North Korea and China announce visit by Xi Jinping envoy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS AND THE NORTH KOREAN NEWS ‘DPRK’)

 

North Korea and China announce visit by Xi Jinping envoy

Unclear if illegal nuclear program is on the agenda after Donald Trump asked Chinese president to put pressure on neighbor

Donald Trump has called on Xi Jinping to rein in North Korea.
 Donald Trump has called on Xi Jinping to rein in North Korea. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

A senior Chinese diplomat will visit North Korea from Friday as a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has said, without revealing whether it is about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

China has pushed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis but in recent months has had only limited high-level exchanges with North Korea. The last time China’s special envoy for North Korea visited the country was in February 2016.

In a brief dispatch, the official Xinhua news agency said Song Tao, who heads the Communist party’s external affairs department, would “inform the DPRK of the 19th CPC National Congress and visit the DPRK”. CPC refers to China’s recently concluded Communist party congress at which Xi further cemented his power.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency confirmed the visit but said only that it would take place “soon”.

The trip will come a week after Donald Trump visited Beijing as part of a lengthy Asia tour where he pressed for greater action to rein in North Korea, especially from China, with which North Korea does 90% of its trade.

It is not clear how long Song could stay but he has already visited Vietnam and Laos to inform them of the results of the Congress, a typical courtesy China extends other communist countries after such important meetings.

It is also unclear where Song will meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Kim and Xi exchanged messages of congratulations and thanks to the Chinese party congress but neither has visited the other’s country since assuming power.

Song’s department is in charge of the party’s relations with foreign political parties and has traditionally served as a conduit for Chinese diplomacy with North Korea.

A department official said in October that China’s Communist party continued to hold talks and maintain contacts with its North Korean counterpart, describing the two countries’ friendship as important for regional stability.

China’s new special envoy for North Korea, Kong Xuanyou, who took up his position in August, is not believed to have visited the country yet.

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I appreciate there not being a pay wall: it is more democratic for the media to be available for all and not a commodity to be purchased by a few. I’m happy to make a contribution so others with less means still have access to information.Thomasine F-R.

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as $1, you can support the Guardian – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Suicide attack kills 9 in Syria’s Golan Heights (Druze) village

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

A suicide car bomb attack killed nine people in a government-held village in Syria’s Golan Heights on Friday, state media said, reporting clashes between government forces and militants afterward.

State news agency SANA said the car bomb hit the outskirts of the village of Hader, which lies near the disengagement line that divides the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan from that occupied by Israel.

“A suicide bomber from Al-Nusra Front detonated a car bomb in the midst of the village, located on the outskirts of Hader, killing nine people and injuring at least 23,” the agency said.

Al-Nusra Front is the old name for a militant group that was formerly Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and is now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front.

“In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, terrorist groups carried out a heavy attack on Hader, and army units and the Popular Defence units [pro-government militants] clashed with the attackers,” SANA added.

The agency said the toll was expected to rise because a number of those wounded in the bombing were in serious condition and the ongoing assault on the town made it difficult to remove the injured to a safe place.

Hader is a majority-Druze village and has been attacked in the past by rebel and militant groups.

It lies in southwestern Syria’s Quneitra province, around 70 per cent of which is held by either rebel or militant groups, with the government controlling the other 30pc, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

Israel seized 1,200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it, a move never recognised by the international community.

The Israeli army said on Friday that a civilian in the town of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan was lightly wounded as a result of “shots fired from Syria”.

It said the shots were “stray fire resulting from the intense fighting on the Syrian Golan Heights”.

Israeli army spokesman, Brigadier General Ronen Manelis, said the military was ready to “prevent Hader from being harmed or occupied, as part of our commitment to the Druze population”.

Nearly 140,000 members of the Druze minority, which follows a secretive offshoot of Shia sect, live in Israel and the Israeli-occupied Golan.

In Majdal Shams, residents approached the disengagement line but were prevented from crossing to support villagers in Hader by the Israeli army, which closed off the area.

Some Syrian Druze have expressed sympathy for the opposition since the start of the civil war but the community has largely been loyal to the regime.

Russia accuses US of blocking humanitarian aid in Syria

Russia on Friday accused the United States of committing a “war crime” in Syria, saying its army had denied Syrian refugees access to humanitarian aid.

“The most severe humanitarian situation remains in the Al-Tanf region,” the Russian defence ministry’s Syria reconciliation centre said, referring to a garrison where US and other foreign troops train anti-Islamic State group fighters.

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees from the Al-Rukban refugee camp on the Jordanian border are deprived of humanitarian aid because of the United States, which “illegally placed their military base there and forbids approach within 55 kilometres under the threat of death,” the centre said.

“The actions of the US military and the so-called international coalition in Al-Tanf are a gross violation of the international humanitarian law and could qualify as a war crime,” it said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.

Earlier this month Moscow accused the US of supporting IS militants and enabling them to mount counter-offensive attacks in eastern Syria from near the Al-Tanf garrison.

Al-Tanf, on the key highway connecting Damascus with Baghdad, has been repeatedly menaced by a surge of Iran-backed troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Washington says the garrison is used by US and British special forces to train rebel Syrian groups fighting IS militants.

Russia has been flying a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015 when it stepped in to support the Assad regime and tipped the conflict in his favour.

