Tag Archives: Israel/Palestine

Israeli Defense Minister Promises to Kill More Palestinian Civilians and Threatens to Nuke Iran

By Asa Winstanley
Global Research, May 8, 2015
Electronic Intifada, May 6, 2015

 

150506-yaalon

Image: Moshe Yaalon speaking at the 2015 Shurat HaDin conference.

Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon on Tuesday said Israel would attack entire civilian neighborhoods during any future assault on Gaza or Lebanon.

Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem, Yaalon threatened that

“we are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion … we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.”

The Israeli official also appeared to threaten to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran, although he said “we are not there yet.”

In response to a question about Iran, Yaalon said that “in certain cases” when “we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations” Israel might take “certain steps” such as the Americans did in “Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000.”

Relating a July 2013 meeting with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Yaalon recalled promising Israel would bomb the entire Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya.

He showed Ban photos of villages in Lebanon and of “certain neighborhoods in Gaza, to include well-known Shujaiya, with many red spots” which he claimed were “terror assets in the densely populated urban area. And I said – July 2013 – we are going to hit it.”

Yaalon was true to his word. The Shujaiya massacre was among the most brutal examples of Israeli war crimes during last summer’s attack on the Gaza Strip.

Israel killed 2,257 Palestinians during the 51-day assault, according to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA. Of that number, OCHA says 70 percent were civilians, including 563 children (Defence for Children International–Palestine has documented 547 child deaths).

The 20 July 2014 attack on Shujaiya was the most bloody day of the war, when Israel bombed the entire neighborhood indiscriminately. Initial reports on the day said 60 bodies had been brought out of the rubble. Later reports suggested death tolls of 90 or 120.

Threat of BDS

The conference was titled “Towards a new law of war” and was intended to help Israel use “lawfare” to defend its crimes in courts around the world.

The other main theme of Yaalon’s speech, which closed the conference, was the “challenge” of BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions. The Palestinian-led global movement aims to hold Israel accountable for its crimes.

Yaalon sought to cast the grassroots activist movement as a kind of military front. He said that “delegitimization, BDS and lawfare” were just “another tool” in the war of Israel’s enemies.

He complained that he had been unable to visit European countries because of the possibility he could have been arrested for suspected war crimes under universal jurisdiction law: “I prefer not to go to [the] UK, to London for about 10 years, or to Spain for a while.”

“Collateral damage”

In 2011, under Israeli pressure, the UK government changed its laws to make it easier for Israeli war crimes suspects to visit the country. Although the changes have meant that several high-level Israeli politicians and military officers have been able to visit since, in 2013 retired Major-General Doron Almog canceled a visit to London because of an outstanding warrant for his arrest related to war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.

Yaalon lamented that Israeli soldiers now have to be taught that “we should be ready to give up a visit to London … but it’s not fair, it is not just.”

But, apparently referring to the law changes, he said they “found the common language to discuss these issues with our friends, with our allies.”

He also described criticism of Israel in international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council as a “war after the war” and advocated that “we should fight them back.”

He said there should be no investigations of Israeli soldiers just because of “collateral damage” – a euphemism for the killing of civilians.

“Lawfare” conference

The conference was organized by Shurat HaDin, a group of Israeli lawyers which is at the forefront of using courts around the world to defend Israeli war crimes, and attack Palestine solidarity groups.

In 2013, as I reported for The Electronic Intifada at the time, it was revealed that the group has extremely close ties to the Israeli security establishment, to the extent of acting as a proxy group for the Mossad, Israel’s deadly overseas spy agency.

During his speech Yaalon heaped effusive praise on Shurat HaDin and its leader Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. He thanked the group

“for the activities of Shurat HaDin fighting one of Israel’s challenges of today, the lawfare, BDS, delegitimzation of the state of Israel … Nitsana thank you very much for what you are doing for the state of Israel.”

He said Israel and its supporters should use courts around the world “to fight them back,” meaning critics of Israel, and that this is exactly what Shurat HaDin does.

Hasbara is not the right term,” he continued in the question and answer session, “it’s a war … Each of us can become to be a warrior in this war. By talkbacking, by blogging, by disseminating articles, by raising our case.”

Hasbara (literally “explanation” in Hebrew) is the Israeli term for propaganda.

Justifying Israeli attacks on civilians was the main theme of the conference. Speaker after speaker lined up to reinterpret international law so that it would, supposedly, allow the killing of Palestinian and other Arab civilians.

This was justified with familiar canards about the supposed use by Palestinian resistance factions of “human shields,” which then inevitably results in Palestinian civilian dead. In other words, Israel was being forced to kill civilians.

Yaalon did similar by saying that the civilian neighborhoods Israel had bombed had contained “rocket rooms.”

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Yaalon is likely to continue as defense minister in the newly-agreed government headed by his Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in coalition with the Jewish Home and other ultra-right-wing parties.

The Electronic Intifada watched the entire conference by livestream and will be reporting more detail soon.

UN Battle to ‘Shame’ Israel over Abuse of Children

Attack on Gaza last year raises pressure on Ban Ki-moon to put Israeli army on same list as Islamic State and Taliban

By Jonathan Cook
Global Research, May 08, 2015
Middle East Eye, May 5, 2015

 

Gaza boys (AFP)

Image: Boys from the Palestinian Bakr family who survived an Israeli attack walk on the beach in Gaza (AFP)

Palestinian solidarity groups have taken to social media to step up the pressure on United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to include Israel for the first time on a “shame list” of serious violators of children’s rights.

The campaign, which culminates in the submission of an online petition to Ban’s office on 7 May, was launched after indications that Israel is exerting enormous pressure on UN officials to avoid being named.

Ban’s office is due to make the list public in the coming weeks.

A senior UN source, who wished to remain anonymous because of the diplomatically sensitive nature of any announcement, told Middle East Eye that Ban’s chief advisers had recommended that the Israeli army be identified as a serious violator of children’s rights.

That would place it, for the first time, alongside groups like Islamic State, the Taliban and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, pushing Israel further towards international isolation.

Israel has found ever fewer supporters in the international community as it has tried to prevent Palestinian moves both to win recognition at the UN for statehood and to be accepted at international bodies such as the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Relations with the White House have recently hit an unprecedented low.

The decision, the source said, had become all but inevitable after the recent findings of a UN inquiry into Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer known as Operation Protective Edge which killed more than 500 Palestinian children and injured at least 3,300 others.

The investigation concluded that the Israeli army had targeted six UN schools where civilians, including many children, were sheltering, even though it had been notified of the sites and their GPS coordinates in advance.

Ban described the attacks – which killed 44 Palestinians and injured 227 more – as “a matter of the utmost gravity”.

Large-scale killing and maiming of children, and attacks on schools, are among the “triggers” for inclusion on the list in a UN monitoring process of children’s right in conflicts around the world introduced a decade ago.

Intimidation of staff

However, there are concerns in the UN and among children’s rights experts that, despite the evidence against Israel, political pressure from Israel and the US could ensure that the Israeli army remains off the list.

In a sign of Israel’s concern, its officials protested strenuously in February when local UN staff in Jerusalem were due to ratify a recommendation to UN headquarters that Israel be included. At the last minute, the meeting was cancelled.

One of Ban’s officials privately complained to Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, over the intimidation of agency staff in Jerusalem, according to a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Despite Israel’s intervention, said the UN source, agency officials in Jerusalem and Ban’s advisers in New York had decided the evidence against Israel was compelling.

If Ban had received such a recommendation, the pressures on him would be intense, said Gerard Horton, a lawyer specialising in Israel’s treatment of children. “Once things move to New York, they become highly political,” he told MEE.

“After all, the US pays a large slice of the UN’s budget, so UN officials cannot afford to ignore the administration’s wishes. If UN officials want to help children in Africa and Iraq, they have to ask themselves whether it is worth risking it all for a fight over Israel.”

Activists on social media have established a new group, 4Palkids, to try to bring grassroots pressure to bear on Ban.

Ariyana Love, one of the organisers, said: “Our hope is that, if Israel is put on the list, it will begin a process of bringing sanctions to bear against Israel from the international community.”

