The video at bottom discusses how Israel oppresses Ethiopian Jews, and forcibly puts immigrants from Sudan and Eritrea in concentration camps. You can watch it at the bottom of this post, but I want to talk about something else — namely why are there any Eritrean immigrants in Israel?
First, some background…
Eritrea refuses to bow to the neoliberal Empire, and has therefore been blockaded for almost thirty years. Eritrea, N. Korea, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, Cuba, and a few other nations refuse to adopt neoliberalism and to become debt slaves of the IMF and World Bank. Hence the Empire calls them “rogue states,” and “state sponsors of terrorism. “
Eritrea was an Italian colony from 1890 until the end of WW II, at which time the British “awarded” Eritrea to Ethiopia. Even today, many Italians still live in Eritrea. The capital city (Asmara) has as many Italian restaurants as Eritrea restaurants.
In 1958 the people of Eritrea began a war for independence from Ethiopia’s brutal government. (Ethiopia’s savage dictator at that time, Haile Selassie I, was a puppet of the Empire.)
This was during the Cold War. The U.S. National “Security” Agency had a listening post in Eritrea against the Soviets. The listening post (called Kagnew Station) had radar dishes and antenna farms staffed by 5,000 personnel spread over 3,400 acres
By 1973, Eritrea’s freedom fighters started to threaten the NSA listening post. By 1977 they forced the NSA to remove it. By 1991 they forced out the Ethiopian military and declared independence from Ethiopia, and from the Empire. Then they formed a genuinely socialist government.
The Empire responded by imposing a blockade on Eritrea that continues today.
Consider the parallels between Eritrea and Cuba…
Both are relatively small countries trying to build socialism in the crosshairs of imperialist sanctions and military threats.
Both have free education and free health care, and no homeless people.
Both are blockaded by the Empire, and are called “rogue states.”
Both refuse to become debt slaves to the IMF and World Bank.
Both governments are dedicated to equality for all. Eritrea’s people are half Muslim and half Christian. Intermarriages are common. Muslims and Christians attend each other’s weddings. Muslims don’t serve alcohol at their ceremonies, but anyone can walk across the street to the nearest bar. (Eritrea’s nightlife is so active that the bars often run out of beer around midnight, because the breweries cannot keep up with the demand. The city of Massawa is famous for its beach parties.)
Both governments are genuinely socialist, and were formed via armed struggle.
Both governments reject the corrupt system of electoral “democracy” that is the main tool of the Empire’s control today. That is, both countries avoid sham “elections” that sustain the illusion of democracy.
In both nations (Cuba and Eritrea) individual shareholders may use land registered under their names, but all land is formally owned by the state. So are the basic means of production. There is private property (e.g. houses) but land cannot be bought or sold. (This is a cornerstone of genuine socialism.)
So if Eritrea is so great, why would anyone ever want to leave? Because in any population there is always a small percentage of people who refuse to help other people. In both Cuba and Eritrea, life is made difficult by the Empire’s blockade. Therefore both nations require their males 18-40 to be members of the National Service, and to serve in a national militia if the Empire attacks. This requirement, plus the hardships caused by the Empire’s blockade, causes some people to leave Cuba and Eritrea. Expatriates do not blame the Empire’s blockade for their hardships. No, they blame their own governments and people. They do this loudly and militantly in an attempt to drown out their misery while living in the Empire. Cubans in Florida, for example never tired of denouncing Cuba as a “communist dictatorship” (although many visit the “dictatorship” when they need free health care).
The Empire and its puppets are merciless. Each time there is a drought and famine in Ethiopia (whose government is a puppet of the Empire), neighboring Eritrea offers to let Ethiopia use Eritrea’s large and modern ports free of charge so that ships can bring food to Ethiopia’s 90 million starving people. Ethiopia’s government always refuses this offer, and instead relies on a crude and tiny port in the nation of Djibouti (which is another a puppet of the Empire). The Djibouti port is far too tiny and antiquated to handle emergencies. Food ships get backed up for months, causing countless people in Ethiopia to die of famine.
(The Empire charges people like Syria’s Assad with allegedly “gassing their own people” while the Empire’s puppet dictators kill millions of their own people by starvation.)
Ethiopia is supposedly under UN Article 7 Sanctions for refusing to accept final and binding peace and border agreements with Eritrea. Moreover Ethiopia’s government is entirely dependent on loans from the Empire. Thus the UN or the Empire could easily force Ethiopia’s government to save Ethiopia’s people by using Eritrean ports. However the Empire refuses.
