Something must be done about Israel’s number one ally, the Palestinian Authority, otherwise what we are witnessing today will be merely another flare-up, as opposed to a turning point for decolonization and the beginning of an end to the occupation.
Resistance in Gaza, Shoufat, Naqab and Haifa. Courtesy of the Qawim (Resist) movement. All rights reserved.
people saw what had happened to my son, men stood up who had never stood up
famous quote belongs to Mamie Till-Mobley, after her 14 year old son Emmett was
brutally murdered in 1955 Mississippi. An all-white jury acquitted his
murderers. Nearly 60 years later, the lynching of a 16 year old Palestinian boy
by Israeli settlers took place in Jerusalem. Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped,
forced to drink gasoline, and was burned alive.
media similarly acquitted the state of
Israel, conveniently ignoring the racist, ethnocentric, and colonial
ideology the state is premised upon. Reports circulated that Abu Khdeir’s
murder was a ‘revenge killing’ after three settlers, reported missing for three
weeks, were found dead on June 30. Palestinians
took to the streets in outrage, yet the reaction of the de facto president of
the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas was at the very least insipid. His response
came almost a week after the lynching, when he
announced he had sought help to form an international committee
to investigate Israeli crimes against Palestinians. Such a dry proposition
is in stark contrast to his words when it came
to the three missing settlers. Then, he stressed their humanity and openly
defended the security coordination with Israel, during the latter's biggest
incursion into the West Bank in over a decade.
With the mainstream media labelling Abu Khdeir’s killers as ‘extremist,’this has sought only to absolve the
Israeli public and the state from the crime of what they represent: a
colonizing, occupying, bigoted entity. As Palestinian writer Khaled Odetallah
pointed out, using the word 'extremist' to describe an unruly pack of settlers
is nothing but a mechanism for regarding the other Israeli population as
natural, and discounting the blatant racism that is inherent in all colonizing
Jerusalem and '48
Abu Khdeir’s lynching released an unprecedented wave of angry protests that has
quickly spread from his hometown of Shuafat to other neighbourhoods in Jerusalem,
and to Palestinian towns and villages in modern day ‘Israel.’ Since July 3,
thousands protested across the Galilee, as initial confrontations took place
between Palestinians and Israeli police in Nazareth, Arara, Umm al-Fahem,
Taybeh, and Qalanswa. Tires were burned, tear gas and rubber bullets were
fired, and chants resonated with the cry “The people
demand the demise of Israel.”
the days stretched out to complete one week since Abu Khdeir’s death, protests
sprung up in other villages in the Galilee, referred to as the Triangle, such
as Tamra, Deir Hanna, Kufr Manda, Baqa al-Gharbiyeh, Shifa Amro, Iblein,
Sakhnin, Arraba al-Batouf, and Jadeeda al-Makr. The cities of Haifa and Akka also
held protests, as well as Bi’r Sabe’ and Rahat in the southern Naqab
desert. On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Yafa
after Israeli settlers attacked a few Palestinian homes in the old city.
Palestinians are in the throes of direct protests
against the state that has allocated Israeli citizenship to the
1.6 million Palestinians, but which systematically discriminates against them
and regards them with a mixture of fear and suspicion. Hundreds have been arrested,
including dozens of minors, and more than one hundred remain in
Monday night, July 7,
Israel announced its incursion into Gaza, the most densely populated territory
in the world. This came after it had already killed ten people the day before.
In the first 24 hours of the bombing campaign, called Protective Edge by the
Israeli army, 24 Palestinians were killed, including eight children.
Civilian homes such as the Hamad family home in Beit Hanoun and the Kaware’ and
Abadleh family homes in Khan Yunis were targeted by air strikes and destroyed
with “surgical precision”, a phrase popular with warmongers and military
The resistance in Gaza, comprised of the
military wings of the various political factions, responded with a barrage of
rockets that for the first time proved their long-range capabilities, hitting
Khadera, which is 113 kilometers away from Gaza. Gaza's resistance tactics have
surpassed the imagination of Israel, with a navy commando unit storming the
Zikim military base after swimming there from Gaza. The Israeli government
ordered the bomb shelters for its citizens to open, as air sirens went off from
Sderot to Isdoud to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and further north, near the city of
Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Hamas
resistance al-Qassam brigades, listed in a brief press conference last Friday the conditions Israel
must fulfil in order to stop the rockets. The first is for Israel to cease its
aggression in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the ’48 occupied territories. The
second demands that Israel release the former prisoners who were released in
the 2011 prisoner swap deal but who were re-arrested in droves during the
recent massive military raid on the West Bank last month. The Israeli
government is already pushing for a bill to approve that these prisoners should
serve out the remainder of their original sentences once they get re-arrested.
Hamas will decide when to start and when to stop, not anyone else, despite
Israeli prime minister Netanyahu declaring that he will “intensify
attacks” in Gaza, and despite the support of western governments
such as that of David Cameron, who promptly reiterated the UK’s
staunch support for Israel.
has boasted that it has launched air strikes on more than 400 sites in
Gaza, where 1.7 million people, 75 percent of whom are women and
children, reside in an area that is 365 kilometers squared. The strip has been targeted with 4000 tons of
explosives, with an Israeli air strike occurring on average every four and a half
minutes. The death toll has already surpassed120. The
last large scale attack on Gaza was in November 2012, where 173 Palestinians were
killed, including 38 children.
Outsourcing the West Bank
the middle of all of this, the West Bank remains conspicuously quiet. The
protests by the shabab last month against the Israeli army as
the latter swept through towns and villages, wreaking havoc, arresting
hundreds, and killing six have subsided since the army nominally withdrew. It
is well known that the resistance rockets from Gaza are no match for a heavily
subsidized, professionalised, and technologically developed military, which
forms the standing pillar of the state of Israel.
are part of the resistance, as are the protests in the ’48 territories. Yet
without depriving Israel of its number one ally, the Palestinian Authority,
what we are witnessing today will be merely another flare-up as opposed to a
turning point for decolonization and the beginning of an end to the occupation.
Mahmoud Abbas’ conduct and reaction has done him no favours as regards the
recent events, and his speech at the normalizing Herzliyya “peace conference”
where he begged
Israelis to not miss his outstretched hand for peace is nothing
but grovelling to the enemy, in the very same moment that homes in Gaza were
being destroyed with their families still inside them.On Friday, Abbas' interview with PA-run
Palestine TV insinuated that the resistance rockets from Gaza were pointless,
and that he prefers to fight with politics and wisdom.
events represent a period of escalated action, yet for the status quo to be
truly smashed, the West Bank must rise up against the Palestinian Authority,
effectively getting rid of the infamous security coordination with Israel, and
replacing neoliberalism with a representative anti-occupation programme that is
intolerant of oppression and colonization.
Hamas and Israel will sign another empty truce after the former incurs heavy
losses on its side with no formal
guarantee that Israel will not immediately violate it as it has in 2008 and
again in 2012, and the demonstrations within the ’48 occupied
territories will be hijacked or co-opted by the older generation of
“Israeli-fied” Palestinians such as Ali Sallam (member
of the Nazareth municipality who described the protesters as hooligans and
thugs) and will fizzle out.
cannot be ignored is that the PA has created an entire sector of society that
benefits from its relations with Israel, and the fear barrier regarding its
notorious intelligence and security services has not been broken. The West Bank
has been reduced to a shadow of its self as the Palestinian cause was
transformed into coffeehouse conversations, rather than actions targeted at the
oppressive force of Israel and its collaborators. Yet as the resistance rockets
are met with gleeful support by Palestinians across the country, the PA are
already caught up in irrelevancy. The PLO as the sole and legitimate
representative of Palestinians has been exposed as toothless, since the
Palestinians in “Israel” resisting against the occupation serve as a reminder
that their identity first and foremost, despite the passport imposed on them,
will be Arab Palestinians. Widespread
support among Palestinians across the country for the resistance is mounting,
leaving the PA's fallacious and empty rhetoric of peaceful negotiations and
security collaboration in a very tight space indeed, not to mention a strong
sense of the inappropriate.
Palestinian Authority has once again shown that it exists solely to maintain
Israel’s security over and over again. This physical domination is coupled with
a disastrous neoliberal order used to pacify and oppress Palestinians who
demand to live with dignity. This is not the place to discuss strategies and
plans on how to resist the PA; it is primarily crucial to acknowledge that
precisely because of its deep entrenchment in Palestinian society in the West
Bank, any movement aimed at dismantling it will constitute a social, economic,
and political revolution in itself.
Already recent protests in Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and
the outskirts of Ramallah have been suppressed by the Palestinian Authority
security forces, an extension of the Israeli army. Protesters in an apparently
planned attack on Friday night descended upon Qalandiya checkpoint with molotovs and
fireworks, catching the Israeli soldiers there by surprise. Yet the PA
apparatus must also be simultaneously targeted in order to achieve and affect
As the popular
quote goes, “If I had ten bullets I’d fire one at my enemy, and nine for the
Country or region:
Data pubblicazione : Sat, 12 Jul 2014 19:50:39 +0000
If you care about human life you should be
appalled by what is happening in Gaza right now. But you should also be
appalled if you are a hardheaded political realist. Or even if you simply love
At the time I write this,
ninety Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and no
Israelis killed by Gazan rockets. There is plenty of moral indignation about
this unpleasant fact. As Chomsky put it:
Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and
naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks,
mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air
defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no
command in control, no army… and calls it a war. It is not a war, it is murder.
The narrative of defenceless Palestinians
being massacred by the vastly richer, vastly more powerful Israelis is a
compelling one for all those who care about human life. And yet even this
narrative, used in a certain way, can be read as a subtle example of the subtle
pro-Israeli bias that predominates in much western media. Why so?
The moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues
that the ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ tendencies that characterise much of
political discourse not only in his own country, the United States, but
increasingly throughout the rest of the developed world, are understandable in
terms of the way that they seek to activate different fundamental ‘bases’ of
human morality. Liberals, Haidt believes, are concerned primarily with care,
fairness and liberation. Conservatives want these things too – but usually only
for a particular in-group, which they define in terms of a different moral
vocabulary, rooted in culturally constructed, but ultimately primal notions of
purity, authority and loyalty.
When ‘liberals’ read about one side killing 90
people with advanced weaponry, and the other side killing no people with
primitive weaponry, they naturally root for the underdog. In doing so, however,
they play right into the hands of those with ‘conservative’ political
sensibilities. After all, ‘all’s fair in love and war’. And if leftists (it’s a
bit daft to call a radical anarchist like Chomsky a ‘liberal’, but he is for
the purposes of the argument here) say it isn’t war, then hardline conservatives
beg to differ. Read the words, for example, of ultra-hardline Knesset member
The Palestinian people has
declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a
slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction
of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique
references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war
against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against
the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a
war between two peoples. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask
them, they started it.
The logic here is grotesque, but there is a
logic, somewhere. If you have two groups, each one perceiving itself to be in
an existential struggle with the other, then the idea that you would
voluntarily restrain yourself arguably makes not that much sense. Why should
Israel restrain its firepower just because Hamas doesn’t have access to the
same firepower? War isn’t pistols at dawn. It isn’t cricket.