(Philosophy War/Poem) Young Soldier

Young Soldier

When we were young did we not all play

Pretending to be generals and sergeants

In our backyards or barns filled with hay

 

President Mom calling a truce

To fill our bellies with hot biscuits and ham

No foul, no harm, no spills I guess

When young, is not time and the world

Your personal sandbox of new thrills

17 am I now not a macho-he man

Jungles and deserts I now low crawl

With M-16 with M-203 in my hands

I hold my breath and tweak my sight

With one finger I squeeze the trigger

Now one less breath, one less man

 

As the earth inhales the blood

To me just one more notch

One more trophy on my butt stock

As his last breath leaves with the wind

 

Is there blood on my conscience

For the blood on that’s on hands

Not knowing that my temple

Is the target of this mans friend

17, my life is over before it began

 

 

Netizen Report: Voices of Yemen’s ‘Forgotten War’ Speak Out, Despite Legal Barriers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘GLOBAL VOICES’)

 

Netizen Report: Voices of Yemen’s ‘Forgotten War’ Speak Out, Despite Legal Barriers

An airstrike in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in May 2015. Photo by Ibrahem Qasim via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Global Voices Advocacy’s Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser was awarded this year’s International Free Press Award for her work covering the conflict in Yemen despite the many obstacles faced by journalists in the country. But Nasser, who also holds Swedish citizenship, was nearly unable to attend the awards ceremony in New York in person, because of the US travel ban on Yemeni nationals.

After three applications and many letters in support of her application, Nasser finally obtained her visa from the US Embassy in Stockholm, where she resides.

On Twitter, she remarked:

I never really had faith in the power of media & public opinion as I have today. Makes me think of people who don’t enjoy my high media profile. This is why, we need to get the tragedy in Yemen as well-known as hell so we can all help pushing an end for it!

While Nasser has done much of reporting from her home in Sweden, Yemeni journalists working on the ground face much graver obstacles.

Among them is political commentator and writer Hisham Al-Omeisy, who was detained by Houthi rebels without explanation in August 2017. This week, it was reported that Al-Omeisy was arrested on charges related to his correspondence with US-based organizations.

Al-Omeisy has been actively tweeting about the humanitarian crisis and violations committed by both warring parties in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. He also has analyzed and spoken about the conflict to international media including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and NPR.

For more than two years, a coalition of Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh (who was removed from power following street protests in 2011) have been fighting to seize power from the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi’s government is also supported by a Saudi-led airstrike campaign.

Journalists and media covering the conflict face risks from all warring parties, making it difficult for Yemenis and the outside world to get information on what’s already been described as a “forgotten war”. Placing restrictions on key voices like those of Nasser and Al-Omeisy only exacerbates the situation.

#Istanbul10 human rights defenders released pending trial

The Turkish court in Istanbul conditionally released eight of the ten human rights defenders on trial who were arrested in July 2017 on accusations of “membership in a terrorist organization” while attending an information management workshop. Among the defendants was Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey chapter. In their court testimony, multiple defendants explained that they had never even heard of the terror organizations that Turkish public prosecutors accused them of supporting.

In the days leading up to the trial, netizens tweeted in support of the #istanbul10 using the hashtag #FreeRightsDefenders. The group is expected to reappear before the court on November 22.

Pakistani political workers arrested under Electronic Crimes Act

Two political party workers were arrested by the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency, for allegedly writing posts critical of government and state institutions. The workers, who are affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) party, have been charged under the penal code along with multiple sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), which carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Ironically, the PML-N party was responsible for pushing through the controversial PECA law, despite opposition from digital rights advocates. The PML-N has been engaged in a rift with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment since August 2017, when the Supreme Court disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following a corruption inquiry into his family’s offshore wealth, sparked by the 2016 release of the Panama Papers. The Ministry of Information Technology, which was instrumental in pushing the electronic crimes law through, now admits that it has no oversight mechanism in place and the law is being misused.

Other political workers and journalists have previously been interrogated and arrested under different sections of the law as well, an indication that authorities may be using the law as a silencing tool.

Palestinian man arrested due to poor translation on Facebook

A Palestinian construction worker was arrested by Israeli police after posting a picture of himself with a bulldozer and inserting the caption, in Arabic, “good morning.” The post was erroneously translated (into Hebrew) by Facebook as “attack them.” The man has since been released, and Facebook said it is investigating the issue.

Kuwait’s Constitutional Court rejects DNA law on privacy grounds

Kuwait’s DNA law was struck down by the Constitutional Court in a decision that is being lauded as a positive step for the protection of citizens’ privacy. The law — which required all Kuwaiti citizens, residents and visitors to provide DNA samples to authorities for storage in a database operated by the Interior Ministry — was passed following a 2015 suicide bombing that killed 27 people. Anyone who refused to comply with the law faced one year in prison, a fine, and sanctions that could include canceling their passports. The emir requested the law be revised to “safeguard people’s privacy.” It is likely that Parliament will amend it so that only suspected criminals are asked to give their DNA.

Need to prove your loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party? There’s an app for that.

Apps designed by the Chinese Communist Party hit China’s Apple and Android app stores surrounding the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party. Estimates of the number of CCP apps range from dozens to up to 400, with many app developers building party apps for local party branches and party organizations. Among the apps is Smart Red Cloud, which “aims to use artificial intelligence to educate and evaluate party members” through ideology tutorials, chat functions and party-related activity notifications.

The apps disseminate information and enable the CCP to monitor and evaluate party members’ political orientation. At least one state-owned company, the China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group, ranks party members on a monthly and weekly basis in response to scores on tests of party knowledge, penalizing users who perform poorly and rewarding those who perform well.

Chelsea Manning turned away at Canadian border

Chelsea Manning was turned away at the Canadian border while trying to vacation in Montreal and Vancouver. The former US military officer and leaker of documents demonstrating human rights violations committed by the US government in the Iraq war was detained overnight and told she was inadmissible “on grounds of serious criminality.” A Canadian lawyer representing Manning has submitted a formal request asking the government to reconsider its decision. More than 40 human rights organizations and academics sent letters to the Canadian government in support ofthe human rights activist.

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How Dare Israel Blow Up Hamas Tunnels That Are In Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

A mourner reacts as Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants hold their weapons during the funeral of their comrades killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2017. —AFP
A mourner reacts as Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants hold their weapons during the funeral of their comrades killed in an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnel stretching from the Gaza Strip into Israel, in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on October 31, 2017. —AFP

Tensions rose on Tuesday after an Israeli operation to blow up a tunnelfrom the Gaza Strip killed seven Palestinian militants in one of the deadliest incidents since a devastating 2014 war.

