Saturday, February 17, 2018

Awaken, Poland, Before It’s Too Late

by Roger Cohen
Poland’s lurch into illiberalism and rewritten history, following the well-trodden Hungarian path toward the curtailment of democracy, is the most alarming political development in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost three decades ago.
Without Poland’s brave leadership and the Solidarity labor movement’s defiance of the Communist government, the crumbling of the Soviet imperium in Central Europe would not have been precipitated. Poles recovered their nation, their history and their freedom in 1989; a Europe artificially severed regained its geography and wholeness.
My friend Adam Michnik, enfant terrible of this Polish Revolution, once told me what he had fought for at the price of repeated imprisonment under the Communists. “My obsession had been that we should have a revolution that not resemble the French or the Russian, but rather the American, in the sense that it be for something, not against something. A revolution for a constitution, not a paradise; an anti-utopian revolution, because utopias lead to the guillotine and the gulag.”
Michnik’s cry was, “Liberty, Fraternity, Normality.” It was heady to listen to him in the early post-Communist days. Normality — freedom from the deathly hand of the nomenklatura and the prying eyes of the secret police — was thrilling.
A revolution for a constitution! The country duly acquired one, and a pretty damn good one, stating that Poland is a democratic state ruled by law, with a political system based on separation of powers, and setting out a range of individual rights.
It is this Poland — of democracy guaranteed by constitutional checks and balances — that the government of Jarosław Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party has set about undermining since 2015, with the backing of President Andrzej Duda. Their model has been the Hungary of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, systematically at work on an illiberal project since 2010. The process is gathering pace.
The Law and Justice Party has turned the Polish lower house of Parliament, or Sejm, into a rubber stamp for its agenda. It has also waged a relentless campaign against an independent judiciary. This has involved increasing political control over the Constitutional Tribunal, Supreme Court and the ordinary courts through insistence on early retirement (and so replacement) of judges and refusal to comply with constitutional opinions. Judicial appointments have been politicized, an extraordinary process for review of elections created, the independence of the public prosecutor effectively eliminated, and court dockets manipulated.
The Venice Commission, a panel of constitutional law experts, said in December 2017 that the various measures put “at serious risk” the independence of “all parts” of the Polish judiciary.
“We are witnessing a slow but insistent and intentional process of undermining the courts so that they will not enforce the Constitution against the executive and the legislature,” Sarah Cleveland, the American member of the Venice Commission and a law professor at Columbia University, told me. “It’s a process of death by 1,000 cuts.”
The death involved could be that of constitutional governance and Poland’s democracy itself.
Several things need to be said here. The first is that Poland, by far the largest of the formerly Communist Central European nations that joined the European Union and NATO, has gone from poster child of liberty to standard-bearer of nationalist reaction, propelled by the phantasms of migrant waves and European Union “interference” manipulated by Kaczynski. It is an extraordinary volte-face. It is also testimony to how illusory the triumph of liberalism in 1989 has proved under the pressure of globalization.
The second is that Donald Trump’s United States, potentially the chief bulwark against illiberalism’s rise, has gone AWOL. He gave Kaczynski and the nationalists a pass during his visit to Poland in July. Indeed, the president has been conducting his own campaign against an independent judiciary. He’s called the American criminal justice system a “laughingstock’ and “a joke,” dismissed the legal system as “broken,” insulted judges, called for quick “strong justice” (read the death penalty), and labeled courts as “political.” The impression Trump leaves is that he’d be happy with Vladimir Putin’s law courts, Xi Jinping’s press, and Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
All this, of course, has empowered the likes of the Polish government. Anyone who seriously believes Trump is innocuous through incompetence on the world stage should think again.
A formal European procedure has been initiated that could lead to the loss of Poland’s voting rights within the Union; it should be pursued with vigor. Poland and Hungary cannot be allowed to sabotage without cost the club of which they have been, and remain, such conspicuous beneficiaries.
The fourth is the most serious. Independent courts (like a free press) hold power to account; they establish facts and truth. In their absence, the way is opened to Michnik’s “guillotine and the gulag.” When truth goes, so does freedom.
Poland’s grotesque “Death Camp” law, signed this month by President Duda, must therefore be seen as of a piece with a broader assault on truth. The law makes it a crime to accuse “the Polish nation” of complicity in the Holocaust or any “Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.”
Poles suffered terribly during World War II. The fact that many of the Nazis’ death camps, including Auschwitz, were on Polish soil has led to unforgivable conflations. But if Poles were victims, they were also at times accomplices and perpetrators in the slaughter of Polish Jews, as has been well documented in Jan Gross’s study of the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941, among other works.
I know this history personally, having been married to a woman whose Polish Jewish mother was saved through the bravery of a Pole (now belatedly honored at Israel’s Yad Vashem), and whose Polish Jewish grandmother was betrayed by a Pole and sent to the gas chamber.
Poles, as no others, know the terrible toll of false history. They know how the Soviet Union tried for decades to obscure the reality of the Katyn massacre. Yet now, a miserable bunch of small-minded nationalist upstarts are trying to play jingoistic games with historical facts in pursuit of their illiberal betrayal of the great Polish contribution to European freedom.
Awaken, Poland, before it is too late! Revolutions for a constitution are worth defending to the hilt.

