Monthly Archives: March 2013
Every now and again, when the going gets tough for Israel and growing numbers of people throughout the world begin to see it for what it is – an illegitimate, criminal entity built on the land and bones of the Palestinian people – an Israel flag waver emerges from the Zionist sewer, cries “anti-Semitism” and, inevitably, links the alleged “anti-Semitism” with the “delegitimization of Israel”.
The latest such person is failed US politician Katrina Lantos Swett. Writing in The Guardian newspaper, she claims that “anti-Semitism” – rather than racism as a whole – is on the rise in Europe and that
Compounding the problem are four factors. First, European officials remain reluctant to identify the ideological or religious motivations of the perpetrators. Second, surveys show that negative attitudes towards Jews among Europe’s population remain widespread. Third, these surveys confirm that some of this bias reveals itself through certain criticisms of the state of Israel: while no country is beyond reproach, when criticism includes language intended to delegitimize Israel, demonize its people, and apply to it standards to which no other state is held, we must call it antisemitism.
So, nothing about the thousands of villages erased by Israel in order to implant itself, nothing about the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, undertaken to make lebensraum for foreign Jews, nothing about the criminal occupation of additional Arab territories in the 1967 war, nothing about the racist discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel. In other words, nothing about why the criminal state of Israel is illegitimate in the eyes of most decent, informed people. (For more about the criminal foundations of the state of Israel, see Alan Hart’s “Israel: 65 years of war crimes” and Stuart Littlewood’s “Zionism’s diabolical blueprint“.)
Many people the world over have grown sick and tired of the moral blackmail exercised by the likes of Ms Lantos Swett – playing on Europeans’ guilt complex over the Nazi holocaust in order to drum up support for the criminal and illegitimate state of Israel. It is a disgusting and shameless exploitation of the memory of the Nazis’ victims.
If there is indeed a rise in “anti-Semitism”, as opposed to racism in general, in Europe or elsewhere, then Ms Lantos Swell should explore the connection between this, Israeli’s criminal behaviour and its claim to represent all Jews, and the sad fact that most Jews are either indifferent or supportive of Israel’s occupation and its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.
It’s a year and a half since the ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi but the country’s descent into chaos continues unabated, as most recently shown by the rape of three British aid workers by Libyan gangsters affiliated to the so-called “security forces”.
Unfortunately, rather than face up to the homegrown mess they’ve created, some Libyans are looking for scapegoats, namely, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.
According to the Tripoli Post, there is “growing suspicion among Libyans that foreign intervention is the main factor behind the slowness of establishing strong national army, police force and the emergence of strong central government”.
In fact, the main culprits for the chaos are Libyans themselves. As we’ve argued in “Libya on the edge of a precipice“,
The post-Gaddafi Libyan authorities, from the National Transitional Council to the recently formed government of Prime Minister Ali Zidan, have a uniquely idiotic security concept: building an army composed of a coalition of “approved militias”. This will not work. WIth 1,700 militias plaguing the country and respecting no one, it is a recipe for endemic violence and a complete breakdown of society.
The solution, as we said in the above article, is precisely what the Libyans cited by the Tripoli Post are against: an international peacekeeping force.
Even before the ouster of Gaddafi, we thought it was foolish of the then provisional rebel representative body, the National Transitional Council, to rule out the option of an interim international police force to keep law and order after Gaddafi. If an international force had been deployed, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now – in fact, Libya would probably have been well on the way to becoming a normal country, not the Mad-Max-land it is now.
“Revolution or civil war? The battle of narratives in Syria” – a must-read article by Nadim Shehadi, published in Open Democracy.
It argues that the Syrian regime is winning the battle of narratives because people in the West – the media and other opinion formers – are trapped in the narrative of the Iraq war, correctly described by Brian Whitaker as “a scandal of gigantic proportions, largely engineered by a bunch of American neoconservatives“.
According to Shehadi,
The international policy debate and media coverage on Syria is mainly driven by the trauma of the experiences of Iraq, Afghanistan and that of the ‘war on terror’ which the pro-regime talking points constantly refer to in order to reinforce the view that it is indispensable, irreplaceable and that beyond it is chaos of unimaginable proportions.
The international media and many policy circles seem to fall for much of the regime’s tricks, whereas the Syrians who have lived with these tricks for generations have reached a stage where they are immune to them.
Another important element of support for the regime is an extension of the opposition to the war in Iraq. Whether in policy circles, think tanks or in the media; those opposed to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, tended to favour engagement with the Assad regime. They projected the policy of engagement and assistance with reform as an alternative to that of intervention and regime change.
Both articles – Nadim’s and Whitaker’s – are highly recommended, if only as a first step towards straightening some of the fuddled thinking about Syria.
“Poster boy for what’s gone wrong with British public life”
The tears shed by assorted media at the news of David Miliband’s departure from British politics for a new life in New York had me reaching once again for the sick-bag.
“British politics will be a poorer place without David,” said brother Ed, leader of the Labour Party.
Will it? I’m pleased to see Peter Oborne’s straight-talking piece in The Telegraph putting David Miliband in his place.
“We are, after all, talking about someone who was at best a minor politician, no towering colossus,” writes Oborne, adding:
After Labour’s 1997 election victory he was the poster boy of a new ruling elite which seized control of the commanding heights of British politics. Anti-democratic, financially greedy and morally corrupt, this new political class has done the most enormous damage. Since David Miliband was its standard-bearer, his political career explains a great deal about what has gone wrong with British public life, about why politicians are no longer liked or trusted, and about how political parties have come to be viewed with contempt.
Oborne makes the point that Miliband set the pattern so many others, including his brother Ed, have followed. “Obsessed by politics at university, he has never had even the faintest connection with the real world. From life in think tanks he became a Labour Party researcher and special adviser, before being parachuted into the north-eastern constituency of South Shields as an MP.”
