Saturday, August 27, 2016

Burning Down the Prison Industrial Complex

Burn Down the Plantation

by subMedia - Dissident Voice 

August 23rd, 2016

In this sedition we bring you an exclusive interview with prison inmate Melvin Ray, secretly filmed inside Holman Prison in Alabama. Melvin is a member of the Free Alabama Movement, a national organization against mass Incarceration and prison slavery. They have teamed up with the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, to organize the largest prison strike in history, set to kick off on September 9th. Read more about the actions leading up to the strike at It’s Going Down.

You can listen to our entire interview with Melvin Ray here.

On the news section we give you a blow by blow of the recent Milwaukee rebellions that erupted, following the police murder of African American Sylville K. Smith. We follow this up with the growing resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline in so called North Dakota.

Track Selection:

XOC – Super Mario Theme
Chop type beat – Lit Trap Beat Instrumentals 2016
Point of no return – Immortal Technique
Electric Pow Wow Drum – A Tribe Called Red
Bambu – Minimum Wage
Kraftwerk – The Robots
The Day The Niggaz Took Over – Dr. Dre
Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos – Public Enemy

SubMedia is directed and produced by Frank Lopez. Read other articles by subMedia, or visit subMedia's website.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Welcoming Fish Farms to Vacate the Premises:Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw Serve Notice on Cermaq

This is a 72-hour eviction notice to all salmon farmers in the unceded territory of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw

by Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw

August 15, 2016

To: The Federal Government of Canada, The Provincial Government of British Columbia, Cermaq/ Mitsubishi & Marine Harvest

The three Dzawada’enuxw traditional leaders that live in their homelands of U’kwa’nalis at the head of Kingcome Inlet stand on this farm in Li’xi (Burdwood Islands) to put the federal and provincial government of Canada and the salmon farming corporations on notice that we the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw are the ultimate authority in our traditional lands and waters.

We have stated our opposition to the salmon farming industry for over 30 years. This is our land and there is no place for the unnatural cycle in these pens. Last spring 40% of the young wild salmon that left our rivers were killed by sea lice from salmon farms, which is detrimental to our way of life.

Canada has embraced the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples*. We have the right to look after our food resources. The salmon farming industry is infringing on our way of life, by breaking the natural circle of life that have sustained First Nation people for time immemorial.

“Indigenous people have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired” (United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous People).


Lilawagila Clan

Wiyukwama’yi Clan

Kikudilikala Clan

Colombian Peace: Don't Mention the (Dirty) War

Colombia: Peace in the Shadow of the Death Squads

by Daniel Kovalik - CounterPunch

August 25, 2016

As the Colombian government and left-wing FARC rebels near the signing of a comprehensive peace accord, and though they have already signed a bi-lateral ceasefire which is largely holding, Colombia is still suffering from the worst human rights abuses in the Western Hemisphere. These abuses are being carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups (aka, death squads), which the U.S. and Colombian governments conveniently deny even exist.

These paramilitary groups, in accord with their long-time friend and ally, former President Alvaro Uribe, are openly and aggressively opposed to the peace accords, and will most certainly escalate their violence as a national referendum which will be held to ratify, or reject, these accords draws near. Thus, as Insight Crime recently reported, the Colombian Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) estimates that nearly 250 municipalities (or more than 25% of the 1,105 municipalities in all of Colombia) “are at risk of violence or fraud affecting the referendum on an anticipated peace deal” with the FARC. The departments of Choco, Arauca, Cauca and Putumayo – that is, departments with heavy concentrations of Afro-Colombians and indigenous – are among the departments with the greatest risk. Antioquia, the department of Alvaro Uribe who was governor there, has the greatest number of municipalities at risk.

Meanwhile, the paramilitaries are already exploiting the opportunity presented by the FARC’s ceasefire to gain territory and exact more advantage for the economic elites – both domestic and foreign – which they serve.

For starters, Colombia again, according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), suffered more assassinations of trade unionists than any country on earth in 2015, and therefore earned its spot as one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers’ rights. As the ITUC explains in its annual report: “Trade unionists have been murdered with impunity for decades in Colombia. In 2015, 20 murders of trade unionists were recorded in Colombia – the highest number in any country.” And, not surprisingly, it is the paramilitaries who are carrying out such assassinations in the interest of capital.

In addition, 35 human rights defenders have already been killed in the first half of 2016. This is an incredible figure. Indeed, according to Colombia’s El Espectador, this year has been “one of the most violent in regards to the murder of human rights defenders and land claimants,” with the paramilitaries being the perpetrators of these crimes. Indeed, one of the chief perpetrators of the violence, particularly against those advocating for the return of land stolen during the armed conflict, is the paramilitary group known as the “Anti-Restitution of Land Army.” This group has been reinvigorated by the release from jail of infamous paramilitary leader Jose Gregorio Mongonez Lugo, also known as “Carlos Scissors.” He was responsible in the first place for the violent theft of land in the banana region of Magdelena, Colombia, and has now returned to make sure that it is not given back to its rightful owners.

All of this bodes very badly for the prospects of peace in Colombia. And indeed, one of Colombia’s great human rights defenders, Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., recently penned a sobering peace on this very subject, entitled, “Peace in Colombia?” This piece was translated by the Colombia Support Network, and is well-worth a read, especially as you will never hear a voice such as his in the mainstream press.

As Father Giraldo opines, despite the progress of the peace talks in Havana which are quickly nearing a conclusion, “the country is profoundly polarized by the growth and the growing power of extreme right-wing forces. It appears as if the forces of the Cold War are coming back to life, powered by the monstrous economic strength of multinational businesses that are rapidly defending their exclusionary interests, using their extremely powerful resources.”

Father Giraldo rightly notes that the Colombian government, while paying lip-service to peace, in fact seeks the surrender and ultimate destruction of both the guerillas as well as Colombia’s peaceful forces for social change. As he explains:

the methods of persuasion that have been used to promote the peace agreements rely mostly on the practical impossibility of achieving social change by means of armed conflict, given the gigantic and overwhelming military power of the government, supported by the imperial power with the greatest destructive reach in the recent history of humanity: the United States. . . . President Santos has instead, above all, on a peace that will benefit business leaders and transnational investors, who will be able to intensify their extraction of natural resources. But meanwhile his government represses with cruel violence the social protests of communities affected by the ecological and social destruction that has been caused and continues to be caused by these multinational companies.

Father Giraldo then expresses a seldom-uttered truth which I have certainly learned upon my numerous trips to Colombia in the past 17 years – that while the paramilitaries oppose the peace process because it will grant some immunity for rebels, the “popular movements feel more fear of the impunity of the powerful and of the paramilitaries and the agents of the government, whose war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide greatly exceed, both in quality and in cruelty, the crimes of the insurgency.”

And, it is the impunity for the right-wing paramilitaries, who now control large swaths of the Colombian government, which is nearly total. And again, this impunity is made by possible by the Colombian and U.S. governments’ denial of the very existence of the paramilitaries, as well as the mainstream media’s near total silence about Colombia and its horrible human rights situation – certainly the worst in the Western Hemisphere.

If peace in Colombia has any chance of succeeding, it will need to be supported and cultivated by people of good will throughout the world who are willing to tell the truth about Colombia and who are willing to provide accompaniment to the peace process.
Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
More articles by:Daniel Kovalik

Leaving Kurds Out in the Cold: Latest Turkish Offensive Ominous Sign for Autonomy Aspirations

In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds

by Roger Annis - CounterPunch

August 26, 2016

Turkey has intervened militarily into the region of northern Syria surrounding the town of Jarablus. The intervention is being conducted in the name of “fighting ISIS” but is, in fact, a pre-emptive strike to prevent the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from expanding their influence and territorial control across northern Syria.

The intervention began with a show of artillery in the early morning of August 24, followed by Turkish tanks and other armoured equipment escorting right-wing, irregular forces from Turkey across the border, through neighbouring villages and into Jarablus proper.

Turkey wants to block the left-wing, Kurdish-led forces of the SDF from repeating in Jarablus their recent success in liberating from ISIS occupation the city of Manbij, located some 50 km south and east of Jarablus.

The intervention coincides with a dizzying about-turn by Turkey from its longstanding ‘regime change’ policy towards the government in Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim acknowledged at a press conference on August 20 that Syrian President Assad was one of the “actors” in Syria and may need to stay on as part of a “transition”.

