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28 February 2002
No. 129

In this issue:
    Alternatives to the Bankruptcy of Globalisation
  2. NEWS in Brief
    China - China's Leap of Faith
    Japan - Japanese Waver on Foreign Aid
    Indonesia - Dita Sari Spurns Reebok Award
    Philippines - Bangsamoro Muslims likely to be targeted in US’s war against ‘terrorism’
    Burma - ILO Blocked From Meeting Suu Kyi
  3. FOCUS on Palestine
    The Palestinian Vision of Peace
    Personal Testimony of an Israeli Refusenik
    Seminar on Codes of Conduct in the Textile Industries


1. FEATURE - top


by Vandana Shiva

World Social Forum, 2002
February 23, 2002


The Bankruptcy of Globalisation

Globalisation was projected as the next great leap of human evolution in a linear forward march from tribes to nations to global markets. Our identities and context were to move from the national to the global, just as in the earlier phase of state driven globalisation, it was supposed to have moved from the local to the global.

Deregulated commerce and corporate rule was offered as the alternative to the centralised bureaucratic control under communist regimes and state dominated economies. Markets were offered as an alternative to states for regulating our lives, not just our economies.

As the globalisation project has unfolded, it has exposed its bankruptcy at the philosophical, political, ecological and economic levels. The bankruptcy of the dominant world order is leading to social, ecological, political and economic non-sustainability, with societies, ecosystems, and economies disintegrating and breaking down.

The philosophical and ethical bankruptcy of globalisation was based on reducing every aspect of our lives to commodities and reducing our identities to merely that of consumers on the global market place. Our capacities as producers, our identity as members of communities, our role as custodians of our natural and cultural heritage were all to disappear or be destroyed. Markets and consumerism expanded. Our capacity to give and share were to shrink. But the human spirit refuses to be subjugated by a world view based on the dispensability of our humanity.

The dominant political and economic order has a number of features that are new, which increase injustice and non-sustainability on scales and at rates that the earth and human community have not experienced.

  1. It is based on enclosures of the remaining ecological commons -- biodiversity, water and air, and the destruction of local economies on which people's livelihoods and economic security depends.
  2. The commodification of water and biodiversity is ensured through new property rights built into trade agreements like the WTO which are transforming people's resources into corporate monopolies viz. TRIPs and trade in environmental goods and services.
  3. The transformation of commons to commodities is ensured through shifts in governance with decisions moving from communities and countries to global institutions, and rights moving from people to corporations through increasingly centralised and unaccountable states acting on the principle of eminent domain -- the absolute sovereignty of the ruler.

This in turn led to political bankruptcy and anti-democratic formations and constellations. Instead of acting on the public trust doctrine and principles of democratic accountability and subsidiarity, globalisation led to governments usurping power from parliaments, regional and local governments, and local communities.

For example the TRIPs agreement was based on central governments hijacking the rights to biodiversity and knowledge from communities and assigning them as exclusive, monopolistic rights to corporations.

The Agreement on Agriculture was based on taking decisions away from farming communities and regional governments.

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) takes decisions and ownership over water from the local and public domain to the privatised, global domain.

This undemocratic process of privatisation and deregulation led to increased political bankruptcy and corruption and economic bankruptcy.

A decade of corporate globalisation has led to major disillusionment and discontentment. Democracy has been eroded, livelihoods have been destroyed. Small farmers and businesses are going bankrupt everywhere. Even the promise of economic growth has not been delivered. Economic slow down has been the outcome of liberalising trade. Ironically some corporations that led the process of trade liberalisation and globalisation have themselves collapsed.

Enron which came to India as the "Flagship" project of globalisation with the full force of backing and blackmail by the U.S. Trade Representative has gone bankrupt and is steeped in scandals of corruption. Chiquita, which forced the banana wars on Europe through a U.S./Europe W.T.O. dispute has also declared bankruptcy.

First South East Asia, now Argentina have exposed how vulnerable and volatile current economic arrangements are.

The non-sustainability and bankruptcy of the ruling world order is fully evident. The need for alternatives has never been stronger.

Creating alternatives to Corporate Globalisation

During the last decade of the 20th century, corporate driven globalisation shook up the world and the economic and political structures that we have shaped to govern us.

In December 1999, citizens of the world rebelled against the economic totalitarianism of corporate globalisation. Social and economic justice and ecological sustainability became the rallying call for new movements for citizen freedoms and liberation from corporate control.

September 11th 2001 shut down the spaces that people's movements had opened up. It also brought back the focus on the intimate connection between violence, inequality and non-sustainability and the indivisibility of peace, justice and sustainability. Doha was rushed through in the shadow of global militarisation in response to the terror attacks.

As we face the double closure of spaces by corporate globalisation and militarised police states, by economic facism aided by political facism, our challenge is to reclaim our freedoms and the freedoms of our fellow beings. Reclaiming and recreating the indivisible freedom of all species is the aim of the Living Democracy Movement. The living democracy movement embodies two indivisibilities and continuums. The first is the continuum of freedom for all life on earth, and all humans without discrimination on the basis on gender, race, religion, class and species. The second is the continuum between and indivisibility of justice, peace and sustainability -- without sustainability and just share of the earth's bounties there is no justice, and without justice three can be no peace.

Corporate globalisation ruptures these continuities. It establishes corporate rule through a divide and rule policy, and creates competition and conflict between different species and peoples and between different aims. It transforms diversity and multiplicity into oppositional differences both by breeding fundamentalisms through spreading insecurity and then using these fundamentalisms to shift humanities focus and preoccupation from sustainability and justice and peace to ethnic and religious conflict and violence.

We need a new paradigm to respond to the fragmentation caused by various forms of fundamentalism. We need a new movement which allows us to move from the dominant and pervasive culture of violence, destruction and death to a culture of non-violence, creative peace and life. That is why in India we started the living democracy movement.