Obsessed by politics at university, he has never had even the faintest connection with the real world. (Peter Oborne, The Telegraph)
Miliband wrote Labour’s vacuous 1997 and 2001 election manifestos and was at the heart of the Labour machine when it generated the now notorious falsehoods over Iraq. Oborne also notes the irony of Miliband’s new job heading a humanitarian organization “when the government of which he was such a loyal member created so many of the world’s disasters”.
We are reminded that Miliband was inexperienced and had no idea how the world worked, so was out of his depth when promoted to the Foreign Office.
During his short, undistinguished career, Mr Miliband has done grave damage to British politics. He is part of the new governing élite which is sucking the heart out of our representative democracy while enriching itself in the process… David Miliband has belittled our politics and he will not be missed.
And having gone, many will be praying the Miliband brat won’t be back.
He will be forever remembered as the British foreign secretary who shamelessly apologised to Israel’s gangsters for the risk they ran of being arrested if they set foot in London.
He will be forever remembered as the British foreign secretary who shamelessly apologised to Israel’s gangsters for the risk they ran of being arrested if they set foot in London. Back in 2009 Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and retired General Doron Almog cancelled engagements in London for fear of “having their collar felt”. Israel complained bitterly and Miliband promised Avigdor Lieberman that UK laws relating to universal jurisdiction would be changed. He asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Justice Minister Jack Straw for urgent action.
When the general election ousted him from the Foreign Office, Miliband’s grovelling promise was eagerly taken up by his replacement, William Hague, another fanatical friend of Israel, who declared that a situation where politicians like Livni could be threatened with arrest in the UK was “completely unacceptable… We have agreed in the coalition about putting it right, we will put it right through legislation … and I phoned Mrs Livni among others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals.”
Never mind that the arrest warrants were issued to answer well-founded criminal charges. Never mind that under universal jurisdiction all states that are party to the Geneva Conventions are under a binding obligation to seek out those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to justice. And never mind that there should be no hiding place for those suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Human rights activists resorted to private arrest warrants because the government was in the habit of shirking its duty under the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention and dragged its feet until the birds had flown.
While David Miliband headed up foreign policy it was frankly embarrassing to be British. What magical transformation has this pipsqueak recently undergone to make him the ideal candidate to run an organization like the International Rescue Committee?
Bringing a private prosecution for a criminal offence is an ancient right in common law and, in the words of Lord Wilberforce, “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority”. Lord Diplock, another respected Lord of Appeal, called it “a useful safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law”.
And the beauty of the private warrant was that it could be issued speedily.
The servile Miliband’s action disgusted those who will never forget that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror that brought death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians during the blitzkrieg known as Operation Cast Lead. Showing no remorse, and with the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) on her hands and thousands more horribly maimed, Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of it. Speaking later at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for Security Studies, she said: “I would today take the same decisions.”
Any British government minister who brings this degree of obsequiousness to his job and is prepared to undermine our justice system in order to make the UK a safe haven for the likes of her, deserves to be judged harshly.
Miliband is also remembered for not having the guts to visit Gaza, or even Iran, while in office. Yet he managed to reach Gaza in 2011 with Save the Children. “I had not been able to visit while in government for security reasons,” he said in an article in The Guardian. What nonsense! The only danger would have been from an air-strike by his psychopathic friends in Tel Aviv or a Mossad assassin. Those risks go with the job. You can’t be an effective foreign secretary wrapped in cotton wool.
He said the purpose of his eventual trip to Gaza was “to get a sense of life … to get a glimpse, albeit brief, of life for the people”. A pity he didn’t do that earlier instead of wielding his ministerial power in ignorance
While David Miliband headed up foreign policy it was frankly embarrassing to be British. What magical transformation has this pipsqueak recently undergone to make him the ideal candidate to run an organization like the International Rescue Committee (IRC)? With the likes of Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger on board, you might wonder about the IRC’s presence in vulnerable countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
No-one is about to forget Albright’s infamous remark about the human misery caused by the intervention and mayhem in Iraq, that “the price is worth it”.
By Jamal Kanj
Writing about Syria is emotionally draining and intellectually overwhelming.
As evident by the level of destruction and killing, the mutual hatred between President Bashar Assad’s regime and the armed opposition surpasses their love of the country.
More than 70,000 people have been killed and, not counting internally displaced Syrians, there are more than one million refugees in neighbouring countries.
The Syrian people, who selflessly opened their homes and shared their schools with the children of refugees from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, are themselves living in horrible conditions in camps.
Greater Syria, first broken up by British and French colonizers under the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, is being fragmented further by internecine strife agitated by competing foreign powers.
The Syrians are trapped between an arrogant tyrant and an opposition led by thirsty, prospective dictators united in their hate and lacking a futuristic vision for Syria.
Russia and Iran are supporting a doomed dictatorship, while the West pours just enough fuel for the opposition to sustain an unwinnable war.
The Syrians are trapped between an arrogant tyrant and an opposition led by thirsty, prospective dictators united in their hate and lacking a futuristic vision for Syria.
Without mentioning the Arab summit’s vain resolutions, four important local and regional events took place in the past week that offer an insight into what’s in store for Syria and the Middle East at large.
The murder on 21 March of a senior Sunni Muslim cleric, Shaikh Muhammad Bouti, in a Damascus mosque, along with 49 peaceful worshippers, violated a central Muslim tenet on the sanctuary of holy places – irrespective of Bouti’s political position.
Although it could be argued that the regime’s atrocities emboldened Al-Qaeda-inspired fighters, the opposition can’t continue to present itself as an alternative to dictatorship when it is associated with organizations professing a divine mandate to kill people they disagree with.
The second event was the sudden resignation of Moaz Khatib, head of the anti-government Syrian National Coalition, along with 12 other members of the coalition’s leadership.