The Empire’s economists rave about Ethiopia, calling it the world’s fastest growing economy for 2015, 2016, and 2017. This is comical. Ethiopia’s main export (coffee) brings in about $3 billion a year which, divided by 90 million Ethiopians, means $33 for each Ethiopian per year. Ethiopia’s government is entirely dependent on loans from the USA, and must import 90% of its food and fuel. In return for these loans, Ethiopia’s military does the Empire’s bidding in East Africa. This is what the World Bank and the Empire’s economists call an “economic miracle.”
Eritrea is so hated by the Empire that the International Press Freedom Index ranks Eritrea’s freedom of press as dead last in the world — behind even North Korea. This too is a joke, since there is no Internet censorship in Eritrea, although there are no privately owned media outlets either. (Perhaps this is what is meant by “censorship.”)
The Empire’s corporate media outlets claim that Eritrea has the world’s second largest “standing army” relative to general population, right behind North Korea. This is misleading. In both countries, most of the “standing army” consists of civilians who are subject to conscription if the country is militarily attacked by the Empire or its allies. In May 1998, Ethiopian troops invaded Eritrea, driving a million Eritreans from their homes and farms, many into the desert, with no shelter, and little food or water, with over half of them being children under 5 years of age. It took two years of war, but the Eritreans drive out the Ethiopians by June 2000.
Eritrea has compulsory military service for 18 months, which includes 6 months of military training plus 12 months national reconstruction. Thus, around 5% of Eritreans live in barracks in the desert doing projects such as road building as part of their service. This is what a small percentage of Eritreans flee when they go to Israel. Since they loathe the idea of community service, they call Eritrea’s government a dictatorship.
The Empire tries to kill tourism in Eritrea by spreading lies about rampant crime, filth, disease, and price inflation. Tourists come anyway, but they are mostly Italians, plus Eritreans from the diaspora. During summer they fill the capital city, making it difficult to find seats at popular cafes.
Contrary to the Empire’s lies, everyone who visits Asmara (the capital) calls it arguably the most beautiful, charming, and cleanest city in all of Africa. A Lonely Planet review describes Asmara as “like a film set from an early Italian movie.” The city has wide sidewalks, towering green trees, and minimal traffic. Its mountain air is refreshingly cool and clean. Satellite dishes on rooftops are tuned to Western and Middle Eastern sources for news and entertainment. Streets are immaculate. Each morning at dawn, roving gangs of street sweepers fan out to grab litter. Much of the architecture is art deco. Cafés dot the sidewalks. Cappuccino is a national addiction. Public squares are lined with immaculately preserved cathedrals and mosques that stand side by side.
Sometimes the Empire pays special agents to enter foreign nations as Muslim or Christian fanatics to cause divisiveness. This trick does not work in Eritrea, since the government and the people are wise to the game. Eritrea expels religious fanatics. Eritrea’s six million people speak nine different languages (including English). Government laws ensure that young people from all nine language groups can speak in their Mother Tongue, so that their cultures will survive. (Some of the nine languages have never had a written form.)
The government and people of Eritrea understand that religious and ethnic harmony cannot be taken for granted. Eritrea’s nine different ethnic groups (nine tribes) get along just fine, while their surrounding enemy nations are tortured by ethnic strife. Some of the tribes like the Saho and even the largest, Tigrinia, have both Christian and Muslim members. This infuriates the Empire, since Eritrea’s people cannot be divided,
Western media outlets claim that religious hatreds have wracked the Middle East and Africa from time immemorial. But lethal fractures are not intrinsic to these societies, nor are they inevitable. They are introduced by the Empire as a weapon to divide and conquer.
Meanwhile here in the Empire itself, many people cope with their misery by clinging to the Empire’s lies about Eritrea, Cuba, N. Korea, and so on. These are the right-wingers and fake leftists that infest our cities, chanting mantras fed
These people’s misery and frustration make them chant the mantras with anger coupled with insults. They claim to be “experts,” when in fact everything in their heads has been fed to them by the Empire.
“They’re a Communist dictatorship!”
“They’re a global threat!”
“They want to nuke us!”
“They had another failed missile test!”
“They’re guilty of human rights violations!”
“Their people are prisoners!”
“Their people are Nazis!”
“Their people eat babies!”