Creative Resistance

Seattle was a watershed for citizens movements. People brought an international trade agreement and W.T.O. the institution that enforces it to a halt by mobilising globally against corporate globalisation. Seattle was the success of a strategy focussing on the global level and on protest. It articulated at the international level what citizens do not want. Corporations and governments responded quickly to Seattle's success. They killed protest possibilities by moving to venues like Doha where thousands could not gather. And they started to label protest and dissent of any kind as "terrorism".

The Biotech industry (Economist, Jan 12th, 18th, p62)) has called on governments to use anti-terror laws against groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the earth and groups critical of the industry.

Mr. Zoellick, the US Trade Representative has called the anti-globalisation movement terrorist.

A different strategy is needed post September 11/post Doha. Massive protests at global meetings can no longer be the focus on citizen mobilisation. We need international solidarity and autonomous organising. Our politics needs to reflect the principle of subsidiarity. Our global presence cannot be a shadow of the power of corporations and Bretton Woods institutions. We need stronger movements at local and national levels, movements that combine resistance and constructive action, protests and building of alternatives non-cooperation with unjust rule and cooperation within society. The global, for us, must strengthen the local and national, not undermine it. The two tendencies that we demand of the economic system needs to be central to people's politics -- localisation and alternatives. Both are not just economic alternatives they are democratic alternatives. Without them forces for change cannot be mobilised in the new context.

At the heart of building alternatives and localising economic and political systems is the recovery of the commons and the reclaiming of community. The living democracy movement is reclaiming people's sovereignty and community rights to natural resources.

Rights to natural resources are natural rights. They are not given by States, nor can they be extinguished by States, the W.T.O, or by corporations, even though under globalisation, attempts are being made to alienate people's rights to vital resources of land water and biodiversity.

Globalisation has relocated sovereignty from people to corporations, through centralising, militarising States. Rights of people are being appropriated by States to carve out monopoly rights of corporations over our land, our water, our biodiversity, our air. States acting on the principle of eminent domain or absolute sovereignty of the State are undermining people's sovereign rights and their role as trustees of people's resources on the public trust doctrine. State sovereignty, by itself, is therefore not enough to generate countervailing forces and processes to corporate globalisation.

The reinvention of sovereignty has to be based on the reinvention of the state so that the state is made accountable to the people. Sovereignty cannot reside only in centralised sate structures, nor does it disappear when the protective functions of the state with respect to its people start to wither away. The new partnership of national sovereignty needs empowered communities which assign functions to the state for their protection. Communities defending themselves always demand such duties and obligations from state structures. On the other hand, TNCs and international agencies promote the separation of the community interests from state interests and the fragmentation and divisiveness of communities.

The living democracy movement

We started the living democracy movement to respond to the enclosures of the commons that is at the core of economic globalisation. The living democracy movement is simultaneously an ecology movement, an anti-poverty movement, a recovery of the commons movement, a deepening of democracy movement, a peace movement. It builds on decades of movements defending people's rights to resources, the movements for local, direct democracy, our freedom movements gifts of Swadeshi (economic sovereignty), Swaraj (Self-rule) and Satyagraha (Non-cooperation with unjust rule). It seeks to strengthen rights enshrined in our Constitution.

The living democracy movement in India is a movement to rejuvenate resources, reclaim the commons and deepen democracy. It relates to the democracy of life in three dimensions.

Living democracy refers to the democracy of all life, not just human life. It is about earth democracy not just human democracy.

Living democracy is abut life, at the vital everyday level, and decisions and freedoms related to everyday living -- the food we eat the clothes we wear, the water we drink. It is not just about elections and casting votes once in 3 or 4 or 5 years. It is a permanently vibrant democracy. It combines economic democracy with political democracy.

Living democracy is not dead, it is alive. Under globalisation, democracy even of the shallow representative kind is dying. Governments everywhere are betraying the mandates that brought them to power. They are centralising authority and power, both by subverting democratic structures of constitutions and by promulgating ordinances that stifle civil liberties. The Sept 11 tragedy has become a convenient excuse for anti-people legislation worldwide. Politicians everywhere are turning to xenophophic and fundamentalist agendas to get votes in a period when economic agenda have been taken away from national levels and are being set by World Bank, IMF, W.T.O. and global corporations.

The living democracy movement is about living rather that dead democracy. Democracy is dead when governments no longer reflect the will of the people but are reduced to anti-democratic unaccountable instruments of corporate rule under the constellation of corporate globalisation as the Enron and Chiquita case make so evident. Corporate globalisation is centered on corporate profits.

Living democracy is based on maintaining life on earth and freedom for all species and people.

Corporate globalisation operates to create rules for the global, national and local markets which privilege global corporations and threaten diverse species, the livelihoods of the poor and small, local producers and businesses.

Living democracy operates according to the ecological laws of nature, and limits commercial activity to prevent harm to other species and to people.

Corporate globalisation is exercised through centralising, destructive power.

Living democracy is exercised through decentralised power and peaceful coexistence.

Corporate globalisation globalises greed and consumerism. Living democracy globalises compassion, caring and sharing.

Democracy emptied of economic freedom and ecological freedom becomes a potent breeding ground for fundamentalism and terrorism.

Over the past two decades, I have witnessed conflicts over development and conflicts over natural resources mutate into communal conflicts, culminating in extremism and terrorism. My book Violence of the Green Revolution was an attempt to understand the ecology of terrorism. The lessons I have drawn from the growing but diverse expressions of fundamentalism and terrorism are the following:

Nondemocratic economic systems that centralize control over decision making and resources and displace people from productive employment and livelihoods create a culture of insecurity. Every policy decision is translated into the politics of "we" and "they." "We" have been unjustly treated, while "they" have gained privileges.

Destruction of resource rights and erosion of democratic control of natural resources, the economy, and means of production undermine cultural identity. With identity no longer coming from the positive experience of being a farmer, a craftsperson, a teacher, or a nurse, culture is reduced to a negative shell where one identity is in competition with the "other" over scarce resources that define economic and political power.

