’s GDP, as computed by Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP. According to the CIA’s “World Facts Book” China’s real GDP passed that of the US in 2014. But it was not a “photo-

World top 10 economies by GDP

World top 10 economies by GDP/PPP

finish”. Economic development goes on and according to the same source in 2016 China’s GDP was worth 21.14 trillion US$, or 14% more than the US’s 18.56 trillion and counting (see pictured table). The fact that Western economists continue to speak routinely about China as “the world’s second biggest economy” only shows that they are now in a deep state of denial.

But GDP numbers say little about the real dynamism of an economy. Maybe the single number that is most telling about a country’s success in the world economy is the value of its exports. Here China is a clear number one, with export worth 2.1 trillion US$ to the US’s 1.5. So here China is already 40% ahead of the US, and the export numbers are not corrected for distorted exchange rates.

Actually, used to support the under-dogs of the world all my life, I started feeling uneasy to be a China-fun lately. While in the nineties China’s pride was in lifting people from utmost poverty, is it not now a world bully that should be feared and contained?

The riddle of China’s internal development became a main riddle on today’s world economic and political scene. Is China just another power looking for its self-interest at the expense of others, or is it proposing to the world a different and more advanced system of cooperation?

The Crisis that Wasn’t

The British pro-capitalist crusaders in “The Economist” are one of my favorite sources for following economic analysis about China and its role in the world economy. They had a very interesting story to tell on their September 9, 2017, issue.

In an editorial named “Making sense of capacity cuts in China” they say that the main reason behind today’s relatively buoyant world economy is a drive by the Chinese government to cut capacity and production in central industries like Steel, Coal and Aluminum. According to their analysis overcapacity in these sectors led to falling prices and profits, which actually threatened a world economic crisis in 2016. Instead the Chinese government’s central planners intervened by a studied policy, setting targets for cutting capacity to restore prices, profits and healthy growth,

According to a detailed news item in the same issue, named “Capacity cuts in China fuel a commodity rally and a debate”, China’s planners simply ordered all coal mines to operate no more than 276 days throughout 2016, in a move that is apparently designed to keep most workers at work. In another detail that shows how massive China’s capacity cuts were, they mention that the planned cuts in Steel capacity equal 15 times Britain’s Steel production.

China coal as percent of world total

Source: The Economist

As China’s share of world production in these major industries is about 50%, its unilateral actions were enough to get the wanted effect and restart a new period of healthy economic expansion without the suffering of an unplanned crisis. And China was not so altruistic as to cause its own economy damage for the benefit of the world economy. As The Economist reports, its managed capacity cuts enabled it in an orderly way to close the less productive facilities, changing its industrial mix be more technologically advanced, such increasing its world economic leadership even farther.

The story of the world economic crisis that was avoided in 2016 may illustrate one of the most significant changes in the world economic system – a big step toward a world economy with Chinese Characteristics.


Will the Yaffa theatre be the next martyr on the road to freedom?


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Persecution against Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour is expanding to her defenders

In July 2014, when 16 years old Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive, it was a shock for the Arab Palestinian public. People felt that the atrocity was a result of constant anti-Arab incitement by Israel’s top politicians and mainstream media. They also felt that the Israeli police and courts are not very concerned to prevent or punish violence when the perpetrators are Jew and the victims are Arab. Arabs were protesting all over the country. Hundreds of Arab activists shared a profile picture on Facebook, designed like obituary, saying “I’m the next

I am the next martyr

“I am the next martyr” – protesting the killing of the innocents

martyr”. Its meaning was clear for everybody: while children are randomly kidnapped from their streets and murdered, any of us can be the next victim.

More than a year later, in October 2015, this very same profile picture on the Facebook page of poet Dareen Tatour was wrongly interpreted by Israeli stupid “intelligence” as a declaration that she is going to make a suicide attack. Her house was surrounded at a pre-dawn raid by a big force of Israeli police and border guards and she was arrested. In the first interrogation they told her that she wrote that she wants to be a martyr (“Shahida” in Arabic). Soon they understood their mistake, but they wouldn’t apologize and let their victim go free. They started digging deeper in her Facebook page and found a poem and some posts that they also maliciously misinterpreted, this time as “incitement”. So started the saga of “The Jewish State against Poet Dareen Tatour”, which is now a world famous example of Israel’s unjust persecution of Palestinian arts and the freedom of political protest.

From protesters to victims

Just like Dareen Tatour protested the fate of other victims and became a victim herself, now the state of Israel is turning against those people that protest the persecution of the poet.