Khatib was forced to back down several weeks after he posited direct negotiation with the government to put an end to the carnage in Syria.
This, along with disagreement over the formation of a government-in-exile and the sidelining of historical opposition figures, were some of the “red lines” Khatib promised never to cross.
…the opposition can’t continue to present itself as an alternative to dictatorship when it is associated with organizations professing a divine mandate to kill people they disagree with.
On the regional level, there was the collapse of the Lebanese government following a political impasse over whether to extend the term in office for the head of Lebanon’s internal security forces and a dispute over a committee to oversee parliamentary elections in June.
Lebanon is divided into two diametrically opposed political blocs: one supporting the Syrian regime and another siding with the opposition.
The resignation of the Lebanese prime minister deepens the national political rift over the violence in Syria.
This, juxtaposed with ongoing military skirmishes in the city of Tripoli between supporters of the two rival camps, is an omen of a larger regional conflagration should foreign powers play a more direct role in the Syrian conflict.
Speaking of foreign powers, the fourth event was the only success President Barack Obama could claim from his trip to the region.
The Obama-orchestrated Israeli apology to Turkey and the subsequent rapprochement between those two countries is inseparable from what is going on in Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page on 23 March that “the crisis in Syria … was the main consideration” for the apology.
His national security adviser, Yaakiv Amidror, said: “Between us and Turkey is a country that is falling apart.”
The timing of the apology, three years after Israeli soldiers killed nine Turkish activists aboard an aid ship bound for Gaza, is another clue that external advocates pushing for a military solution have a veiled agenda to dismantle Syria.
It is sad to witness a vacuous dictator and truculent opposition unwittingly breaking up Syria, a mosaic of ethnicities and religions, into mini Israel-type ethnocentric states.
A version of this article was first published in the Gulf Daily News. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.
By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis
What does British Member of Parliament George Galloway have in common with topless Tunisian feminist Amina? The answer is that both seem unable to differentiate between defiant gestures and winning the hearts and minds of the undecided.
First, let us discuss Galloway.
Galloway’s Oxford walkout
Last month a big fuss blew when the MP, invited to Oxford University to debate a motion backing the boycott of Israel, its companies and institutions, walked out of the chamber when he heard that the student opposing the motion, Eylon Aslan-Levy, was an Israeli.
According to the Guardian newspaper, something Aslan-Levy said prompted Galloway to ask: “You said ‘we’. Are you an Israeli?” When Aslan-Levy said he was, Galloway walked out. “I don’t recognize Israel and I don’t debate with Israelis,” he said. (See video below.)
Galloway’s declaration reminded us of the Khartoum Resolution, adopted by the Arab states at a summit in the Sudanese capital three months after the June 1967 war. It became known as the “Three No’s Resolution” – “no peace, no recognition and no negotiations with Israel”.
Although Israel never had, and still does not have, any genuine desire for a just peace with its Arab neighbours, the “Three No’s Resolution” furnished it with a potent propaganda tool. Armed with the resolution, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) agents working through the Western media successfully portrayed the Arabs as belligerents with no wish for peace and bent on pushing the “Jewish state” into the sea.
It would be wrong to put Galloway in the same basket as the Arab states, which are not known for their principled policies or great communications skills.
On the contrary, Galloway is a highly effective communicator. As Stuart Littlewood says, American readers will remember when he travelled to Washington in 2005 and “delivered a master-class in how to give a Senate Inquisition sub-committee a good spanking”.
Moreover, as Susan Abulhawa argues, Galloway’s commitment to justice for the Palestinian people is unyielding.
No matter where we were or what criticism the world hurled at us, Galloway never waivered in standing by our side. He is and always has been a good friend. That must be honoured, even in situations where his views are perceived as not fully aligned with one Palestinian group or another.
However, we must question the wisdom of Galloway’s refusal to participate in a debate with an Israeli, no matter how repulsive an apologist for Zionist criminality that Israeli is. This is because, in contrast to the Arab states whose “Three No’s Resolution” was intended to withhold de facto recognition from Israel while it occupied Arab lands and denied the Palestinians their legitimate rights, the purpose of Galloway’s presence at the Oxford University debate was to use his exceptional oratory skills and knowledge of the Arab-Israeli conflict to persuade the students of the urgent necessity of boycotting Israel.
In fact, had Galloway persevered with the debate, we have no doubt he would have wiped the floor with the Israeli apologist Aslan-Levy and taken a large proportion of the students with him. But he did not, and it is hard to understand what his walkout achieved: Aslan-Levy is an individual, not a state, so the question of de facto or de jure recognition is irrelevant.
What we do know is that the boycott Israel motion was defeated, and defeated heavily, by 69-10 votes.
It would be unfair to blame Galloway for the boycott motion’s defeat. As is clear … the organizers of the motion have some serious questions to answer.
This was an inexplicable and inexcusable public relations disaster, and a cause for gloating by apologists for Israeli criminality.
It would be unfair to blame Galloway for the boycott motion’s defeat. As is clear from the Guardian report cited above, the organizers themselves have some serious questions to answer. According to the newspaper, the motion’s proposer and the seconder received threatening emails, upon which the seconder withdrew his support and the proposer requested that her name not be publicized.
To us, this smacks of cowardice, and it has an ugly whiff of dishonesty about it. If the proposer and the seconder of the motion did indeed receive threatening emails, then did they report this to the police? And what was the outcome? More than that, why did they not choose instead to display the evidence of threats before the audience in the debate to illustrate the thuggish tactics employed by Israel’s hasbara agents? If they had done that – assuming that such evidence exists – this would have worked nicely in their favour.
Instead, what did they do? The proposer of the motion asked that her name not be publicized and the seconder withdrew his support. What cowardice! In fact, we would not discount altogether the possibility that both the proposer and the seconder were themselves Israeli hasbara agents.
