After the 'bow and scrape' for 6 to 7 years and totally disregard about the financial risks, now Dubai finally have to embrace realities...
So, my billions dollar question is where the heck is your so call smart high esteem western consultants huh? Those guys would says what ever you would like to hear...a classic example never the less. Postponing debt repayments is just a lame excuse of corporate PR damage control, the bigger picture is default. A default is a default and that about it. Too much wasteful spending,,too much excessive showoff and egos, too many idiotic dictate the policy and running the show, with the easy oil dollar went into smoke, leaving a tremendous debts for generation to come... The Arabs are screwed!
Pity those people on the streets...and those who's bought the properties..and the list goes on and on.
DUBAI/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Dubai said on Wednesday two of its flagship firms planned to delay repayment on billions of dollars of debt as a first step toward restructuring Dubai World, the conglomerate that spearheaded the emirate's breakneck growth.
The sudden move by the Gulf government led Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service to deeply downgrade several government-related entities. Moody's slashed some units to junk status and S&P said the restructuring could be considered a default.
The government's announcement, which said consultants Deloitte had been appointed to help with the restructuring, sent the cost of insuring Dubai's debt against default soaring and bond prices tumbling.
State-run Dubai World has $59 billion of liabilities, its subsidiary Nakheel said in August, a large proportion of Dubai's total debt of $80 billion.
Analysts expect financial support from deep-pocketed Abu Dhabi, a neighboring member of the United Arab Emirates, to keep Dubai afloat. But Dubai will likely have to abandon a flamboyant economic model that focused on heavy real estate investment and inflows of foreign capital.
"It's shocking because for the past few months the news coming out has given investors comfort that Dubai would most probably be able to meet its debt obligations, and most analysts were of the view that Nakheel's commitments would be met," said Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at SICO Investment Bank.
The government said in a statement: "Dubai World intends to ask all providers of financing to Dubai World and Nakheel to 'standstill' and extend maturities until at least 30 May 2010."
Moody's cut ratings on some government-related entities to junk status, while S&P cut ratings on some entities to one level above junk.
S&P said the restructuring "may be considered a default under our default criteria, and represents the failure of the Dubai government (not rated) to provide timely financial support to a core government-related entity."
Nakheel, developer of iconic palm-shaped residential islands owned by Dubai World, has a $3.5 billion Islamic bond maturing on December 14 and debt worth 3.6 billion dirhams ($980 million) due on May 13, 2010. Limitless, another Dubai World developer, has a $1.2 billion bond maturing next March 31.
The announcement appeared to be timed to minimize its impact on markets; it came after the stock market shut and just before the eve of the long Eid al-Ad holiday, which will close many firms and government offices in Dubai and the Gulf until December 6.
But the cost of insuring Dubai government debt against default with five-year credit default swaps soared, jumping over 100 basis points to 420.6 from a close of 318 a day earlier, according to CMA DataVision. Nakheel's Islamic bond prices fell more than 20 points to 87.
"The market had expected a timely repayment of the $3.5 billion sukuk and spreads had narrowed. This will destroy a lot of confidence," said Eckhart Woertz, economics program manager at Gulf Research Center.
Dubai's economy was hit hard as the global credit crunch over the past year ended a six-year boom in the region and sent the emirate's once-flourishing property sector into decline.
Dubai's announcement Wednesday shook the confidence of investors in government debt elsewhere in the region; credit default swaps for Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar also rose, by more modest amounts.
Investor confidence in Saudi Arabia has been hit this year by up to $22 billion of debt restructurings at the country's Saad and Algosaibi groups.
In another move Wednesday which the government said was not connected to the Dubai World restructuring, Dubai raised a further $5 billion as part of a $20 billion bond program launched this year. The $5 billion was half of what it had previously said it would raise.
The $5 billion tranche, with a maturity of five years and paying 4 percent interest, was placed with two Abu Dhabi-controlled banks, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Al Hilal Bank, officials said.
Dubai has said previously that proceeds from its bond scheme will underpin companies such as Nakheel, as part of its drive to build tourism as an alternative to dwindling oil reserves.
(Reporting by Rachna Uppal, Andrew Hammond, Matt Smith, Nicolas Parasie, Enjy Kiwan, Carolyn Cohn; Additional reporting by Ciara Linnane, Caryn Trokie, John Parry and Walden Siew in New York; Writing by Thomas Atkins; Editing by Andy Bruce, Andrew Torchia and Kenneth Barry)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
After the 'bow and scrape' for 6 to 7 years and totally disregard about the financial risks, now Dubai finally have to embrace realities...
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
*updated at 8:35 PM, April 11, 2009
I have read some comments tote elsewhere, such naysayer and a bit moron who's lack of a common sence or simple logic. Some comment kind of funny but I'm not amuse by such remark! Some toke it as patriotic, and tries as much to defend their country etc etc. I'm not going to reproduce it here tho'.
Anyway Islam forbit cruelty treatment even to the animal, and yet this is not animal, this is a human being, pretty much like you and me. Well they might be smaller, thinner and indeed came from inferior country perhap much like the Emiratis before the oil was discover. If it's not because of the black gold, chances are, this bedouins still chasing the camel and frantikly looking for the water like their ancestor in not so distant past and you should know better of how difficult it be, what a frantic undertaking I must say. So let not forget about your past or else you are betting for doom.
With the ecomony mismanagement, property bubble and global financial melt down that your inept goverment fail to calculate in your master planning despike some credible financial guru predict it so many years before the sub-prime crisis taken place in the US. You keep building a lavish, massive building and bloody excessive in nature to boast your Beduin's pride an ego, yet you fail to properly address the nature of property bubble nor the gloomy possibilities of impending global economy hiccup then. While the smart people from all over the world race among themself to propose yet another gigantic project which more often than not stress the environment futher, couple with other basic issue like lack of town planning, many problem pop up and many more will surface for many years to come for sure. With a little oil reserved in Dubai, oil price declining, debts sckyrocketing than the GDP, and the global economy snlow down, thing are pretty bleat for Dubai for sure, so don't be so ignorant please. Penny wise and pound foolish.
And if you still fail to realise than tries imagine yourself as a slave workers. Perhap you should, for a minute step outside your super air-condition hall/veranda, let the Middle East's scorching sun burn your skin a little while, perhaps the sensation will invoke some feeling in you, some humility, compassion, love as well as benevolence as what been thought by our beuty religion of peace and way of life, Islam. Islam liberate the slavery. The only one religion who do so is Islam, there's no mention about the slavery in the Bible, no none at all, there's great deal of slavery in Hinduism with their caste and stuff. So tell me what value you guys follow?
For the other readers, this bad workers treatment is not new really, the Human Rights Watch group already publish the report almost 4 year before, yet this still happening, and many poor soul still fall trap on the honey trap while they search for a greener pastures (carpet?) inDubai and their sorrounding area. They been promised a good salaries etc etc but realities is they been con into a dubious contract, inhuman treatment, with a small salary nothing more than slavery I must say. This are breadwinner mind you, they put food to the table, there's many small mouth to feed and aging parent to look after. Pluss the huge money that they borrow to pay up-front for visa fees, medical fee, airline ticket and whopping charges by recruitment agency, from friends, realtives, loan shark and not so shark lender that still need to repay. Suddenly, they realise that the pay check is not even half what been promised then. With extremely penny wise they need to support the family and service the loan back home.
So you tell me how much misery that you people imlicting to this poor workers and their immediate familly. While almost 99 percent of the private work force in UAE are foreigners and they make up about 85 percent of the UAE population, you should know how many of their suffering family by now. So while you sipped some fancy mocha/cappuccinos in a fancy restaurant, you might want to pause for a sec and think about some people somewhere, who might not have anything to eat at all/not having a proper meal, malnultition, sick, family disintegrated and what have not just because of your kind attitude and the lame duck goverment that fail miserably to tackle the issue. The whole lots of you..
Anyway here is excerpt from the Human Rights Watch report addresses the abusive conditions faced by migrant construction workers in the UAE dated in 2006.
Dubai, with its glittering new skyline of high-rise buildings and its profusion of luxury resorts and real estate, is the most globally emblematic evidence of the economic rise of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). As the UAE undergoes one of the largest construction booms in the world, at least half a million migrant construction workers are employed there. Behind the glitter and luxury, the experiences of these migrant workers present a much less attractive picture—of wage exploitation, indebtedness to unscrupulous recruiters, and working conditions that are hazardous to the point of being deadly. UAE federal labor law offers a
number of protections, but for migrant construction workers these are largely unenforced.
This Human Rights Watch report addresses the abusive conditions faced by migrant construction workers in the UAE, specifically their exploitation by employers...
While we on this topic still, perhap you might want to watch this video too from the KSA aka the funny Wahhabis land where women cannot drive, old mosque and building dated back in prophet era been bulldozer, the companion tombstone been razed to the ground. This historic site not only need to be preserved and or at least have respect for the grave of the dead instead of been buldoser to the ground on the pretex people tend to whorship the grave and yet latter at the same site, they build anything from parking lot to the toilet! how bloody insulting! This is the same people with the same ideology that aid the Brits army and backstab the ottoman empayar from within, subsequently weaken the turks in Hijaz open theater, who's previously gaining the uperhand in the northern/European theatre. It never cease to amuse me reading/hearing the Wahhabi apologetics and their blind supporter who read anything but the book and story printed by the Wahhabis only. They insist not to be been label as Wahhabi and argue is was invent by the west yet they fail to remember the history, it's their forefather who open the gate and help the Christian bloke to defeated the great Muslim empire. They still following the same ideology and the same man who justify the actions. Their forefather disrecpect and destroy the grave and monument related to our Prophet/Companions before and their great great offspring did just the same to this very days pluss some funny rule as well. So why do they feel shame now? But then their funny fatwas and rules can be relax, but only for those who's walking in the corridor of power, the royal household, thousands of them. What about the ordinary people?screw 'em!
