Palestine (OpenDemocracy) – The Israeli government and its supporters need to break out of the prison house of their own thinking by taking a broader and more inclusive view of things. You can watch the Jewish American academic Norman Finkelstein on…
This year’s lowlights from world politics, the culture wars, and the military-industrial complex.
Each year Conn Hallinan gives awards to individuals, companies, and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2016.
The Golden Lemon Award had a number of strong contenders in 2016, including:
General Atomics for its MQ-9 Reaper armed drone, which has a faulty starter-generator that routinely shorts out the aircraft. So far, no one can figure out why. Some 20 were either destroyed or sustained major damage last year. The Reapers costs $64 million apiece.
Panavia Aircraft Company’s $25 billion Tornado fighter-bomber that can’t fly at night because the cockpit lights blind the pilot. A runner up here is the German arms company Heckler & Koch, whose G-36 assault rifle can’t shoot straight when the weather is hot.
The British company BAE’s $1.26 billion Type 45 destroyer that breaks down “whenever we try to do too much with them,” a Royal Navy officer told the Financial Times. Engaging in combat, he said, would be “catastrophic.”
One of the West’s key allies in the Middle East has admitted to what it calls “limited use” of UK-manufactured cluster bombs in Yemen. These types of munitions are banned under international law.
When a cluster bomb explodes, it releases several smaller projectiles which allows the damage to spread to a larger area– potentially putting civilian lives at risk. These sub-munitions can also essentially become landmines. Cluster bombs were banned under international law in 2010– a treaty Britain signed upon its creation in 2008. However, Saudi Arabia and most of their coalition partners– including the United States– have not signed this same treaty.
The British Department for International Development (DFID) has announced it will continue to provide funding to aid the Palestinian Authority (PA), but a series of “critical changes” will be made in order to ensure value for money.
The money will be funded by the taxpayer and its objective is to help “maintain stability, provide vital services and build and strengthen the institutions needed for a viable two-state solution.”
The government has formalised a flawed definition of antisemitism that includes ‘exceptional criticism’ of Israel.
It is summer 2013, the height of the most recent Gaza war. With around twenty fellow members ‘Jewdas’ – a group of self-proclaimed leftwing Jewish anti-zionists, are assembled opposite Brighton Pavilion. I’m there to picket a demonstration by ‘Sussex Friends of Israel’. We read out the names of the Palestinian dead – a figure that by that point was already in the hundreds – only to be half drowned-out by the boos of the larger of demonstration.
From between two bulks of policemen, we were faced down by a gaggle of young men around the age to be fresh of the grand tour of Israel . who yelled at us that we were antisemites. Someone pointed out, as politely as possible whilst still being heard over the chanting, the cheers, the sirens, that we were in fact all Jews, or at least, Jew-ish. He replied that real Jews support Israel. Another Jewdas member shouted that antisemitism was not the same as anti-zionism, whilst someone else waded in to the effect that Jewish identity is complicated. From somewhere in the crowd someone lobbed a “self-haters!” at the picketers. This unlikely identitarian dispute was quickly broken up when an unprepossessing auntie-type (complete with cardigan and pearls) punched me in the arm and ripped up my “Zionism, Schmionism” sign.
151 countries at the UN General Assembly have sent a clear message that the concerns of affected states and communities over the health risks from depleted uranium must be properly addressed.
The UN General Assembly has backed a new resolution on DU weapons by 151 votes to 4. The resolution, which highlights the ongoing concerns of affected states and communities, health experts and civil society over the potential health risks from DU exposure, is the sixth to be adopted since 2007. The text also recognises that countries affected by the use of DU weapons face considerable technical and financial barriers in dealing with DU contamination to internationally recognised radiation protection standards.
Dozens of Civilian Deaths Underscore Need for Saudi Arms Embargo.
The Saudi Arabia-led coalition killed several dozen civilians in three apparently unlawful airstrikes in September and October 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The coalition’s use of United States-supplied weapons in two of the strikes, including a bomb delivered to Saudi Arabia well into the conflict, puts the US at risk of complicity in unlawful attacks.
Bahrainis have rallied to voice their anger at a visit by British Prime Minister Theresa May to the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom which has been cracking down on pro-democracy protests for years.
The demonstrators took to the streets in the island village of Sitra on Wednesday evening to condemn London’s support for the Manama regime, stomping on a Union Jack.
Men, women and children in Yemen are at risk of “catastrophic hunger” as the conflict between a Saudi Arabian led coalition and the Yemeni government continues.
Mass unemployment, rising food prices and a drop in exports means people in Yemen could run out of food fast, international charity Oxfam has warned.
According to a report from the European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC), European countries who are taking part in the US-led coalition against ISIS are more likely to suffer terrorist attacks at home– and the trend is expected to rise.
France ranked especially high on the list; Belgium, Germany, and the UK are also particularly susceptible to attacks. Ultimately however, the report also states that any country participating in the US-led coalition can expect a wave of “IS inspired attacks” from both organized groups and lone wolves. Attacks on European soil are not only expected to increase, but the ECTC expects attackers to shift away from symbolic targets and focus towards more soft targets with more civilian casualties. They expect the attacks carried out by organized groups to become more complex and could involve more car bomb style attacks similar to those in Iraq.
How did a perfectly normal British teenager end up fighting in Somalia as a recruit for the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabaab?
Peter Beard’s documentary “My Son the Jihadi” follows the life of traumatized mother Sally as she struggles to come to terms with her estranged son’s transformation from a ‘normal teenage lad’ to Abdul Hakim, the violent Islamic extremist. Through this lens, we see a mother who is torn between the love for her child and a disgust at his actions in a faraway land. She admits, “I’m ashamed of him, but he’s still my son”.
In a statement today from one of the eleven Supreme Court judges, Lady Brenda Hale, the Brexit vote may not be recognized as “legally binding”. This might mean that the protectionist measures and complex trade negotiations (and renegotiations) with other European countries may be defined on completely different terms than are already being proposed.
It is worth noting that any referendum, including Article 50 (aka Brexit) can be as ruled non-binding in praxis, as furthermore legally inapplicable.
The “Brexit” referendum is no different and has been challenged on several legal fronts already. The High Court has ruled in favor of campaigners opposed to the fulfillment of Brexit, against the government’s wishes. However, the Supreme Court’s evaluation would prove to be the final frontier in which any opposition to the vote can be mobilized in an uncomplicated and legally finalizing fashion. This would very likely derail current Brexit plans significantly.
Human Rights Watch and six individuals lodged a challenge with the European Court of Human Rights, demanding that the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal confirm whether or not they were subject to surveillance by GCHQ. The challenge, filed on November 4, 2016, also seeks to know whether or not any such surveillance was unlawful and comes after claims filed with the UK tribunal in 2015.
In the earlier case, the tribunal dismissed the claims of those applicants that were not UK residents. It issued a “no determination” finding for Human Rights Watch and other claimants who were present in the UK, without revealing whether they were subjected to surveillance that was lawful or they were simply not spied on.
The Government must ensure that the UK Royal Family raise the issue of torture and the death penalty when they visit Bahrain in the coming week, human rights organization Reprieve has said.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are due to visit Bahrain this coming week (7-11th). The Government has said the trip will “strengthen the UK’s warm bilateral relations” with the country, among others in the region.
The visit comes amid growing concerns for an innocent man who faces execution in Bahrain, after he was tortured into a forced ‘confession.’ Mohammed Ramadan, a policeman and a father of three, was arrested in 2014 after he attended a protest. He was forced to give statements that he later recanted. His ‘confession’ was subsequently used as the basis for his conviction and death sentence.