UN credibility at stake

The UN source said it would be unprecedented if Ban vetoed the advice of his team in New York dealing with children and armed conflict, headed by Leila Zerrougui.

“The Secretary General has never before vetoed a recommendation for inclusion on this list and it will be hard for him to do so now and maintain the UN’s credibility in the Middle East,” said the source.

A spokeswoman in Jerusalem for UNICEF, which leads the local monitoring process, referred all questions to New York, saying the matter was “confidential”.

Ban’s office said the report would be published in June but would not comment on which countries were to be listed or whether Israel had lobbied the Secretary-General.

Off the record, UN officials have noted that Ban will have to take account of the fact that the UN’s Human Rights Council is due to submit its report into Operation Protective Edge in the coming months. The report is expected to be harshly critical of Israel’s 50-day operation and the resulting high number of casualties of Palestinian civilians.

Israel is regularly condemned by UN human rights commissions, most recently in a resolution by the Commission on the Status of Women. But Israel and the US usually dismiss such findings as partisan, given that the commissions represent national governments, including Arab and Muslim states.

A listing of Israel by Ban – with the implicit backing of the Security Council, which originally set up the monitoring of children’s rights in conflict zones – will carry much more weight.

Horton, a founder of Military Court Watch, an organisation monitoring Israel’s detention of Palestinian children, said western states’ current displeasure with Israel might give Ban the diplomatic room he needs to punish it.

“There is a lot of anger in Europe and the US towards the Israeli government, especially after [Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu publicly declared during the recent election campaign that he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state,”

he said.

“Placing Israel on the list might be a way to send a shot across the bows. It would be a major embarrassment for Israel, but it would draw a lot less blood than the US vetoing a resolution in the Security Council against, say, Israel’s settlements.”

‘List of shame’

Since 2005, UN agencies have been charged with monitoring 23 conflicts, including the one between Israel and the Palestinians, for serious violations of children’s rights.

Six grave violations have been identified that qualify a party to a conflict for inclusion on the list. They are: killing and maiming children, abductions, sexual attacks, attacks on schools and hospitals, the denial of humanitarian access, and the recruitment of children as soldiers.

The UN Secretary General’s office publishes detailed annual reports into all the conflicts, highlighting major violations of children’s rights. However, the Israeli army has so far avoided inclusion in an annex that has come to be known as the “list of shame”.

In last year’s report, 52 parties were named for the gravest violations against children in states such as Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Several government armed forces were included.

Although the Israeli army was not identified in that report as one of the most serious abusers, it was criticised for violations against Palestinian children that included: actions that led to deaths and injuries; night-time arrests; cruel and degrading treatment during interrogations; threats of sexual violence; transfers to Israeli prisons, in violation of the Geneva Conventions; attacks on school; and the denial for patients in Gaza of the required hospital treatment.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based watchdog, has noted that inclusion on the list has proved successful in curbing states’ worst abuses of children’s rights.

“The ‘list of shame’ has been a remarkably effective tool in getting governments to improve their children’s rights records,” Bede Sheppard, the deputy director of the children’s rights division at HRW, noted earlier this year.

Issam Yunis, director of Al-Mezan, a human rights group in Gaza, told MEE that listing Israel was vital to increasing protections for Palestinians under occupation.

“At the moment, Israel is totally unaccountable, especially in Gaza, where it has a green light to do what it likes. Gaza is a society of children [figures show 44 per cent of the population are under 14] so it is inevitable that they pay the heaviest price for Israeli impunity.”

Breakthrough meeting

In the case of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, violations have been documented and monitored since 2007 by a working group led by the UN children’s agency, UNICEF. The group includes other major UN agencies, international aid organisations and Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations.

Until this year, Palestinian children’s rights experts noted, Israel had not only been excluded from the final list publicised by the UN Secretary General’s office, but had not even been discussed for inclusion.

“This year, there was a breakthrough in that the local report included a proposal for the first time to consider whether Israel should be on the list,” said Ayed Abed Eqtaish, a lawyer with the Palestine branch of Defence for Children International.

He said that was why Israel had sought to prevent the meeting in February.

He added: “Things are getting noticeably harder for Israel. The pressure is growing year by year.”

The Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council, a coalition of 12 Palestinian groups, sent a letter to Ban in February urging him to be “impartial” and include Israel on the list.

They wrote:

“Repeated Israeli military offensives, prolonged military occupation, and recurrent military violence combined with complete disregard for international law has hindered any meaningful efforts toward implementing comprehensive protections for children living [under occupation].”

Inclusion on the list would add significantly to the mounting criticism of Israel’s conduct during last year’s Operation Protective Edge. Reports from human rights groups have already accused Israel of carrying out war crimes.

Soldiers’ testimonies

This week, a group of former Israeli soldiers, Breaking the Silence, published testimonies from soldiers who served in Gaza. Many said they had received similar orders from their commanders: to shoot any Palestinian, whether armed or not, in areas Israel considered combat zones.

A staff sergeant was quoted saying:

“The instructions are to shoot right away. Whoever you spot – be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes – shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction.”

Breaking the Silence concluded that Israel was “at best indifferent about casualties among the Palestinian population”.

Although criticism in the UN of Israel has focused on the killing and maiming of children in last year’s attack on Gaza, Yunis of Al-Mezan said Israel should have been listed long before for the grave violation of “denying humanitarian access”.

“The siege of Gaza has been going on for nearly a decade and meets the criteria of a grave violation,” he said. “If Israel is listed this year, it’s important that it stays there until it ends such violations.”

Welcome to Where?

Your crime is your ethnicity. Welcome to apartheid. Welcome to Palestine.

By Matt Mullins
April 28, 2015
Global Research

 

palestine-flag1Imagine yourself in these shoes… you and your family live imprisoned behind concrete walls twice the height of the Berlin wall, grimly underlined with razor wire and punctuated by sniper towers. Each tower stands foreboding like a giant inquisitor sneering down over a barren, ravished land; their bullet proof glass eyes cruelly manned by young patriots ready to burn lead holes through human skulls.

The occupying force frequently closes the roads and highways you use for work, to see family and friends or hope to God don’t need to reach a hospital. Yet the citizens of the occupying force pass freely on these same roads.

Settlements, internationally recognized as illegal, command most every strategic high point and continue to multiply. Your neighborhood sits surrounded by settlements. And thus your sweet middle aged mother cowers in her home. Yes, she could have been your Mom… had you been born elsewhere.

Caught between unpredictable settlers known to kidnap and burn children alive without repercussion and the racist military presence establishing checkpoints on your street corner, you agree with your mother and keep your beloved children home rather than risk their walking to school.

While strolling to the market one night with your grandfather to pick up dinner, the occupying military inexplicably storms the street firing tear gas into the crowd. You swiftly grab your ailing grandfather by the arm and hurry away as throngs of men, women and screaming children struggle to find fresh air. The high pitched gasps of your grandfather’s wheezing fills your ears while stinging tears blur your vision. The soles of angry, excitable young men pound the ground in the opposite direction; soon they will throw rocks in symbolic protest, receiving gun fire in return.

Your crime is your ethnicity. Welcome to apartheid. Welcome to Palestine.

AIPAC Busting up Peace Efforts May Bust its Own Bubble

By Medea Benjamin
March 12, 2015
Dissident Voice

 

Early in the morning of March 3, on AIPAC’s national lobby day and just hours before Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was set to address the joint session of Congress, AIPAC President Robert Cohen, along with the group’s Policy Director and two associates, briskly approached the Congressional office of Speaker of the House John Boehner. To their horror, they found the office locked and surrounded by crowd of CODEPINK activists staging a sit-in to protest the Netanyahu speech. After trying unsuccessfully to get in a side door, the AIPAC officials scurried away. But a CODEPINK swarm followed through the maze of Congressional halls, thrilled at the unique opportunity to confront the powerful AIPAC officials about their efforts to quash a nuclear deal with Iran.

When finally cornered after seeking refuge in the office of Congressman Stivers, the policy director agreed to talk to the CODEPINK group. But he kept repeating the mantra that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and as such, cannot be trusted in a nuclear deal.

