The Left Berlin News & Comment

This is the archive template

Palestine Digital Activism Forum

Discussing the challenges and possibilities of Palestinian Digital Rights


26/03/2021

7amleh — the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, is preparing to host the Palestine Digital Activism Forum in its fifth and digital edition, which will begin in 29 March and last until 1 April. PDAF 2021 brings Palestinians together from all over the world to discuss the challenges and possibilities of Palestinian digital rights. The forum has wide universal, global, regional and local participation, which will open the space for people from all over the world to share their different experiences in the digital world.

The theme of the forum will be “Palestinian Digital Rights during and after the Coronavirus Pandemic.” The forum will host more than 35 digital events, including political discussions and digital talks that engage issues relating to digital rights. It will also host multiple workshops and trainings, that aim to develop and advance the practical skills of participants in different areas. This year’s forum will also host a number of exclusive talks and workshops which will be the first of their kind in Palestine and the Arab world, such as Twitter’s session on Social Change, a Q&A with Facebook on content moderation policies, and a session with Instagram on Social Good. In addition, we will host a very important conversation about the Palestinian elections in the digital era and the age of social media.

80 speakers will join our events from all over the world, such as the inaugural Director of Human Rights Product Policy at Facebook, Miranda Sissons, who will speak in the Facebook Q&A, and the Head of Public Policy, Government & Philanthropy for the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan at Twitter, George Salama. Further, in the first day of the forum, the deputy manager of the Norwegian Institute for Public Health will join us to talk about the protection of medical data, which will give us the opportunity to discuss the questions and privacy concerns that were raised recently in this regard.

We will also be joined by the chief of the section of Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists at UNESCO, Guilherme Canela, as well as Juri Schnoller who will join us in a workshop on the best practices in political campaigns and communication. Further, in the first and second days of the forum, we will have Palestinian inspirational speakers, including the Palestinian-American comedian Amer Zahr, and the youngest journalist in the world Janna Jehad, in addition to other experts and activists who will share their different experiences with us at the forum.

These activities will be organized in partnership with 70 local, regional and global partners, such as UNESCO, Amnesty International, UN Women, Access Now, United Nations Population Fund, as well as some of the largest social media companies, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

We hope that this year’s forum will transcend barriers and borders, and offer a safe and common space for the different groups of people who are interested in the digital world and in Palestinian digital rights, as well as a space that brings Palestinians together from all over the world.

Israel’s Elections Reveal its Racist Nature

Elections consolidate the hegemony of “religious Zionism” but fail to solve the state’s political crisis

On March 23, Israel’s citizens elected a new Knesset, the fourth such election in just two years. The most painful issue under Israel’s control— the fate of Palestinians deprived of their most basic human and national rights— was not even discussed in the campaign. Millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which has been under Israel’s military rule for the last 54 years, don’t have the vote. For many Israelis, their fate is a “non-issue.”

In fact, the Israeli media constantly attacks Arab Palestinian Knesset members for caring too much about the fate of their voteless brothers and sisters. Because they continually advocate for the disenfranchised, the media accuses them of being responsible for the continued systematic discrimination against Palestinians in the areas occupied by Israel since 1948 who do have the vote and formal Israeli citizenship.

Open racist wounds

Though the Palestinian issue was not discussed, it is still the invisible force that played havoc with Israeli politics and caused the unprecedented anomaly of four subsequent elections. The central issue of contention, as everybody knows, is the fate of Binyamin Netanyahu (AKA “BiBi”), Israel’s longest serving prime minister, who is standing trial for multiple cases of corruption.

In previous elections, Bibi succeeded to distract Zionist public opinion from his corruption by inciting against the “danger” of Arab voters. In the last round, in March 2, 2020, the anti-Bibi forces united around General Gantz, the “hero” who, as Israel’s chief of staff, commanded over the massacre of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza in 2014. They thought that the general’s war credentials would protect them from Bibi’s description of his opponents as “leftists” and “weak on the Palestinians.”

The Arab parties also united in those 2020 Knesset elections and brought unprecedented representation of 15 seats, raising the traditionally low voting percentage between disillusioned Arab Palestinian voters by promising that with their unity they could gain real influence in Israeli politics.