The seven men, from the armed wings of Gaza’s rulers Hamas and allied group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, were killed on Monday when Israel blew up the tunnel it said had crossed into its territory and was intended for attacks.

They were being buried on Tuesday in their respective neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya appeared at a funeral in central Gaza attended by a few thousand people, witnesses said, while senior Hamas figure Khalil al-Hayya spoke at one in the southern part of the strip.

“(Hamas) knows how to manage the conflict with the enemy and how to get revenge and strike at the time and place that hurts the enemy,” Hayya said, according to a statement.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since 2008 and the last conflict in 2014 was waged in part over tunnels from Gaza that were used to carry out attacks.

Israel said it had been monitoring the digging of the tunnel for an unspecified length of time and was forced to act after “the grave and unacceptable violation of Israeli sovereignty.”

It said the operation was carried out on the Israeli side of the border and stressed it was not seeking a further escalation.

No tunnel opening had been found on the Israeli side of the border. It had come from the vicinity of the city of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, Israeli’s military said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday his country would “not tolerate any attacks on our sovereignty, on our people, on our land, whether from the air, from the sea, from the ground, or below the ground”.

“We attack those who seek to attack us.”

Sensitive moment

The operation comes at a sensitive time, with rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas pursuing a reconciliation accord aimed at ending their 10-year rift.

Hamas is due to hand over control of the enclave’s borders to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Wednesday under the deal mediated by Egypt and signed on October 12.

It is due to return the Gaza Strip to full PA control by December 1.

Both Haniya and Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah spoke of ensuring the reconciliation pact remains on track.

“The response to this massacre… is to move forward towards the restoration of national unity because the enemy realises our strength is our unity,” Haniya said.

Senior PA official Mustafa Barghouti accused Israel of trying to disrupt the reconciliation bid.

Separately in the West Bank on Tuesday, Israeli forces opened fire on a “suspect” vehicle, killing one Palestinian and wounding another, Israel’s army and the Palestinian health ministry said. There did not appear to be any connection.

Hamas forces have used tunnels in the past to enter Israel and carry out attacks, but discoveries of those stretching into Israeli territory since the end of the 2014 war have been rare.

In April 2016, Israel’s military said it had located and destroyed a tunnel extending from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the first such discovery since the 2014 conflict.

First test of unity

An Israel army spokesman said on Monday that Israel used advanced technology to locate the tunnel but declined to elaborate.

The army has been seeking to build an underground wall surrounding Gaza that would block such tunnels, among other methods it has been developing.

Israeli leaders have been keen to show they are addressing the threat of tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

A state inquiry in February accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top army brass of being unprepared for the tunnels used by Hamas during the 2014 conflict.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since a near civil war with Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, in 2007.

Since then they have fought three wars with Israel, while Gaza’s two million citizens have suffered as Israel has blockaded the strip.

Egypt’s border with the enclave has also remained largely closed in recent years.

Wednesday’s scheduled handover of the border crossings is a first key test of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal.

Israel has said it will reject any unity government that includes Hamas if the group does not disarm and recognise the country, among other demands.

During the 2014 war, 32 tunnels were discovered, including 14 that extended into Israel, according to a UN report on the conflict.

The devastating conflict killed 2,251 Palestinians, while more than 10,000 were wounded and 100,000 were left homeless.

On the Israeli side, 74 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers.

225,000 Hungarian Holocaust Victims Identified

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Yad Vashem identifies 225,000 Hungarian Holocaust victims

The Holocaust museum’s specially trained team pored over pages of records, mapping forgotten victims no one cared to document on the way to their deaths

Hungarian Jews were marched down Wesselenyi Street in the heart of Budapest's Jewish Quarter, on their way to be deported to Auschwitz. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

Hungarian Jews were marched down Wesselenyi Street in the heart of Budapest’s Jewish Quarter, on their way to be deported to Auschwitz. (Bundesarchiv Bild)

Born in Budapest in 1937, Chayim Herzl remembers being taken by his mother Eugenia to visit his father Reuven Salgo at a labor camp outside the city in 1943.

“My hand was small, and I was able to pass some food to him through the fence. That was the last time I saw him,” said Herzl.

He lost his mother in early 1945 when men from Hungary’s Arrow Cross took her  from their safe house outside the ghetto, organized by diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, while he hid under the bed.

Having lost his father at age six and mother at eight, Herzl has only fleeting memories of his parents. Now, thanks to a comprehensive decade-long project to collect names of Hungarian Holocaust victims, completed in a collaboration between Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum Yad Vashem and funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, Herzl has regained something he calls, “indescribably priceless” — information.

Through the project, Herzl learned that his father died just days before the end of the war in a POW death march, after having been forced into a labor corps in the Hungarian army fighting on the Eastern front. Beyond that, he now has a document with his father’s signature. The signature, his father’s orthographic fingerprint, is the only piece of his father’s writing Herzl owns.

“Through the efforts of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project in Hungary, I was finally able to find a sense of closure in knowing what happened to my father. Finding a document containing his signature is evidence to the world that my father lived and a testimony to the tragic fate that befell him and so many Hungarian Jews,” said Herzl.

“The job is not yet complete: My mother, from the day she was taken from me, has vanished from the face of the earth and remains among the undocumented. I know that Yad Vashem is committed to leaving no stone unturned in the effort to identify as many Holocaust victims as possible,” Herzl told The Times of Israel.

Chayim Herzl (Salgo) was born in 1937 in Budapest, Hungary, the only child of Reuven (Rudolf) and Eugenia (Geni) Salgo, née Herzl. (courtesy Yad Vashem)

Ten years ago, approximately 40 percent of Hungarian victims were identified after the advances made by Holocaust historian and Holocaust survivor Serge Klarsfeld. Klarsfeld in the 1980s launched the Nevek Project, gathering names from lists of prisoners of forced labor and concentration camps during WWII. Due to funding and bureaucratic issues, he abandoned his project.