This is the AIPAC line, and its strategy is to sabotage the negotiations. It pushes for greater sanctions on Iran through the Kirk-Menendez bill knowing that—as Secretary of State John Kerry has said—additional sanctions would likely drive Iran from the table. It is also promoting the Corker bill, which would give Congress a chance to veto any deal the administration makes with Iran. And there is speculation that AIPAC was behind the letter by 47 Republican senators to the Iran government insisting that any deal signed with President Obama could be overturned by the next president.

AIPAC’s underhanded efforts to scuttle talks with Iran threaten to move us down a dangerous path towards war. But it’s not just AIPAC’s position on Iran that poses a threat to peace. AIPAC tries to undermine any attempts by the Palestinians to take their grievances to the international community. AIPAC describes the United Nations as a body hostile to the State of Israel and has pressured the US government to oppose any resolution holding Israel accountable or granting Palestine statehood at the UN. Incensed by Palestine’s request for membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC), AIPAC pushed the Obama administration to pull funding from the Palestinian Authority.

AIPAC consistently supports Israel’s military incursions in Gaza, claiming Israel is simply defending itself against Hamas. AIPAC supported the Israeli offensive during the summer of 2014 that resulted in thousands of Palestinian deaths (including over 500 children), six UN schools and hospitals flattened, 18,000 housing units destroyed and 108,000 people displaced from their homes. While the bombs were raining down mercilessly on civilians in Gaza, AIPAC President Robert Cohen told Congress that Hamas was responsible for the death of its own citizens. AIPAC also supported the prior two invasions of Gaza and the siege that has so devastated the lives of the strip’s 1.8 million residents.

As part of its efforts to influence Congress, AIPAC takes US representatives on free, sugar-coated junkets to Israel, trips considered almost obligatory for every new member of Congress. The congresspeople see precisely what the Israeli government wants them to see. It is illegal for lobby groups to take elected officials on trips, but AIPAC skirts the law by creating a bogus educational group, AIEF (American Israel Education Foundation), to “organize” the trips for them. AIEF has the same office address as AIPAC and the same staff. These trips help cement the ties between AIPAC and Congress, furthering their undue influence.

To judge AIPAC’s grip on Congress, look no further than how it boasts about its policy conference; i.e., that it is “attended by more members of Congress than almost any other event, except for a joint session of Congress or a State of the Union address.”

AIPAC keeps a careful record of how members of Congress vote and this record is used by donors to make contributions to the politicians who score well. Congresspeople who fail to support AIPAC legislation have been targeted for defeat, including Senators Adlai Stevenson III and Charles H. Percy, and Representatives Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, and Earl F. Hilliard.

More recently, AIPAC supporters vowed to use their wealth and extensive resources to punish Democrats who skipped Prime Minister Netanyahu’s March 3 speech before Congress. A representative of billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said that “if these Democrats would rather put partisan politics ahead of principle and walk out on the prime minister of Israel, then we have an obligation to make that known.”

The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has influence on US policy out of all proportion to the number of Americans it represents. When a small group like this has disproportionate power, it hurts everyone—from Palestinians and Iranians to Israelis and American Jews.

If we are to stop a catastrophic war with Iran or finally solve the Israel/Palestine conflict, an essential element is breaking AIPAC’s grip on U.S. policy. That may well be happening right now. In the past, AIPAC fiercely guarded its bipartisan reputation. But its ultra-hardline stance on Iran puts it squarely on the side of Obama’s most ferocious Republican detractors.  This is making many liberal Jewish AIPAC supporters jittery and diminishing AIPAC’s power among Democrats in Congress and the White House.

AIPAC, in its strong-arm attempts to blow up the talks with Iran, may well be losing its grip and careening towards its own demise. And that’s one implosion worth rooting for.

Netanyahu: He Came, He Saw, He Conquered

The Power of Israel over the United States

By James Petras
March 9, 2015
Dissident Voice

 

NetanyahuThere have been times when history has played tricks with man and…has magnified the features of essentially small persons into a parody of greatness.

Rabindranath Tagore (on Benito Mussolini)

How is it that the ruler (Benjamin Netanyahu) of a puny country (Israel) of 8.2 million (6.2 million Jews) with the 37th biggest economy (GDP in current prices) in the world dictates war policy and secures the willing submission of the legislature of the largest economy and most powerful military empire in the world?

What significance does Netanyahu’s speech to the US Congress have, beyond the fact that he uses it as a platform to attack the elected President of the US, to denounce US peace negotiations, and to demand that Congress adopt policies designed to precipitate a war with Iran?

Netanyahu’s Dominant Presence in the US

There is only one reason that Netanyahu is received as a Viceroy overseeing and dictating strategic policy to what clearly is a servile colonial legislature: over the past quarter of a century, Israel’s proxy in the US, an entire panoply of Zionist political organizations, government officials, propaganda mills, media moguls, billionaires and millionaires, have deeply penetrated the legislature, executive and administrative centers of decision making. Netanyahu’s arrogance and “brazen” presumption (Financial Times, 3/4/15, p. 6) to dictate policy to the US Congress is rooted in the pre-existing power base created by the proxy Zionist power configuration.

Netanyahu can sneer, with a crooked smile, at the US President, because, after several decades of Zionist permeation of the US state, he knows that he comes not as an outside power but as a leader and spokesperson of an inside power.

His presence was hailed by all the mass media as a major event, as international news, for over a month in advance. With Napoleonic presumption he dared to announce in advance that he would advance a war thesis in the fashion of any head of state. He can act as an unelected dictator because the elected officials have been converted into docile and complicit subjects by his proxy power structure. Netanyahu follows the political precept of his predecessor Ariel Sharon, who faced with Israeli worrywarts criticizing his obstreperous intervention in US politics, once stated “Don’t worry. We lead the US by the nose.” [This quotation is unsourced. The closest substantiated approximation I could come up with: “I told everyone, the Americans, the Europeans, the Russians, ‘Don’t try to put any pressure on us, because when it comes to this issue we are not going to accept it.” Ariel Sharon in Time — DV Ed]

The crucial theoretical point is that the conditions, that enabled Netanyahu to come, to see and to conquer, were not of his doing. His presence in the US Congress and his message is derived from the power of his supporters, deeply embedded in the structure of political power in the US.

Otherwise, who would take serious his delusional military fantasies, his clinically paranoid vision of peaceful adversaries, conspiring to “nuke Israel” and then the world, without a single nuclear bomb!

petrasProminent among Netanyahu’s financial backers are a group of prominent Zionist lumpen-bourgeoisie, billionaires who lent to millions of borrowers at extortionate rates (between 1400 and 4000% ) and played a leading role in the fraudulent mortgage induced crises of 2009-forward. They include Al Goldstein co-founder of AvantCredit and CashNetUSA; Sasha Orloff and Jacob Rosenberg founders of Lendup; Daniel Gilbert founder of QuickenLoans — a predator subprime lender; Ronald Arnall owner of Ameriquest… They used part of their ill-gotten gains to ease their consciences by donating millions to Israeli and US Jewish causes. Being generous to Israel provides a sort of perverse “absolution” for screwing millions of Americans.

One does not need much imagination to envision them cheering Netanyahu’s AIPAC and Congressional diatribes. It is not surprising that the lumpen-bourgeoisie backs a lumpen-prime minister.

The best and the brightest among the Zionist phalanx of pundits, professors, lawyers, economists, and financiers have created an aura of gravitas and profundity around this vulgar beerhall brawler.

This raises a basic question: Why do upwardly mobile, prosperous and elite-educated Zionist majorities enthusiastically pledge unconditional loyalty to a crude authoritarian foreign ruler who humiliates their country of birth?

Why did ten thousand American-born Zionist professionals stand and cheer, as they did the day before his congressional speech, as Netanyahu dictated his rabid bellicose political line to them at the AIPAC conference?

Is it because they believe he is their Chosen Leader of their Chosen Fatherland?

Netanyahu, with all his vulgarity and mediocrity, strikes a deep and abiding chord in the soul of his Zionist followers. They believe they are the collective geniuses of a superior species, who need not abide by the legal norms of non-Zionist states and international laws which hinder his colonial rule over millions of Palestinians.