A group of Jewish and Palestinian artists plan to stage a protest event in solidarity with Tatour in the Yaffa (Jaffa) “Arab-Hebrew Theater” on August 30th, before her trial is going to resume. They prepared a rich artistic program including reading from Tatour’s poetry and original works by other poets, and staged reading from the trial’s minutes. The full text of the invitation with the program is cited below as the last section of this post.

Today, Monday, August 21, Haaretz published (in Hebrew) a long news item titled “The Ministry of Culture requested the treasury to examine whether the Jaffa Theater violated the Nakba Law”. This is the beginning of a process, directly centered against the hosting of the solidarity event on August 30th. It aims to cut the budget of the theater and might even end with the theater having to pay destructive high fine of up to 3 million shekel.

The tail wagging the dog

The whole process shows how extremist elements are now driving “mainstream” Israeli politics and government institutions are mobilized by populist-racist politicians like Miri Regev to serve their anti-democratic agenda.

It all started with one “Shai Glick”, that is sometimes mentioned as CEO of an organization called “Bezalmo – Jewish human rights organization”. This organization calls for a demonstration in front of the Yaffa event, which it describes as “calling for the release of a terrorist” (using the Hebrew degrading word “Mehabelet”). The picture that

Invitation Dareen counter demo image

Bloody Caricature inciting against the Yaffa Theater: “stop financing terror”

was selected for the event page (copied here) is an example of the worst kind of bloody propaganda. Till now the Facebook event of this counter-demonstration has 5 people signed as “attending” (and 15 “interested”), compared to 136 “going” (and 239 “interested”) for the solidarity event.

But Shai Glick is not alone. If he doesn’t have the public, he can mobilize the whole power of the state. On August 7 Israeli “mainstream” site “Maariv” reported (in Hebrew) that as a result of a complaint by Mr. Glick, a little known Knesset member from the governing Likud, Sharren Haskel, sent a concerned letter to Ms. Regev, the Culture minister, reporting the solidarity event, repeating Glick’ accusations and requesting the minister to “handle it”.

Hence comes the current initiative by minister Regev, demanding investigation by the ministry of finance which is responsible for the financing of theaters and has the authority to reduce or abolish funding or imposing fines.

The Nakba law

Everybody is somewhat perplexed by the whole process, as it is a new attempt to use new laws and procedures to squeeze freedom of expression. The common knowledge in Israel is that even as Palestinians are persecuted for anything or nothing, the freedom of expression for the Jewish population was more or less secure. Now the event in Yaffa may become a test case of the new laws and the old assumptions.

Regev and Mandelblit

Regev and Mandelblit, changing the rules of the play to shut up theaters

The Knesset seems to be always busy passing new racist and anti-democratic laws, so much so that people relate to the “status quo” and tend to ignore these new laws, hoping that they will not be implemented. Specifically, the new “Nakba law”, which is the legal base of the investigation against the Yaffa theater, was almost ignored, as it mostly speaks about the denial of government funding. People were wondering are there any government funded institutions that actually commemorate the Palestinian Nakba?

But the so-called “Nakba law” is not only about commemorating the Nakba. It counts many possible offences that deserve denial of funds, including questioning the “Jewish democratic” nature of the state – i.e. opposing Jewish supremacy. And lately, in a new twist to the plot, the government’s attorney general agreed with Ms. Regev to hold theaters responsible not only to their own plays and programs but also to the contents of any event held in their premises.

In a detailed report in Haaretz (August 16, in Hebrew) about the consultations between Regev and Mandelblit, the attorney general, about the strengthening of political supervision of theaters, she is cited as saying: “Hear me well. I’m not ready to be laughed at. I have 20 complaints about the Yaffa Theater. They say that in the Yaffa Theater there are extreme organizations that call for boycott of Israel”. So all that Mr. Glick and his likes should do is write 20 letters, and they become the Ten Commandments for the minister.

“Al-Midan”, the Arabic theater from Haifa, was persecuted for similar reasons over the last two years and as of now is still closed. Now, with the new law, the Yaffa Theater might be the next martyr.

The invitation for the August 30th solidarity event

Here is the full text of the invitation, with the detailed program, taken for the event’s Facebook page:Invitation Yaffa Dareen solidarity

A poetry and theater event for the immediate release of the poet Dareen Tatour
On the stage
Reading from the minutes of Dareen’s trial. Actors: Doron Tavori and Liora Rivlin. Director: Einat Weitzman
Music and Spoken Word: Tamer Nafar
Reading original poetry and translations of Dareen’s poems: Tal Nitzan, Rachel Peretz, Yonit Naaman, Sheikha Hlewe, Mahmoud Abu Arisha, Michal Ben Naftali and Dana Amir
Facilitator: Orly Noy
Selling books >>>> Limited edition of social and political literature:
The Independent Bookshop “Sipur Pashut”. Percentage of sales will be contributed to Dareen’s legal defense.

