The Ideological Seeds of the Occuparty by Waris Husain

As the Occupy Wall Street protests slowly creep into every major city in the U.S., some have pointed to the futility of protesting, especially when the group is lacking a cohesive ideology. However, we know through the Tea Party that the energy generated from opposition protests can manifest into a new political force that can affect the American landscape. The entrance of the Tea Party has polarized the country’s decision-makers to a conservative angle, and it will take a focused effort by activists, lawyers, and writers alike as part of the OccuParty to challenge their effect. The formation of such a new party would require not only an attack on corporate domination, but also to force change in the government and require them to serve the interests of the “99%”, instead of the “1%”.

In this early stage it is dificult to surmise the ideology of Wall Street protesters, who range from labor union members to unemployed hipsters. However, there is a shared ideological message underlying demands by protestors for the government to increase taxes on corporations. This message controverts the Tea Party mantra, “Government can do no good” as the protestors are calling for more government to take more control over private actors. Such a demand is based on the belief that the government can indeed do “good”, but only when it is free from undue influences through lobbyists and corporate agents.

If one were only to focus on the financial institutions that have muted the voice of the 99%, this movement would have little effect on the decision-making in this country. It was democratic institutions, not companies, who passed laws that allowed for corporations to control the American landscape. It was the Supreme Court of this nation who created a legal fiction that gave corporations the same rights as an average citizen.  And thus, even if corporations are fostering corruption and buying favors, it is our democratic officials that are selling those favors.

While Tea Partiers point to this behavior as evidence that governments are inherently corrupt and can’t be trusted, their observation falls short. The central feature of a truly democratic government is that all decisions are based on the informed consent of the people. However, if there is a secret veil of corporate and lobbyist control over WashingtonD.C., then the public is no longer voting based on informed consent and is thus no longer engaged in a democratic process.

The secretive influence of corporations has further been set into law by the U.S. Supreme Court with the Citizen’s United decision that affirmed corporate personhood. This gives the same rights of political affiliation and free speech to corporations as average citizens receive under the Constitution. This means that Nike or McDonalds, worth billions of dollars, is considered a citizen just like you or I when it comes to campaign donations. Soon it will be impossible to run for elections without a corporate sponsor, and thus, it will also be impossible to serve the interests of voters when officials have corporate overlords.

Attacking these principles will serve the interests of the OccuParty by giving them a central unifying purpose: to restore our constitutional democracy by re-equipping citizens with informed consent. Such an action may be viewed as revolutionary by some, but is founded on the basic principle of the U.S. Constitution that requires the government to be subservient only to the people, not to secret interests. One should remember that eliminating corporate personhood would not violate the Constitution considering the document gave no rights or protections to corporations over common citizens.

Along with attacking the government for fostering corporate domination, the OccuParty will need to adopt an ideology concerning the rights of citizens. The protestors have by and large asserted that wealth must be redistributed, with greater access to social services like education and health care. The demands of theOccupy Wall Street protesters are diametrically opposed to the conservative world view that individual rights are supreme above all others. While some may assert that the demands are merely a fools hope, there is a political ideology that lies under the surface.

Germany’s constitution embodies a principle that may resonate with most of the protestors: as the State must respect the rights of the individual, but the individual must respect the rights of their community. From this basic idea, one can call for a redistribution of wealth because while one has the right to accumulate wealth, one does not have the right to do so without assisting their community. Under this perspective, one could advocate for individual rights like gay marriage because they do not negatively effect the rights of the community.

Though Tea Partiers tout Thomas Jefferson as a guardian for individual rights, they forget that Jefferson didn’t believe that the wealthy could accumulate wealth without owing a duty to assist their community. Rather, he purported that while the government cannot interfere with individual rights, people owe a duty to help their local communities. This means that the 1% elites should be required to assist their community by paying for programs like student loan forgiveness or universal health care, for example.