What else but that identity of superiority allows the educated and prosperous, the humane and the cruel, to bond and welcome Netanyahu, as a modern secular Moses crossing the Potomac, delivering “the Jews” (for the messianic Netanyahu claims to speak for “all Jews”) from the mortal threats (Iran) cultivated by gentile politicians. The great majority of Zionist activists are deaf, dumb, and blind to those who criticize and refute his infantile and grotesque lies, the scrofulous screeds about non-existing “existential threats” which infest his speeches. Worse they will terrorize and cow any critic, demand that their employers fire them, as they have done over the past two decades. They believe that the Palestinians, who Israel bombed into the Stone Age, are threats to Israel. They believe that nuclear weapon-less Iranians, facing hundreds of Israeli nuclear bombs, are a threat to Israel. They believe there is one “truth”: that all measures, speeches and actions, which enhance the power and glory of Israel, are virtuous. It is this “truth” that motivates hundreds of thousands of “virtuous” Zionists to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to buy and/or intimidate presidents and congresspeople, governors and mayors, university presidents and faculty, police informers and academic thugs. It is this Zionist power configuration, which allows a political low-life like Netanyahu to enter and dominate the legislative chamber and tell US citizens where and when their next war should take place. It is for this power configuration that Congressmen and women “perform” — applauding and jumping up on cue for each and every one of Netanyahu’s emotional ejaculations.

Broad sectors of the Israeli public were immensely impressed by Netanyahu’s capacity to humiliate the President, by his willingness to dictate policy to the US and by the hyperkinetic docility and submissiveness of US Congress people. But this is not surprising: After all, Israelis are used to dominating Palestinians and torturing them into submission and colonizing a whole people. Why shouldn’t they gloat and puff up with pride when Netanyahu speaks and acts as a colonial viceroy to the US? After all, their leader is dominating a so-called ‘world power’!

No doubt the Israeli empire loyalists will overwhelmingly vote for Netanyahu, even if the “opposition” claims they also denounce the US-Iranian peace negotiations. Opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni don’t have Netanyahu’s gangster look, that crooked smile that says to the US leaders: “We lead you by the nose and you love it!” What the rest of the world thinks of a braying donkey in Washington led by the nose is not hard to imagine: US world leadership certainly is not foremost in their minds…

There is much idle chatter from liberals, leftists and progressives, claiming that Netanyahu’s ‘brazen intervention’ would backfire; that it would damage relations with the US; that it would weaken and undermine US-Israeli relations and allow Iran to secure nuclear weapons. Liberal Zionists claim that Netanyahu’s speech would weaken support for Israel among Democratic congress people. Liberal Zionists claim that Netanyahu’s speech would weaken US support for Israel (God forbid!).

These lamentations have no substance; they are mendacious concoctions of minds which lack any capacity to understand power especially the permanent power of the Zionist power configuration.

Even a cursory reading of the political facts which preceded, accompanied and followed Netanyahu’s Congressional dictates, demonstrates the exact opposite.

Immediately after Netanyahu’s intervention, Congressional leaders moved ahead to fast track legislation to heighten Iranian sanctions, to veto any Executive agreement. The Republication majority and over half of the Democrats chose to back the “foreign Viceroy” on policies of war and peace.

Far from “prejudicing” relations with the Obama regime, the Administration in the person of Secretary of State John Kerry vetoed a measure passed by the UN Human Right Commission condemning Israel’s savage war crimes against Palestinians. Obama’s United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power did her usual belly crawl for Israel at the AIPAC conference following Netanyahu’s rousing diatribe. US-Iranian “negotiations” in Switzerland increasingly turned on exactly the issues Netanyahu demanded. US Secretary of State Kerry insisted on on-going intrusive inspections of Iran’s entire nuclear and military installations; retaining most sanctions for a decade; eliminating most enriched uranium …In a word disarming Iran, increasing its military vulnerability to an Israeli nuclear attack, without any deterrence or retaliatory capacity! Iran is formally negotiating with Kerry on behalf of the 5 plus 1, but the agenda and demands are set by the raucous over-voice of Netanyahu, who is the most influential invisible presence.

In other words, there is ample evidence that Netanyahu’s intervention, far from ‘damaging’ US-Israeli relations, further reinforced Israel’s power over the US. By securing the Administration’s declarations of unconditional loyalty while humiliating the President and seizing executive prerogatives, Israel demonstrates to the world that it can and will dictate US strategic policy and denounce its President with total impunity.

Netanyahu is far from being ostracized. He has a global platform from which to spew his rabid chauvinist diatribes against peace and negotiations. His speech, its content and style, received front page and extended prime time coverage. His war-mongering resonated with the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and US News and World Report.

Netanyahu’s political line inspired AIPAC’s ten thousand ultra-Zionists, who stormed Capital Hall and demanded Congress people and Congressional staff act on His message. Not a single dissenting voice emanated from the Presidents of the 52 Major American (sic) Jewish organizations whose first loyalty continued to be toward Israeli interests as defined by their Prime Minister.

The voices of dissent among the few dozen Jews on Capitol Hill, and outside the AIPAC conference hall, did not register in Congress or among the vast majority of Jewish community leaders or in the mass media.

Contrary to the lamentations and claims that Netanyahu has “weakened” Israel, the facts on the ground demonstrate that he has strengthened his “leadership” among the billionaires who buy US Congressional leaders. He has demonstrated that US officials, even ones who he insults and attacks, will continue to support Israeli war crimes in international forums; regale Israel with $3 billion a year in military aid to enhance its military supremacy in the Middle East; and incorporate its demands in any strategic negotiations with ‘Islamic’ countries like Iran, even if it undermines the basis of any negotiated agreement.

Conclusion

Clearly Netanyahu alienated a minority of US Congressional Democrats but mostly on procedural issues of protocol rather than on the more substantive issues of mongering for war and sanctions against Iran. Netanyahu’s messianic claim to speak for “all Jews” did arouse over 2,000 American Jews and non-Jews to sign a paid advertisement denying his status as the Second Coming of Moses.

But as the rousing welcome and conclusion to his speech by the Congressional majority and the unanimity of AIPAC’s thousands demonstrate, Israel’s formidable Zionist power configuration still dominates US policy in the Middle East.

The ‘debate’ over Netanyahu’s episodic presence in the US Congress and humiliation of the US President is misplaced. What really needs to be debated is the more fundamental question of the permanent presence, power and prerogatives of the Zionist power configuration in the making of US Middle East policy.

No other visiting Prime Minister or President will be received with so much media attention and political fanfare as Netanyahu because none possess the formidable, organized, well-financed and disciplined political apparatus which Israel possess. This is an apparatus which defends and promotes US wars on behalf of Israel, Israel’s war crimes, land seizures and torture of Palestinians. That they support Netanyahu’s gross humiliation of Obama is not surprising – it merely confirms the “Law of the Return”: that for American Zionists there is only one true state of the Jews – and that is Israel; and that their only “true” leaders are Israelis. As it happens, today he is called Benjamin Netanyahu. And that any US policy, negotiations or agreements in the Middle East have to be in accord with their leader.

Congress knows that.

The “52” know that.

Only the majority of the American electorate, who still believe they live in a free and independent country, is not privy to that reality, even though Netanyahu’s intervention in the US Congress and gross humiliation of the President should tell them otherwise.

But then we live in a peculiar sui generis ‘meritocracy’ in which the opinions of the 2%, the so-called chosen people, counts more than that of 98% of our citizens.

The critics, Jews and non-Jews, must realize that their problem with Netanyahu requires them to delve deeper, and that their opposition needs to become more systematic and more directly confrontational with the Zionist power configuration. Otherwise, there is no basis for believing that the US can end national humiliations and regain its status as a free and democratic republic.

James Petras is author of Extractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer) and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle East. Read other articles by James, or visit James’s website.

ISIS 101

What’s really terrifying about this threat

By John Chuckman
March 6, 2015
Dissident Voice, March 5, 2015

 

daeshISIS certainly is not what a great many people think that it is, if you judge what they think by what our corporate press proclaims incessantly.

