Monday, March 27, 2017

What Would Bin Laden Say?

One of the Guardian's stable of Israel apologists, Nick Cohen, returns to one of his favorite themes, the left's (Cohen is nothing if not broad brush) alleged embrace of 'Islamism' (he's equally broad brush when it comes to political Islam):

"The worst elements on the left once exploited Islamism in an identical manner. When jihadis attacked New York, London or Paris they, too, joined what I called the 'kill us, we deserve it' school of foreign policy analysis. In their case, it was not our tolerance of immigration that brought punishment. Rather, they explained away the crimes of an irrational religious totalitarianism as logical responses to western foreign policy, poverty or discrimination, which... they already opposed." (The lies of the right that debase civilised society, theguardian.com, 26/3/17)

Ah yes, 9/11. Cohen's telling us here that the terror attack on New York, presumably planned by Osama bin Laden, had everything to do with "irrational religious totalitarianism," and nothing whatever to do with "Western foreign policy."

Not according to bin Laden, however:

"People of America,

"I speak to you today about the best way to avoid another Manhattan, about the war, its causes, and its consequences. First of all, I tell you that security is one of the pillars of human life. Free men do not underestimate the value of their security, despite Bush's claim that we hate freedom. Perhaps he can tell us why we did not attack Sweden, for example?

"It is well known that those who despise freedom do not possess proud souls, unlike the nineteen [the 9/11 hijackers], may God bless them. We have been fighting you because we are free men who cannot acquiesce in injustice. We want to restore security to our umma. Just as you violate our security, so we violate yours. Whoever encroaches upon the security of others and imagines that he will himself remain safe is but a foolish criminal. When disasters happen, intelligent people look for the reasons behind them, so that they can avoid them in the future.

"But I am amazed at you. Although we are now into the fourth year since the events of September 11, Bush is still practicing his deception, misleading you about the real reason behind it. As a result, there are still motives for a repeat [attack]. I will explain to you the real reasons behind these events, and I will tell you the truth about the moments when this decision was taken, so that you can reflect on it. God knows that the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance's oppression and atrocities against our people in Palestine and Lebanon.

"The events that made a direct impression on me were during and after 1982, when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon with the help of its third fleet. They started bombing, killing, and wounding many, while others fled in terror. I still remember those distressing scenes: blood, torn limbs, women and children massacred. All over the place, houses were being destroyed and tower blocks were collapsing, crushing their residents, while bombs rained down mercilessly on our homes. It was like a crocodile devouring a child, who could do nothing but scream. Does a crocodile understand anything other than weapons? The whole world heard and saw what happened, but did nothing. In those critical moments, many ideas raged inside me, ideas difficult to describe, but they unleashed a powerful urge to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the oppressors.

"As I looked at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America, so that it would have a taste of its own medicine and would be prevented from killing our women and children. On that day I became sure that the oppression and intentional murder of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy. It seemed then that 'freedom' and 'democracy' are actually just terror, just as resistance is labelled 'terrorism' and 'reaction.' Imposing lethal sanctions on millions of people, as Bush Sr did, and carrying out the mass butchering of children, is the worst thing that humanity has ever known. So is dropping millions of pounds of bombs and explosives on millions of children in Iraq, as Bush Jr did, to remove a former collaborator, and install a new one who will help steal Iraq's oil, as well as commit other atrocities." (The Towers of Lebanon (29/10/04), from Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden, Edited by Bruce Lawrence, 2004, pp 239-40)

Hey, but what would bin Laden know?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Australia Sells Arms to Saudi Arabia

The Turnbull Government is now directly stoking the US-backed Saudi/UAE war on the Yemeni people:

"Australian firms have secured contracts to supply military equipment to Saudi Arabia, an autocracy accused of ongoing war crimes in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 civilians. Defence has approved four military exports to the kingdom in the past year and the Australian government has led the push for more. But the government has refused to release details of the approved military sales, citing commercial-in-confidence rules... Mr Pyne [Minister for Defence Industry]... would not comment on the value of materiel exports to Saudi Arabia... He declined to name which businesses accompanied him to Riyadh." (Defence approves military deals with Saudi Arabia, Patrick Begley, Sydney Morning Herald, 25/3/17)

See also my 2/2/16 post Australia's Dogs of War in Yemen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The ALP: Neither Principles Nor Brains

God I'm tired of the Australian Labor Party. We all know it's as devoid of principles as a fish is of feathers. But principles aside, what about brains?