Some Western media reports are playing up Turkish government descriptions that its intervention into Syria constitutes a major military assault against ISIS. But ANF News, citing local residents, said there was little fighting. Instead, ISIS forces turned the city over to the Turkey-supported irregulars and calmly withdrew, many traveling into Turkey. Several reports said that in crossing into Turkey, ISIS cadre donned the uniform of the Syrian Free Army.

Al-Masdar News explained, “The city was captured by the Islamist rebels with no firefights reported.”

Derrick Stoffel, the Middle East correspondent of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, reported in an August 24 dispatch that the taking of Jarablus, “wasn’t much of a fight… Most of the ISIS men had retreated.”

Al Jazeera reported,

“The rapidity of the advance was in complete contrast to the long-grinding battles where Kurdish forces had taken towns in northern Syria such as Kobane and Manbij from ISIL…
“Security sources quoted by Turkish television said a small contingent of special forces had travelled into Syria to secure the area before the larger ground operation.”

A Reuters reporter spoke of “intense bombardments, with palls of black smoke rising around [Jarablus].” But the same reporter said, “A column of at least nine Turkish tanks crossed into Syria with the group of largely Arab and Turkmen rebels to drive Islamic State out of Jarablus and surrounding villages.” Nine tanks and irregular forces: hardly the stuff of “invasion” legend.

ANF News nonetheless reports that at least 49 civilians have been killed as a result of the Turkish-initiated attack.

U.S. backing of the intervention

United States bomber aircraft reportedly took part in the operation, such as it was. Herein is another about-turn by Turkey.

The Turkish government has been claiming a political falling out with Washington over accusations that the U.S. quietly supported the attempted military coup in Turkey on July 15 or did not alert Turkish authorities ahead of time. It also criticized the U.S. for not acting promptly on Turkey’s request to extradite Fethullah Gulen, who it says is the mastermind of a vast “terrorist network” in Turkey behind the coup attempt.

The claimed falling out by Turkey with the U.S. has been reported as good coin for weeks across the media spectrum. But the invasion of Jarablus was perfectly coordinated with the United States. As the intervention began, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden was arriving in Ankara on an official visit. From Ankara, Biden hailed the intervention and warned Kurdish military forces not to intervene in Jarablus.

Visits to Turkey by U.S. military officials have intensified recently. These have coincided with pronouncements by the Turkish government that it will not talk to Kurdish rebels in Syria nor with the political leadership of the Kurdish population in Turkey itself. For the past year, Kurds in eastern Turkey have endured harsh attacks against their towns and cities by the Turkish military.

Turkey has gone so far as to exclude the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP) from all-party, national reconciliation talks the government has held following the failed coup last month. The HDP is the third largest of the four parties in the Turkish Parliament. It vigorously opposed the attempted coup but it hasn’t stopped criticizing the government for refusing to reach out for a political settlement of longstanding Kurdish grievances.

Kurds comprise some 20 to 25 per cent of the overall Turkish population of 78 million (Wikipedia). They were some ten per cent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million. They comprise the majority in eastern Turkey and areas of northern Syria.

The U.S. has been playing a double game with Kurdish forces in Syria. It has been providing some military assistance. Kurdish-led YPG forces have scored major successes against ISIS and other rightist forces in Syria, including in the battle to liberate the city of Kobane near the Turkish border in 2014 and 2015. But on the key issue of inclusion of Kurds in comprehensive, international negotiations towards a political settlement in Syria, the U.S. is opposed. Russia has consistently favoured Kurdish inclusion. Russia’s foreign ministry restated its view in a brief statement on August 24 on the Turkish intervention.

Turkey has long called the Euphrates River a “red line” which Kurdish-led forces must not cross. Jarablus is located on the river right at the Syria-Turkey border. It is a stage on the ISIS supply route to and from Syria. The governing regime in Turkey has turned a blind eye to this for years.

The liberation of Jarablus and surrounding area by Kurdish-led forces would be a big step in connecting the entire region of northern Syria under a common, Kurdish-led, multi-ethnic administration. Right now, the east of northern Syria (Kobane and Cizire) and a large pocket in the west (Afrin) are governed by the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD) and allies. (See political analysis and accompanying maps, by Washington Institute for Near East Policy.)

The PYD leads the self-defense units in Syria called the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Several YPG leaders have told Kurdish media outlets they will not follow anyone’s orders but their own as to their continued presence extending west from the Euphrates.

YPG official Redur Xelil, denounced Turkey’s move as “blatant aggression in Syrian internal affairs”. A report in continues,

“Aldar Xelil, another influential Kurdish politician, accused Turkey of initiating an occupation of Syria, saying the operation amounted to ‘a declaration of war’ on the autonomous administration set up by Kurdish groups in northern Syria in 2011.”

Turkey’s blind eye towards terrorists

Another piece of the drama being given large play in the West is the claim by Turkey that its intervention in Syria is in response to the bombing of a wedding in Gaziantep in southern Turkey on August 20. That terrorist attack killed 53 people (latest reports cite the number of 58), about half of whom were children. Dozens more were injured. Gaziantep is located less than 100 km from Jarablus.

An August 21 statement by the HDP explains that the attack in Gaziantep was but the latest in a string of terrorist attacks against the party and its members. The wedding in Gaziantep was that of an HDP activist.

The statement also says that Gaziantep city and province have been allowed over the years to become a “nest” of ISIS forces.

“The people of Gaziantep have been living in an environment with ISIS members who amass weapons and organize mass meetings. According to some accusations, those who launched the attack on October 10, 2015 in Ankara [bombing of an antiwar rally that killed more than 100 people] had also been planning to attack a Kurdish wedding. However, the ruling party did not take the necessary steps to prevent these plans despite all the warnings.”

The statement explained that the 2015 Ankara bombing set off a harsh process of accusation and recrimination where “discussion of peace and resolution was prevented, and people were pushed away from hopes of a more stable country.

“The ruling party’s hate speech, discriminating and divisive attitude in democratic political arenas furnishes the conditions for such attacks.”

Syrian government?

In response to the Turkish intervention, a blatant act against the territorial integrity of Syria, the Syrian government issued a perfunctory statement voicing concern.

Last week, Kurdish and Syrian government forces clashed in the Hasakah, eastern Syria, when government forces tried to wrest control of the city. It was the first clash between the two forces for several years, adding another element to the timing of the Turkish intervention.

Mediation by Russia succeeded in establishing a ceasefire in Hasakah on August 21 after Kurdish forces successfully repulsed government attacks. But the clash was an ominous sign of the Syrian government returning to the policies of the past in which, like Turkey, it refused to recognize the national rights of the Kurds. The Syrian government has avoided conflict for the past several years, even collaborating on occasion with Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS.

In March of this year, Syrian Kurds proposed a comprehensive plan for the future of Syria that would see a federated political system in a unitary state granting autonomy to Kurds and other national minorities.

Russia has backed Kurdish demands for autonomy, including in the recent events. It has condemned the violence of Turkey’s internal war against the Kurdish population.

Demands for ‘federalism’, or political autonomy, are, coincidentally a central issue in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine. There, a right-wing government issuing from a coup d’etat in Kyiv in February 2014 launched an ‘anti-terrorist operation’ in April of that year against the Russian-speaking civilian population of the Donbass region (Donetsk and Lugansk). More than 10,000 people have since been killed in Donbass and several million residents have been displaced. Ukraine continues to attack the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, with complete impunity from its Western backers in the NATO alliance.

The similarities between Ukraine’s ‘anti-terrorist’ mania and that of the Turkish government are striking. In each country, complex histories have left the national and language rights and aspirations of peoples unmet–the Kurds of Turkey (and Syria) and the ethnic Russian people of Donbass.

In another parallel coincidence, the recent political history in Crimea can serve as an example for resolution of the conflicts in Ukraine and Turkey. A democratic referendum in Crimea in March 2014 resolved 60 years of dissatisfaction and conflict over Crimea’s status in Ukraine when a large majority voted to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian federation. Crimea was annexed to Ukraine in 1954 by a decision of the then-Soviet Union in which the people had no say.

One of the first acts of the new Crimean authorities was to end the bizarre language law in which the only official language was the one spoken by a small minority–Ukrainian. Today, there are three official languages in Crimea–Russian, Tatar and Ukrainian.