Judging by what ISIS actually does and whom its acts benefit, its clandestine associates, and the testimony of some witnesses, ISIS is a complex intelligence operation. Its complexity reflects at least in part the fact that it serves the interests of several countries and that it has more than one objective. Its complexity reflects also the large effort to reinforce a false image with disinformation and staged events such as a video of a beheading which could not have been a beheading unless they’ve discovered a bloodless method until now unknown to science.

The subject of ISIS is not without brief glimmers of humor. The image of bands of men, swathed in Arabic robes and bumping their way around the desert in Japanese pick-up trucks with Kalashnikovs raised in the air for every picture has elements of Monty Python. The idea of modern, trained and well-armed military units turning and running from them resembles a war scene in a Laurel and Hardy comedy such as the one with Hardy stuck upside down in a WWI tank turret kicking his legs the whole time Laurel drives towards the German positions managing accidentally to round-up a whole trench-full of prisoners with some wire fencing that becomes snagged on the tank.

Despite the tiresome stupidities we see and hear about it, ISIS unquestionably does kill people and destroy things, that being its purpose, and there is no humor in that.

ISIS appears to have served several tasks so far. First, it frightened Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, out of office in Iraq, a man America and Israel grew very much to dislike owing simply to his good relations with Iran, one of the unintended consequences of America’s invasion of Iraq being expanded Iranian influence in the region. No doubt al-Maliki was terrified not so much by ISIS approaching in their pick-up trucks as he was by his own military’s tendency, as if on cue, to turn and run from ISIS, often leaving weapons behind. The message was clear: you won’t be protected.

Second, America’s highly selective “air war” against ISIS somehow manages to attack infrastructure targets inside Syria with the feeble excuse that they are facilities helping ISIS. We’ve seen what American bombing can do when it’s undertaken seriously, and somehow I have a hard time imagining the men in Japanese pick-ups lasting long when faced with what hit the Taliban in Afghanistan or Gadaffi’s forces in Libya. The air strikes are partly a show for the world – after all, how can America be seen not to be fighting such extremely well-advertised, super-violent terrorists, guys putting out videos regularly from a studio trailer they must haul around with one of their pick-up trucks? The air strikes’ main purpose appears to be a way of hurting Assad and assisting those fighting Syria’s army without coming into conflict with Russia, as they would with a large, direct campaign. They likely also punish elements of ISIS which have exceeded their brief and serve as a reminder to the rest of what could happen to them if they stray too far from their subsidized purpose once the war comes to an end.

Three, in some of the ground fighting in Iraq where we’ve read of Iraqi units fighting ISIS, the units are often Kurdish, and sometimes the press uses expressions like “Iraqi and Kurdish troops.” But the Kurdish region is still part of Iraq legally, although it has been given a good deal of autonomy by the central government. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the country’s prime oil-producing area, and in the estimation of many observers, an area both the United States and Israel would very much like to see severed from Iraq in the way Kosovo was severed from Serbia after America’s devastating air war there. This would not only permanently assure Iraq’s weakness, it would create a rather grateful and more willing oil supplier.

Where does ISIS get its technical equipment and the know-how to produce videos and run Internet sites? These are not qualities commonly found among fanatical fundamentalists anywhere; indeed most true radical fundamentalists tend to eschew technology. A supply of advice, technical assistance, and equipment comes from somewhere. Where does ISIS get the money for food, gasoline, clothes, ammunition, and Japanese pick-up trucks? And I wonder, did one of those wild-looking jihadi types just show up one day at an Iraqi car dealership and order a fleet of Japanese pick-ups? Were they delivered out on the desert or did a gang of jihadists march in, waving their Kalashnikovs, to drive them away?

The effort to destroy the Syrian government, whether by means of ISIS or anyone else, is warmly and generously supported by Saudi Arabia and its buddy Qatar – another oil-rich, absolute monarchy where political parties are banned – both these counties’ primary interest being the defence of their immensely privileged situations against creeping threats of all progressive developments such as equal human rights or democracy or indeed against revolt led by external forces. The payments we now know the Saudi royal family long made to Osama bin Laden before 9/11 were simply bribes to keep him and his anti-establishment work out of the country. They really didn’t care a lot about what the money bought elsewhere, but since 9/11 and its many Saudi connections – 15 of the perpetrators plus the past financing, plus the many members of the royal family and bin Laden family secretly flown out by American officials at the time – the Saudi authorities were genuinely fearful of how America might respond and have become far more responsive to what America wants in the Middle East and now apply their money to such projects. What America wants in the Middle East is, invariably, what Israel wants, so there is now extensive, secret cooperation where once there was complete official hostility.

We have reports from plane-spotters in the region of daily flights of mysterious planes from Israel to Qatar. We have several eye-witness reports and photographs of supply bundles dropped from unknown planes into ISIS territory. Maybe ISIS has its own air force now? We know Turkey has served both as an entry point for countless terrorists into Syria and as a place of retreat and refuge when fighting with the Syrian army becomes too hot for them, the volumes of such activity having been too great to keep secret. We have reports of Turkish supply flights. A Jordanian official recently told a reporter that ISIS members were trained in 2012 by American instructors working at a secret base in Jordan.

If ISIS is what our corporate news pretends that it is – a fanatical Muslim extremist group that sprang suddenly from the desert sands much like Jack’s bean stalk – one blindingly obvious question is, why does it not attack Israel or Israeli interests? Isn’t that what one would expect from such a cast of characters? But it has not done so, undoubtedly because Israel is an important covert benefactor and supplier.

We might equally ask why ISIS has not attacked Saudi Arabia or its interests, for although the Saudi royal family officially professes a strict and conservative form of Islam, Wahhabism, in fact, many of them are very worldly people who spend a good deal of time and money at the world’s great pleasure palaces. Perhaps even more damning for a genuine fanatical fundamentalist, the Saudis now often secretly cooperate and make plans with Israel where mutual interests exist.

No, there is something highly suspicious about Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who avoid such interests while managing to brutally kill poor Syrian soldiers just doing their jobs along with the odd foreign journalist or aid worker who may just have seen something they shouldn’t have seen. Of course, we have Edward Snowden himself having described ISIS as an operation intended to protect Israel. Despite the fact that some news sources have said the interview in which this was revealed never took place, my instincts tell me it likely did. Snowden has never refuted it, and the news sources saying it did not are highly suspect on such a subject.

The way ISIS serves Israeli and American interests is by providing a focus point for extremists, attracting them from various parts of the world so that they can be recorded and kept track of. Also the tracks back to the various countries from which they come provide security services with leads to places where there might be some festering problems. In the meantime, ISIS serves the interest of helping to bring down President Assad, a goal dear to the hearts of Israelis. Please remember that black operations, even the ones about which we know, show little consideration for lives or property. Just think of Israel’s attack on an American spy ship in the Mediterranean during the Six Day War, its pilots knowingly shooting up and bombing for two hours the well-marked ship of its ally and benefactor, no explanation worth hearing ever having been offered.

Just read conservative mainline sources (pretty much a redundant pair of adjectives) about the harm Snowden has done: claims of everything from his revelations about American intelligence having served to help ISIS avoid detection (!) to his revelations having set up the United States for another 9/11! You might think intelligent people would be ashamed of making such asinine public statements, but, no, there are almost no limits to trying to discredit those revealing murderous, dark operations.

We’ve had many reports of officials in various countries, including Canada as I write, concerned about the odd individual or small group running off to join ISIS. Now why should that be a concern? A few flaky people going abroad just removes them from your country, something I should have thought was a complete gain from a security point of view. Even if they were ever to return in future, you would know exactly who they are. Where is the basis for serious concern? But the psychological advantages of noise and hype to scare people about obscure dangers and “lone wolves” and “home-grown terrorists” outweigh completely good sense and intelligence.