Blowback: How U.S. Drones, Coups, and Invasions Just Create More Violence

Mehdi Hasan is a a British political journalist, broadcaster and author. He is one of the best debaters of our time, who has appeared in debates organized by Oxford Union at his alma mater - Oxford University. He is the presenter of the Al Jazeera English shows: The Café, Head to Head and UpFront.
 I provide below a series of his articles, which were recently posted in the net.
=======
By Mehdi Hasan
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sir Isaac Newton called it his Third Law of Motion.
The CIA calls it “blowback.”
As the late historian of empire and one-time consultant to the CIA, Chalmers Johnson, explained in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, blowback is “a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people.”
Time and again, the United States and its allies have intervened in a faraway conflict, typically in the Muslim-majority Middle East; they’ve dropped some bombs, killed some “bad guys,” and then declared “mission accomplished.” Time and again, these interventions have ended up resulting in bloodshed and conflict later down the line — often on U.S. or Western soil. “Historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States,” the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board observed back in 1997.
Yet U.S. and Western politicians avert their eyes from this data and this correlation; acts of terror are explained away as “random,” “mindless,” and, perhaps most disingenuously of all, “unprovoked.” The public, either unfamiliar with secret operations carried out by the U.S. military or intelligence services, or uninformed about the brutal nature of the foreign wars fought in their name, tend to buy into this fantasy of an “innocent” America hated and attacked by hordes of “mad” Muslims.
In a series of short films for The Intercept, launching today, I set out to examine key examples of blowback in greater detail — beginning with the issue of CIA drone strikes — and explore how foreign policy decisions by the U.S. and its allies often produce terrorist blowback and so-called unintended consequences.
Take the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini and the explosion of Iranian anti-Americanism in the late 1970s. As Sen. Bernie Sanders, of all people, noted in a Democratic presidential debate in 2016, few Americans are aware that the Islamic Revolution of 1979 against the dictatorship of the Shah was blowback from the 1953 CIA-orchestrated coup that removed the elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, from office. In fact, the term “blowback” was first coined by the CIA in the wake of, and in reference to, the secret plot against Mossadegh.
“Possibilities of blowback against the United States should always be in the back of the minds of all CIA officers involved in this type of operation. Few, if any, operations are as explosive as this type.” This quote appeared in an internal CIA lessons-learned report on the 1953 coup. However, few lessons were actually learned by the agency or its political masters. The short-term success of the coup — carried out by the CIA just six years after it was founded under President Harry Truman — prompted politicians and spooks alike to embark on a series of covert and not-so-covert actions, many of which would end up backfiring on the U.S. in the long run.
Remember, for instance, how the CIA poured millions of dollars and thousands of Stinger missiles into Afghanistan in the 1980s to support the “jihad” against the Soviet Union? Many of those U.S.-armed and U.S.-funded fighters would later join Mullah Omar’s Taliban or Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda and turn their “jihad” against the West. How’s that for blowback?
And there are plenty of other examples aside from the case of Afghanistan and bin Laden. Take drone strikes. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama deployed drones to Pakistan as part of their counterterror strategy, without taking into account how much “drone strikes are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one,” to quote top U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Terrorists such as Faisal Shahzad, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev all cited the civilian casualties from drone strikes among their litany of anti-American complaints. How’s that for blowback?
In 2003, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands in the process; disbanded the Iraqi army overnight while opening fire on peaceful protesters; tortured and radicalized Iraqis in prisons and detention centers built by Saddam Hussein …  and then expressed surprise when the Islamic State appeared on the scene. How’s that for blowback?
U.S. allies have been equally short-sighted and self-destructive. The Egyptians and the Jordanians tortured men such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to try and break them. It didn’t work — and, in fact, helped to do the opposite. Zawahiri went on to join bin Laden in creating Al Qaeda while Zarqawi founded the precursor organization to ISIS. How’s that for blowback?
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Israelis backed and funded the Palestinian Islamists who would later become Hamas, as a way of dividing and ruling over the Palestinians and, especially, undermining Yasser Arafat’s secular Fatah movement. Since the 1990s, however, Hamas has killed far more Israeli civilians than Arafat or Fatah ever did. How’s that for blowback?
In 2011, the British government led the charge to topple Col. Moammar Gadhafi from power in Libya, backing jihadi rebel groups and turning a blind eye to angry young men from the U.K. going out to fight against the regime in Tripoli. One of them, a British 23-year-old of Libyan descent named Salman Abedi, who allegedly made contact with ISIS fighters in the chaos of post-war Libya, returned to the U.K. and blew himself up at a Manchester concert, killing 22 people. How’s that for blowback?
The inescapable truth for my six blowback films is that you cannot bomb, kill, invade, occupy, and torture, and then expect no pushback, no retaliation, no blowback. Nor can you cynically arm or fund extremist groups to fight your “official enemy” and then assume those extremist groups won’t one day turn on you or your allies. Actions have consequences; actions, to quote Newton, have equal and opposite reactions.
These days, the need to address and acknowledge the contentious issue of blowback has taken on an even greater urgency as the Trump administration escalates and expands every single conflict that it inherited from the Obama administration. Ramp up drone strikes? Tick. Drop bigger bombs in Afghanistan? Tick. Kill more Iraqi and Syrian civilians via airstrikes? Tick.
Whether or not Trump is clinically insane, his foreign policy, like that of his Democratic and Republican predecessors, is the very definition of madness — doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.
Will they ever learn? Or will they continue to endanger us all?