(This article appeared also in Mondoweiss)


Administrative Detentions of Arab “Citizens of Israel” Expanding


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Administrative Detentions are a perplexing phenomenon, as they contradict all the basic notions that we have about justice and the rule of law.

Today (Monday, August 7, 2017) we had another exemplary “round” of this strange process in the Haifa district court. The families of the detainees, together with some of the main leaders of the Arab Palestinian population and democratic activists, gathered out of the closed doors of the courtroom of Judge Yizhak Cohen, the court’s vice president, who was “reviewing” the administrative detention of three youth from “the Triangle”.

Arab Leaders

Arab leaders out of the court (from the right): Sheikh Raed Salah, Muhammad Barakeh head of the Follow-Up Committee, Knesset member Jamal Zahalka

When the lawyers emerged from the closed court, everybody flocked around them, but people found it hard to understand the process… Were they sentenced to 6 months? No, they were not sentenced at all. They were arrested on July 23 for a period of 6 months by the order of Israel’s war minister, Avigdor Liberman. The judge only reviewed the administrative orders and confirmed their validity according to Israel’s law that upholds such unlawful detentions.

When I tell friends about this detention they ask me: “What are they accuse of?” Well, sincerely, I don’t know. “Did you see their lawyers? They must know”, people continue to ask nervously… But the lawyers, and even the detainees themselves, who were allowed to be inside the courtroom for parts of the “review”, are also not allowed to know what “threat” they are supposed to constitute against “state security”. All the evidence is “secret” and it is presented by the security services (the “Shabak”) only to the judge.

Today’s 3 detainees

The detainees are three young Palestinians, aged 24-30. One, Mu’atasem Mahamid is from Mu’awiya, near Umm al-Fahm, and the other two, Ahmad Mar’i and Adham D’eif from Ara-Ar’ara, a few kilometers to the south.

Closed door and window

Closed door and taped window – “security” measures

As the hearing started the guards didn’t only block us from entering but also glued papers to seal the glass window in the door, to prevent the families even from waving hello from afar to their loved sons and brothers. As we scorned the justice of this system that hides behind closed doors one of the guards apologized and said he is only a small screw in the machine, it is only his work and he was acting on orders from above.

The first lawyer that came out was ‘Adel Bwerat, a private lawyer that represents Mr. D’eif. He was very proud to say that the judge reduced the period of the detention from 6 to 2 months. At first I thought this decision covered al the 3 detainees. Soon I understood that the “review” process for the other two was just beginning. Some two hours later lawyers Omar Khamaisi and Mustafa Mahamid from Al-Mizan, who represent the other detainees, came out with the bad news that their clients’ detention was approved to the full extent of 6 months.

In a declaration to the (Hebrew) site Local Call lawyer Bwerat said that the judge, after reviewing the secret evidence, was convinced that the danger from his client was low-level. Well, this is the type of things we celebrate today, when for an imaginary low level potential that you might do some harm you get just 2 months of prison without trial.

Some historic perspective

Whenever some Palestinians inside the green line get Administrative Detention many people put the same astonished face: We know this kind of detention is massively used in the occupied West Bank, but are they really used also against citizens of Israel? It is a severe precedent!

Bwerat explains

Lawyer Adel Bwerat explains the situation

It might be helpful to remember that Israel is under “emergency laws” for all and every of the 69 years from its establishment in 1948. Every area of the country has its “military governor” that has absolute authority to detain or restrict the freedom of any citizen. Until 1966 the military government was the main tool of the state to handle the Arab population in the 1948 occupied territories. The first Arab national party to organize after the Nakba, Al-Ard, was successfully oppressed out of existence by such measures.

In the 1980s Arab student leaders (among others) from both the Israeli communist party and the (leftist Palestinian) Abna Al-Balad movement were regularly confined to their villages of origin by military decrees. In 1987 and 1988, after the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifada, about 10 of the leaders of Abna Al-Balad and like-minded movements spent time in Administrative Detention for organizing solidarity action.

In the last 2 decades the usage of administrative detentions against Arab citizens of Israel actually never stopped, but it was becoming rather rare, used on individual basis.

Assessment of the latest development

When Muhammad Ibrahim from Kabul was put under administrative detention last year, probably for his indulgence with the Al-Aqsa mosque, it was a challenge for the Arab population. For the first 6 month nobody said anything. As administrative detention is not limited in time – it can be extended indefinitely – it is a very stressful situation for the detainee, his family and his lawyers. There are always those people that advise you to keep low profile in order not to annoy the security apparatus even more.