Finally, there are numerous reports that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a nom de guerre, not his real name), the leader of ISIS, is a Western intelligence asset. What little we can learn about him makes that entirely plausible. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has said that the man is a Mossad agent, a claim supported supposedly by documents revealed by Edward Snowden. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is by all accounts a secretive man who speaks directly with few people, and even his birth place, given as Samarra, Iraq, is not sure. Records of his past, as those from his period of American captivity (always a great opportunity to “turn” someone to serving two interests), are not available. He was once reported killed but is still alive. He is said to have received intensive training from Mossad and the CIA, and some sources give his real name as Simon Elliot (or, Elliot Shimon), but few details can ever be certain in such dark operations.

The truly terrifying aspect of ISIS and other forces fighting with it in Syria is that the United States and Israel have approved and supported such wanton destruction in so beautiful and formerly-peaceful a place as Syria. Millions of lives destroyed and countless historic places damaged as though they were all nothing more than a few pieces moved on a geopolitical chessboard. I think it fair to describe that as the work of psychopaths.

John Chuckman lives in Canada and is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. Copyright © by John Chuckman. Read other articles by John, or visit John’s website.

 

Guardian Editor’s Hypocrisy on Anti-semitism

By Jonathan Cook
February 10, 2015
Dissident Voice, February 9, 2015

 

f460f-double-standard3I have been a critic of Jonathan Freedland before, but he – and the BBC – sank to a new low last week on the BBC’s Question Time.

Question Time is a current affairs show that allows an invited audience to ask pre-agreed questions on topical issues to a panel of public figures. The panel is dominated by politicians from the main political parties, but a token radical is occasionally allowed to appear. Last week it was Respect MP George Galloway.

Galloway has complained about the BBC and Freedland’s behaviour, accusing the broadcaster of setting him up. He has written a scathing piece about his experience here.

The incident occurred after a member of the audience went off script during a question about a rise in anti-semitic attacks last year – the episode begins at 39.15 minutes into the video below.

(Note that the figures showing a rise in attacks were compiled by the Community Security Trust, a Zionist organisation that has a record of dubious political activity. See, for example, here and here. Although its report makes great play of more than 1,000 recorded “attacks”, very few of them – 84 to be precise – involved a physical assault. The great majority were classified as “harassment”, a broad category that could include remarks against Israel).

The questioner then added a defamatory statement suggesting that Galloway had helped to stoke anti-semitism in the UK.

As Galloway has pointed out, the BBC effectively conspired in the questioner’s efforts to set him up. Question Time is not a live programme and the audience member could have been required to restate the question, without the defamatory addendum.

Orwellian paradox

Freedland, the Guardian’s executive editor, was allowed to respond first. He is also the newspaper’s resident anti-semitism obsessive and, in a moment of paradox that Orwell himself might have appreciated, recently won the Orwell Prize.

Even given Freedland’s distinguished track record of opportunism on the issue of anti-semitism, one might have assumed that, as a member of the liberal media elite, he would have preferred to distance himself from the questioner’s defamatory statement. But not a bit of it. Freedland jumped in to add his support to the attack on Galloway. Ugly, but maybe not surprising.

That aside, Freedland also managed in a couple of minutes to demonstrate that he is a hypocrite of the first order.

First, he got very upset – rightly – about people who conflate Jews and Israel by blaming Jews for Israel’s actions. But Freedland, of course, was only criticising non-Jews for doing this. He had not a word to say about a group of people who conflate Israel and Jews more than the worst anti-semites – that is, the leaders of Israel, not least the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu and his government have thrown their weight behind a Basic Law to define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Not of Israeli Jews, but of Jews everywhere. That, by the way, is not a controversial position in Israel. It is the aim of the Law of Return, Israel’s foundational law that treats every Jew in the world as either a citizen or a citizen-in-waiting of the Jewish state.

The view that every Jew is immutably tied to Israel was also expressed by most of Israel’s parties, including the centrist ones, following the attacks in Paris last month that left 17 dead, including four Jews. Netanyahu’s call to French Jews to leave France because they know “in their hearts that they have only one country” is seen as common wisdom in Israel.

So if Freedland is really worried about this conflation, why does he make such an issue of the small number of non-Jews who blur the distinction while ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews and their leaders do the same? Is the conflation by this latter group not equally – if not far more – dangerous?

Hate figure

Second, Freedland accused Galloway of indulging in dangerous rhetoric that inflamed passions and endangered Jews as a result. He produced no evidence to support such an accusation apart from Galloway’s statements about Israel – thereby, of course, conflating Jews and Israel himself.

While Galloway’s hate speech is far from proven, we do have evidence that Freedland has indulged in precisely this kind of incitement – because we heard him do so on Question Time last week.

By agreeing with the questioner, he conferred credibility on a statement that was intended to turn Galloway into an even greater hate figure than he already is to large sections of British society, including much of the Jewish community. One got a sense of the lynch-mob mentality among at least a section of the Jewish community from the efforts of those represented in the Question Time audience to shout Galloway down.

Fears for Galloway’s safety are hardly an idle concern. As he himself pointed out, he has recently been assaulted on three separate occasions by Israel’s supporters. So he is already in great danger, which was only exacerbated by the inciteful and irresponsible comment that Freedland supported on Question Time. And maybe no surprise, Galloway’s car was attacked by members of the audience as he tried to leave the Question Time studio. (Notice how the attack is played down in this report in the Daily Mail.)

Freedland’s hypocrisy is all the worse because he holds an influential, and undeserved, position in the media as a “voice of reason”. In a non-Orwellian world, Freedland’s behaviour on Question Time would be grounds for stripping him of the Orwell Prize.

Racism ‘arms race’

A couple of further points. All of the panelists, including Galloway, went to great lengths to express concern about attacks on Jews. However, it was entirely predictable that none of them except Galloway noted that Muslims were, in fact, the group most in danger of hate speech and physical attacks in the UK.

When Galloway did so, the other panelists accused him of engaging in an “arms race”, adding that there was nothing to be gained from trying to show who was harmed more by racism. This was also a point Freedland made while defending himself against Galloway’s post-show complaint.

Such a response is disingenuous in the extreme. Freedland and the other panelists were the ones who tried to  turn this issue into an “arms race” by prioritising one group’s suffering over another’s. If they were genuinely concerned about the safety of minorities in Britain and preventing the rise of a new wave of European fascism, they would be highlighting the rise of anti-Muslim feeling at least as much as they do anti-Jewish feeling.

But in truth they do the exact opposite. The “arms race” comment was meant to shut down any debate about race-hatred towards Muslims. In fact, it is very much part of that hate speech, making the expression of concern about the safety of Muslims seem marginal or like special pleading.

Maligning Muslims

And finally, for those who doubt the vulnerability of the Muslim community, and the casual ease with which Muslims are denigrated and maligned, one need only consider the case of Cathy Newman, a Channel 4 News presenter.

She claimed on Twitter that she had been “ushered out” of a mosque in London when she attended a “Visit My Mosque Day”. Officials at the mosque have received death threats as a result of her tweet.

Only later, when CCTV footage from the mosque was broadcast, did it become clear that she had lied. She had left the building entirely of her own accord after she turned up at the wrong mosque. A man inside, presumably confused about what she wanted, can be seen in the video pointing out of the mosque, apparently trying to help her with directions to a nearby church.

In other words, Newman not only lied – she was not “ushered out” – but did so in a way that was likely to incite hatred towards a vulnerable minority.

What have been the consequences for Newman? So far, precisely zero. She subsequently presented Channel 4 News. Channel 4 has not issued an apology. She does not appear to be facing any disciplinary action. Nor does it seem to be adversely affecting her career. Coverage of the incident in the media has been low-key, mostly in the vein of an “unfortunate mix-up”.

Can anyone imagine that this would be quite the same non-event had she lied about being “ushered out” of a synagogue, leading to death threats against officials there? Or is pointing that out indulging in an “arms race”?

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan’s website.

What Israel Does to Palestinians Doesn’t Stay in Palestine

The Anti-Vegas

By Mark Hand
February 9, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Rania Khalek

If you’re hoping to enjoy a long, successful career as a reporter in the U.S. mainstream media, don’t follow the lead of journalist Rania Khalek. For starters, Khalek doesn’t shy away from providing candid coverage of sacrosanct topics like Israel and the U.S. military.

