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Deleting muslims

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Emma Ruby-Sachs – Avaaz Unsubscribe

Sign THE PETITION

In a few days India plans to delete up to 7 million Muslims from its list of citizens and later throw them in prison camps. This is how genocides begin.

But nearly nobody knows about it! If enough of us raise the alarm now we can get the United Nations and key countries to weigh in and stop it. Join now:

SIGN THE PETITION
In a few days, India will delete as many as 7 million Muslims in Assam State from its master list of “citizens” because they speak the wrong language and worship the wrong God.Husbands, wives, and children could be torn apart and left to rot in prison camps.

This is how genocides begin 
– how the nightmare of the Rohingya began.

But it’s all unfolding quietly — if we raise a massive alarm calling for the UN Secretary-General and key governments to intervene – we can stop this horror before it starts:

Raise the Alarm 

The Assam government has already begun quietly building another new prison camp and deploying troops. 

Like the Burmese regime that attacked the Rohingya, the government claims they’re acting against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

But the vast majority of the people targeted are just poor, illiterate Muslim citizens without “proper” documentation. They’ve never needed it before!

António Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, has pledged to fight on behalf of those who can’t: “I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights.” We need to hold him to those words because right now the Bengali Muslims in India have no one to speak for them on the global stage — except us. Sign the petition below and together we can stop a road to genocide in Assam:

Raise the Alarm 

The rise of virulent Hindu nationalism in India is behind this aggressive move to render millions of Muslims stateless and vulnerable. History teaches us that these movements know no limits except the ones citizens set for them.

Let’s draw a line in Assam, and send a message to governments everywhere – we’re watching.

With hope and determination,

Emma, Nate, Ricken, Antonia, Flora, Alice, Wissam, Danny and the entire Avaaz team

More information:

More than 7 million people, including 2.9 million married women, asked to prove citizenship as part of massive exercise (Al Jazeera)
https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/assam-counts-citizens-muslims-fear-left-180530080633948.html

Stateless in Assam (The Indian Express)
https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/national-register-of-citizens-5030603/

Assam CM: No fundamental rights for those failing NRC tests (Times of India)
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/assam-cm-no-fundamental-rights-for-those-failing-nrc-test/articleshow/62344296.cms?from=mdr

The dark side of humanity and legality: A glimpse inside Assam’s detention centres for ‘foreigners’ (Scroll.in)
https://scroll.in/article/883936/assam-citizens-register-detention-centres-for-foreigners-offer-a-glimpse-of-the-looming-tragedy

With final NRC draft to be released in 20 days, Assam witnessing rise in suicides (NewsClick)
https://newsclick.in/final-nrc-draft-be-released-20-days-assam-witnessing-rise-suicides

Assam seeks 150 companies of central forces ahead of next NRC publication (The Economic Times)
https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/assam-seeks-150-companies-of-central-forces-ahead-of-next-nrc-publication/articleshow/64394147.cms

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Part 11. How Israel in 1948 committed Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians, about 400,000 within days in first stage

The Expropriation of Palestinian Land

Resolution 181 and the Early Phases of the 1948 War

Tidbits and notes posted on FB and Twitter. Part 219

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory

Frappe-toi le coeur c’est la’ qu’ est le genie”? (Alfred de Musset). Le genie de survivre tous les malheurs avec l’espoir de trouver l’amour?

L’existence est un miserable tas de secrets? Apparemment, je ne suis pas conscient de petits secrets: j’ai tout revele’ dans mon auto-biographie of Not a famous person.

Pour etre habilite’ professeur en medecine, il faut publier une douzaines d’articles pour des revues Americaines et sur un support informatique.

The Syrian Kurds are located in 3 cantons in north Syria (Afrin that Turkey captured), Kobani and Al Jazirat or Cezire). They elect their own parliaments. Those in the canton of Afrin and Kobani pay ideological allegiance to Abdullah Ocalan.

This Turkish/Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan. has been in Turkish prison since 1999, on an island. Late Syrian President Hafez Assad had to deliver him after Turkey warned of imminent war if Ocalan is Not transferred over.