Barakeh Interview

Muhammad Barakeh, head of the Follow-Up Committee, interviewed: Even one day of Administrative Detention is injustice!

After 6 month of keeping quiet, Muhammad Ibrahim’s detention was extended for another 6 months for no reason at all. The popular committee in Kabul and “The follow-up Committee” – the united leadership of the ’48 Palestinians – started to organize public protest. Finally the detention was shortened and he was released.

The case of the three youth from the Triangle is different. Muhammad Ibrahim was initially detained and interrogated by the Shabak. Only after they failed to force a “confession” out of him he was transferred to administrative detention. Our new detainees were administrative to start with, not suspected of anything and not interrogated about anything.

Collective administrative detention, not known since the 1980s, is also a sign both of escalating oppression and of the politicization of the process. Over the last month some ministers, including Liberman himself, demanded to issue administrative detention against Sheikh Raed Salah, the legendary leader of the Islamic movement.

While the crisis around Al-Aqsa and the provocative Israeli “security” checks around it was at its height, Israel’s housing minister, General Galant, from the “moderate” Kulanu party, suggested to give up the magnetometers and use mass administrative detentions instead (see an Hebrew news item here). So we see that the issue of administrative detention became both a political game for racist politicians competing for the love of the racist electorate and another indiscriminate way to pursue “collective punishment” in the disguise of “security measures” against the Arab public.

Now we know that at least one more Arab citizen of Israel is under administrative detention but nothing was reported about it. So, if you happen to live in “democratic” Israel and a neighbor suddenly disappears you can still hope that he is alive and well, just spending some time in Magido prison, where the 3 detainees from the Triangle are staying now.


Poetry award from a Danish foundation to Dareen Tatour


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By Ditte Scharnberg

‘Chains can imprison a poet physically, restrict his movements and impose house arrest, but they can’t restrict his thoughts, tongue, words and poems’.

Dareen 0

Ditte Scarnberg announcing the Award to Dareen Tatour

Those were the words from Dareen Tatour to the Danish Carl Scharnberg Foundation, when, in June 2017, we awarded her a prize – 2000 euros – to support her fight for poetry, art and justice.

All of us in the foundation feel strongly about encouraging Dareen to keep on fighting. And we are quite sure that had he still been alive, my father Carl Scharnberg (1930-1995) – poet and political activist – surely would have been among her supporters and surely would have printed her poems to be read in Denmark.

(Here is a video from the ceremony.)

Who was the poet Carl Scharnberg?

My father was called the working man’s poet. Not without cause. For a couple of generations he was traveling all over the country, giving talks and reciting from his own literary works at trade union meetings and at the schools of the labour movement. About thirty books were produced on the way: novels, shorts stories, essays and collections of poems.

Actually he performed the unique trick of getting the man on the shop floor to enjoy poetry – Carl’s poetry anyhow – because his poems are down-to-earth and at the same time sensitive, committed and engaging.

UnderwayLike a little red flower

To choose – it’s not to yield and submit

and gently lower one’s voice,

or to give in to pretty words

avoiding a troublesome choice.

To choose is more than taking a risk,

much more than a question af trade.

To choose is in spite of your innermost fear

to do what you want to evade.

(A poem by Carl Scharnberg)

The fight for peace

Influenced by his experience as a child at the Second World War, Carl Scharnberg became a political activist, especially interested in the struggle for world peace. He founded the Danish campaign against nuclear weapons in the 1960’s – which succeeded to keep Denmark free of nuclear weapons on its ground. Through the rest of his life, he always supported the wide range of movements for peace in the world – with his poems and by standing up as a speaker at demonstrations.

“Unofficial points of view”

From 1968 and until his death Carl Scharnberg was supplying a wide circle of trade union periodicals and grass-root publications with a private and independent ‘press service’. In close cooperation with well-known writers, poets and illustrators he spread a monthly issue of articles, mini-posters, etc. all over the country, provided with a general permission to reprint and copy. It was called ‘unofficial points of view’.

A foundation for solidarity, human rights and peace

After my father’s death in 1995, many people in the trade unions, with whom he was working for decades, decided to build a foundation to support artists and activists working in his spirit. Our family, my brother, mother and me, were very moved by the idea, and have supported it ever since.

During more than twenty years the foundation every year awards prizes and grants. The prizes are announced in June, related to the day of Carl’s birth. Till now we recognized and supported this way the contributions of 73 different people, groups and movements working for solidarity, human rights and peace.

The Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour is now among those brave and strong people. All of us must do whatever we can to support her!

