Monthly Archives: March 2018

President Morsi: UK Parliament Detention Review Panel

The Detention Review Panel (DRP) issued a report and made the following findings:

  • Dr Morsi is no ordinary prisoner. He was the elected President of Egypt. We considered his detention in the context the treatment of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom & Justice Party in Egypt. Every independent report that was considered, including reports from the US State Department and UK Home Office made reference to the particularly harsh treatment currently faced by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom & Justice Party. The Egyptian government has not given us any cause to think that Dr Morsi is being treated any better.
  • The Tora prison complex, also known as the Scorpion Prison, has been very harshly condemned for its inability to treat prisoners in accordance with both Egyptian and international law.
  • The DRP finds that the allegations made by Dr Morsi, directly in his own words, in his statement to the Court in November 2017, and the allegations made by Abdullah Morsi, appear to be consistent with the allegations recorded by the United Nations, the United States’ State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, news reports and other human rights organisations about the treatment of prisoners in Egypt.
  • Our findings are that the allegations made by Dr Morsi, on a balance of probabilities, are likely to be true. They are consistent with the findings of the general treatment of prisoners, in particular political prisoners, in Egypt.
  • We accept in full the finding of Dr Paul Williams. We find that Mohammed Morsi is receiving inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes and inadequate management of his liver disease. We accept the opinion that the consequence of this inadequate care is likely to be rapid deterioration of his long-term conditions, which is likely to lead to premature death.
  • The DRP finds that on a balance of probabilities the detention of President Morsi is below the standard expected by international standards for prisoners, and would constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. We also find that the detention could meet the threshold for torture in accordance Egyptian and International law.
  • The DRP finds that culpability for torture rests not only with the direct perpetrators but those who are responsible for or acquiesce in it.  We find that the conditions of Dr Morsi’s detention would be of such continuing interest to the whole chain of command that the current President could, in principle, be responsible for the crime of torture, which is a crime of universal jurisdiction.
  • We fear that if Dr Morsi is not provided with urgent medical assistance, the damage to his health may be permanent and possibly terminal. The failure to provide Dr Morsi with adequate medical treatment is a breach of Egyptian Law and the Mandela Rules.
  • The panel are deeply concerned about the conditions and detention of Dr Morsi and invite the Egyptian government to allow the DRP, or any other reputable independent body, to conduct a visit.

The pillage of Egypt by Sisi and Britain Inc.

Two years ago I wrote about the pillage of Egypt by Britain aided and abetted by Sisi. Amelia Smith has a new article on the subject, which begins:

In 2011 residents of the fishing town of Idku close to Egypt’s northern city of Alexandria gathered to oppose British Petroleum’s (BP) plans to pump gas onshore where they would process it for onwards shipment. There were many parts of the project which angered activists including the proposition that the gas plant would be built on Idku’s sandy strip of beach.

Local farmers and fishermen already had to contend with sewage canals, industrial wave breakers which limited their access to fishing areas, and an existing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export plant. Now BP’s facility would further endanger their livelihood and likely kill both the fish and the agriculture they were heavily dependent on.

Popular assemblies formed on the streets and locals vented their anger about the project. They began to document other environmental disasters, drawing comparisons with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and warning people that the same could happen to them.

Their efforts paid off – after 18 months of continuous delays BP announced they were withdrawing. Activists packed up their banners and the fishermen concentrated once again on tending to their boats. Empowered by the 2011 uprising, the town of Idku declared victory.

In the two years that followed, Mohammed Morsi was voted into government, removed by a military coup and replaced by the former head of military intelligence, now President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi. Between the coup and Sisi’s ascension to power a new law was introduced, the Protest Law, which seriously curbed citizens’ right to demonstrate, enforcing a fine of up to EGP 30,000 ($1,700) and lengthy prison sentences if demonstrators failed to notify authorities before a protest.

Not long after it was introduced BP’s plans slipped back onto the agenda. On a recent visit to Egypt the UK’s trade envoy to the country included Idku on his list of places to visit.

Perhaps nothing sums up the nature of current politics in Egypt better than the story of Idku and BP: investments made by multinationals are protected by the Egyptian government, and encouraged by the British. The saddest part of it all is that the people of Idku, much like the rest of Egypt, will see very little, if anything, of the benefits of these deals. Read full article

Bible thumping Trump cabinet, with foaming-at-the-mouth “spiritual” leader

Eli Clifton writes: An examination by LobeLog of statements and studies by Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo’s “spiritual adviser” reveals a deeply ingrained anti-Muslim theology coupled with a conviction that U.S. military engagement overseas is justified by nothing less than the Bible itself.

