Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Perils & Pitfalls of Not Doing Your Homework

Following Israel's May 14, 60+ slaughter on the Gaza border, young US Democratic Party contender, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reacted as any decent human being would, tweeting: "This is a massacre. I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such. No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can't be silent about this."

Following her upset win in the primaries, however, Ocasio-Cortez unfortunately lost the plot in an interview with conservative Firing Line host Margaret Hoover:

MH: You, in the campaign, made one tweet... that referred to a killing by Israeli soldiers of civilians in Gaza and called it a 'massacre', which became a little bit controversial. But I haven't seen anywhere - what is your position on Israel?

AOC: Well, I believe absolutely in Israel's right to exist. I am a proponent of a two-state solution. And for me, it's not - this is not a referendum, I think on the state of Israel. For me, the lens through which I saw this incident, as an activist... if 60 people were killed in Ferguson, Missouri, if 60 people were killed in the South Bronx - unarmed - if 60 people were killed in Puerto Rico - I just looked at that incident more through... through just, as an incident, and to me, it would just be completely unacceptable if that happened on our shores. But I am -

MH: Of course, the dynamic there in terms of geopolitics -

AOC: Of course.

MH: And the war in the Middle East is very different than people expressing their First Amendment right to protest.

AOC: Well, yes. But I also think that what people are starting to see at least [that] the occupation of Palestine is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition[s], and that to me is just where I tend to come from on this issue.

MH: You use the term 'the occupation of Palestine'? What did you mean by that?

AOC: Oh, um [pause] I think it, what I meant is the settlements that are increasing in some of these areas and places where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to their housing and homes.

MH: Do you think you can expand on that?

AOC: Yeah, I mean, I think I'd also just [waves hands and laughs] I am not the expert on geopolitics on this issue. You know, for me, I'm a firm believer in finding a two-state solution on this issue, and I'm happy to sit down with leaders on both of these. For me, I just look at things through a human rights lens, and I may not use the right words [laughs] I know this is a very intense issue.

MH: That's very honest, that's very honest. It's very honest, and when you, you know, get to Washington and you're an elected member of Congress you'll have the opportunity to talk to people on all sides and visit Israel and visit the West Bank and -

AOC: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that that's one of those things that's important too is that, you know, especially with the district that I represent - I come from the South Bronx, I come from a Puerto Rican background, and Middle Eastern politics was not exactly at my kitchen table every night. But, I also recognize that this is an intensely important issue for people in my district, for Americans across the country, and I think what's at least important to communicate is that I'm willing to listen and that I'm willing to learn and evolve on this issue like I think many Americans are.

It's clear from Ocasio-Cortez's knee-jerk invocation of Israel's so-called "right to exist" that she hasn't a clue when it comes to this Zionist mantra. For someone aiming to win a place in the Zionist-controlled US Knesset Congress that's pretty damning. She should have made it her business to learn that Israel is an apartheid state built on the dispossession (1948 & 1967) and enforced exile of Palestine's indigenous Arab population, and spoken to this instead of parroting this Zionist talking point. The information is out there, she needed only to do her homework. A perusal of Sharmine Narwani's eviscerating essay, Three Magic Words, would have done the trick nicely. (See my 25/5/12 post of the same name.)

As for the "two-state solution" mantra, the absorption of a few basic facts - the inherent injustice of a Palestinian state on a mere 22% of historic Palestine; Israel's entrenched position in over 60% of the West Bank; the Likud Charter's flat rejection of a Palestinian state "west of the Jordan River" - should long ago have alerted her to the irrelevance of this tired and tatty formula.

And Ocasio-Cortez's backing away from her use of the word 'occupation' was a particularly bad move. All she had to do was remind Hoover of UNSC resolution 242 (1967), which calls on Israel to withdraw from "territories occupied in the recent conflict," and remind her that that occupation has gone on now for over 50 years.

I'VE SAID IT BEFORE AND I'LL SAY IT AGAIN: THERE IS REALLY NO EXCUSE FOR IGNORANCE ON THE PALESTINE/ISRAEL ISSUE ANY MORE, LEAST OF ALL FOR ASPIRING PROGRESSIVE POLITICIANS. THE INFORMATION IS THERE. DO YOUR HOMEWORK, OR STAY OUT OF POLITICS.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Meet Danby's Preferred Candidate

You're the federal Opposition's unofficial shadow minister for Israel and you've ruled the seat of Melbourne Ports with a rod of Zion for what seems like... maybe 2,000 years, right? But lately you've gone a bit feral, what with your taxpayer-funded ads for Israel in the Australian Jewish News and that last pilgrimage to Israel when you really should have been warming your place on the parliamentary benches in Canberra. And so, to cut a long story short, Shorten's given you your marching orders. Tough titties, I know.

