Moving Past Cute Orangatans: The Cost of Rainforest Destruction in Human Lives

 

Spoils of Destruction. Indonesian villagers fighting palm oil giants to reclaim their rainforest

RT (2018)

Film Review

Spoils of Destruction is about the Indonesian resistance movement to reclaim rainforest illegally confiscated for palm oil plantations. In Indonesia alone, ten million hectares of tropical rainforest have been to destroyed to plant palm oil trees. In the process, tens of thousands of peasants have been driven off their land, as well as having their water and remaining land poisoned by pesticides.

I find it both ironic and predictable that the western non-profit industrial complex chooses to campaign solely about orangutans endangered by multinational palm oil companies, to the exclusion of the large human population that has been sacrificed.

Palm oil is a common processed food additive linked with diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Here in New Zealand, farmers import large quantities of palm kernel as supplementary feed for “grass-fed” dairy cows and beef.

The benefits the Indonesian government promised when the land confiscations began 20 years ago have never eventuated. At present only 30 percent of the population makes a living working for palm oil companies – the other 70% struggle to survive as subsistence farmers.

In the village of Semunjung Jaya, pesticide runoff has poisoned the river peasants formerly used for drinking water and a source of fish. Gone, too, are the wild boar villagers relied on for protein. Heavy pesticide use has also poisoned the soil on adjacent tracks of farmland – making it impossible to grow rice, vegetables or corn.

Villagers fighting to get their land back receive support and training from national groups fighting the illegal “occupation” of Indonesia by multinational corporations. With their support, residents of Semunjung Jaya are suing the Indonesian government and palm oil companies over illegal land confiscation. The government has responded by discontinuing the meager subsidy it was paying farmers who lost their land.

Indigenous Australians Fight Nuclear Waste Dump

Protecting Country

Ngikalikarra Media (2017)

Film Review

Protecting Country is about a collection of indigenous Australian tribes who are fighting government efforts to site a uranium mine and an international nuclear waste dump on their treaty lands.

Thousands of Maralinga people have already suffered horribly due to British nuclear tests on their land in the 1950s.

The nuclear waste dump is illegal under international law. As a signatory to the UN International Treaty on Indigenous Rights, Australia is prohibited from depositing toxic waste on indigenous land without their permission.

Racial Repression and Police Terrorism in New Zealand

An Innocent Warrior

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

In 2007, after spying on them over an extended period, New Zealand police arrested charismatic Maori leader Tame Iti and his supporters in so-called “anti-terrorist” raids. The saga began when a police SWAT teams launched an assault on the families in Iti’s small rural community and established a massive blockade preventing all movement in and out of the region.

Iti and three other people (the “Urewera Four”) were accused of running a terrorist training camp and of being members of a criminal group. After the high court threw out the “terrorist” charges as being unlawful, the group were ultimately convicted of unlawful possession of firearms.

Filmed over seven years, the documentary follows Iti as he fights to clear his name. In a surprising turn, the government apologizes to his Ngai Tuhoe tribe for historical oppression – and the police apologize to Iti and his family.

The video can’t be embedded but can be viewed free at An Innocent Warrior

Italy: The Mafia and the Migrants

Italy: The Mafia and the Migrants

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns Mafia ties to Italy’s privately run immigrant reception centers. In the last four years Italy has admitted 600,000 migrants, who have crossed the Mediterranean by boat from Turkey and North Africa. The European Union pays the Italian government to operate emergency reception centers to provide migrant accommodation, food, clothes, medical services, “processing” (ie assistance in applying for refugee status), language training, employment referral and other integration services.

The Italian government, which pays these centers $35 per day per migrant, makes little effort to monitor them. Many are unsafe and unsanitary and so overcrowded that residents are forced to sleep in kitchens and showers. Likewise many reception center managers have little or no management or social service experience. Even more ominous, many are openly contracting with Mafia-run businesses.

In the eyes of the Italian Mafia, “migrants are worth more than drugs.” Although it’s illegal for any company convicted of Mafia affiliations to receive government contracts, generous kickbacks ensure local officials (and clergy) look the other way. In one reception center, a mob-run catering company routinely charges for 500 more meals than it serves.

A state prosecutor investigating the catering company estimates the mob has already made more than $1 billion of the refugee industry.

Hidden History: The Potato Famine and the Rise of Irish Nationalism

The Story of Ireland Part 4 (1801-1900)

BBC

Film Review

In 1801, the British Parliament passed the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland, official incorporation Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Highlights of this period include the Potato Famine (1841-1846) led one million Irish tenant farmers to die of starvation and disease and 1.5 million to emigrate to England and the US.