Of course, this is an example of foaming at
the mouth fundamentalism that few will sympathise with. But a more insidious
version of basically the same logic comes up in the ‘security dilemma’ claims
that deeply permeate the way that our media presents Palestine and Israel.
According to this narrative, Israel is stuck in an unfortunate catch-22
situation. It knows that its occupation is breeding misery and extremism. It
wants to withdraw. But it can’t, because the very extremism which occupation
produces means that if it loosens its grip, it will expose itself to
devastating attacks by an unrelenting opponent.
Of course, Israel’s occupation of the West
Bank is simply illegal. Technically, refusing to withdraw on these grounds is a
bit like saying that you won’t give back the plasma tv you stole because you’ve
tried watching cheaper models, but it hasn’t really worked out for you. Being realistic,
however, the security dilemma argument looks compelling. It looks
compelling because security dilemmas are good stories. They are plausible – we’ve
all experienced something similar in microcosm. They offer a realistic a priori account of human motivation.
They explain why good people might have to do bad things. And they don’t force
us to demonise one side or the other.
So, the security dilemma argument, placed
side by side with the asymmetric killing argument sets up the
Palestine-Israel issue in terms of the consumer market in political opinions
that we are all familiar with. If your politics are shaped by the ‘care’
instinct, then you will probably empathise (all things being equal) with dead
Palestinian children. You don’t need, then, to worry too much with the wrongs
and rights that got things to that point. If you think of yourself as still
compassionate, but a bit tougher minded, then you will go with the ‘tragedy’
narrative, and perhaps lament the lack of ‘leadership’ on ‘both sides’. If,
finally, you are a hard core political partisan on one side or the other, then
you will simply pick your team and stick to it through thick and thin.
Either way, each market sector can be
comfortable with its choice, knowing the dispositions that have accounted for
its own choice, and the contrasting dispositions that have accounted for
others’ choices. And there is, of course, another winner from all this: the incumbent
power, (Israel, in this instance) which gets to keep the status quo.
What is obscured in all this, is that the
central issue is not really a security dilemma at all. We do not have a
conflict, but rather a colonisation. Israel is not occupying the West Bank to
protect Israel (were that so, Israelis would have given up tolerating the
expense long ago). It is occupying the West Bank to protect the infrastructure
of Israeli settlements that crisscross and cut up the West Bank. It is laying
siege to Gaza, choking it just short of death, not to prevent Hamas from
getting the wherewithal to build rockets, but to collectively punish its
citizens for refusing to recognise Israel’s ‘right to exist’ or, nowadays its
‘right to exist as a Jewish state’. (There is also the small matter of the gas
fields in Gaza’s territorial waters which Israel is presently selling off
permits to develop).
It is bombing Gaza not because of rockets,
but as part of a broader campaign to undo the remarkable achievement of the
Palestinian authority in reconciling Hamas to a project of moderation and
Palestinian national unity.
And when I say ‘Israel’, that conceals the
fact that this is really being done by a narrow elite made up of politicians,
the military, and the hi-tech arms industry who grow ever richer in a country
which is one of the most unequal in the developed world.
If you care about human life you should be
appalled by what is happening in Gaza right now. But you should also be
appalled if you are a hardheaded political realist. Or even if you simply love
Country or region:
Data pubblicazione : Sat, 12 Jul 2014 17:05:56 +0000
There are cogent reasons – international, historical and
domestic to Britain – why this year's Srebenica massacre commemorations are
different, and beg painful, difficult questions that demand answers.
The earth around Srebrenica yesterday took in the remains of
a further 175bodies
– in some cases just a bone or two – alongside the thousands already interred
there. Exhumed from mass graves, they had finally been identified by DNA matches
with surviving relatives - 'this year's' addition, to what will one day be a
cemetery for all the 8,000-plus unarmed men and boys summarily slaughtered in
the worst single bloodbath in Europe since the Third Reich.
This was the nineteenth anniversary of the massacre in 1995,
ahead of next year's twentieth to which legions of politicians and dignitaries
are sure to descend, shed tears and be seen to do so – whether crocodile or
sincere. But there are cogent reasons – international, historical and domestic
to Britain – why this year's commemorations are different, and beg painful,
difficult questions that demand answers as yet unforthcoming but necessary to
any reckoning with this and other atrocities.
The first reason is that next Wednesay, the question of
legal responsibility for the massacre raises its own stakes to the
international level: a district court in The
Hague will deliver its verdict in the case of 6,000 survivors who are suing the
Dutch state for the failure of its soldiers - part of the United Nations
peacekeeping mission - charged to
protect the UN-declared 'Safe Area', but who ejected crowds seeking protection
in its compound as the execution squads arrived in town, and watched on as the
Bosnian Serb units separated men and boys, for massacre, from women and
The verdict will be a
landmark one affecting not only the wider issues of accountability for the
massacre, but the role and obligations of troops taking part in future UN
peacekeeping missions elsewhere in the world.
The case has a legal
precedent in a ruling by the Netherlands’supreme court last September, that the
Dutch state was responsible for not preventing three Bosniak men from being
killed after they were expelled from the base. Liesbeth Zegveld, who
represented one of the Bosnians in the case, Hasan Nuhanovic, said the verdict
was based on the fact that the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica made a decision to
expel the Bosniaks from the compound instead of protecting them, as was their
duty and as they were ordered. The same argument in law applies to the class
A second reason was
the visit recently by foreign secretary William Hague and his glamorous
companion Angelina Jolie to Srebrenica, as part of their tour claiming to
reveal and address rape as the age-old war crime it is. Violation
of women occurred in Srebrenica, but nothing like on the scale of specially
designated rape camps in Visegrad and Foca nearby, which the celebrity pair
omitted to visit.
Hague had said in Sarajevo, of mass rape during Bosnia's carnage:
“Now we know”; and in Srebrenica that his tour with the actress (and her film
about the subject) had, “opened the eyes of the world” to this abomination.
This was preposterous: Hague was a junior minister in the government who knew
perfectly well at the time what was happening and worse - but did nothing, and
During the Bosnian war, the British government – along with
the United Nations and that of France - appeased (at best) and encouraged (at
worst) the perpetrators at Srebrenica for the three long and bloody years to
which the massacre was the inevitable conclusion. Three years during which
British diplomats and politicians clasped the hand of Radovan Karadžic, now charged with ordering the
massacre, beneath the chandeliers of Geneva, Paris and London and connived to
keep him in business. They have names: Hurd, Carrington, Neville-Jones, Owen,
Rifkind, Hannay and others. Three years during which our generals and others
from France and the USA dined with and bestowed gifts upon Ratko Mladic, who
also stands trial for sending in the death squads.
It is, however, logical for
Secretary Hague and Jolie to visit Srebrenica, although it was the site of a
massacre not a rape camp: one goes to Srebrenica de rigeur, because it is an icon. It is a place in which
politicians and statesmen can appear to care, even shed a seeming tear, and
talk about the 'world failing', but never their own government.
Srebrenica was not an isolated
incident. It was the culmination of the genocidal pogrom appeased and facilitated
by the west over time. Yet, rather than draw attention to all those other
places where smaller but equally vicious massacres took place, Srebrenica
detracts from them. It 'ticks the box’ of appearing to reckon with Bosnia,
without doing so. Who ever hears these days about Vlasenica, Bjeljina, Doboj,
Brcko, Prijedor, Foca, Visegrad, Caplinja, East Mostar… the list is endless,
beyond those bereaved, shattered and scattered by the slaughter there?
A third reason for the nineteenth
anniversary's singularity is a sudden, unexpected initiative by the British
government to take a lead in 'Remembering Srebrenica'. Last Tuesday, at
Lancaster House in London, an array of politicians and dignitaries including
ministers Eric Pickles and Steve Williams hosted and provided speeches, canapes
and Srebrenica goody-bags at an event to this end, enacting a resolution by the
European parliament in 2009 that member states commemorate the massacre.
Organised with the estimable
'Remember Srebrenica UK' movement and charity, there had been a moving event in
Luton the previous Sunday, at which young local people who had visited the mass
graves reported on their experience and emotions, while survivors of the
concentration camps at Omarska and Trnopolje (at the other end of Bosnia, and
of the war - its beginning in 1992), who had arrived in Luton as refugees,
recounted their ordeal and settlement in Britain.
Four activists of the remarkable
'Mothers of Srebrenica' addressed that meeting in a community centre with
unbearable power and dignity – as they did in the gilded hall at Lancaster
House 48 hours later, where brochures were available containing commemorative
messages from David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Boris Johnson, Ed Miliband, Pickles … et al.
Why? Why do Britain's leaders
suddenly want to be seen weeping for Srebrenica, nineteen years later, as
William Hague does for victims and survivors of mass rape? This was the question that baffled the
huddles of Bosnians in their best suits, invited to Lancaster House from among
our diaspora, and it is a good one.
A member of the Mothers'
delegation dismissed it, however: “We don't care what the reason is. We are
remembered here, we are recognised. After Iraq, Syria and all that has
happened, we are forgotten, and at this occasion we are not. That is all we
But a leading British organiser of
the event confided: “It's to do with the Muslim vote and Muslim extremism here
in Britain. Srebrenica has become the Muslim Holocaust Remembrance Day at which
you have to be seen doing the right thing. Which is fine – but the price is
re-writing Britain's role in Bosnia”. This is about our domestic politics, but
not our domestic reckoning.
And the fourth reason to focus on
this nineteenth anniversary is that the first book has just been published not
on the horror of Srebrenica but its aftermath - by two leading scholars on
Bosnia, Lara Nettelfield and Sarah Wagner. It is an exhaustive and landmark
study: covering the progress of 'Srebrenica in court', at The Hague, the
grotesque disinterrment of bodies from mass graves to 'secondary graves' and
even tertiary ones to hide the evidence, the fortunes of Srebrenica's diaspora
scattered worldwide and the vicious harassment of those survivors – mostly
women, of course - who dare to return to their native soil.
But the dark kernel of the book concerns the continued and
insistent denial of the massacre by Bosnian Serb authorities and their
president Milorad Dodik. As families arrived in Srebrenica this week to bury and
remember their dead this week, Mr Dodik made a speech in which he invoked the
imperative that, “Serb people will in the
future have in some way to recognize and celebrate Ratko Mladic, Radovan
Karadžic and myriad others, to repay them in some decent way for their
There has always been this nagging
question: are the deniers and revisionists mad, or are they pretending to be
mad? They know perfectly well what happened at Srebrenica; many of them were
involved to a greater or lesser degree.
Nettelfield and Wagner suggest an
answer, the book's most shocking proposition, by investigating beyond the usual
explanation of the deniers' deranged nationalism. They find the strategy and
politics of denial - fostering ethnic strife and searing pain for the survivors
as they do - to be a means of political self-preservation; denial is the
ultimate political 'spin': a hateful, cynical but effective way of maintaining
pyramids of power.
The Dayton agreement of 1995 gave
the Bosnian Serbs all they wanted from their pogrom of 'ethnic cleansing', and
enabled the machinery of war to remain intact, so that, say the authors: “the
gains made during the war were at stake for elites and the institutions they
represented. In Republika Srpska … the truth about Srebrenica could undercut
its claims to legitimate authority and political control over that territory”.
