How do we centre Muslim voices?

Friday 15 March 2019. The heart stands still. The lives of 50 people stolen by a terrorist in the most reprehensible of ways. Not a lone wolf. Not a mentally unwell individual. A terrorist armed with weapons of war committed to a white supremacist ideology that demands its followers reach into and express the darkest versions of themselves.

How do we centre Muslim voices in the aftermath of white terrorism?

As I watch across a range social and news media platforms, many of us who identify as Māori are noting our lack of shock or surprise at the racism and the extent of white extremism in this country. Any shock we feel is the abysmal failure of the modern system of government to prevent terror from actually happening on our whenua. Shocked at the depth of institutional racism to the point of weakening our security institutions. We protested surveillance because it unfairly targeted Māori and other communities of colour. We saw the terror that the State imposed on whānau and hapori Māori with Operation 8. However, we passively assumed that our state surveillance meant the system would also have its eyes on the heinous white extremists living here.  But it didn’t and we will hold the government to account for that in the days and weeks to come.

For now, we must tautoko our Muslim brothers and sisters to voice their concerns and experiences. I know that this might raise some challenging feelings for Māori across this motu – being asked to centre non-Māori voices is confronting when we have had centuries of trying to have our own voices centred when it comes to matters of racism affecting our lives. We must acknowledge too, that some of our whānau also identify as Muslim, and we must support them to have their voices heard.

In the aftermath of white terrorism, it is important then for us to understand why it matters to centre Muslim voices, and how we can go about doing that.

Why must we centre Muslim voices?

We must centre Muslim voices to enable change in Aotearoa. To change how our systems privilege different groups over others, to change how dominant groups in society treat people who hold different beliefs, practice different cultural traditions, speak different languages, have different names, wear different clothing, or have different skin colours. We must centre Muslim voices to help change attitudes – because hate and intolerance begins in the home and the places we normalise privilege and tolerate prejudice.

How might we centre Muslim voices?

I came across an article that set out seven ways to support and centre the voices of people of colour. What I have done below, is applied some of those in the context of Māori.

What is our privilege?

We have the privilege of recognition as tangata whenua of New Zealand.

This is not privilege in the sense that we extract excessive social and economic benefits from our status as tangata whenua.

We must recognise that compared to non-Māori people of colour, the dominant white population and the system designed for them at least recognises us as being of the land and not foreign to it.

Understanding our oppression

We are not immune from racism, prejudice and discrimination in our homes. We rightly criticise the treatment of Māori by successive governments and the way society stereotypes and degrades us. However, we are complicit in much stereotyping and prejudicing of other communities of colour and marginalised groups.

An obvious example is the appalling attitude and distasteful behaviour demonstrated by the Destiny Church this week – many of its followers identifying as Māori, the Bishop himself – Māori. The Bishop taking exception to the nation observing 2 minutes of silence followed by the Muslim call to prayer (adhan) to be played across New Zealand’s airwaves in remembrance and honour of the dead and their whānau. Inciting hysteria inside its congregation that this government was threatening Christianity that the Bishop claims this country was founded on.

We must remember that Māori cosmogyny existed prior to contact and remains a fundamental element of our Māori identity. Some forms of Christianity – including the Destiny Church brand are complicit in the kinds of oppression that stoke bigoted hate fires and fuel ideologies like white supremacism leading to extremism.

For those who have come to identify as Christian, this is not a diatribe against Christianity. It’s a reminder to all of us – Christian and non-Christian Māori, that this was a faith brought to our communities from outside Te Ao Māori. It provided a spiritual connection for many Māori communities following colonisation and suppression of our language and culture. However, we cannot allow exclusionary versions of Christianity to permit us to internalise prejudicial practices and views.

On a less religious angle, we cannot allow political parties and the media to taint our views about migrants and refugees or to teach us that people who look different from us – as Māori or White, are not of this land.

Over time – almost 200 years, colonisation of Māori has supported and taught us to internalise racism, prejudice and discrimination in our communities and we must be ready to examine these now. Because if we do not un-learn those things we have internalised, we perpetuate the harm that props up the structures of white supremacy, rather than tearing them down.

Do things differently

We know that our spaces for dialogue are limited. That institutional racism and bias close the door to us at almost every step we take to challenging white supremacy in our social, political and economic domains.

We are not being asked or told to take a seat in our own whenua.

One way to visualise doing things differently is to take ourselves out of Te Ao Pākehā where communities of colour fight for the same piece of the diversity and inclusion pie, and step confidently and firmly in to Te Ao Māori.

