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Latest human rights report ‘embarrassing’ for India

An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard at a closed market during a strike in Srinagar. – File Photo by AP

For the first time since the inception of popular armed uprising against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, two leading human rights groups have named 500 “alleged perpetrators”— including two Major Generals and three Brigadiers of the Indian Army besides many other serving officers and soldiers — involved in killings, fake encounters, torture, rape and other serious crimes like abduction and enforced custodial disappearances in the disputed Himalayan region.

After the discovery of about 6,000 unmarked and mass graves in different parts of the Kashmir Valley not that long ago, the latest report could finally ‘embarrass’ the “world’s largest democracy”.

According to International Peoples’ Tribunal for Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK) and the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) — two leading human rights bodies operating in the Valley — their report is the outcome of two-year-long painstaking research.

“Out of 214 cases a list emerges of 500 individual perpetrators, which include 235 army personnel, 123 paramilitary personnel, 111 Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel and 31 Government backed militants/associates. Among the alleged perpetrators are two Major Generals and three Brigadiers of the Indian Army, besides nine Colonels, three Lieutenant Colonels, 78 Majors and 25 Captains. Add to this, 37 senior officials of the federal Paramilitary forces, a recently retired Director General of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, as well as a serving Inspector General,” the report alleges.

“By naming names the report seeks to remove the veil of anonymity and secrecy that has sustained impunity. Only when the specificity of each act of violation is uncovered can institutions be stopped from providing the violators a cover of impunity,” the report further says. The institutional culture of moral, political and juridical impunity has resulted in enforced and involuntary disappearance of an estimated 8000 persons (as on Nov 2012), besides more than 70,000 deaths, and disclosures of more than 6000 unknown, unmarked and mass graves. The last 22 years have also seen regular extra-judicial killings punctuated by massacres. The Gow Kadal (Srinagar) massacre of around 50 persons on 21 January 1990 and other mass killings discussed in this report are symbolic reminders of the persistent human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir,” it adds.

The 354-page report released on December 6, 2012 in Srinagar by these groups also accuses India of institutionally ‘obstructing justice’. India has all along been dismissing allegations of such serious nature against its armed forces by saying that the unfortunate acts are a mere “aberration” and “error in judgment” on part of some individual soldiers, not a matter of policy.

But Khurram Parvez, one of the co-authors of the report, told Dawn that the Indian State has used its various institutions in Jammu and Kashmir – judicial and otherwise – in a sophisticated manner to “continue its control over territory”. “This fits in with the State’s policy and design in Jammu and Kashmir. The State has ensured a lowering of the standard of the serious human rights discourse. Our analysis of the cases in this report clearly evidences this. The State on occasion allows for the filing of FIR’s (First Information Reports), or ordering investigations but it will not allow prosecutions despite information being present,” Parvez writes in response to our questionnaire.

Asked how confident his group was about the findings of the report, he writes: “We are confident of our documentation and analysis in this report. We intend to engage on this report with international rights groups and UN working groups and Special Rapporteurs. We will use this [report] to build awareness in India and internationally regarding the processes of injustice in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Programme coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) and Tribunal Liaison, Parvez, hopes that the international community will take notice of their group’s report.

The other authors of the report are Kartik Murukutla, who has worked in a UN tribunal in Rwanda for five years, and leading human rights activist in Kashmir, Parvez Imroz.

The authors of the report have a word of caution, though: “The IPTK cannot conclusively pronounce on the guilt of any of the alleged perpetrators, but it is clear that enough evidence exists to warrant further action. However, in the absence of any institutional or political will to take the evidence to its natural conclusion – a trial where the crime and the guilt of a perpetrator can be proven beyond reasonable doubt – the Indian State stands indicted,” read the contents of the report’s executive summary.

How significant are the findings of this report released by IPTK and APDP? When I posed this question to Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of Jammu and Kashmir’s oldest English daily The Kashmir Times, she had this to say: “Well, I feel this report is significant because the groups have used the information from the same government that is involved in crimes against humanity. In this report a pattern is revealed and that is to bury the investigation.”

She feels that the government can not deny the findings of the report. “Human rights groups have heavily relied on the government version, court case proceedings and information gathered after filing Right to Information (RTI) applications with different state-run departments,” she adds.

How embarrassing could it [the report] be for the state? “The state is too thick skinned to be embarrassed,” she mocks.