Ralph Drollinger, a 7’1” former professional basketball player who established Capitol Ministries in 1997, has drawn attention for his role as the organizer of a weekly prayer group in the White House. Attendees include Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, and cabinet secretaries Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, Sonny Perdue, and Jeff Sessions. But Pompeo’s association with the preacher goes back to at least October 2012, when his name was first listed as a sponsor of Drollinger’s weekly congressional Bible study group while the future CIA director was still a freshman congressman.

Drollinger’s White House followers are perhaps the most reactionary members of an increasingly rightwing administration. In an October 2017 interview with the German daily Welt am Sonntag, Drollinger, among other assertions, characterized the U.S. government as “an avenger of wrath,” hailed Trump as “an adjudicator of wrongdoing,” and claimed that women shouldn’t teach grown men.

Pompeo’s nomination to succeed the hapless Rex Tillerson is already under scrutiny for a variety of reasons, including his well-established hawkishness, his own history of anti-Muslim rhetoric, and his eagerness to take policy positions, even publicly, despite his position as head of the CIA. A number of Democratic senators and as well as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have said they will oppose his nomination, and the Trump administration may find itself in a major confirmation battle next month.

His apparent affinity for Drollinger and his worldview are unlikely to make matters easier.

A Shared Islamophobia

Many of Drollinger’s Bible studies are posted on Capitol Ministries’s website, and his anti-Muslim perspective is sprinkled regularly into fundamentalist interpretation of Christianity.

In a March 2014 bible study, listing Pompeo as a cosponsor on the sidebar, Drollinger offered his own summary of Islam. He wrote:

This religion is based in part on plagiarisms from the Old Testament – plagiarisms that amount for much of the content of the Koran. To quickly illustrate this, note that in the Koran’s paraphrase and plagiarism of Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image” (a direct early OT reference to the Trinity) that Muslim scholars have no response to this and many other plagiary-related issues. In this instance, Muslims deny the Trinitarian nature of God, so they should have omitted borrowing this passage! This religion has historically spread through the sword and seeks nothing less than world conquest for Allah. Allah was the moon-god worshipped in the Middle Eastern part of the world long before Mohammed came on the scene to found his religion (hundreds of years after the life of Christ). Salvation per Islamic theology is not attained via a loving, self-sacrificing act of God (as per Christianity); it is attained by jihad, a sacrifice of self in combatting the infidels. Whereas in biblical Christianity, God gives His life for man, in Islam, man must give his life for his god.

According to a June 2014 bible study on “The Bible as an Aid to TST – Terrorist Sensitivity Training,”

NOT EVERY MUSLIM IS A TERRORIST BUT EVERY INTERNATIONAL TERRORIST IN RECENT HISTORY HAS BEEN A MUSLIM…

IS IT NOT DETESTABLE THAT THE ISLAMIC CLERGY FAIL TO CONDEMN THE EVIL THEIR FELLOW MUSLIMS DO IN THE NAME OF ISLAM?

 

Together, these insights serve to inform the world about the Islamic religion itself! And any serious and objective student of the Koran understands this: The book instructs its adherents to advance Islam by the sword. This is not in question.

That perspective closely mirrors controversial statements made by Pompeo a year earlier in the aftermath of the Boston marathon bombing when he inaccurately accused Muslim religious leaders of being “silent” in the aftermath of the attack and “potentially complicit.”

A 2013 Capitol Ministries study attributed theological differences to the reason the U.S. economy outpaced Buddhist and Muslim-majority countries. “The reason for this momentous growth is Christianity,” according to Drollinger.

Unlike other religions, Christianity combines rational thinking and human dignity. Hinduism teaches its adherents to empty their minds of rational thought. Islam on the other hand, rejects God’s incarnation through Christ, depriving its adherents of a role model of God’s characteristic humaneness. [editor’s note: One wonders what he thinks about Judaism.]

He later observed:

Hindu countries have been stymied in historic poverty. And no one needs to read a book to understand the lack of human dignity rooted in the culture of Islam. As a result, Muslim economies are largely built on western developed oil exportation.