Where the kawa that governs how we share our kōrero embeds the notion of aroha ki te tangata – respect for all peoples. Where there is a time for listening and a time for speaking. Our time to talk will return when the speakers have had their say.

Follow our kawa and trust in our tikanga. Give space with only love in our hearts.

Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa

Let us keep close together, not far apart

 

*Please note that this is just one among many indigenous views. I don’t speak on behalf of all Māori.

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Free speech is peace directed, refuse their act of war

Ignorance is not just not knowing stuff. It is also believing you have nothing more to learn. For instance, you choose to be racist and you can choose to not be racist because you can choose to do the work to unlearn the racist tropes and half histories you have chosen to be your truth. You can choose to share power or store power. You can choose peace or you can choose war. You can choose to understand free speech as something more than a right to say whatever you please without consequence.

Recently, I was asked what my position was on free speech and I was torn. I absolutely do not think any group whose ideology in practice engages in genocide has a ‘right’ to build or advocate that kind of movement under the protection of free speech.  The very real and imminent threat here is the potential of such groups to tap into people’s deepest fears and insecurities, play on their ignorance and mobilise them to commit atrocities that threaten the survival of a group or groups of people.

In saying that, ignorance is why I also consider there to be a place for deplorable worldviews. That is, how can we learn what inclusiveness looks like, if we suppress hatefulness? How do we reach ignorant people and help them to un-learn and re-learn if they don’t know what their ignorance looks like in contrast to inclusiveness? What if inclusiveness today creates unintended consequences that lead to different kinds of ignorance in future? We already hear discussions around transculturation, that is, the merging and converging of cultures into one homogenous group. There is a very real risk that inclusiveness passively morphs into its own white supremacy over time and how do we counter that if people cannot see that the white supremacy they have bought into is not inclusiveness?

I know I have more questions than solutions. But I think its important to start questioning things like inclusiveness and how we see that operating in future – what protections do we have to ensure it’s not a dangerously quiet transition into becoming the dominant culture?

As I see it, free speech is both theoretical and action oriented. Over time, societies frame and reframe it according to social norms, political beliefs and cultural practices. Many proponents of free speech often refer to western legal rights to justify hateful and challenging positions and liberal responses in turn use that same legal framework to justify limitations or restrictions on what we should allow or not allow people to say. In other words, we tend to fixate on the procedural elements (e.g. who, when, what and where) and legislative interpretation (e.g. rights, defences, exemptions) and subsequently lock ourselves in to a perpetual cycle of disharmony. But what if we turned our attention to its action oriented limb to understand the act of speaking freely, the act of actively listening, and the act of restoring harmony where ignorance and enlightenment clash?

In my view, neither of the arguments referred to above speak meaningfully to the mana and the mauri of people or peoples. One obvious reason is that the debate centres in western discourse. Arguably, the ‘public interest’ and the ‘autonomy of the individual’ arguments do embody elements of those concepts. For instance, autonomy respects the individual and therefore the mana they hold within themselves, and public interest speaks to the mauri of the people or peoples and protecting their wellbeing. However, because these are dealt with separately as opposing arguments, rather than as part of a whole story neither argument fully addresses – nor can it, ‘why and how’ free speech can operate harmoniously in our modern social context.

I think tikanga and kawa could and should have a major role in the free speech discussion in context of Aotearoa New Zealand because kaupapa Māori models provide a unique and balancing lens. These models help us to think about the issue differently and in a deeper and more spiritual context.

I’ve been delving into the stories of my tīpuna and their actions and corresponding kōrero in an effort to assert their rangatiratanga and to retain mana motuhake for their hapū and for Māori collectively.  Our tīpuna spoke freely, they spoke fiercely and by liberal standards today at times they spoke arrogantly, aggressively and derogatorily about the imminent settler government that threatened the survival of our people and our culture.

But lets clear something up here first, the threat to our survival as a peoples by the coloniser was and is not the same as the disingenuously propagated threat by white supremacists fearful of the erasure of their white-ness. Firstly, colonisation was the action-oriented part of a much larger political ideology that swept the globe, western imperialism. It was an act of white supremacy. Secondly, political power resides in white institutions through the militarisation of western nation states. The Molyneux’s and Southern’s of this world are using a pre-emptive war tactic appealing to the protections of free speech in an effort to hold onto white institutional power through the extermination of any peoples who they perceive as threat to that power storing. So when I think about speaking freely, and what it is intended to achieve through a tikanga lens, I am directed toward a state of peace and harmonious relations.