Admittedly, the national and language makeups of Syria and Turkey as well as their histories are considerably more complex than that of Crimea. But with the new example of a peace deal in Colombia now added to the mix, surely the time is nigh for the Kurdish people in the Middle East to receive their historic due.
Roger Annis is a retired aerospace worker in Vancouver BC. He writes regularly for Counterpunch and compiles his writings on a ‘A Socialist in Canada’. He is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. He can be reached at
More articles by:Roger Annis

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Crying "Anti-Semite" Once Too Often: The Tarring of Canada's Green Party

Canada’s Green Party and Allegations of Anti-Semitism

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

August 25th, 2016

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me — and they may come back to haunt the name-callers.

In finding anti-Semites behind every challenge to Canadian complicity with Israeli colonialism, mainstream Jewish organizations are emptying the term “anti-Semitism” of its historical weight.

The Green Party of Canada’s vote in favour of the anti-Semitic boycott campaign against Israel shows the party has been infected by a vicious strain of anti-Jewish hate,” said the President of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies Avi Benlolo. In case anyone missed his point the head of the self-described “top Jewish human rights foundation in Canada with a substantial constituency” added that the Green’s “sole foreign policy is based on anti-Semitic hatred.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and B’nai B’rith released only slightly less wild statements in response to the Greens supporting “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories].”

The Greens’ resolution, which is basically official Canadian government policy – based as it is on two states and the illegality of the settlements – with a little added pressure, freaks out Israeli nationalists because they understand it is a crack in the decades-old settler state solidarity shield of invincibility.

So, establishment pro-Israel organizations are increasingly shrill in smearing the growing Palestinian solidarity movement. While supporters of Palestinian rights generally ignore these smears or reply that it’s not anti-Semitic to stand up for Palestinian rights, defensive strategies aren’t sufficient. The anti-Semitic label is too potent to not confront directly.

It seems to this writer that the name-callers are on a track that will eventually lead to a new reality, one where:

Those who are smeared will begin to embrace the label. People will begin to understand that if they haven’t been called anti-Semitic (or self hating) they’re probably not doing enough to support justice.

• Mocking the accuser and the term will become common. Benlolo et al. will be bombarded with tweets and messages about anti-Semites at the library, gym, behind the bed etc. Jokes about anti-Semitism will undercut the word’s force. For example, what does it take to get a student union to divest from Israel’s occupation? A dozen hard-core Jew hating campaigners and 3,000 anti-Semites.

• Eventually, the embrace of the term by social justice advocates will lead to a widespread re-appropriation of its meaning. It could come to have ironically positive usage like the “N-word” in certain African-American circles. Or like the word Canuck, which originally was a term of derision aimed at French Canadians in New England; perhaps it will one day be displayed proudly on hockey team jerseys.

• If right wing Israeli nationalist groups persist in their efforts to debase the Shoah in the service of colonialism and power, dictionaries and Wikipedia will be pressed to add “a movement for justice and equality” to their definition of anti-Semitism.
(Webster’s Third New International Dictionary actually included “opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel”, as part of its definition of anti-Semitism.)

Of course, considering the historical oppression originally defined by the term, most progressive minded folk would be discomforted by the idea of mocking and re-appropriating “anti-Semitism”. But, isn’t this inevitable when “leading Jewish organizations” publicly denounce “anti-Semitism” in inverse relation to discernible anti-Jewish animus? When Jews fleeing Hitler’s atrocities were blocked from entering Canada, notes A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada, the dominant Jewish organizations mostly shied away from publicly criticizing Ottawa’s prejudice. Similarly, some Jewish representatives negotiated with McGill over the cap it placed on Jews in some university programs in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

While some Jewish activists at the time pushed for a more forceful response to this quantifiable anti-Semitism, the “leading” community representatives didn’t want to rock the boat. Their aim was largely to join the power structure.

Today, the dominant Jewish organizations are well entrenched within the ruling elite. Whether they smear a political party, university students or the World Social Forum (“an event that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic”, according to a Canadian Jewish News report about last week’s conference in MontrĂ©al), they face little pushback in mainstream political and media life.

Nor do the less extreme elements within the Jewish community devote much energy to challenging the debasement of the term anti-Semitism. With the exception of Independent Jewish Voices, some smaller activist groups and a few righteous commentators, most liberal Jews are apathetic in the face of the cynical manipulation of centuries of Christian European prejudice.

One reason, I would postulate, is a lack of genuine concern over anti-Semitism in this country. Christianity has largely lost its cultural weight and a half-dozen other ethnic/religious groups are more likely to be targeted if there were an explosion of xenophobia in this country.

Over the past half-century Canadian Jews lived experience suggests little prejudice. In fact, most Canadian Jews benefit from ‘white’ privilege and, to the extent an individual is tied into the generally educated and prosperous community, they benefit from accompanying familial and social advantages. As such, individuals uncomfortable about the nonsensical claims of anti-Semitism, simply don’t consider it worth putting their neck out to challenge the obvious damage done to the term by Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai B’rith and CIJA, which have institutional/financial reasons to monger fear.

The primary public use of “anti-Semitism” today is to denigrate those defending a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism. Those who seek equality and international justice need to directly confront this abuse.

Yves Engler is the author of Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. Read other articles by Yves.

Turkish Escalation in Syria Precipitates Broader Conflict with Kurds

Turkey's Incursion into Syria Will Escalate Conflict with the Kurds


August 24, 2016

ISIS is likely to retaliate with terrorist attacks in Turkey, says Trent University professor Baris Karaagac 


On Wednesday, Turkish tanks crossed into northern Syria alongside Turkish-backed Syrian rebels in a bid to push the Islamic State out of the border town of Jarabulus. A Reuters reporter at the scene witnessed intense bombardments, with [palls] of black smoke rising around the town. Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said the operation was targeting the Islamic State and the Kurdish PYD, Democratic Union Party, whose gains in northern Syria have alarmed Turkey. Ankara views PYD as an extension of Kurdish militants fighting an insurgency on its own soil, putting it at odds with Washington, which sees the group as an ally in the fight against the Islamic State.


Baris Karaagac is a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent 
University, in Ontario. He is also the editor of the book Accumulations, 
Crises and Struggles: Capital and Labour in Contemporary Capitalism.

Empire Strikes Out: Brzezinski's Grand Busted Game

The Broken Chessboard: Brzezinski Gives Up on Empire

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

August 25, 2016

The main architect of Washington’s plan to rule the world has abandoned the scheme and called for the forging of ties with Russia and China. While Zbigniew Brzezinski’s article in The American Interest titled “Towards a Global Realignment” has largely been ignored by the media, it shows that powerful members of the policymaking establishment no longer believe that Washington will prevail in its quest to extent US hegemony across the Middle East and Asia.

Brzezinski, who was the main proponent of this idea and who drew up the blueprint for imperial expansion in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, has done an about-face and called for a dramatic revising of the strategy.

Here’s an excerpt from the article in the AI:

“As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the lead in realigning the global power architecture.

Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.

The first of these verities is that the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power.” (Toward a Global Realignment, Zbigniew Brzezinski, The American Interest)

Repeat: The US is “no longer the globally imperial power.” Compare this assessment to a statement Brzezinski made years earlier in Chessboard when he claimed the US was ” the world’s paramount power.”

“…The last decade of the twentieth century has witnessed a tectonic shift in world affairs. For the first time ever, a non-Eurasian power has emerged not only as a key arbiter of Eurasian power relations but also as the world’s paramount power. The defeat and collapse of the Soviet Union was the final step in the rapid ascendance of a Western Hemisphere power, the United States, as the sole and, indeed, the first truly global power.” (“The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives,” Zbigniew Brzezinski, Basic Books, 1997, p. xiii)

Here’s more from the article in the AI:

“The fact is that there has never been a truly “dominant” global power until the emergence of America on the world scene….. The decisive new global reality was the appearance on the world scene of America as simultaneously the richest and militarily the most powerful player. During the latter part of the 20th century no other power even came close. That era is now ending.” (AI)

But why is “that era is now ending”? What’s changed since 1997 when Brzezinski referred to the US as the “world’s paramount power”?