In an attempt to materialize the promised influence, they joined the Zionist opposition in recommending Gantz for the post of prime-minister. That caused panic in the Gantz camp, as the “hero” himself and many of his supporters preferred to join a government led by Bibi, the same person they promised never to support, rather than form a government supported by Arab parties.

Finally, it was Bibi himself who caused the collapse of his own coalition government, trying to utilize his success in rolling out anti-Corona vaccines before any other country, in order to form a government of true believers that would, hopefully, abolish his corruption trials.

Bibi’s true believers, in addition to Likud enthusiasts, are mostly religious nationalists.

The two Haredi (Religious Orthodox) parties, one for Jews of European descent and one for Jews from the Arab countries, are hooked on monetary transfers from the state, and adopted extreme anti-Arab positions just as they skillfully defend the right of their youth not to serve in the army.

In addition, Bibi personally worked hard to unite all sorts of “national religious” elements to a single election list named “Religious Zionism,” which includes the most extreme far-right “Jewish Power” (Otzma Yehudit) party, the new home of the followers of Kahana after their original party was declared a terrorist organization. Likud, at Bibi’s insistence, even gave a slot in his own list to a member of “Religious Zionism” in order to make sure that Itamar Ben-Gvir from “Otzma” will be in the Knesset.

Political Chaos

The collapse of the anti-Bibi camp after the last election and the crawl to join his government, followed by Bibi’s reversal of all his promises, left the “camp” in disarray. There are hardly any real parties, as candidates’ lists change in each election like the colored plastic in a kaleidoscope. Most lists are popularly, or even officially, called by the name of their current leader. In many such lists, “the leader” personally positions his servile followers in the rest of the slots.

The media often describes Bibi as a magician, in an attempt to explain his prolonged control over Israeli politics. A much more honest explanation is the total impotence of the opposition. He was exposed in an endless array of small and big corruption cases, from begging for cigars and champagne from friendly tycoons, through taking his family’s dirty laundry (literally) on visits to the white house to be washed for free at the expense of USA hospitality, to big bribes paid by German submarine producers to his close aides for their effort to sell the Israeli army expensive hardware it doesn’t need.

The value of his political shares inflated as his admirer Donald Trump was elected for the job of US president, but his staunch support for Trump undermined the bi-partisan support for Israel in the US and damaged Israel’s relations with its Jewish community. Meanwhile he filled his Likud party with noisy henchmen and continued to lose the party’s “more serious” politicians, the latest of them, Gideon Sa’ar, led another Anti-Bibi list composed of ex-Likudniks, which prevented the pro-Bibi camp from gaining outright majority in this election.

The general political chaos didn’t spare the Arab “Joint List.” In its unanimous recommendation for Gantz, it crossed all the red lines of Palestinian solidarity without showing any tangible achievement for its voters. This led one component of the Joint List to try to go one step farther.

MK Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Islamic Movement’s “Southern” faction, started engaging in a series of courtship steps with Bibi himself, explaining that he is ready to cooperate with any side that can deliver real advantage to his voters. (The “Northern” faction of the Islamic Movement, where most of the mass movement is, was outlawed by Israel and its leaders were thrown into jail.)

This division led to a split in the Joint List. Abbas is now leading “The United List” with his Islamic Movement and some more traditional local leaders. As I write these lines, according to the current (not final) election results, Abbas and his list are considered “the wild card” between the pro-Bibi and anti-Bibi camps. But as Israeli politics go, racism is the most prevalent common denominator, and it is unlikely that either camp will be ready to build a government based on Arab parties.

Thus, by the delegitimization of the Arab Palestinian voters, the two Zionist camps would find it hard to command the “Jewish majority” that they aspire to for building a “legitimate” Zionist government. Many commentators assume that the most likely result of the election would be yet another election sometime soon.

The Case for Boycott

It was symbolic that at the time of the Knesset election campaign, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were preparing to vote for the “Legislative Council” of the Palestinian Authority. The ethno-geography of the elections clearly explains the failure of the Palestinians to gain their rights on both stages.

All Jews, everywhere in Palestine, from the river to the sea, are privileged citizens of the state of Israel and take part in deciding not only their own fate but also the fate of the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Palestinians are divided. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza vote for the PA, which has no real control under the occupation. Any Palestinian, including elected MPs, that engage in political activity that is regarded “hostile” by the occupation, is arrested by Israel.