Until now, the state government officials and ruling party spokespersons are sounding over cautious and, therefore, reluctant to give a detailed official reaction.

Tanvir Sadiq, spokesperson of the ruling pro-India party National Conference (NC) while speaking to Dawnsaid it will be “too premature to give a reaction” on a report which is of course of “serious nature”. “Let us read the contents of the report first; study them properly so that we will be in a position to give our party’s reaction.” Asked about the coalition government’s position, Tanvir said: “Our Chief Minister, Mr. Omar Abdullah, has already informed the media in Jammu — the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir which is about 300 kilometres from the summer capital, Srinagar — that the State home department has asked for the copy of the report to study and examine it, and once that is done; the official reaction will come.”

“This report, prepared over two years using information gleaned mostly from official State documents in addition to witness testimonies, in cases available with IPTK/APDP, portrays the state of impunity prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir. Where identities of individual perpetrators of crimes are known it seeks a process of accountability for institutional criminality. The State documents used range from police records, judicial and quasi-judicial records and Government documents. IPTK/APDP using the Right to Information (RTI) legislations sought information on First Information Reports (FIRs), High Court petition numbers and other documentation,” claim the authors of the report.

The contents of the report paint a grim picture of the law and order situation and also highlight the environment of impunity under which Indian forces are operating in Jammu and Kashmir. Experts say that the draconian laws like the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), PSA (Public Safety Act) and DAA (Disturbed Area Act) have served as “shield” for the armed forces in Kashmir to “avoid punishment” under law.

Many in Kashmir are expecting a strong reaction from the international community.

Zareef Ahmad Zareef, noted Kashmiri humourist-poet based in Srinagar at his home. – photo by writer

Zareef Ahmad Zareef, noted Kashmiri humourist-poet based in Srinagar at his home. – photo by writer

Zareef Ahmad Zareef, a renowned Kashmiri humorist-poet, believes it is time for the powerful world nations to act. “For one Malala Yousufzai — a victim of Taliban violence in Pakistan — the entire world community expressed solidarity and made special arrangements for her treatment outside a sovereign country to ensure she was safe. Now, we shall see what is the measuring rod for justice and equality? If they’re genuinely sincere and care for justice and human rights everywhere across the globe, they should come forward to the rescue of the victims of Indian state-sponsored violence in Jammu and Kashmir,” Zareef says. The report, according to Zareef, has exposed India’s “hollow claims of being a secular and democratic” nation having a “responsible and professional army”.

“India has declared a war on the civilians in Kashmir. There is no Kashmiri family which is not either directly or indirectly a victim of the state violence. There are some Indians who care for human rights and justice and I’m sure they will not remain silent on this. Whatever has come in open through the report, it is clear that Kashmir has a strong case against India in the International Criminal Court (ICC),” he adds.

Parvez also sounds hopeful about it. “We have flagged issues regarding the application of international criminal law for crimes committed in Jammu and Kashmir. These issues need to be further debated. We ourselves and particularly, other countries that are members of the United Nations need to read this report and push the Security Council to consider further action, including possibly engaging with the procedures at the International Criminal Court. Towards this end, we will lobby with member States of the United Nations. Further, we expect other rights groups and the Kashmiri Diaspora to do the same. The process must continue,” he hopes.

There is also this perception that the international community is selective in its approach in relation to the cases of human rights abuses in different parts of the world. While there is an uproar if violation occurs in countries like China, Iran or Pakistan, very little or nothing is said against India even when the magnitude of excesses may be too big. Some experts opine that the Kashmiris need to learn “marketing their sufferings”, because their supposed supporters are currently on a weak wicket.

Dr. Sheikh Showkat, an expert in international law, says that Kashmir needs to “project its pain” so that the prosecutors at the ICC can take cognizance. “Our supporters are too weak at the moment. We need to market our pain and convince the international community to take action. Also, there is little doubt that there exists disparity because of powerful UN member nation’s selective approach on issues of human rights and self-determination,” Dr. Showkat believes.

Meanwhile, to all cases related to gross human rights excesses in Kashmir during the past 23 years, the Indian Army has more often used expressions like “it was a mistaken identity”, “it was an aberration”, “it was a rare error of judgment”, “we do not shoot with an intention to kill”, “anger of people against killings is justified, but we will conduct our own enquiry to ascertain the facts”, etc.