Brzezinski points to the rise of Russia and China, the weakness of Europe and the “violent political awakening among post-colonial Muslims” as the proximate causes of this sudden reversal. His comments on Islam are particularly instructive in that he provides a rational explanation for terrorism rather than the typical government boilerplate about “hating our freedoms.” To his credit, Brzezinski sees the outbreak of terror as the “welling up of historical grievances” (from “deeply felt sense of injustice”) not as the mindless violence of fanatical psychopaths.

Naturally, in a short 1,500-word article, Brzezniski can’t cover all the challenges (or threats) the US might face in the future. But it’s clear that what he’s most worried about is the strengthening of economic, political and military ties between Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and the other Central Asian states. This is his main area of concern, in fact, he even anticipated this problem in 1997 when he wrote Chessboard.

Here’s what he said:

“Henceforth, the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America’s status as a global power.” (p.55)

“…To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.” (p.40)

“…prevent collusion…among the vassals.” That says it all, doesn’t it?

The Obama administration’s reckless foreign policy, particularly the toppling of governments in Libya and Ukraine, has greatly accelerated the rate at which these anti-American coalitions have formed. In other words, Washington’s enemies have emerged in response to Washington’s behavior. Obama can only blame himself.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin has responded to the growing threat of regional instability and the placing of NATO forces on Russia’s borders by strengthening alliances with countries on Russia’s perimeter and across the Middle East. At the same time, Putin and his colleagues in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, Iran, China and South Africa) countries have established an alternate banking system (BRICS Bank and AIIB) that will eventually challenge the dollar-dominated system that is the source of US global power. This is why Brzezinski has done a quick 180 and abandoned the plan for US hegemony; it is because he is concerned about the dangers of a non-dollar-based system arising among the developing and unaligned countries that would replace the western Central Bank oligopoly. If that happens, then the US will lose its stranglehold on the global economy and the extortionist system whereby fishwrap greenbacks are exchanged for valuable goods and services will come to an end.

Unfortunately, Brzezinski’s more cautious approach is not likely to be followed by presidential-favorite Hillary Clinton who is a firm believer in imperial expansion through force of arms. It was Clinton who first introduced “pivot” to the strategic lexicon in a speech she gave in 2010 titled “America’s Pacific Century”.

Here’s an excerpt from the speech that appeared in Foreign Policy magazine:

“As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region…

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia…

The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia…and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.”
- “America’s Pacific Century”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”, Foreign Policy Magazine, 2011

Compare Clinton’s speech to comments Brzezinski made in Chessboard 14 years earlier:

“For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia… (p.30)….. Eurasia is the globe’s largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. ….About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s GNP and about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.” (p.31)

The strategic objectives are identical, the only difference is that Brzezinski has made a course correction based on changing circumstances and the growing resistance to US bullying, domination and sanctions. We have not yet reached the tipping point for US primacy, but that day is fast approaching and Brzezinski knows it.

In contrast, Clinton is still fully-committed to expanding US hegemony across Asia. She doesn’t understand the risks this poses for the country or the world. She’s going to persist with the interventions until the US war-making juggernaut is stopped dead-in-its-tracks which, judging by her hyperbolic rhetoric, will probably happen some time in her first term.

Brzezinski presents a rational but self-serving plan to climb-down, minimize future conflicts, avoid a nuclear conflagration and preserve the global order. (aka–The “dollar system”) But will bloodthirsty Hillary follow his advice?

Not a chance.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at
More articles by:Mike Whitney

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Resistance Is Fertility


by Jonathan Cook - AMEU

August 24, 2016

Across the West Bank, olive trees can be found that have survived from the time of Herod, a legacy of the Romans’ cultivation of the tree throughout its empire, including in Palestine. The trees are easily identified. In Arabic, they are known as “amoud” – or column – distinguished by the enormous girth of their gnarled, twisting trunks. They have a place in most Palestinians’ affections. Hatim Kanaaneh, the Galilee physician and writer, observes that the amoud symbolizes “stability, permanence and stature, physically, figuratively and economically.”

The olive tree roots Palestinians in a tradition and identity as deeply as the trees themselves are rooted in the soil. When the first heavy winter rains wash away the dust of the summer drought from the leaves and fruit in late October or early November, extended families hurry out to their fields to harvest the crop. Erecting ladders, they reach into the grey-green foliage to pick the abundant fruit. The distinctive, gentle patter of an olive rainfall can be heard on the tarpaulins below.

For a few weeks, the hills and valleys of Palestine are filled with families, young and old, sharing a simple life outdoors together under the trees – one their great-grandparents would have recognised. With an estimated 10 million trees growing in the valleys and on the hillsides of the West Bank, it is a huge undertaking that much of the society mobilizes for. It is a moment of familial and communal solidarity, of a celebratory communion with nature and its bounty, and of connection to a heritage barely changed over millennia.

During the olive harvest, every Palestinian embodies “sumud”, or steadfastness – a value whose significance has intensified under decades of belligerent Israeli occupation. The harvest represents the ultimate kind of resistance by Palestinians: an individual refusal to be moved, and a collective refusal to be ethnically cleansed.

The olive continues to play a central part in the Palestinian economy. More than 100,000 families are believed to depend on the trees as their primary source of income. The rural economy – much of it dedicated to olive oil production – is worth $500 million, and accounts for about 13 percent of the Palestinians’ GDP.

Israel has done much to try to weaken Palestinians’ connection to the olive tree, understanding that the “amoud” is the Palestinians’ defence against Israeli guns, bulldozers, settlers and ill-will. Since the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza began in 1967, Israel has waged a relentless assault on Palestine’s olive groves and the way of life they support.


Swaths of fertile land have been confiscated and reclassified as “state land”, later transformed into army firing ranges and national parks or incorporated into the illegal Jewish colonies spreading across Palestinian territory. Water resources have been stolen too, starving farmers of the primary fuel needed to ensure a good yield. The army has uprooted or cut down hundreds of thousands of olive trees on security pretexts, claiming they can conceal stone-throwers or snipers. Settlers regularly inflict additional damage, burning down trees and attacking families when they try to reach their fields for the annual harvest. And over the past decade, hundreds of thousands more trees have been lost, cut off behind Israel’s concrete and steel “separation barrier” from the families that tended them for generations.

Some threats to the Palestinian farming community are more insidious, though no less menacing. In the lands around the city of Jenin, in the northern West Bank, a new kind of long-term war against the ancient olive groves is playing out. Ostensibly a struggle between two competing economic models of the future, the battle is, in truth, one for Palestine’s soul.

The first model derives from the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s, and represents the culmination of a decades-old story of Palestinian dispossession. It offers unskilled work to an impoverished population in a series of industrial zones, removing them from their agricultural traditions and their lands, and snaring them into economic subordination to Israel. It ensures the Palestinians a future of insecurity both of employment and food. This colonial vision of economic dependence and exploitation – it goes without saying – is being promoted by Israel and the international community.

The second model, of self-sufficiency and dignity, is being championed by a cooperative farming project known as Canaan Fair Trade. It has grown rapidly, and now assists some 2,000 small-hold farmers in the West Bank. It offers them help to grow organic crops that can withstand water shortages and other privations of a hostile occupation; buys their products at above-market prices to ensure farming families can make a sustainable living; and finds local and foreign markets for the produce, as a way to bypass Israeli control and to raise prices. Staff have nick-named their approach “agro-resistance”.

Canaan is receiving little more than ambivalent support from the compromised Palestinian national leadership.

Nasser Abufarha, who founded Canaan little more than a decade ago, after he returned from the United States, eloquently expresses what is at stake. “The olive is the number one crop for Palestinians. This is the land of the olive, and it has always been central to our diet,” he tells me in Canaan’s offices in the village of Burqin, just outside Jenin. “The olive is important for our food security and our cultural representation. It is a symbol of our identity. The trees connect us to our land, to a place, to a history and to past generations. They also link us to future generations, to our children and grandchildren. They represent the continuity of a nation and our rootedness in the land.”

Economic re-engineering

To understand why these two models of the Palestinians’ future are fighting it out, we need to examine the ways Israel re-engineered the Palestinian economy after it began aggressively settling the Palestinian territories after 1967. It wanted to destroy farming as a way of life for Palestinians and thereby weaken their passionate attachment to their ancestral lands.