I think about the Māori context and how we deal with a take (issue) and the way the rākau is passed around so every person is allocated time to have their say, no matter how hard that truth may be to hear. The context within which these discussions or confrontations take place is one where the group affirm the mana of each speaker, and preserve the mauri of the people through a process of restoration – removing the tapu through noa. I love that our ancestors adopted a healing process so we could return to our lives with aroha in our hearts to continue the mahi of manaakitanga. This is the process by which they kept the mana of all intact and restored the mauri of all involved so the tribe could thrive as a collective. I don’t here claim that peace was achieved following every confrontation, we know that is simply not the case – in some cases, confrontations led to war (I’ll come back to this ‘war’ point below). If we can uphold the legacy of all our ancestors (Māori and non-Māori alike) in preserving our right to speak freely where our intention is directed toward peace and harmonious relations, then we can be clear about our expectations of each other and the process for managing conflicts, and helping heal ignorance.

This brings me back to current issues and my point of view on free speech:

Promoting and enabling movements and actions that threaten the survival of peoples, is not an act of free speech, it is an act of war because actions not seeking harmony and balance of power, threaten the survival of peoples.

When Mayor Phil Goff refused to provide a platform for fascism, he was refusing their act of war. When the Owners of the Powerstation revoked use of its venue for fascist purposes, it refused their act of war. When the people turned up at Aotea Square to challenge the arrival of fascists on our shores, they too refused their act of war. Similarly, when our ancestors signed He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi they refused the settler governments act of war. And as I see it, locking hapū and iwi out of Parliament, is an act of war.

Chasing The Illusory Peace

 

Thirty Years War [Source: Google images]

Throughout history, the end of wars has required negotiations between the warring parties.  The most prominent negotiation being the Westphalian Peace Settlement that ended the Thirty Years War [1618-1648] that had desolated Europe. The settlement comprised three treaties which are considered by many jurists to have birthed the international legal system.[1] Confronting a state of perpetual war, the parties to Westphalia negotiated the conditions in which they could agree to cease their hostilities and enter peaceful relations.

The contemporary importance of Westphalia is that it established two fundamental principles that are now codified in the Charter of the United Nations: sovereign equality and territorial integrity.[2] As most can probably surmise, these principles were intended to have anti-hegemonic effect. However, in reality they enabled superpowers to emerge as a result of ‘radical inequalities among states in size, wealth, and power in international role’.[3] This is evidenced in the composition of the UN Security Council, exemplified by the five permanent States that hold veto power that they can and do use for their own political ends.

Admittedly, although negotiations have ended past wars, the Iraq (and similarly Syria) war is more complex. Firstly, IS is not a State in any formal sense despite their assertion to the contrary. Secondly, it is a civil war not a war where one sovereign State agresses against another equally sovereign State threatening their territorial integrity. It is in this context, that the do not negotiate with terrorists (DNNWT) rule arises.

Whether the DNNWT rule has acquired customary status, I am unsure, but a good case could probably be made given it’s widespread acceptance among States and the clear evidence of State practice. Additionally, it would be consistent with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties principle that a treaty must be concluded between States in order to achieve international legal standing.[4] As terrorist designated organisations are not States, then no internationally binding treaty with IS could ever be legitimately concluded, unless they were to be recognised as a State (which would bring with it a very complex and contentious set of considerations). However, there is always the possibility of a domestic treaty negotiation situation.

However, the DNNWT rule serves both the anti-hegemonic and hegemonic agendas. For the reason that, it protects the sovereign equality of States, but it also allows superpowers to heavily influence the direction of international security policy and to dictate who are legitimate resistance groups according to their own political and economic interests. This might seem reasonable when limiting the scope of discussion to IS given the heinous atrocities that form the basis of their resistance strategy. But the implications extend further than those groups. It is not difficult to conceive of a circumstance when internal resistance might be necessary, such as, when a society is ruled under a violent dictatorship. For instance, many (contentiously) see the resistance of the Free Syrian Army as a justifiable belligerent act against their autocratic government and some States were prepared to support the FSA despite their lack of legal standing at international law.

The logic of the DNNWT rule seems perfectly reasonable.  In order to protect the political sovereignty of a nation, the obvious strategy is to refuse to allow a belligerent militia to influence the decision making of that State.  Of course, there are times where that logic is stretched beyond what is reasonable. Recalling Prime Minister John Key’s assertion that not going to war with IS was essentially allowing them to interfere with New Zealand’s political sovereignty. Absurdity abounding on the very fact that his decision to deploy troops to Iraq comes off the back of pressure from other nations that New Zealand cannot simply be a passive ally. Moreover, that doing nothing or doing what the government have decided to do are both decisions based on the influence of IS.