While the ordinary saudi get kill on drug trafficking, the saudi royal prince get caught red handed with plane load of drug, cocaine worth of £50 million in their private jet in into Europe, been shelter and shielding with diplomatic immunity in the Wahhabi land, saved from even a sligtly harm. The others royalties just like many not so royal blood but rich enjoy a whopping expensive booze and womeniser a lots, as any high society or even the whore would know better of how bloody generous they could be..not helping the poor mind you but in the bed! A ho even bragged they 20-30K is nothing if he really like you! While the Saudi population in general, live in substandard facilities, abusing system and deprive the womenfolk despike Islam teach the otherwise. Regarding the prince with the drug case in the US, I dunno what bargain it would be, but what ever it is, the smart ass in the Washington and france would manipulate this again the Saudi goverment for sure. They would demand things, only god almighty know what it be this time. Yup this time..
They said the wealth belong to Allah SWT, yet I don't see it fit the descriptions. Only a fool would believe the retoric. And now they bring the US army in the holly land in the pretex of Saddam treat but the truth is to protect the Saudi royal family from the impending treat with from within(it was widely know among the intelligence community and war planner about the Saudi's situation in the late 90's), the expensed borned by the Saudi goverment, well it ok, as they are not accountable to any scrutiny from the like of parliment. Again the wealth belong to Allah SWT as they say so what big deal with few billions? I dunno how to describe it when I lay my hand on some material, documenting and describing in vivid detail of how the United Stated counterpart with what I would call a "poker style", managed to push the inept Saudi's counterpart to pay for all expenses even the single brick lay to build the US base, all in all in the tune of billions petrol dollar money of course, I could not forget the laughter and remarks and gesture from the correspondent when the high rank retired army told how they scramble on the jet plane and jetting to Europe to bank in the billion dollar cheque, so that they can earn the overnight interest! They would not risk loosing a single day interest mind you. Anyway this is the person who "entrust" to guard the 2 holly land ladies and getlement. Looking at how they handle things, my guess as good as you guess, it's not an isolated cases really. So I will left you with the knowing that the ammo, jet fuel and many thing associate wth the US war been fund by the muslim coffer, I don;t want to suggest where the US marine use those arsenal as I'll leave it to you all to ponder.
A special documentary on slavery in the land of Wahhabis and their not Wahhabi royal household.
Btw, for the sake of this article, I won't delve futher, so I better stop here. Anyways the Wahhabis and the House of Saud have a unique relationship. Although I understand the royal household is not subscribe to the teaching of Wahhabi but they do tad along with their Wahhabi cleriks, base on article an insight stories and documentaries of the many prince and princes(5000 thousand of them!) that begun to emmerge on this past few years(notieceable especially after 9-11 taken place-weird huh?not really if you knew abou the scrutiny toward the Saudi back then). They need each others, the Wahhabis cleriks and the Saudi royal household need each other like the oxygen to the living cells. They are symbiosis and co-existance, that what I can say of their not so complex relatioship.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
This is an excellent article from Johann Hari could serve as an eyes opener for some quaters who's worship everything arab, more often than not gave Islam a bad name.
The dark side of Dubai.
by Johann Hari, Independent
Dubai was meant to be a Middle-Eastern Shangri-La, a glittering monument to Arab enterprise and western capitalism. But as hard times arrive in the city state that rose from the desert sands, an uglier story is emerging. Johann Hari reports
The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed - the absolute ruler of Dubai - beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world - a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.
But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed's smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions - like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island - where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof. This Neverland was built on the Never-Never - and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.
Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing - at last - into history.
* The Desert Blogger: Jamie Stewart's dispatches from Dubai
I. An Adult Disneyland
Karen Andrews can't speak. Every time she starts to tell her story, she puts her head down and crumples. She is slim and angular and has the faded radiance of the once-rich, even though her clothes are as creased as her forehead. I find her in the car park of one of Dubai's finest international hotels, where she is living, in her Range Rover. She has been sleeping here for months, thanks to the kindness of the Bangladeshi car park attendants who don't have the heart to move her on. This is not where she thought her Dubai dream would end.
Her story comes out in stutters, over four hours. At times, her old voice - witty and warm - breaks through. Karen came here from Canada when her husband was offered a job in the senior division of a famous multinational. "When he said Dubai, I said - if you want me to wear black and quit booze, baby, you've got the wrong girl. But he asked me to give it a chance. And I loved him."
All her worries melted when she touched down in Dubai in 2005. "It was an adult Disneyland, where Sheikh Mohammed is the mouse," she says. "Life was fantastic. You had these amazing big apartments, you had a whole army of your own staff, you pay no taxes at all. It seemed like everyone was a CEO. We were partying the whole time."
Her husband, Daniel, bought two properties. "We were drunk on Dubai," she says. But for the first time in his life, he was beginning to mismanage their finances. "We're not talking huge sums, but he was getting confused. It was so unlike Daniel, I was surprised. We got into a little bit of debt." After a year, she found out why: Daniel was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
One doctor told him he had a year to live; another said it was benign and he'd be okay. But the debts were growing. "Before I came here, I didn't know anything about Dubai law. I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada's or any other liberal democracy's," she says. Nobody told her there is no concept of bankruptcy. If you get into debt and you can't pay, you go to prison.
"When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here. He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said - right, let's take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go." So Daniel resigned - but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. The debt remained. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank. If you have any outstanding debts that aren't covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country.
"Suddenly our cards stopped working. We had nothing. We were thrown out of our apartment." Karen can't speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking.
Daniel was arrested and taken away on the day of their eviction. It was six days before she could talk to him. "He told me he was put in a cell with another debtor, a Sri Lankan guy who was only 27, who said he couldn't face the shame to his family. Daniel woke up and the boy had swallowed razor-blades. He banged for help, but nobody came, and the boy died in front of him."
Karen managed to beg from her friends for a few weeks, "but it was so humiliating. I've never lived like this. I worked in the fashion industry. I had my own shops. I've never..." She peters out.
Daniel was sentenced to six months' imprisonment at a trial he couldn't understand. It was in Arabic, and there was no translation. "Now I'm here illegally, too," Karen says I've got no money, nothing. I have to last nine months until he's out, somehow." Looking away, almost paralysed with embarrassment, she asks if I could buy her a meal.
She is not alone. All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars.
"The thing you have to understand about Dubai is - nothing is what it seems," Karen says at last. "Nothing. This isn't a city, it's a con-job. They lure you in telling you it's one thing - a modern kind of place - but beneath the surface it's a medieval dictatorship."
Thirty years ago, almost all of contemporary Dubai was desert, inhabited only by cactuses and tumbleweed and scorpions. But downtown there are traces of the town that once was, buried amidst the metal and glass. In the dusty fort of the Dubai Museum, a sanitised version of this story is told.
In the mid-18th century, a small village was built here, in the lower Persian Gulf, where people would dive for pearls off the coast. It soon began to accumulate a cosmopolitan population washing up from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and other Arab countries, all hoping to make their fortune. They named it after a local locust, the daba, who consumed everything before it. The town was soon seized by the gunships of the British Empire, who held it by the throat as late as 1971. As they scuttled away, Dubai decided to ally with the six surrounding states and make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The British quit, exhausted, just as oil was being discovered, and the sheikhs who suddenly found themselves in charge faced a remarkable dilemma. They were largely illiterate nomads who spent their lives driving camels through the desert - yet now they had a vast pot of gold. What should they do with it?
Dubai only had a dribble of oil compared to neighbouring Abu Dhabi - so Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues to build something that would last. Israel used to boast it made the desert bloom; Sheikh Maktoum resolved to make the desert boom. He would build a city to be a centre of tourism and financial services, sucking up cash and talent from across the globe. He invited the world to come tax-free - and they came in their millions, swamping the local population, who now make up just 5 per cent of Dubai. A city seemed to fall from the sky in just three decades, whole and complete and swelling. They fast-forwarded from the 18th century to the 21st in a single generation.
If you take the Big Bus Tour of Dubai - the passport to a pre-processed experience of every major city on earth - you are fed the propaganda-vision of how this happened. "Dubai's motto is 'Open doors, open minds'," the tour guide tells you in clipped tones, before depositing you at the souks to buy camel tea-cosies. "Here you are free. To purchase fabrics," he adds. As you pass each new monumental building, he tells you: "The World Trade Centre was built by His Highness..."
But this is a lie. The sheikh did not build this city. It was built by slaves. They are building it now.
III. Hidden in plain view
There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. There are the expats, like Karen; there are the Emiratis, headed by Sheikh Mohammed; and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here. They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang - but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?
Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. They sweat like sponges being slowly wrung out.
Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means "City of Gold". In the first camp I stop at - riven with the smell of sewage and sweat - the men huddle around, eager to tell someone, anyone, what is happening to them.
Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. "To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell," he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal's village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa - a fee they'd pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.
As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat - where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees - for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.
Sahinal was in a panic. His family back home - his son, daughter, wife and parents - were waiting for money, excited that their boy had finally made it. But he was going to have to work for more than two years just to pay for the cost of getting here - and all to earn less than he did in Bangladesh.
He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp - holes in the ground - are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is "unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night." At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.
The water delivered to the camp in huge white containers isn't properly desalinated: it tastes of salt. "It makes us sick, but we have nothing else to drink," he says.
The work is "the worst in the world," he says. "You have to carry 50kg bricks and blocks of cement in the worst heat imaginable ... This heat - it is like nothing else. You sweat so much you can't pee, not for days or weeks. It's like all the liquid comes out through your skin and you stink. You become dizzy and sick but you aren't allowed to stop, except for an hour in the afternoon. You know if you drop anything or slip, you could die. If you take time off sick, your wages are docked, and you are trapped here even longer."
He is currently working on the 67th floor of a shiny new tower, where he builds upwards, into the sky, into the heat. He doesn't know its name. In his four years here, he has never seen the Dubai of tourist-fame, except as he constructs it floor-by-floor.