Liberals in America have long-complained about the lack of a viable leftist party that embodied the interests of Democrats and Independents alike, though the Green Party and Libertarians have tried in the past. In order to do this, the OccuParty should take actions both on the street and in court to challenge undue influence by elites on our democracy, and the subsequent lack of informed consent by the people. Further, the party should advocate for a hybrid individual-community rights system as an overarching ideology. Though politics in America has taken a conservative turn with the influence of the Tea Party, the OccuParty could serve as a bastion for liberal philosophy and restore democratic order to this nation at a critical time.

All Power to the 99%.

BBC- Jim Muir: Palestinian protests: Arab spring or foreign manipulation?


The “Nakba” day incidents on Israel’s borders showed that the Palestinians have undoubtedly been caught up at last in the Arab revolutionary spring fever. In a very different position from most Arab nations, the Palestinians had so far been largely left out as the spirit of assertive demands for rights and freedoms swept the region and threatened its dictators.

The pent-up frustrations of the Palestinians largely took the form of pressure on their own divided leaderships to unite, something that has now happened. The 15 May challenges to Israel on its borders with Lebanon and Syria, within the fragmented West Bank and on the Gaza frontier, undoubtedly embodied the same kind of risk-taking, confrontational people-power ethos that has fired the revolts in many parts of the Arab world.

Palestinian militancy and desire for self-assertion in keeping with revolutionary Arab times are very strong and can be taken as a given. But the ability to express those sentiments is something else.

‘Common denominators’

There is clearly another dimension to the unprecedented eruptions on Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria, in which a number of protesters are reported to have been shot dead and many others wounded.  The common denominators in both cases are Syria and its ally Iran.

In past years, Syria has prevented Palestinian protesters from getting anywhere near the sensitive Golan border, where Damascus has in the past scrupulously respected its truce agreement with Israel.  Nearly half a million registered Palestinian refugees live in Syria, some of them in camps not far from the Golan.  Syria may be distracted and preoccupied by events inside the country, but so much that it could not have prevented the Golan incident if it had wanted it not to happen?

The real power in southern Lebanon is Hezbollah, the militant Shia movement that was created in the early 1980s by Iran and Syria to counter Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. If Hezbollah had not wanted the display of Palestinian refugee militancy at Maroun al-Ras on the south Lebanon border with Israel to happen, it would not have happened. Damascus and Tehran retain extremely strong ties with Hezbollah, so by extension, the same is true of them.

Lebanon, like Syria, also has getting on for half a million Palestinian refugees on its soil. But Jordan has something like two million, yet its borders with Israel, running along the Jordan river, did not see any such incidents because Amman did not want it to happen. Jordanian police intervened to prevent a mere 200 Palestinian students from marching towards the border, and six of them were injured when they were restrained.

The unusual flare-ups on the Golan and on the Lebanese border came as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime moved into its third month of confronting its biggest internal challenge in more than 40 years of rule by his family and the Baath Party. It would be hard not to see a link between the two developments.

To allow a controlled burst of tension on the borders with Israel might have been seen by the Syrian regime as serving several useful purposes: to divert attention from its internal troubles, and to burnish its nationalist credentials of steadfast resistance to Israel.

It may also have been aimed at conveying to Israel and the Americans the message that if Mr Assad’s grip on power should slip, Israel might face a much more militant Syria. In a recent New York Times interview, the president’s controversial businessman cousin, Rami Makhlouf, said that if Syria had no security, Israel would have no security – remarks from which the regime has officially distanced itself, but which came from a key figure within the inner circle of power.

‘Playing with fire’

One question Israel will be asking itself is whether the outbursts on the borders might be sustained and turn into a running situation.  That is not impossible. But Damascus and its allies in Lebanon know that they are playing with fire. Syria would be unlikely to permit a situation on the Golan that could get out of hand and lead to a serious engagement with the Israelis that could be deeply damaging, and might even hasten a decision by Washington to move towards a call for regime change.

A warning skirmish is one thing, a serious confrontation something else. In Lebanon, while anything is possible, Hezbollah is also unlikely to want an open-ended situation in which Palestinians play a leading role. The Palestinian presence triggered the Israeli invasion in 1982 and other interventions which greatly hurt Hezbollah’s Shia community.