The Kurds in canton of Al jazira pay also allegiance to the American ecologist Murray Brookchin (1921-2006). The Kurds in north-west Iraq also have same ideological allegiance to those in Syria, but the feudal Barazani clan in eastern north Iraq is for sale to highest bidder.

Where the streets have no name: Israel leaves Palestinians in postal ‘dark age’ #Occupation

Europe relied on the silk, spices, perfume, and luxury items imported from China and India through Persia, Turkey and Egypt.

The Great Wall of China is the only human made construction that can be seen from space.  Three centuries before Portugal put to sea its galleons to circumnavigate oceans, China had fleet of ships 3 times bigger than the biggest that Spain constructed.

Tacit slaving system: Les jobs precaires “Nous fournissons aux employeurs un materiel humain bon marche’.

“7adrat al mo7taram. Iza ghafelt yawm 3an al siyaam wa salayt, hal salati makboulat?” Ya benti, bonsa7ik trouhi wa dabdabi

Ma fi bil midaan 7amlaat intikhabiyyat ella Jobran Bassil. Bakkiyat ma baka min kol al siyassiyeen wa al “zou3amat” 3am yel3abo bi shi tani. Bi sheddo 7alon ta ye laa2o al jam3a wa yestaffo 3ala karaassi lama bi ye3lno assamihom ka mourashaheen

Ma b7eb kazzeb al naass: iza talla3o isha3a enno la2eem, baddi thabett hal isha3a

Part 8. Ten Myths on Israel: Not how a “Democratic State” behave (by Ian Pappe)

No, Israel Is Not a Democracy

Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic

Destroying Palestinians’ Houses Is Not Democratic

Imprisoning Palestinians Without Trial Is Not Democratic

By lan Pappe

From Ten Myths About Israel, out now from Verso Books.

June 12, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –  Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that, if anything went wrong in this democracy, then it was due to the 1967 war.

Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic

Under the “enlightened occupation,” settlers have been allowed to form vigilante gangs to harass people and destroy their property. These gangs have changed their approach over the years.

During the 1980s, they used actual terror — from wounding Palestinian leaders (one of them lost his legs in such an attack), to contemplating blowing up the mosques on Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.

In this century, they have engaged in the daily harassment of Palestinians: uprooting their trees, destroying their yields, and shooting randomly at their homes and vehicles.

Since 2000, there have been at least 100 such attacks reported per month in some areas such as Hebron, where the five hundred settlers, with the silent collaboration of the Israeli army, harassed the locals living nearby in an even more brutal way.

From the very beginning of the occupation then, the Palestinians were given two options: accept the reality of permanent incarceration in a mega-prison for a very long time, or risk the might of the strongest army in the Middle East.

When the Palestinians did resist — as they did in 1987, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2016  (Intifada, civil disobedience)— they were targeted as soldiers and units of a conventional army. Thus, villages and towns were bombed as if they were military bases and the unarmed civilian population was shot at as if it was an army on the battlefield.

Today we know too much about life under occupation, before and after Oslo, to take seriously the claim that nonresistance will ensure less oppression.

The arrests without trial (administrative detention inherited from Britain laws during the mandated period) , as experienced by so many over the years (every night, a dozen Palestinian youths are detained for months) ; the demolition of thousands of houses; the killing and wounding of the innocent; the drainage of water wells — these are all testimony to one of the harshest contemporary regimes of our times.

Amnesty International annually documents in a very comprehensive way the nature of the occupation.

The following is from their 2015 report:

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.

The authorities continued to promote illegal settlements in the West Bank, and severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, further tightening restrictions amid an escalation of violence from October, which included attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians and apparent extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces. Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and their property with virtual impunity.

The Gaza Strip remained under an Israeli military blockade that imposed collective punishment on its inhabitants.

The authorities continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and inside Israel, particularly in Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting their residents. (Two of these cases are currently under way)

Let’s take this in stages.

Firstly, assassinations — what Amnesty’s report calls “unlawful killings”: about 15,000 Palestinians have been killed “unlawfully” by Israel since 1967. Among them were 2,000 two children.