Denial is thus a means to protect
“state and entity bureaucracies staffed by individuals with close connections
to the genocide” for whom “a full accounting of the crimes would threaten their
careers, after decades of material benefits derived from access to state
resources and, in many instances, wartime plunder of the Bosnian state.”
And so the subsequent question of
accountability arises, not just in Bosnia, but beyond. Dr. Nettelfield says in
interview: “This is another thing Srebrenica's survivors achieved: raising the
level of discussion about accountability beyond the execution sites, to try and
get international leaders, governments and the United Nations held liable,
expand the scale of responsibility for what happened”. She adds of Britain's
commemorations, at which she was a guest on Tuesday: “What's the point of
commemoration, unless there is accountability?”
So two contributions from
Tuesday's occasion in London roared louder than all the hosts' rhetoric,
despite being the most softly spoken. One came from Mejra Duguz, who lost her
husband, sons, brothers and 40 members of her extended family, and said of her
return to live in Srebrenica: “Every day I see the men who killed our children.
Every day, they laugh in my face, as though to say: 'We killed everything you
had. You never had children because we killed them and we kill them every day
because we say they never were’. ”
And a 'daughter of Srebrenica' of
the new generation, Nirha Efendic, who lost her father and only brother, and
pleaded that the British government, “pressure the Republika Srpska to make
denial of the genocide a crime”, as Holocaust denial is in France. Now there is something to get on with, to do
with these otherwise impotent tears. There’s
a start, nineteen years late, better than never, towards what has to be the
ultimate goal if peace is to mean anything: the erosion or abolition of
Republika Sprska and unification of Bosnia.
Three recent events
The book was completed before
three recent events in Bosnia that undercut this institutionalised trampling on
the truth: street protests against mass lay-offs due to privatisation, floods,
and the World Cup. From outside the narrative of death, came post-war themes
which bonded communities regardless of wartime experience: the fight for jobs,
necessity to abate the waters and the achievement of Edin Dzeko et. al. in
qualifying for Brazil, where they were supported by Bosnian Muslims and Serbs
alike, subverting the politics of ethnicity.
But it remains to be seen which
cuts deeper: the entrenched politics of racism and denial, or common interests.
The future of the latter serves all ethnic parties, especially Dodik's. That of
the latter clearly lies at the level of community, such as the remarkable
'plenums' established to encapture the principles of the protests. For its part
though, the international community – including and especially Britain - which
facilitated the massacre, continues to pander to those who rule by its denial,
as impotent in the face of Dodik's hatemongery as it was to General Ratko
Mladic's advance on the 'Safe Area'.
We knew then and we know now,
whatever Hague and Angelina say. And if there is an element of contrition in
all this commemoration, it needs to be stated clearly, humbly and without mercy
for a prior generation which appeased and encouraged the killers.
Nettelfield and Wagner use a good
term: 'the work of remembrance', to
describe marchers for peace and justice who interrupt their lives annually to
walk, as they did this week, in reverse the 'road of death' along which
stragglers tried to escape the execution squads in 1995, usually without
success. The 'work of remembrance' does not describe canapes, speeches and
goody-bags at Lancaster House, unless they are urgently, cogently and
decisively acted upon in Bosnia; for the sake of the massacre's legacy, and
that as yet elusive reckoning without which commemoration is useless and peace
just a word.
Srebrenica in the Aftermath of Genocideby Lara J.
Nettelfield and Sarah E. Wagner is published by Cambridge University
Press. Ed Vulliamy is author of
The War is Dead, Long Live The War - Bosnia: The Reckoning, published by
Country or region:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Democracy and government
Data pubblicazione : Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:42:18 +0000
latest effort by the Israel-aligned US to renegotiate the asymmetric power
relationships of the Middle East has inevitably failed, with brutal violence
following; it is time, as an alternative, for the EU to generalise the
rule-based constraint on Israeli action it has tentatively essayed.
Death in war's spotlight: a Palestinian child in a Gaza hospital morgue. Ahmed Hjazy / Demotix. All rights reserved.The seemingly dormant
Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reawakened. A sequence of events triggered by
the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli students and the burning alive of a
Palestinian teenager has seen the region descend once again into a vortex of
violence. Settler attacks on Palestinian civilians, Israeli raids and arrests,
Palestinian rioting in the west bank and east Jerusalem, rocket fire from Gaza,
the launch of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” with mounting Palestinian
casualties and the threat of an Israeli ground operation in the strip have raised
the spectre of a third intifada. In
light of this escalation, the predictable failure of talks mediated by the US
secretary of state, John Kerry, and the all-round regional chaos, what should
the European Union and its member states do?
The EU has never been and is
unlikely to be a mediator in Israel-Palestine. Yet it has historically played a
pioneering role in the conflict. From the Venice Declaration in 1980 to outright support for a
two-state solution in 2001, the EU has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to be
ahead of the curve. And, away from the media spotlight, the last decade has
slowly but surely seen the EU changing the paradigm governing its relations
with Israel and Palestine, shifting away from political discretion towards
rule-bound action. Pursuing this pioneering path in the Middle East “peace
process” is a responsibility the EU cannot elude.
Following the victory of Hamas in
the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and in the framework of the Middle East Quartet, the EU endorsed and implemented
highly discretionary sanctions towards the elected Palestinian government—after
the split between Fatah and Hamas, specifically the Hamas-led administration in
Gaza. While the condition of non-violence is sacrosanct and firmly embedded in
international law, the remaining conditions were highly political and almost
designed so as not to be fulfilled. That policy of conditionality was premised
on the hope and expectation that Hamas would at worst capitulate and at best
wither away. Notwithstanding almost a decade of sanctions, the policy has dismally
failed. Even in the west bank, the resistance movement has anything but
Implicitly acknowledging the
bankruptcy of the policy, the EU (and the US) tacitly nodded at the Palestinian
government formed via agreement between the factions in 2014. While igniting Israeli
ire, this technocratic coalition (arguably closer to the Palestinian Authority
than to Hamas) became the first sign of intra-Palestinian reconciliation since
the collapse of the “national unity” government in 2007.
The challenges to the survival of the
new government are however monumental. Not only does it have to withstand Israel’s
onslaught on Gaza but it must also pursue the structurally complex task of
reunification after seven years of physical separation, mistrust and animosity.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority still has no presence in the strip. The
50,000 civil servants in Gaza hired by the Hamas authority have not received
their salaries since the government’s formation; the PA lacks the funds to pay
them and fears that doing so would trigger EU and US retaliation. And the
reintegration of the PA and Hamas security apparatuses remains a distant
prospect, not to speak of the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Gaza—the more
so after the current wave of violence.
In this context, the EU is called upon
to put its money where its mouth is. If indeed it supports Palestinian
reconciliation and accepts the current technical government, it should do what
to takes to ensure its survival. With the odds stacked so heavily against it,
active support rather than passive acceptance is essential.
When it comes to dealing with
Israel, recent years have witnessed the evolution of an EU consensus on rule-bound
action. For decades, the EU accepted a binary policy divide—co-operation versus
pressure—in which the intra-EU tide weighed heavily in favour of the former. Over
time and with mounting headaches caused by the EU’s bending of the rules so as
not to upset its political relations within Israel—take, for instance, the
decades-old problem of product-origin rules and the EU’s preferential treatment
of Israeli settlement products—the tune has started to change. Rather than the
either/or, carrot/stick approach, rule-bound co-operation is increasingly
becoming the only and most desirable third way. Not only is it the only
feasible route for a rule-based EU to maintain and deepen co-operation with
Israel. It is also the most effective strategy to temper, rather than fuel, the
dynamics of the conflict.
In this context, the EU is called upon to put its money where its mouth is.
The 2013 EU
guidelines on funding to Israel, which explicitly excluded as beneficiaries Israeli
entities in the occupied territories, represent the first evidence of this new approach.
The guidelines are important not because their implementation will cause
financial damage to the settlement enterprise, still less because such damage might
induce Israel to end the occupation. They are however crucial—hence the uproar
they occasioned in Israel—because for the first time EU practice has aligned
with its declaratory support for international humanitarian law and the two-state
The effectiveness of
this policy is demonstrated by Israel’s ultimate acceptance of the guidelines. Criticism
notwithstanding, the Israeli government did not slam the door in the EU’s face.
It ultimately signed up to the EU Horizon 2020 programme, contenting itself
with an annexed declaration in which it restated its domestic position without
this having any legal consequence for the EU. When the EU presented its position
to Israel as a legal necessity and not as a discretionary political act, Israel
screamed and shouted but ultimately complied.
The challenge today
is of pursuing this path and making the funding guidelines the harbinger of a
new approach, rather than an incidental digression from old habits. The EU high
representative, Catherine Ashton, had promised a new set of guidelines on the
labelling of Israeli products, indicating their exact origin, thus allowing EU
consumers to make informed choices. But those guidelines never appeared, as the
EU was once again put under the magic spell of the “peace process” and its relaunch
under Kerry’s impulse. Rather than viewing the labelling guidelines as another
small step assisting the US-led peace effort, the EU and its member states
suspended the work on them. Following the appointment of the new EU high representative,
that work should be revived. It should be pursued even more vigorously if Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations were to be renewed.
What these episodes
reveal is the EU’s ability to signal to Israel and the wider world the broader
principle governing the conduct of its bilateral relations. Once that
rule-based principle is fully internalised, its scope for application is
infinite—from police co-operation to EU assistance for the Israeli-controlled “area C” in the west bank.
When put together and conceptualised as a coherent strategy, its appeal may
spread beyond the EU, perhaps one day reaching the other side of the Atlantic.
What then about the
“peace process”? When the Kerry-mediated talks were launched, few believed they
would finally deliver the two-state solution painstakingly delineated over the
two decades since Oslo. And yet the
international community, in primis
the EU, religiously praised the process and prayed for its success. The candid
explained that blind faith was obligatory: negotiations might not resolve the
conflict but they would prevent its escalation at a time of mounting regional chaos
and, anyway, there was no alternative.
Events over the last few days have revealed
the fallacy of this reasoning. A process destined to fail—after two decades it
is difficult to argue otherwise—cannot be taken to be better than no process at
all. Indeed, it creates hopes which, when dashed, increase rather than reduce
the chances of escalation; hence the pattern of a conflict frequently
punctuated by violent eruptions. Furthermore, dogmatic insistence shuts down
all space for creative thinking about alternative processes and end-points, as Europe
pioneered as far back as 1980.
The EU is not a mediator but it does
have a role and responsibility. It also has high stakes in the resolution of a
conflict in which it has invested so heavily. After 20 years of funding to
support a Palestinian state which has precious little chance of seeing the light
of day, it is legitimate for the EU to ask whether this continues to be a
realistic way forward.
That is not to say that the EU
should abandon the goal of a two-state solution or turn its back on the “peace
process”. Rather, it should open up a debate, at least internally, on the
fundamentals of the process and its presumed conclusion. The Middle East today
is unrecognisably different from the early 1990s, when the building-blocks of
Oslo were put in place. The EU cannot blindly assume that the Oslo acquis remains relevant today, out of
sheer terror of contemplating alternatives. Precisely because the EU does not
bear upon its shoulders the responsibilities of mediation, it should use its
freedom and its duty towards the conflict parties to engage in an
out-of-the-box discussion on the possible way ahead.