That said, Galloway must take his share of the blame. Writing on his Facebook page, he said that his walkout was in line with his interpretation of the words and concept of boycott, divestment and sanctions which, he spelled out, was:
no purchase of Israeli goods or services, no normal contacts with individuals or organizations in Israel who support the existence of the racist apartheid creed of Zionism… Israelis who are outside of and against the system of Zionism are comrades of mine – like Prof Ilan Pappe. My opponent at Oxford University did not meet this test.
That is all very well, except that Galloway was not at Oxford to signal a detente with Zionism and Israel. He was there to help the Palestinian cause, to win over the undecided, to rout the likes of Aslan-Levy who wanted to defend Israeli racism and criminality. Galloway must therefore accept that his walkout was an own goal. It put the spotlight on him instead of Israeli’s crimes and the need for a boycott, and it deprived the pro-boycott students of his exceptional knowledge and persuasion skills. It was a counter-productive gesture par excellence.
Futile boob displays
However, as counter-productive gestures go, nothing beats that of the Tunisian feminist known as Amina.
On 8 March, International Women’s Day, the 19-year-old Tunisian posted topless pictures of herself on the internet with the Arabic phrase “My body is mine, not somebody’s honour” inscribed across her breasts and stomach.
Amina’s pictures were intended as a response to the growing assertiveness of Islamists in Tunisia – primitive Salafis and the supposedly “moderate” ruling party, Ennahda. The pictures initially appeared on a Facebook page connected to the Tunisian branch of the feminist movement, Femen, whose masthead carries another photograph of Amina, topless and with the inscription “Fuck your morals” written in English on her chest and stomach. To top things up, Amina also has her own Facebook page with lots of photos of other topless women – feminists who want to show their solidarity with her.
As an act of defiance, Amina’s topless protest cannot be faulted. Just as Galloway’s walkout symbolized the rejection of Israel and Zionism, Amina’s public display of her breasts with provocative inscriptions is a hard-hitting rejection of the misogynous, bigoted and hypocritical Islamists who have hijacked the Tunisian Spring and are trying to impose their backward and socially regressive outlook and lifestyle on all Tunisians.
But to what end? If the purpose was to annoy and provoke the Islamists, then Amina’s gesture is a complete success. Indeed, it did not take long for Tunisia’s king bigot, Salafi preacher Adil Alami, who heads the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, to advocate a punishment befitting his medieval worldview: “According to God’s law, she deserves 80 to 100 lashes, but what she committed is worth much more than that. She deserves to be stoned to death and she must be quarantined because what she did is an epidemic.”
If, on the other hand, Amina’s intention was to awaken the Tunisian public to the hypocrisy of the Islamist ogre hovering over their country, then her semi-naked protest has failed. As with Galloway’s walkout, it not only failed to help the cause, but has done quite the reverse: it has mobilized the Islamists and other reactionaries and has shocked the very people it presumably wanted to win over – the educated, secular and liberal elements who make up a substantial proportion of Tunisian society.
The reasons for this are not hard to find. Tunisian society as a whole is culturally conservative by European standards and, while most people are not Islamist, they are, in common with most Arabs, influenced by the Islamic religion and Islamic values. In this context, to pose semi-naked in order to make a political point is guaranteed to be counter-productive.
Sexual shock tactics are controversial in most societies, even in the relatively permissive Anglo-Saxon world. In our Arab societies they will not only annoy, aggravate and provoke conservatives and reactionaries, but they will also shock and numb everyone.
There is an important lesson to be learned from both Galloway’s Oxford walkout and Amina’s topless protest. In real-world politics, where people are being murdered, stripped of their humanity and dignity, and deprived of their freedom of thought, speech and expression, there is no room for gesture politics. But there is plenty of room for depriving your enemy of oxygen by winning the hearts and minds of the masses. This can be done only through force of argument and mastery of the facts, not by playing to a gallery populated by the converted.
It is said that the devil has about him the smell of fire and brimstone (sulphur). Evil deeds are often described as “most foul”. On the other hand, people who appear, accurately or not, as always innocent are described as “smelling like roses”. There seems, then, to be a longstanding, if improbable, association between behaviour and smells.
Something is rotten in the State of Israel
The Israeli army has recently dedicated itself to demonstrating this association. Back on 6 March 2013 the Middle East Monitor reported that
Israeli forces have sprayed Palestinian homes in the village of Nabi Saleh with Skunk as a punishment for organizing weekly protests against the Apartheid Wall built on occupied land. Human rights watchdog B’Tselem published a video showing Israel’s armoured tanker trucks fitted with “water canons” [spraying] the foul fluid.
Skunk is a fluid so offensive smelling that people automatically retreat from anywhere or anyone doused with it.
This is not the first time the Israelis have used such noxious tactics. Zionist settlers are fond of diverting the sewage from their illegal settlements, which are usually placed on high ground, into the fields and towns of Palestinians living in the valleys below. This is apparently done with the knowledge and approval of the Israeli state.
I doubt if many of the Israelis involved in these manoeuvres have ever read “Dante’s Inferno”. In that epic poem, Hell is a place steeped in sewage and rot, and Israeli actions seem intent on reproducing this scenario. Are the Israelis then trying to turn the Holy Land into Hell? Well, yes, for the Palestinians. To this end the settlers and soldiers mimic Dante’s demons.
How far does the bad smell of Israeli actions reach? We can be sure that it reaches as far as London, where MP David Ward of the Liberal Democratic Party recently wrote in a Holocaust Memorial book that,
…having visited Auschwitz twice … I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
Ward’s reference to “the Jews” has been qualified, because not all Jews support Zionism or Israel’s claim to “Judea and Samaria”, much less the pogrom-like way the Israelis are going about ethnically cleansing the areas under their control. In fact, an increasing number of American Jews are, if you will, washing their hands of Israel in general. Yet Ward was correct when it comes to the behaviour of the “Jewish state”. Perhaps his. confusion was a product of Israel’s constant insistence that it represents all the world’s Jews.