The Palestinians in Lebanon played no part in Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel. But clearly, these are uncharted waters. For the first time ever, Lebanon had the extraordinary experience of having people shot dead on its northern border by Syrian security forces because of the upheavals inside Syria, and a larger number shot dead on its southern border because of the Palestinian issue.

Whatever the degree of possible manipulation by Syria and its allies, the message from Palestinians both inside and outside is that the Arab revolution has found another home.

Waris Husain: Law and Humanity (when we lose our humanity to the letter of the law)

In the aftermath of the Pakistani Supreme Court decision to free five out of the six men accused of gang raping Mukhtar Mai, some are angered at the Court while others claim this decision was based on sound legal argument and precedent. This case reveals an instance where humans innately feel that injustice has been carried out by their judicial body, regardless of what the letter of the law states. But in modern legal thought, the abject focus on cold rationality represses the judge’s innate sensibility of right and wrong based on their love of humanity. However, the instinctual reflex in favor of justice and equality that judges posses when confronting an unjust law is embodied in the Constitution itself and must be understood more comprehensively than mere logic allows.

The case of Mukhtaran Mai displays how a legal decision may be well-grounded in law, but directly conflicts with our love for our fellow man/ woman. The story goes that Mukhtaran Mai’s family had a dispute with a higher ranking family, and the local jirga decided that she would issue an apology to the high ranking family and there would be a marriage between families. However, when Mukhtaran Mai arrived at the home to issue the apology, she was brutally dragged inside, gang raped by several men, and thrown out into the street naked as a hundred onlookers stood present.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan decided that due to a lack of evidence, only one man could be convicted of the brutal gang rape of this young girl. The case was originally brought under the Hudood Ordinance, which requires the victim to produce four Muslim males who witnessed the actual penetration in order to convict a defendant of rape. Thereafter, the Women’s Protection bill allowed for alternative evidence to be offered such as DNA. However, the courts inPakistanhave continually dealt with a lack of evidence in these cases for two reasons, both of which played a role in the innocent verdict for Mukhtaran Mai’s abusers.

First, local authorities do not conduct proper investigations for accusations of rape, and offer little protection to the victim, which leads to intimidation and violence against the victim and her family. This has created an atmosphere where most rapes go unreported, as victims know they will not be assisted or protected by the state, and the judges are well aware of this frightening trend.

Secondly, the prosecution of rape laws remains ineffective as the Hudood Ordinance continues to cast a shadow on the judgment of courts, which levy injustice after injustice against women. The evidentiary bar for a rape conviction was originally set at an impossible level of four male corroborating witnesses. This was based on a sexist and unjust logic: while the male rapist can individually deny the act occurred, the female victim’s allegations are four times as unlikely to be true, requiring four males to verify the rape occurred. This perception of the untruthfulness of female testimony continues to infect the court as it devalues DNA evidence and testimony from the victim, even though many nations give deference to the victim’s testimony in rape cases.

Yet, despite the inherent injustice in all of this, many have shown deference to the court for asserting its authority by following its precedent cases and the law. Indeed, Musharraf Zaidi, a columnist I hold in high regard, stated that a judge’s job is to execute the law not to act on emotion. This is the central argument under which the jurisprudence of theU.S.andPakistanhas developed, where one must uphold the status quo of the court’s prior decision in order to maintain stability and assert the authority of the Court. Thus, the training of lawyers focuses on repressing, as much as possible, their innate sense of humanity, fairness, and equity- replacing it with whatever status quo policy has been adopted earlier in time, regardless of its injustice.

Though scholars in the legal field pretend that their decisions are not subject to their own personal bias, it is difficult for any human with the job of interpreting words not to add their own subjectivity to the decision. Instead of attempting to cover up this subjectivity and giving it different names, an honest legal mind must accept its effect. Thus, inPakistan, when it came to issues that the judges of the Supreme Court were personally interested in, they found constitutional principles to challenge the political status quo. Yet, when it comes to the right of a woman to face her rapists in court, the Court is less willing to honor its belief in the equality of human beings.