Country or region:
Data pubblicazione : Fri, 11 Jul 2014 20:20:51 +0000
The looming withdrawal of western forces from
Afghanistan highlights the apparent dispensability of the modest gains Afghan
women have seen since 2001—and the deep-seated forces which sustain a viciously
“The best judge of
whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women …”—Barack Obama, Ladies’ Home Journal, September 2008
Changed roles: Afghan women training as police officers under ISAF stewardship. Balazs Gardi / Flickr. Some rights reserved.Thirteen years on from the
international community’s intervention, the situation of Afghan women still
gives rise to despair. Although
women’s rights and freedoms in Afghanistan have finally appeared on the international
radar, they still linger on the margins in many respects and
against women still emanates in part from laws conducive to its perpetration. Overall, the position of girls and women remains
Afghanistan is a patriarchal
society where all the major institutions are controlled by men. Although,
since 2001, there have been many endeavours to elevate women and improvements
have been observed, the foundations of discrimination against women have not
In the context of weak
law and order, the strict tribal norms, gendered values and religious extremism
which are embedded in the history of Afghanistan have been associated with
gross violations of the rights of women and would survive significant legal
reforms, even were these to be instituted. So one can expect continuing
obstacles for women in securing access to healthcare, education and employment,
as well as limitations on freedom of movement and opportunities for equal social
and political participation.
Much of the oppression of women
in Afghanistan is attributed to Pashtun practices: male elders having a say
over marriages of young women, high bride prices given to the father of the
bride, suggesting the sale of women into marriage, and “honour” killings of
women for purported sexual misconduct. During the past few decades, these norms
and values have however been adopted across all ethnicities in Afghanistan and
the seclusion of women is thus prevalent—entailing women wearing the chaderi or burqa when they leave the confines of the household compound.
Afghanistan’s entrenched traditional and customary practices constitute
one of the strongest sources of violence. One of the most esteemed values in Afghanistan is namus. Namus is that which is defended for “honour” to be upheld—as
distinct from behaviour which might be deemed honourable, such as showing hospitality.
If someone is held to have offended the rules of a gendered order, then it is
claimed there is reason to act to protect one’s namus.
Almost every woman in Afghanistan is hidden and isolated from the outside world.
There have been thousands of cases
where women have been physically tortured, beaten severely, brutally mutilated,
burned alive or had acid thrown at them—as well as being forced to marry at a
very early age, raped or sold into prostitution, with many engaging in
self-immolation as a result—and all in the name of namus. Women in Afghanistan, as in other tribal societies, are
considered bearers of the “honour” of the family and bound within the associated
chains of what is held to be sanctity.
Why such overwhelming violence against women, such calculated
misogyny? To taken-for-granted cultural “traditions” should be added the
materiality of wealth and power. Sustaining the current political, economic,
socio-cultural, religious and tribal systems, even the educational deprivation
of the female population, provides opportunities for men to exploit, legally or
illegally—including via the drug trade, human trafficking, the black market and
dealing in arms. Empowering girls and women would take that away from them or,
at a minimum, force them to share the advantages that come with mobility,
education and self-sufficiency. Hence, the status quo is preferable and many
men resort to criminal behavior and violence to preserve it—knowing they can
often act criminally with impunity in so doing.
The Afghan government and law-enforcement agencies need to take the
discrimination and violence against women seriously. But at the same time the
root causes of the problem have to be addressed. Until and unless women are
considered human beings and an integral part of society nothing fundamental
Afghanistan today sees
more than 50% of Afghan girls married or engaged by the age
of 12 and almost 60% married by 16.
Almost 80% of Afghan girls are forced or “arranged” into marriage with men who
are far older, some in their 60s. One of the reasons which prompts many families
to force their young daughters into marriage is the lack of security stemming from
three decades of war, including the risk of kidnapping and rape. Some girls are
bartered into marriage to repay debt or resolve a dispute. And widespread
poverty still compels many parents to have their daughters married to avoid the
cost of caring for them.
The implications of child marriage cannot be overestimated
as many girls do not continue their education and remain illiterate. They have
babies while still young teenagers, increasing
health problems and risking death for themselves and their children (the
risk of death during pregnancy or childbirth for girls under 14 is five times
higher than for adult women).
Education is the best strategy to liberate women
from male domination. Only 40% of Afghan girls attend elementary school, and
only one in 20 girls attend school beyond the sixth grade. Many Afghan families
will only permit their daughters to attend all-girls schools close to home and
few such schools exist. Other families believe it is unnecessary for girls to
be educated. Schools for girls have been burned down, hundreds of teachers
educating girls have been threatened or killed and girls have been physically
harmed while attending or walking to or from school.
Almost every woman in
Afghanistan is hidden and isolated from the outside world.
Islamic extremists insist women and girls stay at home and can only leave if
they are fully covered and accompanied by a male relative. In the cities most
women wear a burqa, which completely
covers them. The fact that girls live with their husband’s extended family
often results in them being treated like servants or slaves, compounding their
isolation. A culture prohibiting women to appear in public combined with a
widespread lack of education means women enjoy few economic opportunities: in
general, they are confined to housework.
In addition, women’s
legal standing is limited. According to sharia law, a female’s testimony is
worth half that of a man. In custody cases, children will usually be awarded to
the father or grandfather. So divorce—even in cases of extreme abuse—is less
likely to be sought, because a woman must be prepared to lose her children. These
discriminatory practices against women are pervasive, occurring across ethnic
groups in both rural and urban areas.
Many Afghans, including some religious leaders,
reinforce harmful customs by invoking their interpretation of Islam. In most
cases, however, these practices are inconsistent with sharia, as well as Afghan
and international law. As
long as patriarchy is perceived as the dominant culture and public value in
Afghan society, violence and the tendency to commit violent acts will remain an
integral part of culture and valued relationships.
It would be wrong, though, to discount the achievements made since
2001—especially since those achievements are now in jeopardy. According to NATO’s 2012
in the upper and lower houses of the Afghan parliament, there are now 21 and 69
three ministers are female and gender directorates are functioning in 27 out of
the 31 ministries;
out of 1,472 judges, 142 are women, including one provincial governor;
there are now more than 1,500 women in the Afghan National Security Forces, and
the number of girls enrolled in primary and secondary school has gone from
50,000 in 2001 to 3,230,000 in 2011, while the number of women enrolled in
higher education has gone from zero to more than 20,000 in the same period.
Change, if it is to be permanent, cannot be imposed
by western outsiders on this tribal, Islamic, post-conflict society. It has to
emerge through education within the context of the culture. Educating boys is
just as crucial as educating girls: educated men are much more likely to support
more choices for women and educated husbands appreciate and are less threatened
by their educated partners.
Nevertheless, although these
gains are real, the obstacles to women’s rights and empowerment in Afghanistan
are forbidding. Reforming the laws and penal codes, improving the performance
of the judiciary, aligning the Elimination of Violence Against Women law more
closely with Afghan criminal law, criminalising rape and redefining it in a way
that dissociates it from zina
(adultery), building awareness of the plight of girls and women, and
facilitating attitudinal shifts toward a more gender-balanced society are all
A vicious circle of lack of education, poverty, illiteracy,
violence and insecurity fuel the highly patriarchal society and even
fundamentalism and militancy which still characterise Afghanistan today.
Breaking the cycle will take great resolve and courage, as many Afghan women
and men have demonstrated—sometimes paying with their lives. Although progress
is slow, hope is found in places least expected
Country or region:
Data pubblicazione : Fri, 11 Jul 2014 17:46:51 +0000
The latest raid on camps in Calais is an example of Europe continuing to strengthen border controls and crack down on migrants. But violence and coercion will not deter those who are determined to reach a safe haven at any cost.
Migrant protest in Calais: "We want to go to England - we fled war and violence and found no safety and peace." Image courtesy of Calais Migrant Solidarity.
July, only minutes after the close of the suhoor
Ramadan dawn meal, the combined forces of the French Police aux Frontières,
constituent riot control forces and the Gendarme staged a coordinated raid on
the migrant population of Calais – the grim transport hub linking France and
Britain. The surprise mass eviction resulted in the destruction of various
sub-camps and the detention of hundreds of refugees. At least 600 migrants were
attacked with pepper spray, humiliated and insulted, while any surrounding
witnesses to the eviction were violently removed from the scene. This latest
attack on migrant settlements was authorized by the mayor of Calais, Natacha
Bouchart; another murder-hole attendant defending the walls of fortress Europe.
the brief interludes wherein the camps are not raided, migrants shelter
themselves beneath canopies made of plastic bags, without access to clean water,
without recourse to protection. Volunteer groups have attempted to alleviate
conditions by distributing food, sanitation items and clothing, and a
demonstration has been called on July 12 to protest the atrocious treatment
of Calais’ migrant population by the French government and forces.
The word 'jungle', when it wasn’t being used to denote particularly
impenetrable or overgrown vegetation, was a colonial byword for unruly,
untameable lands that had yet to come to heel. Today, these same jungles can be
found within the former colonial powers, on the outer periphery of ferry ports
and border crossings; in Calais they take the form of squatted buildings or
makeshift camps. Afghan
Jungle, Hazara Jungle and Palestine House - all names given by its embattled
occupants - have existed in varying incarnations for years. They house migrants
from areas as diverse as Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam, Kurdistan, Palestine,
Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, not to mention a sizeable East
the most marked increase in those fleeing to the shores of northern Europe has
been amongst the Syrian community. In October, Syrian refugees in Calais
attempted to appeal directly to the UK government, staging a short-lived
protest that saw some wielding placards appealing to speak to Prime Minister
David Cameron directly. Syria Jungle has fallen, but the desperation that
necessitated its existence ensures that it will rise again.
Tensions mounted in Calais on 28 May as a series of migrants’ camps were
dismantled under the pretence of fears of a scabies outbreak. Rather than
effectively treating its inhabitants, the authorities intensified the cycle of
violence and abuse. In response to the operation, occupants that had been forced to sleep
outside the SALAM charity center began an ongoing hunger strike in protest
against constant police
harassment and repeated evictions. Initially, SALAM was founded in response to
the closure in November 2002 of the Red Cross centre in the town of Sangatte.
winter approaching the French government effectively condemned these migrants
to sleeping on the streets, leading a number of volunteers to pool their
efforts and resources. Today SALAM has centres in Calais and Dunkirk and, with
a contingent of 300 active volunteers, ensures a hot meal is served every
the closure of the Sangatte Red Cross centre, over a decades worth of
unsanitary camps have been forced to spring up in its place, all of which have
been threatened by (ultimately successful) police attempts to clear the
makeshift shelters. In 2009, the French minister of immigration Eric Besson
authorized a notorious and widely publicized crackdown on the jungles of
Calais, which ended in the arbitrary arrest of 278 migrants and their
incarceration in detainee centres.
the crackdown unfolded, Franco-British negotiations were conducted to allocate
resources and provide for the strengthening of border controls in the face of that
most overstated of threats: forced migration. Just as the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 reneged on
the assurances made to support a pan-Arab homeland, so too does the
contemporary Anglo-French alliance lay bare the false motives at the heart of
David Cameron and François Hollande’s eagerness to intervene in the Syrian war.
clearing was yet another tragic example of, in this case, two European
nations fortifying themselves against crises of their own making; crises that have led to countless deaths in
perilous marine crossings, transatlantic wheel carriages and airless, suffocating lorries. In the
intervening years the world has witnessed the upheavals caused by various
responses to the Arab Spring. The British and French governments have already appropriated the Libyan and Syrian conflicts as a
means of repairing their crumbling humanitarian image.