Building on Klarsfeld’s Nevek Project, Yad Vashem-trained historians have added some 225,000 victims’ names over the past 10 years of intensive research. This major project was funded by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah and supported by the late French politician and Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, who served as its first president. On Thursday, Yad Vashem hosted an event that included a special tribute to Veil.

“Simone Veil saw special importance in the collection of names of Hungarian Jews. She witnessed firsthand the arrival and extermination of Hungary’s Jews at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was important to her that their identities be memorialized and therefore decided to support this important initiative,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.

But the scope of Yad Vashem’s Names Collection project goes well beyond identifying Jewish Hungarian victims. It is, to date, the largest project Yad Vashem has undertaken and represents a holistic approach to collecting information and documents that far surpasses previous efforts.

“This is the most successful project that Yad Vashem’s Archives has undertaken. The holistic approach of the project has become a model for other endeavors we are currently promoting in the name-gathering process, in particular the Polish Names Project, and we hope that with the continued support of the French Foundation we will achieve similar results to those we obtained in collecting names of Jewish victims from Hungary,” said Shalev.

In addition to Poland, which has signed a cooperation agreement with the institution, Yad Vashem is implementing the information-gathering model it founded in Hungary to its names recovery efforts in the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Balkan States.

In conversation with The Times of Israel Thursday, Dr. Alexander Avram, director of the Hall of Names and the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names, explained the project’s procedures and resonance.

Eugenia (Geni) Salgo, née Herzl, mother of Chayim Herzl (Salgo). (Courtesy Yad Vashem)

Unlike the initial goals of the Nevek Project of attaching a name to every victim, the Yad Vashem project “has revealed part of their individual stories, and in some cases, for the first time was able to connect a rare photograph with the name of the faceless murdered,” said Avram.

The intensive work began in 2007 and was conducted under the leadership of three Yad Vashem historians who trained a staff of some 20 researchers who were on-the-ground in Greater Hungary: Hungary, Slovakia, parts of Romania, Serbia, and Transylvania. Through special diplomatic agreements forged with the Hungarian government in 2005 and 2006, said Avram, the researchers were granted full access to all state archives for this specific project.

“It is not easy in these countries to find documentation about the Holocaust and Jews,” said Avram. “They are no key words for catalogues; there is no archive in Europe that has a topic ‘Holocaust’ and catalogues for this or for Jews.”

The team pored over archive material from all sorts of offices — including the Ministries of the Interior, Defense and Agriculture — “page by page, to map those documents important to Jews and the Holocaust,” he said. The important pages were scanned and sent to Yad Vashem, which is in the process of uploading the pages into its database.

The team, trained by Yad Vashem, must be fluent in Hungarian, and have skills in German, Romanian, Serbian and other languages of the region to decipher the handwriting of the pre-World War II documents.

In December, the intensive research collection is finishing, but the team will continue to decipher documents to add more names and stories into the database.

“In our database we have 4,700,000 names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. That means that more than 1 million who are not identified,” said Avram. Whereas in central and western Europe some 95% of the victims documented as Jews were arrested, sent to transit camps, and then on to death camps, in eastern Europe there is less of a paper trail.

A Hungarian Jewish woman and young children walk towards the gas chambers in Auschwitz. (Budesarchiv Bild)

Although he said the teams of researchers at Yad Vashem will continue to document victims, it is important to note, said Avram, that the teams have “exhausted most of the easy sources, and now look for names scattered in less unexplored sources where they will sometimes read a book of 500 pages to reach four or five names.”

“We are focusing our efforts in the countries where we have a more significant gap in names of victims,” said Avram. In Hungary, for example, although there were organized transports, “nobody cared to register the names of the Jews on the transports,” he said.

Like the case for Herzl, who discovered his father’s fate through the Yad Vashem project, Avram hopes to find more than mere monikers for the remainder of the victims.

“We can sometimes build a personal story. Previous attempts were to document names of victims; in this project we are trying to go further than that,” he said, and transform the name into a person.

READ MORE:

Israel-Hezbollah war is inevitable, sure to be devastating

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel-Hezbollah war is inevitable, sure to be devastating — defense experts

International High Level Military Group paints grim picture of potential conflict between Jewish state, Iran-backed terror group, and what, if anything, can prevent it

Soldiers evacuate a wounded comrade during the Second Lebanon War, on July 24, 2006 (Haim Azoulay/ Flash 90/ File)

Soldiers evacuate a wounded comrade during the Second Lebanon War, on July 24, 2006 (Haim Azoulay/ Flash 90/ File)

A war between Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group is inevitable, though not necessarily imminent, and will be unavoidably bloody for both sides, according to an assessment by a number of former generals from around the world, known collectively as the High Level Military Group.

In an extensive report, published Wednesday, the organization details both the IDF’s and Hezbollah’s reorganization in the 11 years following the Second Lebanon War, the last time the sides engaged in all-out combat with one another. The High Level Military Group (HLMG) also describes the strategies each side will use in the apparently approaching war, as well as the potential pratfalls of those plans.

“Hezbollah doesn’t want a conflict to break out at present, given it is still seeking to consolidate its gains in Syria and continue preparations in Lebanon. However, its actions and propaganda suggest that it considers its ability to fight a war with Israel as a given,” according to the report.

A Hezbollah fighter stands behind an empty rocket launcher, May 22, 2010. (AP/Hussein Malla)

“The timing of such a conflict is likely to be determined by miscalculation as much as decision-making in Iran and Lebanon.”

The group said that should such a war break out, it will likely be “more violent and destructive than the previous ones,” due to the improvements that both sides have made to their respective military capabilities in the interim.

The report, “Hezbollah’s terror army: How to prevent a third Lebanon war,” offers limited recommendations for avoiding such a conflict, instead painting it as a war waiting to happen.

