Archive for June, 2013

No to US military intervention in Syria

By Jonathan Power

The fog of war in Syria descends. Alliances on the ground come and go. America wobbles. Europe wrings its hands. Russia ups its military commitment, fearful of an arc of Sunni militancy that will make common cause with Russia’s own fundamentalists in Chechnya and Dagestan. Much of the rest of the world looks on with half shut eyes.

The debate swirls. Can the West have any profound impact on the Syrian civil war? Can it help depose the Assad regime? Does it really think it can influence the making of a democratic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, Syria? Is President Barack Obama, after months of resisting the sirens calling for military support of the rebels, beginning to think it can play a more important part than hitherto? With the direct provision of American (and British and French) arms is he coming to believe that this will tilt the balance in the insurgents’ favour? Read the rest of this entry »

Think and act – locally and globally

By Johan Galtung

Alfaz del Pi, located between Mediterranean beaches and a couple of majestic mountains, Campana-Aitana (Man and Woman) 1500 meters high. Today this small town generously accommodates 21,500; surrounded by fertile soil, orange and olive trees, vines. Benidorm – the famous tourist resort – and Altea, more for artists, are at hand stretching distance; on the Costa Blanca – white seen from the sea – in Spain.

So far nothing special. But that little town is home to close to one hundred different nations; 57% are foreigners. The English and the Norwegians are the most frequent; the Norwegians arriving already some 45 years ago. Close to half a century of peaceful coexistence; and not only absence of violence but also positive, cooperative peace.

We, a Japanese-Norwegian couple, arrived June 1969. First time in Spain was in 1951, hitchhiking to understand fascism better. Franco had evolved from dictadura, dictatorship, after a brutal civil war, to dictablanda, the softer version. But the basic aspect of dictatorship was there like a nightmare draped over the country: fear, fear, fear; so many listening, so few talking. But some said, if you only come for the beach, stay at home. Bring books; we are isolated, not knowing what happens. Franco will not last forever, we must be prepared.

Books were brought. Customs people hardly knew how to read but quickly identifying more copies than one; hence, one of each. Books were handed over, to the right – in this case left – people, for instance at a conference in Madrid in June 1969. And the books were read.

The summer heat was unbearable. We drove to the coast to visit a friend, officer in the Norwegian army, with years of dialogues behind us. They lived in an “urbanización” that looked like a Scandinavian ghetto, making us exclaim: Never for us! In the evening we had made the downpayment for a house. How come? The beach, the mountains, the roof terrace, a depository for books in transit: Yes! Read the rest of this entry »

Blog ethics and politics

By Richard Falk

During this apprentice period as a blogger I have learned and relearned how difficult it is to reconcile my interest in constructive dialogue on highly contested subject-matters with sustaining a tone of civility. Especially with respect to the Palestine/Israel struggle I have periodically failed, angering especially those who feel that their support of Israel is either inappropriately rejected or ignored. This anger is turned in the direction of personal insults directed either at me or at writers of comments, which induces those at the receiving end to reply in kind, and the result is a loss of civility, which alienates many other readers who tire of such futile and mean-spirited arguments.

By way of clarification, let me acknowledge that I regards two types of interaction as satisfying my goal of ‘constructive dialogue’: conversations between like-minded on matters of shared interest; exchange of views between those who adopt antagonistic positions on an array of concerns ranging from cultural assessment to political analysis. To favor conversations with like-minded means favoring those who share my convictions with respect to the themes addressed in posts, and is viewed as ‘bias’ by those who do not share these convictions. I feel unapologetic about this encouragement of conversation among the like-minded.

Some of my harshest critics complain that I am one-sided or stifle the freedom of expression of those whose comments I exclude on grounds of civility, Read the rest of this entry »

Gaza: 7th year of unlawful blockade

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note: I am posting a press release of yesterday, 14 June 2013, to take note of the start of the seventh year of the Israeli blockade. After the Mavi Marmara incident, 31 May 2010 and the more recent November ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Gaza government there was an undertaking to ease the blockade with respect to the flow back and forth of people and goods, but the situation remains desperate for the civilian population of Gaza that remains essentially locked into the Gaza Strip where economic destitution has reached epidemic extremes and where the water is mostly unfit for human consumption. The international community, and its main leaders, have commented adversely on the blockade, but nothing happens! It is this sense of powerlessness that is undermining the legitimacy and relevance of the United Nations to the suffering of the Palestinian people, and with particular relevance to the extreme ordeal of the civilian population of Gaza.