Centralized economic systems also erode the democratic base of politics. In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda. When the former is hijacked by the World Bank, the IMF, or the WTO, democracy is decimated. The only cards left in the hands of politicians eager to garner votes are those of race, religion, and ethnicity, which subsequently give rise to fundamentalism. And fundamentalism effectively fills the vacuum left by a decaying democracy. Economic globalisation is fueling economic insecurity, eroding cultural diversity and identity, and assaulting the political freedoms of citizens. It is providing fertile ground for the cultivation of fundamentalism and terrorism. Instead of integrating people, corporate globalization is tearing apart communities.

The survival of people and democracy are contingent on a response to the double facism of globalization -- the economic facism that destroys people's rights to resources and the fundamentalist facism that feeds on people's displacement, dispossession, economic insecurities, and fears. On September 11, 2001, the tragic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon unleashed a "war against terrorism" promulgated by the US government under George W. Bush. Despite the rhetoric, this war will not contain terrorism because it fails to address the roots of terrorism-- economic insecurity, cultural subordination, and ecological dispossession. The new war is in fact creating a chain reaction of violence and spreading the virus of hate. And the magnitude of the damage to the earth caused by "smart" bombs and carpet bombing remains to be seen.

Living Democracy is true freedom of all life forms to exist on this earth.

Living Democracy is true respect for life, through equitable sharing of the earth's resources with all those who live on the planet.

Living Democracy is the strong and continual articulation of such democratic principles in everyday life and activity.

The constellation of living democracy is people's control over natural resources, and a just and sustainable utilisation of land, water, biodiversity, communities having the highest sovereignty and delegating power to the state in its role as trustee. The shift from the principle of eminent domain to the public trust doctrine for functions of the State is key to localisation, to recovery of the commons and the fight against privatisation and corporate take over of land, water and biodiversity.

This shift is also an ecological imperative. As members of the earth family, Vasudhaiva Kutumbhakam, we have a share in the earth's resources. Rights to natural resources for needs of sustenance are natural rights. They are not given or assigned. They are recognised or ignored. The eminent domain principle inevitably leads to the situation of "all for some" -- corporate monopolies over biodiversity through patents, corporate monopolies on water through privatisation and corporate monopolies over food through free trade.

The most basic right we have as a species is survival, the right to life. Survival requires guaranteed access to resources. Commons provide that guarantee. Privatisation and enclosures destroy it. Localisation is necessary for recovery of the commons. And living democracy is the movement to relocate our minds, our production systems and consumption patterns from the poverty creating global markets to the sustainability and sharing of the earth community. This shift from global markets to earth citizenship is a shift of focus from globalisation to localisation of power from corporations to citizens. The living democracy movement is a movement to establish that a better world is not just possible, it is necessary.



2. NEWS in Brief - top



People admit it, although it is not official, yet. In the southern province of Zhejiang, officials discovered a strange phenomenon: a drop in crime along with a growth in the number of religious believers, particularly Christians. It is not final evidence, but the indication is that the spread of religion helps social order, an idea that the Communist Party is examining. This is behind a story produced by the official Xinhua News Agency on February 8 ("China's religious groups contribute to modernization") that gave a new spin on the issue of religion in the country.

The heads of China's five official major religious groups (Protestant, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist and Catholic) were quoted as saying: "Religion constitutes a positive force to the progress of modernization." Shi Zesheng, vice chairman of the official Protestant Church of China, said: "President Jiang Zemin's speech at the national conference on religion last December was encouraging. We feel our endeavors are not only recognized by the country and people, but are also well received."

Furthermore Chen Guangyuan, chairman of the Islamic Association of China, said: "One should not associate terrorism with any specific ethnic group or religion. Islam upholds peace and friendship. Religious groups in China respect each other and contribute to the country's stability."

A few days after the Xinhua story, the People's Daily published an article that attacked cults, of which Falungong was an example, but was careful to draw a line between cults and religions. The story (by Liao Wengen, "The dregs of superstitious movements are resurfacing", People's Daily, February 11) denounced the revamping of some cults so that they "waved the flag of religion".

Some days earlier, in "Islamic community condemns 'East Turkistan' terrorist force" (January 26), Xinhua reported that Zunong Abula, a member of the Islamic Association of Xinjiang and the imam of the Nongjichang Mosque in the regional capital, had realized the nature and background of the "East Turkistan" terrorist force.

In sum, after Jiang's speech we have been told that religion is a positive force not to be confused with cults or terrorist activities.

The exact contents of Jiang's speech on religion are still unknown but the gist seems to be a revaluation of religion in positive terms, as a contribution to modernization. This is a long way from the persecution of religious activities during Mao Zedong's time. The new attitude, while still not tolerance of religion, rejects the old atheist principle that religions are bad. And, although it is far from being a green light to total freedom of religion, this development opens a new chapter in the process of change of China and could be a first step toward the eventual normalization of ties with the Vatican and restarting a dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

These signs did not escape the attention of Catholics. Father Angelo Lazzarotto, in a forthcoming article in the Hong Kong review Tripod, points at what he called "the great opportunities of China's modernization". Despite hopes in the Vatican, however, normalization of ties will not occur in a short period of time.

But the Communist Party has embarked on a complex quest for the improvement of standards of morality in China, which could help stem corruption. Last year the party launched a subtle campaign on morality as a part of an anti-corruption drive.

On the foreign front, a re-evaluation of religion also would help relations with the United States, and also with the Islamic world. The latter is extremely important. China wants to gain a free hand in dealing with its own terrorists without offending Islamic countries or its own influential domestic Islamic community.

[Source: ATimes]


Sagging Economy Threatens Public Support for Generosity

Ten years of slow growth, a raft of diplomatic scandals and persistent allegations of the misuse of public funds have significantly eroded Japanese taxpayers' support for foreign aid.

