Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chomsky: Confrontation with Hamas and Hezbollah

Q: How would you assess the Israeli and U.S. responses to the election of Hamas, and to the ensuing conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon?

Noam Chomsky: The U.S. response reveals, once again, that the United States supports democracy if and only if it conforms to U.S. strategic and economic objectives.

Perhaps it would be useful to review some highlights since Hamas was elected in late January 2006.

On February 12, the statements of Osama bin Laden were reviewed in the New York Times by NYU law professor Noah Feldman. He described bin Laden's descent into utter barbarism, reaching the depths when he advanced "the perverse claim that since the United States is a democracy, all citizens bear responsibility for its government's actions, and civilians are therefore fair targets." Utter depravity, no doubt. Two days later, the lead story in the Times casually reported that the United States and Israel are joining bin Laden in the lower depths of depravity. Palestinians offended the masters by voting the wrong way in a free election. The population must therefore be punished for this crime. The "intention," the correspondent observed, "is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections" so that President Mahmoud Abbas will be "compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement." Mechanisms of punishment of the population are outlined. The article also reports that Condoleezza Rice will visit the oil producers to ensure that they do not relieve the torture of the Palestinians. In short, bin Laden's "perverse claim"; but when the United States advances the claim, it is not ultimate evil but rather righteous dedication to "democracy promotion."1

These paired articles elicited no comment that I could discover. Also overlooked was the fact that bin Laden's "perverse claim" is standard operating procedure. Familiar examples are "making the economy scream" when Chileans had the effrontery to elect Salvador Allende -- the "soft track"; the "hard track" brought Pinochet. Another pertinent illustration is the U.S.-UK sanctions regime that murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, devastated the country, and probably saved Saddam Hussein from the fate of other monsters like him (often supported by the United States and Britain to the very end). Not quite bin Laden's doctrine; rather, much more perverse, not only in terms of scale but also because Iraqis could not by any stretch of the imagination be held responsible for Saddam Hussein.

The most venerable illustration is Washington's forty-seven-year campaign of terror and economic strangulation against Cuba. From the internal record, we learn that the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations determined that "[t]he Cuban people are responsible for the regime," so they must be punished with the expectation that "[r]ising discomfort among hungry Cubans" will cause them to throw Castro out (JFK). The State Department advised that "[e]very possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba [in order to] bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government."2 The doctrine remains in force.

Without continuing, we find ample evidence that it is no departure from the norm to adopt bin Laden's most perverse claim in order to punish Palestinians for their democratic misdeeds.

The United States and Israel then proceeded to implement their "intention," with scrupulous care. Thus, for example, an EU proposal to provide some desperately needed aid for health care was stalled when U.S. "officials expressed concerns that some of this money might end up paying nurses, doctors, teachers and others previously on the government payroll, thereby helping to finance Hamas." Another achievement of the "war on terror." With U.S. backing, Israel also continued its terrorist atrocities and other crimes in Gaza and the West Bank -- in some cases, perhaps, in an attempt to induce Hamas to violate its embarrassing cease-fire, so that Israel could respond in "self-defense," another familiar pattern.3

In May 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert announced his plan to formalize Sharon's West Bank expansion programs, which were announced along with the "Gaza disengagement." Olmert chose the term "convergence" ("hitkansut") as a euphemism for annexation of valuable land and resources (including water) of the West Bank, programs designed to break the continually shrinking Palestinian areas into separated cantons, virtually isolated from one another and from whatever corner of Jerusalem will be left to Palestinians, all imprisoned as Israel takes over the Jordan valley and controls air space and any external access. In a stunning public relations triumph, Olmert won praise for his courage in "withdrawing" from the West Bank as he put the finishing touches on the project of destroying any hope for recognition of Palestinian national rights. We were enjoined to lament the "anguish" of the residents of scattered settlements that would be abandoned as they "converge" into the territories illegally annexed behind the cruel and illegal "Separation Wall." All of this proceeds, as usual, with a kindly nod from Washington, which is expected to fork up the billions of dollars needed to carry out the plans, though there are occasional admonitions that the destruction of Palestine should not be "unilateral": It would be preferable for President Mahmoud Abbas to sign a surrender declaration, in which case everything would be just fine.

The people of Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to observe all of this submissively, rotting in their virtual prisons. Otherwise they are sadistic terrorists.

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Illuminati reveal crazy, apocalyptic agenda

"The End of this [26,000 year] Cycle, heralds literally, a New World Age, and a New Creation. A new Heaven, and a new Earth, and is the time of the Great Harvest. Smaller Cycles yield a Harvest, and then life continues on the planet as normal. Great Cycles yield a Great Harvest, and the end of current life on the 3rd Density. See it as a kind of 'Cosmic jet wash' and deep clean, while the planet takes a rest and regenerates herself.. When this Life-Cycle Ends, "All things will pass away, and All things shall be made new".
"So, December 21, 2012 AD, is not the day where all of a sudden the lights go out, and everything will suddenly change, rather, we are NOW in the process of this transition, from one World Age to the next. The changes are underway and will continue steadily accelerating as we head towards the culminating date. The 26,000 year cycle is composed of 5 lesser cycles, each of which are 5,125 years in duration. Each of these 5 cycles is considered its own World Age or Creation Cycle. Our present great cycle (3113 B.C. - 2012 A.D.) is called the Age of the Fifth Sun."
"If we do not have a Negative Harvest, we are bound with you for another cycle....We need a Negative Harvest, so that we can create our 4th Density Earth, and clear our Karmic Record..."

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Palestinian loss of land from 1946 to 2000

Anarchist brings home the class war for his biopic

The brother of the man who led the attack on the village – Thomas Kingsmill – is buried beneath a skull-and-crossbones tombstone in Goudhurst churchyard.

Mr Bone said: “Goudhurst today is just as cosy as it always was, which makes it a perfect place to film old scenes in because it's hardly changed.

“Although the film is about radicalism, it's also a comedy too and I hope it will be a great success. Hopefully it will also encourage more people to visit the village.”

The Class War anarchist group advocated violent revolution through its newspaper of the same name. It was active through most of the 1980s and 90s and organised a number of 'Bash the Rich' events.

Its paper regularly featured pictures of injured policemen, and a early cover ran the headline 'We have found new homes for the rich' over a cemetery.

