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Jaclyn Tobia




The Four-Letter Word

Jun23

by: Uri Avnery on June 23rd, 2017 | 2 Comments »

When a Briton or American speaks about a “four-letter word”, he means a vulgar sexual term, a word not to be mentioned in polite society.

In Israel we also have such a word, a word of four letters. A word not to mention.

This word is “Shalom”, peace.

(In Hebrew, “sh” is one letter, and the “a” is not written.)

For years now this word has disappeared from intercourse (except as a greeting). Every politician knows that it is deadly. Every citizen knows that it is unmentionable.

There are many words to replace it. “Political agreement”. “Separation”. “We are here and they are there”. “Regional arrangement”. To name a few.

And here comes Donald Trump and brings the word up again. Trump, a complete ignoramus, does not know that in this country it is taboo.

He wants to make peace here. SH-A-L-O-M. So he says. True, there is not the slightest chance that he really will make peace. But he has brought the word back into the language. Now people speak again about peace. Shalom.

PEACE? WHAT is peace?

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Fall Harvest

Jun20

by: Mary Agnes Rawlings on June 20th, 2017 | No Comments »

The earth has yielded its harvest; God, our God, Blesses us.”  Psalm 67:7

Today I return to writing about God’s gifts in our lives!   It seemed to me that everywhere I turned this summer I heard retirement conversations going on and those same conversations caused me pause.  My cousin Charlie, my brother in law Larry, my friend Herman all talked about the event with an excitement which made me stop and think.   Questions surfaced, Do I want to retire?  When? Why? What would I do if I didn’t go to work?  Questions swirled through my mind, an endless and consuming battle raged inward.

Without advanced warning;  I awakened  in the middle of the night to this small peaceful space within me. I realized in that moment I was finished with paid work!  From that point each day in prayer, clarity came as friend and deep comfort surrounded my spirit.  Of course I am done I said to myself; I have worked for many long years.  Years of providing for our family in a small yet consistent way I had done my part and it was time to let go.

The surprising thing is that when I let go an amazing thing happened.   When I spoke with my boss he seemed open and aligned in agreement with a decision I had already made.  As I write this meditation we are in discussion about my departure date!  It certainly hasn’t been the way in which I thought it would happen; but like so many things in life transformation happens in the twinkling of an eye!

As I anticipate fall harvest I feel a deep connection with the earth.  This season of life is when one is able to see the abundance of what the earth has brought forth.  Being a farmer I realize sometimes a crop seems small while other years are abundant and overflowing.   The same seems true for a life.  Some years seemed more fruitful than others; some years seemed as though the earth’s parched dry wind stripped the ground of life itself.  Yet as I ponder the terrain I realize that my one constant has always been the sense that God is with me.  No matter what the circumstance or the challenge I experience God’s loving presence in my prayer and meditation on life and the harvest becomes a deep sense of gratitude for what I have been given.  The opportunity to live- grow- and love more deeply than I ever anticipated or thought possible is the real harvest in life.

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China builds new type of globalization

Jun2

by: Sara Flounders, as published on the UFPJ-activist email list on June 2nd, 2017 | 13 Comments »

Imperialism is worried that China’s huge global infrastructure projects could challenge the U.S.-led world order

The People’s Republic of China hosted a summit May 14 called the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, also known as the New Silk Road project. Twenty-nine heads of state and representatives of 130 countries attended from across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Seventy countries signed agreements with China to participate.

The “Belt” refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt. It encompasses land route development from central China to Central Asia, Iran, Turkey and Eastern Europe. The “Road” refers to the Maritime Silk Road. This involves ports and coastal infrastructure from Southeast Asia to East Africa and the Mediterranean.

The plan projects a network of trade routes with new rail lines, ports, highways, pipelines, telecommunications facilities and energy centers linking countries on four continents. It includes financing to promote urban planning, potable water, sanitation and food development. China is calling it the “plan of the century.”

China describes the project as a revival of the ancient Silk Road with 21st-century technology. It is projected to be 12 times the size of the U.S. Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Western Europe after World War II.