OK, wrack yours and come up with just one ALP politician since Whitlam who could be said to have even the proverbial half-a-brain.

Struggling?

Maybe Barry Jones, former Science Minister (1983-90) of 'Knowledge Nation' fame, two-time National President of the ALP (1992-2000; 2005-2006, and now Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne comes to mind. Certainly, he's probably the nearest thing to Einstein to emerge from the ranks of the ALP, which, BTW, he joined in 1950.

I note that he recently (2015) appeared on The Conversation arguing that our political system was in crisis in part because of our politicians' refusal to analyse and explain complex problems. So what happens when Labor's supposed Einstein analyses the modern Middle East, which is one of the things he sets out to do in his 2016 book Knowledge, Courage, Leadership, under the heading Middle Eastern horrors?

Short answer: he screws up.

Some examples:

"After Islam swept through the Middle East, then North Africa and Spain... Christian Europe had limited understanding of the Muslim world, and failed to comprehend deep divisions between Sunnis (and the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect) and Sh'ites [sic], sectarian feuds about organisation and authority in Islam and interpretation of the Qu'ran [sic], which began in the generation after Muhammad's death (632)." (p 154)

Hello? The Wahhabis originated in 18th century Arabia.

"Britain resisted attempts to settle in Palestine large numbers of Jews displaced... from Europe in the 1930s, anxious to avoid offering [sic] Arabs and jeopardising access to oil." (p 155)

This statement is wholly incorrect. Following the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain oversaw the flooding of Palestine with Zionist settlers from Europe. She only sought to restrict the flow in 1939, after 3 years of Arab rebellion. In the words of the MacDonald White Paper of that year: "[T]he fear of the Arabs that this influx will continue indefinitely until the Jewish population is in a position to dominate them [has] made possible disturbances which have given a serious setback to economic progress, depleted the Palestine exchequer, rendered life and property insecure, and produced a bitterness between the Arab and Jewish populations which is deplorable..." The White Paper announced, therefore, that Jewish immigration into Palestine would henceforth be restricted to 75,000 over the next 5 years, and that after that, Jewish immigrants would only be allowed in with the acquiescence of the Palestinian Arabs.

"The creation of Israel (1948)... was a reaction to the horror and moral abyss of the Holocaust... Israel has been subject to constant threat ever since 1948, but it survives." (p 155)

This is patent nonsense. The Zionist movement had been scheming for the creation of 'Israel' from its inception in the 1890s, long before the Holocaust. The leadership of Palestine's armed Zionist gangs in late 40s Palestine were only interested in Holocaust survivors in so far as they could be used as cannon fodder to help wrest control of Palestine from its majority Arab population. 

And as for "constant threat" and "survival", one merely has to ask:

a) if you muscle in on someone else's patch, what the hell do you expect you're going to get in return, hugs and kisses?

b) if integrity of life and limb are really what matters to you (and who would deny it?) would you rather be an Israeli Jew or a Palestinian Arab?

"The Suez conflict (1916) in which Britain and France invaded Egypt to reclaim the Suez Canal, which had been nationalised by President Nasser." (p 156)

This is like a summary of World War II which mentions only Italy and Japan on the Axis side. The 1956 aggression against Egypt was the result of an Israeli-French-British conspiracy. On October 29, 1956, Israeli forces crossed into Sinai and raced towards the Suez Canal. A combined Anglo-French paratroop unit was dropped onto Port Said a week later, on November 4, prior to a planned advance on Ismailia and Suez.

"In June 1967 ('The Six Day War') Israel defeated invading forces from Egypt, Syria and Jordan." (p 156)

No, this is Israeli folklore. Israel struck the first blow when it attacked the Egyptian air force on the ground in a surprise pre-emptive attack on the morning of 5 June, 1967. This was followed by similar attacks on the Jordanian, Iraqi and Syrian air forces. As Israeli General Peled, Chief of Logistical Command during the war, wrote on 3 June, 1972 in Le Monde: "All those stories about the huge danger we were facing because of our small territorial size, an argument expounded once the war was over, have never been considered in our calculations. While we proceeded towards the full mobilisation of our forces, no person in his right mind could believe that all this force was necessary to our 'defence' against the Egyptian threat. This force was to crush once and for all the Egyptians at the military level and their Soviet masters at the political level. To pretend that the Egyptian forces concentrated on our borders were capable of threatening Israel's existence does not only insult the intelligence of any person capable of analysing this kind of situation, but is primarily an insult to the Israeli army."