Despite no longer being heavily involved with the Class War group, Mr Bone still finds time to ruffle some feathers.

Last month he joined anarchists outside the Greek embassy in London protesting about growing unrest back home, while he is also planning his own special greeting for Barack Obama when the US President-elect visits the UK for the first time in April.

Mr Bone said: “I've not mellowed and I haven't grown old gracefully. I'm still stuck in a 1960s time warp.”

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Intolerant of free thought? Us?

Our state Legislature will get a second chance to designate Jan. 29, the birthday of Thomas Paine, as Thomas Paine Day.

It wouldn't be an actual holiday. We'd simply take official notice.

Rep. Lindsley Smith's effort to get this done two years ago failed in the House of Representatives. Legislators got hold of some of Paine's writings and went all religiously ballistic on them.

It behooves us, then, to consider the matter and man anew.

Superficially, Paine is admired in America for coming here from England at Ben Franklin's invitation and writing a pamphlet called “Common Sense.” Paine's message was so strikingly clear and compelling that it significantly inspired our nation's revolution.

But there are others who admire Paine in greater philosophical depth. They are dedicated so-called freethinkers. They have their own freethinking societies. They celebrate the daring and courage of holding, expressing and arguing views that contradict popularity and convention.

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Frederick Engels and Early Christianity

This is the season to remind all our Christian friends of the relationship between Christianity and Marxism-Leninism and the working class movement. Engels (”On the History of Early Christianity”) tells us that there are “notable points of resemblance” between the early working class movement and Christianity.

First, both movements were made up of oppressed poor people from the lower ranks of society. Christianity was a religion of slaves and people without rights subjugated by the state and very similar to the types of poor oppressed working people that founded the earliest socialist and worker's organizations in modern times.

Second, both movements held out the hope of salvation and liberation from tyranny and oppression: one in the world to come, the other in this world.

Third, both movements were (and in some places still are) attacked by the powers that be and were discriminated against, their members killed or imprisoned, despised, and treated as enemies of the status quo.

Fourth, despite fierce persecution both movements grew and became more powerful. After three hundred years of struggle Christians took control of the Roman Empire and became a world religion. The worker's movement is still struggling. After its first modern revolutionary appearance as a fully self conscious movement (1848) it achieved a major impetus in the later part of the nineteenth century with the growth of the First and Second Internationals, and the German Social Democratic movement. It too is now a world wide movement with Socialist, Social Democratic and Communist parties spread around the world. [The rise and fall of the USSR was a bump in the road the consequences of which have yet to be determined.]

The Book of Acts reveals that the early Christians were primitive communists sharing their goods in common and leading a collective life style. This original form of Christianity was wiped out when the Roman Empire under Constantine imposed Christianity as the official religion of the state and set up the Catholic Church in order to make sure that the religious teachings of Jesus and the early followers of his movement would be perverted to protect the interests of the wealthy and the power of the state.

With few exceptions, all forms of modern day Christianity are descended from this faux version, based on a mixture of Jewish religious elements and the practices of Greco-Roman paganism, and only the modern working class and progressive movements (basically secular) carry on in the spirit of egalitarianism and socialism of the founder of Christianity.

Engels points out that there were many attempts in history (especially from the Middle Ages up to modern times) to reestablish the original communistic Christianity of Jesus and his early followers.

These attempts manifested themselves as peasant uprisings through the middle ages which tried to overthrow feudal oppression and create a world based on the teaching of Jesus and his Apostles.

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Viva Emiliano! Bay Area's first baby

Less than a minute after midnight, Emiliano Martinez was born — most probably the Bay Area's first baby of 2009, beating out other "First Half-Hour" children in Santa Clara, Castro Valley and elsewhere. He will soon leave the Antioch hospital to join his 2-year-old brother, Carmelo, in the family's Pittsburg home.

The couple decided many months ago to name the boy Emiliano after the Mexican popular hero, Emiliano Zapata, who was an important figure in the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

"He's kind of like a Robin Hood," said Francisco Martinez, an employee at the Concord Disposal Service who was raised in Pittsburg but was born in the Jalisco state of Mexico. His wife, a Concord native of Colombian and Greek descent, liked both the sound and the meaning of the name.

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Eyeless in Gaza

When I was a child, living in Athens, I got my first little taste of how the Palestinian/Israeli narrative was to be embroidered, rendered-into-myth—by all involved in the story—when my parents took me to see the film “Exodus.”

Now, “Exodus” was first a powerful work of literary fiction (by Leon Uris), and then a powerful work of cinematic fiction (by Otto Preminger). I went around singing the theme song to the movie (by Ernest Gold) for years after I first saw the film. Ironically, I can't bear to hear it today: it's about as appealing to me as the Horst-Wessel-Lied must have been for most Germans, after the Nazi Era.

But that first time around, in Athens, I didn't even get to see the end of the movie as I was rushed out of the theater by my parents. For some reason I couldn't fathom at 10, people were vehemently booing the film and pelting the screen with trash. I know my father tried to explain the reasons for this remarkable audience response—remarkable, and terrifying, to a child yanked out of Pasadena, whose first two movie experiences comprised “Gigi” and “Around The World In 80 Days.”

“Those people throwing things at the screen,” he said, “are Palestinian and Greek-Orthodox refugees who lost their land in Palestine when the State of Israel came into being.”

Aha. My father wasn't one to beat around the bush.

Very, very early in life, I was introduced to refugees, to the dispossessed, to people thrown out of one country and only grudgingly taken in by another, to impoverished, hopeless souls living in camps. My father was a psychiatric social worker: the dispossessed were his bailiwick.

“Exodus” had tried to tell me a lie, and I very likely would have believed it had I seen the film in the United States without my father. But there were people already living in Palestine in the 1940's. There were Jewish and Christian and Muslim “residents,” going about their daily lives, tending flocks and groves, living where they had been born, when “Exodus Part Two” began.

But, before and after The Holocaust, when Europe's Jews were fleeing the Nazis, escaping and seeking refuge elsewhere. . .The Powers That Be determined that Palestine, though already fully inhabited, would be just the place for them. (Just like the US and the UK and the UN to want to “settle” the dispossessed “elsewhere”: I would have offered up Texas—at least it's got oil.)