Already the Franco-British betrayal of previous forced
migrations – such as those of Iraqis, Afghans, and Sudanese – is evidenced in
illegal deportations, ignored asylum requests and repeated instances of
harassment and violence. But with an idea of deliverance in mind, migrants who
travel the thousands of perilous miles with the UK as their final destination
ultimately refuse to give up their dreams in spite of the toxic socio-political
Meanwhile, another model for migrant support has more or less flourished
in Jordan and Lebanon. Although destabilised by the on-going conflicts in the
Middle East, many surrounding countries have willingly provided asylum and
protection to some of the almost-three million Syrians that have fled the war.
One such camp, Zaatari in Jordan, began life as a tent-city. Now, some of its
earliest settled streets are paved and, while crime remains an issue, the spontaneous infrastructure of this
migratory urbanism is a testament to the self-sufficiency of its population.
Relative to the Calais jungles, Zaatari is a place of stability, making a more
suitable environment to treat pervasive cases of trauma, war-related injuries,
The latest series of evictions of Calais’ camps began last Wednesday
with the SALAM
charity’s food distribution centre, a concrete yard secured by mesh gates,
where 540 migrants, including twenty women and ten children, had been sleeping
rough since their camps were destroyed in May. The police blocked all exits of
the enclosure, using volleys of tear gas to prevent escapes. Activists, support
groups and visiting journalists were quickly segregated from the epicentre of
the clearances to ensure no one bore witness to summary assaults and the
destruction of the jungles, the migrants’ only source of shelter. Over 300
individuals were crammed onto coaches and taken to detention centres across the
northeast of France, many to facilities that had recently transferred detainees
to other centres across the country to make room for the imminent eviction.
Despite the best efforts of the Calais authorities to stop migrants
congregating around the region, violence and coercion will not deter those who are determined
to reach a safe haven at any cost. Just this week a British driver discovered a
sixteen-year old Sudanese
boy clinging to the
underside of a coach bound for Ilford, near London. Having just returned from a
school trip to Calais, the driver only discovered the child by chance during
routine checks; certainly, the outcome could have been much worse.
Calais Migrant Solidarity group, who have organised a demonstration on Saturday
12 July, aim to ensure that risky border crossings (such as that attempted by
the young Sudanese boy) do not remain the only option open to the embattled
migrants of the Calais region, and that mass round-ups do not become the
exception that proves the rule. Having worked with migrants in Calais on a
daily basis since June 2009, Calais Migrant Solidarity have overseen the
residence of British, Belgian, Dutch, German and Italian activists, many of
whom remain on-site, monitoring police activity, providing emotional support
and distributing SIM cards and other provisions to ensure that a fragment of
normality can survive in the Calais migrant’s liminal lives.
From the infamous 2009 clearing of the Afghan Jungle to last week’s
destruction of the Syrian Jungle, the temporary settlements of those dispersed
by conflict, tyranny and oppression have become increasingly scattered along
the northern French coast. Just 40km from Calais, in the town of
Dunkirk, SALAM have recently set up a food distribution point to alleviate the
day-to-day hardships of forced migration.
For many British citizens, the name of the town alone
brings to mind images of evacuation, the need for shelter, protection and
deliverance. It has been 74 years since the evacuation of Allied soldiers from
the beaches of Dunkirk, a stunning rescue of over 300,000 soldiers from the
onslaught of the Nazi blitzkrieg. What was once hailed as a "miracle of
deliverance" today appears as an alien concept to the French coast, which
continues to be the location of an Anglo-French betrayal of the region’s
itinerant migrant population.
Data pubblicazione : Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:20:38 +0000
The Russian political establishment thinks that Ukrainians are 'traitors to Orthodox civilisation and Russian unity.’ But it is not only Putin’s Russia that is behind the challenge to democracy in Ukraine.
In 2006, Russian nationalist historian Mikhail Smolin condemned former
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma’s book Ukraine
is not Russia,arguing that Ukraine was a 'sickness,'
and Ukrainians were 'South-Russian separatists,' 'traitors to Orthodox
civilisation and Russian unity.' To a greater or lesser extent, this view of
the Ukrainian people is shared by the entire Russian political establishment
and underpins many of the Kremlin’s responses to developments in Ukraine.
The notion of 'Russian unity' or russkiy
mir (literally, Russian world) would seem to imply the existence of a transnational
community of people and societies committed to Russian culture and language.
The idea was adopted by Putin as early as 2006, and is obviously imperialistic,
but it also reveals a deeper and probably more important insight into Moscow's domestic
and international politics. Since Putin’s regime correctly recognised Western-style
liberal democracy as an existential threat to the well being of its elites (not
the people), it has crushed democracy in Russia and successfully convinced a
large number of Russian people that Western-style democracy is destructive
(look back at the 1990s, they say) and essentially alien to them. To compensate
for the rejection of liberal democracy and, therefore, becoming part of the
West, the Kremlin and its loyal opinion-makers have offered the Russian people
the belief that they are a unique civilisation in its own right: you do not
need Western values because you are different; Russian culture is not only
different but superior to Western culture.
President Putin meets with members of the 'Night Wolves' a Russian Orthodox motorcycle gang. via Kremlin.ru
Russkiy mir is an, 'unwesternisable' and 'unmodernisable' community.
Moscow proclaimed the uniqueness of Russian culture to justify both the
rejection of Western-style democracy and Western modernisation. But the Kremlin
– unlike China – has failed in its attempts at authoritarian modernisation, and Russian
culture, as intrinsically understood by Putin’s regime, is about not modernising
at all. Russkiy mir is an, 'unwesternisable'
and 'unmodernisable' community. This is why Putin’s Russia is not fascist, as
some commentators suggest: both
Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany strove for an
alternative modernity rather than rejecting the idea of modernisation
Obviously, no society should be forced to modernise along Western lines
unless it so wishes. However, the danger of the Kremlin’s 'non-modernisation,' driven
by the elites' urgent need for self-preservation, is that it clashes with Russia’s
natural progress towards social modernisation, which is determined by globalisation.
Thus, the Kremlin’s 'non-modernisation' agenda is not only to conserve the existing
traditionalist elements of Russian society, but also to suppress those who embrace
Western-style modernisation. This suppression has resulted in almost all the social
conservative policies that Putin’s regime has produced so far, showing disdain for
– if not openly persecuting – human rights
and environmental activists,
social, cultural and sexual minorities,
progressive artists and musicians, etc.
Another danger of the Kremlin’s refusal to modernise is that the
uniqueness of the 'unwesternisable' russkiy
mir needs constant corroboration, meaning that hindering the progress of Westernisation
and democratisation in the countries that are allegedly part of russkiy mir is crucial for continuing to
substantiate the 'non-modernisation' thesis to the Russians. Putin’s attempts,
first to sabotage Ukraine’s democratic revolution, and then to undermine the
country’s post-revolutionary development were aimed at Russian citizens, to
prevent them from observing Ukraine’s successful democratisation; otherwise, if those Little Russians did it,
why can’t we?
Belonging to russkiy mir
It is essential to stress that russkiy
mir is not a community of ethnic Russians or societies committed to Russian
culture. The Kremlin’s flirtation with Russian nationalism, although
convincing, is inherently a means to secure the rule of the political and
financial elites in Putin’s Russia. To be part of russkiy mir is to fit their agenda: disdain for liberal democracy, suppression
of human rights, and undermining the rule of law. This explains why liberal
citizens of Russia, or ethnic Russians in Ukraine who supported the democratic revolution,
do not belong to russkiy mir; they
are 'national traitors' or 'Russophobes.' It also helps to explain why the
defenders of russkiy mir in Eastern
Ukraine are racists and homophobes;
and why the best friends of russkiy mir
in the West are corrupt politicians
and undemocratic political parties.
Russkiy mir is not a community of ethnic Russians or societies committed to Russian culture.
In May 2014, an 'epic thread' appeared
on the Facebook page of the Right Sector, a far right Ukrainian movement that
emerged at the beginning of the Euromaidan protests in November 2013. A photo
of Conchita Wurst, the extravagant Austrian winner of 2014 Eurovision Song
Contest, was posted with the comment: 'Do we
need this kind of ‘Europe’? Or would it be better to restore the real Europe at
home and build a strong national state that would be free not only from Moscow
imperialists but also from Western liberasts?!'. This post became a disaster
for the Right Sector, as the overwhelming majority of the commentators – many
of them actual subscribers to the
Right Sector Facebook page – condemned the homophobia and intolerance of the
post. One commentator said: 'You have Putin’s view of Europe… Europe is
different and Conchita demonstrates that people are different... And, with the
kind of attitude that you demonstrate, you’d better go to a referendum and join
Russia.’ Another comment was no less devastating: 'If you're homophobes, then don't
turn on the TV. Go and visit neighbouring fascist Russia – they think the same
way you do. Shame on you.' Apart from comparing the Right Sector to Putin’s
Russia, some comments also denounced its isolationism: 'Do you want Juche
[North Korean autarchy) ideas in Ukraine or do you want Ukraine to be a full
member of the world community? If you want Juche, then you are enemies of
Ukraine; if you don’t, then stop this silly hysteria and talk about
self-isolation. Simply put: stop talking nonsense. Glory to Ukraine!'
'I will return Crimea to Ukraine!', - slogan from Oleh Lyashko's presidential campaign. (c) RIA Novosti/Aleksandr Maksimenko
Written in Ukrainian and Russian, comments like these affirm that
Ukraine’s departure ('South-Russian separatism') from russkiy mir or the sphere of influence of Putin’s Russia is not about
creating an unbridgeable ethno-cultural cleavage between the Ukrainians and
Russians. It is about rejecting what Putin’s Russia apparently stands for:
intolerance, illiberalism, and isolationism.
Far right… and far far right
Unfortunately, the annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and
the proxy war that the Kremlin has waged
against Ukraine in eastern parts of the country have created the conditions for
some elements of Ukrainian society to evolve in the direction of russkiy mir. The natural feeling of
humiliation deriving from the loss of territory and military failure, resulted
in a psychological need for the deceptive comfort of populism and its
simplistic rhetoric and actions. Similar attitudes were to be found in Russia
after the defeat in the first Chechen war – attitudes that contributed to the
rise of Putin.
Another presidential candidate, Oleh Lyashko, obtained 8.32% of the votes and finished third.