Palestinians in the areas that were occupied in 1948 are formally citizens, but they are subject to systemic discrimination, including land confiscation and house demolition that amount to ethnic cleansing. Palestinian MKs have no real influence, and they are subject to constant demonization in the Israeli media. On the other side, the Israeli propaganda machine uses the presence of Palestinian MKs in the Knesset as a “proof” of the false claim that Israel is a proper democracy.

The majority of the Palestinian population was expelled from their homes, villages and cities in 1948 and in the 73 years that lapsed since. Actually, their expulsion was the essential condition for creating the “Jewish Majority” in 1948. Thus, the claim that Israel is a “democratic state” is based on the endorsement of ethnic cleansing. No wonder that this “Jewish Majority” is voting again and again to deny the right of return of millions of Palestinians.

Over the last decades, especially since the Oslo agreement, Israel and its Western and Arab supporters succeeded not only to divide the Palestinian people physically but also to divide them politically. Each part of the Palestinian people is directed to look for his special rights within some special enclave. In each part there is a local leadership that adjusted to these conditions and grew to benefit from them.

Over the last years, we have witnessed the development of new Palestinian protest movements, mostly among the younger generation. Many of them call for boycott of the Knesset elections as well as the elections of the Palestinian Authority. They aspire for the rebuilding of a united Palestinian movement, in all parts of Palestine and throughout the diaspora, as the first step toward liberation and the establishment of real democracy in a free, united Palestine.

Erdogan wants to ban the HDP

Why the German government must stand up to repression in Turkey – and what it could do if it were serious


25/03/2021

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey is threatened with being banned. For years they have been persecuted by the Erdogan government. The former joint chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş have been in prison since 2016, along with thousands of others.

In 48 of the 65 municipalities in which the HDP won local elections, elected mayors have been deposed and replaced by representatives of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government. These representatives have destroyed progressive projects which were set up by the HDP – like women’s centres, measures against sexualised violence or local support for Syrian refugees.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found in several cases that journalists and opposition politicians have been unjustly imprisoned in Turkey. The ECHR also called again for the immediate release of Demirtaş in December. The Turkish government ignored the judgement.

New wave of arrests

Despite the repression and hate speeches by government representatives, the government has not been able to weaken the HDP. Recently there was a new wave of arrests. Immunity was lifted for many HDP MPs and the MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioglu’s mandate was withdrawn. He was accused of calling for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict in a 2016 Tweet.

Immediately afterwards, a procedure was introduced to ban the HDP, saying that the party must be dissolved, party funds confiscated and leading HDP politicians banned from politics for many years. This was an attempt to remove the last non-nationalist opposition in parliament from the political landscape.

The German government is “concerned” and does nothing

The German government reacted to the latest development with “grave concern”. For years this is how they have always reacted to such cases – nonetheless, the EU refugee deal with Turkey was passed, economic relationships have been maintained and extended, further talks have been held with Turkey about its NATO membership, armaments have been delivered.

Although Turkey’s assault and occupation of Syria violates international law, and despite intervening in Libya, in 2019 Turkey received military weapons from Germany worth more than €344 million. Despite the disastrous human rights record for years, and the non-recognition of the ECHR judgements, Turkey is a beneficiary of EU relationships, receives financial help and profits from the Customs Union.

Despite the catastrophic conditions for refugees in camps in Greece and Germany, the EU refugee deal is being maintained.

Absurd arguments against the HDP

With this background, the “grave concern” shows itself to be pure hypocrisy. It is particularly cynical that the Foreign Office demands in its statement that the HDP must clearly distance itself from the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which is listed in Germany as a terrorist organisation. Here they are using the same argument as Erdogan, who uses every opportunity espouse this terrorism argument.

For example, in 2016, an initiative of academics called for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict. Thereupon many of the academics were sacked. Students lost their job or their postgraduate positions under the accusation of supporting terrorist activities through the appeal for peace.

The journalist Deniz Yücel was in prison for a year for alleged “terrorist propaganda” because he had interviewed a leader of the PKK. The HDP has always stressed that the Kurdish question cannot be solved with violence and has advocated for a peaceful democratic solution. They have always campaigned for the peaceful path while Erdogan has led Turkey into war and dismantled democracy.