I once owned a house in South Carolina, most probably built, in 1830, on land belonging to the Cherokee. In South Carolina, I had to take out insurance, in the event the rightful owners returned and demanded the property. We white settlers drove the Cherokee we couldn't exterminate onto reservations (settlements just like Gaza and the West Bank), but our later guilt in THIS country, and the realities of modern-day jurisprudence, have given us pause—hence those insurance policies.

First, just beat the tar out of those you want to disposess. Marginalize and contain them. And then, bomb the hell out of them, decade after decade, when they dare to raise their heads and say, “Excuse me, but we really WERE here first. No matter WHAT you think your fiery bush told you. I mean: stuff happens; time passes; your Great Temple MAY well have stood here, thousands of years ago, but I and my Muslim and Christian and Sephardic kin have now held occupancy for, oh, hundreds of generations or so, and we're not going to take eviction quietly.”

~ more... ~

Musical Innerlube: Staind - For You

The revenge of life

It's been a week since Alexandros was murdered. 7 days, which i spent mostly at home, because of a bad case of flu. Besides cursing my bad luck, i spent these days stuck in the internet and the telephone, reading and watching what was happening and what was being said, talking with friends that were on the streets. So, this is the view of an observer and i hope that such a view is useful as well.

Starting from a strictly political perspective: These days, the days of Alexandros, mark the fiercest social explosion this country has experienced since 1990-91, when the great pupil-student movement and the assassination of teacher Temponeras shook Greece. It's a revolt of the youth, and especially the pupil youth, that right now is writing its own history. Depending on how the situation evolves, a whole generation has the possibility to emancipate itself, to define its own starting point, to add another link to the historic chain: the 1-1-4 movement in the '60s, the Polytechnic uprising in 1973, the 1990-91 movement, the generation of Alexandros. Without underestimating the other big youth events of the past (the student movements of the late '70s, the recent movement against privatisation of university level education, the pupil movement of '98, the exploding moments of the "wild youth" like the '95 Polytechnic riots), it seems that this uprising has the amplitude, the symbolisms and the intensity to constitute a real catalyst for important social shifts. In a few words, it can change things.

And then a more sentimental reading of the events: Theses days donated generously to everyone, even to TV-viewers, unbelievable moments of beauty. Sometimes "classic" beauty, like thousands of 16 year old boys and girls in the streets, shouting, throwing stones, locking the cops in their police stations and then offering them flowers, crying and laughing. It opens your heart. Dwellers of cafes in Korai square, freeing "our children" from the riot police, residents in Nea Smirni, and in many other neighbourhoods and cities doing the same. There were also moments of "surreal" beauty, with the huge Christmas tree burning in front of the parliament being the most characteristic of those. And finally, so many moments of "wild" beauty - even if lots of people cannot appreciate them - hundreds of stones in the air, molotov cocktails lighting up the streets, and yes - banks and corporate stores burning. It doesn't really matter who started the fire, if people could do with their minds there would be no bank standing in Greece right now. Such was the intensity of the collective craving in the streets.

The media, greek as well as international, reflecting i think the general feeling of "orderly" people worldwide, are under a state of shock. Especially the greek media change their "line" daily, sometimes even within a few minutes, trying to come up with a familiar, reassuring discourse, that would provide a feeling of safety in the face of events that they cannot understand and scare them to death. They try to fit what's happening in schemes they know (or think they know) and feel that they can control. But still, the "society of the orderly" was shocked last Monday when they saw thousands of organized pupils attacking police stations all over Greece. Where can one catalogue these images?

Comrade Halvatzis (an MP of the Greek Communist Party), last Thursday in a Parliament Session, declared with absolute certainty: "Pupils do not smash banks. Pupils, youth, students do not smash, do not destroy things". So then who does? The middle-aged, the public servants or the pensioners? See nothing, hear nothing, know nothing. In the face of the unexpected, a part of society (at the top as well as at its base) resorts to pure denial. They expel the cause of the events to the realm of the supernatural, discovering again the mythical and exotic creature of the "hoodbearer". They don't care why these people wear hoods in the demonstrations (a wild guess: because they don't want to be identified by the cameras and later receive a not so polite visit by the police). It doesn't matter one bit who is under the hood, what's his or her story. Anyways, the hoodbearer (the source of evil) is not entitled to any social or human attributes. Neither young, nor old. Neither a pupil, nor a student, a worker or simply unemployed. It's neither a boy, nor a girl. Hardly a person at all. It's simple the hoodbearer, who lives in another planet (the planet of the Enemies of Democracy) far away from us, and lands every now and then in the centre of Athens to destroy things. Or else, total absurdity is sometimes preferable to the fear of the unknown.

Another part of the society, fortunately much larger, understands that the events carry great importance, that they constitute an expression of social feelings that have grown to explosive dimensions. They are trying to locate the "why" of this uprising, to create linear relationships between cause and effect, in an effort to give meaning to the unexpected. The global media also fall in this category, attributing the uprising to the economic crisis, the unemployment and the government scandals. This logic is telling us that the youth are revolting because they fear that in the future they won't be able to find work, they won't be able to support a family, they won't be able to afford a house and a car. They rise up because they feel that they are denied the chance to live like the "grownups" live now. Which is to say: See everything, hear nothing and explain the "other" with your own values.

But if you really want to understand what other people are telling you, you just have to hear them. Clear your mind for a moment, open some space for new thoughts. The youth is revolting because they want to live. With every last one of the meanings of the word "life". They want to live freely, they want space to create, to emancipate themselves, to play. They don't want to spend their adolescence in 12 hour days of school and extra courses, their first adult years in the pointless chase of a university degree, the passport to a glorious 800 euro - 48 hours a week job in a boring office. They don't want to be dependent on their families in order to start a family of their own. And honestly, they don't even care about starting a family. Bored of "having fun" in video games cafes, clubs, stadiums, shopping malls and commercial concerts. They are not jealous of "normality" and do no seek it. On the contrary, they see this "promise" of normality getting even worse: the school even more exhausting, the hideous job getting even more hideous, the university starting to resemble the school. And marriage looking like a sentence to prison.

