Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Irish People have spoken. Lisbon Is Dead

On Friday, Ireland delivered a knockout punch to European elites and corporatists shattering their plans for an EU Superstate. The so-called Lisbon Treaty was nothing more than a repackaging of the European Constitution that was defeated by French and Dutch voters in 2005. The treaty was loaded with the typical "democratic" gobbledygook to conceal the vicious neoliberal policies at its heart. If it had passed, the treaty would have paved the way for greater privatization of public services, diminished workers rights, less state control over trade policies and civil liberties, and an aggressive plan to militarize Europe. Ireland's entire political and corporate class stood foursquare behind the treaty, but the Irish people shrugged off the fear-mongering and bogus promises of prosperity and voted No. The referendum results showed 53.4% voted No, while 46.6% voted Yes. Despite the massive public relations campaign; the vote was not even that close.

A spokesperson for the No campaign put it like this:

“The Irish people have spoken. Contrary to the predictions of social and political turmoil, we believe that hundreds of millions of people across Europe will welcome the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. This vote shows the gulf that exists between the politicians and the elites of Europe, and the opinions of the people. As in France and the Netherlands, the political leaders and the establishment have done everything they could to push this through – and they have failed. The proposals to further reduce democracy, to militarize the EU and to let private business take over public services have been rejected. Lisbon is dead. Along with the EU Constitution from which it came, it should now be buried.” (Socialist Worker online)

News of the defeat has not been well received in England where the neoliberal government of Gordon Brown has already indicated that it will reject the election results and "press ahead" in an effort to ratify the treaty. Neither Brown nor his friends in Brussels are likely to be deterred by anything as trivial as the will of the people. Labour MP and former Europe Minister Denis MacShane summed it up like this:

"I personally think that a vote in a foreign country should not determine the democratic decisions taken in the British Parliament."

MacShane's view is apparently shared by EC President Jose Manuel Barroso who said that EU member states should continue ratifying the Lisbon treaty even though more than half of Ireland's 43 constituencies rejected it outright. So much for democracy.

The Irish have plenty to celebrate today. They've thrown a spanner in the plans of the bankers and corporate mandarins who want to replace representative government and national sovereignty with their own skewed vision of capitalist Valhalla; a Euro-Utopia where short-term profits always take priority over the needs of ordinary people.

Bravo, Ireland.

Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Palestinians barred from Dead Sea beaches to 'appease Israeli settlers'


Palestinians are being regularly and illegally barred from reaching Dead Sea beaches in the occupied West Bank, according to a Supreme Court petition filed by Israel's leading civil rights organisation.

The Association of Civil Rights (Acri) in Israel is challenging what it says is the frequently imposed ban by the military on Palestinians seeking to swim or relax at beaches in the northern Dead Sea. The salt-saturated sea is the only open water accessible to Palestinians from the otherwise landlocked West Bank.

The petition says that the Israeli military is using the Beit Ha'arava checkpoint on Route 90 – the only open access route in the occupied West Bank for travel to the Dead Sea – to turn back Palestinians, mainly but not exclusively on weekends and Jewish holidays.

Acri says that the ban is to appease Israeli settlers operating concessions along the Dead Sea's northern shore. They fear losing Jewish customers if there are large numbers of Arabs using the beaches in territory seized by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967.

A Palestinian bus driver, Mohammed Ahmed Nuaga'a, described how he was turned back by the military with a party of children, aged between six and 12, on a school trip from the Hebron district to the Dead Sea last month. The outing had been officially co-ordinated with the Palestinian Authority education ministry and included 10 teachers and 15 parents. He returned a few hours later in the hope that the soldiers would relent but they did not do so. "I tried to explain to them that these are young pupils who came from very far to fulfil a big dream – to see the sea," he said.

"But the soldiers were aggressive, and started shouting at us that Palestinian passage is forbidden, whether children or adults. The pupils begged the soldiers to let them go for even 10 minutes just to see the sea and return, but nothing happened."

In the petition a senior Acri lawyer, Limor Yehuda, says: "We are dealing here with travel bans and entry prohibitions to public places in occupied territory which are tainted with discrimination and characteristic of colonial regimes. We have here prohibitions preventing the protected population of the occupied territory from using its own resources, while the very same resources are put at the disposal and enjoyment of the citizens of the occupying power."

The ban came to light after the testimony of two Israeli army reservists who said that at the beginning of their tour of duty in May they were told that the purpose of the checkpoint was to "prevent Palestinians coming from the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea beaches".

One of the reservists, Doron Karbel, testified that as a "side note", the Jordan Valley Brigade Commander, Colonel Yigal Slovik, had said the reason for the checkpoint was that "when Jews and Palestinian vacationers were sitting on the beaches side by side it hurt the business of the surrounding yishuvim [Jewish communities]."

Mr Karbel added: "In a conversation I later had with the Brigade Commander, he told me that he could come up with or find a security justification if he needed to."

From Ein Gedi southwards, the beaches on the Dead Sea's western side are in sovereign Israeli territory. But the popular beaches of the northern Dead Sea are Israeli-run and visitors could easily – but erroneously – imagine they are also in Israel rather than in occupied territory. In April this year, the British Advertising Standards Authority required the Israel Ministry of Tourism to alter the wording of an advertisement suggesting that Qumran, close to the northern shore, and the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was in Israel.

In the Acri petition, Ms Yehuda says: "The illegality of the actions and orders of the army cries out to the heavens. This is a clear case of misusing security considerations as camouflage for achieving other goals which are unrelated to security matters and unacceptable."

Israel has also been criticised for segregating roads used by Israeli motorists in the West Bank for stated reasons of security. Israeli officials reject claims that this is racial discrimination, partly because Arabs with Israeli citizenship are permitted to use the roads. They also frequent the Dead Sea beaches.

The Israeli military declined to comment in detail while judicial proceedings are under way, but said in a statement that "the network of security crossings in the West Bank was erected in response to the extreme terrorist threat and violence during the second intifada." Since the violence had "ebbed" crossings were "under review".


By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Saturday, 14 June 2008