At that time, much of the Palestinian population outside the main cities depended on agriculture, working their small holdings as peasant farmers. But they soon found themselves targeted by the hundreds of new military orders issued by the occupation authorities. As well as seizing large tracts of territory, Israel severely limited the types of crops Palestinians could grow to prevent them from competing with Israeli farmers. It further rigged the market by taxing Palestinian exports while allowing Israeli produce to enter the territories tax-free.

Figures today show how economically dependent on Israel the Palestinians have become: more than 60 percent of imports into the Palestinian territories come from Israel, while Palestinian businesses export 80 per cent of their products to Israel.

As the settlements began expanding through the 1970s and 1980s, Palestinian farmers found themselves in an ever-more desperate struggle to hold on to their lands. The settlers, unlike the Palestinians, had the might of a modern state – and one of the most powerful armies in the world – on their side. The settlers not only came to dominate more and more of the best agricultural land, but often controlled the water sources too.

It was a battle few Palestinians could afford to fight for long.

By the time the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat returned from exile to the occupied territories under the terms of the Oslo accords in 1994, many Palestinians – especially the younger generations – had abandoned farming. At least 160,000 Palestinians had become directly dependent on the Israeli economy, working as casual laborers. Hundreds of thousands more Palestinians – a sizeable chunk of the occupied population – relied on these workers’ incomes.

Some members of this newly urbanized Palestinian proletariat worked in the settlements, building homes or working in greenhouses on land that had been stolen after 1967 from families much like their own. Other Palestinians travelled into Israel each day to work in the most unskilled and dangerous parts of the Israeli economy. They cleaned dishes in Tel Aviv’s restaurants, worked on construction sites in Israel’s burgeoning towns and cities, or picked tomatoes and cucumbers in Israel’s agricultural communities, the kibbutzim, that had grown fat and lazy on the abundance of land stolen from the Palestinian refugees after 1948.

Israel had engineered a system of industrialized humiliation.

The success of the settlement project in transforming the Palestinian population from farmers into unskilled laborers can be gauged by considering the dramatic demographic changes effected in the most fertile parts of the West Bank over the past five decades of occupation.

Under Oslo, 62 percent of the West Bank came to be designated as Area C – chiefly the rural areas where Palestinians had practiced agriculture and which were being actively targeted by Israel for settlement. Area C was to be under full Israeli control for the duration of the intended five-year period of the Oslo process, though, of course, Israel is still in charge more than two decades later. Meanwhile, the Palestinian towns and cities and their environs, identified as Areas A and B, fell under varying levels of control by the newly created Palestinian Authority, a Palestinian government-in-waiting.

Although there are no precise data, in the late 1960s, shortly after the occupation began, there were many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in what would later come to be classified as Area C. Without the disruption of the settlements, natural Palestinian growth might have ensured that as many as a million lived in Area C today. But, according to the best estimates, only around 100,000 Palestinians have remained there. The rest, we can assume, were gradually forced off their land in a process of what the Israeli general Moshe Dayan termed “creeping annexation”. The loss of agricultural land and the increasing difficulty of farming sustainably were the main drivers of these momentous demographic changes.

The employment paradox

The Oslo accords were designed to modify – though certainly not end – this form of economic exploitation. Premised on the idea of a minimalist Palestinian state, Oslo sought physical separation between Israel and the occupied Palestinians. The slogan of the time was: “Us here; them there.” Separation was never mutually observed, however. During the official five-year Oslo period of the late 1990s, Israeli Jews poured into the occupied territories, particularly the West Bank, in larger numbers than ever. As a consequence, the settlements grew at an unprecedented rate. Israel left it intentionally unclear where the separation line would eventually be drawn. But for Palestinians, separation was soon being strictly enforced – and on the worst possible terms.

From the early 1990s Israel introduced a system of permits and checkpoints that would eventually harden into the steel and concrete barriers that surround Gaza, eat into significant parts of the West Bank, and carve up East Jerusalem. The goal was to keep out as many Palestinians as possible. Those hit hardest were the Palestinians who had formerly laboured in Israel. From the 1990s onwards, they began being replaced by a new cheap labor force: immigrant workers from China, Nigeria, Thailand and the Philippines.

In parallel, employment opportunities in the occupied territories grew scarcer. As diplomats celebrated the imminent arrival of a Palestinian state, Israel aggressively stepped up its takeover of land on the far side of the “separation barrier”, in the West Bank. In a memorable analogy provided by American-Palestinian lawyer Michael Tarazi, as the two sides negotiated over their respective share of the pizza, Israel set about devouring it. The settlements’ control rapidly expanded in Area C. Increasingly, Palestinian farmers were forced to abandon their land and head towards the Palestinian towns and cities in the territorial archipelago of Areas A and B.

Even those Palestinians who managed to stay in agriculture found themselves in ever harsher economic straits. Even though the West Bank sits atop aquifers that supply most of the water to Palestinians and Israelis, Israel decides how much goes to the Palestinians. Typically Palestinian households receive less than a fifth of the supply to Jewish settlers living close by. With water for domestic use hard to come by, many Palestinians in Area C collect winter rainwater in large underground storage tanks. Those who need additional water for agriculture usually have to truck it in privately at great expense.

The result was that many farmers in the West Bank concentrated on a single crop, the olive, because mature trees can survive through a dry summer, even if the yield and size of the fruit are greatly reduced. But the laws of supply and demand cannot be ignored. If most Palestinians farm olives, there is an abundant oversupply. With most farmers unable to export their produce outside the limited markets of Israel and the occupied territories, prices fell. Olive farmers found it increasingly hard to make ends meet, adding to the pressure on them to abandon agriculture – and with it, their ancestral lands.

The architects of the Oslo process recognised these dual pressures, and the potential danger they posed to Oslo’s success. Israel had transformed Palestinian farmers into a causal labor force by stealing their land and resources. These Palestinians had joined what economists now call the “precariat”, a proletariat class living in economically precarious conditions. They had been made entirely dependent on unskilled work in the Israeli economy. But if Israel then denied them access to Israel and jobs as part of a new policy of “separation”, it risked stoking a dangerous social and political instability. A new kind of employment option was needed – and so was born the idea of free-trade industrial zones.

This solution had been actively promoted for decades by Shimon Peres, the Israeli politician most closely identified with the Oslo process. He argued for creating a series of such zones between Israel and the occupied territories. Here they would serve as a bridge between separated territory: readily accessible both to the Israeli companies searching for a cheap labor force and to the Palestinian laborers who would have few other economic choices but to work on Israel’s terms in these industrial zones. The zones would serve a dual function: both to continue the transformation of Palestinian farmers into an industrialized labor force; and to ensure they were kept economically pacified.

Industrialized laborers

The creation of industrial zones became official Palestinian policy in 1998. As part of the Oslo process, the PA signed a law to create a series of zones that would take as their template an industrial park called Erez, established by Israel just outside the Gaza Strip in the 1970s. Nearly 200 businesses, from carpentry workshops and garages to textile factories, had been attracted to Erez by the cheap labor and low taxes. The inherently degrading treatment of Palestinians at Erez only intensified after Israel erected an electronic fence around Gaza in the early 1990s, in line with its new “separation” philosophy. Many thousands of workers from the tiny coastal enclave had to queue daily, in the hours before dawn, in what looked like cattle grids to be collected and transported to Erez’s high-security businesses.

The breakdown of Oslo and the eruption in 2000 of a renewed Palestinian uprising – the second intifada – posed problems both to Erez and to the plan for more industrial zones. In 2004, as the intifada intensified, Erez was closed. Hopes for the industrial zones went into similar abeyance.


Paradoxically, the plan has been revived under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, an outspoken opponent of Oslo. Rejecting the idea of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu focused instead on what he called “economic peace”, especially for those Palestinians who had abandoned agriculture and moved into the more urban Areas A and B. Netanyahu adopted a hybrid model designed to pacify “good” urbanized Palestinians through economic incentives. His approach has incorporated three main economic elements:

* Limited numbers of Palestinian workers, currently a few tens of thousands, receive permits to enter Israel. Most are middle-aged men with families and considered a low security risk.

* Restrictions on Israelis entering Palestinian Areas A and B have been lifted for the country’s 1.7 million-strong Palestinian-Israeli minority. They are now encouraged to shop and buy services in the Palestinian cities as a way to inject extra money into the urban economy of the territories.