This is not a "no future" generation, it's simply a generation that does not accept the present as its future, that simply can't stand the idea that this present will freeze and reproduce forever. At 32, still "unsettled" in every sense of the word, this is how i feel part of this youth. We do not share the cynicism, the dysthymia of a society that keeps on repeating "what can you do, that's the way things will always be". We crave to construct our own, autonomous future. And there are a lot of things standing in our way. That's the point of unity between pupils, students, young working /unemployed /precarious adults. When you really want to live, a spark is enough to make you instinctively attack anything that you think stands in your way. In these moments the youth feels that police stations, riot police squads and banks are blocking their way, so they're just trying to push them aside. If they won't budge, you just have to burn them down (which of course doesn't work that way, but that's the drive to do it). And in personal life, the obstacles are being realized as your family, your bosses, your "responsibilities".

Still, the intensity of this particular uprising also comes from its own starting point. When one feels that his or her life is in danger, even in the strict biological sense, reacting is also a matter of pure survival. Alexandros was just 16 years old, and if you hear what the pupils are saying, it's clear that they have totally identified with him. No obstacle, no fear can stand in the way of the instinct to survive. They can hit me, arrest me, expel me from school, but if i don't do something i could be next. The cop's bullet has awakened life's deepest reflexes in greek kids, and now...good luck to the orderly trying to get them back to the herd.

These days life is getting its revenge, with all its force. Only the evolution of events can tell us if this explosion of the desire to live will open creative paths, smaller or larger, or if it will be contained. I fear only for one outcome: that the dynamics of violence, which the mechanisms of power know excellently how to use, will draw the limits of this uprising. Anger and rage are initially propulsive feelings, but when they freeze they usually lead to depression. Besides personal psychology, this seems to be the case for social psychology as well. The best case scenario would be a solid "victory" for this movement, like the resignation of the government or at least of the whole police administration. The youth feels emancipated right now, and it needs a symbolic affirmation. One should not underestimate symbolism, it yields tremendous power. Alexandros himself is the best proof for that...

Athens, 13-12-2008

~ Infoshop ~

Social movements and resistance - The time has come

By Peter Bohmer
12 Dec, 2008

I think there is a good possibility that we are about to enter a period of major uprisings, social movements and major protests focusing on but not limited to the global  recession/depression we are entering into. I am talking both about the United States and globally although my comments focus primarily on the United States.
One  sign of this bubbling unrest is the massive national support for the occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago by their workers when the owners shut down the plant and laid off the workers there last Friday. It seems that the majority of workers were Latino/a immigrants pointing out the key role of immigrants in a more militant labor movement, and the continuing importance of the strongest movement in the U.S., the immigrant rights movement, in the current period.

This sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors by its workers really resonated with people throughout the United States, even those who in normal times talk about respecting private property and the law. I think there is large-scale understanding and anger that the economic system is broken, and that those most responsible for the current situation are those with political and economic power.

In Europe, the riots, militant protests and strikes in Greece against the police killing of a youth and growing economic hardship there is another sign of renewed activism, as is the support for this Greek resistance in many other countries in Europe. Just like the occupation of Republic Windows and Doors, the uprising in Greece is tapping into broader conscious and unconscious feelings of anger at the economic break-down and repression.

In the U.S., the Obama campaign has reawakened interest in politics, in yearnings for economic and social  justice, and for  peace and against war by millions of people, particularly youth. Combined with a rapidly spiraling downward economy that is already causing a lot of hardship which will sadly worsen in 2009, and the ineffective and in many ways criminal bailout to financial institutions, there is a lot of anger and dissatisfaction among the people of the United States. There is strong interest and desire in understanding what is going on and what should be done.

Obama's pro corporate, pro capitalist globalization and neoliberal economic advisers are likely to underestimate how serious the economic problems are and misdiagnose the problem and the necessary policy changes. Poverty, in the next two years, will grow substantially as well as people losing their homes and jobs. The new foreign policy and military team are likely to carry out a foreign and military policy similar to Bill Clinton's administration. The continued militarism will possibly awaken anti-war activities, particularly the huge and continued war and military spending during an economic depression when human needs are so great. Even with regards to the environment and climate change, the Obama administration reforms are likely to be wholly inadequate. Progressive economic and foreign policy will not come from the Obama administration unless there are huge and organized social movements demanding this.

So I think we need to be preparing for these possibilities of increased interest in activism and a spreading and growth of  organized and unorganized uprisings. Let us think big!! We need to strengthen the infrastructure of existing movements, connect issues and organizations better, be bolder in our explanations of what is going on and in our demands. Capitalism is not working. It is particularly  important that we build and strengthen institutions  locally, regionally, nationally and even globally that can provide explanations of the economic and financial collapse, teach potential activists useful skills, and be a  place for the discussion of causes, impact, and strategies for reformist and revolutionary change. Perhaps most importantly we need to talk and listen and connect  more with those who are losing their jobs, their homes, their health care, cannot afford higher education and who are falling into poverty and near poverty.

In the Pacific Northwest, a few of us have begun talking about doing a major teach-in and strategy conference in spring, 2-009 explaining what is going on economically and building on current organizing and resistance. The response so far in a few informal conversations has been very enthusiastic.

Recession/depression does not necessarily mean more organized resistance and radicalization but I have a feeling that there are more possibilities today than there have been in a long time.

In solidarity,

Peter  Bohmer

~ ZBlogs ~

‘Drop all charges against protesters’

IAC/FIST letter to Greek gov't:

22 Dec, 2008

In coordination with worldwide protests in solidarity with the people of Greece, activists delivered a protest letter to the Greek Consul General in New York on Dec. 18, from which we print excerpts:

Here in the U.S. the specter of police brutality is all too familiar and for every case that makes national attention there are hundreds more that aren't reported. The International Action Center and the youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together [FIST] have both shown solidarity with the families and victims of police brutality and have helped mobilize for rallies and protests against police brutality. So we understand very well the sentiments of the people of Greece who have taken to the streets in mass numbers in response to the police killing of Alexandros Andreas Grigoropoulos.

The protests and rebellions that have erupted around the country in Greece are about more than just the fatal shooting of unarmed 15-year-old Alexi Grigoropoulos. They are because of the actions of the conservative government of the New Democracy under Kostas Karamanlis, which include increasing the powers of police forces in the country for surveillance, for the use of weapons and for expanding the reach of the secret services.