But you're not going gently into that good night, are you? No way! After all, as Bob Carr has opined, you're more Ben Gurion than Ben Gurion himself. So it's time for you to anoint a successor, right? He'll be no Michael Danby, of course, but a true blue son of Zion nonetheless. Step forward, Nick Dyrenfurth, executive director of the John Curtin Research Centre. (See Labor MP Michael Danby's preselection meeting undemocratic, candidate says, Paul Karp, theguardian.com, 16/7/18)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Iran: The Reality

Iran has long been the subject of a demonisation campaign by USrael and its camp followers*, and as my previous post indicates, western public opinion is being softened up for a forced regime change in Tehran. In these uncertain times, therefore, it is important to understand just what is at stake here. The following, heartbreaking, story, from The Irish Times, shows, like no other, just how undeserved is the prevailing, assiduously cultivated and promoted, negative image of Iran in the West:

"Irish paediatric oncologist Dr Trish Scanlan was in unfamiliar surroundings when she broke down and cried some weeks ago. Sitting with the chief of paediatric oncology in the Mahak hospital in Tehran... she became overwhelmed when she found what she had spent more than a decade travelling the world in search of.

"Scanlan works with children suffering from cancer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In her 11 years there, she has failed to save a single child suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which affects the blood and bone marrow. Dozens of children are diagnosed with the condition each year, and the treatment is both toxic and expensive. The hospitals in Tanzania are simply not equipped for the job. 'We don't have enough blood products, platelets and other support care to get the children through the treatment because it's basically like hitting them over the head with a sledgehammer, and doing that at least four times,' Scanlan says. 'We get through one, two or even sometimes three of these courses, and they usually die of fever, sepsis or want of blood. We've never managed to cure a child. They all died, which is really sad because Crumlin [Ireland's largest paediatric hospital] for example would probably save about 60%. I've tried to get help. I've had help from all over the world for all the things I do, but to treat a child with AML costs $50,000. Loads of countries and hospitals help us but it was beyond their ability tp provide support for 30-40 children. It's a lot of cash. I had tried and tried and tried. I had been all over Europe, America, South Africa and India, but I had never been able to access a hospital that was willing and able to support these kids.'

"A few weeks ago, Scanlan flew to Tehran. As she landed, she was on edge. 'When you arrive in somewhere like Iran - the axis of evil - you wonder what people are going to be like,' she says. 'I thought I was going to a closed, suspicious sort of place.' But, as she made her way through the airport, queuing for visas and collecting baggage, she found 'entirely the opposite' was the case. 'People were offering me cakes and tea,' she says. 'I've never been to a place where the people were doing everything in their power to make each situation as pleasurable and friendly as possible.'

"During her stay, Scanlan visited Mahak hospital, an independent organisation supporting children with cancer, funded entirely through charitable donations. The idea was to go and see how they do things, and hopefully learn something to take back to Tanzania. 'Everywhere we went people knew about Mahak,' she says. 'It provides all the cancer services for Iran. They will pay for children's cancer care in any hospital in the country. You send them the bill and they pay it. If the children survive, they pay for all of their schooling up to and including university. I can't tell you how unbelievable they are.' Following her tour of the hospital and meetings with department heads, Scanlan asked whether she could give a presentation of her week in Tanzania. They agreed, and she told them all about the children suffering and dying from AML. 'When I'd finished, we all sat down and they asked what they could do to help,' she says. 'I asked was there any way they could take the AML kids, and they just said: 'Sure. No problem. No charge.' They asked could we afford to transport them and I said we'd find a way. If we could get the kids to the door of the hospital, they would take care of them after that. I started to cry. I've been looking for an answer to this for 10 years, so it was pretty insane.'

"The very next day though, everything changed. US president Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, reimposing sanctions on the Gulf state. 'The price of things  - simple commodities - went up overnight by as much as 50 per cent,' says Scanlan.'A run on the banks had closed foreign exchange. Naively I thought the sanctions wouldn't affect the hospital or the work of the charity where they don't apply, but they do apply to the money it uses to pay for everything. From one day to the next after that, people were glued to the television screen or radio. They were waiting for the next announcement. It wasn't a small deal what happened. They were holding their breath, waiting for how it was going to affect them.'

'The following night, Scanlan had dinner with the two women who set up Mahak. 'These were jolly, fun, really dynamic women,' she says. 'Both of them were like: 'We think war is coming.' These were not histrionic, dramatic women. Both of them had set this up 27 years ago in the middle of sanctions. These weren't women to flip. They said the offer was still there but that we needed to think very carefully about bringing children to a potential warzone."