Over the years, Japan has bankrolled a large share of international reconstruction efforts in Cambodia, the Balkans, East Timor and Africa. Japan is the world's largest aid donor, according to the Foreign Ministry, and in 2000 contributed $13 billion in grants, low-interest loans and other forms of foreign assistance. Japan's aid contribution per capita, more than $100, is the highest of any major industrialized nation and nearly triple that of the United States.

But as unemployment soars and the government sinks deeper into debt, Japanese who once took pride in their nation's status as the world's biggest aid donor are beginning to think that more attention should be given to their own domestic problems.

The percentage of Japanese who want the government to maintain or expand overseas development assistance has plunged from 84% in 1991 to 64%, according to one government survey. The number of respondents who say Japan should curb or eliminate aid has risen to 27%, from 9% a decade ago.

Many of the skeptics expressed concern that the money would be squandered by Japanese officials or wind up in the pockets of corrupt middlemen. But the leading complaint -- cited by 74% of those who said they favored cutting or eliminating aid -- was the deteriorating health of the economy.

At a recent conference, Koizumi promised to spend $250 million this year to help rebuild Afghanistan, with most of the money earmarked for school construction, health care and land-mine removal. But a long-term shift in Japanese public opinion bodes ill for Koizumi's promise to play a leading role in helping Afghanistan rebuild. The United States, which pledged $297 million, was the only country to put up a larger sum.

But unlike the United States, which says its aid for Afghanistan won't come at the expense of other nations, Japan is carving its contribution from existing programs -- at a time when the government's overall aid budget is shrinking.

Koizumi has chopped 10 percent off Japan's billion-dollar overseas development assistance budget, and China has borne the brunt of recent reductions. Japanese lawmakers have found it increasingly difficult to explain to voters why their government should dole out billions in aid to a country a whose economy is growing 7 percent a year and that is churning out low-cost exports that squeeze Japanese producers.

Last year, Japan slashed aid to China by 35 percent, to $802 million. China remains the third-largest recipient of Japanese assistance, however, despite Tokyo's official reluctance to provide aid to countries involved in producing nuclear weapons.

Japan is also paring contributions to Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, undercutting Koizumi's effort earlier this month to forge closer ties to those nations in a highly publicized tour of the region.

[Source: Washington Post]



Prominent women’s labor rights activist Dita Indah Sari has rejected a $50,000 human rights award from sporting apparel giant Reebok in protest against the meager salaries the company pays its Indonesian factory workers. “The factories do not pay a living wage. The pay packet cannot cover basic needs", she said.

She said it would have been hypocritical to accept the money, even though it could have been used to fund her cause to improve the conditions of Indonesian laborers.

Dita, who was jailed by the regime of ex-president Suharto, was the main labor rights campaigner and unionist within the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (PRD). She founded the National Front for Indonesian Workers' Struggle (FNPBI).

Since her release from jail after the 1998 fall of Suharto, she has resumed organizing rallies aimed at getting low-income workers a better deal.

Workers at Reebok factories in western Java receive minimum wage, which is less than $2 a day.

Dita Sari’s Statement on Reebok Human Rights Award:

The driving forces of globalisation are the movement and expansion of capital and technology, through multinational companies. Globalisation, some people argue, has contributed a lot to the creation of a new world, with a global welfare and justice for all.

But in practice, globalisation is producing neither universal welfare nor global peace. On the contrary, in reality, globalisation has divided the world into two sides, which are antagonistic towards each other. There are wealthy creditors and bankrupt debtors, there are super rich countries and underdeveloped countries, super wealthy speculators and impoverished malnourished children. Globalisation intensifies, not a higher paid and a better life for workers in the third world, but the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

And this also happens in Indonesia, among Indonesian workers who work in multinational shoes companies, including Reebok.

In November last year, I was informed that I was selected as one of the awardees of the annual Reebok Human Rights Award program and ceremony.

The Reebok Human Rights Foundation then has officially announced the names of the awardees.

I have taken this award into a very deep consideration. We finally decide not to accept this. On the one hand, this is a kind of recognition of the struggle and the hard work that we have done for years. But on the other hand, we are very conscious of the condition of the Reebok workers from the third world countries, such as in Indonesia, Mexico, China, Thailand, Brazil and Vietnam. As a trade union, we strongly put a lot of pressure to achieve what every worker deserves: higher wages, better working conditions and a brighter future for their children.

In Indonesia, there are five Reebok companies. 80% of the workers are women. All companies are sub-contracted, often by the South Korean companies such as Dung Jo and Tong Yang. Since the workers can only get around $1.5 a day, they then have to live in a slum area, surrounded by poor and unhealthy conditions, especially for their children. At the same time, Reebok collected millions of dollars of profit every year, directly contributed by these workers.

The low pay and exploitation of the workers of Indonesia, Mexico and Vietnam are the main reasons why we will not accept this award. Some of our members in the union work in companies producing Reebok shoes.

The decision I have made is not merely based on data, report, statistics or assumptions. In 1995, I was arrested and tortured by the police, after leading a strike of 5000 workers of Indoshoes Inti Industry. They demanded an increase of their wages (they were paid only US$1 for working 8 hours a day), and maternity leave as well. This company operated in West Java, and produced shoes of Reebok and Adidas. I have seen for myself how the company treated the workers, and used the police to repress the strikers.

We believe that accepting the award is not a proper or a right thing to do. This is part of the consequences of our work to help workers improve their life. We cannot tolerate the way multinational companies treat the workers of the third world countries. And we surely hope that our stand can make a contribution to help changing the labor condition in Reebok-produced companies.