Instead of clearly condemning state terrorism against the opposition in Turkey, those who have been affected have been accused of having links with terrorism. This is an absurdity which can hardly be surpassed.

Therefore: a clear position against Erdogan! An immediate halt to all weapon exports to Turkey! An immediate halt to all financial support for Turkey! No new negotiations on the shabby EU-Turkey deal! Solidarity with the HDP!

Julia Wiedemann works in the International Politics department in the national headquarters of Die LINKE. This article originally appeared in German in Links Bewegt – the online magazine of Die LINKE. Reproduced with permission. Translation: Phil Butland

The People’s Covid Inquiry

Why we launched a People’s Covid Inquiry and how you can take part


24/03/2021

 

Launch video for the People’s Covid Inquiry

The People’s Covid Inquiry has been launched in England by Keep Our NHS Public, an organisation with groups in cities all around the country, campaigning for the National Health Service to be re-established on the basis of its founding principles, providing comprehensive services free at the time of use, publically provided and financed, and accountable to the public. A key aim is to remove private companies and the market in health care as well as restoring the extensive cuts in funding over the last decade and boosting current funding to meet demand.

Why now?

In mid-March 2021, the total of excess deaths from COVID-19 in the UK since the start of the pandemic exceeded 126,000, giving us the highest number of deaths in relation to population. We believe the shocking scale of this tragic loss of life was avoidable and that we all deserve to know how and why this happened. The government has thus far failed to learn from its mistakes and has not agreed to a public inquiry other than at some unspecified point in the future – despite considerable pressure in some sections of the press, bereaved families, the medical profession and from many others. While we continue to support the calls for an official public inquiry, the scale of the ongoing crisis led us to believe that we had to launch our own ‘People’s Covid Inquiry’. This held its first of nine two-weekly on-line sessions on 24th February.

The People’s Covid Inquiry aims to examine the events of the pandemic and look at them in the context of the state of the NHS and social care at the outset, from January 2020. Both the successes and the failures are being explored. The purpose is that the right lessons can be learned given the likely protracted nature of the current pandemic, together with the certainty of future pandemics. It is also important that the government is held to account for its actions by the public before recent history is rewritten or swept aside. We already have our Health Secretary (Matt Hancock) wrongly claiming there was never any shortage of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers, and that the amazing vaccination rollout by NHS staff somehow represents a triumph not for public services but for the private sector. Meanwhile, official bodies such as the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee continue to tear into government for mismanagement and misuse of public funds.

How will the Inquiry work?

The Inquiry will look at the extent to which the NHS, including public health, would have been enabled to respond differently if it had been properly funded and wholly in public hands. It will examine issues of health inequalities, community and GP services, mental health, disability, social care, health and safety at work, the extent to which at-risk sectors of society have been protected or let down, and much more.The evidence gathered will provide the basis for conclusions and recommendations on the provision of health and social care in the UK, including the future funding and organisation of the NHS and the urgent need for a national service for care, support and independent living.

Our People’s Covid Inquiry is comprised of various forms of evidence-gathering, as well as collation of already existing work done by other bodies. We are working with Bereaved Families for Justice and have launched new surveys of NHS staff and frontline workers, commissioning video testimonials from ordinary people as well as experts. We feel it is essential that those affected by the pandemic have their voices heard and a record added to our Inquiry archive from up and down the country. The sessions are broadcast live via social media and then made available recordings.

The renowned human rights lawyer, Michael Mansfield QC, is chairing the Inquiry. Each session covers a different aspect of the pandemic (see below) and is held on-line for two hours. Two expert and two citizen witnesses provide written testimony in advance, and are then questioned on this by a barrister for the Inquiry. The evidence is heard each session by a panel consisting of senior academics and clinicians. Filmed testimony from people presenting their experience of the pandemic is also made available to the panel, which will complete a report on its finding and the lessons to be learned at the conclusion of the Inquiry. The Inquiry has already attracted very high profile figures to give testimony including internationally known experts. In addition, it has given a voice to those who have been bereaved, frontline workers and others impacted by this disaster.