 

Who’s Really Crossing the U.S. Border, and Why They’re Coming

By Stephanie Leutert.  Saturday, June 23, 2018, 10:04 AM

Central American migrants riding freight trains through Mexico (Flickr/Peter Haden)

Over the past week, the separation of 2,000 children from their parents along the U.S. border has forced immigration into the national spotlight.

The majority of migrants aren’t dangerous criminals. Many are women and families—and many are fleeing gang violence rather than seeking to spread that violence farther north.

For the past two years, I’ve worked to document these issues at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin, and also in the Beyond the Border column for Lawfare—based in part on my fieldwork from across Mexico.

To understand Central American migrants means first abandoning the depiction of the “Northern Triangle” of Central America as a homogeneous region.

All three countries have different histories and contemporary political realities, along with varying security and development indicators that help explain today’s situation.

Using the World Bank’s measure, Honduras has the highest levels of poverty, with 30% of the population living at $3.20 a day or less, compared to Guatemala (25%), and El Salvador (ten percent).

Note: these States are dominated by US multinational companies who control the poorer countries

Meanwhile, 2/3 of Salvadorans live in cities, compared to 55 percent of Hondurans and closer to 50 percent of Guatemalans.

Finally, Guatemala’s authorities report that 40% of the population is indigenous, versus closer to 10 percent in Honduras, and an almost non-existent indigenous population in El Salvador (0.2 percent). These factors help explain what moves migrants from each country to travel to the United States.

Take the following map, which illustrates the hometowns of Central American migrant families apprehended at the border (as reported by the U.S. Border Patrol) from 2012-2017.

In Honduras, most families report that they are coming from major cities, such as San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa; the situation is similar in El Salvador, with migrants hailing from San Salvador and San Miguel.

This urbanization matters: these cities have high levels of urban gang violence, committed by MS-13 and Barrio 18. These groups have divided control of the cities up into a patchwork quilt and earn the majority of their money from local-level extortion. (The gangs are under the control of US multinationals who use them to extract more privileges)

 

Hometowns of Apprehended Central American Family Units

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FOIA request.

 

For Central American residents, control of these gangs over their neighborhood likely means a weekly or monthly extortion payment simply for the right to operate a business or live in their territory.

The price for failing to provide this money is death. All it takes is a neighbor or nearby shopkeeper to be gunned down for failing to pay the adequate fees, and it becomes clear that the only options are pay or flee.

Parents may also send their children to the United States or take them north as the gangs try to recruit them into their activities: Boys of 11 years old (or younger) may be recruited as lookouts and teenage girls may be eyed for becoming the members’ “girlfriends.”

Older women who date or at one point dated a gang member can become trapped and unable to escape the violence, with partner-violence a driving migratory factor for many women.

While the gang activities and gender-based violence can empty out neighborhoods, they are Not the only factors driving outward migration from these cities.

Across the region’s larger cities, LGBT migrants are fleeing discrimination and violence. At a recent trip to a migrant shelter in southern Mexico, I listened as the shelter’s director recounted the story of a father and teenage son who had fled Guatemala City only a few weeks prior: the father was afraid that his son would be killed for coming out as gay.

It is not an idle threat. Since 2009, 264 LGBT people in Honduras have been murdered. The La 72 shelter in Tenosique, Tabasco even has a building in the shelter dedicated to providing specialized housing for LGBT migrants.

Among migrants leaving Guatemala, some are fleeing gangs or societal violence in cities, but many migrant families and unaccompanied children come from the Guatemalan highlands, which are more rural, agriculture-based, indigenous, and have lower rates of violence (defined by homicides) than other parts of the country.

In asylum proceedings in the United States, women and children from this region frequently cite endemic family and domestic violence, and neglect from the local police who cannot speak their languages or do not answer their phone calls.

These areas have also been buffeted by a changing climate, frequent natural disasters, and droughts. And the poverty in these regions leaves residents with little ability for resilience in the face of unpredictable rains or external events.