Major corporate media around the world warn that the gathering signals the end of the American Century — the U.S. claim to be the world’s sole superpower. Numerous analysts suggest the project could shift the center of the global economy and challenge the U.S.-led world order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Freeman described the OBOR project as “potentially the most transformative engineering effort in human history. China will become the center of economic gravity as it becomes the world’s largest economy. The ‘Belt and Road’ program includes no military component, but it clearly has the potential to upend the world’s geopolitics as well as its economics.” (NBC News, May 12)

In a May 13 article, “Behind China’s $1 Trillion Plan to Shake Up the Economic Order,” the New York Times predicted: “The initiative … looms on a scope and scale with little precedent in modern history, promising more than $1 trillion in infrastructure and spanning more than 60 countries. Mr. Xi is aiming to use China’s wealth and industrial know-how to create a new kind of globalization that will dispense with the rules of the aging Western-dominated institutions. The goal is to refashion the global economic order, drawing countries and companies more tightly into China’s orbit. It is impossible for any foreign leader, multinational executive or international banker to ignore China’s push to remake global trade. American influence in the region is seen to be waning.”

U.S. infrastructure is collapsing

Meanwhile, the U.S. infrastructure is literally falling apart. Crumbling roads, bridges, dams and schools have been given an overall D+ grade by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Investment in infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and wastewater treatment plants, is at a 30-year low.

Donald Trump, with his “America First” campaign slogan, pledged to rebuild the country’s broken infrastructure. But since becoming president, his administration has instead opted for cutting taxes on the rich while increasing the military budget. Meanwhile, the U.S.-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which was designed to exclude China, has collapsed.

China’s OBOR project has generated enormous interest because U.S. imperialism has less and less to offer any developing country, except weapons sales and military bases. Weapons quickly become obsolete, leaving only debt and underdevelopment.

Where U.S. infrastructure projects are in place around the world, they are focused on building and maintaining a vast high-tech network of 800+ military bases and servicing an armada of aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and destroyers. Each base is an expense to and an attack on the sovereignty of the host country. U.S. foreign aid ranks near the bottom of such expenditures of all developed countries, amounting to less than 1 percent of the federal budget. It is largely military aid to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Pakistan.

U.S. wars have resulted in great profit for U.S. corporations while massively destroying vital civilian infrastructure in developing countries under attack. Water purification plants, sanitation, sewage, irrigation, electric grid, communication centers, hospitals and schools have been intentionally destroyed in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. By contrast, China has no foreign military bases. Its ambitious OBOR initiative does not include military equipment or facilities.

Nevertheless, U.S. corporate power sees all other economic development as a threat to its global domination. Its aim is to protect at all costs the irrational capitalist system.

Response to U.S. pivot to Asia

The pivot to Asia begun during the Obama administration is an aggressive military plan that includes the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the Pentagon’s new THAAD missile battery in South Korea. Its focus is containing and threatening China’s growing economic influence in the region.

U.S. military planners brag of their ability to strangle China and cut its vital shipping lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca. This narrow transit point between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea handles 80 percent of China’s crude oil and other vital imports.

China, now the world’s largest trading nation, has responded with the nonmilitary OBOR plan that will open many trade routes through surrounding countries. Trade routes, unlike U.S. military bases, offer immediate benefit to the development of these countries. China is expected to invest up to $1.3 trillion in OBOR infrastructure projects.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank: Challenge to IMF and World Bank

Past U.S. practices of seizing the assets of countries holding substantial funds in U.S. banks meant that the $1.26 trillion that China has held in U.S. Treasury notes was especially vulnerable. Until six months ago, China was the number one investor in U.S. Treasury notes. Now China is divesting.

China has used a part of its significant reserves to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The AIIB plays an essential role in encouraging trade and economic cooperation with other countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. This Chinese initiative is seen as a counter to the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

As the Cuban news outlet Granma wrote on March 6: “AIIB aims to rescue those areas of the region somewhat abandoned by both the World Bank and the Asian Investment Bank (AIB), as well as encourage trade and economic cooperation.”

