In Other News

Latin America: Gaza attack draws strong protests

An Israeli military offensive on the Palestinian territory of Gaza starting on July 8 has brought widespread condemnation from governments and activists in Latin America. The response to the current military action, which is codenamed "Operation Protective Edge," follows a pattern set during a similar December 2008-January 2009 Israeli offensive in Gaza, "Operation Cast Lead," when leftist groups and people of Arab descent mounted protests and leftist and center-left governments issued statements sharply criticizing the Israeli government.

Central America: leaders hold migration summit

US president Barack Obama hosted a meeting in Washington DC on July 25 with three Central American presidents—Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala and Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras—to discuss the recent increase in unauthorized immigration to the US by unaccompanied minors. About 57,000 unaccompanied minors, mostly from those three Central American countries, were detained at the Mexico-US border from October 2013 through June 2014. President Obama called for joint work to discourage further child migration; the US would do its part by making it clear that the minors would be repatriated unless they could convince US officials they were in danger if they returned, Obama said. The left-leaning Mexican daily La Jornada headlined its coverage with the sentence: "The US has great compassion for child migrants; they'll be deported: Obama."

Police try to block annual SOA vigil

The US advocacy group SOA Watch reported on July 22 that the police in Columbus, Georgia, are trying to impose unacceptable restrictions on the annual vigil the group has held there every November since 1990 to protest the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly the US Army School of the Americas (SOA). According to SOA Watch, Columbus police chief Ricky Boren wants to limit the vigil to 200 people on sidewalks outside the US Army's Fort Benning, where WHINSEC is based. In previous years thousands of people have demonstrated at a gate leading to the base. Boren is also seeking to deny a permit for the group to post its stage and sound system at the usual spot.

The proverbial pox on both your houses

Today's depressing news that some 10,000 joined a "New York Stands with Israel" rally at the UN (overseen by Chuck Schumer, of course) was compounded for me by a demoralizing encounter outside St. Mark's Church. I was biking down Second Ave., and saw the "FREE PALESTINE" banner outside the church, and stopped to check it out... To my disappointment it was the highly problematic group "If Americans Knew." It is obvious from its name that this is basically a right-wing naitonalist formation with (at least) an anti-Semitic streak. Right, "Americans" are pure and righteous (never mind Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and "shock & awe"), but are being hoodwinked into supporting atrocities by those wily Jews... I nonetheless took one of their flyers just to see what it said, and was dismayed to find it was a big quote from the vile Gilad Atzmon, a peddler of the most rank anti-Semitic garbage...

Environmental disaster seen in Libya fighting

A fire from fuel tanks near Tripoli's international airport set ablaze by rocket strikes is out of control as clashes between rival militias continue in the area, Libya's National Oil Company reports. Six million liters of fuel were set ablaze by a rocket late on July 27, with a second depot hit the following day, darkening the city's sky. "The situation is very dangerous after a second fire broke out at another petroleum depot," the statement said, warning of a "disaster with unforeseeable consequences." The Libyan government appealed for "international help" fighting the blaze amid heavy fighting that the government says has killed more than 150 people in Tripoli and Benghazi during two weeks of fighting. (Al Jazeera, July 29) Fighting continued July 28, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, with bombs and explosions heard across Benghazi. (Libya Herald, July 28)

Hamas: we'll coexist with Jews, but not 'occupiers'

Israel resumed its bombardment of the Gaza Strip for the 20th day on July 27, as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stressed that the group was ready to "coexist with the Jews" but would not tolerate "occupiers." The Israeli assault on Gaza continued after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to renew a ceasefire agreed to earlier in the day after he claimed Palestinian militants had violated earlier truces. At least two Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in Israeli airstrikes and shelling from land and sea that evening, as the total Palestinian toll in the deadly assault hit 1,032 with more than 6,200 injured. Israeli forces have also killed 11 Palestinians in solidarity protests across the West Bank.

Boko Haram steps up Cameroon raids

Nigerian radical Islamist group Boko Haram's is increasingly troubling the remote Far North Region of Cameroon, which has seen several attacks in recent months, with foreigners also abducted for ransom. This month, heavily armed men suspected to be Boko Haram fighters attacked Bonderi village, five kilometers from the border with Nigeria, and stole a military vehicle, four motorbikes and weapons from the gendarmerie base there, government officials told IRIN news agency. Another group of suspected Boko Haram gunmen also raided a gendarmerie border post in Zina town on July 8, three days prior to the Bonderi attack, and stole guns and ammunition. In June, two teenage sons of a Muslim cleric were kidnapped in Limani border town. The attacks, the latest of which claimed the life of a police officer and wounded another on July 18, have occurred despite the deployment in June of 1,000 additional soldiers to the Far North.

Thousands protest Gaza bombardment in Tel Aviv

Some 7,000 gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square July 26 in the largest Israeli protest against the bombardment of Gaza thus far. Slogans included "Stop the war," "Bring the soldiers back home," and "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies." Several hours before the demonstration was slated to begin, police announced that it was canceled for fear of rocket fire, but it was given the green light when news broke that the ceasefire would be extended. The protest was called by the left-wing Hadash political party and the organizations Combatants for Peace and Parents Circle Families Forum. The more prominent Meretz left-wing party and Peace Now anti-war group opted not to take part in the rally.