The Court could have easily relied on constitutional principles that buttressed a sentiment of equality in the face of the unjust evidentiary bar set by for women in rape cases.  Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees the inviolability of the dignity of man, which is clearly violated whenever a woman’s accusations of rape go unpunished by the court because she can’t produce four witnesses.  Article 25 guarantees equality of all citizens and even permits for the state to make special provisions to protect women and children. Such a principle lays the foundation for the legal argument in favor of pursuing justice for Mukhtaran Mai even in the face of some evidentiary inadequacies.

The spirit of fairness inherent in human beings and the cold-rationality of the law are opposite ends of a spectrum, on which a judge should be in the middle. Both can equally guide one to make a decision that preserves the authority of the court while also pursuing justice. However, by focusing on upholding the letter of the Hudood Ordinance, the judges attempted to rely on a false veil between the law and their innate sense of right and wrong.

For legal and non-legal thinkers alike, it is important to value their innate feelings of equality and humanity rather than suppress them, as many are trained to do. The internal moral compass can help to guide a judge to the right decision when used alongside rationality and logic. The Constitution is the legal source which embodies humanistic principles, as it is created to improve the lives of citizens and promote fairness. Thus, when confronted with the requirements of the misogynistic laws which would lead to an unjust result, judges must trust their sensibility and utilize constitutional principles that truly promote equality and the pursuit of justice.

   

Bahraini Woman Willing to Fast Unto Death if Family is Not Released

Zainab al-Khawaja
 A Bahraini woman who witnessed her father, a well-known human rights activist, being seized by masked soldiers, beaten unconscious and then taken into custody, has told the Guardian that she is willing to die on hunger strike unless he is released. Zainab al-Khawaja, 27, will today enter her fourth day without food in protest at the violent arrest and subsequent disappearance of the outspoken dissident Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, 50, along with her husband and brother-in-law.

Zainab, who was brought up in exile in Denmark, is taking only water, and told the Guardian she is already feeling weak, with breast-feeding sapping her strength faster than she had expected. She says she will leave her 18-month-old child with family members if she dies.

Around a dozen masked and heavily armed soldiers, apparently from Bahrain‘s special forces, stormed her apartment in the capital, Manama, at 2am on Saturday. Her father had previously called for Bahrain’s king to face trial for murder, torture and corruption. The family’s attempts to find out from the police what has happened to the men have failed and they fear they are being tortured. Zainab, who started her fast on Monday, said she now dreams about her father’s fate.

“I am willing to go all the way,” she said. “Either they come out or I will not eat. I don’t care where it ends up.” Asked whether she was willing to die, she replied: “Yes. It is difficult with a child but I am willing to make that sacrifice. My daughter has great aunts and grandmothers who will look after her if anything happens to me … We have the feeling that sacrifices are necessary to bring changes to our country, but what is making it harder is the way the world is reacting. Still the US administration is standing with the dictator here.”

Her threat to take her own life came amid signs that the Bahraini regime is toughening its stance against pro-democracy activists. Yesterday was the funeral of the third protester to die in police custody this month. Chanting mourners in Manama pulled the burial cloth off Kareem Fakhrawi, a member of Wifaq, a leading Shia opposition group, to reveal a puncture wound to his neck, extensive bruising across his upper arms, sides and abdomen, and lesions around his lower leg and ankle.

Zainab is documenting her starvation on her Twitter account under the name angryarabiya. On the site she explains: “I love democracy & freedom. Therefore, I hate Arab dictators, and American neo-colonialism. Wanna know why Arabs are angry, I’ll tell u.” More than 8,000 people have signed up to follow her. Human Rights Watch yesterday called on Bahrain’s public prosecutor to investigate deaths in custody reported since 3 April, citing “signs of horrific abuse” on the body of Ali Isa Ibrahim Saqer, who died after turning himself in to the police, who had threatened to detain members of his family if he did not.