Is he angry? He is quiet for a long time. "Here, nobody shows their anger. You can't. You get put in jail for a long time, then deported." Last year, some workers went on strike after they were not given their wages for four months. The Dubai police surrounded their camps with razor-wire and water-cannons and blasted them out and back to work.
The "ringleaders" were imprisoned. I try a different question: does Sohinal regret coming? All the men look down, awkwardly. "How can we think about that? We are trapped. If we start to think about regrets..." He lets the sentence trail off. Eventually, another worker breaks the silence by adding: "I miss my country, my family and my land. We can grow food in Bangladesh. Here, nothing grows. Just oil and buildings."
Since the recession hit, they say, the electricity has been cut off in dozens of the camps, and the men have not been paid for months. Their companies have disappeared with their passports and their pay. "We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can't, we'll be sent to prison."
This is all supposed to be illegal. Employers are meant to pay on time, never take your passport, give you breaks in the heat - but I met nobody who said it happens. Not one. These men are conned into coming and trapped into staying, with the complicity of the Dubai authorities.
Sahinal could well die out here. A British man who used to work on construction projects told me: "There's a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they're not reported. They're described as 'accidents'." Even then, their families aren't free: they simply inherit the debts. A Human Rights Watch study found there is a "cover-up of the true extent" of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting.
At night, in the dusk, I sit in the camp with Sohinal and his friends as they scrape together what they have left to buy a cheap bottle of spirits. They down it in one ferocious gulp. "It helps you to feel numb", Sohinal says through a stinging throat. In the distance, the glistening Dubai skyline he built stands, oblivious.
IV. Mauled by the mall
I find myself stumbling in a daze from the camps into the sprawling marble malls that seem to stand on every street in Dubai. It is so hot there is no point building pavements; people gather in these cathedrals of consumerism to bask in the air conditioning. So within a ten minute taxi-ride, I have left Sohinal and I am standing in the middle of Harvey Nichols, being shown a £20,000 taffeta dress by a bored salesgirl. "As you can see, it is cut on the bias..." she says, and I stop writing.
Time doesn't seem to pass in the malls. Days blur with the same electric light, the same shined floors, the same brands I know from home. Here, Dubai is reduced to its component sounds: do-buy. In the most expensive malls I am almost alone, the shops empty and echoing. On the record, everybody tells me business is going fine. Off the record, they look panicky. There is a hat exhibition ahead of the Dubai races, selling elaborate headgear for £1,000 a pop. "Last year, we were packed. Now look," a hat designer tells me. She swoops her arm over a vacant space.
I approach a blonde 17-year-old Dutch girl wandering around in hotpants, oblivious to the swarms of men gaping at her. "I love it here!" she says. "The heat, the malls, the beach!" Does it ever bother you that it's a slave society? She puts her head down, just as Sohinal did. "I try not to see," she says. Even at 17, she has learned not to look, and not to ask; that, she senses, is a transgression too far.
Between the malls, there is nothing but the connecting tissue of asphalt. Every road has at least four lanes; Dubai feels like a motorway punctuated by shopping centres. You only walk anywhere if you are suicidal. The residents of Dubai flit from mall to mall by car or taxis.
How does it feel if this is your country, filled with foreigners? Unlike the expats and the slave class, I can't just approach the native Emiratis to ask questions when I see them wandering around - the men in cool white robes, the women in sweltering black. If you try, the women blank you, and the men look affronted, and tell you brusquely that Dubai is "fine". So I browse through the Emirati blog-scene and found some typical-sounding young Emiratis. We meet - where else? - in the mall.
Ahmed al-Atar is a handsome 23-year-old with a neat, trimmed beard, tailored white robes, and rectangular wire-glasses. He speaks perfect American-English, and quickly shows that he knows London, Los Angeles and Paris better than most westerners. Sitting back in his chair in an identikit Starbucks, he announces: "This is the best place in the world to be young! The government pays for your education up to PhD level. You get given a free house when you get married. You get free healthcare, and if it's not good enough here, they pay for you to go abroad. You don't even have to pay for your phone calls. Almost everyone has a maid, a nanny, and a driver. And we never pay any taxes. Don't you wish you were Emirati?"
I try to raise potential objections to this Panglossian summary, but he leans forward and says: "Look - my grandfather woke up every day and he would have to fight to get to the well first to get water. When the wells ran dry, they had to have water delivered by camel. They were always hungry and thirsty and desperate for jobs. He limped all his life, because he there was no medical treatment available when he broke his leg. Now look at us!"
For Emiratis, this is a Santa Claus state, handing out goodies while it makes its money elsewhere: through renting out land to foreigners, soft taxes on them like business and airport charges, and the remaining dribble of oil. Most Emiratis, like Ahmed, work for the government, so they're cushioned from the credit crunch. "I haven't felt any effect at all, and nor have my friends," he says. "Your employment is secure. You will only be fired if you do something incredibly bad." The laws are currently being tightened, to make it even more impossible to sack an Emirati.
Sure, the flooding-in of expats can sometimes be "an eyesore", Ahmed says. "But we see the expats as the price we had to pay for this development. How else could we do it? Nobody wants to go back to the days of the desert, the days before everyone came. We went from being like an African country to having an average income per head of $120,000 a year. And we're supposed to complain?"
He says the lack of political freedom is fine by him. "You'll find it very hard to find an Emirati who doesn't support Sheikh Mohammed." Because they're scared? "No, because we really all support him. He's a great leader. Just look!" He smiles and says: "I'm sure my life is very much like yours. We hang out, have a coffee, go to the movies. You'll be in a Pizza Hut or Nando's in London, and at the same time I'll be in one in Dubai," he says, ordering another latte.
But do all young Emiratis see it this way? Can it really be so sunny in the political sands? In the sleek Emirates Tower Hotel, I meet Sultan al-Qassemi. He's a 31-year-old Emirati columnist for the Dubai press and private art collector, with a reputation for being a contrarian liberal, advocating gradual reform. He is wearing Western clothes - blue jeans and a Ralph Lauren shirt - and speaks incredibly fast, turning himself into a manic whirr of arguments.
"People here are turning into lazy, overweight babies!" he exclaims. "The nanny state has gone too far. We don't do anything for ourselves! Why don't any of us work for the private sector? Why can't a mother and father look after their own child?" And yet, when I try to bring up the system of slavery that built Dubai, he looks angry. "People should give us credit," he insists. "We are the most tolerant people in the world. Dubai is the only truly international city in the world. Everyone who comes here is treated with respect."
I pause, and think of the vast camps in Sonapur, just a few miles away. Does he even know they exist? He looks irritated. "You know, if there are 30 or 40 cases [of worker abuse] a year, that sounds like a lot but when you think about how many people are here..." Thirty or 40? This abuse is endemic to the system, I say. We're talking about hundreds of thousands.
Sultan is furious. He splutters: "You don't think Mexicans are treated badly in New York City? And how long did it take Britain to treat people well? I could come to London and write about the homeless people on Oxford Street and make your city sound like a terrible place, too! The workers here can leave any time they want! Any Indian can leave, any Asian can leave!"
But they can't, I point out. Their passports are taken away, and their wages are withheld. "Well, I feel bad if that happens, and anybody who does that should be punished. But their embassies should help them." They try. But why do you forbid the workers - with force - from going on strike against lousy employers? "Thank God we don't allow that!" he exclaims. "Strikes are in-convenient! They go on the street - we're not having that. We won't be like France. Imagine a country where they the workers can just stop whenever they want!" So what should the workers do when they are cheated and lied to? "Quit. Leave the country."
I sigh. Sultan is seething now. "People in the West are always complaining about us," he says. Suddenly, he adopts a mock-whiny voice and says, in imitation of these disgusting critics: "Why don't you treat animals better? Why don't you have better shampoo advertising? Why don't you treat labourers better?" It's a revealing order: animals, shampoo, then workers. He becomes more heated, shifting in his seat, jabbing his finger at me. "I gave workers who worked for me safety goggles and special boots, and they didn't want to wear them! It slows them down!"
And then he smiles, coming up with what he sees as his killer argument. "When I see Western journalists criticise us - don't you realise you're shooting yourself in the foot? The Middle East will be far more dangerous if Dubai fails. Our export isn't oil, it's hope. Poor Egyptians or Libyans or Iranians grow up saying - I want to go to Dubai. We're very important to the region. We are showing how to be a modern Muslim country. We don't have any fundamentalists here. Europeans shouldn't gloat at our demise. You should be very worried.... Do you know what will happen if this model fails? Dubai will go down the Iranian path, the Islamist path."
Sultan sits back. My arguments have clearly disturbed him; he says in a softer, conciliatory tone, almost pleading: "Listen. My mother used to go to the well and get a bucket of water every morning. On her wedding day, she was given an orange as a gift because she had never eaten one. Two of my brothers died when they were babies because the healthcare system hadn't developed yet. Don't judge us." He says it again, his eyes filled with intensity: "Don't judge us."
V. The Dunkin' Donuts Dissidents
But there is another face to the Emirati minority - a small huddle of dissidents, trying to shake the Sheikhs out of abusive laws. Next to a Virgin Megastore and a Dunkin' Donuts, with James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" blaring behind me, I meet the Dubai dictatorship's Public Enemy Number One. By way of introduction, Mohammed al-Mansoori says from within his white robes and sinewy face: "Westerners come her and see the malls and the tall buildings and they think that means we are free. But these businesses, these buildings - who are they for? This is a dictatorship. The royal family think they own the country, and the people are their servants. There is no freedom here."
We snuffle out the only Arabic restaurant in this mall, and he says everything you are banned - under threat of prison - from saying in Dubai. Mohammed tells me he was born in Dubai to a fisherman father who taught him one enduring lesson: Never follow the herd. Think for yourself. In the sudden surge of development, Mohammed trained as a lawyer. By the Noughties, he had climbed to the head of the Jurists' Association, an organisation set up to press for Dubai's laws to be consistent with international human rights legislation.