Carl Scharnberg’s Poems in English and Danish

Kafr Qasem Martyr Muhammad Taha Fell in the Struggle against Crime


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The same tragic scene that we see over and over again throughout occupied Palestine was repeated in Kafr Qasem on the evening of Monday, June 5, 2017. Angry

Funeral with Palestinian flag

Shahid Muhammad Taha’s Funeral

protesters were surrounding the police station. A guard came toward them and shot Muhammad Taha with live bullets in his face and his chest. Muhammad, newly-wed 27 years old, was taken to the hospital but soon died.

Cold Blood Murder

A local lawyer that was present at the scene of the killing, Adel Bder, testified (here in Arabic) that the policemen at the place were in no danger, and that he was arguing with them and trying to calm them down before the shooting, but they insisted on opening fire on the protesters in cold blood.

Thousands of mourners attended Mr. Taha’s funeral on Tuesday, including

Funeral Entering Martyrs' Cemetery

The funeral entering Martyrs’ Cemetery

delegations and public leaders of the Arab Palestinian population from all over the 48 occupied territories, from the Galilee to the Naqab.  They raised Palestinian flags and chanted “The martyr is loved by god”. The body was laid to rest in “the martyrs’ cemetery”, where the 49 victims of the 1956 Kafr Qasem massacre were buried.

Shooting of Palestinians by racist Israeli army and police, for any reason or no reason, is a daily event in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. Inside the 1948 occupied territories, where the Palestinians are formally citizens of Israel, there were more than 50 cases of fatal shooting since human rights organizations started to keep records beginning with the October 2000 intifada.

As always, the racist Israeli government, political establishment, media, police and courts all unite to blame the victims and assure the impunity of the murderers.

Struggling against Crime

What is special about the murder of martyr Muhammad Taha is how it raises the question of the struggle of the Arab Palestinian society against criminality.

All the organs of the Israeli state are operating within the concept of building a Jewish state, which means that they serve the interests of the Jewish population while striving to make the lives of the Arab population unbearable. The police, doing its most to carry this mission, is specializing in issuing fines and securing house demolition and land confiscation in Arab towns and villages, but is doing nothing to fight crime as long as the victims are Arab.

Martyr Muhammad Taha - with Arabic writing

Martyr Muhammad Mahmoud Taha

With no effective policing, under-funded education system, few public services and limited access to proper work, there is a wide class of hopeless youth that are easy to mobilize to serve criminal gangs, as the only way out of idleness and misery. Social alienation and the absence of the rule of law also cause many petty disputes to escalate to violence between family members, neighbors or commercial rivals.

The surge in violence within the Arab society, especial the growing number of murders, became a major concern over the last years. Many times there are conflicting positions about the right answer. Should we demand solutions from the racist Israeli police? Should we support more police patrols and the building of police stations inside Arab towns? Will such presence reduce criminality or intensify oppression and harassment of the population at large?

The Self Defense Alternative

Kafr Qasem witnessed the murder of 7 of its people from the beginning of the year before the racist police, which have its station placed in the middle of the town, added Mr. Taha to this long sad list. Reading the papers you just learn about the horror that fell upon the people there, but no details about the background to these murders. The police, of course, didn’t solve any of these murder cases and didn’t

emergency meeting of Arab leadership in Kafr Qasem

Emergency meeting of the Palestinian Arab leadership in 48

detain suspects.

Only after the murder of Mr. Taha caused public uproar we could read in the papers about a very special experience taken by the Kafr Qasem municipality to defend its people. They established a local guard composed of a nucleus of few municipality workers and many volunteers in order to fend off criminals. The last surge in the violence happened as criminal gangs started to kill citizens that opposed their terror and extortion activities.

Locals complain that the police did nothing to stop the murderers or arrest them after the crime, even as they testify that they gave the police names of those behind some of the crimes. In fact the people of Kafr Qasem held a general strike on Sunday,

General strike 7 June 2017

General Strike on June 7

June 4, against the free hand that the police was giving to the criminal gangs to terrorize them. In this strike there was a strong demand that if the police is doing nothing to enforce the law and protect the citizens it should get out of the town. A protest tent was placed in front of the police station.

The response of the police was to attack the defenders of the city and take revenge on the population at large, humiliating people in provocative road-blocks. On Monday the police arrested one of the leaders of the local guards, what caused a new wave of protests and the gathering in which Mr. Taha, who was also active in the guards committees, was killed.