Dita Sari
National Front For Indonesian Workers Struggle
Jakarta, January 29, 2002



By Maulana M. Alonto in Mindanao

Senator Sam Brownback, a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was more honest than Filipino officials when he said that the Philippines is to be the "next Afghanistan." This remark was made as he pointed out that the US ‘war against terrorism’ makes it more likely that Washington will send additional troops here to assist the Philippine army to fight the Abu Sayyaf group, allegedly linked to Usama bin Ladin’s al-Qaeda, that has been holding hostage two American nationals.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, naturally, was distressed by the candid revelation. She lost no time in trying to diffuse the public outrage precipitated by the statement. The president’s spokesmen blurted out the usual inane excuses in futile attempts to ameliorate the alarming impact of the statement, saying that Senator Brownback had been "quoted out of context" and that no such horrible scenario is in store.

What exactly is the truth behind Senator Brownback’s revelation? Can his statement be shrugged off as something that was merely "quoted out of context"? Coming from the horse’s mouth, Brownback’s prophesying a ‘war’ in the Philippines that parallels the bloodbath in Afghanistan is certainly more believable than the yarn spun by Philippine officialdom to deceive their people, especially the inhabitants of Mindanao.

Using the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US as a pretext, the Arroyo regime has allowed the entry of US combat troops into the Philippines under the so-called Balikatan Kalayaan Aguila-2002. Ostensibly Balikatan is a joint military exercise held by US and Filipino forces. In reality it is more because it is being held in the island-province of Basilan and in the Zamboanga peninsula, which are combat zones in war-torn Mindanao. According to CNN, quoting US official sources, a thousand US troops (more if need be) are to be deployed in the Philippines to fight the Abu Sayyaf group. Already 660 US soldiers, who comprise the initial American contingent, are being transported to Zamboanga City in batches. Why President Arroyo should need that many foreign troops to run after a ragtag bunch of kidnappers in Basilan, comprising not more than a hundred emaciated fighters, is beyond comprehension. What is even more confusing is that she insists that the Americans will not engage in combat but will only fire back in self-defense if fired upon! One can only deduce that either the Armed Forces of the Philippines have reached the peak of incompetence, or that there is something much more sinister going on.

Indeed, despite the government’s denial that US troops will be used for combat against the Abu Sayyaf group, the fact that such a ‘military exercise’ is being conducted in the war zones indicates that US troops are not here to play hide-and-seek with their Filipino counterparts or haunt the fleshpots that flourish wherever western soldiers go. The first batch of American soldiers to arrive in Mindanao have admitted that they are prepared to take casualties, belying the official tale of a ‘military exercise’.

It would seem that the government and the defense establishment have failed to understand the implications of inviting American troops to Mindanao. By opening Mindanao to foreign invasion, what Manila has demonstrated is not only obsequiousness to an imperialist power and the hollowness of Philippine ‘sovereignty’, but its contempt for Mindanao and its peoples. The present regime in Manila cares not at all that American bombs might send Mindanao to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, provided that the government survives.

What is certain is that this policy will transform Mindanao into a magnet that will attract foreign mujahideen from all over the world. Many groups are eager to hit back at the US for what it has done to Afghanistan and Palestine. Unlike Afghanistan, which is landlocked and surrounded by Muslim states hostile to the Taliban, which made it difficult for mujahideen from other parts of the world to enter the country, Mindanao and its satellite islands have a long coastline that the Philippine navy will not be able to guard all the time. Mujahideen from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and even Arab countries, and those from as far away as the Balkans and the Caucasus who are eager for jihad and shahadah (martyrdom), can easily join their Muslim brothers here to fight what they see as an infidel invasion. Mindanao would then become an international battleground, with US military personnel, camps, facilities and installations as tempting targets. In this hypothetical yet likely scenario, the war would be far bitterer and bloodier than the ones so far fought on Moro soil: it would be a vicious guerrilla war whose arena could not be limited to the traditional war zones but must eventually involve all the cities and provinces of Mindanao, and perhaps Manila and other areas as well.

In the meantime, the Manila government would have to bid goodbye to the ‘peace process’ with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Once deployed for war in Mindanao, there is no guarantee that the US forces will target only the Abu Sayyaf group, or confine themselves to Basilan and Zamboanga. They could spread to other areas in Mindanao as they get more involved. If that happens, even the communist New People’s Army (NPA), which the US has classified as ‘terrorist’ like the Abu Sayyaf group, should be drawn into the fray.

Recently, through the media, it has transpired that vice-president Teofisto Gungona, Jr., who is also the secretary of foreign affairs, has been critical of US forces in the Philippines for repeatedly violating the restrictions prescribed by the VFA. It has turned out that in previous joint military exercises in Luzon, the Americans took unilateral actions without consulting their Filipino counterparts. Who can say that they will not do so again, this time in Mindanao? The MILF and the MNLF have forces in Basilan and Zamboanga, and the Americans, once casualties have been inflicted on their ranks, may not make the distinction between MILF and MNLF fighters on one hand and the Abu Sayyaf on the other.

In the Vietnam war, the American soldiers took to labeling all brown faces ‘gooks’ or ‘Charlies’ who deserved to be ‘wasted’. In Mindanao, there might well be a revival of that infamous American war slogan, "A good Moro is a dead Moro," adapted from the US Army’s pacification policy in the American West that read "the only good Indian is a dead Indian". With the US military’s history of brutality toward non-white peoples, American atrocities on innocent civilians in Mindanao are not a remote possibility.

Still, if US troops clash with Moro revolutionary forces, this could lead to the unification, not to mention radicalization, of all Moro groups and sectors in Mindanao. In the face of US technological superiority in weaponry, we may even see the resurrection of the "Moro juramentado," or the sabil (derived from jihad fi sabilillah), that was the dread of American soldiers in the American-Moro wars in the beginning of the 20th century. It may not be in the classic manner of a lone Moro warrior brandishing a kris (a Malay blade) and attacking American soldiers who come within striking distance, but it could be in the form of a ‘human bomb’ such as felled the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, or the ‘human bomb’ that is defeating Israel in Lebanon: the same ‘human bomb’ that is also playing havoc with Israeli usurpers in Palestine and Indian colonizers in Jammu-Kashmir.