Also, like many governments that support the rich, super-rich and employers, the government of Greece is heaping the burden of the general economic crisis on the backs of the workers and youth. Poverty and unemployment are increasing in Greece as they are around the world.

It is these things that have led to the uprisings, the general strike, the protests and mass sentiment of the people of Greece. We support their actions and call on the government of Greece to not only fully prosecute the cop killers of Alexandros Andreas Grigoropoulos, but to stop the attacks against protesters and to release without charges all who have been detained and to observe the right of people to express their dissent.

We stand with the people of Greece and the demands they have raised for economic justice and against the brutal actions of the state forces.

Commenting on the events in Athens

To the Editor:
I happen to be in Athens, and although I have not as yet witnessed first hand the results of the destruction, nonetheless I was submerged in a state of disbelief for what I was seeing on TV during the last four days. No doubt, the past weighs heavy on the Greek psyche and it is a point of reference to all political parties and factions. Especially for the left, the traumas left from the reign of terror that preceded and followed the civil war by the police and the paramilitary gangs (and tolerated by the government), leave no room for a more balanced evaluation.

The present (moderate) government on the other hand tries to avoid a repetition of past sins of previous right-wing governments: state enforced terrorism and repression. Involved in a cascade of scandals and unable to extricate itself from their deleterious effects to its credibility, it appeared unable (and unwilling) to act in the face of the riotous protests that erupted after the brutal killing of a youth by the police. Unclear yet remains the political identity and objectives of the hood-wearing gangs who, when not acting alone, always seem to infiltrate the ranks of the protesters, who in most instances are law abiding citizens.

As it happens, it is a historical fact that most revolutions and uprisings have occurred in times of seeming tranquility, when the ruling classes enjoy prosperity and prominence but, at the same time, there is an undercurrent of discontent that only needs a catalyst, an excuse, to erupt into an earthquake, to become a human avalanche.

This is what we have witnessed in Athens in the last four days--and maybe beyond.

Orestes Varvitsiotes

~ Greek News ~

Greek anarchists, anomie, and hapless government

The shooting of a teenager by Greek police sparked riots that have shaken Greece. Banks, businesses, and police stations were burned. Blame rests firmly on an apparently headless government.
By Cornelia Tsakiridou
1 Jan, 2009

Greece is a country that takes great pride in its long history and rightly so. But it is also a nation where myths crafted over centuries rule unchallenged. The December 6, 2008 death in Athens of 15-year-old Alexandros Gregoropoulos by police fire triggered riots and mayhem throughout the country and caused protests in some of its embassies and consulates abroad.

As the riots continue, three myths are dominating public perception: that those in positions of authority cannot be trusted; that the rebellious and poor have a monopoly on justice; and that problems facing the nation are caused by obscure international enemies and their domestic operatives.

With banks, police stations, and businesses burned to the ground, Molotov bombs on steady supply, and banner-carrying students, many underage, claiming revolutionary authority—e.g., forcing their way into a national TV station (NET), the chairman of which, Christos Panagopoulos, politely complained “this goes beyond any limit”—a docile Greek public seems to have embraced the premise that youthful rebellion is justified and even admirable.

As a result, the country's middle and higher education system has been seriously disrupted, with classes suspended and over 600 schools and 150 university departments and buildings remaining under student occupation. In Athens and elsewhere, new recruits in protests and occupations include schoolchildren.

The spectacle of young people (and assorted criminals, leftwing extremists, and self-proclaimed anarchists) on a smash-and-burn spree wrapping themselves in the mantle of justice, martyrdom, and victimhood is only rivaled by that of a government incapable of making a clear and effective distinction between political grievance and thuggery, lawlessness and the rule of law.

Despite attempts in the national and international press (among them Le Monde and The Guardian) to give a deeper dimension to the Greek riots and to offer a mix of elaborate psychological and sociological explanations, the truth may actually be rather plain. The riots happened because the legal mechanisms designed to protect the public interest remained idle. The reasons are not difficult to surmise. First, in Greece the public domain is the designated arena of political and personal advancement.

Thus, except in rhetoric, there is effectively no concept of public interest to uphold and defend. There have been no counter-demonstrations demanding that the violence, looting, and destruction stop because they are against the public good. Second, many in the public apparently sympathize with the rioters' stance that state corruption justifies state disruption. Third, an increasing number of Greeks across the political spectrum believe that the riots are the result of sinister foreign designs too powerful for any Greek government to deter.

The death of Gregoropoulos was neither sinister nor symptomatic of systemic police brutality, but what preceded it was clearly against the public interest. The police claim that the boy was part of a group of about 30 youths that attacked them with rocks and petrol bombs and that he was killed when a bullet fired in the air was deflected and hit him in the chest—a version that according to the accused officers' attorney is supported by yet-to-be released forensic tests.

The son of an affluent family and a former student at an exclusive Athens high school, Gregoropoulos was allegedly loitering with friends at Exarcheia, a neighborhood notorious for its disaffected youth, rogue anarchists, and drug addicts, where taunting the police is a popular sport and where only last month angered residents came out to protest the lack of police action. Whether he was actively involved in the events that led to the shooting, or was merely an unlucky bystander remains to be determined.

This in the end may matter little. In Greece, facts are not favored in political rhetoric and reportage. Ideology and political fiction offer a more certain and rewarding picture, and the demand for both is high. The state of mind that leads one to believe that the 9/11 attacks were the sinister work of the American government—as many Greeks adamantly believe—will easily conclude that Gregoropoulos' death was a cold-blooded murder with an elaborate cover-up already in the works.

As with the 2006 forest fires (reputed to be the work of arsonists from neighboring countries), conspiracy theories are fueling speculation about the riots' being part of wider plots to destabilize Greece—something that the country's governing parties have been doing quite admirably on their own for decades. True to the spirit of conspiracy, no clear picture has emerged about who the rioters are, based on arrest records and other information. The designation “the familiar strangers,” or “the hooded ones,” accords them the operative status that justifies what many in the public want to hear.

But statements like “we have decided to storm only big businesses, chain stores and banks and not small businesses, because they are everyday workers” (James Hider, The Times, December 13, 2008) and a teenager's resolution that “Athens must burn, especially the banks” (Matthew Campbell, The Sunday Times, December 14, 2008) suggest an increasingly emboldened attitude. Athens Institute for Training and Vocational Guidance (IEKEP) institute director Penelope Stathakopoulos told The Guardian's Ian Traynor that “a lot of these kids believe in zero.” Myths become especially powerful when the social order breaks down and the instruments of law are demonized.