The retired generals and defense officials from the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Colombia, India, and Australia who make up the HLMG also express significant criticism of the United Nations for its “evident severe failure” to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War, a dereliction that they credit with exacerbating the situation.

The former military leaders found that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon peacekeeping mission is not enforcing the aspects of Resolution 1701 that are meant to keep armed non-state actors like Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon.

The 76-page report, which is based on interviews solely with Israeli representatives during a fact-finding mission, comes to many of the same conclusions as those of Israeli defense officials. In preparing the assessment, the HLMG did not meet with Lebanese, Hezbollah, or UN officials.

Yet the High Level Military Group maintains that its assessments are “based purely on the accumulated military and strategic experience of its members.”

Colonel Richard Kemp speaks at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 29, 2015 (courtesy UN Watch/ Oliver O’Hanlon)

The HLMG, which includes a former chairman of the NATO military committee, a former chief of staff of the Italian army, a former US ambassador-at-large on war crimes, a former director-general of the Indian Defense Intelligence Agency and the outspoken Israel supporter Col. (res.) Richard Kemp of the British military, was created by the Friends of Israel Initiative, a group founded by former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar in 2010 to fight an “unprecedented campaign of delegitimization against Israel.”

This is not the group’s first foray into Israeli security. In December 2015, the organization also released a report that defended the IDF’s actions during the previous year’s Gaza war, finding that the army had abided by the rules of armed conflict and even surpassed them.

Hezbollah is all grown up

Hezbollah was founded in 1985, three years after the start of the First Lebanon War. It was created with Iranian support, and began killing Israeli soldiers stationed in IDF outposts in southern Lebanon with anti-tank missiles, improvised explosive devices, and small arms fire.

Over time, however, the group grew from a terrorist nuisance to a full-scale nemesis with significant sway in domestic Lebanese politics. What was once a two-bit terrorist group now represents the benchmark by which the IDF measures its preparedness.

Supporters of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah watch a video screening of a speech by the group’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, to mark the 11th anniversary of the end of the 2006 war with Israel, in the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon, August 13, 2017. (AFP/Mahmoud ZAYYAT)

In its report, the former generals and defense officials describe Hezbollah as being “widely considered to be the most powerful non-state armed actor in the world.”

As the Lebanese terrorist group has taken part in the fighting on behalf of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, it has gotten stronger through combat experience and improved access to advanced weaponry from its benefactor, Iran.

“Hezbollah has the political clout of a government, the firepower of an army and the strategic approach of a terrorist organization,” according to the report.

Israel believes that Hezbollah maintains a force of approximately 25,000 full-time fighters — 5,000 of which underwent advanced training in Iran — with another at least 20,000 fighters in reserve units.

A Hezbollah armored vehicle sits at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

The terrorist army boasts of possessing attack drones, air defense systems, armored personnel carriers and even tanks. It is also believed to have the Yakhont shore-to-sea missile, with which it can threaten Israeli Navy ships.

But its weapons of choice are missiles and rockets, which it has been amassing and improving, with Iranian assistance, at a fantastic rate.

Hezbollah is believed to possess between 100,000 and 150,000 projectiles, most of them short range. Israeli officials assess that in a future war, the terrorist group would be able to sustain a firing rate of over 1,000 missiles per day.

Increasingly, the IDF believes, the group has been focusing on making its missiles more precise so that it can direct attacks to key Israeli strategic sites.

Israeli explosives experts inspect a Hezbollah rocket after it landed in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, August 9, 2006. (Max Yelinson /Flash90)

“Thus, not only has the sheer numeric scale of the threat increased exponentially, but the lethality is greatly increased on account of larger payloads, range and higher targeting accuracy,” the HLMG wrote in its report.

Israel has been working to counter that threat through advanced missile defense systems like the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Patriot and Arrow. But military officials regularly stress that these batteries will not provide perfect, hermetic protection.

On the defensive side, Hezbollah has been embedding itself in the southern Lebanese civilian population “for tactical advantage (making the IDF hesitate to attack) and strategic advantage (using images of civilian harm to delegitimize the IDF),” according to the report.

The HLMG said that Hezbollah “transformed almost every Shiite village in the country’s south into a military asset.”

Inside and under those villages, Hezbollah is believed to have prepared extensive fighting positions from which it could confront the more powerful IDF.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has also threatened that the terrorist group would not be fighting alone, but would have the support of Iran-backed militias in Syria and other fighters from across the Middle East. This which would force the Israeli army to fight on two fronts or even more, if Hamas in Gaza joins in the conflict as well.

Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah gather in the southern town of Nabatiyeh on May 24, 2015 (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

But the terrorist group has another advantage: the Israeli citizenry is unaccustomed to and unprepared for sustained conflict.

A man inspects the damage to a house following a rocket attack by terrorists from the Gaza Strip on the Israeli town of Yehud, beside Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 22, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Policymakers expressed concerns about how prepared the Israeli public is for the level of devastation that would be wrought in a major military clash with Hezbollah,” the HLMG wrote.

“Younger Israelis are less familiar with the threat of direct attack than older generations, and Israel’s success in neutralizing less sophisticated rockets fired from Gaza may have led to inflated expectations of its capacity to intercept the volume of rockets likely to be fired by Hezbollah.”

The IDF’s nothing to scoff at either

While Hezbollah’s arsenal contains “more rockets than many European armies,” according to the HLMG report, Israel’s military is considered by many analysts to be the most powerful in the Middle East.

Israel’s first two F-35 stealth fighter jets on their maiden flight as part of the Israeli Air Force on December 13, 2016. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Israel is equipped with the most advanced fighter jets, high-tech armed drones, and is widely assumed to be a nuclear weapons power,” the retired generals and defense officials wrote.

“Statistical data available for 2014 suggests that the IDF has 410,500 active frontline personnel, 3,657 tanks, and 989 aircraft.”