Blowback: How ISIS Was Created by the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

by Mehdi Hasan
“Your brother created ISIS,” college student Ivy Ziedrich told a startled Jeb Bush after a town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, in May 2015. The then-Republican presidential hopeful tried to defend his elder sibling, former President George W. Bush, by blaming the rise of the Islamic State on Barack Obama, “because Americans pulled back” from Iraq in 2011.
It sounds a bit conspiratorial, right? Calling Dubya the creator of ISIS? The reality, however, is that Ziedrich’s accusation wasn’t far off the mark.
Had it not been for Bush’s catastrophic decision to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003, in defiance of international law, the world’s most feared terrorist group would not exist today. ISIS is blowback.
In this week’s episode of my six-part series on blowback, I examine the three ways in which Bush’s misadventure in Mesopotamia helped birth a group that the U.S. now considers to be one of the biggest threats to both U.S. national security and Middle East peace.
First, foreign military occupations tend to radicalize local populations and breed violent insurgencies. Take Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Or Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In Iraq, the U.S. morphed from heroic liberators into brutal occupiers within a matter of weeks. In Fallujah, which would later become an ISIS stronghold, U.S. troops opened fire on a crowd of peaceful protesters in April 2003, killing and wounding dozens of Iraqis.
The shootings, the torture, the general chaos, all helped drive thousands of Iraqis from the minority Sunni community into the arms of radical groups led by brutal gangsters, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda in Iraq, formed in 2004 to fight U.S. troops and their local allies, was a precursor organization to … ISIS.
Second, in May 2003, in a criminally stupid and reckless move, the U.S. occupying authorities disbanded the Iraqi army. That’s right: The U.S. made more than half a million well-armed and well-trained Iraqi troops unemployed overnight. No less an authority than Gen. Colin Powell, Bush’s secretary of state and America’s former top soldier, would later describe those jobless soldiers as “prime recruits for insurgency.”
In recent years, many of the top commanders in ISIS have been identified as former senior officers in Saddam Hussein’s army. Coincidence?
Third, the U.S. military detained tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them noncombatants, at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, where imprisoned jihadis were able to not only radicalize new recruits in plain sight, but also plan future operations and attacks. “Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism,” compound Cmdr. James Skylar Gerrond would later remark.
One former Bucca detainee, incidentally, was none other than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Yes, the self-proclaimed caliph and leader of ISIS who, according to Iraqi terrorism expert Hisham al-Hashimi, “absorbed the jihadist ideology and established himself among the big names” while at Bucca.
To be clear, then, ISIS is blowback from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. And don’t just take my word for it. Listen to David Kilcullen, a former adviser to both Gen. David Petraeus and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, considered to be one of the world’s leading counter-insurgency experts. “We have to recognize that a lot of the problem is of our own making,” Kilcullen told Channel 4 News in March 2016. “There, undeniably, would be no ISIS if we hadn’t invaded Iraq.”