On the other hand, ruling out negotiations, as mentioned above, removes the very process by which conflict could ever hope to be resolved with enduring peace. I’m not so naive as to think that negotiating with IS would immediately resolve the long history of religious tension within Iraq and its surrounding regions. Nor am I suggesting that IS would even be willing participants  to negotiate a resolution. However,  eliminating the option arguably casts us back almost 400 years to once again face the reality of a perpetual war. Sheldon Richman also alludes to the perpetuity of war arguing that when governments invade and occupy other countries, or ‘underwrite other governments invasions or oppression, the people in the victimised societies become angry enough to want and even to exact revenge’.[5] I’m certainly not convinced that raining hell fire over Iraq and areas controlled by IS will bring about any solution at all.

Similarly, Dr Jeremy Moses (Senior Lecturer, UCNZ) tweeted:[6]

“…there are no good outcomes from [the] Iraq situation. [The] [r]ole of NZ can be nothing more than a favour to the US…NZ will have no material impact on what will be a long, brutal battle for Mosul. And even if IS falls, what then? No-one knows”

And before someone calls me an IS apologist, this is not about defending IS at all. To make that claim is both lazy and unintelligent. As humans in common, we all have an interest in avoiding the spread of hate and unnecessary death. We all have an interest in avoiding a world in which fear is normalised and the quality of our lives debilitated. We cannot pontificate under the pretence of ‘the others’ intolerance when our governments commit or support other governments that commit equally heinous crimes.

Richard Jackson makes the point much better:[7]

…what counts as cruelty and barbarism in war is shaped by our cultural values and historical context. Objectively, it is perverse to insist that burning a man to death with petrol is a greater moral evil than using munitions like phosphorous bombs in military operations which we know will burn a great many innocent people to death, including children. It is the nature of every society however, to point out the cruelty of the enemy while obscuring the cruelty of one’s own actions.

John Key has insisted that the New Zealand must join the club and choose the ‘right side’.He has made the executive decision that New Zealand will deploy troops to Iraq. That does not mean Aotearoa supports him in his crusade. Contrary to the PM’s suggestion that New Zealand’s contributions must exist on some kind of binary – sending troops versus doing nothin,  we can meaningfully contribute to improve the lives and outcomes of Iraqi’s through genuine humanitarian aid while finding a way to open dialogue between IS and the Iraqi government. For instance, New Zealand could consider relaxing our refugee quota, sending food and water, medical supplies and unarmed medical personnel rather than exporting guns, bombs, drones and people armed with what is ultimately a violent mission.

Expanding the war in Iraq will surely aggravate the incapacitating conditions that Iraqi peoples already endure. That is not help, that is hindrance. It is insane that our governments (NZ and abroad) support the export of violence to an area already riddled with instability and fear under the illusion that foreign arms will introduce peace amid the chaos. It’d be good if foreign policy wonks realised that peace is not something you can just bomb into existence.

 

 

 

[1] The Peace of Westphalia comprises three treaties, namely, the Peace of Münster, the Treaty of Münster and the Treaty of Osnabrück see Anuschka Tischer “Peace of Westphalia (1648)” in Oxford Bibliographies online < http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199743292/obo-9780199743292-0073.xml>.

[2] Charter of the United Nations, arts 2(1) and 2(4).

[3] Richard Falk “Revisiting Westphalia, Discovering Post-Westphalia” (2002) 6(4) The Journal of Ethics 311 at 314-317

[4] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, art 2(1).

[5] Sheldon Richman “Domestic Fear Is the Price of Empire” Free Association: Proudly Delegitimizing the State since 2005 (25 February 2015) < http://sheldonfreeassociation.blogspot.co.nz/2015/02/domestic-fear-is-price-of-empire.html&gt;.

[6] @jeremy_moses <https://twitter.com/jeremy_moses/status/570669388245962752&gt;.

[7] Richard Jackson “IS and the Barbarism of War” RICHARDJACKSONTERRORISMBLOG (12 February 2015). < https://richardjacksonterrorismblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/is-and-the-barbarism-of-war/&gt;.