In scenes reminiscent of the Intifada, rock-throwing youths in masks and headscarves proclaimed Gregoropoulos a martyr who would live forever in his people's memory. A black-clad crowd of 6,000 attended his funeral, including hundreds of high school students accompanied by teachers. TV cameras and reporters stood by to register the unfolding national drama and attribute it in somber tones to the profound anxiety suffered by youth uncertain about their future and traumatized by Greece's failing government and its corruption.

Resorting to Delphic platitudes historically favored by Greece's ever-vigilant left and aimed especially at gullible young ears, protesters' signs declared the need for “schools not bombs,” and charged the Greek state with killing its young—“bullets for your youth, money for your banks.”

On the sixth day of the riots, this cheap rhetoric once again proved successful: emboldened high school students attacked newspapers and police buildings in and around Athens and in major cities. A day later, young men armed with crowbars attacked the office of the accused officers' attorney and, after smashing everything on site, walked out of the building undisturbed.

Faced from the start with widespread media condemnation and calls by socialist (PASOK) and radical left (SYRIZA) opposition parties for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' resignation and early elections, the conservative (New Democracy) government rushed to issue apologies, effectively putting its political survival above the accused officers' right to a fair trial and the rule of law. Police were subsequently ordered to use minimum force, and the embattled Interior Minister declared the primacy of human life over property, a statement that certainly resonated with looters and vandals all over the country.

The rioters, who are so far winning the game, are taking advantage of a powerful tool that the Greek state has put at their disposal. They may rest, go online, and replenish their arsenal at public expense by taking shelter in university buildings protected by an asylum law that bans police from entering unless authorized by university officials. Student sit-ins and patrols that control entrance into facilities are a common sight during occupations, while the absence of a quorum in student meetings virtually ensures that extremists will monopolize action in the name of the majority.

Two years ago, in the summer of 2006, Karamanlis tried to end the constitutional protection of university grounds as part of reform legislation intended to salvage the country's deteriorating high education institutions. The response was predictable. Ten thousand mostly leftwing students clashed with police, some breaking into the Athens Law School. Across the country, university buildings and department were occupied and police were attacked with gasoline bombs and furniture. The government lost; the extremists won.

The federation of university professors (POSDEP) argued at the time that the proposed reforms, among them provisions to establish private universities and restrict matriculation and examination times (currently students may take a decade to finish their degree), would devalue and commercialize state degrees. It was a bizarre warning given the poor showing of Greek universities in international rankings (only two universities make the lower end in the Shanghai listing of the world's best 500 universities), an accomplishment for which the professors should collectively take credit.

Karamanlis and his then Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou underestimated entrenched political and economic interests in the academy and public education sector and the influence of Greece's radical left on student organizations. Had the legislation become law in 2006, the events of this December might never have taken place, at least on this scale.

Since the riots began, discussion of endemic corruption and related social ills has dominated editorials in the Greek press as many experts and political personalities have rushed to interpret the behavior of the rioters, who are purportedly rebelling to correct the failures of adults. But punditry of this kind rarely raises real issues like making parents (if they can be identified) accountable to the full extent of the law for damages incurred by their children or sending the bill to radical left parties whose members unabashedly proclaim the need for perpetual revolution and destruction of the establishment, even though their leadership is among the country's wealthiest citizens.

The total cost of the riots to the Greek state is still hard to determine, since they are far from over. Currently (Dec. 18), damages to businesses are estimated to have reached over 200 million euros, while the disruption of the country's lucrative tourist industry is likely to last beyond this coming summer. With the largest account deficit in the Eurozone, one fifth of its population under the poverty line, rising unemployment particularly among youth, and a global crisis soon to hit hard on all sectors of the economy, this is the last thing that Greece—or any country—would wish upon itself.

As the majority of New Democracy supporters have conceded in recent polls, blame falls squarely on the Karamanlis government for failure to restore law and order and maneuver conniving opposition parties, PASOK and especially the radical left SYRIZA (whose hand in the riots is all but certain) into a show of unity. But even if against all odds Karamanlis proves resilient and survives this crisis, the mindset that made it possible and the dangers it poses for the country's internal security and stability will persist.

Cornelia A. Tsakiridou is Associate Professor and Director of the Diplomat-in-Residence Program at La Salle University. This article appears here with permission from the  to the Foreign Policy Research Institute (

~ Spero News ~

Greek firebombers strike again: is this a portend for Europe?

By Iason Athanasiadis

2 Jan, 2009

Democracy is a Greek word. And so too is apathy… and chaos and tragedy: rather more fitting epithets for the instability churning Greece.

For a few dramatic evenings in early December, the streets of Athens featured in the international news as Greece's Playstation Generation took to the streets to pelt riot police with eggs, bottles and petrol bombs. The sport was almost as harmless as a session on the games console: after the shooting of 15-year old Alexis Grigoropoulos sparked off the rioting, the police mostly stood back and let the rioters wreak havoc. The crowds did so with gusto. They tried to set police officers alight with petrol bombs and screamed “Burn the brothel Parliament”.

The widespread riots focused international attention on Greece for a fiery week of ash and anger. But as we moved into the Christmas silly season, the Athens barricades disappeared from the news. That is a shame, not least because events in Athens are continuing with no sign of abating.

Early yesterday morning, in New Year's Day “celebrations”, at least 10 banks and two car dealerships were attacked by firebombers. Students have taken over hundreds of schools and universities around Greece and moved to a guerrilla campaign to promote their anti-government and anti-capitalism message.

“There has been a major upsurge in violence that has troubled all of Greek society,” said Yiannis Makris, the head of Athens' Police Officers' Association. “Unfortunately, this has emboldened specific marginal groups who now target individual police officers.”

Despite an all-time popularity low for the ruling New Democracy party, the government hopes to ride out the storm with an “extensive” cabinet reshuffle. This is unlikely to appease the demonstrators and could lead to rioting resuming. But the episodes in Greece are neither 1968 Paris nor 1998 Tehran (when the students came out in support of Khatami and were brutally suppressed).