Sessions:

(Note: some sessions have already taken place. In this case, we have posted a video of the session here. You can register for the other sessions by following the link below. You can find more general information about the People’s Covid Inquiry here).

1. How well prepared was the NHS?

https://youtu.be/UVIPRxdRx7Y

2. How did the government respond?

https://youtu.be/ReR5LtgyPxk

3. Did the government adopt the right public health strategy?

https://youtu.be/g1z6PNCGL5I

4. Impact on the population (including families, social care, disability)

https://youtu.be/Tb0UNPPlGlk

5. Impact on frontline staff and key workers

https://youtu.be/Tb0UNPPlGlk

6. Inequalities and discrimination

7. Privatisation of the public’s health

8. Impact on the population (including schools young people, women, and mental health

9. Conclusions. What will the future be?

Closing statement

The huge death toll in the UK has been described as ‘social murder’ and demands a timely investigation into government management of the pandemic. With 126,000 deaths, those left bereaved require answers; lessons learned and applied could reduce the ongoing death toll (for example re-organising ‘test and trace’ so that it is made effective). The government needs to be held to account for its actions but currently refuses to respond to the growing pressure from a wide cross-section of opinion for a comprehensive official inquiry. Faced with what are perceived as serious crimes perpetrated by governments, civil society has devised the concept of a “Citizen’s Tribunal” – part legal proceedings, part theatre and part publicly speaking “truth to power”. This is the basis for our ‘People’s Covid Inquiry’.

Dr John Puntis, Co-chair Keep Our NHS Public

SCANDALS, ELECTIONS, EMERGENCIES

Germany, once viewed as an exaggerated model of exactitude and discipline, is currently in a muddle


23/03/2021

BERLIN BULLETIN NO. 187 March 22, 2021

Above all it’s the Covid mess. Seen last spring as a model of swift, effective response, Germany is now torn by controversy, with its sixteen states and dozens of politicians squabbling about when to send which kids (if any) back to school, the 1st, 5th or 9th graders, with or without masks, with or without self-testing. Shopkeepers and restaurant owners protest: “When can we open our doors or at least serve outdoor tables?” But if they can open in April, why can’t hotels do the same? What about the tourist trade? At Easter, but mostly in the summer, huge waves of Germans surge toward the surf at the Baltic and North Sea and the warmer waters (and mostly hotter nightlife) along Mediterranean coasts in Spain, Turkey, the Balearics. What about theater people and musicians, solo or in ensemble? Or the sex workers, also solo or in legal establishments known as “Eros Centers”? All are clamoring for more government funds for survival.

All hopes were based on vaccines, first for old folks and medical staff. But who next? Teachers, cops? Secretive arrangements for vaccine purchases were in turmoil, both financially and medically. Just as Europe seemed to be under control, there were unpleasant rumors about AstraZeneca shots. Then the Minister of Health announced an “All clear, (nearly) all safe.” But some of the unvaccinated masses, skeptical anyway, decided against penetration of their arm muscles.

Some people joined motley groups marching on weekends to claim the whole virus story was phony, aimed at curtailing freedoms, increasing the world power of Bill and Melinda Gates, or compelling world vaccination. Some threw in QAnon accusations or carried rightist flags. Often rejecting legally-required distancing and masks, they occasionally got dragged away and registered by masked (often visored) police. Guesses were on as to where such groups would head politically: right, left, up or down.

A new question arose, hitherto unthinkable: might Germany copy India, Mexico, Hungary, Slovakia and others and resort to Russian vaccines – or even Chinese ones?!

Into this Kuddelmuddel (a nice German word hardly requiring translation) plopped some scandals, nice juicy ones, though without the erotic edges of many in the USA; unless you include the pedophilia cover -up scandals now embarrassing the Catholic Church in Cologne, their malodor defying the fabled eau-de perfumes of that city.

But these scandals, despite their party names, did not rip into the poor church but into its close allies, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union (CSU). Two legislators’ hands were caught deep in the cookie jar – contracts for supplying anti-virus face masks. It seems that they were moved so deeply by early shortages that they used their business connections, cultivated despite public service in the Bunderstag, to arrange very lucrative deals from friendly producers. Friendly enough for little “Thank you” gestures for the sales – 250,000 euros for Nikolas Löbel, 35, CDU, and 660,000 for Georg Nüsslein, 52, CSU.