Blowback: How Torture Fuels Terrorism Rather Than Reduces It

By Mehdi Hasan

Does torture lead to terror? Has the decadeslong abuse of political prisoners across the Muslim-majority world — not to mention in CIA black sites, U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, and the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay — fueled radicalization and extremism? Or is it a coincidence that some of the major figures in the jihadi movement — Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb; Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri; Al Qaeda in Iraq founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — were all victims of horrific torture?
Lawrence Wright, one of the world’s leading authorities on Al Qaeda and author of “The Looming Tower,” doesn’t think so. He has said that the torture the founders of Al Qaeda & Co. endured “is what really gave them an appetite for revenge. And the bloodletting that is so characteristic of Al Qaeda … I think it was born in the humiliation that those men felt in those Egyptian prisons.”
As I point out in the latest episode of my six-part video series on blowback, torture is also a recruiting sergeant for terrorist groups. It allows them to act as a vehicle for angry and outraged young men and helps bolster their propaganda war against people in power. For example, Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers who carried out the horrific attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in 2015, said it was “everything I saw on the television, the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, all that which motivated me.”
And it wasn’t just Kouachi. A State Department memo leaked by WikiLeaks in 2009 noted how “following publication of the first Abu Ghraib photos, Saudi authorities arrested 250 individuals trying to leave Saudi Arabia to join extremist groups in Afghanistan.”
From Abu Ghraib in Iraq to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, the U.S. has engaged in brutal and violent abuse toward detainees suspected of terrorism — despite the fact that such brutality and abuse is what may have motivated many of those detainees to begin with. Listen to Gen. David Petraeus, former head of U.S. Central Command and former director of the CIA: “I think that whenever we have, perhaps, taken expedient measures, they have turned around and bitten us in the backside,” he said on Meet The Press back in 2010. “Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are non-biodegradables. They don’t go away.  The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick.”
Has anyone in the Trump administration paid attention to such warnings, though? Or are they destined to repeat the same mistakes (and crimes) of the George W. Bush era? While running for president, Donald Trump made it clear he was a fan of torture and saw no ethical or legal obstacles to waterboarding and the rest. Then, after his election, he said his new defense secretary-designate, Gen. James Mattis, had persuaded him against such practices. Yet, in his State of the Union speech in January, Trump won cheers from the Republican legislators in the audience when he announced that he had “just signed an order directing Secretary Mattis to re-examine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay.”
So Gitmo is staying open for business — with all of the torture and abuses associated with it. Perhaps, though, the president should have a word with former U.S. Air Force Officer Matthew Alexander, who was in charge of an interrogation team in Iraq and is author of the book, “How to Break a Terrorist.”
“The longer it stays open,” Alexander wrote in 2012, referring to Guantánamo Bay, “the more cost it will have in U.S. lives.”

Uri Avnery - Will Netanyahu be Indicted?