They have more in common with the children in William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, a dark account of what happens when children govern themselves. They are also about the nouveaux pauvres of the EU: spoilt kids who grew up in a land made artificially affluent by EU subsidies and tourism inflows. Now that the bubble is deflating, they are panic-stricken.

The alarm is spreading across society. Travel agents reported mass cancellations as the extended economic crisis and rioting forced Greeks to re-think planned Christmas breaks.

One Athens resident told me: “Everyone is terrified; they've shut themselves in their houses and aren't venturing out. I've never seen anything like this. Every day something happens: a student is randomly shot, unknowns strafe a riot police bus, and last night more unknowns shot a moving train wagon. Bullets and fear have entered our daily lives…”

For the first time, an EU capital's city centre was reduced to a riot-zone. The EU's first widespread credit crunch unrest could be a harbinger of things to come. Anarchist groups have courted popular support by raiding supermarkets and distributing goods to grateful shoppers as a protest against price rises. The underpaid police (an officer on the beat earns just 750 euros a month, or Dh3,825) have proven incapable of either stopping these supermarket Robin Hoods or bottling up the rioting in a specific district.

But you won't read any of this in the international media. Just as Iranians point to the sustained BBC coverage of their Revolution as proof that the British government sponsored the overthrow of the Shah, so Greek protesters claim that the international media sabotaged their efforts, first by covering only the most violent demonstrations, and then by giving scant coverage to publicity stunts such as the takeover of several radio and TV studios.

One compelling argument is that media inattention is due to the story not “fitting in” to any of the established narratives with which we navigate our lives. The riots seemingly confound the received wisdom that class struggle is dead.

Jonathan Davies, a lecturer at Warwick Business School in Britain and specialist on trade unions, argues that the international media has largely ignored the unfolding events “partly because riots can easily be depicted as irresponsible and futile and in the end trivial, and partly because the dominant political narrative in this country is that class is dead. Hence, any sign that class is not dead, here or anywhere else, must be studiously ignored”.

The existence of 24 hour news-cycles is an unlikely co-conspirator because it has diluted the tradition of day-after analysis. One undoubted by-product of our globalising world is the dramatic erosion of the collective attention span. Terrorism in Mumbai today, riots in Athens tomorrow and bombing in Gaza the day after. There is always another dramatic headline.

In Greece, the “episodes” are already being referred to in the past tense. The commentator Evfenios Aranitsis in the Eleftherotypia (Free Press) daily noted that “with the speed of channel-zapping, Athens segued from the fever of protest to reverentially receiving the Three Wise Men with their gift-vouchers and 29 interest-free payments as if nothing unpleasant occurred in between. But what we are incapable of perceiving is that 'nothing' had something to tell us and that, since we did not hear it, it will return with a vengeance – exactly because we rejected it – to shatter our eardrums.”

After all, amnesia is a Greek word too.

Iason Athanasiadis is reporting on Greece through a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington.

~ The National ~

Greek riots offer a possible glimpse of future

By Anne Applebaum

28 Dec, 2008

Fires burned in courtyards, shops were looted and Molotov cocktails whistled through clouds of tear gas. Hundreds of schools and campuses were occupied by students and, for more than two weeks, riots brought a major European capital to a halt. The police seemed powerless, the politicians helpless, the media confused.

No, I am not talking about Budapest in 1956 or Paris in 1968. I am talking about Athens in recent weeks. Since Dec. 6, when Greek police shot and killed a 15-year-old boy, Athens, Thessaloniki and other Greek cities have been consumed by apparently unstoppable, violent demonstrations. Unlike the French riots of 2005, which were mostly led by disaffected immigrants, the participants in these Greek riots appear to be middle-class university students. They weren't smashing up shops in impoverished suburbs, either: These self-styled anarchists are based in a "bohemian" neighborhood of central Athens called Exarchia, and at a nearby university campus whose unused buildings cannot, according to a rather extraordinary Greek law, be entered by the police. So far, the rioters have done some $1.3 billion worth of damage.

Not, I'm guessing, that you've read all that much about the riots: Certainly their relative absence from European and North American front pages proves that, the rhetoric of European unity aside, not all European countries are taken equally seriously. Though Greece is a member of the European Union, its major contribution to European foreign policy is its stubborn insistence (for reasons truly too complex to explore here) on blocking international recognition of the Republic of Macedonia, unless it changes its name to FYROM -- the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" -- an acronym that everybody else finds laughable. On the domestic front, the Greeks are best known for having faked the economic data they needed to join the euro currency.

There may also be other, more local explanations as to why these riots feel as if they are taking place far away from mainstream events. One Greek political scientist, Stathis Kalyvas, argues brilliantly that they are facilitated by Greece's unique political culture: In the years since the overthrow of military rule, the Greek political class has come to treat civil disobedience, even violent and destructive civil disobedience, as "almost always justified, if not glorified." Rioting is a "fun and low-risk activity, almost a rite of passage"; the anarchist subculture that thrives in central Athens is "abetted, and in some instances endorsed" by Greece's left-wing parties and mainstream newspapers.

And yet -- even if Greece is unserious, even if anarchist subculture has uniquely deep roots in Athens, even if Greek corruption and youth unemployment are unusually high -- it's a mistake to dismiss these riots as peripheral. If nothing else, they show what can happen to a highly developed, post-ideological society whose organized politics no longer interest large groups of people. One sympathizer says the rioters can be divided into three groups: communists, anarchists and "younger people who like to think that they are anarchists but they don't know what they stand for. They are the ones who have been looting. . . . They feel the only way to make themselves heard is to do these things."

Another told a reporter that the tiny shops near the university deserved to be looted because they represent "the corporate machine." The thinking here isn't exactly sophisticated: This is a revolution, among other things, being conducted to the strains of Pink Floyd ("We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control").

Some are also blaming the weakness of Greece's mainstream social democrats, who, like social democrats elsewhere in Europe, have lately lost ground to the further left and are having trouble attracting young people. But I'm guessing the problem runs even deeper: The fact is that political parties in general are weak, everywhere, and democracy is therefore weak, too.

Which isn't that surprising: After all, we are heading for a global recession, the causes of which may lie far away from Athens -- or Paris or Cincinnati -- and the solutions to which may not lie in the hands of Greek, French or Ohio politicians. Nobody much admires powerless leaders, and nobody much sees the point in voting for people who can't do anything, anyway.