And then - suddenly - Mohammed thwacked into the limits of Sheikh Mohammed's tolerance. Horrified by the "system of slavery" his country was being built on, he spoke out to Human Rights Watch and the BBC. "So I was hauled in by the secret police and told: shut up, or you will lose you job, and your children will be unemployable," he says. "But how could I be silent?"
He was stripped of his lawyer's licence and his passport - becoming yet another person imprisoned in this country. "I have been blacklisted and so have my children. The newspapers are not allowed to write about me."
Why is the state so keen to defend this system of slavery? He offers a prosaic explanation. "Most companies are owned by the government, so they oppose human rights laws because it will reduce their profit margins. It's in their interests that the workers are slaves."
Last time there was a depression, there was a starbust of democracy in Dubai, seized by force from the sheikhs. In the 1930s, the city's merchants banded together against Sheikh Said bin Maktum al-Maktum - the absolute ruler of his day - and insisted they be given control over the state finances. It lasted only a few years, before the Sheikh - with the enthusiastic support of the British - snuffed them out.
And today? Sheikh Mohammed turned Dubai into Creditopolis, a city built entirely on debt. Dubai owes 107 percent of its entire GDP. It would be bust already, if the neighbouring oil-soaked state of Abu Dhabi hadn't pulled out its chequebook. Mohammed says this will constrict freedom even further. "Now Abu Dhabi calls the tunes - and they are much more conservative and restrictive than even Dubai. Freedom here will diminish every day." Already, new media laws have been drafted forbidding the press to report on anything that could "damage" Dubai or "its economy". Is this why the newspapers are giving away glossy supplements talking about "encouraging economic indicators"?
Everybody here waves Islamism as the threat somewhere over the horizon, sure to swell if their advice is not followed. Today, every imam is appointed by the government, and every sermon is tightly controlled to keep it moderate. But Mohammed says anxiously: "We don't have Islamism here now, but I think that if you control people and give them no way to express anger, it could rise. People who are told to shut up all the time can just explode."
Later that day, against another identikit-corporate backdrop, I meet another dissident - Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, Professor of Political Science at Emirates University. His anger focuses not on political reform, but the erosion of Emirati identity. He is famous among the locals, a rare outspoken conductor for their anger. He says somberly: "There has been a rupture here. This is a totally different city to the one I was born in 50 years ago."
He looks around at the shiny floors and Western tourists and says: "What we see now didn't occur in our wildest dreams. We never thought we could be such a success, a trendsetter, a model for other Arab countries. The people of Dubai are mighty proud of their city, and rightly so. And yet..." He shakes his head. "In our hearts, we fear we have built a modern city but we are losing it to all these expats."
Adbulkhaleq says every Emirati of his generation lives with a "psychological trauma." Their hearts are divided - "between pride on one side, and fear on the other." Just after he says this, a smiling waitress approaches, and asks us what we would like to drink. He orders a Coke.
VI. Dubai Pride
There is one group in Dubai for whom the rhetoric of sudden freedom and liberation rings true - but it is the very group the government wanted to liberate least: gays.
Beneath a famous international hotel, I clamber down into possibly the only gay club on the Saudi Arabian peninsula. I find a United Nations of tank-tops and bulging biceps, dancing to Kylie, dropping ecstasy, and partying like it's Soho. "Dubai is the best place in the Muslim world for gays!" a 25-year old Emirati with spiked hair says, his arms wrapped around his 31-year old "husband". "We are alive. We can meet. That is more than most Arab gays."
It is illegal to be gay in Dubai, and punishable by 10 years in prison. But the locations of the latest unofficial gay clubs circulate online, and men flock there, seemingly unafraid of the police. "They might bust the club, but they will just disperse us," one of them says. "The police have other things to do."
In every large city, gay people find a way to find each other - but Dubai has become the clearing-house for the region's homosexuals, a place where they can live in relative safety. Saleh, a lean private in the Saudi Arabian army, has come here for the Coldplay concert, and tells me Dubai is "great" for gays: "In Saudi, it's hard to be straight when you're young. The women are shut away so everyone has gay sex. But they only want to have sex with boys - 15- to 21-year-olds. I'm 27, so I'm too old now. I need to find real gays, so this is the best place. All Arab gays want to live in Dubai."
With that, Saleh dances off across the dancefloor, towards a Dutch guy with big biceps and a big smile.
VII. The Lifestyle
All the guidebooks call Dubai a "melting pot", but as I trawl across the city, I find that every group here huddles together in its own little ethnic enclave - and becomes a caricature of itself. One night - in the heart of this homesick city, tired of the malls and the camps - I go to Double Decker, a hang-out for British expats. At the entrance there is a red telephone box, and London bus-stop signs. Its wooden interior looks like a cross between a colonial clubhouse in the Raj and an Eighties school disco, with blinking coloured lights and cheese blaring out. As I enter, a girl in a short skirt collapses out of the door onto her back. A guy wearing a pirate hat helps her to her feet, dropping his beer bottle with a paralytic laugh.
I start to talk to two sun-dried women in their sixties who have been getting gently sozzled since midday. "You stay here for The Lifestyle," they say, telling me to take a seat and order some more drinks. All the expats talk about The Lifestyle, but when you ask what it is, they become vague. Ann Wark tries to summarise it: "Here, you go out every night. You'd never do that back home. You see people all the time. It's great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don't have to do all that stuff. You party!"
They have been in Dubai for 20 years, and they are happy to explain how the city works. "You've got a hierarchy, haven't you?" Ann says. "It's the Emiratis at the top, then I'd say the British and other Westerners. Then I suppose it's the Filipinos, because they've got a bit more brains than the Indians. Then at the bottom you've got the Indians and all them lot."
They admit, however, they have "never" spoken to an Emirati. Never? "No. They keep themselves to themselves." Yet Dubai has disappointed them. Jules Taylor tells me: "If you have an accident here it's a nightmare. There was a British woman we knew who ran over an Indian guy, and she was locked up for four days! If you have a tiny bit of alcohol on your breath they're all over you. These Indians throw themselves in front of cars, because then their family has to be given blood money - you know, compensation. But the police just blame us. That poor woman."
A 24-year-old British woman called Hannah Gamble takes a break from the dancefloor to talk to me. "I love the sun and the beach! It's great out here!" she says. Is there anything bad? "Oh yes!" she says. Ah: one of them has noticed, I think with relief. "The banks! When you want to make a transfer you have to fax them. You can't do it online." Anything else? She thinks hard. "The traffic's not very good."
When I ask the British expats how they feel to not be in a democracy, their reaction is always the same. First, they look bemused. Then they look affronted. "It's the Arab way!" an Essex boy shouts at me in response, as he tries to put a pair of comedy antlers on his head while pouring some beer into the mouth of his friend, who is lying on his back on the floor, gurning.
Later, in a hotel bar, I start chatting to a dyspeptic expat American who works in the cosmetics industry and is desperate to get away from these people. She says: "All the people who couldn't succeed in their own countries end up here, and suddenly they're rich and promoted way above their abilities and bragging about how great they are. I've never met so many incompetent people in such senior positions anywhere in the world." She adds: "It's absolutely racist. I had Filipino girls working for me doing the same job as a European girl, and she's paid a quarter of the wages. The people who do the real work are paid next to nothing, while these incompetent managers pay themselves £40,000 a month."
With the exception of her, one theme unites every expat I speak to: their joy at having staff to do the work that would clog their lives up Back Home. Everyone, it seems, has a maid. The maids used to be predominantly Filipino, but with the recession, Filipinos have been judged to be too expensive, so a nice Ethiopian servant girl is the latest fashionable accessory.
It is an open secret that once you hire a maid, you have absolute power over her. You take her passport - everyone does; you decide when to pay her, and when - if ever - she can take a break; and you decide who she talks to. She speaks no Arabic. She cannot escape.
In a Burger King, a Filipino girl tells me it is "terrifying" for her to wander the malls in Dubai because Filipino maids or nannies always sneak away from the family they are with and beg her for help. "They say - 'Please, I am being held prisoner, they don't let me call home, they make me work every waking hour seven days a week.' At first I would say - my God, I will tell the consulate, where are you staying? But they never know their address, and the consulate isn't interested. I avoid them now. I keep thinking about a woman who told me she hadn't eaten any fruit in four years. They think I have power because I can walk around on my own, but I'm powerless."
The only hostel for women in Dubai - a filthy private villa on the brink of being repossessed - is filled with escaped maids. Mela Matari, a 25-year-old Ethiopian woman with a drooping smile, tells me what happened to her - and thousands like her. She was promised a paradise in the sands by an agency, so she left her four year-old daughter at home and headed here to earn money for a better future. "But they paid me half what they promised. I was put with an Australian family - four children - and Madam made me work from 6am to 1am every day, with no day off. I was exhausted and pleaded for a break, but they just shouted: 'You came here to work, not sleep!' Then one day I just couldn't go on, and Madam beat me. She beat me with her fists and kicked me. My ear still hurts. They wouldn't give me my wages: they said they'd pay me at the end of the two years. What could I do? I didn't know anybody here. I was terrified."
One day, after yet another beating, Mela ran out onto the streets, and asked - in broken English - how to find the Ethiopian consulate. After walking for two days, she found it, but they told her she had to get her passport back from Madam. "Well, how could I?" she asks. She has been in this hostel for six months. She has spoken to her daughter twice. "I lost my country, I lost my daughter, I lost everything," she says.
As she says this, I remember a stray sentence I heard back at Double Decker. I asked a British woman called Hermione Frayling what the best thing about Dubai was. "Oh, the servant class!" she trilled. "You do nothing. They'll do anything!"
VIII. The End of The World
The World is empty. It has been abandoned, its continents unfinished. Through binoculars, I think I can glimpse Britain; this sceptred isle barren in the salt-breeze.
Here, off the coast of Dubai, developers have been rebuilding the world. They have constructed artificial islands in the shape of all planet Earth's land masses, and they plan to sell each continent off to be built on. There were rumours that the Beckhams would bid for Britain. But the people who work at the nearby coast say they haven't seen anybody there for months now. "The World is over," a South African suggests.