Without an ability to live safely or prosperously in Central America, residents begin looking to head north to the United States. That means coming up with the $6,000 to $10,000 necessary for hiring a smuggler.

To obtain this money, residents may sell their land or property, rely on the generosity of friends or family in the United States, or borrow money from local loan sharks and leave their farms and property as collateral. This latter option has its own consequences: migrants who use loan sharks and then are detected and deported by Mexican or U.S. officials are unable to pay back the loans, losing their lands in the process and becoming displaced once again.

Once the migrants have found a way to raise the money—or if they set out without a smuggler—then they will begin their journey through Mexico. Their mode of transportation and experience will depend heavily on the amount of money that they have, the smuggler’s modus operandi, and whether they plan to seek asylum or try to pass between ports of entry undetected into the United States.

Migrants often find smugglers through recommendations from friends and family and they choose between various services on a sliding scale of prices. Migrants with significant amounts of money could choose to take planes to the U.S.-Mexico border and cross in to the country on fake documents; migrants with less money may pay to ride in a trailer through Mexico or take buses through the country; and those without any money at all will walk or ride on the roof of the trains that pass through Mexico.

These routes also change based on Central America’s geography.

Hondurans generally enter Mexico closer to the Gulf Coast, Salvadorans enter along the Pacific coast, and Guatemalans enter more frequently through crossing points in between. While the image of migrants riding Mexico’s train network dominates the migration narrative, this is far from the only way to reach the United States.

Surveys by researchers from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) of Central Americans who were recently deported by U.S. authorities give a sense of these routes’ diversity.

In 2017, roughly 40% of Hondurans reported riding the train and 40 percent said that they traveled in a tractor trailer at one point in their journey. However, Guatemalan and Salvadoran migrants reported taking these two means of transportation at much lower levels. I

n fact, only 1% of Salvadorans and 8% of Guatemalans said that they had ridden the train at any point during their trip through Mexico, and instead reported primarily taking buses through the country.

The journey across Mexico is not, as Trump commented on Thursday, “like … walking through Central Park.”

Migrants are extorted, robbed, assaulted, raped, kidnapped, and murdered at alarmingly high levels and with almost complete impunity. The perpetrators vary by geographic area, including MS-13 and Barrio 18 in the southern part of Mexico (the very gangs that many are escaping); larger criminal groups such as the Zetas and Gulf Cartel in the northern parts of the country such as Tamaulipas; local kidnapping rings and bandits throughout the territory; and even municipal, state, and federal migratory and public security authorities.

2017 Doctors Without Borders report noted that 68% of the migrants that it provided services to in shelters across Mexico had been the victim of a crime during the journey. Women and children are also at particular risk, with nearly 1/3 of the women reporting that they were sexually assaulted during their trip through Mexico.

And many Central American migrants are female—many more than the Mexican migrants who came before them. While female Mexican migrants averaged around 13 percent of all Mexican migrants apprehended by the Border Patrol from FY1995 through FY2017, Central American women averaged between 20 and 32 percent. I

n recent years these numbers have increased even more, with women constituting 48 percent of all Salvadoran migrants in the last fiscal year and Honduran women reaching 43 percent of migrants from their country.

 

Percent of Female Central American and Mexican Migrants

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FOIA request.

 

This change is even more dramatic when looking at families and unaccompanied minors. While these groups make up a small proportion of Mexican migrants overall, in recent years, Central American families and unaccompanied children have constituted on average between 40 and 60 percent of the migrants from Central America arriving to the United States.

The numbers of unaccompanied children peaked in FY2014 and have since declined slightly, while the number of families arriving at the border—particularly from Honduras and Guatemala—has remained steady.

 

Apprehended Unaccompanied Minors and Families Along the Southwest Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/sw-border-migration.

 

In other words, the families that the Trump administration has focused on separating make up an increasingly high proportion of the migrants who reach the U.S. border.