Not everyone seems to smell the odour emanating from Israel. Ward’s Liberal Democratic Party called him to account for daring to draw attention to the fact that foul acts continue to be committed against the Palestinians by the self-proclaimed representative of the Jews. A quiet word to Ward about avoiding generalizations would probably have sufficed but, using a process similar to those carried out by totalitarian regimes, Ward’s party ordered him “to meet with the party’s ‘Friends of Israel’ chapter to ‘identify and agree on language that will be proportionate and precise when he speaks out again on the Israeli-Palestine conflict”. He did so and issued the required apology. This smells like censorship to me.
Foul is fair
It’s one thing to punish someone for calling attention to Israel’s rank behaviour. It is something else to insist that foul is actually fair – to say the sewage smells like roses. Who would be reckless enough to imply such a nauseating thing and do so with a straight face before cameras with the whole world watching? How about the president of the United States? He lives in Washington DC, where denial of Israel’s malodorous nature is almost unanimous.
President Barack Obama had an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV station on 15 March 2013, just before he left to visit that country. In the interview he stated that he admires Israel’s “core values”. The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who has an honest nose for these things, editorially asked:
which values he [Obama] was talking about? The dehumanization of the Palestinians? The attitude toward African migrants? The arrogance, racism and nationalism? Is this what he admires? Don’t separate buses for Palestinians remind him of something? Doesn’t two communities living on the same land, one with full rights and the other with no rights, ring a bell?…
To admire “core values” while knowing we’re talking about one of the most racist countries there is, with a separation wall and apartheid-like policies, means betraying the core values of the American civil rights movement that made the Obama miracle possible.
Nonetheless, upon arriving in Israel, President Obama said that US support for the very same Israel Levy describes will “be forever”. It might be added that, at the same time, the president insisted that the Palestinians cease demanding a halt to the building of settlements, with their targeted open-sewer policies, before any further “peace” negotiations with the Israelis.
When it comes to Israel, President Obama, and most of the Congress as well, can’t tell the difference between fair and foul. That is because they live in a peculiar professional world whose parameters, in reference to Israel and Palestine, are defined by a Zionist lobby with Orwellian powers. In this special world, double-think abounds. Racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the tactical use of Skunk and raw sewage disappear and are replaced by imaginary “core values” that smell like roses.
The president can privately smell garbage and call it roses all he wants. But when he tries to sell the rest of us on this connection, the credibility of his language sinks into the gutter. Remember what George Orwell tells us about the potential for harm in the misuse of political language. Misused, such language offers a “defence of the indefensible” and is “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”. That is what most politicians’ language has sunk to when it comes to Israel/Palestine.
That this should go on “forever”, as the president claims, is just hyperbole. Consider the fact that a recent CIA report calls into question the Zionist state’s ability to last for more than another 20 years. No, the bad smell coming from Israel denotes internal socio-political rot, as well as rotten tactics toward non-Jewish inhabitants. Sooner or later everyone possessing a humane conscience, to say nothing of a functioning honest nose, will refuse to have anything to do with this “apartheid-like” state.
In a report entitled Collective Punishment, Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlights the case of an innocent 17-year-old Ogaden Somali girl who was held captive for three months in a “dark hole in the ground” and raped 13 times.
Describing her ordeal, which she shared with five other female students, she is quoted as saying: “Every night, they took all of us girls to [interrogations]. They would separate us and beat us. The second time they took me, they raped me… All three of the men raped me, consecutively”.
This is just one of countless accounts of abuse, from within the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, where it is widely reported criminal acts like these are perpetrated by the Ethiopian military and paramilitary forces on a daily basis.
Hiding from the truth
In an attempt to hide the facts from the rest of the world, in 2007 the Ethiopian government banned all international media and expelled many humanitarian aid groups from the area. It is reputed that any non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) allowed to stay do so on the condition that they sign a waiver agreeing not to report human rights violations by the government.
According to HRW’s Leslie Lefkow, Ethiopia “is one of the most difficult places to work for human rights groups or humanitarian agencies on the African continent”, and the Ogaden – a barren land, littered with military remnants from past conflicts – “is one of the most difficult places to work in Ethiopia”. There are “huge challenges to doing investigations on the ground because the security apparatus of the government is extremely extensive and permeates even the lowest levels, the grassroots, the village levels”, where regime spies and informers operate, reporting anything and anyone suspicious.
Information about life within the region comes from whispering sources on the ground, and from those who have fled the violence and are now living outside Ethiopia. Many are in refugee camps in Kenya and Yemen, from where they recount stories of horrific abuse.
Mohammed, from the Dhadhaab (or Dadaab) camp in Kenya, described to Ogaden Online in December 2012 how he was captured by the Ethiopian military, accused of being a supporter of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and mercilessly tortured. “They hogtied me,” he said, “and then flogged me while pinned down.” Mohamed’s face “was disfigured to the point where he can’t be recognized”.
Refugees support Amnesty International’s (AI) findings of “torture and extrajudicial executions of detainees in the region” – women tell of multiple gang rapes, their arms, feet and necks tied with wire, for which they bear the scars; men speak of barbaric torture techniques at the hands of the Ethiopian military and paramilitary – the notorious, semi-legal and completely barbaric Liyu police which, HRW’s Laetitia Bader says, “fit into this context of impunity where security forces can do more or less what they want”.
The ONLF is cast as the enemy of the state, and regarded, as all dissenting troublesome groups are, as terrorist. In fact, they had won 60 per cent of seats and were democratically elected to the regional parliament in the only inclusive, open elections to be held, back in 1992. Civilians suspected, however vaguely, of supporting the so-called “rebels”, are forcibly relocated from their homes. According to HRW, the evacuated villages and settlements, emptied at gunpoint, “become no-go areas” and, in a further act of state criminality, “civilians who remain behind risk being shot on sight, tortured or raped if spotted by soldiers”. Children, according to refugees, are hanged, villages and settlements razed to the ground and cattle stolen to feed soldiers. HRW further say that “water sources and wells have [also] been destroyed”.