All over Dubai, crazy projects that were Under Construction are now Under Collapse. They were building an air-conditioned beach here, with cooling pipes running below the sand, so the super-rich didn't singe their toes on their way from towel to sea.
The projects completed just before the global economy crashed look empty and tattered. The Atlantis Hotel was launched last winter in a $20m fin-de-siecle party attended by Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan and Lily Allen. Sitting on its own fake island - shaped, of course, like a palm tree - it looks like an immense upturned tooth in a faintly decaying mouth. It is pink and turreted - the architecture of the pharaohs, as reimagined by Zsa-Zsa Gabor. Its Grand Lobby is a monumental dome covered in glitterballs, held up by eight monumental concrete palm trees. Standing in the middle, there is a giant shining glass structure that looks like the intestines of every guest who has ever stayed at the Atlantis. It is unexpectedly raining; water is leaking from the roof, and tiles are falling off.
A South African PR girl shows me around its most coveted rooms, explaining that this is "the greatest luxury offered in the world". We stroll past shops selling £24m diamond rings around a hotel themed on the lost and sunken continent of, yes, Atlantis. There are huge water tanks filled with sharks, which poke around mock-abandoned castles and dumped submarines. There are more than 1,500 rooms here, each with a sea view. The Neptune suite has three floors, and - I gasp as I see it - it looks out directly on to the vast shark tank. You lie on the bed, and the sharks stare in at you. In Dubai, you can sleep with the fishes, and survive.
But even the luxury - reminiscent of a Bond villain's lair - is also being abandoned. I check myself in for a few nights to the classiest hotel in town, the Park Hyatt. It is the fashionistas' favourite hotel, where Elle Macpherson and Tommy Hilfiger stay, a gorgeous, understated palace. It feels empty. Whenever I eat, I am one of the only people in the restaurant. A staff member tells me in a whisper: "It used to be full here. Now there's hardly anyone." Rattling around, I feel like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, the last man in an abandoned, haunted home.
The most famous hotel in Dubai - the proud icon of the city - is the Burj al Arab hotel, sitting on the shore, shaped like a giant glass sailing boat. In the lobby, I start chatting to a couple from London who work in the City. They have been coming to Dubai for 10 years now, and they say they love it. "You never know what you'll find here," he says. "On our last trip, at the beginning of the holiday, our window looked out on the sea. By the end, they'd built an entire island there."
My patience frayed by all this excess, I find myself snapping: doesn't the omnipresent slave class bother you? I hope they misunderstood me, because the woman replied: "That's what we come for! It's great, you can't do anything for yourself!" Her husband chimes in: "When you go to the toilet, they open the door, they turn on the tap - the only thing they don't do is take it out for you when you have a piss!" And they both fall about laughing.
IX. Taking on the Desert
Dubai is not just a city living beyond its financial means; it is living beyond its ecological means. You stand on a manicured Dubai lawn and watch the sprinklers spray water all around you. You see tourists flocking to swim with dolphins. You wander into a mountain-sized freezer where they have built a ski slope with real snow. And a voice at the back of your head squeaks: this is the desert. This is the most water-stressed place on the planet. How can this be happening? How is it possible?
The very earth is trying to repel Dubai, to dry it up and blow it away. The new Tiger Woods Gold Course needs four million gallons of water to be pumped on to its grounds every day, or it would simply shrivel and disappear on the winds. The city is regularly washed over with dust-storms that fog up the skies and turn the skyline into a blur. When the dust parts, heat burns through. It cooks anything that is not kept constantly, artificially wet.
Dr Mohammed Raouf, the environmental director of the Gulf Research Centre, sounds sombre as he sits in his Dubai office and warns: "This is a desert area, and we are trying to defy its environment. It is very unwise. If you take on the desert, you will lose."
Sheikh Maktoum built his showcase city in a place with no useable water. None. There is no surface water, very little acquifer, and among the lowest rainfall in the world. So Dubai drinks the sea. The Emirates' water is stripped of salt in vast desalination plants around the Gulf - making it the most expensive water on earth. It costs more than petrol to produce, and belches vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as it goes. It's the main reason why a resident of Dubai has the biggest average carbon footprint of any human being - more than double that of an American.
If a recession turns into depression, Dr Raouf believes Dubai could run out of water. "At the moment, we have financial reserves that cover bringing so much water to the middle of the desert. But if we had lower revenues - if, say, the world shifts to a source of energy other than oil..." he shakes his head. "We will have a very big problem. Water is the main source of life. It would be a catastrophe. Dubai only has enough water to last us a week. There's almost no storage. We don't know what will happen if our supplies falter. It would be hard to survive."
Global warming, he adds, makes the problem even worse. "We are building all these artificial islands, but if the sea level rises, they will be gone, and we will lose a lot. Developers keep saying it's all fine, they've taken it into consideration, but I'm not so sure."
Is the Dubai government concerned about any of this? "There isn't much interest in these problems," he says sadly. But just to stand still, the average resident of Dubai needs three times more water than the average human. In the looming century of water stresses and a transition away from fossil fuels, Dubai is uniquely vulnerable.
I wanted to understand how the government of Dubai will react, so I decided to look at how it has dealt with an environmental problem that already exists - the pollution of its beaches. One woman - an American, working at one of the big hotels - had written in a lot of online forums arguing that it was bad and getting worse, so I called her to arrange a meeting. "I can't talk to you," she said sternly. Not even if it's off the record? "I can't talk to you." But I don't have to disclose your name... "You're not listening. This phone is bugged. I can't talk to you," she snapped, and hung up.
The next day I turned up at her office. "If you reveal my identity, I'll be sent on the first plane out of this city," she said, before beginning to nervously pace the shore with me. "It started like this. We began to get complaints from people using the beach. The water looked and smelled odd, and they were starting to get sick after going into it. So I wrote to the ministers of health and tourism and expected to hear back immediately - but there was nothing. Silence. I hand-delivered the letters. Still nothing."
The water quality got worse and worse. The guests started to spot raw sewage, condoms, and used sanitary towels floating in the sea. So the hotel ordered its own water analyses from a professional company. "They told us it was full of fecal matter and bacteria 'too numerous to count'. I had to start telling guests not to go in the water, and since they'd come on a beach holiday, as you can imagine, they were pretty pissed off." She began to make angry posts on the expat discussion forums - and people began to figure out what was happening. Dubai had expanded so fast its sewage treatment facilities couldn't keep up. The sewage disposal trucks had to queue for three or four days at the treatment plants - so instead, they were simply drilling open the manholes and dumping the untreated sewage down them, so it flowed straight to the sea.
Suddenly, it was an open secret - and the municipal authorities finally acknowledged the problem. They said they would fine the truckers. But the water quality didn't improve: it became black and stank. "It's got chemicals in it. I don't know what they are. But this stuff is toxic."
She continued to complain - and started to receive anonymous phone calls. "Stop embarassing Dubai, or your visa will be cancelled and you're out," they said. She says: "The expats are terrified to talk about anything. One critical comment in the newspapers and they deport you. So what am I supposed to do? Now the water is worse than ever. People are getting really sick. Eye infections, ear infections, stomach infections, rashes. Look at it!" There is faeces floating on the beach, in the shadow of one of Dubai's most famous hotels.
"What I learnt about Dubai is that the authorities don't give a toss about the environment," she says, standing in the stench. "They're pumping toxins into the sea, their main tourist attraction, for God's sake. If there are environmental problems in the future, I can tell you now how they will deal with them - deny it's happening, cover it up, and carry on until it's a total disaster." As she speaks, a dust-storm blows around us, as the desert tries, slowly, insistently, to take back its land.
X. Fake Plastic Trees
On my final night in the Dubai Disneyland, I stop off on my way to the airport, at a Pizza Hut that sits at the side of one of the city's endless, wide, gaping roads. It is identical to the one near my apartment in London in every respect, even the vomit-coloured decor. My mind is whirring and distracted. Perhaps Dubai disturbed me so much, I am thinking, because here, the entire global supply chain is condensed. Many of my goods are made by semi-enslaved populations desperate for a chance 2,000 miles away; is the only difference that here, they are merely two miles away, and you sometimes get to glimpse their faces? Dubai is Market Fundamentalist Globalisation in One City.
I ask the Filipino girl behind the counter if she likes it here. "It's OK," she says cautiously. Really? I say. I can't stand it. She sighs with relief and says: "This is the most terrible place! I hate it! I was here for months before I realised - everything in Dubai is fake. Everything you see. The trees are fake, the workers' contracts are fake, the islands are fake, the smiles are fake - even the water is fake!" But she is trapped, she says. She got into debt to come here, and she is stuck for three years: an old story now. "I think Dubai is like an oasis. It is an illusion, not real. You think you have seen water in the distance, but you get close and you only get a mouthful of sand."
As she says this, another customer enters. She forces her face into the broad, empty Dubai smile and says: "And how may I help you tonight, sir?"
Some names in this article have been changed.
Monday, April 6, 2009
The London declaration for peace and justice in Palestine
A Forum and Exhibition on Gaza Genocide: Palestine Solution in London was held on March 31. It's a joint effort by the Malaysia's foreign ministry and Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War (KLFCW). Influential speakers who has share their thoughts in the event are Sir Gerald Kaufman (British elected representative who is against the Gaza genocide), Rabbi Cohen (a prominent rabbi who is vocally against Israel’s policy) and Cynthia McKinney (ex-candidate [of the Green Party] for the United States presidency).Others include Lauren Booth (a human rights activist) and Tony Benn (former British cabinet minister).
Former Malaysian prime minister (and the founder of the KLFCW), Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad deliver the keynote address.
1. As co-host I would like to welcome everyone to this forum on the Gaza Genocide and the possible solution to the Palestinian problem. This is a forum on the rights of all Palestinians regardless of political affiliations. The internal politics of the Palestinian people is for them alone to resolve. Their humanitarian rights are the concern of the whole human race.