'Despite the change in the landscape, Scanlan is determined to press on. 'We're going forward with the idea, but we're on tenterhooks because we certainly don't want a child to go and be at risk,' she says. 'It's mind-blowing what's happened. I don't know what the future holds. But I know that in recent weeks, a hospital in Tehran, funded by ordinary Iranians, offered to help children with cancer in Tanzania. In times full of threats, this was a promise of humanity'." (15/7/18)

Think about it: Iran is under attack, currently by sanctions, later by God-knows-what, from a country where paying for medical expenses can bankrupt you.

[*By way of a reminder, here's the latest dollop, in Sydney's Sunday Telegraph, from Piers Akerman: "Iran is offering hyper-malevolent support for terrorism in the Middle East and supporting all manner of criminal activity elsewhere." (15/7/18)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

What Modern War Propaganda Looks Like

War propaganda alert from Caitlin Johnstone: This is what modern war propaganda looks like (medium.com, 5/7/18)

"I've been noticing videos going viral the last few days, some with millions of views, about Muslim women bravely fighting to free themselves from oppression in the Middle East. The videos, curiously, are being shared enthusiastically by many Republicans and pro-Israel hawks, who aren't traditionally the sort of crowd you see rallying to support the civil rights of Muslims.

"Well, you may want to sit down for this shocker, but it turns out that they happen to be women from a nation that the US war machine is currently escalating operations against. They are Iranian.

"Whenever you see the sudden emergence of an attractive media campaign that is sympathetic to the plight of civilians in a resource-rich nation unaligned with the western empire, you are seeing propaganda. When that nation is surrounded by other nations with similar human rights transgressions and yet those transgressions are ignored by that same media campaign, you are most certainly seeing propaganda. When that nation just so happens to already be the target of starvation sanctions and escalated covert CIA ops, you can bet the farm that you are seeing propaganda.

"Back in December a memo was leaked from inside the Trump administration showing how then-Secretary of State, DC neophyte Rex Tillerson, was coached on how the US empire uses human rights as a pretense on which to attack and undermine noncompliant governments. Politico reports: The May 17 memo reads like a crash course for a businessman-turned-diplomat, and its conclusion offers a starkly realist vision: that the US should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. 'Allies should be treated differently - and better - than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies,' argued the memo, written by Tillerson's influential policy aide, Brian Hook.

"The propaganda machine doesn't operate any differently from the State Department, since they serve the same establishment. US ally Saudi Arabia is celebrated by the mass media for 'liberal reform' in allowing women to drive despite hard evidence that those 'reforms' are barely surface-level cosmetics to present a pretty face to the western world, but Iranian women, who have been able to drive for years, are painted as uniquely oppressed. Iran is condemned by establishment war whores for the flaws in its democratic process, while Saudi Arabia, an actual monarchy, goes completely unscrutinized. This is because the US-centralized power establishment, which has never at any point in its history cared about human rights, plans on effecting regime change in Iran by any means necessary. Should those means necessitate a potentially controversial degree of direct military engagement, the empire needs to make sure it retains control of the narrative.

"This is what war propaganda looks like in the era of social media. It will never look ugly. It will never directly show you its real intentions. If it did, it wouldn't work. It can't just come right out and say 'Hey we need to do horrible, evil things to the people in this country on the other side of the world in your name using your resources, please play along without making a fuss.' It will necessarily look fresh and fun and rebellious. It will look appealing. It will look sexy.

"And it's working. I am currently getting tagged in these videos multiple times a day by Trump supporters who are eager to show me proof that I'm on the wrong side of the Iran issue; the psyop is so well-lubricated with a combination of sleek presentation and confirmation bias that it slides right past their skepticism and becomes accepted as fact, even the one with the Now This pussyhat propaganda logo in the corner.

"Be less trusting of these monsters, please. The people of Afghanistan haven't benefited from the interminable military quagmire that has cost tens of thousands of their lives. The invaders of Iraq were never 'greeted as liberators' by an oppressed population. The humanitarian intervention in Libya left a humanitarian catastrophe in its wake far more horrific than anything it claimed to be trying to prevent. Saving the children of Syria with western interventionism has left half a million Syrians dead.

"If the Iranians do in fact wish to change their government, it should happen without crippling sanctions, collaboration with extremist terror cults, or the rapey tentacles of the CIA manipulating the situation. There has never been a US-led regime change in the Middle East that wasn't disastrous. People should be screaming at the US and its allies to cease these interventions, not applauding propaganda that is clearly being manufactured by that same empire."