Her refusal to kowtow to the politically correct view on Israel does not play well in U.S. newsrooms. Corporate media owners want reporters who they trust will cover foreign policy issues from a pro-government angle. Since Israel receives unanimous and unconditional support from Washington — no matter the scale of the nation’s brutality against Palestinians — there is little doubt which side the U.S. press will support in its reporting on Israel and Palestine.

Even progressive media outlets in the U.S. are guilty of downplaying Israel’s atrocities. “What I’ve noticed is that Palestine and how it is reported on is a good barometer for how far progressive news outlets still need to go,” Khalek said in an interview. “I see a lot of apologism taking place for Israel. You still have progressive outlets like The Nation giving Israel legitimacy and credibility it doesn’t deserve.”

The same mentality governs how the mainstream media covers the U.S. military. As long as news reporters stick to the script that says the U.S. military is an institution that occasionally makes mistakes but whose mission is honorable, they will stay out of trouble. Don’t dare go and provide a serious analysis of the motives of the war planners inside the White House and Pentagon.

“There are certain sacred ideas that we’re not supposed to come out against. And one of those is that the U.S. military is good,” Khalek said. “The corporate press is invested in a lot of companies that profit from militarism abroad. You’ll see an ad for defense contractor Lockheed Martin and then the next segment is on whether we should invade Iraq again.”

Even the most effective mouthpieces for the U.S. military will come under attack if they upset the sensibilities of military-first Americans. After getting accused of lying about riding in a U.S. military helicopter that was hit by “enemy fire” in Iraq, NBC News journalist Brian Williams issued an apology by employing the “support-the-troops” defense. He described his helicopter story from 2003 as a bungled attempt to thank “our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere.”

“Soldiers are revered as flawless heroes. The most sacred thing in America is the troops. You can’t criticize the troops. Even in liberal circles, it’s off limits,” Khalek explained.

The military, Israel and other sacred topics, according to Khalek, should be fair game for reporters. Khalek, who reports for the online news outlet Electronic Intifada and serves on its editorial board, began covering the Israel-Palestine conflict only a year ago. Prior to joining Electronic Intifada, she reported on racial justice issues. She also served as the gender columnist for Extra!, the monthly magazine of media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, or FAIR. In a recent budget-cutting move, though, FAIR switched from a 16-page magazine to a four-page newsletter format. One of the casualties of FAIR’s publication shake-up was Khalek’s column. It was canceled.

“Being in journalism in general is difficult. Being a freelance journalist who writes about what I write is even more difficult because few people want to publish what I write about for the most part. It’s not just Israel-Palestine. It’s with a lot of other issues that you’ll find it hard, especially if you are woman who is not white like I am,” Khalek said.

The Accidental Journalist

As Khalek quickly emerged as one of the top U.S. journalists covering domestic and foreign policy flashpoints, her readers grew to appreciate her honest reporting and her unabashed support for the underdog. But journalism wasn’t always what Khalek thought she would be doing. “I became a journalist by accident,” she said. “I was on a completely different path. I majored in exercise science and was working in cardiac rehabilitation and preparing to go to nursing school.”

But in 2008, Khalek came across the daily TV and radio news program Democracy Now! “My jaw was on the floor. I was learning about all these things that were happening in the world that I wasn’t being told about by the mainstream news,” she said. “That’s why I’m so passionate about independent media because it had a massive impact on me. It completely changed my life.”

At Electronic Intifada, Khalek pursues unique angles to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. She aims to offer readers a window into the real Israel. “Israel is a full-on apartheid state that’s engaged in ethnic cleansing and has an increasingly right-wing government that is perfectly comfortable with employing genocidal rhetoric toward the Palestinian population,” she said.

As an American, she feels an obligation to expose how U.S. tax dollars are spent, given that Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. As of early 2014, the United States had provided Israel with $121 billion in assistance.

Khalek also recognizes that other nations, including the United States, take their cues from Israel. That’s why in-depth coverage of Israel is so important. There may be other regimes around the world with worse human rights records than Israel, but none of those countries are extended the same respect as Israel.

The international community, according to Khalek, has abandoned the Palestinians, helping to create conditions where the Occupied Territories serve as a laboratory for Israel to test state-of-the-art methods for controlling an isolated population.

In fact, Israel has built a billion-dollar homeland security industry by using Palestinians as test subjects. It then exports what it learns in Gaza and the West Bank to authoritarian regimes in other parts of the world. “What Israel does to Palestinians doesn’t stay in Palestine,” Khalek said.

Last summer, only weeks after killing more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza, Israel hosted an annual drone conference in partnership with the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.  “Israel held this big drone expo to advertise the products that it used to kill Palestinians in Gaza,” Khalek said. “Those products will end up being sold to other regimes around the world who want to suppress and oppress a marginalized population of their own.”

Even the CIA looks to Israel when it needs a legal foundation on which to justify its unsavory methods of collecting intelligence. In her reporting of the U.S. Senate’s report on the CIA’s torture program, for example, Khalek discovered that the CIA regularly invoked the “Israeli example” as a possible basis for arguing that torture was necessary to prevent imminent harm when there is no other available means.

The “Israeli example” refers to a 1999 Israeli Supreme Court decision that supposedly outlawed the use of torture to extract confessions from Palestinian prisoners, she reported in December 2014. But the Israeli court decision actually contained loopholes that have led to impunity for Israeli torturers, she wrote in an article.

An Innate Propaganda Detector

Khalek’s parents were born in Lebanon. Growing up in a family of immigrants from the Middle East helped her to sense and see propaganda in the news media. “I’ve always had a good overall general understanding of the fact that U.S. foreign policy is horrible and what you see on the news isn’t accurate,” she said.

At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Khalek was a sophomore in high school in Northern Virginia. “9/11 was difficult because of the backlash toward Arabs and Muslims. I felt like I was marginalized and discriminated against in many ways. That was my first experience with that,” she said.

Khalek remembers her high school American history teacher, the day after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, opening class by saying there would be no discussion about the war. The teacher thought open dialogue could lead to criticism of the invasion, which would upset students whose parents were in the military.

More than 10 years later, Khalek looks back at her experience in high school as yet another example of how Americans are taught to embrace dangerous forms of nationalism. This closed mindset is why Khalek believes some Americans reacted so viciously to her reporting on the Clint Eastwood-directed movie “American Sniper.”

In her reporting for Electronic Intifada and on social media, Khalek highlighted the actual words that former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle used in his autobiography of the same name.” Kyle, in the book, boasts of killing 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq. “Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq,” Kyle writes in his book. “I only wish I had killed more,” he writes, adding, “I loved what I did … It was fun. I had the time of my life.”

In an article about the movie, Khalek writes that “American Sniper,” the movie, is “brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East.”

While watching the movie, Khalek said she understood that it was propaganda, but at the same time she found the story line compelling. “That’s what makes me so mad. This is a good movie and it’s going to be effective,” she said in the interview. “It re-writes the Iraq war that makes Americans feel good about it. It dresses up the whitewashing of the Iraq war with this story about soldiers and how hard war is for soldiers and their families.”

Many Americans did not appreciate Khalek’s frank reporting on “American Sniper” and they let her know how they felt on social media. “I am a little rattled when people say, ‘I’m going to come shoot you.’ It is a little bit overwhelming when people say, ‘I hope ISIS rapes you and cuts your head off,’” she said. But Khalek emphasized that she doesn’t let the attacks on social media change how she lives her life. “I don’t physically feel threatened,” she said.

According to Khalek, there’s always an accusation that the political left hates free speech. “After what I just experienced with ‘American Sniper,’ there is serious PC problem among right-wingers that liberals play into when it comes to criticizing a soldier,” she noted.

A prominent liberal writer who perpetuates the myth that political correctness is primarily a left problem is Jonathan Chait, who recently wrote an article for New York magazine about how “political correctness” has reared its ugly head after a long remission. In the article, Chait writes, “Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate.”

What Chait did not cover in his essay is how people on the political left who do not conform to the “politically correct” stance of the U.S. establishment are often blackballed from jobs, harassed and investigated by law enforcement officials, and imprisoned.