2. I know that many forums have been held recently and more will be held in the future concerning the injustice to and the sufferings of the Palestinian people under the brutal Israeli armed attacks and occupation over the last sixty years.
3. The recent wanton slaughter of innocent men, women and children in Gaza by Israel’s military, supported principally by the United States, Britain and the European Union is another sordid example of the brutality of the strong against the weak and illustrates also the double standards, hypocrisy and the failure by the international community to condemn the crimes committed by the most powerful military power in the Middle-East against the long suffering defenceless Palestinians.
4. Since the holocaust no one can criticise Israel without being labelled “anti-semite” or “anti-Jew”. To avoid such an accusation, I would like to invite you to consider an independent evaluation of the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding before us by a Jew.
5. I refer to the statements of the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in occupied Palestinian territory, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk, who is a Jew.
6. He has unreservedly called the devastation of Gaza “a crime against humanity” and “a flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law as laid down in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” He has even called for “the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation, and determine whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders responsible for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.”
7. While also condemning the actions of Hamas, Prof. Falk said that it cannot be cited as a justification for Israel’s “imposition of a collective punishment of a life-and-health threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people. A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli over-flights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live. Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live.”
8. This independent observation by a Jew should be enough to arouse our conscience, at the minimum to demand that all the relevant parties responsible for this despicable acts must be made accountable and brought before a special tribunal to answer for war crimes charges.
9. If the words of Mr Falk a Jew and a United Nations rapporteur are not enough, let me quote a report by AFP, headed “Israeli soldiers describe wanton killings of civilians”.
10. Datelined Jerusalem: the report said Israeli soldiers have described wanton killings of Palestinian civilians and destruction of property during the deadly 22-day Gaza Offensive, according to a journal published yesterday.
11. One soldier described the case of an Israeli sharpshooter who killed a Palestinian mother and her two children who had left their home on a path the troops had declared off limits, according to the journal of the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military academy.
12. The publication which quoted graduates of the colleges military preparation course, also cited the case of an elderly Palestinian woman killed as she was walking 100 meters from her home.
13. Soldiers also spoke of civilians being abused, acts of vandalism, of destruction of homes. – AFP.
14. There can be no more doubt of the brutality of the Israeli military in Gaza.
15. It is therefore most appropriate that this forum in London should deal with the injustice against the Palestinians which has its origins in Britain.
THE BALFOUR DECLARATION
16. We have short memories, and over the years the original perpetrators of this cruel injustice have been forgotten.
17. It is time that we revisit the history relating to the founding of Israel in 1948.
18. But before I do so may I remind everyone of the fundamental tenets of the English Common Law which says that: “Justice Must Not Only Be Done, It Must Be Seen To Be Done.”
19. How often has this been quoted and preached especially here in Britain. But has it always been upheld?
20. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which followed World War II, called the waging of aggressive war and I quote, “essentially an evil thing… to initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
21. For centuries, Jews were much maligned in Europe and were persecuted viciously but strangely they had always found comfort and safe havens in Muslim countries.
22. Even Shakespeare caricatured the Jews in The Merchant of Venice in which Shylock, the vengeful money-lender came to be accepted as representative of the Jewish character. There is no such stories in the Muslim world.
23. But Shakespeare’s countrymen eventually decided to accept the Jews to the point when a Jew became the Prime Minister of England. The turnaround was complete when in 1917, the then British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour wrote the following letter to Lord Rothschild:
November 2nd 1917
Dear Lord Rothschild:
I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet:
His majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.
Arthur James Balfour (Emphasis added)
24. This infamous letter is now more commonly referred to as the Balfour Declaration.
25. From this Declaration, several facts are not and cannot be disputed as they have been expressly admitted by the then British Cabinet:
1) The entire land was known and recognised as Palestine;
2) There was already in existence in Palestine, non-Jewish communities. In fact they made up the majority;
3) It was the British Cabinet that approved the concept of a “national home” for the Jewish people and not the non-Jewish communities in Palestine who were not consulted;
4) Notwithstanding that Jews have been living in other countries, and have accrued political status and rights, the British Government deemed it fit and unilaterally decided that a Jewish national homeland be established in Palestine;
5) The letter was not addressed to a Head of State or a government but a representative of a mere organisation, the Zionist Federation.
26. I have stated earlier that Jews have been persecuted by the Europeans for centuries. Injustice had been inflicted upon the Jewish people.
27. But can such injustice be compensated by another injustice inflicted on another community, a community which had historically provided asylum for the persecuted Jews?
28. It does not look like Justice is being done.
29. On the contrary, Injustice has been done and worse still has been done blatantly in full view of the world. Equally blatantly the injustice is forcefully upheld, and insisted upon by the very people, the British, who had talked so much about justice and fair play.
30. In simple language, Palestine was stolen from the “non-Jewish communities” in Palestine and given to the minority Jewish community exclusively, to assuage the conscience of the Europeans. Despite British promise of the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities, these people were violently expelled from Palestine and forced to live in exile for the last 60 years with no right of return.
31. Can we accept that this is the way for the Europeans to atone for their sins against the Jewish people?
32. The concept of mandated territory was proposed by the victors in the First World War. The understanding was that when the time came for the mandate to end, the original people of the territory would regain their land. There was no provision for the holders of this mandate to do just what they like to the territory concerned.
33. But it was the British who proposed that the mandated territory of Palestine be established as a national home of the Jewish people and not to the people indigenous to the territory.
34. It was an ill-thought out decision for the British Government must know that taking other people’s land to give to other people is wrong, very wrong. They must know it would lead to violence. They must know that even when they occupied their colonial territories, they had been forced to give them up to the indigenous people.
35. Palestine was not a piece of real estate owned by Lord Balfour or the British Government, to be given away at their whims and fancy!
36. There is no legal basis whatsoever, be it in English Common Law or the existing international laws for this act.
37. It was expropriation without parallel in history! What would the British people think if Surrey in England were to be offered by France or America as a homeland for the Jews, the Kurds or the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the people of Surrey be expelled.
38. Chaim Weizman, was very clear as to the objective of the Zionist Federation. He said and I quote:
39. “By a Jewish National Home, I mean the creation of such conditions that as a country is developed, we can pour in a considerable number of immigrants and finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be Jewish as England is English, or America, American.” [i]
40. In fact, it is very obvious that the establishment of Israel is nothing short of seizing native land from the native people in order to give to the aliens in all but name. This has been admitted by David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel who said, I quote
41. “There is no chance of an understanding with the Arabs unless we first reach an understanding with the English, by which we will become the preponderant force in Palestine. What can drive the Arabs to a mutual understanding with us? Facts … only after we manage to establish a great Jewish fact in this country. Only then will the precondition for discussion be met.” [ii]
42. Obviously a Jewish fact did not exist before. There was only a Jewish minority. They had to artificially create this fact.
43. Israel Zangwill, a prominent Zionist was more blunt in expressing the intentions of the Zionist Federation. He said and I quote:
44. “We must be prepared either to drive out by sword the Arab tribes in possession as our fathers land or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population, mostly Mohammedans and accustomed for centuries to despise us…” [iii]
45. “If we wish to give a country to a people without a country, it is utter foolishness to allow it to be a country of two peoples. This can only cause trouble. The Jews will suffer and so will their neighbours. One of the two: a different place must be found either for the Jews or for their neighbours.” [iv] (Emphasis Added)
46. You may want to remind yourself that as a country with one people (Jews) the trouble that it has caused is horrendous. Ever since the country with one people was created there has been endless violence, conflicts and wars including the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York and the acts of terrorism.
47. Lest I am accused of spreading the perception that all Jews hold the above views, let me say that there are many Jews who have condemned Zionism and the creation of Israel. In a letter dated September 21, 2003 to President George W. Bush, Torah True Jews Inc. wrote:
48. “… the ideology of Zionism is in utter opposition to our religion. We have been enjoined to be scrupulously loyal to the countries we reside in, and never seek to undertake to establish independent sovereignty in the Holy Land or anywhere throughout the world” [v] unquote.
49. I urge the leaders of the Muslim community to acquaint itself with such forthright leaders of the Jewish community.
50. It would be remiss of me, not to mention the courageous work of Rabbi Cohen who has been spreading a similar message for and on behalf of Neturei Karta.
51. I would like to quote Rabbi Cohen’s speech given on the occasion of the Conference – “The Palestinian People’s Right of Return to their Homeland”, in Beirut, Lebanon from the 23rd to 25th February 2005.
52. Rabbi Cohen said, “I bring you today a short simple message from Orthodox Jewry. Zionism and Judaism are total opposites, incompatible and diametrically opposed. Zionists can in no way represent Jewry. Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. It is in the light of this statement that I wish to put over to you today the Orthodox Jewish approach to the question of the ‘Right of Return for the Palestinians’.
53. “Firstly, what is an orthodox Jew? An Orthodox Jew is a Jew who endeavours to live his life completely in accordance with the Jewish religion. The Jewish Religion absolutely forbids Zionism both on grounds of religious belief and on grounds of Jewish Religious values of humanitarianism as I hope to explain. This of course has a tremendous impact on the subject of this conference namely ‘The Palestinian People’s Right of Return’.
54. Rabbi Cohen continued, “Even if you see and hear on the media what appears to be Orthodox Jews supporting Zionism, rest assured, as I will explain, their approach is an aberration and a distortion of Judaism, an absolute departure from the teaching that has been handed down to us through the generations.
55. “Zionism has the ideal, and has always had the ideal, of imposing - let’s face it - a ’sectarian’ State over the heads of the Palestinians, the indigenous population. This has resulted in a terrible confrontation; a confrontation which has cost many lives both Palestinian and Jewish with no end in sight unless there is a very radical change.”
56. When I read these words of Rabbi Cohen, my faith in humanity in ensuring that Justice for the Palestinians will not only be done, but will be seen to be done, is reinforced.
57. There is indeed hope for the future.
58. There is hope for the Jews and the Palestinians to live in peace in the Holy Land, as indeed they had done for centuries before the creation of Israel.