Both the IMF and the World Bank exert enormous leverage through “structural adjustment” policies. Debt repayment requires countries to cut spending on education, health, food and transportation subsidies. Their real goal is to force developing countries to privatize their national assets.

Phony concern for environment

Corporate-funded nongovernmental organizations and social media campaigns claim that China will not show the same respect for the environment and human rights as the U.S. and other imperialist powers do. They claim that China might not follow environmental restrictions on loans imposed by the World Bank and IMF.

This is sheer hypocrisy. The U.S. military machine is the world’s biggest institutional consumer of petroleum products and worst polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and many toxic pollutants. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.

U.S. wars have contaminated the soil and water of vast regions under U.S. occupation with depleted uranium, benzene and trichloroethylene at air base operations and with perchlorate, a toxic ingredient in rocket propellant.

Despite U.S. pressure, AIIB grows

Despite strong U.S. efforts to discourage international participation in the OBOR infrastructure fund, Russia, Iran and Latin American countries promptly joined and contributed substantial capital. Breaking ranks, Germany and South Korea then became major shareholders, followed by Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Australia. The Philippines and even Saudi Arabia saw the advantages of participation. The AIIB, founded on June 29, 2015, began operations last year.

According to a Times editorial of Dec. 5, 2015, “Countries are finding they must increasingly operate in China’s orbit. The United States worries that China will use the bank to set the global economic agenda on its own terms.”

In addition to the AIIB, the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China already finance big-ticket projects in Asia and Africa. By Chinese estimates, their combined overseas assets stand at $500 billion — more than the combined capital of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Socialist planning to overcome underdevelopment

China’s past decades of development and modernization and its current surpluses are what make these new global plans possible. China has an estimated $4 trillion in foreign currency reserves. Its granaries are full and there are surpluses in cement and steel.

In 1949, when the revolution led by the Chinese Communist Party took power, China was an underdeveloped, war-torn country with a largely illiterate, majority peasant population. Western and Japanese imperialist powers had looted and carved up China for their own profits. Breaking their hold was the first step in liberation, but China was deeply impoverished.

After nearly 30 years of heroic efforts to modernize the economy based on the organization and efforts of the masses, the Chinese Communist Party in 1978 opened the country up to some forms of capitalist ownership and foreign capitalist investment.

This still risky policy has continued for nearly 40 years. It has allowed Chinese millionaires and even billionaires to develop and spread corruption. Foreign capital, ever hopeful of totally overturning the Chinese state, invested because profits could be made. But the Communist Party has used the years of capitalist investment to build up a modern, state-owned infrastructure alongside the growth of private capital.

Now China ranks as a developing country with a majority urban population living in modern, planned cities. The working class is now the largest social class in China. Wages for shop-floor workers in China have tripled in the last decade to become the highest in developing Asia.

China adopted a new industrial policy in 2015: “Made in China 2025,” which intends to upgrade manufacturing capabilities for high-tech products. These plans are supported by $150 billion in public or state-linked funds. It is this kind of long-term socialist planning that is the motor behind China’s new One Belt, One Road plan.

While the U.S. attempts to block these needed infrastructure efforts, move missiles and aircraft carriers off China’s coast, and send the lowest possible diplomatic delegation to China for the OBOR summit, Washington had the audacity and arrogance to warn China against north Korean participation. The DPRK sent a high-level delegation.

The Settlement Legality Debate: FAQ

May11

by: Nathaniel Berman on May 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

I. Why Now?

The resurgence of debates about legality, particularly the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has become an unexpected feature of public discussion of Israel/Palestine over the past decade. This resurgence has been primarily the work of two kinds of forces. On the one hand, pro-settler advocates have been asserting that the pervasive international view of the illegality of the settlements is simply wrong. Such advocates range from a 2012 Israeli government “Report on the Status of Building in the Region of Judea and Samaria” (the “Levy Commission Report”), to articles published in the right-wing press, to activists relentlessly advancing such views in social media. On the other hand, the illegality of the settlements has been vigorously asserted by those active in international campaigns critical of Israel, especially the BDS movement. This article will primarily focus on the pro-settler use of the legality argument, evaluating its soundness and considering the contextual significance of its resurgence.