Finally, there's this complete gibberish:

"In Jordan, the West funded and encouraged Hezbollah (jihadist + clean) to weaken Hamas (pragmatic + corrupt), presumably hoping that a fractured leadership would be helpful for Israel. Jordan had been essentially secularist but jihadism has become a significant force." (p 156)

To which one can only respond by asking, WTF was going on in his head when he wrote that?

Jones has been in retirement on a fat parliamentary pension for decades now. He has had all the time in the world (and supposedly the brains) to get the basics of modern Middle Eastern history right. If this, then, is the best our Einstein manque can do on the subject, what hope can we possibly expect from such intellectual pygmies as Shorten and crew?

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Australian: All Shock, No Yawn

Only in Murdoch's  Australian:

SHOCK!

"New ACTU secretary Sally McManus told the Greens mayor of a Sydney inner-west council that she vigorously supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, a stand directly at odds with Labor policy and local federal MP Anthony Albanese." (ACTU chief backed anti-Israel campaign, Brad Norington, The Australian, 21/3/17)

HORROR!

"Some observers believe Ms McManus could be amenable to using the Greens and their political influence to push Labor further to the left in backing pro-union workplace laws. The ACTU's policy on Israel is to support 'comprehensive peace between Israel and Palestine' based on co-existence. While supporting past UN resolutions critical of Israel and its continued occupation of the West Bank, ACTU policy does not extend to wholehearted support for the BDS campaign. Many right-wing unions oppose it." (ibid)

Never in The Australian:

*YAWN*

ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick (who leads an outfit called the Australia Israel Labor Dialogue (AILD) and seems to spend an awful lot of time in Israel) tweeted on March 3: "Great pleasure to have met today in Tel Aviv with Eran Hermoni, the newly elected Secretary-General of the Israeli Labor Party."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Halabi Affair

Nothing about the following on DFAT's website, FB or twitter. Ditto for Bishop. Nothing in Fairfax. Nothing in Murdoch's Australian, which has been banging this drum for months:

"The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT) says an internal review into World Vision funding in Gaza has uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government aid funding to Hamas. The review was announced last August after World Vision Gaza employee Mohammed El Halabi was arrested and put on trial accused of channelling millions to the militant group. Israeli officials claimed the humanitarian worker siphoned off government funds and charity donations to build tunnels, buy weapons and pay for the salaries of Hamas militants. The Australian Government has given more than $3 million to World Vision projects in Gaza in the past three years.

"The news DFAT found no evidence of the misuse of World Vision funds comes as Mr Halabi's trial continues in Israel. He has rejected a plea deal offered by Israeli authorities and has pleaded not guilty, claiming he is innocent of all charges. Mr Halabi has accused Israeli authorities of torturing him while in custody. Several witnesses the prosecution has presented to court have also accused Israeli intelligence officers of torturing them during interrogation.

"The NGO has stood beside Mr Halabi, saying he is a trusted employee and that they have also found no evidence yet of the diversion of World Vision funds. World Vision chief advocate Tim Costello said he was very pleased to hear the results of the review. So far, our own ongoing forensic audit has not uncovered any money subverted and to hear DFAT say their investigation hasn't either is consistent and very good news,' Mr Costello told ABC news.

"Despite numerous court hearings in Mr Halabi's trial, Israeli authorities have not yet produced any evidence to back up the explosive claims made against Halabi by Israeli officials... DFAT said Australia's funding to World Vision in the Palestinian territories remained suspended until they considered the outcomes of the court case against Mr Halabi and reviews being undertaken by World Vision." (No evidence of diversion of World Vision funds to Hamas DFAT says, Sophie McNeill, abc.net.au, 21/3/17)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Harari & Friends

Yuval Noah Harari gets a dinner invitation from Haaretz columnist Benny Ziffer, and look who's coming to dinner:

"After the election [in March], Sara Netanyahu thanked me profusely for defending her and invited me over for dinner. I thought that it would be better if they came to our house. The truth is that my culinary experience at the Prime Minister's residence was not very exciting... We set up a little buffet in the corner of the living room, and opened the windows and balcony doors wide. The security guards remained outside and even the street wasn't closed off. I also invited [writers] Eyal Megged and Zeruya Shalev who are mutual friends and to embellish the dinner party I invited Nehemia Shtrasler, Prof. Yigal Schwartz and his wife and Yuval Noah Harari and his partner. We had a lovely evening. It was enjoyable and interesting." ('I hate the Left!', Naami Lanski, israelhayom.com, 22/4/16)

It was. Benny's a great raconteur. Sample:

"I feel that the Left is disingenuous with the slogans it disseminates. 'Stop the occupation,' for example. That's not realistic. It's a bunch of bull. This week I went to [the Palestinian village of] Bil'in with my wife after we hadn't been there for a long time. You go past the checkpoint and you see Modin Ilit and Kiryat Sefer, which have expanded to the point of touching the neighboring Palestinian villages, and you see some of the villages, which used to be dirty, God-forsaken hell holes, thriving and flourishing... People go there to have their cars fixed at garages, to get dental work done at dental clinics. They opened a commercial center there. There are Jewish clients. Peaceful coexistence is an inevitable byproduct of all this occupation-shmoccupation stuff. Life is stronger than any occupation. The existing model actually works." (ibid)

As Benny said, "We had a lovely evening. It was enjoyable and interesting." Harari fitted in perfectly. The perfect embellishment.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

He Who Hypes Harari

I see that that Yuval Noah Harari's over-the-top promo/Q&A by the Guardian's Andrew Anthony garnered over 600 comments. Most thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. A few evinced scepticism. Amazingly, none touched on his provenance as an Israeli living in an apartheid state built on the genocide and mass expulsion of Palestine's indigenous Arab population, or were interested in what, if anything, he had to say about this overriding matter. Ignorance is bliss?

Anyway, I thought I'd investigate Anthony. He's written a book called The Fallout: How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence (2008).  In it, he writes:

"I remember how disgusted I was by [the 1982 Sabra & Shatila massacre], all the more so because only months before I had travelled through Israel and the West Bank. At the time my friends had said that visiting Israel was just as bad as visiting South Africa, for it was just another vicious apartheid regime (whereas travelling to countries in the Middle East from which Jews were forcibly ejected, or countries where a sexual apartheid operated or torture a standard project, was a recommended means of broadening the mind)."

So Anthony's "friends" were talking about Israeli apartheid at the beginning of the 80s? Really?

And then he goes to the West Bank and sees nothing worthy of comment in that regard?

And also to Arab countries where he sees/hears nothing of Palestinian refugee camps full of people actually ejected from Palestine in 1948, yet can parrot Zionist propaganda about Middle Eastern Jews "ejected"* from Arab countries?

What to make of a guy who can see no evidence of Israeli apartheid while in occupied Palestine, but mutters of  "sexual apartheid" long before hijabs and niqabs became all the rage after 9/11?

What to make of a guy who sees "torture" everywhere in the Middle East but in Israel?

I'm beginning to understand why he's working for the Guardian and spruiking YNH.

Now here's another telling extract from Fallout:

"The Iraq War and the events of 11 September 2001 do not enjoy a conventional causal relationship. No evidence exists... that links Saddam Hussein to the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. And yet without 9/11 it seems certain that Iraq would not have been invaded... The destruction of the Twin Towers transformed... global politics. It created a new paradigm - the rogue state as a facilitator of a previously unimagined scale of terrorism... "

No evidence exists... and yet Anthony seems to have no trouble in linking, however tenuously, Saddam Hussein with 9/11. It - the 9/11 acts of terrorism - created a new paradigm?

No, a cabal of Ziocons, both within and without the Bush administration, created that paradigm long before 2003, and Bush, Blair, Howard and the rest ran with it, invading and occupying Iraq, destroying the Iraqi state, sowing death, destruction, division and sectarianism wherever they went, and paving the way for AQI and its even more murderous offspring, ISIS. But, in Anthony's ambiguous characterisation, there's not a hint of this.

And isn't this bit of whataboutery so like that of every other Israel apologist you've ever read?:

"By convention, when it comes to Middle East affairs, only a terrible abuse performed by the Israeli army tends to provoke Western liberals into organized condemnation."

Any wonder he's promoting YNH in the Guardian.

[*Just click on the 'Arab Jews' label below for the facts.]