* The plan for free-trade industrial zones is again being advanced, with the backing of third parties such as 
the United States, Germany, Japan, France and Turkey.

This summer the largest such zone was due to open outside Jenin, financed by Turkey and Germany. Palestinian officials say it will create 5,000 jobs in Jenin and 15,000 in the surrounding area. The Israeli media trumpeted Jenin’s industrial zone as a triple victory for Israel: thawing ties with Turkey, bolstering security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, and benefiting Israeli businesses. The benefits for Jenin and the surrounding population are far less clear.

The Jenin industrial zone is part of a wider economic program called the Valley of Peace Initiative that has begun developing zones near the Palestinian urban populations of Jericho, Bethlehem, Gaza, Hebron and Tulkarm. Like similar industrial parks in neighbouring Jordan and Egypt, all will be eligible to export goods to the United States under a free-trade agreement between Israel and the U.S., without tariff or quota restrictions. In Jenin’s case, businesses will be able to access Haifa’s port in Israel without paying Israeli taxes and customs. To qualify, however, exported products must have significant Israeli input.

Notably, the Jenin zone required the mass expropriation of agricultural lands in the villages of Burqin and Jalameh, over the opposition of many farmers. George Kurzum, a development and environment expert at the Ma’an Development Center in Ramallah, has observed that the location of these industrial zones on fertile land in Area C is a criminal waste of Palestinian agricultural resources.

Further, most of the industrial zones’ factories will be owned by foreign and Israeli companies, making it even less likely that these lands in Area C – temporarily assigned to Israel by Oslo – will ever be handed over to Palestinian control. In fact, says Iyad Riahi, a researcher on economic and social policies at Al-Marsad in Ramallah, the zones are likely to encroach on the sovereignty of the neighboring Palestinian cities too. “The [Jenin zone], for instance, will be under the supervision and control of the Turkish developing company, which will contract with a private security company to preserve stability in the city, regardless of the Palestinian security or police."


Figures suggest that by 2025 the zones are ultimately intended to employ anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 Palestinians. But crucially, as Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour observes: “Because the zones will depend on Israeli cooperation to function, and because they will exist within an Israeli-designed economic system that ensures Palestinian dependence on Israel, they cannot form the basis of a sovereign economy. Relying on them will perpetuate the status quo of dependency.” He, like others, expects them to “host ‘dirty’ businesses – those that are pollution-prone and sweatshop-oriented.” Palestinians fear that Israel will shut down the zones at a whim to punish Palestinian misbehaviour – whether strikes against poor pay and conditions, or protests against the occupation.

Bahour concludes: “Donor funds and Palestinian efforts would be better placed if such investments targeted Palestine’s natural economic comparative advantages, for example, tourism and agriculture.”

The birth of agro-resistance

Opposition to the industrial zones is not likely to come from the Palestinian leadership. With the PA accepting the neo-colonial parameters of Oslo, it has as much incentive as Israel to keep ordinary Palestinians economically pacified. It has therefore fallen to Palestinian grassroots movements to identify a model other than neoliberal economic exploitation. The most significant is Canaan Fair Trade, its offices based in the village of Burqin, just a few miles outside Jenin and close to the new industrial zone. It is the brainchild of Nasser Abufarha, whose family has farmed this corner of Palestine for generations.


The inspiration for Canaan came shortly after the turn of the millennium while Abufarha was conducting research for his doctorate in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin. Travelling back and forth between the U.S. and the West Bank, he was struck by the premium prices American students were prepared to pay on campus to enjoy coffee that was organic and fair trade. It offered a clue as to how Palestine’s olive farmers, battling to stay on their lands and maintain the olive as a viable economic crop, might change their fortunes.

Sitting in his office above Canaan’s modern processing plant, Abufarha, aged 52, relates a business success story that would be impressive in ordinary circumstances – but is astonishing given the conditions of belligerent occupation Palestinians live under. In little more than a decade, Canaan has become the largest fair-trade business in the Middle East, as well as the largest fair-trade supplier of olive oil in the world. It is now selling some 800 tons of oil each year, with a turnover of $9 million last year. It has clients, based in 18 countries, including Ben and Jerry’s, LUSH cosmetics, Dr Bronner’s soaps, the U.S. retail chain Whole Foods and the UK supermarket Sainsbury’s. In recent years Canaan has rapidly expanded into other fair-trade products, including almonds, freekeh, zaatar, olive pastes and sun-dried tomatoes.

Abufarha makes the challenges the company faced sound far easier than they must have appeared in 2004, when he returned to the West Bank and abandoned a promising academic career. He had just completed his doctorate on the “human bomb” – the suicide bombers that had grabbed most attention during the early stages of the second intifada as they extinguished their own lives and those of others by detonating their explosives in Israeli buses and restaurants. Jenin and the surrounding villages had earned a reputation for dispatching many of these suicide bombers.

Abufarha’s inspiration came not from the nihilistic human bombs he had studied but the life-affirming traditions of “sumud”, or steadfastness, he had experienced as a child during the annual olive harvest in his parents’ villages of Burqin and Jalameh, both just outside Jenin. Palestinian farmers, he believed, could defy Israel’s efforts to evict them from their land by taking a central place in the burgeoning global movement supporting fair trade and organic agriculture. They could open a new kind of front of non-violent resistance to the occupation.

“When I came back from the U.S.,” said Abufarha, “it was clear that the farmers I had grown up around were economically in trouble. Prices had plummeted to a level that made olive farming unsustainable.” The figures told the story: olive trees accounted for 40 percent of Palestinian land under cultivation, but supplied only 18 percent of the earnings from agricultural production.

“If we lost this crop, it would be both a cultural disaster and leave our communities in a situation of extreme food insecurity. Remember, most Palestinian children start the day with a breakfast of bread and olive oil before going to school. If the trees were lost, ultimately so too would most of these villages.”

In response, Abufarha founded the Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA) in 2004, quickly followed by Canaan Fair Trade, which served as a production, marketing and export company. He began with only a handful of farmers, selling abroad to Dr Bronner’s soaps. In 2008 he used the profits, his savings, as well as donor money from the Palestinian Authority and the Dutch government, to install a state-of-the-art Swedish press, and a storage and bottling plant at Burqin.

The problems facing Abufarha and the farmers were manifold. They could not change the environment created by the occupation or Israel’s deep-seated hostility to Palestinian farming. After all, Zionism’s early ideologues had been inspired by the idea that land could be “redeemed” only through Jewish colonization and Hebrew labor. “Making the desert bloom”, in the movement’s favourite slogan, was integral to its redemptive strategy.

Instead, Abufarha identified the Palestinian farmers’ biggest weakness as a potential strength. Agriculture in the West Bank was still largely a family affair. Each family had a small plot of land on which its members depended economically. That made them extremely vulnerable to Israel’s abusive military and economic policies. It meant, for example, that Israeli buyers of olive oil could play Palestinian farmers off against each other, waiting them out after the late autumn’s harvest until the price fell so low it barely justified cultivating the land. But if the farmers organized and worked together, Abufarha concluded, they had enormous power.

They could become an army of amoud – as steadfast as their olive trees.

An evangelist for his revolutionary idea, Abufarha began travelling across the Jenin area, trying to persuade the farmers that they would be best served by establishing co-operatives and pooling their resources.

It was no accident that the model took hold quickly in the Jenin region. The settlements had never managed to get real purchase in the northern West Bank, and the few that did were dismantled by Ariel Sharon during his Gaza disengagement in 2005. The farmers in the Jenin area were in a relatively privileged position, suffering the lowest levels of interference from the occupation authorities.

Today Canaan has 52 villages set up as separate cooperatives, representing some 2,000 farmers.

The model’s efficiency can be gauged by recent production figures: Canaan’s farmers constitute about 2 percent of those farming olives in Palestine, but produce some 7 percent of the total crop.

The second stage was simpler. The family-run farms already largely respected fair-trade practices, and they used techniques that often accorded closely with organic cultivation. The PFTA developed the first internationally recognised fair-trade standard for olive oil, and started certifying farmers who qualified.

“Before the cooperatives, the [olive oil] buyers had been able to drive down prices and, of course with it, standards,” says Abufarha.  