Of course, party leaders were “totally shocked” at such nefarious doings, almost inconceivable for members of their double party which has been foremost in running Germany for all these years. They hastened to undo the damage, ejecting the two from their Bundestag seats and demanding that all their colleagues swear in writing – by the following Friday – that they were not involved in any such bribery (at least not in Covid connected business). All of them solemnly signed.

But before the ink had quite dried another CSU man, this time in the state legislature (luckily not again in the Bundestag ), was also caught. Alfred Sauter, 71, once Minister of Justice in Bavaria, was unable to account properly for the handy sum of 1,200,000 million euros – also for overcharged face-masks! As yet unclarified: how much went into his pockets, how much to his party, how much was not paid in taxes. All three gentlemen had to resign from their party and all posts, but will hardly face greater harm than to their reputations – if that.

Scandals were not new to the Federal Republic. But this one had an almost comical side, hitting just days before two important elections, in a year to be studded with elections. Despite almost frantic assurances that only a few “bad apples” had been involved, the CDU got hit hard twice, not only due to the scandals, no doubt, but also to dismay about the Covid mess and growing woes and fears of current and potentially future jobless, moneyless, maybe homeless persons when (and if) the disease has run its course. Then too, in both state elections a key role was played by personalities.

Rheinland-Pfalz (or Rhineland-Palatinate in English) is known for three things. In Mainz, its capital, Johannes Gutenberg printed his famous Bible and initiated printing in Europe. Trier was the birthplace of Karl Marx. And Martin Luther’s epochal refusal to recant, getting the Reformation going against the Catholic Church (thus already under attack way back in 1521) was at a meeting, named for the town, deliciously called the Diet of Worms.

In the March election its present-day celebrity, Malu Dreyer – she’s a Social Democrat – is so well-liked by her constituents, less for party policies than for her friendly, down-to-earth way of chatting with them, that in a race with many participants she won with almost 36%, leaving the once-proud CDU with only 27.6%, their worst result in that state’s history, and affording them five years to digest what might be called a new “diet of worms”. Malu, as she is often called, will almost certainly continue her coalition with the Greens, weak here, and the even more business-friendly Free Democrats. Since their symbol-color is yellow, and Malu’s SPD claims red, this is called a traffic light coalition – red-yellow-green.

In neighboring Baden-Württemberg the leading personality – and only Green premier in Germany – is the elderly Winfried Kretschmann, 72, with bristly white hair and a croaky Swabish-accented speech. On the right edge of his once seemingly radical left, now right-tending Green party, and a close friend of the two auto giants dominating his state, Daimler-Benz and Porsche. Kretschmann’s loud aggressiveness and the relative, auto-based, prosperity in his state got him a 32.7% vote , his party’s best result anywhere. And here too the CDU was handed the worst result in its history (24.1%) in a state it had dominated for decades. In the past 10 years they had been humble junior partners to Kretschmann’s Greens. After this fiasco he might ditch them and form a three-party traffic-light coalition. like Malu in his neighbor state.

Two other election items need mentioning. The good news first: the fascistic Alternative for Germany (AfD), once an expanding menace, remains a threat but a rather reduced one. Rent by factional strife, it skidded downward, missing its 10% goal in both elections with 9.7% (2016: 15.1%) in Rhineland-P. and even less – 8.3% (2016: 12.7%) – in Baden-W.

The bad news: the results for the LINKE were not surprising – but disappointing. A paltry 2.5% in Rheinland-P – even a bit less than five years ago – was hardly balanced in Baden-W by a 3.6% vote – just 0.7% more than five years ago. Both results were far from the 5% needed to gain a single seat in their state legislatures. The national party congress two weeks earlier was unable to give more boost in southwest Germany, where the LINKE has always been weakest. Aside from the rent ceiling law in Berlin and a current attempt per referendum to force big real estate blood-suckers out of that city, the party has not been able as yet to lead any popular struggles or catch many crowds’ imagination. Perhaps the new leadership will have more success.

