Victory of a Nation or Defeat ???

In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
Marriage is a “keystone of our social order,” Justice Kennedy said, adding that the plaintiffs in the case were seeking “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

The decision, which was the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, set off jubilation and tearful embraces across the country, the first same-sex marriages in several states, and resistance — or at least stalling — in others. It came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of the unions.

Courtesy: New York Times

A Perpetual Wait for Justice

Kashmir – a paradise on earth, a land full of beauty; snowcapped mountains, rivers and green hills. But, the truth is that, the ivory white of the snow has red blood gashes in stark contrast. The gushing rivers carry bodies of brutally killed people and the green hills echo the screams of women being abused, losing their everything to the bestiality of the Indian armed forces. Mass killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual abuse to political repression and suppression of freedom of speech has become an integral part of the day-to-day life. Indian administered portion of Kashmir is suffering every moment. The utter violation of human rights in the region has no parallel yet, somehow, the issue has not been able to get enough international coverage. The right to live is explicitly sanctioned in International Law for every individual regardless of their cast, creed, faith or geographical identity. The provision of human rights’ and security are categorically stated both in international law and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). But the human security situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir is ironically ignored by the International community.

This can be credited to the strong diplomacy and international relations and above all its impressive lobbying in the international forums and the fact that India has completely sealed media in the region since 1990s. The magnitude of atrocities increased since then making the decade of 1990s the most horrific phase of human rights violation in Indian Occupied Kashmir, where through the deployment of its 700,000 security forces, India has killed over 93,000 Kashmir’s, who were asking for their right of self-determination. Whenever the people demanded their rights, Indian authorities unleashed a reign of terror on the unarmed innocent Kashmiri people. Today a common kashmiri spends his life in a state of constant fear and insecurity from the Indian forces. The Kashmiris are being humiliated, discriminated, tortured and killed as if there was no law meant for their protection and safety. Despite the global prohibition on torture, even during times

of national emergencies, deaths through torture of Kashmiri youth have been a common phenomenon in Kashmir. The factual position however is that torture, hostage-taking, and rape have been prominent and common forms of abuse in IOK over the last two and half decades, ever since the people started struggling against the Indian occupation of Kashmir in 1990s. Time and again, the Indian security forces have been accused of using rape and molestation as a punitive and threatening measure against the civilians, especially women, who were believed to be sympathisers of militants in the region. Rape was regularly used as a means to punish and humiliate not only the individual but the whole community. About 11.6% of the respondents said that they have been victims of sexual abuse. Despite the insistent denial of the Indian government, the officials have reportedly confessed to Human Rights Watch of the widespread occurrence of fake encouunters, rape, sexual abuse an torture and its encouragement for the rewards and promotions. Fake encounters being an incident where a security personnel kills someone in cold blood while claiming that the casualty occurred in a gun battle. In addition, the Indian army has been reported of kidnapping four civilians and staging a fake battle between them, in the end killing them all. The matter when taken up to the authorities only resulted in the transfer of the official from his position and nothing more. Ironically, the people responsible to provide justice are the ones involved in serious human rights violations. There are repeated incidents of heinous crimes conducted by the Indian Army under the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act that gives wide impunity to the Indian armed forces. The officials involved in invoking

terrorism in the region cannot be prosecuted unless the Indian government sanctions it. Over these past two decades, over 8,000 men have disappeared. So much so that a new term for their wives was coined-”half-widows”. These men are believed to be dumped in thousands of mass graves across Kashmir. Such disappearances were mainly of boys and men of the community. The females were subjected to other coarse forms of humiliation and brutality and that too, extremely frequently. The reports also confirm the incomparable mayhem caused by the Indian armed forces in the state of Kashmir.

To continue its occupation in Kashmir, India has made its forces immune from every law there. According to a recent report of China Daily (January 2, 2014), compared to 2012, there has been 38% increase in the human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir during year-2013. Whereas, the death tolls due to violence during 2012 were 148, in 2013, the human rights violation has caused 204 deaths. This data has been complied by a rights group; ‘Coalition of Civil Society’ (CCS) in its annual report, ‘Human RightsReview-2013.’ India will suffer for what it has done in Kashmir. The rape epidemic that has gripped India recently finds its genesis in Kashmir, where hundreds of Indian soldiers and their units have been involved in rape as a tool of war and occupation. The culture of impunity on rape, and the idea that you can get away with it, found its ways in India with the return of thousands of soldiers back to their home. Along with that, Indian army’s violence has caused the formation of various groups of freedom fighters, the Indians very conveniently call “militants”. India has been long exporting terrorism to Pakistan and China. The Indian Spy Agency Raw, training Chinese nationals to cause instability in Northern China. By doing this they are merely surrounding themselves with instability which will eventually leak into their land. India is a democratic country yet it forces people to remain in it using militaristic ways. The people of Kashmir have the right to self determination. A right they have been denied and when they demanded it, the Indian Army plays the role of the Grim Reaper. Kashmir is one of the most protracted occupations in the world and the most ignored one too. The United Nations has successfully solved many global issues but despite all debate it is yet to find a solution to the Palestine and the Kashmir problem. The tension between two nuclear states makes the Kashmir Issue far more dangerous than any other. Even though the world laments over the perils it has not done much to improve the lives of the people of Kashmir. Since day one India has averted its gaze from the violence caused by the Indian officials and to this date, it is that very reason that is causing continued mayhem in the region. The scenic valley is turning into a valley of death. The shrilling screams, the desperate pleas, the never ending streams of tears all are forsaken by the Indian government as it deliberately delays to give justice.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to believe that there is neither any long standing nor any legitimate deep grievances in the Indian held Kashmir. Every day countless people are mercilessly killed and the Indian Army and government disregard the loss of lives. When will India start valuing Kashmiri lives? When will the people of Kashmir not be used as pawns in a game of chess with Pakistan? The questions remain unanswered.