Widening Protest and Solidarity

If the police thought to frighten the people of Kafr Qasem and make them abandon their attempts to defend themselves against the criminals, the killing of Mr. Taha may have the opposite effect. On Monday’s night there was a surge in violent

Burning police vehicle in Kafr Qasem

Burning police vehicle – Monday June 5

protests against the police, stones were thrown at the station building and some police vehicles were burned. On Tuesday the funeral united the whole town in protest at the police murderers but also in support of the brave guards, some of them still under police detention.

The leadership of the Palestinian Arab population in the 48 territories gathered in Kafr Qasem just as the news came in on Monday’s night. In a pre-dawn emergency meeting they condemned the police murderers, blamed the ex-Shabak head of the police Alsheikh and the racist political leadership, and called for several protest actions, including a general strike of all the Arab population on Wednesday, June 7.

The need to resist criminality and violence is a crucial issue all over the local Arab society. The behavior of the police in Kafr Qasem gave a strong argument for all those that oppose the presence of the racist police in Arab towns. Kafr Qasem’s experiment with self defense is an important example how a population that is not receiving basic services from the state, including the maintenance of personal safety, can work to improve the situation by its independent efforts.

Crazy Zionism and Capitalism

Haaretz 7 June 2017

Haaretz, June 7, 2017: “Battle between the Islamic movement and crime families”

In some of the Israeli media, the efforts of the Kafr Qasem municipality and citizens to guard their city against criminals were reported as an organization of “a Muslim Militia”!

Also, notice the following paradox. Some proponent of “the rule of law” tried to defend the actions of the police by claiming that in an orderly state only the police has the permission to use violence to fight crime. On the other side, after the shooting of Mr. Taha the police defended itself saying that the person that shoot him was not a police officer but a private guard that was hired to stand in the entrance of the police station to guard the building. So, the police don’t even protect its own building in Kafr Qasem, but they arrest local people for organizing guards to defend themselves… just as the police were doing!


Haifa: A demo supporting Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike closed central streets


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(The following article was published in Hebrew on May 23, 2017, in “Local Call” and Haifa ha-Hofshit)

While Trump‘s visit attempted to revive the illusions of “peace” in the framework of Pax Americana of the region, the ongoing hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners reminds us that the Israeli occupation regime denies the Palestinians even the most basic human rights.

A communiqué issued by “the captive movement” (al-Harakah al-Asira), as the prisoners call their resistance movement inside the occupation prisons, on the 20th day of the strike, called for the unification of the struggle on both sides of the Green Line and in the Palestinian Diaspora by a unified action of all the Palestinian

Nazareth Market street on strike - May 22 2017

Close shops in Nazareth on the day of the strike

patriotic forces, including the follow-up committee that represents Arab citizens of Israel. In a historic precedent, the leaders responded to the prisoners’ initiative, met in Ramallah and declared a general strike by the entire Palestinian people in all areas of the homeland and in exile, set for Monday, May 22, the 36th day of the strike. Indeed, throughout the West Bank, there was great response to the call yesterday, and streets were lined with closed shops and businesses. The strike was also felt, to a lesser extent, in East Jerusalem and Palestinian cities within the Green Line.

The Prisoner’s Square, Haifa

Haifa continues to be a focal point for Palestinian protest activity, in which an expanding stratum of activists emphasizes the unity of the Palestinian struggle beyond the borders dividing the territories occupied since 1967 and those occupied since 1948. However, the struggle also exposes the leadership crisis and the difficulty of giving effective expressing to the frustration, the anger and the desire to struggle. This difficulty is exacerbated because, according to the rules of the game of the “Jewish democracy”, Palestinian public opinion is not a factor to be considered.

Gathering in Prisoners Square

Gathering in prisoner’s square

The first protest vigil in support of the prisoners’ hunger strike took place in Haifa on the second day of the strike, April 18. It took place in the German Colony, the tourist center of the city, in the square named “The Prisoner’s Square” since October 2011, when a group of activist staged a hunger striker there, under the slogan “Hungry to Freedom”, in solidarity with a previous prisoners’ strike.

The vigil was also meant to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, April 17, which was chosen not coincidentally as the appropriate date to launch the strike. It should be noted here that when we speak in Arabic we don’t use the term “sajeen” (prisoner) but “aseer” that means “captive”. It conveys the view of Palestinian prisoners as prisoners of war – those held by the enemy as a result of their struggle for freedom. Compromising the correct translation is another concession that we inadvertently do to Israeli and Western public opinion, which have difficulty digesting the Palestinian narrative.