59. There is hope that the three Abrahamic Faiths will co-exist in peace, so that the message of our one true God will bring joy and blessings not only for the present generation but to our children and their children too.
60. This surely must be the Justice that we should strive for.
61. The Jews and the Arabs are great people who have contributed much to humanity and civilisation. And both have suffered so much from colonialism and persecution through the ages.
62. Yet, today we see merciless wars being waged and wanton destruction inflicted on both sides.
63. The fog of wars has blurred our vision and our ability to grasp the fundamental truth that only in peace, will we find justice.
64. There cannot be justice when men, women and children are massacred with impunity, massacred legitimately.
65. There cannot be justice, when mothers and children are starving.
66. There cannot be justice, when children are denied their basic right to education and to realise their fullest potential.
67. There cannot be justice when there is no hope for a better future.
68. The Preamble to the UNESCO constitution states:
69. “… wars begin in the minds of human beings, it is in the minds of human beings that the defenses for peace should be built.”
70. But, instead of building defences, society has allowed and tolerated the young, our children, to be brainwashed for war, and more often than not, in the name of democracy and freedom.
71. The barbaric invasion of Iraq was grounded on the so-called irrefutable intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he was ready to unleash wanton destruction within 45 minutes and devastate Britain as alleged by the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and asserted in the “sexed-up intelligence dossier” headlined in leading British Tabloids and the BBC.
72. When the lie was exposed, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair justified further killings because tyrants needed to be overthrown for democracy and freedom to prevail!
73. Hamas was elected as the government for Palestine in place of Fatah in a fair and free election, but such an exercise in democracy cannot be tolerated because in the eyes of the United States, Britain, the European Union and Israel, an independent and sovereign government would not serve the interests of occupying powers.
74. The Palestinians in Gaza must therefore be collectively punished for committing the ultimate crime as defined by the Zionists and their allies – to elect a government of their choice and not that of Zionist Israel!
75. The punishment was massive and prolonged, starting with the blockade and deliberate starvation of the entire population of Gaza. When the war criminals felt sufficiently confident that the Palestinians would no longer be able to resist, they launched a bloody invasion to terrorise the people of Gaza into submission.
76. But the heroic Palestinians, uniting as one, put paid to these evil plans and persevered in defending themselves. There was no surrender despite the killings of their women and children.
77. The fate of the Gazan struck at the hearts of decent people everywhere and many risked their lives to go the aid of the Palestinians.
78. I am proud to have with us this morning in London, the Rt Hon Cynthia Mckinney, former member of the US Congress and lately, Presidential Candidate for the Green Party who together with the founders and members of the Free Gaza Movement braved stormy seas and Israeli gunboats to bring food and aid to the starving Gazans.
79. In one of these efforts, in which Cynthia was a participant, Israeli gunboats rammed her boat, knowing full well that she and her friends were on a humanitarian mission to save lives. She survived this ordeal and no doubt, later in the morning she will tell us her trials and tribulations in overcoming this ordeal.
80. Ladies and gentlemen, we must salute this courageous and indomitable lady fighter for justice and freedom.
81. A few weeks ago, another courageous man took up the challenge and led a convoy of over one hundred trucks to bring aid to Gaza and broke through the Rafah Checkpoint. The convoy traveled overland from UK to Gaza, a distance of over 20,000 kilometers.
82. He exemplifies the best qualities of the British.
83. In 2005, he joined us in Malaysia to launch the Kuala Lumpur Declaration to Criminalise War. He spoke with passion against war and crimes against humanity.
84. I missed his presence today, as he could not be with us.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in saluting the Hon. George Galloway. He is now banned from entering Canada.
85. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Rt. Hon. Tony Benn for joining us today. He has been and continues to be a staunch advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians.
86. But we must look beyond such courageous efforts to help bring lasting peace to the Holy Land of Palestine.
THE LONDON DECLARATION FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE IN PALESTINE
87. Where and how do we begin?
88. Revisiting the Balfour Declaration is as good a beginning as any.
89. For it was in 1917, in London that this atrocious injustice was first conceived and therefore it is only right and proper that the Balfour Declaration be replaced with another declaration of intent here in London to be called - The London Declaration for Peace and Justice in Palestine.
90. The British people must atone for this injustice and the horrors that followed by ensuring that the British Parliament unanimously adopt such a declaration of intent and ensure that the international community implements its basic principles.
91. The detractors will say that such a proposal will never see the light of day.
92. But, I am convinced that there are enough men of goodwill here and elsewhere to ensure that it will.
93. For the last 60 years, we have been talking and debating about the crime, but not identifying the principal party that committed the crime.
94. If justice must be done and seen to be done, at the very least, the British Parliament, representing the entire British people must confront this injustice, as the Germans and Germany since World War II were made to confront the injustice and crimes committed against the Jews.
95. There cannot be double standard, nor can there be justice if the victors are allowed to lay down the law.
96. For too long have the British escaped the censure that they deserve.
97. Tony Blair has been appointed the Peace Envoy for the Quartet. When a known warmonger who told lies is appointed Envoy of Peace, it is cynicism at its worse.
98. Any effort to establish peace in Palestine must, if we are sincere, begin with the abrogation of the Balfour Declaration.
99. Just as Holocaust Memorials have been erected in Germany, America and other countries to remind present and future generations of the injustice committed against the Jews, the ultimate and lasting memorial to the injustice inflicted on the Palestinians must be the total rejection of the Balfour Declaration. The British people and their Parliament must do this.
100. As William Wilberforce did with the slave trade, so must the members of the British Parliament redeem their honour by abrogating the Balfour Declaration.
101. There can be no peace without admission of guilt and contrition by the culprit. Then, and then only will there be atonement for the grievous wrong which has wreaked havoc and death in the Middle East and elsewhere over the past 60 years.
102. Any British effort to promote peace in the Holy Land will ring hollow when its leaders have not owned up to the betrayal of the Palestinians.
103. Rightly, the Palestinians should be demanding retribution. But they are not.
104. They are only seeking justice.
105. If we are asked for a precedent, I need look no further than the courageous reconciliation that was fostered in what was once White Supremacist South Africa!
106. For generations, it was unthinkable and even a taboo to consider that the Africans were capable of governing themselves and to live in peace with their white fellow citizens.
107. Every rationale and excuse was given to justify the Apartheid regime and the inevitable injustice.
108. But the far-sighted leaders of South Africa, especially the courageous Nelson Mandela and de Clerk, banished hatred and vengeance from their hearts, so that reconciliation and human decency could prevail, and today black and white live, work and play together.
109. We meet here in London where the decision was made which we now know is wrong, a decision that had plunged the Middle East and indeed the world into 60 years of war, of senseless killings and material destruction, of the tragedy of 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and of Gaza.
110. We can help redeem all this if our meeting can come up with a proposal for a solution to the Palestinian tragedy. We cannot bring back the dead but we can prevent more deaths. And we can do this if we resolve here and now to bring the two parties together to discuss and to negotiate so as to return to the status quo ante, i.e. the recreation of a state where Arabs and Jews can live together in peace and at least relative harmony.
111. I propose this because this was the solution for my own country, Malaysia, where the Malays agreed to share their country with the Chinese and Indians whose forebears migrated to our shores and decided to settle down there. They retain their ethnicity but they are all Malaysians.
112. It will be a difficult task for Jews and Arabs but God willing they will triumph in the end.
113. I thank you all for your presence.
114. Let our enlightenment and understanding be not in vain.
[i] Nur Masalha, citing “The Address to the English Zionist Federation” 1919, Jewish Chronicle. May 20 1921, in Arie Bober, ed: The Other Israel (1972, New York Garden City, Double Day)
[ii] Nur Masalha, citing Protocol of the Jewish Agency Executive Meeting on June 7, 1938 in Jerusalem, Vol 28, No 51, Central Zionist Archives. See also Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, at p24.
[iii] Nur Masalha, citing Israel Zangwill, Speeches, Articles and Letters (1937, London, The Soncino Press)
[iv] Nur Masalha, citing Yosef Grony, Zionism and the Arabs: 1882-1948 (1987, Oxford Clarendon Press)
[v] See, Washington Post, October 5, 2003 See also www.jewsagainstzionism.com
Cynthia McKinney (ex-candidate [of the Green Party] for the United States presidency)
Forum for Palestine
London/March 31, 2009
Not too long ago, I received an invitation to participate in the Malaysia Peace Organization’s effort to Criminalize War and establish a tribunal to try the heads of state who violated the peace and led their countries into war and occupation.
When I was in Kuala Lumpur, I had the opportunity to meet one of my heroes, Tun Dr. Mahathir, who stood up against the very same individuals who are today wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy in a feeding frenzy on the imperial carcass. As a result, Malaysia became an outpost of resistance in Asia. Dr. Mahathir’s bold action was the first time I came to know Malaysia, and that was by way of the news reports. And when I had the opportunity to travel there for the purpose of fashioning a world without war, I dubbed Kuala Lumpur the world capital of peace. Thank you, Malaysia, for showing the world, along with Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and others, that national dignity is possible.
For dignity depends on peace, and peace depends on justice, and justice depends on truth. So, our charge today is to help the world attain dignity.
At that 2007 Kuala Lumpur peace conference, I met victims of war crimes, torture, and crimes against humanity, all made possible because of U.S. policy and U.S. taxpayers. It was an emotional Conference for me, because I came face to face with the scars borne by victims of war.
The next year, I spent International Human Rights Day 2008 in Havana, Cuba with family members of victims of U.S. aggression against that fiercely independent island country. And while I was there, over and over and over again I heard the word “dignity.” And how there is dignity in resistance.
I can’t help but remember that it was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, forty years ago, said that the United States was the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. Sadly, violence sponsored by the U.S. directly or indirectly has only intensified.
And because I stand in London right now, where tens of thousands of people are about to take to the streets in protest of war and occupation, I must not omit the roles that London and Europe have played in promoting this worldwide violence.