Māori Party should have opposed the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill outright

The Māori Party have said they are only supporting the first reading of the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill, and note their strong reservations to the current text and processes for consultation on the Bill.  I’m not sure about other party members, but I personally would have preferred to see the Party opposing the Bill outright. Like the NZ Greens.

However, I am a little confused over the speech given by Marama Fox. On the one hand, it details some heavily weighted opposition to the Bill. For instance, Fox expresses deep concern about discrimination and making a person stateless by confiscating their passport, warrantless surveillance. In particular she refers to a:

…well-known and public linkage that has been made in our own jurisdiction about a supposed association between Māori activism and terrorist activity. We do not want a repeat of Operation Eight.

On the other hand, Fox concludes her speech stating:

We have strong and heartfelt concerns about the possible implications of this bill, but we also believe it is irresponsible to take a stand without hearing from those New Zealanders who take up the call on human rights on our behalf. We support the first reading to enable that kōrero to happen.

I don’t quite understand what this actually means.  It appears to suggest that the Party support the Bill so that it can be debated despite not supporting much – if any, of what is contained in the Bill.

The issue I have is not only with the Bill but also with the more strategic ramifications. The government did not require the Māori Party to support this Bill through first reading. It had the numbers through its other coalition partners and the Labour Party.

The party could have opposed it and stood with the Greens on this issue in calling for broader public consultation. Thing is, it would have gone to select committee stage anyway because Māori Party support was not needed to get it there.

On the manner in which the legislation was introduced (leaked) to the public, Dr Kennedy Graham (SIS spokesperson, NZ Greens) maintains:

It is not a positive sign of a government seeking broad public support

Graham goes on to say that:

John Key has not made a case for rushing through counter-terrorism laws…[and] there has been no compelling evidence put forward… for why these changes need to be rushed through without proper public consultation.

He also emphasised that:

the Bill proposes wide ranging changes that compromise the privacy and civil liberties of New Zealanders

And like Fox, alludes to Operation 8, noting:

…we have seen poor intelligence legislation result in illegal activities in the past, we don’t want a repeat of that

This was an opportunity for the Māori Party to show that they were prepared to stand against the ramming through of legislation that empowers what appears to be an evolving Police State. Interestingly and relevant here, Fox also draws a link between violence away and violence at home. In my view, a natural extension of this would be to contextualise current affairs, i.e. the events in Ferguson in the US which illustrate the reprehensible consequences of empowering a Police State with the racism and injustice that come with it. Especially when we consider how, as Fox addresses, Māori and other marginalised communities are profiled. We need to be particularly mindful of our Muslim communities with respect to this particular legislation who are likely to be unfairly targeted by it.

As it stands, the Party will probably have to deal with the fallout of having supported the Bill at first reading, even if they don’t go on to support it at subsequent stages. If the Bill does become law (and it will) and its provisions are abused then there will be public outcry, and every party that supported the Bill will be punished for their support. Of course, others may argue that the Bill might actually do what the government is saying it is intended to do, which I suppose could make a hero of the government. But past experience should warn us, of how easily and slyly those empowered use those powers. In my view, supporting the Bill even if only superficially at a first reading, sends the wrong message and may create perception issues that follow the Party into the next election.  The only party cleared here are the Greens who stood strongly against it.

Addendum:

(26/11/2014)

FYI: I was just advised that the Māori Party voted with the Labour Party to try to get the consultation period extended and to have the Bill taken out of urgency. Although this still doesn’t change my view as set out above.

Harry Fear interview by ANM

Thank goodness for independent media in NZ!

Recently, Kia Ora Gaza hosted a few events throughout NZ hosting self-professed ‘Peoples’ Foreign Correspondent’ Harry Fear who delivered presentations on his time and his understanding of the situation in Gaza and between Palestine and Israel in general.

Harry Fear was a vital source of info on the ground in Gaza especially during November 2012. Initially he live streamed from a UStream channel before being picked up by RT (although he retained his live streaming account with UStream in between reports).

One of the Kia Ora Gaza events took place at the University of Auckland. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend and was seriously gutted about missing out on the presentation. Worse, it was largely ignored by MSM. Lucky for us, Amazon News Media (ANM) took their camera and superior reporting skills to the event and managed an interview with Harry Fear prior to his presentation. It is highly recommended viewing and not like the hideously contrived interviews one might see on mainstream tv. You can watch below: 

You can see more on You Tube of ANM: http://www.youtube.com/user/AmazonNewsMedia?feature=watch

Waitangi Day faux pas – Mana what were you thinking?

Mana Party what were you thinking?!