In a high-profile case, one Major Avtar of the 35 Rashtriya Rifles unit was accused of being involved in the killing of a well-known human rights defender in Kashmir, Jaleel Andrabi, and four counterinsurgents in 1996. Major (Retd.) Avtar Singh committed suicide on 9 June in California, USA before killing his wife and children. Fugitive Avtar had taken refuge in California and kept a low profile there. Some in Kashmir interpreted Avtar’s death as “divine justice”.

In March 2000, the Indian Army claimed neutralising five “terrorists” in Pathribal area and said they were responsible for the killings of 35 members of minority Sikh community in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) — India’s premier investigating agency — conducted an inquiry and found that those killed by the army in an ‘encounter’ were actually civilians. The CBI then filed the charge sheet against the accused Army officers in 2006. Nothing has happened since except for the unconvincing court proceedings and open to doubt Court-Martials.

In majority of the abuse cases, the guilty haven’t been punished. ‘Not only is justice delayed but denied as well’ is the common perception in Kashmir!

Tailpiece: I remember covering an Army press conference in Kashmir in July 2005.  Lieutenant General S S Dhillon was the GoC (General Officer Commanding) at Srinagar-based sensitive 15 Corps of the Indian Army. The press conference was organised in the backdrop of killing of three teenaged boys in North Kashmir’s frontier district, Kupwara on 24 July that year. Tens of thousands of people had protested against this incident. I vividly remember Dhillon’s words then. “This incident was unfortunate and most regrettable. It was an ‘error of judgment’ on part of the troops who opened fire on the teenaged boys. The anger of people against the Army over the killings of three boys was justified.” Dhillon had visited Bungargund, an area falling under Trehgam hamlet in Kupwara, where he had himself witnessed the anger of people. Army bunkers were being attacked by the protesting crowds. Besides seeing the parents of those killed, I went to feel the anger of people, to see the anger of people, and I saw some of it. It (anger against the Army) is justified,” the then GoC of the most sensitive Corps said. After his assurances that there will be no such repeats, four more civilians were allegedly killed by the army in Kupwara district in February 2006. The town observed complete shutdown for five consecutive days and staged massive anti-India demonstrations. The unfortunate incidents kept repeating. Not that long ago, one more civilian named Hilal Ahmad, 25, was killed allegedly at the hands of 27-Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district.

Source: Dawns News (Story by Gowhar Geelani)

UN tells Israel to let in nuclear inspectors

As nuclear peace talks are cancelled, overwhelming vote by general assembly calls for Israel to join nonproliferation treaty

The UN general assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Israel to open its nuclear programme for inspection.

The resolution, approved by a vote of 174 to six with six abstentions, calls on Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) “without further delay” and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those voting against were Israel, the US, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

Resolutions adopted by the 193-member general assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight. And the resolution adds to pressure on Israel as it facescriticism over plans to increase settlement in the West Bank, a move seen as retaliation for the assembly recognising Palestinian statehood.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny possessing nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have them. It has refused to join the non-proliferation treaty along with three nuclear weapon states: India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Israel insists there must first be a Middle East peace agreement before the establishment of a proposed regional zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Its rivals in the region argue that Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal presents the greatest threat to peace in the region.

While the US voted against the resolution, it voted in favour of two paragraphs in it that were put to separate votes. Both support universal adherence to the NPT and call on those countries that aren’t parties to ratify it “at the earliest date”. The only no votes on those paragraphs were Israel and India.

The vote came as a sequel to the cancellation of a high-level conference aimed at banning nuclear weapons from the Middle East. All the Arab nations and Iran had planned to attend the summit in mid-December in Helsinki, Finland, but the US announced on 23 November that it would not take place, citing political turmoil in the region and Iran’s defiant stance on non-proliferation. Iran and some Arab nations countered that the real reason for the cancellation was Israel’s refusal to attend.

Just before Monday’s vote, the Iranian diplomat Khodadad Seifi told the assembly “the truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference”. He called for “strong pressure on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions”.

Israeli diplomat Isi Yanouka told the general assembly his country had continuously pointed to the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, singling out Iran and Syria by name. “All these cases challenge Israel’s security and cast a dark shadow at the prospect of embarking on a meaningful regional security process,” he said.

“The fact that the sponsors include in this anti-Israeli resolution language referring to the 2012 conference proves above all the ill intent of the Arab states with regard to this conference.”

The Syrian diplomat Abdullah Hallak told the assembly his government was angry the conference was not going to take place because of “the whim of just one party, a party with nuclear warheads”.