After Ukraine’s presidential election in May 2014, many journalists and
experts on Ukraine, who highlighted the pathetic results of the two 'official'
far-right candidates, Svoboda’s Oleh Tyahnybok (1.16%) and Right Sector’s
Dmytro Yarosh (0.70%), completely ignored the strong electoral performance of
another presidential candidate, Oleh Lyashko, who obtained 8.32% of the votes
and finished third. In his political programme, peppered with 23 exclamation
marks, Lyashko presented a textbook example of unabashed populism, while,
during his campaign, he postured in a military uniform promising to 'return
Crimea to Ukraine!' In the run-up to the
presidential election, Lyashko praised militarism
and bragged about unlawfully questioning a captured
separatist. However, not only have
the Ukrainian authorities ignored Lyashko’s criminal actions, but society has
largely failed to condemn his behaviour.
Social-National Assembly (SNA)
Lyashko worked with Right Sector extremist elements, namely the
Social-National Assembly (SNA); and by spring 2014 had effectively managed to lure
them away from Right Sector. The SNA is
a neo-Nazi movement, which has always been too extreme for the Right Sector.
According to its official documents, its 'nationalism is racial, social,
great-power imperialist, anti-systemic (anti-democratic and anti-capitalist),
self-sufficient, militant and uncompromising'. Its ideology 'builds
maximalist attitudes, national and racial
egoism,' while glorifying the Ukrainian nation as part
of the 'White Race.'
Fighters of the Azov battalion under the flag of the SNA featuring a wolf's hook. via forum.omsk.com
Lyashko's Radical Party nominated several SNA members as candidates in the
May 2014 Kyiv city council elections: Oleh Odnorozhenko (its
ideologue), Ihor Mosychuk, Ihor Kryvoruchko, and
Volodymyr Shpara. It seems plausible to suggest that SNA members will also be
included in Lyashko’s party list in the early parliamentary elections possibly
taking place in autumn 2014.
The Azov battalion includes members of Misanthropic Division, an international neo-Nazi movement.
The SNA was also behind the formation of the Azov battalion, a volunteer
auxiliary police unit that was armed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of
Ukraine as part of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) launched against the
(pro-)Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine. The Azov battalion does not consist
solely of SNA members (although there are unverified reports that all the
volunteers are required to sign up to the SNA before joining the battalion),
but the SNA leader Andriy Biletsky is its commander, with Mosychuk as his
deputy. The battalion includes members of Misanthropic Division, an
international neo-Nazi movement, whose Ukrainian 'branch' – mostly based in
Kharkiv – is affiliated with the SNA. The Division considers that, rather than
liberating Eastern Ukraine from illiberal and undemocratic (pro-)Russia
separatists, their 'black squadrons are fighting in the ranks of the pagan
battalion Azov against the residues of modern society represented by khachi [racist slur for natives of the
Caucasus region], chavs, communists, liberals, Asians and other Untermenschen.'
The SNA’s participation in the ATO in Eastern Ukraine, and Lyashko’s
cooperation with the neo-Nazis, run in parallel with mainstream Ukrainian media
according the SNA a degree of legitimacy by proclaiming them 'defenders of the
Ukrainian motherland.' They are almost never presented to audiences as SNA members,
but specifically as fighters of the Azov battalion. In the same manner, RT (formerly Russia
Today) presents members of European far-right parties who support the Kremlin’s
agenda, as simply European politicians, without mentioning their undemocratic
Recently, SNA members have appeared on Ukrainian TV, and interviews with
them have been published by respected media outlets. Their ideology was very
rarely questioned although sometimes they took the liberty of appearing on TV
wearing clothes with dubious symbols. Regretfully, the same media that provided
objective coverage during the Maidan revolution were now legitimising the SNA by
refusing to regard their ideology and activities as problematic.
In one episode, a journalist of Hromadske went so far as to show a video in which Mosychuk was humiliating a captured separatist.
Hromadske TV, for instance, invited Biletsky, Mosychuk
and Kryvoruchko to its studio as the commanders of the Azov battalion. In one episode, a journalist of Hromadske
went so far as to show a video in which Mosychuk was humiliating a captured
separatist. The journalist failed to provide even moderate criticism of Mosychuk's actions – in what way was he any different from the Russian state journalists who
questioned, detained and abused Ukrainian security officers?
In another episode, Roman Skrypin, a journalist for Hromadske, evidently unwillingly asked Biletsky,
who was wearing a black paramilitary polo with a chevron saying 'Black Corps' –
a clear reference to Das Schwarze Korps,
the official newspaper of the SS – about the claims that the SNA was a neo-Nazi
movement. When Biletsky, for obvious reasons, decided not to give a direct
answer, Skrypin disavowed his question.
LB, The Insider and other influential Ukrainian media outlets have
regularly published comments from and interviews with the SNA leaders, as well
as sympathetic coverage of their actions. Novoye
Vremya, a new media project of Vitaliy Sych, former editor of the popular
magazine Korrespondent, has even named Biletsky among the
10 people 'who are taking a stand for Ukraine’s independence in Donbas.' It may
be worth remembering that Sych declared
Svoboda’s Oleh Tyahnybok 'the person of the year 2012.'
Ihor Mosychuk in the studio of Hromadske TV, wearing a t-shirt produced by the neo-Nazi brand Doberman Aggressive. via YouTube
How different, then, are they all from the media in Putin’s Russia that
serve as a platform for disseminating the illiberal and intolerant views of
Russian ultranationalists such as Aleksandr
Dugin, Aleksandr Prokhanov
and many others? Ukrainian humanistic and liberal voices
are few. In Ukraine, they are often slammed as 'pacifists,' although neither
humanism nor liberalism equals pacifism. In Russia, liberal journalists are
condemned as the 'fifth column.'
Conflict as a test of Ukrainian democracy
Russia’s proxy war against Ukraine now serves as a perfect excuse for
legitimising the fringe Ukrainian neo-Nazis as 'defenders of the Ukrainian motherland.'
Those who are involved in this process – especially the Ministry of Internal
Affairs that arm them and Ukrainian mainstream media that uncritically take
their 'patriotism' at face value – fail to understand that neo-Nazis pose a
real threat to Ukrainian society.
Neo-Nazis pose a real threat to Ukrainian society.
The Constitution of Ukraine
unequivocally states that 'Ukraine is the sovereign and independent,
democratic, social, legal state' (Article 1). For some Ukrainians, the Russian
threat to their country’s sovereignty and independence has obscured the
rationale of being sovereign and independent – that is to secure the democratic,
social and legal state. Furthermore, the Constitution unambiguously recognises,
'the human being, his or her life and health, honour and dignity, inviolability
and security' as the highest social value.
At the same time, the main duty of the
state is 'to affirm and ensure human rights and freedoms' (Article 3).
It is absurd to assume that the neo-Nazis who 'are taking a stand for
Ukraine’s independence' are doing this in the name of Ukraine’s highest social
values or to reinforce the main duty of the state as stipulated by the
Constitution. Rather, they are arming themselves, learning how to fight and
kill, as well as recruiting new members. Their 'ideal Ukraine' is not only
different, but is the direct opposite of a democratic, social and legal state.
To ignore these values, to override them for the sake of sovereignty and independence,
is to move closer psychologically in the direction of Putin’s russkiy mir without even acknowledging
it. Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU should mean something different,
because EU member states have partially sacrificed their sovereignty and
independence at the altar of supranational democracy, more secure social order
and the stronger rule of law.
In the beginning of July, Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko used the
conflict in Eastern Ukraine as an excuse for discarding what should be the fundamental
values of the democratic Ukrainian state. On 5 July, the Ukrainian LGBT
community was going to hold a March of Equality in Kyiv, under the slogan 'Ukraine
is united and we are part of it,' but Klitschko called for its cancellation on
the grounds that 'when military operations are taking place and many people are
dying,' it would not be 'appropriate to
hold entertainments.' Klitschko seems completely to misunderstand the meaning of
democracy: the March of Equality is not an 'entertainment' but a means of
drawing attention to the fact that the state should 'affirm and ensure human
rights and freedoms' of all its citizens.
What will Klitschko do when the neo-Nazi gang from the Azov battalion returns to Kyiv to fight against various 'Untermenschen'?
The March of Equality has been cancelled but the reasons for cancelling
it are most disturbing: the police told the organising
committee that 'they could not secure the safety of participants in the face of
expected far-right counter-demonstrators.' What will Klitschko do when the
neo-Nazi gang from the Azov battalion – officially armed by the Ministry of
Internal Affairs – returns to Kyiv to fight against various Untermenschen? The failure to protect
the participants of the March of Equality from Ukrainian right-wing extremists
in Kyiv is no different from the failure to protect East Ukrainian civilians
from (pro-)Russia separatists, because 'all people are free and equal in their
dignity and rights', while 'human rights and freedoms are inalienable and
inviolable' (Article 21).
Giving in to bullies
only makes them stronger; retreating from any enemy of democracy – be they
militants of intolerant and isolationist russkiy
mir or Ukrainian neo-Nazis – is to open up even more space for injustice,
and cede even more territory to anti-European forces. Every time Ukraine’s
authorities infringe the rights of its citizens, Putin gives a welcoming smile.
Country or region:
Data pubblicazione : Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:27:15 +0000
- Iran remains deeply engaged both
directly and indirectly in both Iraq and Syria. The Iranian supreme leader says his country must
enrich more uranium to meet energy needs; this will renew fears about it
having weaponising ambitions and slow down progress to international
agreement on its national nuclear development.
- A coalition of militias has
formed a politico-military campaign led byGen Khalifa Haftar, Chief of Staff of the military
under Gaddafi for a time and a rebel leader in 2011, in what may be an attempt
to bring order out of chaos, or may turn out to be one more milestone
on chaos road.
- And next door in Afghanistan, the
results of a presidential election are contested. The declared loser is
threatening to set up a parallel administration.
The stakes are
immense, outside powers are embroiled, the roar of contention and
suffering is deafening. And equally deafening in a different way is the
silence if you try to listen out for somebody articulating a viable way
Before right now
The trouble is that
you can unpick the headlines and dig deeper beneath them and see how in each
case, there are added layers of complexity and intransigence that only increase
each conflict’s degree of intractability.
- In Israel and Palestine, the
almost complete lack of empathy for each people’s murdered
teenagers and their grieving families; and in Israel the rising tide of anti-Arab racism, the grisly counterpart of
anti-Semitism and holocaust denial among Arabs.
- In Egypt, the increasingly
frequent, seemingly systematic and officially authorised use of sexual harassment and violence including rape
as a way of punishing and policing women who oppose the clampdown on
freedoms – or have ever done anything that implies they might oppose it.
- In Saudi Arabia, the
self-hamstrung response of the politico-religious establishment to the jihadi challenge it did so much to nurture and rear.
- The parallels with Algeria in the
1990s, drawn by The Economist among others, when a popular movement for change was
frustrated by the military, leading to a civil war of extraordinary brutality,
and bequeathing to North Africa a salafist organisation
that is now al-Qaeda in the Magreb.
None of this makes
pleasant reading. Perhaps even worse, this summary from The Economist:
- “The Arab spring has led to
something depressingly like a region-wide rerun of the Algerian experience.”
Or as I heard in a
briefing last year: “It’s not spring; it’s the start of 15-20 years of
instability, insecurity and worse.”