An interesting pic emerged on Twitter this morning of the Israeli flag hung at full mast alongside the Mana Party flag, Tino Rangitiratanga flag and the United Tribes of NZ flag and signage promoting the Mana Party leader Hone Harawira. Big faux pas in my opinion.

What is my beef with this? Well, Mana were particularly vocal in the struggle of the Palestinian’s during the attack on Gaza in November 2012 (only a few months back) including joining the march and protest to the US Embassy and making a public statement affirming their condemnation of the Israeli governments actions against Palestinians.

Maori and Palestinians have a shared understanding of colonial forces at work – forcibly removing indigenous populations from lands and preventing access to resources that have traditionally sustained those populations.

So it seems a bit of a kick in the teeth for when the party purporting to be the ‘movement of the people’ show a mark of support at Waitangi for a nation that currently operates as an apartheid regime.

Before the bigots jump in, as I have mentioned before – I am not anti-Israeli, but I most certainly oppose the ongoing abuses of power perpetrated by the Israeli government/military to ethnically cleanse the state of Palestine of Palestinians in order to claim those lands as part of the self-proclaimed state of Israel.

Hwowever, on closer inspection of the photo, I noticed that the particular stall flying the flags belonged to Ezekiel 33 Trust. I’d never heard of it. And for a fleeting moment gave Mana the benefit of the doubt. Until further research revealed that The Ezekiel 33 Trust was set up by Stephanie Harawira – Hone’s sister in law. Surely the Trust were aware of the Mana Party stance on Palestine/Israel issues? I did question the intelligence of whoever hung the flag, and thought perhaps they were just stupid and ignorant and thought the Israeli flag was the Palestinian flag. I suppose its a possibility, but a reprehensible error nonetheless.

I also asked for an explanation on Te Mana Facebook page, response: ‘looking into it’ (that was hours ago).

Its possible also that Mana were unaware that the Israeli flag was being flown in a manner that suggested Mana supported the state of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian lands. But surely on Waitangi Day, a day where Maori and Pakeha confront the document that founded our country and also confronts the injustices that flowed from persistent breaches of that document (e.g. land grabbing), Mana would have a standard procedure for any group promoting Mana as to how they represent Mana?

Will the FSA ‘free’ Syria?

I’m not sure that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) strategy is going to work in favour of the Syrian people. I’ll canvas why below.

Initially, the FSA welcomed the assistance of Jabhat al-Nusra (a.k.a Al Qaeda) in their uprising against Syria’s Assad government and appear to have agreed to set aside any religious and ideological differences. With Syria being home to a diversity of religious and non-religious persons and Al Qaeda known to be a fundamentalist Islamist group characterised by many countries as a terrorist organisation, it was inevitable that eventually Al Qaeda would push their own agenda while Syria is unstable thereby creating an obstacle to freedom and democracy in Syria. Reading The Guardian, it appears this process has begun:

“But then they [al-Nusra] began to reveal themselves,” said a senior rebel commander in Aleppo. “The situation is now very clear. They don’t want what we want.”

Over the past six weeks a once co-operative arrangement between Aleppo’s regular Free Syrian Army units and al-Nusra has become one of barely disguised distrust.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/17/syria-crisis-alqaida-fighters-true-colours

So why did the FSA forge this relationship? If the FSA were seeking freedom and democracy from what they perceived as sectarian rule from Assad’s government, then cosying up to an extremist group seeking sectarian rule is counterintuitive. It negates the very reason for the revolution.

The Guardian reports (in article cited above) that the relationship appears to have formed because of the sophisticated weaponry and military support that Al Qaeda militants were able to provide in the early days. FSA leaders are now claiming that they will fight Al Qaeda once Assad is overthrown (see article cited above). But if Al Qaeda were more sophisticated in the beginning, how is it exactly that the FSA think they will overcome the likely opposition of Al Qaeda militants if Assad’s regime is overthrown? And what benefit is there for the people of Syria, if the internal conflict remains after the fall of Assad?

I suppose, if Assad is overthrown then the FSA may have at their disposal the weaponry of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), but many of these rebels are not trained soldiers and the calibre of weaponry (e.g. chemical weapons) would be catastrophic to all Syrian’s if used to counter Al Qaeda resistance. Alternatively, what happens if Al Qaeda secure the SAA weaponry for themselves?  This is a concern of the FSA (see article cited above).