Friday, July 13, 2018

The (Kosher) Axis Rides Again

This time with Israel's approval, of course:

"Support for Europe's right-wing populist parties, and their response to the challenges caused by the refugee/migrant wave, is rising... Last week, the German, Austrian and Italian ministers of the interior initiated an 'axis' of states aiming at stopping immigration to Europe, confirming their commitments to an already thriving reactionary nationalistic trend in both eastern as well as western Europe. Israel is in effect a silent partner to this 'axis': it is doing its utmost not only to prevent what its government terms 'infiltrators' from entering Israel, but also to get rid of those who were able to cross the Egyptian/Israeli border in the past.

"It was the Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, who after his short visit to Israel last week (re) coined the term 'Axis' for the Berlin-Vienna-Rome anti-immigrant alliance, a term which even people with relatively crude historical antennae will recognize for its historical resonances. That was straight after getting an enthusiastic 'kosher certification' from Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks to Kurz's speech in Jerusalem, in which he admitted that Austrians were not only victims but also perpetrators during WWII...

"It would be no surprise if he interpreted his warm welcome in Israel as a laissez passer for his far right populist coalition partner, euphemistically called the 'Freedom Party,' whom Israel, until now, still officially boycotts on account of its neo-Nazi roots...

"The Austrian Freedom Party is attempting - like other European populist parties - to use Israel as a springboard for international legitimization. The first tactical step of such parties is to demonstrate support for Israel's nationalist government policy, in order to get that coveted so-called kosher certificate. Then, they move on to the second step: They proclaim their aversion to anti-Semitism, past and present... " (Israel: the one place Europe's anti-Semitic far right wins the Jewish vote, Shimon Stein, Haaretz, 20/6/18)

One wonders why all of this should come as a bit of a surprise to Stein, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany (2001-07). After all, didn't political Zionism's founding father, Theodor Herzl, predict that "The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies"? And isn't it typical of liberal Zionists like Stein to raise the issue of Israel's anti-African refugee policies, but remain silent when it comes to those other, Palestinian, refugees?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Letters? What Letters?

Netanyahu to a group of Israeli settlers in 2001: "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction."

***

Yet another Israeli-monkey-on-America's-back story:

How four US presidents, including Obama and Trump, helped protect Israel's nuclear arsenal, Adam Entous, The New Yorker, 18/6/18)

"When a delegation of senior Israeli officials visited the Trump White House on February 13, 2017, they wanted to discuss several issues with their new American counterparts. Topping the list was a secret letter concerning a subject the Israelis had promised the Americans never to discuss publicly - Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal. In a recent piece for The New Yorker, I described a tense scene in the West Wing as the Israeli delegation - which included Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer - tried to get the letter signed by President Donald Trump. By all accounts, the American Administration was eager to please the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Trump had promised to lavish with unprecedented support. But, at that chaotic moment, Trump's aides felt blindsided by the Israeli request. They knew nothing about the existence of any letters and were confused by the sense of urgency coming from the Israelis. The Americans had other pressing concerns - later that day, Michael Flynn, the national security adviser, would hand in his resignation letter - and they didn't appreciate feeling as though the Israelis were telling them what to do. 'This is our fuckin' house,' one of the Americans snapped.

"The White House's reaction was understandable. There had been a similar moment of surprise eight years earlier, when Barack Obama became President and received a similar request. The very existence of the letters had been a closely held secret. Only a select group of senior American officials, in three previous Administrations, knew of the letters and how Israeli leaders interpreted them as effectively an American pledge not to press the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons so long as it continued to face existential threats in the region. (American officials say the letters weren't that explicit and fell short of constituting a binding commitment.) When Trump's aides moved into the White House, they didn't find any copies of the previous letters left behind by their predecessors. The documents had been sent to the archives. The Israelis, however, had copies.

"Israel crossed the nuclear threshold on the eve of the Six-Day War, in 1967. At that time, it had three nuclear devices, according to Avner Cohen, a nuclear historian... Israeli efforts to build a bomb at the nuclear complex in Dimona had been a source of tension with Washington for nearly a decade, But, by the fall of 1969, when Golda Meir, Israel's Prime Minister, met with Richard Nixon at the White House, Israel's possession of nuclear weapons was a fait accompli and the two sides reached an unwritten understanding: the Israelis would not declare, test, or threaten to use their nuclear weapons, and the Americans would not pressure the Israelis to sign a landmark international nuclear-nonproliferation treaty known as the NPT. (Israel never became a signatory, and US efforts to inspect Dimona stopped.)