The situation is,
in a word, bad. Yet, apart from those who know they want to win, not many
people seem to have much of an idea of what to do. Worse, not many people seem
bothered enough to try to
have an idea. Indeed, so pervasive is the lack of ideas that you start to
wonder if anybody is paying the right kind of attention to the problem.
The region and the
rest of us
everybody should be listening and trying. Despite my provocative headline,
people care very much about the Middle East. Most of the key events make
headlines everywhere. What happens there hits first and foremost the people who
live there and they have the greatest stake in finding peaceful solutions. But
the range of effects goes much wider, sometimes with lethal consequences – as
can be attested in London, Madrid, New York, Bali, Mombassa, Nairobi…
killing, what happens in the Middle East affects us all, and not just
materially because of oil, the wealth of the region, and the movement of people
into and out of it. It affects in the sense of touching us because the
region is part of the sacred geography of
all societies that have been influenced by any or all of the three world
religions that began there – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And
with that, it touches even the most secular among us.
Scanning the media,
both mainstream and blogosphere, and considering
the voluminous expert and scholarly production of research and
analysis, it is evident that the region, its culture, history and current
conflicts get a huge amount of attention. So it seems many people care very
There is plenty of
real caring. Great effort is going into trying to get humanitarian aid to Syria
where millions are in desperate need. And plenty went into clearing Syria of
chemical weapons – an outstanding achievement, almost completeagainst
all the odds.
These things are
profoundly important and I am not knocking them at all when I say that
nonetheless there is a problem. Ask people about the region and what to do and
from within it and outwith, in government and outside, among experts and
punters, the response is not only helpless but close to clueless.
response and the emphasis on chemical disarmament are of paramount importance
but they do not address the underlying problem because they avoid the politics
The reason why
violent conflict is so widespread in the region is because of the systems of
power in the Middle East. There are essentially two dimensions of this –
national and regional – and both are so structured that the inability to handle
inevitable conflicts except through violence is an inevitable result in most of
While the national
specifics cannot be forgotten or else there will be no peaceful resolution, it
is also purblind to ignore that what is going on is region-wide. It is as
a regional political process that events unfolded and brought hope as
people sought change. And it was still a regional process when things
seemed less hopeful as the various power-holders blocked change in most
countries. It continued to be a regional process when it seemed like
disaster loomed as some countries became the playground for international
interests and gatherings of the disaffected and disempowered of the region. And
it remains a regional issue now that disaster has arrived.
national and regional efforts are necessary to create a peaceful future. The
Middle East is a region of great diversity in which everything is connected and
whatever it is you seek to achieve politically, you ignore that connectivity at
your peril. To get that effort going, we need a period of discussion to
develop ideas to drive the effort.
The current disaster
and the way it has unfolded shows that the default politico-diplomatic-military
response of finding who to support and doing so by supplying or using arms
is not going to work.
If you look at
Syria and are sometimes ambushed by the thought that, well, maybe, we should
have intervened (whoever the “we” inside your head is), then look at Libya
today, three years after armed external intervention. It is the one-word
description of the perils of intervening with the force of arms.
Of course there are
people and groups in Syria whom supporters of democracy, decency and human
rights could back. But doing so with the force of arms does not have a good
track record. It does not always go wrong (ref Sierra Leone) but it does not
often go right – at least, not all the way through.
So the ideas we
need now are, by definition, new: since everything that has been tried
hasn’t worked, we need something that has not been tried before.
The risk when you
say ‘politics’ is that what happens is a partisan process of fixing the blame.
Actually, one good way of analysing the region’s systemic problems is to listen
to all the blaming. Then, rather than trying to decide who’s right and wrong,
what’s justified and not, simply add it all together and go on from there
to think about the social realities that lie behind the actors. US influence,
Israel, the other side of the sectarian divide, oil, despots, religious
fanatics and religious hypocrites, European colonialism (and before
that the Ottoman empire, which is, surprisingly to my mind, usually allowed off
the charge sheet) – all of these things are part of the picture. Many
of the blame-gamers are not wrong as such – except for pure fantasists, to
be found on most sides – they are merely incomplete.
But even a better
understanding of what is happening will not help much if we are unable to apply
our imagination – to be ready to think different thoughts, to think anew.
And who is that
“we”? Obviously, the people of the region are first; without them driving
forward a search for new approaches, nothing is possible. But I think the rest
of us have a legitimate interest too, because where I live has been affected by
the violence, albeit much less than the region itself has, and also because of
that shared sacred geography. So it is a pretty large “we” and a quite complex
discussion that we need.
I am not saying it
is easy – I understand the reasons for turning away into passivity, anger or
focusing on just bits and pieces of the overall problem. I am not saying
that anyone I know has the answer. I’m simply saying it’s urgent.
This piece was originally published on Dan’s blog on 11 July, 2014.
Data pubblicazione : Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:25:51 +0000
New NHS boss Simon Stevens has revealed his true privatising colours with this week's announcement on personal health budgets - which would wreck NHS services and leave the field clear for big business.
We have been
waiting to see whether - and how - new NHS boss Simon Stevens would work round
to furthering the private sector agenda he has brought with him from his
sojourn at US insurance giant UnitedHealth – and now we know.
In a speech to
the Local Government Association this
week Stevens called for a major extension of combined health and social
care personal budgets. The announcement opens up a whole range of opportunities
for private insurers selling policies to cover top-up payments, and a host of
cheapskate private service providers looking to cash in on a new £5
Government Association should have been highly skeptical.
cuts have forced them to make year after year of brutal cutbacks in adult
social care budgets. For most people, there is next to no care now available
for ‘moderate ‘social care needs, only for people with serious or critical
needs. Much social care is delivered by exploited privatised staff on minimum
wage, zero-hours contracts, meting out “care” in 15 minute episodes.
When it comes to
finding cash for personal health budgets, the cupboard is bare.
credulity when he told his audience that personal budgets would be a way to
overcome the shortages of money which are increasingly visible in the NHS and
In fact the
establishment of personal budgets on the scale he now proposes – 5 million
people, mostly receiving £1,000 each - in fact rips 20% or more out
of the £30 billion a year currently spent on health and care of frail older
people. All for giving people £20 per week - which won't go far, ripped out of the system, even at minimum wage levels.
It would empty
the coffers of already-struggling NHS and council-run services, triggering a
widespread collapse and closure of unsustainable services, resulting in even
less choice, and in many areas no services at all for those who do not opt in
are a way of carrying through the ultimate privatisation and fragmentation of
care – right down to the individual. It completes the shift from state-funded
and previously state-provided care, through to a partial state subsidy, leaving
individuals organising their own care and footing an increasing share of the
bills themselves. Apparently they are supposed to feel “empowered” in the
health and social care services are no longer fit for purpose”. Too many
patient groups receive “inadequate and ‘fragmented’ care”, Stevens tells us.
For those on the
receiving end, this is hardly news. But if the budgets of these main public
services are inadequate now (and both face further real terms cuts for years to
come) how can personal budgets solve the problem?
It’s the same
feeble dregs in the jamjar – no matter how you divide it up or spread it, it
still won’t make a decent sandwich.
In fact, it’s
worse. How is state funding going to generate any more care if spent by
individuals steering a difficult route between grasping private companies
seeking to rip them off?
The answer to these
riddles is unstated but obvious. When the personal budget runs out, those who
can afford to do so will have to “top up” the miserly state contribution with
their own money, or borrow from family and friends to pay the extra themselves.
Those who don’t,
or who lack any savings or access to extra money will go without.
And there are
more questions. How can five million individuals expect to get a “better deal”
in negotiating one by one with private companies than they get from public
services? Public services – whatever their faults – are driven by
responsibilities to those who need care and support. Private companies are
driven by the duty to deliver maximum return to their shareholders.
If older people
are “baffled and daunted” by dealing with “an array of different parts of the
NHS”, why would they not be equally or more baffled or daunted by being made
responsible for buying their own care in a market place that will be thronged
with low quality providers keen to make a fast buck?
The ground would
be cleared for the private profiteers, who are happy to cash in on the limited
choice of a large number of individuals trying to find their way through the
chaos of the new system, possibly with the assistance of a voluntary sector ‘advisor’
and the local Yellow Pages.
sector organisations such as Age UK have opportunistically and uncritically
jumped onto Stevens’ bandwagon scenting more empire-building possibilities ahead,
just as the voluntary sector has now been harnessed in to back contracting out
of cancer services and other “pathways of care”. They are doing their client
groups no favours.
is retailed by ministers and voluntary sector enthusiasts citing the experience
of selected individuals who were enlisted on early pilot schemes, given much
more generous health budgets and who were willing and able to take matters into
their own hands. But of course for the next five million these factors will
increasingly not apply.
We’re at the end
of a transition from institutional care, to care at home… to caring for
yourself, on your own in your own home. That’s the glory of neoliberal Britain.
Stevens is a
bright enough to know he’s talking nonsense when he claims that “individuals
themselves can be the best ‘integrators’ of the health and social care they are
The imbalance of
knowledge and power between even the most physically and mentally agile patients,
and the providers of their health needs, means that a genuinely free market in
health care is almost universally seen as impossible, and no country on earth
has attempted to create one.
It’s clear that
Stevens and the supporters of this policy – resting on anecdotes from a handful
of individuals who have been able to do well from early pilots – are not
interested in evidence such as the failed experiments with PHBs in the
better-funded Netherlands system.
They appear to
have also wilfully ignored evidence much closer to home. Back in 2011 the NHS
Confederation published reports weighing up the merits of the scheme - and
concerns from service users, front line staff and carers.
They found “Service
users in particular pointed out that even if given control of a budget, they
would still be heavily dependent on their health professionals for expert
advice …”. While a few NHS staff “spoke optimistically about PHBs allowing them
to set up their own micro-providers”, the majority “expressed suspicion that
this policy could destabilise current NHS services, replacing them with more
for-profit providers.” “Frontline staff in particular foresaw a significant
increase in the transaction costs of administering, brokering and monitoring
health services under PHBs”.
costs would arise from having to continue to run existing services for the
majority while also finding the money to give to smaller numbers of patients to
“Service users wanted assurance that PHBs
would not lead to the local services they valued closing down, leaving them,
ultimately with less choice overall.”
In fact this was
already happening in 2011. In South East London a successful community arts programme
for people with mental health problems was forced to close by the financial
insecurity of PHBs. There is now no equivalent service available to mental
health service users. More closures have followed since.
The key selling
point is always the same - Stevens suggests his plan would “keep people out of
hospital, and ultimately save money”.
It might save
George Osborne money if individuals are forced to dig into their own pockets to
bridge the gaps and secure adequate services: but many will lack the money or
the expertise to bridge the gaps and will fall through them, winding up in hospital,
with even fewer options for discharge home again.
care. He is now embarking on his real mission, to find the private sector
serious returns from the wreckage of an NHS driven aground by Tory
under-funding and marketisation.
He remains, as
many feared, the private sector’s man, now carving up the service that
superseded the private health care market. The fight is on to stop him.
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OurNHS here to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter. Thank
Data pubblicazione : Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:59:42 +0000
Ruslan Kutayev, human rights activist, has been sentenced to four years imprisonment in Chechnya for possession of heroin. His fellow campaigners are convinced that the charges were false.