Assad has called for negotiations with the FSA to form a new government. The FSA have repeatedly refused to negotiate with Assad and have affirmed that they will only negotiate after Assad resigns. On that note, if the FSA won’t negotiate with Assad, who do they expect to negotiate with? Assad was elected as President by the Syrian people, although it is questionable whether the electoral system is democratic. According to many, its a complete farce, while others claim it’s a fair system.  Irrespective, if the FSA refuse to negotiate with an elected President, they effectively refuse to acknowledge a significant proportion of Syrian citizens (who do support Assad and his regime) and their right to be represented in any negotiations going forward. Otherwise its simply one tyranny replacing another.

It is worth noting at this point, that while many Syrian’s deem Assad’s regime as a totalitarian dictatorship, there is a significant proportion who support his government. However, there are also those who are against the FSA but do not by default support Assad, and those who are against Assad but do not necessarily support the FSA.

For perspectives against the FSA:

Syrian Girl Partisan – http://www.youtube.com/user/SyrianGirlpartisan

Syrian Perspective – http://syrianperspective.blogspot.com

For perspectives against Assad:

Syrian Revolution Digest – http://www.syrianrevolutiondigest.com/

Farid Ghadry: Thoughts on Syrian Politics and Islam – http://ghadry.com/

There are also a couple of documentaries from the FSA perspective and the SAA perspective: 

People & Power: Syria – Songs of defiance 


The Syrian Diary

Murray McCully on Gaza

Dear Murray McCully, 
You are an arse. Here is the statement you made:

“In our explanation of vote to the UN our Permanent Representative Hon Jim McLay will make clear our absolute commitment to Israel’s right to safety and security, and condemn the actions of Hamas extremists in recent weeks”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8018501/NZ-to-vote-to-recognise-Palestinian-state


Thanks for propagating the Israeli/US lies. Thanks for making a commitment on behalf of NZ to support Israeli apartheid. Thanks for denouncing a democratically elected government, you know, one voted in by the people of Gaza. But most of all, thanks for the expression of your absolute commitment to the rights of Israel to defend itself by targeting and killing civilians including many many women and children. Thanks for that Murray. What a c**t. 

How about considering that it was Gaza who had a right to defend themselves from the Israeli attacks. How about acknowledging the war crimes committed by the Israeli government in targeting civilians and journalists with ‘surgical precision’ and using weapons banned under international law.  

Naming of the dead by Harry Fear –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1o9Jv4Lg90

An article outlining why McCully is an arse for condemning Hamas’s right to defend Gaza:
http://sabbah.biz/mt/archives/2012/11/27/brayer-the-absolute-right-of-palestinian-resistance/

Facebook censorship

WARNING: This post contains graphic content.

What a joke.This morning when my alarm went off I noticed a random notification asking me to go to the settings on my phone and enter my Facebook password. I was confused. I did as requested, only to receive the following message: 

Again, I did as requested. And received the following message:

Facebook asked me to refer to its ‘Community Standards’ page to ensure my account stayed in good standing. And to remove further content that may be in breach. 
So curious as I was, I decided to read why my account might have been blocked and what content might cause it to be blocked again. I suspect the  justification for the restriction was the graphic content of the image posted. However, I know for a fact that the particular story with the image attached was shared 4 times from the Gaza TV News page and once from my page, yet it was only my content that was removed. Of course, it would cause too much controversy if Facebook blocked a media company reporting out of Gaza. But me? a little old nobody in NZ, insignificant. My guess, is that it has nothing to do with the image although this was the excuse used to restrict access to my account. I have been particularly vocal on my account and have expressed my condemnation of the Israeli attack on Gaza. I have not attacked Israeli’s nor have I made any racist remarks. I am not anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. I am against the tactics employed by the Israeli government and the propaganda used to justify the murder of innocent civilians in Gaza. I am against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the oppression of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government. 

Admittedly, the image is extremely graphic, but if this was the reason for removing the content from my account then surely every account that posted the image should have had the content removed? Right? Wrong. I can still access the story on Gaza TV News and other pages.

Here is what Facebook Community standards say about graphic content:

It appears that while a media organisation may share graphic imagery, the privilege does not extend to individuals. If an image is considered not to balance the needs of a diverse community on one Facebook page, then it does not make much sense that it should be allowed to remain accessible on Facebook via other pages. Selective balance. Additionally, perhaps Facebook thought I derived some sadistic pleasure out of sharing the graphic content? F* off Facebook. I made it clear that I shared the image because down here in little old naive NZ our government is turning a blind eye to the atrocities suffered by the Palestinian people of Gaza. I included a message to that extent when sharing the objectionable content. 
So what’s really going on Facebook?  I’m hearing from various sources that Facebook has restricted access to many Gazan’s or those expressing support for Gaza or Palestinian’s in general, I even note that Harry Fear (Documentary Maker, Activist, Journalist) was blocked from his Facebook account when he first started reporting live in Gaza. Facebook claiming it was administrative error. 
I was pure and simple censored for expressing views that were not complicit with the US position on Gaza. Facebook is as crony as any other massive corporation and will continue to suppress information sharing where it disagrees with what you have to say. 