The world is rising up against the lies that we’ve been told. People are reclaiming their dignity. Against the greed, corruption, and theft that have been committed in our name, with our tax dollars. In the streets, you will hear the word dignity.
That’s what the U.S. civil rights movement was all about. And its spirit of resistance to injustice shaped my childhood experiences. I saw what is possible when people stand up.
On the night before his murder, Dr. King said that he was proud to be alive at the end of the 20th Century when people were rising up saying, “We want to be free.”
Today, we are rising up and saying that we want to be free from hatred, division, oppression, and war.
I admire those stood up on the national stage, and I’ve tried to do my part to take a stand, too.
Thus, in 1991, as a Member of the Georgia Legislature, when President George Herbert Walker Bush bombed Baghdad, I asked the Speaker of the House if I could speak on a point of Personal Privilege to explain my opposition to Operation Desert Storm. My colleagues stood up and walked out on me during my remarks.
And then, when I decided to run for the United States Congress, I knew that the foundation of all U.S. policy—whether domestic or foreign--had to be: respect for human rights.
So, when the marginalized and dispossessed of the world came to me, I did my best to help them.
There was no room in my view for policies promoting nuclear weapons, NATO expansion, or discrimination against any person, group, or country. I voted against every Pentagon budget that came before Congress.
I introduced legislation to stop the transfer of U.S. weapons to regimes that did not respect human rights and to eliminate the use of depleted uranium.
I spoke out against President Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq, and President George W. Bush’s war against and occupation of Iraq.
I represented the Congressional Black Caucus at the Durban World Conference Against Racism, despite intense pressure to not attend in order to avoid a discussion of Zionism.
I worked with a team of internationally-respected lawyers to prosecute Sharon, Barak, and Netanyahu for war crimes as well as those responsible for incitement of genocide in Gujurat, India.
I even turned down a politician’s dream: fame, fortune, and re-election if I would just get arrested in front of the Sudan Embassy and let a famous Zionist lawyer bail me out of jail.
Underlying it all was my belief that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ought to have universal application. Afterall, it was Dr. King who reminded us that justice is indivisible: injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
But when the subject was justice for Palestine, while I stood my ground, the political resolve underneath me dissolved beneath my feet.
When the pro-Israel Lobby targeted me for defeat, even lifelong family friends abandoned me and those I thought stood for principle, shrank in utter fear.
For all the talk about justice, the principles underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights melted away when the topic was Palestine. Or any other project of the pro-Israel Lobby. Like Durban, Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, or protecting their interests in Blood Diamonds. Unfortunately for me, all the issues I had taken on with great enthusiasm pitted me for the people, but against the interests of the powerful pro-Israel Lobby.
And then, they decided in 2002 that I had to go.
That came after I questioned the Bush Administration’s version of what happened on September 11, 2001. The pro-Israel lobby activated its operatives inside both the Republican and Democratic Parties, and I lost my campaign for re-election to Congress.
Even though, two years later, in 2004, I ran again and regained my seat, I still wore a target on my forehead. And again, pro-Israel, pro-war Democrats and Republicans joined to oust me from Congress in 2006, when I was the only Democratic Member of Congress to lose reelection. The significance of the 2006 election was this:
The very first bill to fund the war came up for a vote and passed with exactly the number of votes required. Had I been there to cast my no vote, the bill would have failed. It became clear to me that the “War Party” inside the United States, that consists of pro-war elements inside both the Democratic and Republican parties, do a darn good job of making sure they control enough Congressional votes to keep our country at war.
So, after leaving Congress in January of 2007, I declared my independence from every bomb dropped, every child killed, and every veteran maimed as a part of the U.S. war machine.
In 2008, the Green Party, the largest of the small parties in the U.S., nominated me to lead their ticket and I ran for President.
And now, I’m trying to launch “Dignity,” a movement for peace and justice inside the United States as a counter to the war party.
So, the day after Israel began bombing Gaza, the co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement asked me to travel the next day to Gaza with some doctors and deliver 3 tons of medical supplies. It didn’t take me 5 minutes to say yes.
And so began my voyage aboard the pleasure boat, Dignity, that was rammed in international waters by an Israeli warship and that almost cost me my life.
Onboard the Dignity was Sami El-Hajj—the Al Jazeera reporter from Sudan who, while covering the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan, was captured and became known as prisoner 345 in Guantanamo for six years. Once again, I came face to face with a victim of U.S. war policy, against Afghanistan and also against his home country of Sudan. I apologized to him.
Dr. David Halpin is here. Stand up Dr. Halpin. He was onboard the Dignity with me and is the one who told me to prepare myself mentally to die after the Israelis attacked us. He also noticed that I had my life jacket on upside down and helped me put it on right side up after we had been rammed.
It is clear that those who favor war use every trick in the book to rob us of our human dignity. And then, feeling powerless, we allow them to do to us what they want.
But effective resistance requires that perpetrators of crime, especially torture, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against the peace, be brought to justice.
It’s a shame that I have to even say that. But currently, we have a situation in which the killer of one might go to jail, but the killer of one hundred thousand is invited to peace talks. It seems that in this upside down world, the more one kills, the more impunity one acquires. But true justice requires the absence of impunity.
And that’s what brings us here today. We want to criminalize war. Many people’s tribunals have been initiated precisely because of the lack of justice in the politicized courts of the United States, and increasingly, in the world Courts. Those with political power have been able to seize these courts and manipulate them to favor injustice.
This includes the conduct of the International Criminal Court, which to date, has not engendered hope. In his piece entitled “White Collar War Crimes, Black African Fall Guys,” investigative journalist Keith Snow writes:
“First note that the ICC can now be viewed as a tool of hegemonic U.S. foreign policy, where the weapons deployed by the U.S. and its allies include the accusations of, and indictments for, human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. To understand this, we can ask why no white man has yet been charged with these or other offenses at the ICC, which now holds five black African warlords and seeks to incarcerate and bring to trial another black man, also an Arab, Omar Bashir. Why hasn’t George W. Bush been indicted? Or what about Donald Rumsfeld? Dick Cheney? Henry Kissinger? Ehud Olmert? Tony Blair?”
The sad fact is that the International Criminal Court has become terribly politicized, as has the entire international justice apparatus. The ICC has issued indictments, for the first time in history, against a sitting head of state. Meanwhile, according to Snow, an Israeli weapons dealer, also a reputed Mossad operative, is revealed to be shipping weapons into Sudan with Pentagon support.
And Belgium changed its law rather than prosecute Ariel Sharon for war crimes. The double standard cries out to us.
One country in the West, however, increasingly stands out as a place where justice can be found—and that is Spain. With its landmark indictment of Pinochet and its current consideration of Israeli war crimes in Lebanon and U.S. torture in Guantanamo, we increasingly look to the Spanish Courts with hope. It was the Spanish courts that returned indictments against Rwandan soldiers for genocide even as the world coddles U.S. proxy Rwanda and its leader, Paul Kagame.
Now, why is curbing impunity important? Just this week Israel and the US admitted that Israel murdered approximately 800 refugees as Israel attacked Sudan in January and February using unmanned killer drones.
Israel unleashed death squads to commit targeted assassinations all over the world.
To save the Palestinians from Israel, is to save the rest of us from Israeli abuse, and of course, saves the Israelis from themselves. Even Israeli soldiers are telling the sad truth about Gaza. Doctors tell us that Gaza was a weapons testing laboratory. The world is rightly outraged about Israeli Operation Cast Lead. And of the Sudan operation, of which we are only just now learning, Olmert is reported to have said: "There is no place where Israel cannot operate. There is no such place."
Now, I’ve been questioned about my passion because I’m not Arab; I’m not Muslim; why do I care so much about justice in Palestine?
My answer is this: I struggle every day for the human rights and dignity of blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Muslims, Arabs, the poor and others discriminated against in America.
I learned from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who broke with his friends in the civil rights movement because they did not want to alienate themselves from President Johnson by criticizing the Vietnam War. Dr. King decided that conscience compelled him to speak out against the war even if it meant losing his friends. Even if it meant losing his life. And when asked about it, Dr. King said that he had fought segregation too long to segregate his moral concerns.
The people of the world want war criminals held accountable. Bolivia wants to hold Israeli leaders accountable for their crimes in Gaza. The International Criminal Court says it is investigating whether Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. Now is the time for us to stand firm.
That’s why I support the Malaysia Peace Organization, the Brussels Tribunal, the Hurricane Katrina Tribunal, and other efforts to hold national leadership accountable for their actions. And I specifically support Malaysia’s efforts to criminalize war.
Because of what happened to our Dignity boat while in international waters, the Free Gaza Movement wants to bring Israel to justice for its war crime against us.
I applaud George Galloway’s success in entering Gaza by land. The Free Gaza Movement will try again by sea.
I paid the ultimate political price for standing by the idea that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ought to have universal application. You can rest assured that I will do all I can to promote dignity, a vision of peace that relies on truth and justice for all of us.
My Comment: Dr Mahathir should start and cover the sherif of mekah(as a protector of Islam holly site) chain of letters with Macmahon which now well know as Hussein Macmahon correspondance. This is very important event as they make a secret pack and discuss the terms of arabs(read:maily the bedouin) uprising to aid brittain again the ottoman empire. And he also must not forget to cover the spico agreement which pave the ways for the Palestine under British rule and the Hijaz and many area of Ottoman empire has been redraw it border and split among the allied, most of the border are still pretty much the same to this day except for the then British Mandate of Palestine. Without disregard this crucial chains of event, we can analyst and understand the whole Palestinian issue better and the Jewish and Wahhabi highly complicated love-hate affair which of course shape the Palestine-Israel conflict to this very days. The Jewish state are quite briliant to capitalise the whole lots more..but for those whose possess the same quality if not better can alway read their move I must say..Anyway, I don't intent to write long as it's alredy a long post plus I already write and comments (and not without some exchange wth the Wahabis and their blind supporters) elsewhere.
So I hope in future, Dr Mahathir and his Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War would not forget to mention this piece of history.