The revival of the legality debate is surprising because it seems, at first glance, at odds with current global developments. To be sure, there was a period, roughly between 1990 and 2003, when international debate about the use of force was pervaded with legal argumentation. In retrospect, it is astonishing how much of the debate about the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August, 1990 and the US-led military response in January, 1991, was framed in terms of legal argument. The decade that ensued was something of a golden era for public international lawyers. The conviction that the end of the Cold War meant that the international law governing the use of force could “finally” be implemented, that the Security Council could “finally” play the role for which it was intended, became quite widespread. Even as such hopes became tarnished as the decade continued – most egregiously by the international failure to stop the 1993 Rwanda genocide – international legal discourse remained a key shaper of world opinion about the use of force. Every intervention – or lack thereof – was accompanied by fierce debate about its legality. The 1999 NATO invasion of Kosovo, despite – or perhaps precisely because of – its questionable legality, produced volumes of creative legal discussion.

That period now seems long past, though it may not be possible to identify the precise moment of its demise. Kosovo played a role, as did the decision of the US not to seek Security Council approval for the invasion of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, both of these actions could be plausibly (if not uncontroversially) justified under longstanding doctrines (humanitarian intervention in the former case, self-defense in the latter). But it was the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent, if grudging, acquiescence to it by much of the world, that signaled that international norms about the use of force had lost their power to shape international policy. With the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, both of the erstwhile “superpowers” had firmly demonstrated their contempt for such international norms. To be sure, many condemned that invasion in terms of its blatant illegality, but such terms seemed out of touch with the new discursive character of international debate.

In the Israel/Palestine conflict, legal debate has long played a central, if intermittent, role. While I cannot rehearse the entire history here, suffice it to say that the conflict has been decisively shaped by the debate over, and adoption of, such international instruments as the 1922 Mandate for Palestine, the 1947 Partition Resolution, the 1967 Security Council Resolution 242, and so on. But there have been periods when questions of legality seemed more or less irrelevant to ongoing political developments.

In my view, it was the 1993 Oslo agreements and their aftermath that largely encouraged the most recent (if temporary) sidelining of the core legal issues of the conflict, such as the legitimacy of the State of Israel, the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, legality of the settlements, and so on. The twin recognitions of Israeli statehood and Palestinian peoplehood by Rabin and Arafat in 1993 promised to set aside zero-sum debates over rival, totalizing legal claims. In their stead, Oslo seemed (however briefly) to augur a focus on pragmatic adjustment of interests, the establishment of complementary Palestinian and Israeli societies, and the gradual oblivion of incommensurable claims over the land and its history.

The death of Oslo had both its sudden and gradual dimensions, with causes far too complex to discuss here. The second intifada sealed its demise – even though some of its form

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Making a Long-Standing UN Vision for Compassion a Reality

May11

by: Noah Tenney on May 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

Heralding Article 25: A People’s Strategy for World Transformation

By Mohammed Mesbahi

Troubador Publishing Ltd, Leicester, UK, 2016

In the years following the death and destruction of World War II there were a number of key developments in the efforts to rebuild and to prevent major future conflicts. Two of the most significant developments occurred in 1948. In June of that year, the Marshall Plan—a United States aid initiative to rebuild Western Europe’s economy (named for then Secretary of State George Marshall)—went into effect, and the following December the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (the UN having been established three years earlier at the end of the war).

One of the most crucial components of the UDHR is Article 25, which states that everyone has a right to the basic needs for an adequate and secure living standard. Unfortunately, the global community is far from recognizing fundamental rights and needs for all; however, in the past decade or so there have been renewed pushes to address this.


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A ‘cli-fi missionary’ with Jewish roots who is fighting global warming

May9

by: Danny Bloom on May 9th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

I’m a climate change literary activist and gadfly, and I’d like to talk to you today about something I call ”cli-fi”.

I’m close to 70, graduated from Tufts University in 1971 with a major in Yiddish literature, and promoting the literary fortunes of cli-fi is now my life work. And I’m Jewish, and my Jewish education and family life in western Massachusetts in the 1950s and 1960s plays a central role, even today, in my climate activism.