“There was no government around to protect the farmers by insisting on minimum standards or price tariffs. So our job was to create the standards, adding quality and value, and thereby empower the farmers. We ensured that there was a business model that rewarded the farmers’ traditional production methods. It recognized not only the economic value of their labor but also its deeper cultural value. It understood that the Palestinian farmer is the care-keeper of a treasure we inherited, of traditions that date back thousands of years.”

Canaan Fair Trade provided the final piece of the jigsaw. It offered a central address to which the village cooperatives could sell their olive oil, guaranteed a premium price. The famers would not be selling individually to Israeli buyers but collectively to Canaan. Foreign markets eager for fair trade and organic products meant Canaan could pay the farmers a much higher price for the oil.

And Canaan would act as the international face of the farmers’ cooperative movement, developing and investing in new markets.

The wider changes on the marketing of Palestinian olive oil have been dramatic. Where once only 15 per cent of oil sold abroad was labelled as extra-virgin grade, today 80 percent is.

“There is a market abroad that identifies with the Palestinians and their struggle, but it is not the biggest one for us,” Abufarha says.

“Increasingly, people understand that there has to be a proper relationship between people and land, one that nurtures rather than ruins our planet. We have to be guardians, protecting and supporting the treasure we have here in Palestine by encouraging biodiversity.”

The name, Canaan Fair Trade, Abufarha explains, refers to the name of this region more than 3,000 years ago, one that precedes Israel’s political claims based on a presumed biblical birthright. In fact, the Canaanite culture is frequently referenced in the Bible. “We have inherited here a paradise that dates back to the time of Canaan,” he says. “We must not live exclusively in reaction to Israel and the occupation. We must draw on our own traditions and cultivate our own strengths. They are to be found in our natural environment, which is why the settlements are so intrusive and corrosive – they disrupt our sense of home.”

A convert to fair trade

A decade ago, Khader Khader was one of the youngest farmers to help establish a Canaan Fair Trade village cooperative – and one of the most sceptical. Then aged 25, he had little faith in the future of Palestinian farming. His village of Nisf Jubeil, with a mixed Muslim and Christian population of 400, nestles on the lower slopes of one of the many dome-shaped hills characteristic of this area of the central West Bank. Concealed behind the hills south of the village lies the city of Nablus. Nisf Jubeil is relatively fortunate. Close to Nablus and located in Area B, it rarely sees incursions by Israeli soldiers and there are no settlers nearby.

Nonetheless, for Khader the relentless decline in the price of olive oil had made agriculture – following in his father’s footsteps – an unappealing prospect. “Like many of the young people here, I was looking for a way to leave the village,” he says.

Khader never finished school. Instead he went in search of work in Israel and what he thought would be a better life. His dreams quickly ran up against reality. For several years he labored in an Israeli plastics factory, working more than 12 hours a day. Unable to make the journey daily, he often slept for days on end away from home, in the manufacturing plant. In 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Centre, Israel withdrew his entry permit and he was left without work.

A few years later, when Abufarha came to Nisf Jubeil to speak to the local inhabitants, only six of the village’s 40 farmers turned out. Khader tagged along with his father out of curiosity. He thought the man from Canaan Fair Trade was selling snake oil – and told him so. “It just didn’t sound plausible,” he told me as we sat in the courtyard of his farm, enjoying the small, sweet orange fruit from his loquat trees.

At the time, a liter of olive oil sold for 8 shekels [$2.20]. “It was hardly worth the effort of harvesting it,” said Khader. Abufarha was offering them at least double – 16 or 17 shekels [$4.50]. “It was too good to be true. We could respect the environment and grow organic produce, increase our yields, and get paid a price over the market rate. To be honest, I thought Nasser was going to steal from us. He would take our oil and we would never see a shekel for it.”

Nonetheless, Khader had few other options. He could no longer work in Israel, and selling on the open market would leave him without a profit.

So he started attending Canaan’s workshops, learning the steps needed to increase his yields and win organic and fair trade certification. If oil is to be certified extra-virgin, Canaan insists on the farmers picking the fruit by hand, not rakes, and transporting the crop carefully to avoid bruising. Nisf Jubeil’s farmers also learnt that, if they pooled their harvest, they would have enough olives to press each day, ensuring that the oil was fresh and less acidic.

“It was like a dream coming true. I could work my land, live with my wife and children, and make a better living than I had ever done before,” says Khader.

He and the six other farmers were soon prospering, and others from Nisf Jubeil came to ask about joining the cooperative. Prices have continued to rise, with Khader now receiving as much as 25 shekels [$6.50] a liter. He used the early profits to buy a tractor and found extra work helping other farmers with spreading manure and ploughing fields. “My village is also my family. We help each other,” he says.

It is not just Canaan’s farmers benefiting. The price of olive oil more generally has risen, improving the incomes of Palestinian farmers outside the fair-trade system.

“Because we sell abroad, we reduce the local supply, and that raises the price of the oil here,” notes Khader.

Connections overseas

Canaan hosts an annual festival called a jaru’a, where hundreds of farmers meet in Burqin to celebrate the end of the olive harvest. To accompany the tasting of the first pressed oil, taboun bread is baked in ovens fired with olive twigs and crushed pits. Together, the families enjoy traditional dishes, like maftoul, the Palestinian version of couscous, or a smoked cracked green wheat called freekeh. A Palestinian folk dance, dubka, rouses everyone to enthusiastic clapping in time to the beat.

Khader’s first jaru’a at Canaan was a revelatory moment. He had the chance to meet members of the other village cooperatives, as well as buyers from abroad and international solidarity activists who attend to offer their support. “For the first time I made all sorts of connections outside my village and realized I was part of a much larger struggle to change our situation here. It was very empowering.”

After one jaru’a, he was invited to Germany to give a series of talks on fair-trade and organic farming. He smiles as he remembers. Early on, he was introduced to someone in a business suit who looked vaguely familiar. “Suddenly, I realized he was a volunteer who had stayed with us the previous year picking the olives. He was very hard working, lived with us, and didn’t mind getting dirty. I was delighted to see him. ‘You’re looking very smart,’ I said. ‘What are you doing here?’ He told me he was the boss of the company that imports Canaan products into Germany! It made me realize that there really are people out there who want to help us.”

Khader points out that the cooperatives have benefits beyond simply improving the farmers’ economic situation. Nearly 2 percent of the price consumers pay for a bottle of olive oil is a social premium that is invested in improving the infrastructure of villages in the Canaan cooperatives, as a way to strengthen the community. In Nisf Jubeil, they have recently completed the renovation of a kindergarten and built a community center. “It is something truly life-changing for us,” says Khader, sounding as evangelical about the project as Abufarha. “It gives us a sense of security about our community and our future here.”

Canaan has helped Nisf Jubeil’s farmers in other ways. The workshops encouraged Khader to use the garden next to his parents’ farm buildings to plant fruit trees like loquat and citrus that were once an integral part of the dietary self-sufficiency of these isolated rural communities. Canaan offers micro-loans to farmers’ families to set up small businesses and has established women’s cooperatives helping more than 200 women. Khader’s wife, Ransees, now specializes in growing the local herb zaatar and raising goats. The farmers’ children are eligible for scholarships to further their education. After 10 years’ service, Canaan’s administrative staff can apply for an interest-free loan of up to $100,000 to start their own social innovation projects. And a Trees for Life program hands out 10,000 saplings a year, either to new farmers or to those needing to replace trees the Israeli army or settlers have destroyed.

Unlike many other villages, Nisf Jubeil has not suffered in the past from severe water shortages. On Khader’s family farm is a spring that supplies the village’s domestic and basic agricultural needs. But he says in the past few years the flow of water has reduced, in what he assumes to be a sign that Israel has started extracting water close by. “If we had more water, we would grow other, more water-intensive crops like cucumbers, tomatoes and courgettes. We just don’t have enough water to do it.”

With Khader’s profits, he has bought his own plot of land further down in the valley, separate from his father’s land. He is already experimenting with other fruiting trees, including plum and apricot. “My goal is to revive the many fruit trees that used to flourish in this valley but which are much harder to grow now, with water restrictions and climate change. I want to see how the trees do down here in the valley compared to the others up on the hill.”