Israel has also dramatically improved its intelligence on the terrorist group in the 11 years since the Second Lebanon War, an important development, as a severe shortage of accurate information has been blamed for causing many of the conflict’s failures.

By combining the overwhelming military force at its disposal and the intelligence required to direct it, the IDF would seek to end a future war quickly, before the Israeli home front would sustain heavy casualties.

“However, as a potential conflict progresses, it will become harder for Israel’s military superiority to translate into battlefield victory,” according to the HLMG.

In their report, the former generals wrote that Israeli officials told them they expect there to be “thousands of casualties in Lebanon, many of whom will be civilians despite the IDF adhering to the highest standards of the Law of Armed Conflict.”

Conspicuously, while the High Level Military Group provides a general estimate of Lebanese casualties, it offers no such assessment of Israeli civilian deaths, beyond saying that the number is “likely to far exceed previous conflicts.” (There were 50 Israeli civilian deaths in the 1982 Lebanon War, and 46 in the 2006 conflict.)

Hezbollah is Lebanon, or is it?

One of the lingering questions in the High Level Military Group’s report is how Israel perceives the country of Lebanon, if it is fundamentally intertwined with Hezbollah or distinct from it.

“During the HLMG fact-finding, it was clear that an intense policy debate in Israel’s upper echelons increasingly sees some senior voices making the case that a conflict should probably be conceived as including the state of Lebanon as an adversary,” the former generals wrote.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, October 22, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky)

For instance, Education Minister Naftali Bennett has been leading the charge that the two cannot be separated and that Lebanese national infrastructure should also be counted as a legitimate military target in a future war.

This was not the case in the 2006 Lebanon War, when the IDF’s policy was to differentiate between Lebanon and Hezbollah, but developments inside the Arab country could change that.

In its report, the HLMG noted an “increasingly symbiotic relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces,” which is believed to include intelligence sharing, as well as material cooperation.

Lebanese soldiers sit atop an armored personnel carrier in the eastern town of Ras Baalbek on August 21, 2017, after returning from fighting against Islamic State. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

“Israel shared evidence with the HLMG that suggests that at least some military equipment which the LAF receives from international patrons, including the United States, ultimately finds its way into the hands of Hezbollah units,” the retired generals wrote.

However, some analysts, who are not cited in the HLMG document, make the case, against the view of Bennett and other Israeli officials that Lebanon is Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is Lebanon.

One of these is David Daoud, a researcher analyst for the United Against a Nuclear Iran think tank and advocacy group, who argues that by attacking Lebanese national infrastructure, Israel could end up helping Hezbollah by proving to the Lebanese population that the terrorist group is, as it claims, the country’s defender against the “Zionist regime.”

Peacekeepers with their hands tied behind their back

The HLMG puts significant focus on the role and failures of UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon.

The international force is generally seen by Israel to be feckless and incapable, or at least unwilling, to take serious action against Hezbollah’s force build-up, while in Lebanon the group is perceived by many as being a shill for the IDF.

A Spanish UNIFIL peacekeeper drives an armored vehicle in the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, near the border with Israel, on January 19, 2015. (AFP/Mahmoud Zayyat)

UNIFIL’s activities in southern Lebanon are dictated by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which, among other things, calls for no non-state armed forces to occupy positions south of Lebanon’s Litani River.

According to the HLMG, the United Nations force understands Resolution 1701 “in a very narrow sense with regards to the authority to search for weapons in Lebanon and curtail the activity of armed groups.”

A new and improved mandate is required to address the situation

Israel, and now the HLMG, argue that this mandate should be interpreted more broadly, which would allow UNIFIL to curb Hezbollah’s efforts to prepare for war by actively preventing the terror group from possessing weapons south of the Litani, with force if necessary.

“A new and improved mandate is required to address the situation,” according to the report.

What else can be done?

Beyond granting UNIFIL broader powers, the High Level Military Group offers scant advice for preventing a future conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.

What advice is offered is relatively vague, with no specifics to implement or mention of its feasibility. The main recommendation is to address not Hezbollah, but its patron.

“The international community must take actions to curtail Iran’s activities, raise the cost of its behavior and engage in efforts at deterrence,” the group wrote.

In terms of Hezbollah specifically, the High Level Military Group calls for Western nations to cease distinguishing the terror group’s political and terrorist wings.

The international community must take actions to curtail Iran’s activities

The former generals and defense officials also encourage the United States to make any future aid arrangements with Lebanon contingent “on a plan to strip Hezbollah of its de facto status as the leading force in the country.”

More generally, the HLMG calls for the West to “strongly support Israel in its efforts to de-escalate the tensions.”

READ MORE:

Iran Recruits Afghans to Defend Assad, their Numbers Are a ‘Military Secret’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Iran Recruits Afghans to Defend Assad, their Numbers is a ‘Military Secret’

Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 – 08:15
Syrian pro-regime forces hold a position in Aleppo’s Sheikh Saeed district, on December 12, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / GEORGE OURFALIAN)
Kabul – London – Asharq Al-Awsat

Fleeing grinding poverty and unemployment, thousands of Afghan Shi’ites have been recruited by Iran to defend the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.

“For me it was just about money,” Shams, a former fighter, told Agence France Presse.

Hurman Rights Watch says the Iranians refuse to provide accurate figures, but estimates there are nearly 15,000 Afghans fighting for Fatemiyoun.

Shams, a 25-year-old member of the Hazara ethnic group, went to Syria twice in 2016 to fight in a conflict that has now been raging for more than six years.

“I went there (Iran) because I was jobless and it was a way to get money for my family,” said Shams.

“My idea was to find a job in Iran. I had no plan to go to fight in Syria but after a month of being jobless I decided to go.

“They were encouraging us saying ‘you will be a freedom fighter and if you return to Iran alive you can stay with a 10-year residence permit’.”

Afghan Shi’ites are given 1.5 million toman (about $450) to register at a recruitment center for the Fatemiyoun, Shams said. Once they have signed up they receive three million toman a month, a fortune for many poor Afghans.