Pity the almond tree, especially when it is in full bloom.
The bloom of the almond is, in German, Mandelblüt. That is also the name of Israel’s chief legal official, called "the Legal Advisor of the Government".
The Legal Advisor is appointed by the government, but is supposed to be completely independent. He is in practice the Attorney General, the person who has the final say about indicting people, especially the prime minister. That is now his unhappy lot.
Now Mandelblit (as we pronounce his name in Hebrew) is in an impossible position. The prime minister has been officially accused by the police on two counts of bribery. Now Mandelblit must decide whether to put him on trial.
But Binyamin Netanyahu has been his benefactor for a long time, pushing his career to the top. Do you bite the hand that has fed you? Or do you shirk your duty?
An awful choice.
Avichai Mandelblit was born in Tel Aviv into a right-wing family. His father was a member of the Irgun and a rightist party stalwart. Avichai ("My Father Lives", meaning God) adopted religion at the age of 25 and put a kippah on his head.
After studying law, he served in the army as a military judge in the occupied Gaza Strip and other military jobs, until he became the chief legal officer of the army. From there it was but a short jump to the job of "government secretary", the right-hand man of the Prime Minister, who happened to be Binyamin Netanyahu.
When the office of "Legal Adviser of the Government", an official with immense power, became free, Netanyahu looked around for a candidate. And who did he see? Yea, quite right – the good, loyal Mandelblit.
On the horizon there were looming already all kinds of criminal suspicions. The crucial position of Legal Advisor was becoming very important. So, choosing the religious, right-wing lawyer was a clever move.
How clever? Well, we will soon know.
Netanyahu has not always made the cleverest choices.
Almost at the same time as he chose the Chief Legal Advisor, he also chose a new Chief of Police.
His choice was a total surprise. He did not pick one of the senior policemen, each of whom had years of experience behind him, but a completely anonymous person. And not anonymous by accident: he was the No. 2 of the internal security service (Shin Bet).
Roni Alsheich did not want the job. He wanted to be the chief of the Shin Bet. But Netanyahu almost compelled him. He promised to appoint him Shin Bet chief if he – Netanyahu – were still Prime Minister in four years time. That was a not-so-subtle hint: you help me keep my job, and I give you the job you desire.
The new police chief was an enigma. He is of Yemenite descent, rather unusual for Israel’s elite. He does not look like a police officer. A joker once called him "a barrel with a mustache". He does not talk in public – as befits a person who has spent most of his life in the secret service.
With these two loyalists in place, Netanyahu had nothing to fear. A number of criminal suspicions popped up, but nobody believed that anything would come of them. Netanyahu was just too clever.
What were the suspicions about?
A billionaire with large business interests in Israel for ten years provided him with Cuban cigars of the most expensive kind, as well as "pink" champagne and some jewelry for the lady, all in all about a quarter of a million dollars. An Australian billionaire chipped in.
There was a deal with the boss of the second largest newspaper in Israel to enact a law clipping the circulation of the No. 1, in return for favorable coverage. The adoring coverage of newspaper No. 1 was assured anyhow. It belongs to Sheldon Adelson, an American casino billionaire, and its sole purpose is – quite openly – to glorify Netanyahu.
The third matter concerns suspicions of bribes from a German shipbuilder, which produces submarines for Israel’s atomic weapons. It’s a multi-billion deal. Suspicions run high but have not yet been aired publicly.
No serious person in Israel expected anything to come of any of these affairs. With the hand-picked chief legal officer and the chief of police safely in place, how could it?
And then, two weeks ago, a bomb exploded. The taciturn policeman suddenly appeared on TV, and hinted that the police were about to publish recommendations to indict Netanyahu for bribery in the first two affairs.
What? The chief of police a man of integrity? What is the world coming to?! This is a moral problem: if Netanyahu appointed him in the belief that he is a man of no conscience, and then it turns out that he is a man of conscience – does this mean that he only pretended to have no integrity, which might be an act of no integrity? Work it out.
Can a similar terrible thing happen now with the Legal Adviser? Can he suddenly turn out to be a man of integrity too? Sooner or later he must decide whether to indict Netanyahu or not.
Poor man.
When the police chief hinted on TV about the coming police decision to recommend indictment, my first impulse was to rush and clean the air-raid shelter at my home.
When you are Prime Minister and in deep domestic trouble, the first thing you think about is a military crisis. Nothing like a military emergency to divert attention from your misdeeds towards the national interest.
And lo and behold – two days after the TV announcement about the police recommendations, the Iranians were so kind as to provoke a crisis.
An Iranian spy drone entered Israeli airspace from Syria and was promptly shot down. In response, the Israeli Air force sent its planes to bomb Iranian positions in Syria. An Israeli plane was shot down – a very rare occurrence Indeed, and fell near a kibbutz. Both crewmen bailed out and one was severely injured.
The criminal business was swept off the table. Everybody spoke about the coming war. But then Vladimir Putin intervened and put an end to that nonsense.
No war this time. The police published their findings and recommended that Netanyahu be put on trial on two counts of bribery. The entire country was glued to their TV sets. Everything else was forgotten.
Netanyahu did what he does best. He made a live statement on TV. He accused his accusers of all kinds of misconduct. These scoundrels, he more than intimated, were ready to risk the very existence of Israel, just out of spite against him. But not to worry, he has no intention of resigning, even temporarily.
Looking us straight in the eye, shining with honesty, he promised us that he will not forsake us. Since he is the only person on Earth able to ensure our safety, he will remain at his post and protect us, come what may.
This made me very afraid indeed. Far be it from me to insinuate that he might start a war just to divert attention from his indictments. In a war, people get killed. Jewish boys (and girls) of Jewish mothers. Would a patriot like Netanyahu do such a dastardly thing as starting an unnecessary war just to divert attention?
Surely not. But when he has to make a fateful decision in a crisis, between two meetings with his lawyers, will his head be completely clear?
How long can this go on? Experts assess that Mandelblit, in his desperation, can draw his decision out for a year. He must think. Thinking takes time,
There was this Polish nobleman who called his Jew and told him: "I love my dog dearly. Jews are clever people. You can teach my dog to speak. Do it. Otherwise I shall kill you!
"No problem," the Jew answered. "But teaching a dog to speak is a very difficult task, It takes time. I need two years."
"Good," the nobleman said. But if you don’t do it, I shall kill you!"
When the Jew’s wife heard this, she started to wail. "You know you can’t teach the dog to speak!" she cried.
"Don’t worry," he told her. "Two years is a long time. In two years the dog will be dead, or the nobleman will be dead, or I shall be dead."