By: Syeda Mazhar

Israel Unmasked

Desperate to win re-election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stripped off Israel’s mask and exposed the ugliness that has deformed his country over the past several decades. He abandoned the subterfuge of a two-state solution, exposed the crass racism that underlies Israeli politics, and revealed Israel’s blatant control of the US Congress.

For years, these realities were known to many Americans, but – if they spoke up – they were condemned as anti-Semites, so most stayed silent to protect their careers and reputations. But – given Netanyahu’s brazen admissions – the American people may have little choice but to finally take notice of this troubling reality and demand a change in US policy.

The truth is that the two-state solution has been a fiction for at least the past two decades, dying in 1995 with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But the two-state illusion still served important political purposes both for Israelis, who would pay it lip service while continuing their steady encroachment on Palestinian lands, and for US politicians who could point to the mirage as an excuse not to pressure Israel too hard on its human rights violations.

Yet, whenever any US official actually tried to reach that shimmering oasis of a two-state solution, it would recede into the distance. Then, the Israelis would rely on their friends and allies in the news media and politics to blame the Palestinians. Now, however, the illusion of Israel seeking such an outcome in good faith has been lost in Netanyahu’s anything-goes determination to keep his office – a case of political expediency trumping strategic expediency.

In the closing days of the campaign, Netanyahu promised that as long as he was prime minister he would block a Palestinian state and would continue building Jewish settlements on what international law recognises as Palestinian land.

To further rally his right-wing Jewish base, Netanyahu warned that “Arab voters are streaming in huge quantities to the polling stations” – an alarm similar to racist politicians in the United States motivating the white vote with claims about loads of blacks being bused to the polls. With his crude appeal, Netanyahu undermined the longstanding denial that Zionism is a form of racism.

Even before Netanyahu’s last-minute histrionics, he had exploited his relationship with the United States to burnish his reputation as a world leader by appearing for a record-tying third time as a foreign leader addressing a joint session of the US Congress. (Only Great Britain’s Winston Churchill had appeared three times before Congress.)

Acting as almost a stand-in for the President of the United States, Netanyahu gave what amounted to a faux State of the Union address filled with scary tales about Iran and with dire warnings against international negotiations seeking to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.

Though some Democrats boycotted the speech because it represented an unprecedented insult to an American president, the Republican majority and many Democrats gave Netanyahu more than 40 ovations as they cheered his vitriolic attacks on Iran and his denunciations of the negotiations supported by President Barack Obama. (See Consortiumnews.com’s ‘Congress Cheers Netanyahu’s Hatred of Iran’)

Then, last weekend, a prominent neoconservative Joshua Muravchik admitted that the almost certain outcome of Netanyahu’s scuttling of the negotiations would be to bomb Iran. Muravchik laid out this scenario in a Washington Post article headlined ‘War is the only way to stop Iran’ in print editions and ‘War with Iran is probably our best option’ online.

“What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons? That, in fact, is probably the reality,” Muravchik wrote. “Sanctions may have induced Iran to enter negotiations, but they have not persuaded it to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons. Nor would the stiffer sanctions that Netanyahu advocates bring a different result.

“Does this mean that our only option is war? Yes, although an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State, which poses far smaller a threat than Iran does. … Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary.”

In other words, if Netanyahu keeps pulling the strings of the US government, an open-ended war on Iran is the almost certain result. But Netanyahu, for short-term political gain, risked Israel’s longstanding support from the American people by spotlighting his role as the marionette of the US Congress. (See Consortiumnews.com’s ‘A Neocon Admits the Plan to Bomb Iran’)

Netanyahu’s reelection victory has clarified the situation for the American people in another way. We now know there will be no two-state solution with the Palestinians as Israel cements its status as an apartheid state – and all the cries of “anti-Semitism” are not likely to silence people taking notice of this reality since the Israeli Prime Minister himself has taken the sting out of the slur.

The American people now have little choice but to recognise that Israel intends to maintain and expand its ‘Jewish state’ pushing the Palestinians into isolated enclaves. For nearly a half century, Israel has exercised effective control over these indigenous people in the West Bank and Gaza (totalling more than 4 million people), but there was always the hope of a Palestinian state.

Now, by jettisoning the prospect of a ‘two-state solution’, Netanyahu will institutionalise what had long been the unacknowledged fate of the Palestinians. In essence, Netanyahu is opting for a one-state solution, just with most Palestinians confined to a state-less netherworld where they will be denied political rights, left to wither and die.

And, whenever some Palestinians act up, Israel will wage war against them, killing thousands at a time and destroying their homes and infrastructure, what Israelis call “mowing the grass.”

With the facades gone, Americans must decide if they will embrace this apartheid system or not. Many Christian Zionists, who are a powerful force inside the Republican Party, are okay with Israel’s brutal repression because they see the Jews taking this land as a step toward fulfilling a biblical prophecy so Jesus can return to earth as its king.

But rational Americans are confronted with a difficult moral choice. Either continue supporting Netanyahu in brutalizing the Palestinians and in his looming war against Iran (using the US military to carry it out) or insist that the US government reassess its relationship with Israel.

The developments of March 2015 – from Netanyahu’s proconsul-style speech before the US Congress to the racist incitements of his victorious campaign – have forced thoughtful Americans to abandon their longstanding excuses for Israeli behaviour.

From now on, there’s no pretending that ‘standing with Israel’ doesn’t mean kneeling in an obsequious acceptance of Netanyahu’s cruelty toward the Palestinians and cooperation in an illegal and aggressive war against Iran.

By: Robert Parry