The loudest chanters are the expatriates mentioned above. They left Cuba, Eritrea, etc. to avoid contributing to their societies. Traveling to the Empire, they find that life is much worse than it was back home (in Israel they are put into concentration camps) and they try to deny this fact by chanting the mantras noted above, and by deriding the nations they abandoned, screaming, “Dictatorship!” “Concentration camps!” “Genocide!”
In 2006, Eritrea became the first country in the world to turn its entire coast into an environmentally protected zone. Its 837-mile coastline, plus more than 350 islands, are now under governmental protection. Wildlife such as lions, leopards, and elephants are also under government protection.
For many years Eritrea was attacked by foreign and domestic currency speculators, who caused much inflation and economic chaos, just as they now do in Venezuela. (The Empire used currency speculation to cause Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation of 2008 because Zimbabwe refuses to bow to the Empire.)
In Eritrea’s capital of Asmara, currency speculation caused some people to get rich. These rich people in turn drove up housing prices to astronomical levels. Eritrea’s government ended this last year by announcing a “currency change,” in which all currency notes were suddenly declared worthless. Everyone had to trade in their notes for new notes. This caused currency hoarders and currency speculators to be exposed. They had to explain themselves as they lined up outside banks with bags full of the old currency notes.
The Empire creates U.S. dollars out of thin air, and uses those dollars to buy up mass amounts of currency in places like Eritrea and Venezuela. The Empire then uses that currency to cause economic chaos in the target nation. The Empire can starve an economy of currency, or suddenly flood it with currency. Eritrea’s mid-2016 “currency exchange” foiled the Empire by causing hundreds of millions of US dollars’ worth of Eritrean currency notes to suddenly be wiped out. There was nothing the Empire could so, since it held Eritrean currency outside Eritrea, which was illegal. (By “Empire” I include currency speculators in Ethiopia and Djibouti, who are allied with the Empire.)
As a result of less cash floating in the community, the price of basic foodstuffs plunged dramatically, and price of dollars on the black market quickly dropped from 54 to 1 to 22 to 1 and even lower.
Meanwhile average people in neighboring Ethiopia starve because of currency chaos.
Eritrea now wants to go cashless to further eliminate currency speculation. This will probably be done via a mobile phone payment system like that used in Sudan and increasingly in Kenya.
NOTE: cashless technology is like any technology. Whether it is used to control or liberate depends on who uses it, and how they use it. The Empire wants to go cashless in order to expand its tyranny. Eritrea wants to go cashless to resist the Empire’s tyranny.
In the capital of Asmara, rent control is strictly enforced. All rents must be registered with the local government, and are paid directly to the owner’s bank account. All evictions have been put on hold for at least another two years.
The Empire imposes blockades Eritrea, and then falsely calls Eritrea a “hermit society.” It does the same with Cuba and North Korea. And most people on the Empire believe whatever they are told by the corporate media outlets.
NOTE: Neighboring Djibouti has long been part of the Empire. Camp Lemonnier, a U.S. military base at the capital city’s airport has 4,000 US military and civilian personnel, and is the nerve center of six drone launching stations across Africa. Camp Lemonnier is also the headquarters of a U.S. death squad called Task Force 48-4.
However problems arose in 2015 when Djibouti told the Empire that U.S. troops had to vacate a small secondary base at Obock (a small port town) to make room for 10,000 Chinese troops, who have now built China’s first overseas base at Obock. China has offered a major package of economic investments for the region, such as a $3 billion railroad from Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) to Djibouti, which is Ethiopia’s only outlet to the sea (since Ethiopia will not work with Eritrea). The US military pays Djibouti a mere $63 million a year for the use of Camp Lemonnier. The Chinese railroad alone is 48 times bigger than that financially. The Chinese have also offered another $14 billion for new ports and airports.
With Chinese troops moving into the same nation that has U.S. troops, the USA is suddenly calling Djibouti a “major violator of human rights,” (One of the reasons why the Empire maintains war and famine in the Darfur region of South Sudan is to offset the Chinese presence there. And One of the reasons why the Empire is attacking Yemen is to offset the Chinese presence in nearby Djibouti.)
Djibouti has no lakes or rivers, and no oil or gas or minerals. Djibouti’s value is its location at the entrance to the Red Sea. The U.S. has a military base there, and now so does China. Russia also wants to have a base there. If this goes any further, the Empire will have to regime-change Djibouti.
Anyway Eritrea is another of those “rogue states” the Empire wants to destroy, like North Korea, Zimbabwe, and other.
The video below is not about Eritrea, but Israel. It was the reason I brought up Eritrea.