So what’s ” cli-fi ”? It’s a subgenre of sci-fi, according to some observers, and a separate standalone genre of its own, according to others. I feel that cli-fi novels and movies can cut through the bitter divide among rightwing denialists and leftwing liberals worldwide over the global warming debate. I’m not into politics; I’m into literature and movies.


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The President Was Right About Improving Our Relationship With Russia

May3

by: Arkady Mamaysky on May 3rd, 2017 | 2 Comments »

The elections are over but debates about the issues raised and promises made by Candidate Trump are in full swing without any signs of subsiding.

The following is an analysis of his intention to work towards establishing a good relationship with Russia.

To avoid misunderstanding, I should start by saying that I don’t like Russia, nor do I like Ukraine. I was born in Ukraine, but during many years of my life in the Soviet Union, I had more than enough “pleasant” interactions with Russian and Ukrainian reality and people, along with the nationalism and anti-Semitism of a good portion of the population.

One of many derogatory epithets directed towards Jewish and other non-Slavic people is, “you’re no Russian,” a statement meant to diminish its target’s sense of worth as a human being.

Of course, as in any other nation, there are good and bad people people in Russia.


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Curiouser and Curiouser

May3

by: Victor Grossman, Tikkun's Correspondent in Berlin on May 3rd, 2017 | No Comments »

A story worthy of a mystery author – or dramatist – has been hitting German headlines. It began when police at the Vienna airport in Austria arrested a first lieutenant of the German Bundeswehr army when he picked up a pistol hidden some weeks earlier in a bathroom. He denied it was his and was released. But his fingerprints somehow matched those of a refugee who had applied for German asylum two years earlier.

 

Like Alice in Wonderland when she got bigger and bigger, the story turned “curiouser and curiouser” and here too, odd language was important. This young blond German officer, 28, had been registered in the German states of Hesse and Bavaria as a refugee from Damascus in Syria. He had said he was Catholic but the men of ISIS had persecuted him and killed some of his family because of his partially Jewish background and Jewish name – “David Benjamin”.Strangely enough, he spoke little or no Arabic and was questioned in French – with a German accent. No-one had ever been suspicious, or so it was claimed. He then seems to have commuted between his job as officer in a mixed French-German unit in French Alsace and his false existence as a Syrian refugee in Germany.

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The Process of Creation as the New Paradigm for our Civilization

May3

by: Gennady Shkliarevsky on May 3rd, 2017 | 3 Comments »

There is a wonderful process at work in our universe.  As we look around, we see its remarkable creations:  particles, atoms, stars, planets, galaxies, life, and much else. The roots of this process go to the very nature of our universe.

The main property of our universe is its uniqueness:  it is all there is.  There is nothing outside it; in fact, there is no outside.  As there is nothing outside our universe, nothing can come into it and nothing can disappear from it because there is nowhere to disappear.  Consequently, everything must be conserved.  Conservation that is fundamental to our universe originates in its uniqueness and gives rise to the process of creation.


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Standing Rock in Colombia: A Real Vision of Peace After Decades of War and Displacement

May3

by: Sabine Lichtenfels on May 3rd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

I am writing this from Colombia, where we – a small group from the Global Campus from Tamera/Portugal, Bolivia, Brazil and Canada – have been invited to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the peace community San José de Apartadó. Peace activists, farmers, local indigenous people, representatives of embassies of various countries and of the United Nations, as well as human rights lawyers are meeting in the remote region in the tropical northern part of the country to honor a peace community, which has been in existence for twenty years – despite all attacks, violence and murders. It is horrifying to read the reports by the peasants and the indigenous people – the women and men who are daily risking their lives to counter the policies of displacement with their commitment to life and hope.

In this country, in which the FARC guerilla’s agreement to disarm is being celebrated before the eyes of the world as the beginning of a new time of peace, the misery of the poor people, the indigenous population and those persecuted has in reality increased. It is the same the world over: Those who have truly earned the Nobel Peace Prize and who have been practicing non-violent resistance for decades, these communities and committed peace workers are being persecuted and maligned and often have to pay for their commitment with their lives.


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