“We call on the international community to put pressure on Israel to accept the NPT, get rid of its arsenal and delivery systems, in order to allow for peace and stability in our region,” he said.

The conference’s main sponsors are the US, Russia and Britain. The British foreign office minister Alistair Burt has said it is being postponed, not cancelled.

Source: Guardian News

Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault

Letter with 52 signatories including artists and activists also denounces US and EU ‘complicity’ through weapons sales

A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month.

The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their “complicity” through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including about 35 children.

The 52 signatories include the Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; the author Alice Walker; the US academic Noam Chomsky; Roger Waters of Pink Floyd; and Stéphane Hessel, a former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor who was co-author of the universal declaration of human rights.

“Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel’s decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel,” the letter says.

“Such a measure has been subject to several UN resolutions and is similar to the arms embargo imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past.”

The letter accuses several countries of providing important military support that facilitated the assault on Gaza. “While the United States has been the largest sponsor of Israel, supplying billions of dollars of advanced military hardware every year, the role of the European Union must not go unnoticed, in particular its hefty subsidies to Israel’s military complex through its research programmes.

“Similarly, the growing military ties between Israel and the emerging economies of Brazil, India and South Korea are unconscionable given their nominal support for Palestinian freedom,” it says.

The letter opens with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

The other signatories include John Dugard, a South African jurist and former UN special rapporteur in the occupied territories; Luisa Morgantini, former president of the European parliament; Cynthia McKinney, a former member of the US Congress; Ronnie Kasrils, a South African former cabinet minister; and the dramatist Caryl Churchill.

Source: Guardian News

US soldier ‘lucid’ after Afghan massacre

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.—File Photo

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD: A US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers was “lucid” and admitted to the crimes, witnesses and prosecutors said as he appeared in court for the first time Monday.

Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 39, had been drinking whisky and watching a violent action movie with comrades before heading out of his base twice to massacre victims including women and children in two nearby villages.

His wife and lawyer have claimed that Bales, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, could not remember what he did on the night of March 11 in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province.

But prosecutors refuted that claim Monday, at the start of a two-week so-called Article 32 hearing held to determine if he should face a full court martial over the killings, the worst US military crime in the decade-old war.

“He was lucid, he was coherent, he was responsive,” said prosecutor Joseph Morse at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, adding that Bales had admitted to the crimes, reportedly saying: “It’s bad, really bad.” Sporting a shaved head and wearing fatigues, Bales answered the judge’s questions in a clear voice, responding: “Sir, yes sir.” He alternated between sitting forward and slumping against the back of his chair.

Morse said the night began in the room of a fellow soldier, Sergeant Jason McLaughlin, where they drank Jack Daniel’s and Diet Pepsi while watching “Man on Fire” starring Denzel Washington as an ex-assassin on a revenge mission.

At some point after leaving McLaughlin’s room, Bale then allegedly entered the room of Sergeant Clayton Blackshear and had a rambling conversation in which he said he was unhappy with his home life.

“He talked about having bad kids, an ugly wife, he basically didn’t care if he made it back home to them,” Blackshear testified.

Bales also expressed frustration that those responsible for an IED attack the previous week had not been found and brought to justice.

Sometime around midnight, Bales allegedly left the base, heading south to a nearby village, and visited two houses. At the first, he shot one man while the others in the house fled across the street to a neighbour’s house.

Bales then entered the second house, killing three more while injuring six with gunshots to the face, neck, thigh and knees.

Bales is then alleged to have returned to base and conversed with at least one soldier before leaving once again, this time headed in the opposite direction.

McLaughlin testified that Bales came into his room at around 2:00 a.m. and admitted to shooting up the nearby village. McLaughlin, who did not believe Bales and was annoyed at being woken up, recalled the following exchange:

Bales: “I’ll be back at 5 [am]. You got me?”

“Whatever, Bob,” McLaughlin replied.

“Take care of my kids,” Bales said, grabbing McLaughlin’s hand.

“No Bob, take care of your own kids,” McLaughlin replied.

“No, take care of my kids,” Bales repeated.

“OK Bob,” McLaughlin said.

The second excursion was more deadly, Bales allegedly visited two Afghan dwellings, again killing one person in the first home.

In the second home, he murdered 11 people, including women and children. He then gathered the bodies in the center of the room, setting them alight, according to the prosecutor.