On Monday 7 July, a court in the Chechen town of Urus Martan, found Ruslan Kutayev guilty of unlawfully procuring and possessing heroin with no intent to sell; and sentenced him to four years in a minimum-security labour camp. Presiding judge Aleksander Dubkov also banned the 56-year-old president of the NGO 'Assembly of Peoples of the Caucasus,' and member of the political council of the 'Alliance of Greens and Social-Democrats,' from engaging in any public activity for a year after the end of his sentence.
Arrest and beating
Ruslan Kutayev was arrested on 20 February 2014, outside the house of relatives, in the hamlet of Gekhi. According to the Interior Ministry, a crime-prevention operation was being run at the time in the village, and the patrol detained Kutayev, whose behaviour struck them as 'odd.' When they searched him, they found three grammes of an unknown powder substance in his trouser pocket. Kutayev was taken in for further investigation.
Ruslan Kutayev has been sentenced to four years in a prison camp. Photo CC: youtube
'For a long time we didn't know where Ruslan was, who had taken him, and where,’ said his brother Shirvani. ‘We only knew he had been arrested outside our relatives' house, in his slippers – they were just sitting down to supper. Several cars drove into the courtyard; then masked men came in to the house and took my brother away. It was only late that night that we discovered he was at the police station at Urus Martan,' Later, the investigators informed him that Kutayev had confessed to possessing heroin. A day after that, he was taken for medical testing. After several attempts, they apparently found codeine and morphine in his urine.
'He had broken ribs and had been badly beaten. He seemed very low.'
His brother managed to get to see Ruslan when he was in the police station: 'he had broken ribs and had been badly beaten. He seemed very low.' Later, in March, the doctors discovered that Kutayev had two broken ribs and the lawyers recorded many bruises, a large hematoma on his back and in the chest area.
Relatives are in no doubt that the officers had beaten Kutayev, to try and get him to confess, though he denied this at the bail hearing on 24 February. Kutayev confessed that he had found the package with the three grammes of heroin in a taxi on the way back from Pyatigorsk, and had put it in his pocket quite consciously.
Upsetting the President
The anniversary of the deportation of Chechens was moved to 10 May, the anniversary of former President Kadyrov's (left) burial.Kutayev's arrest did not cause much of a stir in the Chechen Republic; it did, however, attract the attention of Russian human rights campaigners. Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee against Torture, was the first to publicise the charges against Kutayev. He pointed out that two days before the arrest, Kutayev, among others, had taken part in an adademic conference in Grozny's Central Library. This was to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Chechens and Ingush; other participants included Chechen WWII veterans, Deputies of the republican parliament, academics and historians. The anniversary is usually commemorated on 23 February, but this year, President Kadyrov decreed that the date should be changed to 10 May, the anniversary of the burial of his father Akhmad Kadyrov.
Ignoring the decision of the Chechen President, Kutayev convened an academic conference on 18 February.
Ignoring the decision of the Chechen President, Kutayev convened the conference on 18 February, and, in so doing, according to Kalyapin, fell foul of the head of the Presidential Administration, Magomed Daudov. Several of the people involved in the conference were called to a meeting with Daudov, who expressed his dissatisfaction at what had taken place. Kutayev was telephoned and 'invited' to attend, but refused, saying that he did not have to take orders from the head of the Presidential Administration; and he was too busy to attend.
'After the conference, Ruslan rang me and several others in Moscow. He was sure he would be arrested quite soon because of his refusal to meet Daudov, said Kalyapin. ‘He called me from his relatives in the village to say he was being followed. Two hours later he had been arrested.' Soon after the arrest, Kalyapin managed to get to see Kutayev in the Urus-Martan police station, where he confirmed the many hematomas and bruises on Kutayev's body.
Kalyapin's preliminary investigations led him to declare that the case was politically motivated and the charges trumped up. The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, reacted very quickly to this statement: at a meeting in the Public Chamber he stated in his usual brusque manner that Kalyapin was involved in dubious financial dealings and even in aiding and abetting terrorist activities in the republic.
'I emphasised that no one on earth is more interested in protecting the rights of Chechens. Our first President [Kadyrov's father], Hero of Russia Akhmad-khadzhi Kadyrov and thousands of his supporters, paid with their lives for these rights. At the same time, however, some people in Chechnya are trying to make a career out of human rights and have their own agenda,' said Kadyrov. According to him, Kalyapin is 'trying to persuade some Ruslan Kutayev or other to give false evidence.'
‘Some people in Chechnya are trying to make a career out of human rights and have their own agenda,' said President Kadyrov.
This is not the first time that Kadyrov has attacked Kalyapin and his committee, criticising him and it for offering legal assistance to victims of torture, which they have been doing since 1995. 'We have our own human rights campaigners, who can raise any questions with the Government and defend the legal rights of Chechen citizens; they have no need of any Kalyapins,' was the conclusion of the President.
The next person to speak of the Kutayev case was the Chechen Ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiyev. He explained that as soon as he heard about Kutayev's arrest, he tasked his subordinates with discovering both the circumstances and the reason for the detention. He said he had spoken to Kutayev alone, and could reveal that the prisoner had no complaints about his rights being infringed or the conditions of his detention.
'I can see no reason for getting excited about this case, but those that are making the fuss are certainly working against Kutayev's interests. The situation is being artificially hyped by some people who are pretending to be energetically engaged in human rights activities, but are really only interested in self-promotion,' said Nukhazhiyev. He undertook to keep tabs on the investigation, and to react immediately if he considered this to be necessary.
Dressed in white, Chechen Ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiyev (far right) attends a session with Putin on human rights in Russia.
The investigation of the charges against Kutayev was completed fairly rapidly: the investigators only took two months to prepare the indictment, and on 25 April the trial began.
The police who had taken part in his arrest were called as witnesses. During the trial, Igor Kalyapin more than once pointed out the inconsistencies and contradictions in their evidence. One of the witnesses said that Kutayev had attracted their attention because he was 'unsteady on his feet, though standing in one place, and in some kind of agitation.' This led the officers to suspect that he was on drugs. However, Kutayev was only taken for medical examination the day after he was arrested. Kalyapin's suspicions were also aroused by the fact that during questioning many of the policemen asked the judge to read out to them the statements they had made earlier, during the investigation.
The policemen asked the judge to read out to them the statements they had made earlier.
On 2 June, while on the stand, the neurologist who had examined Kutayev, said that she did not know who had entered into her signed statement the ‘fact’ that codeine and morphine had been found in his urine. She said that she had made no probe sampling for analysis, and that she herself had not been in charge of the laboratory investigation; who had done it and when she did not know. Kutayev himself explained at the trial that he had been compelled to confess under torture.
'I was taken to Daudov. He and Alaudinov (Deputy Interior Minister) beat me viciously in the presence of their bodyguards,' said Kutayev, during one of the court sessions, 'I don't think this was only personal animosity towards me, however, and it is by no means the main reason for the fabrication of criminal charges and the subsequent criminal proceedings.' In his opinion the case against him is only one of the many examples of Russian officials and siloviki (officers from the uniformed ministries) settling scores with their political opponents in Russia.
'The false accusation against me of illegal possession of drugs is, first and foremost, to do with my political activities. They are using intimidation to make an example of me so as to scare off other people in the same field, who dare to criticise the Chechen authorities.'
Magomed Daudov, head of the Presidential Administration, is well known in Chechnya as a former soldier with the codename 'Lord.' Two weeks before the trial, he expressed his intention of personally attending it.
'I heard that during the last session my name gave rise to laughter. I am not working in a circus, and therefore do not take kindly to anyone ridiculing my name.' He stressed that he had neither beaten Kutayev nor detained him. He also assured the judge that he was not personally acquainted with the defendant, had never met him and, contrary to what the defence had said, had only spoken with him once on the telephone. Daudov even asked the court to show mercy towards the accused on the grounds that anyone can make a mistake.
'I do not support violent measures against someone who has made one mistake,’ said Daudov, ’I know our prison service, how people are held and in what shape they come out of prison. Unfortunately, anyone who receives a ten-year sentence will definitely suffer. Prison does not bring them to their senses and they are, therefore, ruined.'
In Russia, the penalty for possession of drugs in large quantities without intent to sell is from three to ten years. The prosecution called for Kutayev to be given five years. The court sentence was four years in a prison camp.
Kutayev's arrest has attracted the attention of human rights campaigners inside Russia and abroad. In Russia, the human rights watchdog 'Memorial' designated Ruslan Kutayev a political prisoner. Memorial is sure that the case bears all the hallmarks of falsification: their suspicions were aroused, among other things, by the evidence of the policemen during the trial. Interior Ministry officials were unable to explain where the order had come from to carry out a crime-prevention operation in the village of Gekhi; and no documents on this subject were made available to the court.
The atmosphere of fear is so strong in Chechnya that few dare to protest any matter at all. Photo CC:Facebook
In the opinion of the international organisation Human Rights Watch, the Russian authorities must immediately release Ruslan Kutayev. Hugh Williamson, director of the HRW Europe & Central Asia Division expressed his support thus: 'The arrest of Ruslan Kutayev and his appalling treatment have unambiguously reminded us that it is better not to criticise the regime in Chechnya. The atmosphere of fear is so strong in the republic that few dare to protest any matter at all to Kadyrov.'
‘The atmosphere of fear is so strong in the republic that few dare to protest any matter at all to Kadyrov.'
Novaya Gazeta journalist Yelena Milashina, who has been following the case, regards the Kutayev case as the first political trial in today's Chechnya. 'I was present at practically every session of the trial in Grozny, and I am absolutely convinced that the legal investigation was falsified from start to finish. The barrister for Kutayev completely demolished all the accusations against him, although the court totally ignored his conclusions, thus only emphasising the weakness of the verdict.' She is sure that Daudov attended the trial of his own volition solely with the intention of scaring everyone involved, and demonstrating his strength.
'It's the first time that such a high-ranking silovik (bureaucrat) has wanted to be called as a witness at a trial. All the better – now his surname will remind everyone of the scandalous sentence imposed on Kutayev,' she says. His relatives and friends point out the inconsistency of the charge against him – he could not bear cigarettes or alcohol, so how much more intolerant would he have been of drugs?
He couldn't bear cigarettes or alcohol, so how much more intolerant would he have been of drugs.
It is important to remember that there was no criminal episode, as Igor Kalyapin points out. 'No one found heroin on Kutayev because he was not searched; he was detained at home by armed men. All the documentation materialised later on. We tried to prove this in court. We had only to ask for the phone records of the policemen who apparently arrested him but who were not actually in Gekhi on that day; and, indeed, Kutayev's own records, to see that he hadn't been to Pyatigorsk that day. So he didn't come back in a taxi and didn't find a package,' says Kalyapin. Notwithstanding, he considers that the chances of the appeal court finding in favour of Kutayev, and reducing the sentence are virtually nil.
'I'm sure that the appeal court too will be doing the will of the Chechen Government,' he says. As for the officials' part in Kutayev's beating, he is absolutely convinced that everything happened exactly as Kutayev said. But, 'It is extremely unlikely that the case will ever be investigated.’
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Data pubblicazione : Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:31:58 +0000