Shams’ first mission was in June 2016 in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he was assigned to protect a barracks for two months.

He went back to the country in September and was deployed to Aleppo, where he was given his first AK-47 after receiving rudimentary weapons training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

On the front line of the battle between ISIS militants and Al-Nusra Front group, Shams said he found himself caught up in an intense and deadly battle.

“In Aleppo we faced an ambush — out of 100 fighters we lost almost all of them. There were 15 of us left alive,” Shams said.

“The bodies were sent back to Iran and the families in Afghanistan held funeral ceremonies in mosques without a coffin or grave.”

Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council, estimates more than 760 Afghans have been killed in Syria since September 2013.

The number of Afghans fighting for the Fatemiyoun is a “military secret,” said Ramazan Bashardost, a Hazara member of parliament in Kabul.

“They are used by the Iranian government, which treats them like slaves,” he said.

“The sorrow, pain and hunger of the people is not a major concern of the Afghan government,” he added.

So, Racca Syria Is Free Of ISIS: Now What? What Has Been Won? What Has Been Lost

So, Racca Syria Is Free Of ISIS: Now What? What Has Been Won? What Has Been Lost?

 

It is not easy to choose a starting point from the anneals of time when the subject matter is the Ancient City of Racca Syria. Here in the U.S. we tend to think that something from the 1800’s is old and something pre Columbus is ancient history. I chose to start this article in the year of our Lord 639 A.D.. Think about it for a moment, this is more than 1,000 years before the birth of George Washington.

 

I am not going to try to turn this article to you into some type of a history lesson. To be able to catch the essence and history of Racca would take Albums, not paragraphs. In 639 an Islamic Army took the city. Folks, that’s 1,378 years ago. This tidbit of information is for those who are new to the subject as this event happened 1,137 before the Americans signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Folks, Racca was on the “World Heritage Site” list. Racca was a huge piece of human history, now it is gone. Now, what do the teachers of these next few generations teach to these children? What is their History now? I guess their history will have to be broken into the ‘before Revolution, and after Revolution’ segments. What horrible history we leave onto our children as each generation only gets harder on those entering it. How can some deny that depression is the young with no hope of survival and the old who quietly await their own death?

 

Since Christ walked the Earth 2,000 years ago I wonder, how many people have died within 10 square miles of the city of Racca? Just in this past 6+ years, how many? Folks this is sickness, this is madness, how much blood must be spilled? The sad answer to this question is, there is no end, some are simply enraged with hate. The latest emblem of this hate is called ISIS, Daesh and a few other local names. Racca was the Capital City of ISIS new Caliphate, now it is not. Now the (SDF) (Syrian Democratic Forces) backed by U.S. Special Forces have taken control of all of Racca.

 

My question to you today is simple, have you seen the before and after pictures of cities like Racca Syria where Culture had flourished over about 1,400 years? World Heritage Site folks, now it is but rubble. Now that ‘our’ forces who control Racca are anti Syrian Government, how do things get any better here? The Kurdish people who are spear heading this ‘SDF’ have already been back stabbed by the American government once this week on their voting issue. Now, for the Americans to continue to be involved they would have to come into direct contact with the Syrian government forces and the forces of Russia, Iran and even Iraqi soldiers. So, we leave this pile of rubble over to the Syrian Government without a fight and request that our Kurdish ‘Friends’ do the same, without a fight, or the U.S. will desert the Kurdish people once again, leaving them to be slaughtered by the Syrians, Russians and Iranians.

 

Whom ever comes out the Ruler of this region of the world ‘Racca’, has no chance of being what it was before 2010, ever. The beauty it once had is gone, now it is only in memories and old pictures. So folks, now what? I believe that the end result is that Racca will remain as part of Syria for the foreseeable future. Yet even if Russia, Iran the E.U. or even the U.S., became Landlords of the Racca area, how do you rebuild it now? Your people need jobs, the Governments must step up with trillions of dollars to rebuild their own infrastructure from the ground up. They must employ their citizens, have them doing the rebuilding of their own homes, their won businesses, their own Stores. The rest of the world cannot ignore the great chance for investment, even if it is only available to companies of Islamic Culture. Then I still ask you, the people who care about Racca and who can afford to, please try to help the people who have been stuck there for the past few years. To my way of thinking Racca should be at least as important to the Islamic Nations as Puerto Rico would be if decimated by a powerful Hurricane. What this means to the people and what it means to a government is normally two different Creatures aren’t they? For any quality of life to exist there again, all sides who care will be working together for the good of all, or they with will die together, by the thousands. So, is there hope, for rebuilding Racca? We shall see what we shall see is what a good friend used to say. Today’s time is tomorrows history.

 

 

 

 

How the Vietnam War prepared Puerto Ricans to confront crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘WAGINGNONVIOLENCE.ORG)

 

How the Vietnam War prepared Puerto Ricans to confront crisis

Members of Movimiento Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico picket the White House in March of 1965. (Claridad / Biblioteca Digital UPR Río Piedras)

This week, as Puerto Ricans feel once again like a White House afterthought, it is hard not to conclude that Puerto Rico matters to Washington only when mainland political and business leaders need to conscript the island itself for some larger financial or military purpose.

Consider the impact of Vietnam War policy on Puerto Rico. Thanks to a new Ken Burns documentary and Hurricane Maria, the headlines have us talking simultaneously about Vietnam and Puerto Rico for the first time in 50 years. Today, few Americans remember the impact of the Vietnam War on Puerto Rico. Yet the war struck the island with the force of a political hurricane, tearing at Puerto Rico’s social fabric, raising the same questions of colonialism that are again in the news in the wake of Maria, and fueling its independence movement.

Not unlike Puerto Rico’s recent fiscal crisis, the Vietnam War brought into sharp relief the island’s unequal status as a territory of the United States, particularly after President Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in 1965. Draft-age men in Puerto Rico were subject to the Selective Service Act and called for induction into the U.S. military — even though they had no representative in the Congress that passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and even though many did not speak English.