Marching up the German Colony

Marching up the German Colony

The next two protest vigils were held on April 29 and May 9 at the initiative of Herak Haifa. The site chosen by the Herak was a little up the German Colony, on the corner of Allenby Street and HaCarmel Avenue (Ben Gurion), a smaller space at the intersection where more traffic passes. When, a few months ago, Bassel al-A’araj, activist and theoretician of al-Herak al-Shababi in the West Bank, was assassinated by the occupation forces, Herak Haifa decided to name the junction after him. The holding of protest vigils at the junction is also intended to establish the name in the public consciousness.

On Friday, May 19, the Communist youth held another solidarity activity with the prisoners, slightly higher at the German Colony, in the Bahai Circle. They brought water, salt and glasses and offered passers-by to drink salt water as a symbolic show of solidarity with the strikers. The youth movement’s orchestra created another attraction to draw attention to the event.

Taking to the Streets

In the meantime, young activists began to organize, in the spirit of the movement that had halted the Prawer plan, aiming to initiate more united and militant activity. They called for a demonstration on Monday, May 22, even before the Palestinian leaderships on both sides of the Green Line declared the general strike on this day in support of the prisoners’ struggle.

They published an invitation to a Facebook event entitled “Ash-Shaware’a” (to the streets), hosted by 8 activists from different movements, and many activists worked intensely to invite and prepare. There were 254 “attendees” at the FB event and on Monday, before the scheduled hour, “The Prisoner’s Square” was already filled with young people, as well as many veteran activists, from Haifa and the region.

Entering Wadi Nisnas

Entering Wadi Nisnas

The police also made their preparations, bringing reinforcements, including special anti-riot units, some attack dogs and a special police van to carry potential detainees. In practice, however, the police preferred not to intervene, even when the demonstrators, after about half an hour of shouting slogans in the square, went down to Carmel Avenue, blocked the street and began marching.

Some 200 demonstrators marched on the main street of the German Colony in the direction of Allenby Street, between the crowded cafes and restaurants, providing the iconic images of Haifa with Palestinian flags waving and the Bahai Gardens and the golden Shrine of the Bab in the background. From there the protesters continued on Allenby Street in the direction of Wadi Nisnas, where the police blocked traffic on both sides. The demonstrators marched up al-Jabal Street (“ha-Ziyonut Avenue”), turned to Khuri Street and finally poured into al-Wadi Street, the narrow main street of Wadi Nisnas.

When the demonstrators reached the last intersection inside the Wadi (the valley), they made a small meeting in the middle of the street. The organizers thanked everybody for taking part and asked for their active participation in a pre-determined plan for the continuation of the struggle, including demonstrations, leaflets distribution and a “Day of Rage” on Thursday, June 1.

No More Erdogan


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Why I support the NO vote in the Turkish referendum?

When I was touring Turkey with my family in 1996, I fell in love with the country. I had the feeling that it looks very much like Palestine would have been if it was not torn apart and stepped over by settlers.

Not that everything looked good. There was poverty almost everywhere, and the military presence was thick and frightening. The soldiers would look suspiciously at people in the streets and point their guns as if ready to shoot you. Going to the countryside we noticed that the government seemed absent while people were building mosques everywhere. The country was ripe for the rise of political Islam.

Turkey’s Contradictions

Following Turkish politics over the years was very instructive. Turkey is not just another big country in the Middle East. In the last decades the political developments in the region concentrated around the conflict between the powers of the old order, Imperialism, Zionism and entrenched local elites, and a mass movement mostly under Islamic orientation. In Iran there was a stormy revolution in 1979, followed by war, internal terror and upheavals. In Turkey the Islamists came to power by elections in 2002 as a reformist force. Also, Turkey’s Islam is mostly Sunni and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the main Islamic party in Turkey, is regarded to be close to the Moslem Brotherhood – the biggest political party (even as it is persecuted in many places) in most Arab countries. So the Turkish experience was regarded as probing one alternative for developments in the wider region.

The AKP election victory in 2002 didn’t mean that the party could really lead the country, as Turkey’s democracy was a very limited and ultimate power laid with the army. Even after AKP was already long time in government there were attempts to “outlaw” it, as was done with a previous democratically elected Islamic government in 1997-98. The struggle about who really governs Turkey continued. By gradually neutralizing the grip of the army over the state, the AKP, led by Erdogan, made an essential service to democracy in Turkey. Only after the failed coup in July 2016 did the elected government achieve effective control over the army.

Many critics of Turkey in the Arab world like to speak about the danger of Erdogan’s attempts to revive the Ottoman Empire, much the same as others speak about the Iranian danger. I tend to be more conservative in my analysis and assume that the main hegemon (politically, militarily and economically) continues to be external imperialism. I look at the rise of local powers more as an opportunity. In its 15 years in government AKP changed the political and economic orientation of Turkey to be less dependent on Western powers and more oriented to its regional neighbours and other third world countries. It seemed to have a very positive effect for Turkey’s development.