Bales faces 16 counts of murder, six of attempted murder, seven of assault, two of using drugs and one of drinking alcohol. Seventeen of the 22 victims were women or children and almost all were shot in the head.

Another witness, Corporal David Godwin, meanwhile testified that he tried unsuccessfully to help Bales dispose of evidence after his arrest, investigators found a vial of stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.

Godwin, who has been granted immunity from prosecution in return for testifying, also said that in the aftermath, Bales told him, “It’s bad. It’s bad. It’s real bad.” Witnesses and relatives of victims are expected to testify via video link from Afghanistan next week, when the US-based hearings will be held in the evening, to allow Afghan testimony during daylight hours.

Source: Dawn News

Mahmoud Abbas outrages Palestinian refugees by waiving his right to return

Images of Abbas burned by refugees who say he has conceded on one of the most visceral issues on Palestinian agenda

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is facing widespread condemnation and anger in the Palestinian territories and abroad after he publicly waived his right to return to live in the town from which his family was forced to flee in 1948, a repudiation of huge significance for Palestinian refugees.

After his image was burned in refugee camps in Gaza, Abbas rejected accusations that he had conceded one of the most emotional and visceral issues on the Palestinian agenda, the demand by millions of refugees to return to their former homes in what is now Israel.

He insisted that comments made in an interview with an Israeli television channel were selectively quoted and the remarks were his personal stance, rather than a change of policy.

Abbas told Channel 2 he accepted he had no right to live in Safed, the town of his birth, from which his family was forced to flee in 1948 when Abbas was 13.

“I visited Safed before once, he said. “But I want to see Safed. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there.”

Referring to the internationally-recognised pre-1967 border, he went on: “Palestine now for me is ’67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever … This is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel.”

The comments sparked protests in Gaza, where people in refugee camps burned images of the Palestinian president. Abbas was denounced on Twitter by pro-Palestinian activists.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas ruler in Gaza, said the issue was not about Abbas’s right to return to Safed but “the rights of 6 million Palestinians”.

He said in a statement: “No one has the right, whoever he is – a common man or president, organisation, a government or authority – to give up an inch of Palestinian land.”

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said the president’s statement did “not represent in any way the views of the Palestinian people”.

The “right of return” is one of the most intractable issues in talks between the Israelis and Palestinians for a resolution to their decades-old conflict. The Palestinians have historically demanded that all those who fled or were expelled from their homes in the period around the formation of the state of Israel in 1948, and their descendants, must be allowed to return to their former homes.

About 5 million Palestinians are registered as refugees in the Palestinian territories and abroad.

Israel rejects their demand, saying that such a move would spell the end of the Jewish state.

Most international diplomats and observers believe that a settlement to the conflict is likely to involve a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees being given the right to return.

Following the broadcast of the interview, Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, said Abbas’s comments were a “brave and important public declaration”. In a statement, he said Abbas had shown he was “a real partner for peace” and that he understood “the solution to the Palestinian refugee issue cannot be in Israel’s territory and to the detriment of Israel’s character”.

Israel’s defence, minister Ehud Barak, described Abbas’s remarks as courageous and clear.

But Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. dismissed the comments, saying that the Palestinian president had different messages for different audiences. “There is no connection between [his] statements and his actual actions,” he said, calling for Abbas to return to negotiations.

Palestinian sources played down the row, saying Abbas’s comments had been misconstrued. One suggested the president had been ill-prepared for the interview and it had been a mistake to agree to conduct it in English, a language in which Abbas is not fluent.

Ghassan Khatib, an academic at Bir Zeit university in the West Bank and a former Palestinian Authority spokesman, said Abbas had not suggested a change in the official position. “This is an optional right. If an individual refugee does not wish to return, he will be free not to return. We all know that all Palestinians are not going to return. Some understand this, some do not.”

In the interview, Abbas also said that, while he was president, there would be “no third armed intifada [uprising against Israel]. Never.”

He said: “We don’t want to use terror. We don’t want to use force. We don’t want to use weapons. We want to use diplomacy. We want to use politics. We want to use negotiations. We want to use peaceful resistance. That’s it.” He has said that Palestinian negotiators are willing to resume talks with Israel following the submission of a request, expected later this month, to the UN general assembly for recognition as a “non-member state”.

Israel and the US are vehemently opposed to the move, which is expected to be passed by a majority of the UN’s 193 member states.