On the bright side, the arrival of US military forces has stirred a nationwide furore. Civil society groups, concerned citizens, NGOs, the political opposition, moderate and radical organizations, and even government officials and politicians are denouncing the government’s policy of inviting US forces to intervene in Mindanao. Some are even calling for the impeachment of the president for "violating the Constitution."

The public perception is now that the stakes go beyond Arroyo’s unabashed subservience to Bush and the billions of American dollars in economic aid promised in payment for such subservience, or even her ambition for re-election. What the Filipinos fear most is that US involvement in Mindanao will turn their country into another Afghanistan, but not into another Vietnam.

[Source: Muslimedia]



A delegation from the International Labor Organization (ILO) was denied access to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for unknown reasons, according to sources in Rangoon.

According to eyewitness reports, a vehicle carrying the four-member delegation was prevented from passing a checkpoint outside of Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon where she remains under house arrest.

The ILO WAS in Rangoon to see how the government is responding to its report from last November on the continued practice of forced labor in Burma. An ILO representative said the delegation and the government had been engaging in "candid" discussions during the current visit.

The report cites a number of issues including the need for an ILO office in Rangoon. Past attempts by the ILO to establish a presence in the country have been deemed unnecessary by Burma's military government.

The delegation said any decision to ease sanctions against the regime would be made at the ILO's June meeting. The ILO levied unprecedented sanctions against Burma in 2000 for refusing to eradicate forced labor.

[Source: Irrawaddy]


3. FOCUS on Palestine - top



For the past 16 months Israelis and Palestinians have been locked in a catastrophic cycle of violence a cycle which only promises more bloodshed and fear. The cycle has led many to conclude that peace is impossible, a myth borne out of ignorance of the Palestinian position. Now is the time for the Palestinians to state clearly and for the world to hear clearly, the Palestinian vision.

But first, let me be very clear. I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations, and I am determined to put an end to their activities.

The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent and viable Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted a historic resolution calling for the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions, particularly, Resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist on 78 percent of historical Palestine with the understanding that we would be allowed to live in freedom on the remaining 22 percent, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Our commitment to that two-state solution remains unchanged, but unfortunately, also remains unreciprocated.

We seek true independence and full sovereignty: the right to control our own airspace, water resources and borders; to develop our own economy, to have normal commercial relations with our neighbors, and to travel freely. In short, we seek only what the free world now enjoys and only what Israel insists on for itself: the right to control our own destiny and to take our place among free nations.

In addition, we seek a fair and just solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees who for 54 years have not been permitted to return to their homes. We understand Israel's demographic concerns and understand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns. However, just as we Palestinians must be realistic with respect to Israel's demographic desires, Israelis too must be realistic in understanding that there can be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the legitimate rights of these innocent civilians continue to be ignored. Left unresolved, the refugee issue has the potential to undermine any permanent peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. How is a Palestinian refugee to understand that his or her right of return will not be honored but those of Kosovar Albanians, Afghans and East Timorese have been?

There are those who claim that I am not a partner in peace. In response, I say Israel's peace partner is, and always has been, the Palestinian people. Peace is not a signed agreement between individuals — it is reconciliation between peoples. Two peoples cannot reconcile when one demands control over the other, when one refuses to treat the other as a partner in peace, when one uses the logic of power rather than the power of logic. Israel has yet to understand that it cannot have peace while denying justice. As long as the occupation of Palestinian lands continues, as long as Palestinians are denied freedom, then the path to the "peace of the brave" that I embarked upon with my late partner Yitzhak Rabin, will be littered with obstacles.

The Palestinian people have been denied their freedom for far too long and are the only people in the world still living under foreign occupation. How is it possible that the entire world can tolerate this oppression, discrimination and humiliation? The 1993 Oslo Accord, signed on the White House lawn, promised the Palestinians freedom by May 1999. Instead, since 1993, the Palestinian people have endured a doubling of Israeli settlers, expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land and increased restrictions on freedom of movement. How do I convince my people that Israel is serious about peace while over the past decade Israel intensified the colonization of Palestinian land from which it was ostensibly negotiating a withdrawal?

But no degree of oppression and no level of desperation can ever justify the killing of innocent civilians. I condemn terrorism. I condemn the killing of innocent civilians, whether they are Israeli, American or Palestinian; whether they are killed by Palestinian extremists, Israeli settlers, or by the Israeli government. But condemnations do not stop terrorism. To stop terrorism, we must understand that terrorism is simply the symptom, not the disease.

The personal attacks on me currently in vogue may be highly effective in giving Israelis an excuse to ignore their own role in creating the current situation. But these attacks do little to move the peace process forward and, in fact, are not designed to. Many believe that Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, given his opposition to every peace treaty Israel has ever signed, is fanning the flames of unrest in an effort to delay indefinitely a return to negotiations. Regrettably, he has done little to prove them wrong. Israeli government practices of settlement construction, home demolitions, political assassinations, closures and shameful silence in the face of Israeli settler violence and other daily humiliations are clearly not aimed at calming the situation.

The Palestinians have a vision of peace: it is a peace based on the complete end of the occupation and a return to Israel's 1967 borders, the sharing of all Jerusalem as one open city and as the capital of two states, Palestine and Israel. It is a warm peace between two equals enjoying mutually beneficial economic and social cooperation. Despite the brutal repression of Palestinians over the last four decades, I believe when Israel sees Palestinians as equals, and not as a subjugated people upon whom it can impose its will, such a vision can come true. Indeed it must.

Palestinians are ready to end the conflict. We are ready to sit down now with any Israeli leader, regardless of his history, to negotiate freedom for the Palestinians, a complete end of the occupation, security for Israel and creative solutions to the plight of the refugees while respecting Israel's demographic concerns. But we will only sit down as equals, not as supplicants; as partners, not as subjects; as seekers of a just and peaceful solution, not as a defeated nation grateful for whatever scraps are thrown our way. For despite Israel's overwhelming military advantage, we possess something even greater: the power of justice.