Reviving an ancient grain

Abufarha is not resting on his laurels. When we meet, he has just returned from a discussion with farmers in Iksal, a Palestinian village just over the other side of the Green Line, in Israel, close to Nazareth. He has been exploring ways to get farmers there involved in his latest scheme: to create a sustainable market for fair-trade Palestinian almonds. To encourage farmers to plant the new crop, he installed at Burqin an almond production facility last year, the first of its kind in the Middle East. It is another major undertaking, but one he is confident will succeed.

With Canaan’s help, Nisf Jubeil’s cooperative has planted 30,000 trees in recent years. Abufarha says the almond is an ideal crop for this part of Palestine. The climate is right. The tree can survive without irrigation after the first year. And it begins bearing fruit three years after planting, meaning the farmers do not have to wait long to receive an income. “We have found a variety that is large and flat and has an excellent taste,” he says. “It thrives as a rain-fed tree, which is important when the farmers are denied access to water by Israel.”

Canaan already has 4,000 dunams [1,000 acres] of almond trees under cultivation, with more than 200 farmers in the Jenin area participating. He hopes to add another 1,000 dunams by the end of this year. Canaan harvested 100 tons last year and he expects to nearly triple that figure this year. In another five years, he expects to be producing as much as 2,000 tons annually of raw almonds. “We select a crop only if it is likely to be beneficial for the farmers and the local community. We are thinking about its social impact.”

Another international market he hopes to create is for freekeh, a wheat grain that has been cultivated in the Middle East for millennia. Once freekeh was a staple of the local diet, though in recent decades it has been largely replaced by rice.

Each spring, three weeks before the wheat harvest is complete, an unusual production ritual can be seen at freekeh farms in the West Bank. Men in flameproof clothing fire propane blow-torches to burn the immature husks, which are then removed – freekeh derives from the Arabic word for “rub” – to reveal the roasted green wheat kernels inside. Freekeh has a delicate nutty, smoked flavor.

For decades Syria was famed for its freekeh, but with a civil war raging there production levels have fallen. Now West Bank farmers have stepped in to fill the void. Ten years ago, Abufarha says, only a few farms in the West Bank produced freekeh. Last year 60 tons were harvested, and he expects that figure to keep on growing. Canaan believes that a strong market can be developed in Europe and the U.S. for the ancient, healthful grain, especially if it is produced in accordance with fair-trade and organic principles. Freekeh is high in protein and fiber, while low in calories.

Abufarha emphasizes that it is vital to market the strengths of Palestinian agriculture. “We have hundreds of thousands of people who know how to farm the land. We have a wonderful soil and climate. The airflow is good. We have tasty varieties.” Such self-declared pride reflects a new confidence in Palestine’s global image. Once the small amounts of Palestinian olive oil exported abroad were labeled “From the Holy Land” or even as from Israel. Canaan, on the other hand, proudly declares on its labels: “From Palestine, the land of milk and honey.”

All of this, however, must take place in the context of a hostile occupation.

Dozens of military orders are designed to make life as difficult as possible for farmers in Area C, where most of them reside.

One of the biggest obstacles, says Abufarha, is Israel’s severe restrictions on irrigation. Installing water pipes is illegal without Israeli permission, but the military authorities rarely issue such permits. “The farmers ignore these orders because we have no choice if we are to survive here.”

But in turn, that has created other problems. “There is no oversight of irrigation, which means lawlessness reigns. The danger is that every farmer extracts as much water as he can to improve his own yields. And that means that, if a farmer can dig deeper for water, he will destroy the prospects of his neighbors by over-extracting and drying up their wells. And because covert digging is expensive and has to be done secretly, it becomes impossible to organize water extraction as a national infrastructure project or to recruit investors. Illicit well-digging means an unstable supply and a wasteful use of a key resource. And ultimately that limits our agricultural potential.”

Abufarha notes that Palestine’s current annual olive crop is worth $200 million. “If we had access to water, it would be worth $500 million. And that is just from one crop. Palestinians were once famous for their citrus industry, but that is long gone. As are other crops like apricots and plums. And the reason is our lack of access to water. We can’t solve that problem without first ending the occupation, so we have to mitigate its effects by developing other crops, like almonds, that can survive as rain-fed rather than irrigation-fed.”

The other major difficulty – in an export-driven business – are Israeli-imposed movement restrictions, creating delays and dramatically adding to Canaan’s expenses. Trucks are loaded in Jenin and then driven a short distance to an Israeli checkpoint, where they are inspected and then off-loaded to trucks bearing Israeli number plates. The trucks then drive to the port of Haifa where they are subjected to another security inspection. Only then are they loaded on to ships for export. Shipments can be delayed at any stage, with products in constant danger of being damaged.

The extra burdens and costs make it hard for Canaan’s farmers to compete with either the global agri-businesses or with the artisanal farmers of France and Italy.

Innovation and tradition

Abufarha would like to see his model being adapted to other areas of the Palestinian economy to pull it out of its extreme dependence on international aid. “Too many civil society organizations in Palestine are chasing after donor money, worrying about what the donors want rather than developing their own ideas rooted in the reality here.”

His latest innovation is the establishment of CORE, the Canaan Organic Research and Extension center, which supports farmers developing new ideas and matches them with companies that can market their produce. CORE has already created a model farm in the village of Zababdeh, south-east of Jenin, to train farmers and agricultural students in organic crop production, sheep-rearing and bee-farming. Another project converts the engines in the farmers’ tractors to run on used felafel oil.

Canaan is not alone, either in developing Palestinian cooperatives or in selling premium products abroad – though it has produced the most successful model to date. The small Christian village of Taybeh, outside Ramallah, for example, has developed a beer – manufactured according to German purity standards – that it exports to Japan, Germany and the U.K. And cooperatives in areas like Jericho harvest and export dates, overseen by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee.

Another project very much in sympathy with Canaan’s aims is the recent creation of a Palestinian “seed bank” to preserve Palestine’s ancient agricultural heritage. Called the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, it is designed to identify crop varieties that are suited to local Palestinian conditions but threatened by the aggressive selling of hybrid varieties by agri-businesses. It seeks to educate Palestinian farmers about practices that have been almost forgotten.

The project is being led by Vivien Sansour, who served for many years as Canaan’s product relations manager.

She hopes to revive once famous varieties of cucumber, marrow and watermelon that have disappeared.

She told the Guardian newspaper in April: “There is a kind of huge watermelon, known as jadu’i, that was grown in the northern West Bank. Before 1948, it was exported around the region. It was famous in places like Syria. It has almost disappeared. One of the most exciting discoveries so far is that we found some seeds for it. They are seven years old, so we need to see if they are viable.”

Like Abufarha, she sees in traditional agricultural practices the key to holding on to an identity and way of life. “I realized that what was also under threat was something deeper – the connection to a sense of cultural identity. The songs women would sing in the fields. Phrases, even the words we use. So it is about preserving the local biodiversity, but it is also about the importance to Palestinian culture of traditional agricultural methods.”

Canaan is still innovating, even with olive oil. Its new lines include Raw Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, which is unprocessed and unfiltered, and Crush Fusions, infused with a range of herbs like zaatar, basil, chilli, or garlic and lemon.

Diane Adkin, who was until recently Canaan’s longtime agent in the U.S. and is active in the Land of Canaan Foundation, which supports Canaan’s work with Palestinian farmers, says that 10 years ago the company had little more than a website in the U.S. and a handful of activists buying its oil online. “Since then our loyal customer base from our website and through our interfaith partners has grown tremendously. They are a big part of our success.”

She adds:

“We always knew to really help Palestine we had to expand beyond the 'choir' and get into stores. We attended our first trade shows in 2008 and now we are in natural food stores and fair-trade stores across the country, as well as Whole Foods. The last few years Canaan Fair Trade has sold to even more retailers through national distributors. That means we are on the shelf in stores that are buying because we produce superb olive oil – and this so pleases our farmers. … The social trend nowadays is towards foodies who look for simple artisan foods produced organically, sustainably and fairly.”

Abufarha is equally hopeful about the future, and Palestine’s place in it.

“People are tired of the modern world’s garbage, its wars, its damage to the environment and its threats to the social fabric. These things are all connected. People want better governments and policies. Through food, Palestinians can gain a voice in this global movement for change. Palestine is part of these efforts to forge new kinds of solidarity across borders. We have the chance to let people see Palestinians in a different light, and see that we are not ‘the foreigner’. We can be a partner in a wider struggle for global justice.”