Source: Guardian News

Sir Winston Churchill: Zionist hero

Jews hold strong views about the man honoured by a new statue in Jerusalem 

Jewish supporters of Winston Churchill are to unveil a bust of the British wartime leader in Jerusalem this weekend in what they say is a long-overdue recognition of his staunch and unwavering support of the Jewish cause and their desire for a homeland.

“As a passionate Zionist all his life and a philo-semite, Churchill has been under-recognised,” says Anthony Rosenfelder, a trustee of the Jerusalem Foundation, which is behind the project to commemorate the British leader. He “combined a historical understanding of the Jewish people and what the promised land meant for Jews … with realpolitik”.

It is perhaps ironic that a statue of Churchill should stand just yards away from the King David Hotel, scene of a deadly Jewish terror attack on British military headquarters in 1946 that was to hasten the demise of mandate rule in Palestine.

Sixty-four years after the British exit, Jewish antipathy towards its mandate-era rule of Palestine still remains strong.

Some regard Churchill as a controversial figure whose government turned back Jewish immigrants trying to reach Palestine during the Second World War. Others claim that Churchill was one of the greatest supporters of the Zionist movement. They say he should be acknowledged for his role in helping make real the 1917 Balfour Declaration of British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Nearly half a century after his death, though, Churchill still remains a complex historical figure among Jews. “It’s always important to give history a bit of time to bed down,” says Randolph Churchill, great-grandson of the British leader, a reference to the anger many Israelis still harbour towards the British. “People have had time to reflect and consider [on his role]. I don’t think it’s late after the event.”

Most Israelis will remember Churchill for his role in defeating Hitler, and as the man who set the world against the Nazis, he is much admired. Unlike other British officials who backed the movement, such as Henry Balfour, Sir Wyndham Deedes and David Lloyd George, there is, however, almost no official recognition of his contribution.

“Churchill is not really commemorated here, and for lots of reasons he should be,” says Isaac Herzog, an Israeli politician behind the bust initiative.

Many Israelis will admit scant knowledge of his long alliance with the Jews during the early part of the 20th century, one which spurred a friend to tell his official biographer, Martin Gilbert, that Churchill was not without fault, that he was “too fond of the Jews.”

Indeed, it is Mr Gilbert, himself a Jew, who has proven one of the single biggest champions of Churchill, and whose weighty tome on the subject fired imaginations, including that of Mr Rosenfelder who said the book “switched on a light for me”.

Tom Segev, author of One Palestine Complete, claims that Churchill once told his close friend and an elder of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann, that he would support the Zionists “even if they did horribly stupid things”.

Not everybody is so convinced. Some see his support for Zionism as a matter of expediency. He spoke often of a Jewish conspiracy behind the Bolshevik Revolution, and there are those who believe that his support for a Jewish state arose from a desire to keep the Jews from meddling in the affairs of others.

“His attitude towards the Jews was very complicated,” says Eli Shaltiel, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. “The Jewish state was a way of solving the Jewish problem… Once they had a state of their own, it would serve their very uniqueness. They would be normal like any other nation.”

The question of Auschwitz concentration camp, where thousands were killed daily, also remains a bone of contention. Critics say he put Allied lives before Jewish ones by failing to bomb it in 1944. Although historians concede Churchill did give the order for an attack, he did not make it a priority.

Edward Luttwak, a Washington-based scholar writing a book about Churchill, is even more uncomplimentary. Even as the full horrors of the extermination camp became more widely known, , he claims, Churchill wilfully ignored the plight of Hungarian Jews.

He points to events in early 1944, when Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary all ceased to cooperate with Nazi Germany in deporting their Jewry, but Britain continued to enforce rigorously stiff immigration quotas to Palestine to appease the Arabs during a time of war. He claims they denied many European Jews safe passage by either declining or issuing out-of-date visa documents.

“The Romanians survived, the Bulgarians survived, the Hungarians did not. That’s on Churchill’s conscience,” says Mr Luttwak. “In 1944, Churchill, lifelong friend of the Jews, became Hitler’s remaining Holocaust ally.”

By then, Britain’s Palestine policy was increasingly under attack from the Jews. The Struma incident two years earlier – where a ship carrying Romanian refugees trying to reach Palestine via Turkey was turned away, only to be sunk by a Soviet submarine, killing 768 people on board – had rallied opposition to the British: Churchill himself was to become a target.