[Yasir Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996 and is also chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.]

[source: nyt]


Personal Testimony of an Israeli Refusenik
By Asaf Oron

[Asaf Oron, a Sergeant Major in the Giv'ati Brigade, is one of the original 53 Israeli soldiers who signed the "Fighters' Letter" declaring that from now on they will refuse to serve in the Occupied territories. He is signer #8 and one of the first in the list to include a statement explaining his action. (There are 251 signers as of February 17, 2002.) Below is the translation of Oron's statement by Ami Kronfeld of Jewish Peace News.]

On February 5, 1985, I got up, left my home, went to the Compulsory Service Center on Rashi Street in Jerusalem, said goodbye to my parents, boarded the rickety old bus going to the Military Absorption Station and turned into a soldier.

Exactly seventeen years later, I find myself in a head to head confrontation with the army, while the public at large is jeering and mocking me from the sidelines. Right wingers see me as a traitor who is dodging the holy war that's just around the corner. The political center shakes a finger at me self-righteously and lectures me about undermining democracy and politicizing the army.

And the left? The square, establishment, "moderate" left that only yesterday was courting my vote now turns its back on me as well. Everyone blabbers about what is and what is not legitimate, exposing in the process the depth of their ignorance of political theory and their inability to distinguish a real democracy from a third world regime in the style of Juan Peron.

Almost no one asks the main question: why would a regular guy get up one morning in the middle of life, work, the kids and decide he's not playing the game anymore? And how come he is not alone but there are fifty... I beg your pardon, a hundred... beg your pardon again, now almost two hundred regular, run of the mill guys like him who've done the same thing?

Our parents' generation lets out a sigh: we've embarrassed them yet again. But isn't it all your fault? What did you raise us on? Universal ethics and universal justice, on the one hand: peace, liberty and equality to all. And on the other hand: "the Arabs want to throw us into the sea," "They are all crafty and primitive. You can't trust them."

On the one hand, the songs of John Lennon, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Bob Marely, Pink Floyd. Songs of peace and love and against militarism and war. On the other hand, songs about a sweetheart riding the tank after sunset in the field: "The tank is yours and you are ours." [allusions to popular Israeli songs - AK]. I was raised on two value systems: one was the ethical code and the other the tribal code, and I na´vely believed that the two could coexist.

This is the way I was when I was drafted. Not enthusiastic, but as if embarking on a sacred mission of courage and sacrifice for the benefit of society. But when, instead of a sacred mission, a 19 year old finds himself performing the sacrilege of violating human beings' dignity and freedom, he doesn't dare ask - even himself - if it's OK or not. He simply acts like everyone else and tries to blend in. As it is, he's got enough problems, and boy is the weekend far off.

You get used to it in a hurry, and many even learn to like it. Where else can you go out on patrol - that is, walk the streets like a king, harass and humiliate pedestrians to your heart's content, and get into mischief with your buddies - and at the same time feel like a big hero defending your country? The Gaza Exploits became heroic tales, a source of pride for Giv'ati, then a relatively new brigade suffering from low self esteem.

For a long time, I could not relate to the whole "heroism" thing. But when, as a sergeant, I found myself in charge, something cracked inside me. Without thinking, I turned into the perfect occupation enforcer. I settled accounts with "upstarts" who didn't show enough respect. I tore up the personal documents of men my father's age. I hit, harassed, served as a bad example - all in the city of Kalkilia, barely three miles from grandma and grandpa's home-sweet-home. No. I was no "aberration." I was exactly the norm.

Having completed my compulsory service, I was discharged, and then the first Intifada began (how many more await us?) Ofer, a comrade in arms who remained in the service has become a hero: the hero of the second Giv'ati trial. He commanded a company that dragged a detained Palestinian demonstrator into a dark orange grove and beat him to death.

As the verdict stated, Ofer was found to have been the leader in charge of the whole business. He spent two months in jail and was demoted - I think that was the most severe sentence given an Israeli soldier through the entire first Intifada, in which about a thousand Palestinians were killed. Ofer's battalion commander testified that there was a order from the higher echelons to use beatings as a legitimate method of punishment, thereby implicating himself.

On the other hand, Efi Itam, the brigade commander, who had been seen beating Arabs on numerous occasions, denied that he ever gave such an order and consequently was never indicted. Today he lectures us on moral conduct on his way to a new life in politics. (In the current Intifada, incidentally, the vast majority of incidents involving Palestinian deaths are not even investigated. No one even bothers.)

And in the meantime, I was becoming more of a civilian. A copy of The Yellow Wind [a book on life in the Occupied Territories by the Israeli writer David Grossman, available in English -AK] which had just come out, crossed my path. I read it, and suddenly it hit me. I finally understood what I had done over there. What I had been over there.

I began to see that they had cheated me: They raised me to believe there was someone up there taking care of things. Someone who knows stuff that is beyond me, the little guy. And that even if sometimes politicians let us down, the "military echelon" is always on guard, day and night, keeping us safe, each and every one of their decisions the result of sacred necessity.

Yes, they cheated us, the soldiers of the Intifadas, exactly as they had cheated the generation that was beaten to a pulp in the War of Attrition and in the Yom Kippur War, exactly as they had cheated the generation that sank deep into the Lebanese mud during the Lebanon invasions. And our parents' generation continues to be silent.

Worse still, I understood that I was raised on two contradictory value systems. I think most people discover even at an earlier age they must choose between two value systems: an abstract, demanding one that is no fun at all and that is very difficult to verify, and another which calls to you from every corner - determining who is up and who is down, who is king and who - pariah, who is one of us and who is our enemy. Contrary to basic common sense, I picked the first. Because in this country the cost-effective analysis comparing one system to another is so lopsided, I can't blame those who choose the second.