Special Rapporteur’s report on Occupied Palestine

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note: What follows below is the text of the report presented on 10 June 2013 to the Human Rights Council. It offers an overview of the situation from the perspective of human rights and international humanitarian law in occupied Palestine. Both Israel and the United States boycotted the session, presumably to express their displeasure with the report and my role as Special Rapporteur. UN Watch distributed a defamatory resolution calling for my dismissal from the position, and the United States delegate, Ambassador Donahue, called for my resignation. No government formally endorsed the UNW resolution, and so it was never acted upon, while I took the occasion of the press conference to confirm my unwillingness to resign, and on the contrary, to continue to do my best to reflect as honestly as possible the realities confronting the Palestinian people from the perspective of international law. In the open debate the European Union represented criticized what was called the inappropriate failure to limit my report to ‘law and facts,’ pointing particularly to what was described as ‘the political’ in paragraph 7. In that paragraph the report offers some comments on the futility of securing the Palestinian right of self-determination by way of resuming direct negotiations; by expressing such skepticism about the diplomatic track, the EU apparently regarded the assessment as political, but to my mind it was an appropriate comment on why the prospects for protecting and realizing Palestinian fundamental rights under international law are likely to remain in total eclipse.

The text below can be read in its formal context by using the link to the actual document to be found on the Human Rights Council website.

Why Arabs need Iran

By Sharmine Narwani

In 2011, when Arab revolts began to sweep the Middle East and North Africa, the view from Washington and its closest allies was one of concern. How would the removal of mostly pro-Western dictatorships affect the balance of power in the region? More importantly – how to prevent these events from boosting Iran’s influence?

Two years on, the regional competition for influence is in full throttle. In its sights – among many other developments – are recent efforts by Iran and Egypt to upgrade their relationship.

The spoilers will have none of it. Said Steven A. Cook last week on the website of that most prestigious of US institutions, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): “Other than some quick cash and subsidized energy, there is nothing that Tehran can offer Cairo that will, in the long run, be to Egypt’s benefit.”

He has it entirely wrong. “Quick cash and subsidized energy” can only be used to describe the superficial offerings of countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both vying for influence in this new Egypt.

There is no contest whatsoever between that kind of assistance and what Iran can bring to the table. Iran has achieved its economic independence the hardest way imaginable…


Reinventing Fascism

By Johan Galtung

The atrocious Second World War left behind lasting damage by lowering our standards for what is marginally acceptable. War is bad; but if it is not nuclear, the limit has not yet been reached. Fascism is bad; but if it does not come with dictatorship and the elimination of a category of people, the limit has not yet been reached. Hiroshima, Hitler, Auschwitz are deeply rooted in our minds, distorting them.

Hiroshima makes us disregard the state terrorism against German and Japanese cities, killing citizens of any age and gender. And Hitler and Auschwitz make us disregard fascism as the pursuit of political goals by means of violence and the threats of violence. It takes two to make a war, by whatever means. But it takes only one to make fascism, against one’s own people, and/or against others.

What is the essence of fascism? Read the rest of this entry »

What Obama will see in Africa this week

By Jonathan Power

In June,1994, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, spoke at a summit meeting of the Organisation of African States: “We must face squarely that there is something wrong in how we govern ourselves. It must be said that the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves.” At last Africa seems to have taken his words of wisdom to heart.

This week President Barack Obama will be in Africa to see for himself how most of Africa over the nine years since that speech has taken the high road.

One by one throughout the 1990s governing elites began to come to their senses. Twenty-five States established multi-party democracies.

Approximately two-thirds of the people of Africa own a mobile phone. In many African countries phone technology is ahead of Europe and North America. Read the rest of this entry »

Up and up in the developing world

By Jonathan Power

Never in the history of mankind have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.

The birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain, took 150 years to double its output. The US which industrialised later took 50 years. Both countries had a population of less than 10 million when they industrialised. Today China and India with populations over a billion each have doubled their output in less than 20 years – and many other developing countries have done as well.

According to the UN’s recent Human Development Report– which everyone should read on line – it is more exciting than most novels – reports that by 2050 Brazil, China and India will account for 40% of the world’s output. The combined incomes of eight developing countries – Brazil, Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey – already equals that of the USA.

Their success is boosting the fortunes of many of the poorer countries, not least in Africa, because of higher levels of trade, investment and capital inflows and, perhaps most critically, India’s sale of affordable medicines and medical equipment.

The most important engine of growth of the developing South is their own domestic markets. Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey getting stuck again?

By Johan Galtung

From Istanbul

Turkey did the impossible, moving almost without violence from a military secular dictatorship to a civilian Sunni majority democracy. Turkey got unstuck. Sarkar’s circulation of elites at work: military elites, then religious-intellectuals, then business, then ordinary people–and once again the military. Second cycle.

Big Business would knock at the door, as it did in the Thatcher-Reagan revolution of the mid-1980s. Hence, not surprising that a big mall was one of the projects, together with an opera, a mosque and a monument from the Ottoman period for the Taksim Square-Gezi Park project. Every element a gift for Istanbul’s 14 million inhabitants. But, at the expense of a park, green nature, lungs, in that part of Istanbul.

Whether it escalated from this point to an extra-parliamentary confrontation between the winners (Justice and Development Party-AKP) and losers (Republican People’s Party-CHP) of the last two elections – the losers carrying much of the infelicitous past – or the other way round, or both, can be and is debated here.

Other processes are going on. Syria. Read the rest of this entry »


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