Previously, many migrants would seek to reach the United States by hiking through the desert undetected. But in recent years, families have begun crossing the border and waiting for a Border Patrol agent, or showing up at ports of entry, to ask for asylum. Before the Trump administration’s recent immigration crackdown, these families would be then taken to a family detention center, where they would have to pass a “credible fear” interview to be released—that is, prove that they have a real fear of returning to their home countries.

At least 77% of the families pass this hurdle and are released with an ankle monitor or after paying a bond. They can then begin their cases in immigration courts.

The Trump administration is looking to shake up this system. Under the current policy and the June 20th executive order, the administration is pushing to detain families together for months, if not years, while their cases are processed.

However, this flies in the face of the Flores settlement, a 1997 consent decree that courts have found to require that children not be detained for more than 20 days. The administration is now seeking to modify the settlement, a gambit that seems unlikely to succeed given the deciding judge’s previous rulings on the matter against the Obama administration.

 

U.S. Asylum Cases Received by the Executive Office of Immigration Review

Executive Office of Immigration Review, U.S. Department of Justice, https://www.justice.gov/eoir/file/asylum-statistics/download.

 

At the moment, the Trump administration’s policy is in flux. It’s not clear what will happen if the judge declines to amend the Flores settlement. Yet according to Politico, the administration focus on detaining adults indefinitely has hit it’s own wall—a casualty of insufficient resources on the part of the government.

And while the Border Patrol has announced plans to return to their parents the children who are in its custody, there are still thousands of migrant children separated from their parents and families that remain in gut-wrenching uncertainty.

Even in the best of situations, the current arrival of tens of thousands of Central American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border would bring its own challenges: addressed effectively, it would require rethinking and shifting resources within the United States’ immigration and asylum systems to better process not just single adults but also mothers and fathers with toddlers and teenagers, who are in need of special protections.

But despite the administration’s claims to the contrary, the numbers of Central Americans arriving at the border are not near the all-time highs, and there is no infestation or invasion of MS-13.

What the data shows instead is something far less dramatic: men, women, families, and children who are arriving to seek safety and the basic American dream of a better life.

 

JERUSALEM, A CORPUS SEPARATUM, NOT ISRAEL’S “ETERNAL AND INDIVISIBLE CAPITAL”

Cathy Sultan blog

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 passed on November 29, 1947 provided for the full territorial internationalization of Jerusalem.

“The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.”

Jerusalem holds unique spiritual and religious significance for the world’s Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Following WWI, the victorious Principal Allied Powers recognized these as “a sacred trust of civilization,” and stipulated that the existing rights and claims connected to them should be safeguarded in perpetuity under international guarantee.

The United Nations General Assembly, therefore, does not recognize Israel’s proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

U.N. general Assembly Resolution 623/30 of 2009 states that “any actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.”

Although the General Assembly cannot pass legally binding resolutions over international issues, the U.N. Security Council, which has the authority to do so, has passed a total of six Security Council resolutions on Israel on the matter, including UNSC resolution 478 which affirmed that the enactment of the 1980 Basic Jerusalem Law declaring unified Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal and indivisible” capital, was a violation of international law.

The Security Council, as well as the U.N. has consistently affirmed the position that East Jerusalem is occupied territory subject to the provision of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The International Court of Justice in its 2004 Advisory opinion on the “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Territory” described East Jerusalem as “occupied Palestinian territory.”

This bizarre situation exists, in part, because most Palestinians in “undivided Jerusalem” are legally classified (by Israel) as “permanent residents,” rather than citizens of Israel, despite the de- facto annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel in 1967, deemed illegal by international law.

As such, they do not enjoy the right to vote in national elections. Only an estimated 3,500 Palestinians of all ages, out of a total of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population of 320,000 (37% of Jerusalem’s total population, have received Israeli citizenship between 2002 and 2012.

On every social, economic and legal indicator there is a huge, purposeful disparity between Jewish West Jerusalem and Palestinian East Jerusalem: Education, health, opportunities for professional employment, resource allocation from the municipality, the right to build, welfare spending (just 4.4% of Jerusalem Municipality welfare spending is allocated and spent in East Jerusalem yet Palestinians bear a heavier tax burden.) More on these issues can be found in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides.