Pervasive, pernicious control
Spearheading the government’s campaign of terror in the region is the Liyu police. A force of 10,000-14,000 and comprising 18-20 year olds with little or no knowledge of criminal law or human rights, they have committed egregious human rights abuses, including the extra-judicial execution in March 2012 of 10 men in their custody and the killing of nine other villagers.
Established in 2005, the Liyu initiative was the brainchild of a group led by the current regional president, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, and was eagerly embraced by the late prime minister, Meles Zenawi. His Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime was and remains at war with the ONLF, which is seeking self-determination for the five million ethnic Somalis, in line with their constitutional rights under the government’s ethnic federalism policy.
The EPRDF is a highly controlling and repressive regime which has extended its pervasive reach in the nine districts of the Ogaden. The local Ogaden administration “does nothing but carry out Ethiopian dictates and represents the interests of the present, centralized regime,” according to the Ogaden Women’s Relief Association.
Terrifying tools of oppression
The current regime operates under the premiership of Hailemariam Desalegn, who, true to his inaugural word, is following in predecessor Meles Zenawi’s footsteps and has expanded the EPRDF’s repertoire of violence and imposing additional economic pressures. It is widely reported that, In the midst of the current dry season, new taxes are being levied on water drawn from wells for livestock and domestic use. Sums of up to 150 dollars are reportedly being charged to people living in rural areas, already burdened by an economic and aid embargo, which is causing civilians great hardship.
Additional tax demands are also being made. According to Ogaden Online, “reliable reports … confirm the imposition of what the locals term an illegal ‘head tax’ imposed on the civilian population as well as on their livestock”. A local elder, whose family consists of eight children in addition to himself and his wife, was arbitrarily charged “150 Ethiopian birr (8 dollars) per individual regardless of age or gender”, that is a total of 1,200 birr (56 dollars) – far beyond his means.
Kidnapping, with subsequent ransom demands, is another tool of terror employed by the regime. Family members, abducted and imprisoned, are released upon receipt of ransom payments, which are typically paid either by relatives inside Ethiopia or those living overseas. Levels of extortion vary, with those in the West paying anything from “300 to 1,500” dollars. The McGill Report found that “in some cases those amounts were contributions to total collected ransoms of more than 10,000 dollars”.
This criminal practice is widespread: civilians are arrested and imprisoned, without regard to due process, often repeatedly. One victim, Ifraah, a 25-year-old Ogaden Somali woman, told the Ogaden Women’s Relief Association:
To be released, you have to pay the Ethiopian military from 1,000 (56 dollars) to 2,000 birr (112 dollars). And the price keeps going up. If they suspect that the family has money, they raise the price. Poor people often stay in prison much longer because they can’t raise the ransom. It happened to me twice. The first time I wasn’t yet married. I spent a couple of months in prison and had to pay 500 birr (28 dollars); the second time, I had to pay 1,000.
It is widely believed that the illegal income generated is used to supplement the paramilitary soldiers’ salaries. “There are women thrown into prison five times, and each time they have to pay to get out. But economic factors are not the only ones. There’s also torture and rape”.
Civilians like Ifraah who are indiscriminately accused of supporting the ONLF are detained without charge. HRW, which has been monitoring the situation in the region for the past five years, has documented a range of human rights abuses, including
arbitrary detaining [of] family members, often for long periods of time, sexual violence against women and girls, sometimes if they are viewed as being members of the ONLF or supporters or simply because they are family members [of ONLF supporters]. There is a kind of “guilt by association” that is used to target the family members.
This is punished by “summary executions … where suspected ONLF supporters have been executed in cold blood.”
Prisoners are Incarcerated in what are often makeshift prisons (e.g. deserted school buildings) and tortured, abused and intimidated. Ina and Halima, two young women from the town of Saga, Ogaden Online reports, were “suspended in the air by their ankles with their legs spread wide, while the soldiers poured water mixed with red chilli powder over them [and] applied [it] in and around the victims’ genitalia, causing severe burns”.
In prison there are no medical facilities and, according to Ifraah, the 25-year-old Ogaden Somali woman mentioned above, “You get your food from relatives. If you don’t have anyone nearby, your relatives send money to people who live there so they can buy you food.”. Alternatively, inmates share what little they have.
Abdullahi, held among others without trial for nine months, related to the Ogaden Women’s Relief Association how his captors “locked us in an underground room”. Young girls are regarded as Liyu property, kidnapped, held captive and repeatedly raped, often falling pregnant in the process.
The government’s so-called counter-insurgency policy in the Ogaden is, in truth, a form of genocide and is regarded as such by Genocide Watch. Is it ethnic hatred, fear and loathing of the “other”, or simply greed for the region’s natural resources – the oil and natural gas that drives the government’s violent, multi-pronged approach? It is an approach which, according to HRW, aims “at cutting off economic resources, weakening the ONLF’s civilian support base and confining its geographic area of operation”. In pursuing these duplicitous goals, the Ethiopian regime seems to exist on an island of impunity, hidden from the international community. As the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization states, “there is a shocking lack of international attention directed at the situation” and, despite the substantial documentation of the violations committed, nothing is being done.
The is no doubt that the Ethiopian military and paramilitary are committing wide-ranging human rights violations in the Ogaden which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. As Genocide Watch states, the situation should be “referred by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court”.