The Kurdish Litmus

The most pressing internal contradiction in Turkey is its control over northern Kurdistan. The denial of the Kurdish nationality, language and culture kept alive the experiences of ethnic cleansing against minorities that accompanied the establishment of modern Turkey as a nation-state. The continued military effort to suppress the Kurdish aspirations for freedom and equality gave constant legitimacy to internal oppression and fascist nationalism. It is another example of Marx’s saying that people who oppress other people can’t be free. The position toward the Kurdish question is the most important litmus test for the democratic attitude of any party or government in Turkey.

In his first period in power it seemed that Erdogan is moving toward a more compromising position toward the Kurds. He relieved restrictions over the use of the Kurdish language and opened negotiations with the PKK and its jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan. In 2013 they reached an agreement about ceasefire that was supposed to open the way for a peaceful solution.

But recent developments showed that Erdogan is turning Turkey away from the path toward democracy. Naturally it started with changing policy toward Kurdistan. You can set the turning point in the June 7, 2015, general elections. The partial democratization allowed the democratic forces in Turkey, led by Kurdish militants, to create The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and pass the restrictive 10% hurdle for representation in the parliament, gaining 13% of the popular vote. Erdogan’s party used to get much of the Kurdish vote before as the less-anti-Kurdish choice. It lost its majority in parliament and had to choose between forming a coalition government and new elections. It unleashed a wave of oppression in Kurdistan in order to beat its Kurdish opponents on one side and appease Turkish nationalist voters on the other. It won absolute majority in rerun of the elections in November 2015.

After the failed coup, in spite of the wise support of all political parties to the government against the coup plotters, Erdogan used his reasserted legitimacy not only to persecute supporters of the coup but also to raise the general level of political oppression. The main victims were, how not, the Kurds. Many HDP leaders were arrested and any pro-Kurdish political activity can (again) result with charges of terrorism.

On the most important “foreign affairs” front – the civil war in Syria – the choice for Turkey was most blunt. It could give a major boost to democracy in Syria by supporting and helping to unite all democratic forces. Instead the Turkish regimes indulgence with oppressing Kurds in Turkey dictated its enmity to the Kurdish forces and their Arab allies in Rojava, united under the umbrella of The Syrian Democratic Forces. This approach bears much of the responsibility for the resulting disaster in Aleppo and continued weakness of the Syrian opposition.

Western Hypocrisy

One reason why democracy in Turkey is so fragile is the hypocritical preaching by Western imperialists and their Turkish allies. You can start from the latest campaign for the referendum to change Turkey’s constitution, when European “democrats” were hunting Turkish ministers in aeroplanes and trains to prevent them from meeting Turkish voters in their “freedom-of–speech heavens”. I followed the news closely but till now I can’t even imagine on what legal grounds this was done. And you can go back to the root, where the Turkish-NATO army was regularly overthrowing democratically elected governments, razing to the ground hundreds of Kurdish villages and torturing thousands of political prisoners from all backgrounds – supposedly all in the name of freedom and Western values.

In between there is a whole encyclopaedia of double-talk and racist double-standards. Turkey should fight to defend the West against its Middle Eastern brothers but it and its citizens are refused access to the EU because they are too poor, too Islamic and not white enough. Every move by the Turkish regime is met with ridicule and patronizing disdain. Maybe the most hypocritical of all is the way that Humanistic Europe is paying the Turkish government (and Libya and others) to make the crossing of the Mediterranean so deadly for refugees, just because they can’t see the suffering on their own side.

Time to change course

All these contradictions return us to the methodology of political analysis. It is wrong to analyse a party or a regime according to its declared ideology. In every country there are concrete issues and everybody should be judged by their concrete answers and actions.

Some of my most secular friends tell me that they know what is the position of this or that Islamic movement, because they learned Islam and they know what is written in Islam’s holy books on that case. This will never explain why there are so many Islamic currents, with such different positions, some of them even fighting each other.

As much as I can see, the problem with Erdogan his not that Islam is contrary to democracy. The problem with him and his movement is that it started as a popular movement against oppressive regime, but now, after fifteen years in government, it entered a marriage of convenience with Turkish nationalism and the oppressive state apparatus. History can tell about many other movements, from all ideological hues, which went through similar transformations.

Even if Erdogan was a perfect leader, I wouldn’t recommend letting him concentrate more state powers or extend his spell at the head of government. Everybody can learn from this wise old Chinese, Deng Xiao Ping, who showed by personal example that the way to ensure your political agenda even after your death is to relay power in an orderly way to a new generation while you are still at your best.