Drollinger also compared Islam to communism in the March 2014 bible study: “Today Communism, in its atheistic political ideology is another such illustration; it persecutes the Church wherever it goes, as do Islamic ideologues as they expand their religiously exclusive political ideology.”

And according to a 2011 bible study,

Christianity places a high value on women (cf. Gal. 3:28). The husband therefore is to honor his wife, not diminish her, if he is to be effective in prayer (contr: male-chauvinistic Islam, wherein males “pray” numerous times per day). One’s attitude toward their mate, the Bible says, directly relates to their power in prayer.

A Shared Iranophobia

The June 2014 study went on to link this view of Islam to Iranian uranium enrichment:

Workers of iniquity know nothing of the just war theory; their very form of combat, rooted in the cowardly exploitation of innocent blood via surprise attacks bespeaks of their evil nature. Given this history of Islamist terrorism, especially their use of explosives to kill and injure innocent civilians, it follows that there is no way America or Israel should tolerate uranium enrichment programs in any theocratic Muslim country Given. God’s counsel via the clear principled instruction of Proverbs, specifically that evil men do not understand justice.

 

IT IS SHEER LUNACY FOR AMERICA TO PERMIT IRAN TO GO AS FAR AS THEY HAVE IN THEIR NUCLEAR PROGRAM!

Pompeo apparently shared Drollinger’s hawkish view. At the same time, he suggested that taking military action against Iran was preferable to negotiations, noting that, “…[I]t is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity. This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.” Just before his formal nomination as CIA director, he tweeted, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”

A Question of Alignment

Pompeo’s decision to align himself with Drollinger shortly after his election to the House of Representatives in 2010 indicates that the Trump administration’s choice for the nation’s top diplomat might embrace, if not actively practice, a radical view of Christianity that has little or no respect for other faiths, particularly Islam and its 1.8 billion adherents.

For his part, Drollinger has never shied away from advancing his own view of Washington’s role in the world. According to a 2015 “Members Bible Study” on “The ISIS Threat” that listed Pompeo as a sponsor,

There can be no doubt that America’s presence throughout the world—its just, historic presence outside its own boundaries—be it as a member of NATO, signing the Monroe Doctrine, defense treaties with Taiwan and Israel, or its willing and welcomed presence to support military bases in the Philippines, Germany, Korea and Japan, have all greatly aided in peacemaking and peacekeeping throughout the world. This is the fruit of biblically justified intervention! When America is strong, and the threat of her intervening is ever-present the world is a much safer place. And the opposite is now increasingly apparent: When American intervention is of a lesser possibility, unrest and evil aggression rise.

Drollinger’s Capitol Ministries is hardly an upstart or small operation. Its website says, “Capitol Ministries plants and develops biblical ministries of evangelism and discipleship to Public Servants,” and boasts of “200 ministries in 200 countries,” “10,000 ministries in 33,000 cities,” “50 ministries in 50 states,” and “3 ministries in 3 branches.” The group’s strategy: “to reach Public Servants for Christ at every stop along their career paths, beginning with their first local elected or appointed positions and following as they ascend to higher office.” Read original article

Palestine and the American First Amendment: A victory for the BDS movement in Arizona

Hatem Bazian writes: Friday, March 17, I reached an agreement with Arizona State University (ASU), the Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona attorney general that will allow a speaking event on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on April 3, 2018, at the university. The agreement is a victory for the BDS movement since the speaking contract previously included an unconstitutional anti-BDS clause that prohibited me from speaking on a boycott of Israel during my visit.

The agreement with ASU is a victory for the First Amendment and the rights of free speech. Again, pro-Israel forces worked hard to silence the voices of justice and human rights, but hard work and dedication made the difference. This is a victory for the BDS movement and a victory for Palestine’s voice in the U.S. I am deeply indebted to the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) hard work that will make it possible for me to exercise the rights enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution – the right to speak at ASU on BDS and to oppose the Israeli apartheid. This success was made possible through the hard work of CAIR Arizona, CAIR National and the American Muslims for Palestine’s (AMP) team on this important legal challenge.

Last month, I received an invitation from the Muslim Student Association to deliver a lecture on Palestine, the current crisis resulting from the U.S. president’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and the effectiveness of the BDS movement at ASU. As per the regular procedure for such an engagement, the students sent me ASU’s contract detailing all the conditions that must be fulfilled as well as the costs associated with travel, accommodations and stipend.