Such Human Rights violations are not confined to the Ogaden region. Genocide Watch consider Ethiopia to have “already reached Stage 7 (of 8), genocide massacres against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes”. The EPRDF, unsurprisingly, plead innocent to all such accusations of abuse and state criminality, and dismisses allegations of human rights abuse substantiated by reports from international human rights group such as HRW and Amnesty International. The Ogaden regional president claims that they “peddle lies and propaganda”. However, if the Ethiopian government has nothing to hide, why doesn’t it allow independent investigators and journalists access to the Ogaden region?
The shocking accounts of violence and abuse are endless. The situation is clearly extremely critical and demands the immediate attention of Ethiopia’s main benefactors – the USA, the European Union and Britain. To continue to ignore the evidence of state criminality and to blindly support the Ethiopian government in the face of such persecution, is to be complicit in the murder and violent abuse of the innocent people of the Ogaden region.
US president fails to demand halt to illegal settlements
“There is no peace process, it’s an annexation process…”
The Israeli-Palestinian issue is, politically, a toxic wasteland that no US president in his right mind would want to clean up. It has become a vicious cycle of deceit and double standards, and it will contaminate any US politician who tries to clean it up.
One after another, American presidents run away from the challenge.
And so it has been with Barack Obama. This week the world’s greatest peace fraud came to the Holy Land and flunked it. Frankly, if that’s the best he can do after four years in the job he has no business calling himself a world leader.
AIPAC – the stinking swamp in the White House backyard
But I don’t necessarily agree with Peled’s remark. Any US president who fails to drain the stinking swamp in his backyard – i.e. the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) breeding ground – deserves to be consigned to the wastepaper basket of history as a political pansy.
The president who ruthlessly cleans up, however, would be revered big-time.
Take the Chuck Hagel confirmation fiasco. Here in the UK we watched with bewilderment and disbelief. Of course, it’s easy to criticize from this distance, but remember that we too have a Zio-infestation at the heart of government.
At the hearing Hagel appeared flat-footed and unprepared for obvious questions. Even if it was expedient to play the Zionist lackey he needn’t have come across quite so wimpish. The public don’t necessarily understand such chicanery. Even if they did, the spectacle of belly-crawling is disgusting. Who could blame them for wondering what sort of impression Hagel was likely to create in the diplomatic drawing rooms of the world?
A more robust plan would have sent in a stalking-horse, specially trained by George Galloway (and suitably compensated) to swat the Inquisitorial bar-flies for the threat to US interests that they are. This sacrificial candidate’s fate would be crucifixion and rejection, but the process would have electrified the media, American voters and world audiences, and inflicted serious damage on the Zio-lobby’s hirelings. With their fangs drawn and venom spent, Obama could then have put forward his “real” candidate with dignity.
As it was, the lack of steel is now indelibly etched on everyone’s memory in the US and abroad.
Miko Peled is a remarkable Israeli Jew, the son of an Israeli general and himself a former soldier in the Israeli armed forces. He calls the Israeli army “one of the best trained and best equipped and best fed terrorist organizations in the world”. In a fascinating talk (see video above), he explains:
The name of the game: erasing Palestine, getting rid of the people and de-Arabizing the country… When people talk about the possibility of Israel somehow giving up the West Bank for a Palestinian state, if it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. It shows a complete misunderstanding of the objective of Zionism and the Zionist state.
You couldn’t find a more authentic insider source. He confirms what many have known and been saying for years.
And in this excellent “Crosstalk” programme (see video on the right), “Obama’s Israel trip”, Norman Finkelstein and Mouin Rabbani strip away the arrant nonsense politicians use to conceal the truth of what’s happening in the Holy Land. Answering the question “Why is Obama going to the Middle East now and what does he want to achieve?”, here are some of their comments.
Rabbani begins by saying the peace process is not on the agenda. The Israeli government, post-election, is too new to have any serious discussion. In the past the Palestinian leadership has favoured talks simply as a distraction from the awful situation on the ground. But now things are so dire that renewed talks might pose more of a threat that an opportunity to the leadership.
Finkelstein maintains there is no reason why Obama would wish to talk about a peace process that interferes with “the serious work” of annexing the West Bank. In any case the Palestinian people have been “pacified” and the Palestinian Authority can’t do anything without US permission.
There never was a peace process, he says, it has always been an annexation process and right now there are no restraints, no inhibitions on Israel’s pursuit of this.
“Internationalize” the Palestine question
Finkelstein points to the shift in public opinion against Israel in recent years. But two inhibiting factors remain: (1) the US government and its vetoes at the UN, and (2) the Palestinians themselves, who are in no frame of mind to organize mass disobedience and resistance, which in Finkelstein’s view is “the only thing that can possibly force Israel to withdraw”. It is up to the Palestinians, he suggests, to mobilize these forces and to trigger the worldwide support movements. A combination of mass resistance by the Palestinian people in concert with support from the United Nations, the international community and public opinion, is the only likely solution. It would isolate the US and force an Israeli withdrawal. This prospect becomes more real as Israel’s credibility dwindles.
A combination of mass resistance by the Palestinian people in concert with support from the United Nations, the international community and public opinion, is the only likely solution.
Finkelstein is of the opinion that the sham peace process – “political theatre”, as he calls it – has poisoned and confused the minds of normally intelligent people.
Rabbani feels that the Palestinian leadership should disengage from the meaningless diplomacy sponsored by the US and move towards an “internationalization” of the question and solve it on the basis of international consensus.
The video ought to be compulsory viewing for those who still harp on about restarting ‘peace talks’.
On the ground Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was reported to have signalled a willingness to return to peace talks if Israel agreed to an “unannounced ” (i.e. secret) settlement freeze during the period of negotiations. At the same time, the democratically elected prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, who perversely is not invited to meet Obama because he’s the wrong flavour (Hamas), declared: “We believe American policies perpetuate the Israeli occupation and settlements in Palestine under a slogan of peace.”