Israel warns displaced Gazans not to return

The Israeli army on July 26 warned Palestinians who have fled their homes since the beginning of the ground assault not to return, stressing that the army would not hesitate to use force against them. The warning came as thousands returned to see the area and remove their possessions from destroyed homes, amid a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire set to expire at 8 PM. The Israeli army's Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee said in a statement that those who stayed on in the neighborhood past the end of the ceasefire would be "putting their lives in danger," as the army is expected to resume a heavy assault that has taken nearly 1,000 Palestinian lives so far.

Palestinians accuse Israel of war crimes at ICC

Top Palestinian officials on July 25 filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza. Palestinian Justice Minister Saleem al-Saqqa and Gaza court public prosecutor Ismail Jabr started legal proceedings over the 18 days of fighting between Hamas and Israel that has killed over 800 Palestinians and 35 Israelis. The complaint accuses Israel of war crimes, including apartheid, attacks against civilians, excessive loss of human life and colonization. The ICC must next decide whether it has jurisdiction in the complaint. The Palestinian territory is not a member of the UN. However, the territory became an observer in 2012, a status which the ICC prosector said was required for Palestinians to sign up to the court.

Kuwait: court upholds 10-year term for tweeting

Kuwait's Supreme Court on July 12 upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a man accused of posting Tweets that insulted the Prophet Mohammed and the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Hamad al-Naqi, a 24-year-old member of Kuwait's Shiite minority, was also found guilty of spreading false news that undermined Kuwait's image abroad. The Supreme Court's decision is final and can only be commuted by the Kuwaiti Emir. An appeals court affirmed al-Naqi's sentence in October. The result drew criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which condemned the decision as a "violat[ion of] international standards on freedom of expression." He has been in prison since his arrest in March 2012, and was originally sentenced in June 2012. Al-Naqi has maintained his innocence, arguing that his Twitter account was hacked.

HRW: FBI stings pushed people to terrorism

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive sting operations based on ethnic and religious identity, pushing people into terrorism, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute jiontly reported July 21. The report examines 27 cases, following them from investigation through trial. "In some cases," according to HRW, "the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act." Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at HRW and one of the report's authors, stated that although Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US, the reality is that many defendants would not have committed terrorist acts without encouragement, pressure or, at times, even payment from law enforcement to do so. In many cases people with intellectual disabilities were targeted. According to some members of Muslim communities, fears of government surveillance and informants now force them to watch what they say, who they say it to and how often they attend services. US Attorney General Eric Holder has defended the undercover operations, calling them "essential in fighting terrorism."

Resistance to ISIS mounts in Syria, Iraq

More than 700 were killed in Syria over the course of July 18-19, in what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) called the bloodiest 48 hours in the conflict to date. SOHR president Rami Abdul Rahman compared the violence to the gas attack in Ghouta last year, which he said killed some 500. The dead were mostly from fighting between ISIS and pro-government forces in clashes over the Shaar gas field near Homs. Reports of ISIS atrocities in Syria continue to mount. ISIS militants reportedly carried out the stoning of a woman charged with adultery in the stadium of Tabqa city July 18. SOHR said residents resisted ISIS pressure to participate in the stoning. (Asharq Al-Awsat, July 20)

Gaza: a war for oil?

Well, we don't think so either, actually. But Revolution News brings some interesting facts to light in a piece entitled "Bombing for Oil: Gaza, Israel and the Levant Basin." It seems that in 1999, British Gas Group (BG) and Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) signed a 25-year agreement with the Palestinian Authority for offshore rights on the Gaza coast. In 2000, as drilling began, BG and CCC found gas (not oil) fields, dubbed Gaza Marine 1 and Gaza Marine 2. The companies were granted a 90% ownership of any reserves (60% and 30% respectively for BG and CCC), with a 10% share for the Palestinians. Gaza Marine 1 is entirely located in "Palestinian territorial waters," with reserves estimated at 28 billion cubic meters. Gaza Marine 2, or the "Gaza Border Field" straddles the maritime border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, with an estimated 3 billion cubic meters.

Honduras: US deports migrants; violence continues

A plane chartered by the US government carried 38 Honduran deportees from an immigration detention center in Artesia, New Mexico, to the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on July 14. This was the first US deportation flight entirely dedicated to mothers and children: eight mothers, 13 girls and nine boys were scheduled for the trip, although two couldn't travel because of illness. Reporters, Honduran officials and Ana García de Hernández, the wife of President Juan Orlando Hernández, were on hand for the flight's arrival. President Hernández's government promised the deportees job leads, a $500 stipend, psychological counseling and schooling, but a returning mother, Angélica Gálvez, told the Los Angeles Times that in the end she and her six-year-old daughter Abigail didn't get enough money to pay for the three-hour trip to their home in La Ceiba. "They haven't helped me before," she said. "Why should I believe them now?"