'Golan Is Forever Israel’s' - says Netanyahu

by Jason Ditz
Speaking to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  declared the Golan Heights “forever” part of Israel, irrespective of international law not recognizing it as Israeli territory.
Netanyahu visits the Golan Heights
Israel occupied the Golan Heights militarily in 1967, and started building settlements there almost immediately. In 1981, Israel formally annexed Golan, though this is not recognized internationally. Legally, the Golan Heights are part of Syria, occupied by Israel.
Since the annexation in 1981, Israeli officials have regularly denied publicly they’d be willing to give the territory up, though there were reports before the Syrian War that a deal had been broached on giving the Golan back to Syria as part of a broader peace deal.
Since then, Israel has started some lucrative oil projects in the Golan Heights, which further make returning the territory to Syria unlikely, though the lack of international endorsement for the annexation means this is a territory issue that’s going to be a recurring issue in the future.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ashley Judd visits with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Ashley Judd is an outspoken supporter of the Times Up movement.
But her advocacy on behalf of abused women extends far beyond Hollywood.
The actress, 49, is currently in Bangladesh where she is meeting with girls and women from the Rohingya community who fled their homes in Myanmar due to ethnic persecution.
Scroll down for video 
For a cause: Ashley Judd is currently in Bangladesh where she is meeting with girls and women from the Rohingya community who fled their homes in Myanmar due to ethnic persecutionFor a cause: Ashley Judd is currently in Bangladesh where she is meeting with girls and women from the Rohingya community who fled their homes in Myanmar due to ethnic persecution
Ashley is serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency.
Her focus is in promoting the need to help pregnant women and those who have recently given birth in these refugee enclaves.
Women's issues: The actress, 49, is serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health and rights agencyWomen's issues: The actress, 49, is serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency
Trying to make a difference: Ashley Judd is an outspoken supporter of the Times Up movement. But her advocacy on behalf of abused women extends far beyond Hollywood 
Trying to make a difference: Ashley Judd is an outspoken supporter of the Times Up movement. But her advocacy on behalf of abused women extends far beyond Hollywood
Ethnic cleansing victims: Many of the women and girls have witnessed the killing of loved ones and suffered sexual violenceEthnic cleansing victims: Many of the women and girls have witnessed the killing of loved ones and suffered sexual violence
 
Many of these women have been traumatized by sexual and sectarian violence and some have lost children and seen loved ones massacred, according to the UNFPA.

United Nations Population Fund estimates that more than 688,000 refugees have fled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh over the past six months from neighboring Rakhine State in Myanmar.
Of those, an estimated 170,000 of newly arrived women and girls are of reproductive age and about 60,000 of them are pregnant.
Lending her voice: On Thursday, she paid a visit to a UNFPA-supported Primary Healthcare Centre before moving on to another center where mothers-to-be get antenatal check upsLending her voice: On Thursday, she paid a visit to a UNFPA-supported Primary Healthcare Centre before moving on to another center where mothers-to-be get antenatal check ups
Committed humanitarian: Her focus is in promoting the need to help pregnant women and those who have recently given birth in these refugee enclavesCommitted humanitarian: Her focus is in promoting the need to help pregnant women and those who have recently given birth in these refugee enclaves
Ashley accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of alleged sexual assault in a October in a New York Times story, revealing the incident happened 20 years ago when she filmed the movie Kiss The Girls.
Since she spoke out, more than 50 women have revealed similar experiences with the former producer.
The star of Double Jeopardy and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood has also spoken about the cost to her professionally and financially of standing up to Weinstein and discrimination in Hollywood.  
'The hill on which I'm willing to die is equality, and if that means going to jail, being maligned, being defamed, having economic loss because I stood up to Harvey Weinstein - and it's incalculable the amount of money I could have made that I didn't - that's the hill on which I'm willing to die,' she said.