It is badly needed. Understandably, the Covid pandemic worries people immensely; not only due to the chances of illness or death, but the job and financial troubles awaiting so many. But, earnest as these problems are, they are dwarfed by an overriding, far greater menace about which far too few are concerned – in Germany, the USA, everywhere; the danger of war, even atomic war. How many good souls will be marching two weeks from now in Germany’s traditional Easter peace marches? Maybe more than in recent years, maybe less, but certainly far too few – even though about two-thirds of the population favor a policy of peace with Russia (and China). Many others are undecided or disinterested.

But the belligerent remainder is powerful. It includes those who dream again of Germany’s power and glory, of its “proper place in the sun”, of high returns on African cotton, coffee, cocoa for its good chocolate, for coltan, uranium and gold diggings. Maybe even of once German-owned breweries for “coolies” near naval piers for warships in Tsingtao. And some dream of boots and guns like those which once advanced and blasted to within 19 miles of Moscow’s Red Square.

Others with related goals – the Atlanticists – are closely bound up with strong-arm power people in Washington; the Boltons and Pompeos but also a wolf pack of Democrats, in politics and the media, orating about “our adversaries” and pushing their “freedom” campaigns about election meddling, Navalny, or the Uigurs. It is hard not to think of bad past decades – or not to smell names like Raytheon and Rheinmetall, Lockheed-Martin and Krauss-Maffei!

One can approve of Putin and Xi Jinping or hate them, but their policies must basically be supported or opposed by their own people, especially if we wish the same. Denouncing or attacking them on the international stage can invoke far too many fearful memories, unforgotten in the lands where they were felt: 27 million Soviet citizens, mostly civilians, murdered by those whose descendants now join in calling them “adversaries”. Or 200,000-300,000 mostly civilians massacred in 1937 in Nanking. And many in the world still recall the two to three million killed in North Korea, later in Vietnam, mostly civilians, often with flesh-burning napalm. Or at least half a million who died in Iraq, and over 200,000 in Guatemala after a CIA coup in 1954. They come to mind when “freedom and democracy” are cited as our motivation.

“Navalny sentenced” – “Navalny imprisoned”. The poisoning of this right-wing racist filled the German media with angry articles and editorials. How many have there been about new attempts to rescue Mumia Abu-Jamal, 66, a gifted Black journalist and leftist essayist, locked away since 1981 after a frame-up trial – and now fighting death from prison-induced Covid?

When did the mass media report on another political prisoner, Leonard Peltier, 76, arrested in 1975, acquitted, then framed, repeatedly denied either a fair trial or a pardon. We read and hear so much about the Uigurs, always from clearly one-sided sources. Is there an equivalent amount about more than 2 million Americans behind bars – the world’s record – with Blacks still getting locked up five times as easily and often as whites.

What do media consumers know about the prisoners at Guantanamo, many tortured beyond description, never given trials, some only 14 or 15 when imprisoned, many hopeless suicides. Forty are still encaged there. Injustice is always wrong and should be castigated. But hypocrisy and elastic moral standards can also be dangerous sins.

Many elderly people recall their shock at learning the facts about over 100,000 Japanese women, children and seniors incinerated within minutes in 1945, with others suffering the effects until today. How many feel shock that, also until today, fifteen or twenty US atomic bombs are stored near the small German town of Büchel – next to special German planes ready to speed them eastward. Each bomb has an explosive power four to thirteen times as murderous as the Hiroshima bomb.

In a world pocked with 700 or 800 US bases, from Poland and Estonia to the Ukraine and Okinawa, with US aircraft carriers sailing through the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea, where risky “training maneuvers” face threatened borders, with mistakes or accidents all too common; any talk of asserting “American world leadership against its adversaries” would seem to border on insanity.

Will Biden’s Cabinet heads and generals choose this path? In Germany, will those hoping for peace or at least mutually advantageous business connections, weaken and succumb to those (the loudest, sadly, are often the strengthening Greens) who angrily denounce pipelines or any other peaceful lines, preferring warplanes, tanks and armed drones instead?

Every country is important, but the USA and Germany may well be the most important. That is why the forces of sanity, the pressure on the Biden government and on whichever forces win out in Berlin next fall are so crucially important. In Germany, the LINKE must always play a forceful role (despite some weakening around its edges). It must learn to grow and reach out in popular ways to all those who desire peace. It still has a voice!

With or without masks and vaccines, with a new government in the USA and one in Germany after September, two things will remain important: vigilance and action!