Thus, the Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the indigenous population under illegal Israeli control, are treated as non-Jewish immigrants to Israel. And why aren’t these Palestinian residents given Israeli citizenship? To do so would weaken the Jewish majority and the carefully gerrymandered political constituency of the state, and make them harder to expel.

The only place where Jerusalem is “the undivided capital of Israel” is in the fertile imaginations of ideologues like Netanyahu and his ilk. Nowhere else is there a prime minister so utterly detached from the realities of a city that he claims to be his nation’s “exclusive” capital. And when Netanyahu says he supports the two-state solution, but opposes anything less than an undivided Jerusalem under sole Israeli sovereignty, he is really saying: “I reject the two-state solution” (which as a solution is already dead in the water because of the extensive settlement expansion in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank making a contiguous Palestinian state now impossible.

But just when the myth of “undivided Jerusalem” was collapsing under the weight of its own fiction, President Donald Trump has stepped into the fray by announcing that his administration will move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That this move would effectively contravene the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemns all measures aimed at altering the status of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, is apparently of no concern to President Trump.

It seems unlikely that Donald Trump’s new pro-settlement ambassador to Israel has explained the catastrophic implications that will be seen as deliberately inflammatory by the Palestinians and by the Islamic world, this making Trump’s chances of brokering the “ultimate deal” as he’s called it, impossible to achieve. Rather than endorse a united Jerusalem, his policy will only serve to intensity gargantuan divides and make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.

Syria: Destroyed for a second time?

Nizar Ghanem published on OpenDemocracy on March 25, 2013

Note: Remember this article was published in 2013, thus any numbers in casualties have to be at least quadrupled.

The Syrian social movement has to be conscious of the necessity of establishing a just economy.

Strong checks need to be built against the post-war government so that all Syrians understand the conditions of aid and consequences of reconstruction plans on their lives and the lives of their children.

The war in Syria has already resulted in the human, economic, and material destruction of the state and society. The numbers are staggering.

Seventy thousand people have been killed so far and more than two million refugees are dispersed across refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

(For example, Lebanon alone witnessed the arrival of 2 million refugees, on a population barely 4.5 million. And the UN and colonial powers are pressuring Lebanon Not to repatriate the Syrian to the liberated regions)

In addition to the partial destruction of major cities such as Aleppo, Homs, and Daraa, their infrastructure, industries and individual households.

Any future government will be faced with the task of the reconstruction of Syria. Who gets to reconstruct Syria, and how, will be both a reflection of the triumphant forces on the ground, and another phase in the Syrian social struggle.

(Note: the colonial powers and the “Arabic” Gulf States and Saudi Kingdom are dragging their feet since then on contemplating infusing financial aid to Syria. Actually, the Syrian government has expressed that it will be picking and choosing those who decide to invest).

There is a risk of a neo-liberal approach to reconstruction, which puts markets and growth ahead of people and culture and promotes the ethics of profit seeking, rather than socialized systems of economic organization. This would be a second destruction of the soul, character and material organization of one of the oldest urban spaces on this planet. (The new Syrian society is Not about to let the multinationals set their conditions)

The Baath party was never a haven of economic equality. (At least in the few years before the outbreak of the war. Syria enjoys universal health care and education)

Syria was run as a private enterprise, where a broad coalition between the regime and a politically obedient business class in Aleppo, Damascus and other major cities was forged. The economy itself was reeking of corruption, crony capitalism and monopolies.

Emulating the Chinese model, where economic liberalization goes side by side with political authoritarianism, the Baath regime underwent a liberalization process after 2000. This process of privatization transferred state property to trusted individuals with close links to the regime.

The Makhlouf family was notorious for its corruption; it controlled transportation systems such as Tartous port and air transport, telecommunication companies, part of the oil industry, real-estate projects in addition to major business deals with the Syrian army.

This business empire, which came out of the liberalization policies of Bashar Assad, was one of the reasons cited for the Syrian uprising.

The reconstruction of Syria raises the main question posed by political economy – that is, the dilemma between economic growth and distribution.