Unlike the establishment-friendly Chait, Khalek might have trouble getting a job at The New York Times or other mainstream outlets for her honest reporting on Israel and the military. But the government has yet to harass her, as far as she knows. Right now, it’s only the right-wing PC police attacking her. “I’ve got people saying they want to kill me because I quoted Chris Kyle’s racist language,” she said. “That’s a serious problem if we’re going to talk about censorship and the PC police. When it comes to political correctness, you’re not allowed to say anything bad about a soldier at all. There’s a certain PC policing on the right more so than you see on the left by far.”

Mark Hand reports on political action. You can reach him at markhand13@gmail.com.

 

Netanyahu forced to look for new markets in Asia as the EU rejects Israeli goods in face of Illegal Settlement Policy

By Anthony Bellchambers
January 20, 2015
Global Research, January 19, 2015

 

free tradeThe current anti-Israeli feeling in Europe has led to manufacturers and retailers opting for non-Israeli products and produce as more importers decide not to buy goods from a state that treats the United Nations and human rights law with such contempt.

Up to now, the EU has been Israel’s primary, bilateral trading partner but the political climate has radically changed in recent months as Europe loses patience with the Netanyahu government and its all too obvious moves to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. The EU urgently wants a settlement to the Palestinian conflict but now sees that the current right-wing, Israeli administration of Binyamin Netanyahu is not, and never will be, a partner for peace.

If the EU Commission decides to abrogate the Association Agreement with Israel, as now looks possible, then the Israeli economy is likely to be very severely dented indeed whether Mr Netanyahu finds replacement orders in the Far East or not. But for the EU, a settlement to the conflict is the highest priority.

It’s Not about Islam – It Never Was

War Begets War

by Ramzy Baroud
January 15, 2015
Dissident Voice, January 13, 2015

 

US Flag Around the EarthIt is still not about Islam, even if the media and militants attacking western targets say so. Actually, it never was. But it was important for many to conflate politics with religion; partly because it is convenient and self-validating.

First, let’s be clear on some points. Islam has set in motion a system to abolish slavery over 1,200 years before the slave trade reached its peak in the western world.

Freeing the slaves, who were owned by pagan Arab tribes, was a recurring theme in the Koran, always linked to the most basic signs of piety and virtue:

“The charities are to go to the poor, and the needy, and those who work to collect them, and those whose hearts have been united, and to free the slaves, and those in debt, and in the cause of God, and the traveler. A duty from God, and God is Knowledgeable, Wise.” [Al-Koran. 9:60]

It is unfortunate that such reminders would have to be regularly restated, thanks to constant anti-Islam propaganda in many western countries. The outlandish and often barbaric behavior of the so-called Islamic State (IS) has given greater impetus to existing prejudices and propaganda.

Second, gender equality in Islam has been enshrined in the language of the Koran and the legacy of the Prophet Mohammed.

“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for patient men and women, for humble men and women, for charitable men and women, for fasting men and women, for chaste men and women, and for men and women who remember God often – for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.” [33:35]

Third, the sanctity of life is paramount in Islam to the extent that “…if any one slew a person (..) it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” [5:32]

Still, this is not about Islam. This is about why Islam is the subject of this discussion in the first place, when we should be addressing the real roots of violence.

When Islam was introduced to Arabia many centuries ago, it was, and, in fact, remains, a revolutionary religion. It was and remains radical, certainly the kind of radicalism that, if viewed objectively, would be considered a real challenge to classism in society, to inequality in all of its forms, and more importantly, to capitalism and its embedded insatiability, greed and callousness.

To avoid a rational discussion about real issues, many make non-issues the crux of the debate. So Islam is discussed alongside IS, Nigerian tribal and sectarian conflicts, Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation, immigration issues in Europe and much more.

While much violence happens across the world in the name of Christianity, Judaism, even Buddhism in Burma and Sri Lanka, rarely do entire collectives get stigmatized by the media. Yet, all Muslims are held directly or otherwise accountable by many, even if a criminal who happened to be a Muslim went out on a violent rampage. Yes, he may still be designated as a “lone wolf”, but one can be almost certain that Muslims and Islam somehow become relevant to the media debate afterwards.

In their desperate attempt to fend off accusations, many Muslims, often led by credible intellectuals and journalists have, for nearly two decades staged a counter effort to distance Islam from violence and to fight the persisting stereotype. With time, these efforts culminated into a constant stream of collective apologies on behalf of Islam.

When a Muslim in Brazil or Libya reacts to a hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia, condemning violence on behalf of Islam, and frantically attempting to defend Islam and disown militancy, and so on, the question is, why? Why does the media make Muslims feel accountable for anything carried out in the name of Islam even by some deranged person? Why are members of other religions not held to the same standards? Why aren’t Swedish Christians asked to explain and apologize for the behavior of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, or Argentinean Jews to explain the daily, systematic violence and terror carried out by Jewish extremists in Jerusalem and the West Bank?

Since Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History” in 1992 – reveling that free markets and “liberal democracies” will reign supreme forever – followed by Samuel Huntington’s supposed contrasting, but still equally conceited, view of the “Clash of Civilizations and the need to “remake the world order”, a whole new intellectual industry has embroiled many in Washington, London and elsewhere. Once the Cold War had triumphantly ended with an inflated sense of political validation, the Middle East became the new playground for ideas about dominion and military hardware.

Since then, it has been an all-out war, either instigated by or involving various western powers. It was a protracted, multi-dimensional war: a destructive war on the ground, an economic war (blockades on the one hand and globalization and free market exploitation on the other), cultural invasion (that made westernisation of society equivalent to modernity); topped with a massive propaganda war targeting the Middle East’s leading religion: Islam.

The war on Islam was particularly vital, as it seemed to unify a large range of western intellectuals, conservative, liberal, religious and secular alike. All done for good reasons:

– Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life. By demonizing Islam, you demonize everything associated with it, including, of course, Muslims.

– The vilification of Islam which morphed into massive western-led Islamophobia helped validate the actions of western governments, however violent and abusive. The dehumanization of Muslims became an essential weapon in war.

– It was also strategic: hating Islam and all Muslims is a very flexible tool that would make military intervention and economic sanctions possible anywhere where the West has political and economic interests. Hating Islam became a unifying rally-cry from advocates of sanctions on Sudan to anti-immigrant neo-Nazi groups in Germany, and everywhere else. The issue is no longer the violent means used to achieve political domination and control of natural resources, but, magically, it all was reduced to one single word: Islam; or, at best, Islam and something else: freedom of expression, women rights, and so forth.

Thus, it was no surprise to see the likes of Ian Black commenting in the Guardian, hours after gunmen carried out a lethal attack in Paris against a French Magazine on Wednesday, 7 January with the starting line: “Satire and Islam do not sit well together…”

Not a word on the French military and other forms of intervention in the Middle East; its destructive role in Syria; its leadership role in the war in Libya; its war in Mali, and so on. Not even a word on François Holland’s recent statement about being “ready” to bomb Libyan rebels, although it was made only few days earlier.

Sure, the pornographic satire of Charlie Hebdo and its targeting of Prophet Mohammed was mentioned, but little was said, by Black, or the many others who were quick to link the subject to “7th century Islam”, to the hideous wars and their horrible, pornographic manifestations of torture, rape and other unspeakable acts; acts that victimized millions of people; Muslim people. Instead, it is about western art and Muslim intolerance. The subtle line was: yes, indeed, it is a “clash of civilizations”.

Did any of these “intellectuals” pause to think that maybe, just maybe, the violent responses to demeaning Islamic symbols reflect a real political sentiment, say for example, a collective feeling of humiliation, hurt, pain and racism that extend to every corner of the globe?

And that it is natural that war which is constantly exported from the West to the rest of the world, could ultimately be exported back to western cities?

Is it not possible that Muslims are angered by something much more subtle and profound than Charlie Hebdo’s tasteless art?

Avoiding the answer is likely to delay a serious attempt at finding a solution, which must start with the end of western interventionism in the Middle East.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Ramzy.