I also want to briefly mention that in order to prove that I was the owner of my account, I was asked to identify people tagged in particular photo’s. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I don’t systematically trawl through all my friends photo’s so this seemed like a complete farce when I was asked to identify the person tagged in the following photo:

I have never seen this photo. There were also photos of babies I’d never seen, and photos that friends had been tagged in by people that aren’t my friends, but your actual friend wasn’t even in the photo? Stupidity.

Disappointed by the Greens on Gaza

The NZ Greens have posted a press release on Gaza. Disappointed. Kennedy Graham insinuated that the Palestinian Resistance were senselessly provoking the Israeli Military, thereby implying that they are responsible for the deaths of the many Palestinians. Echoing the bias western media.

New Zealand should call upon Hamas to refrain from rocket attacks on Israel. Such actions comprise a senseless provocation, which Israel uses to devastate Gaza’s infrastructure, and for which Palestinians pay dearly through their lives. See: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/nz-must-make-position-clear-israel-gaza-conflict

Kennedy Graham that is shameful. Not only did you imply that the conflict is the fault of Palestinian Resistance but you failed to make your statement with proper assessment of all the facts available. As stated by Noam Chomsky (et al) who recently returned from Gaza: 

“…the chronology of events of the recent flare-up began on November 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay…then, on November 8, a 13-year-old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IOF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event”.  See: http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13031

What about the Palestinians right to self-defence? Did you even mention that Israel don’t have that right under international law? Again, from (*a previous statement made) Professor Noam Chomsky:

When Israel, in the occupied territories now, claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population that they’re crushing…You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying somebody else’s land. It’s not defense. Call it what you like, it’s not defense. See: http://www.mediaed.org/assets/products/117/transcript_117.pdf

(*Important note: It has been brought to my attention that I had previously misquoted Prof. Noam Chomsky by failing to verify the credibility of the source from which I quoted. For that, I sincerely apologise. Lesson learnt. I have now amended the above quote and provided a credible source. It must also be pointed out that the statement made by the Professor is not in relation to the current attack on Gaza but this particular quote comes from 2004 documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land. See: http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/it-misquoting-noam-chomsky-gaza/)

For the Party whom many New Zealander’s turn to for support for human rights, this is a massive fail.  Your neutrality here is what Bishop Desmond Tutu refers to as support for the oppressor.

And what is this?

It is time for Fatah and Hamas to make a renewed effort at a consensus over the future of Palestine…their continuing divisions are blocking progress towards full statehood and an official role for Palestine in the Middle East. See: http://www.greens.org.nz/press-releases/nz-must-make-position-clear-israel-gaza-conflict

Are you f*ing kidding? Lets not point the finger at Israel who breached the cease fire while Hamas were working on a long term peace agreement, instead we’ll condemn the internal conflict? An account from Israeli Peace Activist Gershon Baskin: 

 Just hours before he was assassinated, the Hamas commander had received the draft of a long-term peace agreement with Israel, Baskin claimed. Having kept communication channels with Gaza open since the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, the activist was well informed about the state of the negotiations.

The powerful Hamas leader played a vital part in those talks, Baskin said, adding that Jabari even prevented a number of recent flare-ups, having realized that the fighting was not “beneficial” to Gaza. But the Israeli side did not want to form a lasting peace agreement with Hamas, Defense Minister Ehud Barak shelved the draft truce after a committee that was reviewing the proposal “decided not to decide”, the peace activist claimed.” See: http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13029

The only political party to make a stand for Gaza so far is members of the Mana Party. I had the NZ Greens earmarked for my vote at the next election. This is a deal breaker. 
For updates see: Harry Fear.TV at  (or follow him on Twitter @harryfear); Gaza TV News https://www.facebook.com/GazaTVNews?fref=ts (Palestinian); Haaretz News http://www.haaretz.com (Israeli); RT http://rt.com/news/today/ ; Al Jazeera English http://www.aljazeera.com/ 
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