Who gets what in the after-math of the Syrian uprising? Should the economic benefits of reconstruction go either to a bloated internal elite, or to foreign companies, the main conditions that brought about the uprising will remain intact.

There is an obvious need for attracting foreign capital to invest in infrastructure, rebuild households, cities, bridges, and factories. Also, an invigoration of economic growth is needed. But who shall be the prime beneficiaries from this process is an important question that will be asked by the same social forces that paid the real price for ousting the regime.

The example of Iraq is useful in this context.

The economic liberalization policies that invited international consultancy firms into a process of privatizing the oil industry and other government assets, led to an increased surge in violence, which destabilized Iraq for a considerable time.

The liberalization process is a fragmenting force that weakens the central state in relation to various agencies whether it be foreign, or local business networks, NGOs and other institutions.

In societies that already experience sectarian tension and weak governance structures, this process could lead to the creation of cantons and ultimately encourage war-lords and the fragmentation of state institutions. Iraq is evidence of that.

Another significant example is Lebanon.

After two decades of civil war, the reconstruction boom of the ‘90s left Lebanon with high internal and external debt approaching $50 bn. (It reached now $90 bn, or 130% of the GDP, and a third of the budget goes into repaying the interest)

(Lebanon didn’t need to borrow money: it was a political decision from the new elite and militia/mafia leaders to spoil the economy. The war in Lebanon didn’t end with a victor and the militia leaders remained in power)

Also, the privatization process was conducted in a way that benefited a tight business community in a patronage relationship with the political class. The development process favoured a marginal elite, while neglecting the peripheral regions.

The repercussions were enormous as Lebanon failed to develop a solid infrastructure, public transportation and more generally a clear economic plan to generate jobs.

Instead of a developmental state that took care of nurturing the productive forces of society, the reconstruction of Lebanon brought about the opening up of the Lebanese markets to international capital flows which resulted in a real-estate bubble that both destroyed the urban space of coastal cities in addition to creating a staggering inequality.

The destruction of Syrian infrastructure has already whetted the appetite of multi-national companies. Competing Qatari and Turkish firms are busy designing plans for the reconstruction of the main cities. (Actually, that was their plans until they failed miserably)

Russian, Iranian and Chinese firms are not far off either. (They will reap the profit of the reconstruction)

How the conflict gets settled will definitely include a divvying up of reconstruction contracts, in ways which would reflect the regional political balance of power.

What will make the liberalization process of Syria even more traumatic is that it is going to be done under extremely weak and broken state structures. It would indeed be an ironic outcome if Syria went back to the situation it found itself in postcolonial times.

Let us not forget that Syrians, like many other third world countries, supported the nationalization projects precisely in order to wrest the control of foreign capital from their country’s assets and resources.

Any reconstruction that fails to invest in the productive capacity of the Syrian economy, and in creating long-term added value and durable job opportunities for thousands of Syrians will weaken Syria, both state and society.

This obviously depends on the source of funding.

Capital flows coming from the Gulf region are most likely to invest in the market for real-estate, rather than productive sectors. Any Syrian transition plan would do wisely to diversify capital sources, while making sure that Syria’s market is not dominated by large monopolies or oligopolies.

At the same time, special attention should be given to investment in productive sectors and innovative growth such as in telecom, IT and manufacturing. The Syrian National Council has presented a generic plan for the reconstruction of Syria, which by no means responds to those challenges. A testament to what might come.

Syrian cities possessed an authenticity that it is hard to find in the current Middle East. The urban space reflected the history of an entrenched civilization that gave the world one of the first writing systems, theology, art and science. The Syrian revolution and its heroic escalation against the autocratic regime held onto the values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

It would be a tragedy if we were made to witness a second destruction, whereby the urban space is given to multinational companies who would engineer yet another Dubai at the expense of Syrian culture.

The Syrian social movement has to be conscious of the necessity of establishing democracy, and strong checks against the post-war government, to make sure that Syrians understand the conditions of aid and consequences of reconstruction plans on their lives and the lives of their children.

Do not destroy Syria twice.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2018
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