The Fenian Brotherhood, a revolutionary organization which began in Ireland in the 1860s, gave rise to a sister Fenian Brotherhood in the US. The latter raised major sums of money they sent back to Ireland to save poor tenant farmers from eviction.

In 1881, British Prime Minister William Gladstone passed a number of laws sought by Irish reformers, including legal protection for Irish tenant farmers against eviction and rent increases and the right to purchase their own land. He also repealed the Penal Laws that required Catholics (the majority of the Irish population) and Ulster Calvinists to pay taxes supporting the Anglican Church and preventing them from voting or standing for office.

He also supported Irish nationalist MP Charles Parnell’s bill establishing Home Rule for Ireland (Gladstone needed the votes of Parnell’s MPs to remain in office). It was defeated by 30 votes.

In 1899 when the Boer Republics revolted against British rule, numerous Irish nationalists (including Arthur Griffith – the eventual founder of Sinn Fein*) traveled to South Africa to  support the Boers in the war against the British.


*Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party formed in 1905 in support of Irish independence and unification.

Reclaiming Our History: The Irish Origin of Settler Colonialism

The Story of Ireland Part 3

BBC (2011)

Film Review

Part 3, which covers the period 1601-1800, begins with the resettlement of thousands of Calvinist Scots in Northern Ireland to subdue the indigenous Catholic population. This successful model of “settler colonialism” would be repeated in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Australia and by Israel in occupied Palestine.

Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland, massacring 3,000 civilians. His 1652 Act of Settlement would deprive Catholic landowners of their property and exile them west of the Shannon River.

In 1690, England’s Protestant lords invited William of Orange from the Dutch republics to dethrone the last Catholic king James II.

Although Catholicism remained Ireland’s state religion, William III’s Penal Laws imposed harsh restrictions on both Catholics and Ulster Calvinists, who were banned from voting, serving in parliament, holding office or running schools. This would cause a massive flood of Scotch-Irish and Catholic immigrants to North America.

Towards the end of the 18th century, Ireland’s Catholic majority became more and more rebellious, inspired by the American (1776) and French (1789) revolutions. In 1796, the new French Republic agreed to provide 15,000 troops to support a (unsuccessful) revolution in Ireland.

Al-Naqba: Palestine’s 200-Year History of Ethnic Cleansing

Al-Naqba: The Palestinian Catastrophe Episode 1 (1799-1936)

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

This is the most comprehensive documentary of the Zionist movement I’ve ever watched. The cinematography is incredibly beautiful and moving and includes scarce footage of vibrant pre-World War II Palestine.

I continue to be surprised by all the important events Western accounts leave out regarding the history of Zionism. Contrary to Western belief, the Jewish colonization of Israel didn’t began in 1916 with the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, but with Napoleon’s 1799 proposal to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine under French protection.

In 1840, when the British Foreign office tried to persuade the Sultan of the Ottoman empire to open Palestine to Jewish immigration, there were only 3,000 Jews in Palestine.

In the 1880s, as the power of the Ottoman empire started to decline, French banking magnate Baron de Rothschild openly campaigned to expand Jewish immigration, spending 40 million francs on the establishment of Jewish settlements in Palestine. The term Zionism* was first coined in 1885, with the first Zionist conference held in Basel Switzerland in 1906.

In 1907, as western Europe actively worked to usurp Ottoman colonies, the British Foreign Office called for the creation of a buffer state in the Arab-dominated Middle East – one that would be friendly to Europeans and hostile to Arabs.

The same year, 40,000 Palestinian farmers were forced off their lands by Jewish immigrants from Europe and Yemen.

By the close of World War I, when Palestine became a British protectorate, there were 50,000 Jews in Israel, 100,000 Arab Christians and 400,000 Arab Muslims.

In 1922, when the League of Nations charged Britain with preparing for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, it was opposed by US president Woodrow Wilson.

During the 1920s, Jewish immigration continued to increase, accompanied by increasing confiscation of Arab lands. Between 1922-25, 33,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine. Between 1925-1930, the country was flooded by an additional 175,000 immigrants.

Palestine’s ruler, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, approached the issue of Jewish immigration by trying to curry favor with the British colonizers. In contrast Arab (both Muslim and Christian) farmers who were being displaced began organizing and protesting Jewish immigration from 1925 on. The initially peaceful protests were brutally and barbarically suppressed by British troops, in the same fashion as India’s independence movement. Hundreds of protestors were jailed, executed or forcibly exiled.

As Jewish immigration continued to increase (42,000 in 1934 and 62,000 in 1935, The al-Qassam movement, which called for violent revolution to expel the British, launched a six-month Palestine-wide general strike in 1936.


*An international movement calling for the establishment of a majority Jewish state in Palestine via forced displacement of its Arab occupants.

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