The Israeli government agreed “in principle” on November 17 to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, a village in the occupied Golan Heights. The village was conquered by Israel in 1967, during the six-day war. In 2000, Ghajar was split in two. The northern part was to be controlled by Lebanon, the southern part by Israel. The southern part of Ghajar was deemed by the United Nations (UN) to be a part of the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
Tough talk by the warmongers at the November 20-21 NATO conference in Lisbon, Portugal, obscured the growing opposition in the US and Europe to the nine-year occupation of Afghanistan. Ten thousand people took to the streets of London on November 20 to protest the war. Angry at the British government’s recent cuts to services and pensions, many carried “Cut war not welfare” placards.
Afghan feminist and anti-war activist Malalai Joya urged 400 people at the University of Technology Sydney to get the Australian government to pull the troops out of her country. The Afghan people were capable of winning against the fundamentalist warlords, but not while Western occupying troops rehabilitated the Taliban, she said.
Remembrance Day, on November 11, was celebrated again this year in the Australian media with pictures of red poppies and flag-draped coffins and historic photos of Australian soldiers who gave “the ultimate sacrifice” from the human-made wasteland of Flanders to the stony deserts of Afghanistan. Paying tribute to the ten soldiers killed this year in the long war in Afghanistan, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said that Australians were good at remembering: “We seem to know what we ought to hold onto and what is best let go.”
The US has stepped up flights by pilotless drones and increased the deployment of special forces and CIA operatives in the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen. The US military and CIA have been covertly operating in Yemen since at least 2002. The November 7 Washington Post quoted unnamed US officials as saying that drones operating over Yemen now included Hellfire missile-equipped Predators. The article said that “up to 100” extra US “Special Operations force trainers” and an unspecified number of “additional CIA teams” were being deployed.
Malalai Joya is an Afghan feminist and anti-war activist who opposes the US-led occupation of her country. An opponent of both the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban and the equally fundamentalist and corrupt warlords in the US-backed regime of President Hamid Karzai, Joya was the youngest member elected to Afghan parliament in 2005. She was suspended after she said the parliament was full of warlords. Joya is touring Australia and will speak at UTS in Sydney on November 16 (see www.greenleft.org.au/calendar for details).
Being a political activist can be fun. About 15 of us enjoyed throwing shoes in a Sydney Stop The War Coalition action on November 8 outside the US Consulate. We were protesting against the AUSMIN war talks with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Melbourne. Protesters threw shoes at cardboard cutouts of Gates, Clinton, PM Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
Republicans are trumpeting their big gains in the November 2 midterm elections as a mandate to turn the country sharply to the right. Don’t buy it. Mainstream media commentary on the election was largely set before a single vote was cast. Voters would correct President Barack Obama’s supposed leftward course in his first two years in office by sending a cabal of right-wingers to Congress. The scale of the Republican victories — especially in House of Representative races, where the party now holds a comfortable majority — cemented the media’s impressions.
The Conservative Party, or Tories, has never really forgiven the British working class for demanding and winning the creation of the “welfare state”. Gains won included such things as free health care, council homes at affordable rents, and care for the elderly and vulnerable. From the Tories’ point of view, these are all things individuals should sort out for themselves. The modern state should provide the same level of social protection as was available to Queen Victoria’s subjects in the 19th century.
As a former refugee, I can understand and share the concerns of the many Afghan asylum seekers currently facing deportation back to Afghanistan, the very country they had to flee from. This would send them into the hands of the very people responsible for much of the insecurity and threats to the lives and livelihoods of these asylum seekers. It is unbelievable and preposterous.