"Successive Israeli governments abided by the arrangement... often referred to as Israel's 'policy of ambiguity.' A joint document describing the agreement was never prepared. Instead, each side relied on its own notes, a former official said. President Gerald Ford abided by Nixon's deal... The Israelis first started to feel as though the unwritten Meir-Nixon arrangement was no longer sufficient during the Presisidency of George H.W. Bush, when, after the first Gulf War, in 1991, world powers talked about the possibility of creating a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms.

"The first iteration of the secret letter was drafted during the Clinton Administration, as part of an agreement for Israel's participation in the 1998 Wye River negotiations with the Palestinians. In the letter, according to former officials, President Bill Clinton assured the Jewish state that no future American arms-control initiative would 'detract' from Israel's 'deterrent' capabilities, an oblique but clear reference to its nuclear arsenal. Later, Israeli officials inserted language to make clear to Washington that Israel would 'defend itself, by itself,' and that it would, therefore, not consider the American nuclear arsenal to be a substitute for Israeli nuclear arms. George W. Bush, when he became president, followed Clinton's lead, signing a similar letter, former officials told me.

"Then, in 2009, a new President, Barack Obama, took office. Almost from the start, Netanyahu was distrustful of Obama, and vice versa. 'With Obama, we were all crazy,' an Israeli official told me. That April, Obama delivered an aspirational speech in Prague, setting out 'America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.' Obama's advisers subsequently learned 'how paranoid Bibi was that Obama was going to try to take away Israel's nuclear weapons,' a former US official told me, adding, 'Of course, that was never our intent.' Obama signed an updated version of the letter in May, 2009.

"While Israeli officials interpreted the letters as an effective commitment by successive American Presidents not to pressure Israel regarding its nuclear arsenal, US officials told me that they viewed the letters as less categorical. 'It was not a blanket 'We'll never ask Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.' It was more 'We accepted the Israeli argument that they're not going to disarm under current conditions in the Middle East,' a former US official told me...

"Ahead of a nonproliferation conference in 2010, Netanyahu became concerned, once again, that Israel would come under international pressure to disarm. In response, Obama made a public statement that echoed the contents of the secret letters, without revealing their existence. 'We discussed issues that arose out of the nuclear nonproliferation conference,' Obama said, after meeting with Netanyahu on July 6, 2010. 'And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is no change in US policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are levelled against... it, that Israel has unique security requirements. It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that's why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security. And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests'."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ziofascist Legislation Creep in the US

On 23/7/17, in my post First They Came for the Palestinians, I drew attention to Glenn Greenwald's ominous essay, US lawmakers seek to criminally outlaw support for boycott campaign against Israel, in which he warned that "the criminalization of political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West," and went on to analyse the circumstances around the introduction of a bipartisan, AIPAC-drafted, Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720) into the US Senate, noting in particular its foreshadowing of maximum criminal penalties of $1 million and 20 years in prison for Americans supporting the international boycott of Israel.

So where are we now with this piece of Ziofascist legislation creep, almost one year on? Here's an update from theintercept.com's Alex Emmons, New house bill would empower Donald Trump to punish US companies that boycott Israel (29/6/18):

"The House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passed a measure on Thursday that would give the Trump administration power to decide how to punish US companies that engage in or promote boycotts of Israel - including through criminal penalties. The committee passed an amendment... from Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif, that largely replaced the text of... the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. When the original legislation was first introduced last year, it drew outrage from activists, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned that by threatening to impose steep criminal penalties on boycott activists engaged with international bodies' boycotts, the bill was unconstitutional.

"After the uproar, the initial bill... lost momentum. But Royce's effort to move his version out of the Foreign Affairs Committee is part of a push to reinvigorate Capitol Hill's efforts to use statutory means to clamp down on the growing movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state for human rights violations against the Palestinians. Pro-Palestinian activists said Royce's amendment, despite being an attempt to work around civil liberties concerns, could be the most dangerous version of the bill yet, because it delegates the lawmaking power to the Trump administration...

"Royce's amendment rewrites the bill to direct the administration to issue regulations that prohibit US companies from involvement with the BDS movement... The bill covers those companies that attempt to 'comply with, further, or support' UN or EU calls for a boycott of Israel... [It] requires them to be 'consistent with the enforcement practices' of the 1979 Export Administration Act - which allows for a range of civil and criminal penalties stopping out at a maximum of $1 million fine and 20 years in prison...

"According o the ACLU, 24 states have passed laws aimed at punishing the boycott movement, and more than 100 bills have been considered by state and local legislatures across the country."

Land of the free? You're kidding me!