I read the contract and started filling it out but stopped as soon as I got down to item 20 on the list of contractual conditions. Surprisingly, ASU’s contract included the following text for item number 20: “No Boycott of Israel. As required by the Arizona Revised Statutes § 35-393.01, Entity certifies it is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel and will not engage in a boycott of Israel during the term of this Contract.” This text was added to all ASU and other Arizona state public agencies contracts to adhere to the new law, which, at the root, seeks to protect Israel from the BDS movement.

I stopped filling out the contract as a matter of principle. I cannot and would not sign this contract in full conscience, being one of the key BDS organizers in the U.S., an academic who writes on BDS and an activist on Palestine with the strategy to use a nonviolent, human rights-focused movement to address Israel’s continued violations of international law. The contractual condition creates an ethical dilemma since it stipulates individuals to sign provided they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel and will not engage in a boycott of Israel during the term of this Contract,” something that I cannot do as a precondition to be able to speak at a public university on BDS.

This contractual condition boils down to ASU and Arizona setting up a prior restraint on speech. “In the First Amendment law, a prior restraint is government action that prohibits speech or another expression before it can take place,” as the Cornell Law School explains. The government or any power has “two common forms of prior restraints. The first is a statute or regulation that requires a speaker to acquire a permit or license before speaking, and the second is a judicial injunction that prohibits certain speech. Both types of prior restraint are strongly disfavored, and, with some exceptions, generally unconstitutional.” Here, the ASU contract included language that clearly sets up prior restraint on my ability to speak about BDS during my upcoming visit to the campus.

Consequently, and with the help of the CAIR office in Arizona, I challenged the law so as to not accept the prior restraint imposed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) through its work in the U.S. political system to prevent those points of view that are critical of the ongoing Israeli occupation. I believe that this regulation in Arizona and other states like it is an attempt by AIPAC, other major Zionist organizations and the Israeli government itself to win an unwinnable cause, to maintain support for an apartheid state that constantly violates international laws. The law attempts to defend the indefensible by restricting freedom of speech and academic freedom so as to rescue and protect Israel and its continued apartheid and occupation. More critically, the condition and the Arizona law treats Israel as an exception to the norm. The law restricts free speech that is foundational to the First Amendment and a constitutionally protected right – the ability to ask for public adherence to a call for BDS of Israel.

On a national level, AIPAC and all the major, mainstream and established Zionist organizations – the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), Anti-Defamation League(ADL), Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and American Jewish Committee (AJC) – are engaged in a full campaign to restrict free speech on BDS and curtail criticism of Israel and its continued human rights violations. The attempts at legislation supported by all the major mainstream Zionist organizations is intended to shield Israel from criticism and possibly cause American people to abandon Israel as they did in the past when it chose to divest from South Africa. Here, a heavily Israeli funded and full national campaign is underway to counter the BDS movement. This campaign attempts to use federal and state legislation to target individuals with structured and systematic defamation, as well as to work to recruit voices that normalize Zionism among segments of the Arab and Muslim communities through the Shalom Hartman Institute Muslim Leadership Initiative and fictitious interfaith projects that focus on silencing Palestine. Israel’s supporters have been the leading agents on restricting free speech and academic freedom on many college campuses by advocating a whole host of civility codes and conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel while using university administrations and administrative regulations to limit the free expression of solidarity with Palestinians. The cases of San Francisco State University with professor Rabab Abdulhadi’s Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative (AMED) program and the University of California Berkeley in relation to a course on Palestine is a case in point where university administrations became part of the strategy to limit pro-Palestine free speech and academic freedom while coordinating these strategies with local Zionist leadership and, at times, with the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco – the representative of a foreign state given access and solicited for ideas on how to limit the constitutional rights of American students and professors.

AIPAC and many of its regional affiliates have been working overtime to push for legislation across the U.S. to restrict free speech on BDS, and in some cases to criminalize advocacy for Palestinian human rights. The victory in Arizona is very important and serves as a model to challenge legislation that seeks to protect Israel at the expense of constitutional rights, the right of free speech and freedom of association, since considerable demonization and criminalization efforts on college campuses are directed at Students for Justice in Palestine. Israel and its supporters should not have veto power over the First Amendment and legal challenges should be mounted to expose the efforts of a foreign government and its agents to undermine the right of anyone in the U.S. to critique a country that is addicted to human rights violations and U.S. foreign aid. BDS is out of the bottle and attacking the First Amendment is a battle Israel and its supporters will certainly lose. Read original article

Beyond the brink: extinction of the Northern White Rhino

The world’s last northern male white rhino, Sudan, has died at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya due to age-related complications, survived only by his daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu.