Hence the riots in Athens, and maybe elsewhere soon: If you aren't sure why you are unemployed, you don't have the political vocabulary to explain what's wrong with your country's economy, and you don't have leaders who seem able to fix it, perhaps random violence seems a plausible response.

Anne Applebaum is a writer for The Washington Post.

~ Union Leader ~

Israeli blitzkrieg bombs Gaza rubble into smaller pieces of rubble

An Israeli blitzkrieg of bombs has reduced the pieces of rubble that already occupy the tiny strip of land into smaller pieces of rubble and even some bits of sand.

The Israeli honoratioren have decided to bomb Gaza's plentiful rubble pile into smaller pieces again.

Commandant Mosher Treblinka told CNN news: "This is a friedenssturm, a blitzkrieg on the rubble in Gaza resulting in a holocaust of huge proportions. We felt that their piles of rubble were too large so we decided to bomb them into even smaller pieces of rubble. I have also ordered the Panzergruppen from the East, South and West to attack tomorrow so they can blow up even more pieces of rubble. We will crush the Gaza rubble into dust under our Panzers. It is our erbhöfe that we pummel these rocks into dust."

Israeli Verfügungstruppe officers and the awaiting Arbeitnehmerschaft will then be mobilised once the incursion is completed and all the remaining rubble that has escaped being crushed will be sealed and returned to Israel where it will be crushed into fine dust by industrial machinery.

~ more... ~

Unrest in Greece: A Declaration from the Athens Surrealist Group

10 Dec, 2008

All the stones, torn from the pavement and thrown at the shields of cops or at the façades of commercial temples, all the flaming bottles that traced their orbits in the night sky, all the barricades erected on city streets, dividing our areas from theirs, all the bins of consumer trash which, thanks to the fire of revolt, came to be Something out of Nothing, all the fists raised under the moon, are the arms giving flesh, as well as true power, not only to resistance but also to freedom.


The ne plus ultra of social oppression is being shot at in cold blood.

All the stones, torn from the pavement and thrown at the shields of cops or at the façades of commercial temples, all the flaming bottles that traced their orbits in the night sky, all the barricades erected on city streets, dividing our areas from theirs, all the bins of consumer trash which, thanks to the fire of revolt, came to be Something out of Nothing, all the fists raised under the moon, are the arms giving flesh, as well as true power, not only to resistance but also to freedom.

And it is precisely the feeling of freedom that, in
those moments, remains the sole thing worth betting on: that feeling of forgotten childhood mornings, when everything may happen, for it is
ourselves, as creative humans, who have awoken-- not those future productive human machines known as "obedient subject," "student,"
"alienated worker," "owner," "family wo/man." The feeling of facing the enemies of freedom-- of no longer fearing them.

It is thus for good reason that those who wish to get on with their business as if nothing happens, as if nothing has ever happened, are worried. The phantom of liberty always comes with the knife between the teeth, with the violent will to break the chains, all those chains that turn life into a miserable repetition, serving to reproduce the
dominant social relations. Yet from Saturday, December 6, the cities of this country are not functioning properly: no shopping therapy, no
open roads leading us to work, no news on the government's forthcoming recovery initiatives, no carefree switching from one lifestyle TV show
to another, no evening drives around Syntagma Square, etc., etc., etc.

These days and nights do not belong to merchants, TV commentators, ministers and cops: These days and nights belong to Alexis!

As surrealists we were on the streets from the start, along with thousands of others, in revolt and solidarity; for surrealism was born with the breath of the street, and does not intend to ever abandon it.

After the mass resistance before the State murderers, the breath of the street has become even warmer, even more hospitable and creative
than before. It is not in our competence to propose a general line to this movement. Yet we do assume our responsibility in the common struggle, as it is a struggle for freedom. Without having to agree with all aspects of such a mass phenomenon, without being partisans of
blind hatred and of violence for its own sake, we accept that this phenomenon exists for a reason.

Let's not allow this flaming breath of poetry to loosen or die out.

Let's turn it into a concrete utopia: to transform the world and to transform life!

No peace with cops and their masters!

All in the streets!

Those who cannot feel the rage may as well shut their traps!

Athens Surrealist Group
December 2008

Naples women go on sex strike over firework injuries

Women in Naples are staging a sex strike in an attempt to stop their menfolk from setting off dangerous New Year fireworks which cause injury and even death.

Carolina Staiano, 44, who is leading the campaign, said it has started with twenty women in in the town of Lettere near Naples "almost as a joke" but had spread "like wildfire" by e-mail and mobile phone over the past month to the point where ''I can't keep up". She said she was receiving phone calls and text messages "all the time" from hundreds of women signing up.

Mrs Staiano, a mother of two, has spent her life caring for father, who became semi-paralysed after someone let off a firework next to him at New Year, injuring his legs. He has suffered from epileptic fits ever since.

Mrs Staiano said that "at midnight on New Year's Eve Naples is like Gaza. It's terrible that a time of celebration becomes a time of tragedy".

''If a sex strike is what it takes in order to get the attention of our men, husbands, partners and sons, then we're ready for it," she told ANSA, the Italian news agency. "This time they're just going to have to choose: sex or fireworks.''

The Naples authorities have backed the womens' revolt, sending residents text messages with the campaign slogan: "Make love, not explosions".

~ more... ~

Greece agrees Russian air and sea maneuvers in Aegean

Russian aircraft and warships will this month carry out maneuvers in the southeast Aegean within the Athens flight information zone, or FIZ, Greek military sources said Friday.

Athens has agreed to a request from the commander of the Russian heavy aircraft carrying cruiser the Admiral Kuznetsov, at present on a mission in the Mediterranean with other ships of Russia's northern fleet.

The exercises will take place southeast of the island of Rhodes on Jan. 3, 4, 8 and 10 and south of Crete Jan. 11.

According to the Greek sources the maneuvers demonstrate the common will of the two countries to cooperate in the military field.

Greece and Russia have strengthened their ties in recent years, in particular in working closely together in the transport of Russian oil and gas to Western Europe.

A FIZ is an airspace of defined dimensions within which flight information service and alerting service are provided.

~ Easy Bourse ~


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