The authorities alleged he had tried to run a policeman over in a car during an anti-government protest. The interior ministry issued a statement published in Bahrain newspapers saying that he had “created chaos” in a detention centre “which led security forces to bring the situation under control”. The ministry attributed the death in custody of Zakariya Rashid Hassan, 40, arrested on charges of calling for the overthrow of the regime, to “sickle cell anaemia complications” despite his brother showing Human Rights Watch a photo he said he took during pre-burial cleansing which showed a wound on his right shoulder, a gash on his nose and blood that had issued from his ears and lips.

If those responsible are not stopped soon the number of dead in custody will exceed those killed during the protest,” the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights warned yesterday. A coalition of 19 Middle Eastern human rights organisations also condemned Bahrain’s latest crackdown and warned that Abdulhadi al-Khawaja “is at great risk of being subjected to additional torture and ill-treatment while being detained incommunicado”.

The government remains defiant in the face of allegations that they are violating human rights, and Khalid al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, posted on Twitter that al-Khawaja “is not a reformer … he called for the overthrow of the legitimate regime … he violently resisted the arrest and had to be subdued”. In an account of the raid posted on her website, Zainab al-Khawaja described how her father was “grabbed by the neck, dragged down a flight of stairs and then beaten unconscious in front of me”.

“He never raised his hand to resist them, and the only words he said were: ‘I can’t breathe,'” she wrote. “Even after he was unconscious, the masked men kept kicking and beating him while cursing and saying that they were going to kill him.”

She said the special forces also beat up her husband, Wafi Almajed, and her brother-in-law, Hussein Ahmed, but their focus was on her father, who they repeatedly called “the target” during the raid. She is also demanding the release of her uncle, Salah al-Khawaja, arrested three weeks ago.  Zainab said yesterday: “Before they arrested people you thought, yes, they may be tortured, but you will see them again. Now you can’t be sure.

She added that the spate of deaths in custody appears to be a deliberate government tactic to increase fear among dissidents. “The government seems to be proud of this because they are the ones announcing the deaths.”  “It’s outrageous and cruel that people are taken off to detention and the families hear nothing until the body shows up with signs of abuse,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities need to explain why this is happening, put a stop to it, and hold anyone responsible to account.”

Amnesty International estimates the government is holding more than 400 activists over protests that began on 14 February. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said the number is more than 600.

INSPIRATIONAL VIDEO: Rhymefest- Stolen

Lyrics:
In London I met a rebel leader from Sierra Leon
Told me he like 50 Cent and ask what was he on
I don’t really know him fam, but what you doin here, damn!
He said he was a student, came to London after the war
Shortly before the peace began.
He was only like 5’10’ but you could the shit he had been
Long-sleeve, short-sleeve severed the head
City of God City of Man
Mother raped in front of his eyes his father had his face smashed in
 
In London I met a rebel leader from Sierra Leon
Toald me he loved Jay-Z and asked what was he on
I only met him once or twice, I couldn’t even tell you what he like
This dudes eyes wasn’t white,  they was yellowish
From the deeds that he done that was devilish
Raping village, gutting babies like jellyfish
For the diamonds that I wear what kind of hell is this!
 
After my show I met a girl from Rwanda who was a Tutsi
She said that she loved my swag, real tall pretty nose like a pose
But when she met my homey she got mad
I asked, how you feel inside?
She said have you ever been through a genocide
Have you ever been through a genocide,
Hiding in the closet with the devil on the other side
Your people cant breath cant move,
Dirty clothes, no watter no food,
Death rules consume you, God endooms you,
And one little closet entombs you
You wouldn’t know unless it happened to you too
Why all your fuckin friends look like Hutus
 
But could that really be called war
 if we was colonized by a country from offshore
Occupied by a people we all for
Uncertainty what you getting this start for
Its no way, no answer no lies, just questions WHY?