I picked the first road, and found myself volunteering in a small, smoke-filled office in East Jerusalem, digging up files about deaths, brutality, bureaucratic viciousness or simply daily harassments. I felt I was atoning, to some extent, for my actions during my days with the Giv'ati brigade. But it also felt as if I was trying to empty the ocean out with a teaspoon.

Out of the blue, I was called up for the very first time for reserve duty in the Occupied Territories. Hysterically, I contacted my company commander. He calmed me down: We will be staying at an outpost overlooking the Jordan river. No contacts with the local population is expected. And that indeed was what I did, but some of my friends provided security for the Damia Bridge terminal [where Palestinians cross from Jordan to Israel and vice versa - AK].

This was in the days preceding the Gulf War and a large number of Palestinian refugees were flowing from Kuwait to the Occupied Territories (from the frying pan into the fire). The reserve soldiers - mostly right wingers - cringed when they saw the female consscripts stationed in the terminal happily ripping open down-comforters and babies' coats to make sure they didn't contain explosives. I too cringed when I heard their stories, but I was also hopeful: reserve soldiers are human after all, whatever their political views.

Such hopes were dashed three years later, when I spent three weeks with a celebrated reconnaissance company in the confiscated ruins of a villa at the outskirts of the Abasans (if you don't know where this is, it's your problem). This is where it became clear to me that the same humane reserve soldier could also be an ugly, wretched macho undergoing a total regression back to his days as a young conscript.

Already on the bus ride to the Gaza strip, the soldiers were competing with each other: whose "heroic" tales of murderous beatings during the Intifada were better (in case you missed this point: the beatings were literally murderous: beating to death).

Going on patrol duty with these guys once was all that I could take. I went up to the placement officer and requested to be given guard duty only. Placement officers like people like me: most soldiers can't tolerate staying inside the base longer than a couple of hours.

Thus began the nausea and shame routine, a routine that lasted three tours of reserve duty in the Occupied Territories: 1993, 1995, and 1997. The "pale-gray" refusal routine.

For several weeks at a time I would turn into a hidden "prisoner of conscience," guarding an outpost or a godforsaken transmitter on top of some mountain, a recluse. I was ashamed to tell most of my friends why I chose to serve this way. I didn't have the energy to hear them get on my case for being such a "wishy washy" softy.

I was also ashamed of myself: This was the easy way out. In short, I was ashamed all over. I did "save my own soul." I was not directly engaged in wrongdoing - only made it possible for others to do so while I kept guard.

Why didn't I refuse outright? I don't know. It was partly the pressure to conform, partly the political process that gave us a glimmer of hope that the whole occupation business would be over soon. More than anything, it was my curiosity to see actually what was going on over there.

And precisely because I knew so well, first hand, from years of experience what was going on over there, what reality was like over there, I had no trouble seeing, through the fog of war and the curtain of lies, what has been taking place over there since the very first days of the second Intifada.

For years, the army had been feeding on lines like "We were too nice in the first Intifada," and "If we had only killed a hundred in the very first days, everything would have been different." Now the army was given license to do things its way. I knew full well that [former Prime Minister] Ehud Barak was giving the army free hand, and that [current Chief of Staff] Shaul Mofaz was taking full advantage of this to maximize the bloodshed.

By then, I had two little kids, boys, and I knew from experience that no one - not a single person in the entire world - will ever make sure that my sons won't have to serve in the Occupied Territories when they reach 18. No one, that is, except me. And no one but me will have to look them in the eye when they're all grown up and tell them where dad was when all that happened. It was clear to me: this time I was not going.

Initially, this was a quiet decision, still a little shy, something like "I am just a bit weird, can't go and can't talk about it too much either." But as time went by, as the level of insanity, hatred, and incitement kept rising, as the generals were turning the Israeli Defense Forces into a terror organization, the decision was turning into an outcry: "If you can't see that this is one big crime leading us to the brink of annihilation, then something is terribly wrong with you!"

And then I discovered that I was not alone. Like discovering life on another planet.

The truth is that I understand why everyone is mad at us. We spoiled the neat little order of things. The holy Status Quo states that the Right holds the exclusive rights to celebrate the blood and ask for more. The role of the Left, on the other hand, is to wail while sitting in their armchairs sipping wine and waiting for the Messiah to come and with a single wave of his magic wand make the Right disappear along with the settlers, the Arabs, the weather, and the entire Middle East. That's how the world is supposed to work. So why are you causing such a disturbance? What's your problem? Bad boys!

Woe to you, dear establishment left! You haven't been paying attention! That Messiah has been here already. He waved his magic wand, saw things aren't that simple, was abandoned in the midst of battle, lost altitude, and finally was assassinated, with the rest of us (yes, me too) watching from the comfort of our armchairs. Forget it. A messiah doesn't come around twice! There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Don't you really see what we are doing, why it is that we stepped out of line? Don't you get the difference between a low key, personal refusal and an organized, public one? (and make no mistake about it, the private refusal is the easier choice.) You really don't get it? So let me spell it out for you.

First, we declare our commitment to the first value system. The one that is elusive, abstract, and not profitable. We believe in the moral code generally known as God (and my atheist friends who also signed this letter would have to forgive me - we all believe in God, the true one, not that of the Rabbis and the Ayatollahs). We believe that there is no room for the tribal code, that the tribal code simply camouflages idolatry, an idolatry of a type we should not cooperate with. Those who let such a form of idol worship take over will end up as burnt offerings themselves.

Second, we (as well as some other groups who are even more despised and harassed) are putting our bodies on the line, in the attempt to prevent the next war. The most unnecessary, most idiotic, cruel and immoral war in the history of Israel.

We are the Chinese young man standing in front of the tank. And you? If you are nowhere to be seen, you are probably inside the tank, advising the driver.

Asaf Oron

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