A political cartoon published by Claridad in August of 1968.

As a result, Puerto Rico’s independence movement quickly condemned the war and called for widespread draft resistance. In July 1965, Claridad, the newspaper of the Movimiento Pro-Independencia de Puerto Rico, or MPI, published its first antiwar and anti-draft column, stating: “Because Puerto Rico is an American colony, Puerto Ricans are obligated to serve in that country’s army, are used like cannon fodder in imperialist wars carried out against defenseless peoples, wars in which Puerto Rico has no interest.”

One week later the MPI called on Puerto Ricans to resist the draft and condemned American aggression in Vietnam as a guerra sucia — a “dirty war” — against “the heroic people of Vietnam.” In response, students for the first time protested outside the Selective Service’s offices in San Juan.

Soon, the MPI likened its own quest for independence with that of the United States’ enemy in Vietnam. As reported in Claridad, the MPI “expressed its full solidarity with the National Liberation Front in its just fight for independence from North American imperialist dominance” and called on the United States to honor the 1954 Geneva Accords, to withdraw from Vietnam, and “guarantee the independence and neutrality of all of Indochina.”

For the MPI, the draft represented a “blood tax,” a “taxation without representation” that Americans aware of their own revolutionary heritage should have understood. Independentistas pointed to the composition of local draft boards (which were called “juntas” in Spanish) as proof. According to Selective Service Director Lewis Hershey, draft boards were “little groups of neighbors,” best suited to look out for America’s sons. But the MPI complained that the local boards were made up of “members of the richest families, statehood proponents … members of the Lions Club, Rotary, Exchange, Citizens for State 51 and other fiends” who “funneled” the poor into the military. These draft board members were Puerto Rican mandarins, agents of the colonizers.

An image published in the Fall of 1970 by the U.S. Committee for Justice to Latin American Political Prisoners.

In 1965 and 1966, long before a coordinated draft resistance movement took shape stateside, 33 members of MPI and two others refused to be inducted. Prosecutors indicted them promptly. When they went to trial in federal court, the proceedings were conducted in English — which often meant that some of the best Puerto Rican lawyers were unavailable — and if one wanted to appeal a conviction, the appeal was heard 2,700 miles away, in Boston, also in English.

In August 1966, the first Puerto Rican draft resistance case, that of Sixto Alvelo Rodriguez, came to trial. Alvelo won support not only from the MPI — which enlisted the radical New York law firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, and Standard for his defense — but also from mainstream supporters who formed Comite de Defense Sixto Alvelo. More than 200 students signed a statement in support of Alvelo, pledging that they, too, would refuse induction. In September, the court asked Alvelo’s draft board to re-induct him (it never did) and dismissed his case and all other MPI draft resistance cases.

The independence movement interpreted the court’s ruling as a major political victory. The MPI speculated that Alvelo’s case revealed “one of the most tyrannical manifestations of our colonial subjugation” and that Washington had backed down in the face of the threat of thousands of induction refusals in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans attending the Fifth Annual Youth Conference of the Pro Independence Movement in Santurce on January 21, 1967. (Claridad / El Mundo, Biblioteca Digital UPR Río Piedras)

At the same time, however, the Selective Service continued to call Puerto Rican men for induction, and support for the draft resistance movement continued to go mainstream. On Mother’s Day in 1967, Puerto Rican mothers organized a protest against the draft in San Juan. The Puerto Rican Bar Association passed a resolution in 1968 calling for the exemption of Puerto Ricans from compulsory U.S. military service, and one year later, the Puerto Rican Episcopal Church passed a resolution at its Diocesan Convention condemning both the war and the conscription of Puerto Ricans.

Federal prosecutors ultimately indicted more than 100 Puerto Rican men, most of whom were convicted. On the day that Edwin Feliciano Grafals — a 26-year-old MPI member who described himself as a “nonreligious conscientious objector” — became the first Puerto Rican draft resister convicted since World War II, students at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras burned down the campus ROTC building. Six weeks later, 10,000 Puerto Ricans marched through San Juan protesting against the draft. “This is the time to decide; you’re either a Yanqui or you’re a Puerto Rican,” MPI leader Juan Mari Bras told the crowd. “Not one more Puerto Rican should convert himself into a criminal by fighting against the Vietnamese people.”

In the end, Puerto Rico’s draft resistance did not end the Vietnam War nor did it win independence. But it did help to prevent further escalation of the war in 1968, and it brought many Puerto Ricans both to the antiwar movement and to the cause of independence. Moreover, draft resistance in Puerto Rico combined with draft resistance throughout the United States to compel the Nixon administration to introduce a draft lottery and, ultimately, end conscription altogether.

Protest against the draft in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States worked because it targeted an institution that few could defend as fair. Today, with the federal government seemingly unable to deliver post-hurricane relief to Puerto Rico in a manner equal to its assistance in Texas and Florida, we have yet one more example of discrimination against a people who right now need only compassion, sympathy and generous aid.

The devastation of Puerto Rico’s recent fiscal crisis (a crisis rooted in mainland lending policies) has now been compounded by natural disaster. It is in moments like these when, as during the Vietnam War, the second-class treatment of Puerto Rico by Washington is most obvious. The island itself has been treated as a conscript by successive U.S. governments for more than a century, for far too long.

The question is how islanders will respond to Washington this time. Will they protest? If so, what form will the protest take? Now may be a good time, in fact, for Puerto Ricans (and for the rest of us) to look to the island’s resistance to the Vietnam War as a model worth following. Fifty years later, it is worth remembering the place of Puerto Rican draft resisters in the American tradition of dissent. And it is worth remembering its place in a tradition of resistance to American colonialism. By escalating protest against the war and by risking their own freedom, Puerto Rican draft resisters kept alive the notion that resistance is a valid mode of citizenship.

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