Another Hamas spokesman, Dr Sami Zuhri, said that Obama’s renewed commitment to Israel’s security while ignoring the Palestinians’ sufferings affirmed his country’s blind support for Israel. This exposed as nonsense any idea that America could play a positive role in the region. He urged an end to security coordination between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Israeli occupation.
Respected Palestinian writer Khalid Amayreh remarked that Obama was expected to cajole the weak and pliant Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas to give “peace” another chance by returning to futile negotiations with Israel while the latter continued to steal more Palestinian land and build more Jewish colonies for fanatical Jewish settlers.
So what actually happened when Obama arrived?
As soon as he touched down, Obama was gushing. “Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel?” he asked. “The answer is simple. We stand together because we share a common story – patriots determined to be a free people in our land, pioneers who forged a nation.”
Somehow, I doubt if ordinary Americans would wish to be compared to the invading Zionist thugs who drove the Palestinians off their lands, bulldozed their homes and cruelly imprisoned those that have remained in the shredded remnants of their territory for the last 65 years – and did it with billions of dollars squeezed from taxpaying Americans.
According to the Ma’an news agency on 21 March, Obama did finally say something about Israel’s settlements.
One of the challenges has been continued settlement activity in the West Bank area, and I’ve been clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leadership that it has been United States policy not just in my administration but all preceding administrations that we do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace. So I don’t think there’s been any confusion about what our position is.
Settlements are illegal, nothing less, and Obama needs to remind Netanyahu (and himself) of that fact. There remains considerable confusion over the US position, especially since Reuters reported that Obama stopped short of calling for a halt to settlement expansion and offered no new ideas on how to get the two sides negotiating again. “If the expectation is we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time, then there’s no point in the negotiations,” he said.
No point at all, Mr Obama. Most of it was settled long ago by international law and a raft of UN resolutions. Upholding those rulings is, of course, a precondition to any negotiation.
Why insist on more “negotiations without preconditions” unless it’s to buy Israel time to complete its illegal annexation?
By Jamal Kanj
President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East has coincided with the 10th anniversary of the killing of American peace activist Rachel Corrie.
She was murdered by an American-made and financed Israeli bulldozer on 16 March 2003.
It is unlikely Obama or anyone in his entourage will remember the young American citizen but, according to the Israeli ambassador, the Israeli government plans to broach the subject of Jonathan Pollard, the US servicemen convicted of spying for Israel.
As part of his “listening” tour, Obama must pay homage to the choreographed Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, honouring the victims of the Nazi holocaust.
For contemporary suffering, the president should peek across from Yad Vashem for traces of Deir Yassin’s massacre or take a five-mile detour to a Palestinian refugee camp, a living museum and breathing testament of Israeli malevolence.
…the president should peek across from Yad Vashem for traces of Deir Yassin’s massacre or take a five-mile detour to a Palestinian refugee camp, a living museum and breathing testament of Israeli malevolence.
While Obama is unlikely to make such a deserving tribute to the victims of Zionism, in his helicopter ride to Bethlehem and Ramallah he can’t miss the Jews-only colonies raping the virgin hills of the West Bank or the separation wall suffocating Palestinians.
Israel firsters in Washington have marketed the trip as a must for the US president to win over sceptic Israeli public opinion. David Miller, an Israel-first ex-US official, faulted the Obama administration for not showing adequate understanding of Israeli “fears”.
Another Israel firster, Dennis Ross, who was Obama’s point man on the Middle East for most of his first term, advised him to take this opportunity “to connect with the Israeli psyche”. This may seem like a daunting task.
According to a recent poll conducted by the Maagar Mohot Institute and Maarive newspaper, only 10 per cent of Israelis view the US president favourably. In fact, October 2012 opinion survey showed Israelis would have elected Mitt Romney over Obama by 57 to 22.
While the American Arab delegates urged the Obama to take this opportunity to advance peace negotiations, US Jewish leaders counselled him to hold off on any peace initiative.
Ahead of his trip, the president met separately with representatives of American Arab and Jewish communities. While the American Arab delegates urged the Obama to take this opportunity to advance peace negotiations, US Jewish leaders counselled him to hold off on any peace initiative.
They cautioned that Israelis would “bristle” if Obama challenged them to take “hard steps” for peace. Ironically, the same crowd wanted him to be firm and do everything necessary to halt Iran’s nuclear ambition.
In other words, Israel firsters want conflict not peace to dominate the president’s agenda.
This is an exact repeat of the strategy Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir used 20 years ago, eventually dragging the US into war with Iraq.
Israel was false on Iraq then and has been proven to be wrong on Iran for the last 20 years. As early as 1992 Binyamin Netanyahu suggested that the US should lead an “international front” to pre-empt Iran from becoming a nuclear power in “three to five years”.
In the same year, then Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told French TV that Iran was destined to acquire nuclear warhead capabilities by 1999. In 1995 an Israeli leak in the New York Times predicted Iran would assemble a nuclear bomb by 2000.
Mr President, if you want Israelis to like you, just ask your predecessor how he turned the biggest government surplus into the largest deficit.
The most recent assertion was made last September at the UN General Assembly, in a hilarious cartoon illustration presented by Netanyahu claiming that Iran was six months away from producing enough material for a nuclear bomb.
When Obama speaks at the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem to declare his commitment to the ethno-centric, racist state and vowing to protect the “Jewish state” from specious nuclear threats, he must not forget that a nuclear Middle East was born in Israel, not Iraq nor Iran.
Mr President, if you want Israelis to like you, just ask your predecessor how he turned the biggest government surplus into the largest deficit.
Sadly, Obama is sold on what seems to be a psychiatrist’s perverted notion that to promote peace he must first pledge US force for another Middle Eastern adventure. As such, Obama’s retinue should consider replacing policy experts with psychoanalysts to treat the Israeli penchant for conflict and diagnose its collective katharophobia or fear of peace.
A version of this article was first published in the Gulf Daily News. The version here is published by permission of Jamal Kanj.