Waris Husain: From Washington to Tripoli- Lessons in Revolution

            In discussing the options to intervene in nations like Libya where political dissidents are attempting to free themselves from despotism, the American Revolution provides several lessons for the Jasmine Revolutionaries. The first correlation one can draw between the two movements is the similar tyrannical and imperial rule that preceded them. Secondly, Arab revolutionaries should understand the significance of the American Revolutionaries having created the Declaration of Independence at the outset of their agitation. Finally, the French intervention which assisted the U.S. in its war against the British monarchy shows us how a self-serving intervention by a foreign power can still net a positive result for the nation it is helping.

            The first similarity between the revolutions taking place across the Middle East / Africa and the American Revolution was that they were both inspired by the tyranny of their ruling power. One must draw a distinction as the U.S. was ruled by an English Monarchy who lived thousands of miles away while places like Libya are ruled by their own home-grown dictators. While post-colonial leaders like Ghaddafi are home-grown despots, they have used the same techniques to rule the people as their colonial masters.

The favorite method of the English and French during their colonial hay-day was the ‘divide-and- conquer’ strategy, which has been adopted by many African and Arab dictators. This strategy aims at stoking tensions and internal wars between tribes or ethnicities, in order to divert attention from the Colonial powers’ unjust exploitation of the colony. The British attempted this with the American colonies in order to distract people from realizing the increasingly steep levels of taxes being levied on the colonists without any representation awarded to them in Parliament. Dictators like Ghaddafi and Mubarak used these tactics to hide their own system of corruption, nepotism, and tyrannical violence.

Though both the revolutions in America and the Middle East share a common despotic environment from which they grow, the strategies of the two revolutionaries differ radically. By drafting the Declaration of Independence, the American revolutionaries were forced to come together and agree on the reasons for separating from the British crown and the modes by which to do it. The process of creating the document itself required there to be a shared purpose at the outset of the insurgency against the British amongst all participants which created cohesion and order. The Mid-East revolutions have happened at such a faster rate, that such planning and drafting of documents has not taken place, and the opposition forces have suffered due to this lack of shared vision,

The American Declaration began with a phrase to explain why such a document even needed to be written, as “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they [the revolutionaries] should declare the causes which impel them to the separation [from the English monarchy].”  This respect for the “opinions of man-kind” has not been shown by the Arab revolutionaries, who have not produced cohesive manifestos to let the world know exactly why they are revolting and how. This becomes especially important with regards to foreign intervention, as we see a squeamishness amongst the Western world to support an opposition group that has not expressed their motivations or plans for the future. 

Finally, many have criticized the American intervention in Libya as merely a political move not based on principles of democracy-promotion, especially as the U.S. ignores the plight of democracy promoters in oil-rich allied states like Saudi Arabia or Bahrain. Yet, as the world focuses on the hypocrisy of the U.S. action in Libya, one should take note that there has always been a self-serving hypocrisy amongst nations who assist revolutions in other nations.  

The American Revolution could not have been possible without covert support of the French, who were themselves ruled by a king at the time. Why would one king wish to aid insurgents hoping to topple another monarchy? The answer is simply that the French had less of an interest in the democratic cause of the American revolutionaries, and more of an interest in bleeding out their arch nemesis, the English.

While there was a shared belief amongst the elite of France and the U.S. in the Great Enlightenment and in principles of democracy, the French made a purely pragmatic foreign policy decision in assisting the American revolutionaries. It was this rivalry between France and England that provided the American revolutionaries with the guns, money, and supplies needed to defeat the British. Therefore, it didn’t matter what self-serving interests existed for the French, because the net result of their intervention was that the Americans freed themselves from colonial rule.

Thus, there are several lessons that can be learned between the American Revolution of 1776 and the upheaval across the Middle East. The inception of both movements comes from a tyrannical rule, whether in the form of Arab/African dictatorship or British colonial rule. The drafting of the Declaration of Independence by the American revolutionaries should be a model adopted by dissidents across the world as a means to join together under a singular document as well as express their views to the rest of the world. And while the world debates intervention, some will look to the French involvement in the American Revolution and will realize that the motivations of the interveners are less important than their actions. Most importantly, America should look at her own history before continuing to ignore the plight of activists in nations like Saudi Arabia, who are imprisoned and tortured for the doing exactly what the founders of our nation did.