Newly declassified MI5 papers reveal that in 1944, the British feared that the Stern Gang, a Jewish terrorist group determined to oust the British from Palestine, was plotting to kill Churchill, as well as the unpopular politician Ernest Bevin.

In the end, it was not Churchill who died, but his close friend Lord Moyne, who was assassinated by the Stern Gang in Cairo in November 1944. Mr Segev writes that the bloody act “lost the Zionists one of their most important supporters, Winston Churchill”.

In an address to the House of Commons, Churchill made clear the depth of his dismay: “If our dreams for Zionism are to end in the smoke of assassins’ pistols and our labours for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained so consistently and so long in the past.”

But by then the wheels had already been set in motion, and the Jewish state was only a few years from becoming a reality.

Source: The Independent Newspaper

Auctioning off the internet to the UN

WASHINGTON: It is expected to be the mother of all cyber diplomatic battles.

When delegates gather in Dubai in December for an obscure UN agency meeting, fighting is expected to be intense over proposals to rewrite global telecom rules to effectively give the United Nations control over the Internet.

Russia, China and other countries back a move to place the Internet under the authority of the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency that sets technical standards for global phone calls.

US officials say placing the Internet under UN control would undermine the freewheeling nature of cyberspace, which promotes open commerce and free expression, and could give a green light for some countries to crack down on dissidents.

Observers say a number of authoritarian states will back the move, and that the major Western nations will oppose it, meaning the developing world could make a difference.

“The most likely outcome is a tie, and if that happens there won’t be any dramatic changes, although that could change if the developing countries make a big push,” said James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“But there is a lot of discontent with how the Internet is governed and the US will have to deal with that at some point.”Lewis said there was still an overwhelming perception that the US owns and manages the Internet.

Opponents have a “powerful argument” to create a global authority to manage the Internet, Lewis said, but “we need to find some way to accommodate national laws in a way that doesn’t sacrifice human rights.” Terry Kramer, the special US envoy for the talks, has expressed Washington’s position opposing proposals by Russia, China and others to expand the ITU’s authority to regulate the Internet.

“The Internet has grown precisely because it has not been micro-managed or owned by any government or multinational organization,” Kramer told a recent forum.

“There is no Internet central office. Its openness and decentralization are its strengths.”The head of the ITU, Hamadoun Toure, said his agency has “the depth of experience that comes from being the world’s longest established intergovernmental organization.” Toure wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian that any change in regulation should “express the common will of ITU’s major stakeholders” and “find win-win solutions that will act as a positive catalyst.” But Harold Feld of the US-based non-government group Public Knowledge said any new rules could have devastating consequences.

“These proposals, from the Russian Federation and several Arab states, would for the first time explicitly embrace the concept that governments have a right to control online communications and disrupt Internet access services,” Feld said on a blog post.

“This would reverse the trend of the last few years increasingly finding that such actions violate fundamental human rights.”Paul Rohmeyer, who follows cyber-security at the Stevens Institute of Technology, pointed to a “sense of anxiety” about the meeting in part because of a lack of transparency.

He said it was unclear why the ITU is being considered for a role in the Internet.

“The ITU historically has been a standards-setting body and its roots are in the telecom industry. I’m not familiar with anything they’ve done that’s had an impact on the Internet today,” Rohmeyer told AFP.

And the analyst noted that the significance of extending “governance” of the Internet to the ITU remains unclear.

Some observers point out that the ITU hired a Russian security firm to investigate the Flame virus, which sparked concerns about the dangers in cyberspace and the need for better cyber-security cooperation.

Rohmeyer said it was unclear whether a conspiracy was at hand, but that “the suggestion that the Internet is a dangerous place could be used to justify greater controls.” Observers are also troubled by a proposal by European telecom operators seeking to shift the cost of communication from the receiving party to the sender. This could mean huge costs for US Internet giants like Facebook and Google.

“This would create a new revenue stream for corrupt, autocratic regimes and raise the cost of accessing international websites and information on the Internet,” said Eli Dourado of George Mason University.

Milton Mueller, a professor of information studies at Syracuse University who specializes in Internet governance, said most of the concerns are being blown out of proportion.

Mueller said the ITU “already recognizes the sovereign right of nations to restrict communications into and out of the country.”

“What gets lost in the confusion over content regulation is that the real motive of most of the reactionary governments is to protect themselves from economic competition caused by telecom liberalization and deregulation, of which the Internet is only one part,” he said.

Source: Dawn News