It is strange that when first writing the title for this post, I wrote ‘on the brink of extinction’, but given that the world is inured to everything being on the brink of extinction, I changed the title.

Hopefully, given that his genetic material was collected, some serious genetic science can now get Fatu pregnant, and some luck intervenes to produce both males and females.

Wall Street corruption and Senate bill S.2155

Bernie Sanders famously made his filibuster speech on December 10 2010 on financial reform, and has tirelessly pursued the subject ever since. His inability to carry the DNC primary against Clinton was clearly due to the power of the banks. Here he is again fighting against the proposed Senate bill S.2155 watering down the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act and called “The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act”. This is likely to pass with a majority, giving the top Wall Street banks, who are serial offenders on many different levels, and a serious danger to the public, new immunities.

Russian presidential elections: March 2024

In this election, in March 2018, Putin is standing as an independent candidate allied to the so-called All-Russia People’s Front (ONF),  a coalition between the ruling party and numerous nongovernmental organizations. He will win this election: in Russia all the bargaining and power plays take place before the elections.

But what is ex-talk show host Ksenia Sobchak doing in the race? She is standing in her capacity as leader of the Civic Initiative party, and will not win in this election. However, the real purpose behind her participation is to give her the exposure to do better next time. She is also in the process of trying to get better exposure in the US, airing views that are unpopular in Russia, on Crimea and gay rights, for instance, to build a reputation as a liberal. Her views on these matters have cost her dearly, as polls show that with a bit more than 1% ready to vote for her, 80% of the electorate say they would never vote for her, making her the most unpopular of all the candidates in the race.  But clearly Sobchak and her advisers hold the view that it is better to be hated than to be unknown, and to alter her policies as she gains prominence.

In the presidential debates (in the video above), she added drama to the usually prosaic debating process by standing up to the heckling of the nationalist party candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who for decades has monopolised the dramatic limelight, storming off in tears at the end when the TV mediator wouldn’t give her extra time.

So it is quite probable that she will do well in the Duma elections in 2021, and in the presidential elections in 2024. In view of the close relationship between her family and Putin, changes in her policies over time may mean that she eventually stands as an independent candidate allied to the groups in the ONF, to become Putin’s successor. She will be 43 and Putin at 72 will become kingmaker in the establishment background. It is significant that Putin admitted in his state of the nation speech that he was now mainly concerned about reform and the future succession. The video display of new weaponry at the end of the speech was a statement, really, of what he has been doing up to now.

No candidate other than Sobchak – with her obvious standing in the Russian élite – can be the right “compromise candidate” for the warring factions in the next pre-election standoffs in Russia. The Western media’s focus on Alexei Navalny and his inability to stand in the elections, on the other hand, fails to address the main point that he is simply not trusted not to give the keys of the kingdom to foreign powers in the vein of Yeltsin and to some extent Medvedev. The reform problem in Russia is one of encouraging the development of a political class that serves Russia, hopefully the Russian people, without liquidating and absconding with the country’s resources abroad.

No new figure can emerge in such a relatively short space of time that the system will be able to digest. As for supporting the idea that Russia might give up Crimea and gay rights, this policy makes her noticed on the domestic scene and makes her look good in the West, giving her the international status her establishment backers will want.  Many observers see these policies, especially Sobchak’s policy on Crimea, as perhaps helping to frame a “second referendum” on the independence of the peninsula. Anyway, eventually backtracking on policy proposals is what every politician ends up doing.

Update 19th March on 2018 elections: Sobchak is a credible (in the Russian system) fourth out of eight candidates with a tiny 1.67% of the national vote.

Vladimir Putin:76.66%; Pavel Grudinin:11.80%; Vladimir Zhirinovsky: 5.66%; Ksenia Sobchak:1.67%; Grigory Yavlinsky:1.04%; Boris Titov: 0.76%; Maxim Suraykin: 0.68%;
Sergey Baburin: 0.65%