Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dear Miranda...

Sunday Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine has just been to Israel "as a guest of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies." In Roadmap to peace heads down a dead end, she reports back.

Since Miranda has called for feedback on her report and provided her email address, MERC decided to take up her invitation and address a number of questions to her. It is my sincere hope that she will respond to these questions so that I can share her answers with my readers. (Can I just say, at this point, that I found her column last week, on the subject of men and children, and the moral panic surrounding them, eminently sensible.):

"In Israel last week, two rusty old keys... served as symbols of a conflict that appears to be without end... One key belonged to a Jewish man gassed in a Nazi death camp. It represents all that was lost by the 6 million victims of Hitler's Final Solution and is the key to understanding the great Jewish diaspora's need for a homeland... The other rusty key is a 10 metre sculpture in... Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, constructed as a memorial of what the Palestinians call 'The Catastrophe' of 1948... People in the camp carry keys to the houses their grandparents were forced to leave in 1948."

Miranda, do you believe that what the Nazis did to European Jewry excuses the Palestinians being forced out of their homes and off their lands by Zionist forces in 1948? Are you aware that the Zionist colonisation of Palestine, facilitated by the British, began in earnest decades before the Holocaust? Do you think it conceivable that the Zionist leadership in Palestine may have been more interested in exploiting the suffering of European Jews to win the numbers necessary to carve out and maintain a Jewish state in Palestine than in rescuing European Jewry? Do you know how many German Jews chose to go to Palestine in the 30s as distinct from other places such as the US? Are you aware of Zionist efforts after the war to coerce Jewish displaced persons to go to Palestine rather than other places such as the US? And, more broadly, and in line with your statement about "the great Jewish diaspora's need for a homeland", do you seriously believe that Vic Alhadeff is sufficiently at risk in Australia such that Israel needs to be maintained as an exclusive, alternative home for him while millions of Palestinian refugees, driven out in 1948, are denied the right to return to their homes and lands?

"... the Iranian backed militant group Hamas, is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state..." Why do you you choose to frame your reference to Hamas this way when (I assume) you know that Hamas was democratically elected in January 2006? And if you do insist on framing it this way, why, in the interest of objective reporting, is there no reference in your text to the US-backed right-wing Likud Party committed (according to its charter) to no Palestinian state west of the Jordan?

You quote Moche [sic] Ya'alon as saying, "In Oslo we gave and gave and gave. [But] we didn't give land for peace. We gave land for rockets."

Did this strike you as a bit of a stretch given that the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been under Israeli occupation since 1967, meaning that the Israelis have had plenty of time to get out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) if they'd really wanted to? Also, do you think perhaps that if they were ever really serious about ending the occupation, they would never have begun colonising the OPT in the first place?

Ya'alon again: "We want our allies in the West to understand - when the Palestinians are willing to recognise our right to exist, they will be ready to address our security needs."

Does this strike you as a reasonable demand from an Occupying Power? (That is, the Palestinians, who live either in Israeli-imposed exile or under Israeli occupation, have not only to recognise Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, thus conceding their inalienable right under international law to return to their homes in pre-1967 Israel, but to guarantee Israel's security needs as well.)

"Ya'alon... proposes a long-term 'performance-based process' with the Palestinians, which includes education reform to instill 'an attitude of peace and reconciliation with the Jewish people'. It is impossible to negotiate with people who have been educated 'since kindergarten to wear explosive belts'."

Did it cross your mind, as a savvy reporter, when you heard this that Ya'alon would say literally anything to hold on to the OPT?

Finally, some more general questions if you don't mind. Who paid for your trip? Were other journalists present? If so, who? Do you believe that such sponsored trips by journalists and/or politicians are ethical? What lines, if any, do you believe need to be drawn here? What preparation, by way of reading/research, did you undertake for this trip? What books on the Middlle East conflict have you read?

Looking forward to hearing from you, Miranda.

Impurity of Arms

"'Purity of Arms' (Morality in Warfare) - The soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, body, honor and property." The Spirit of the IDF

Her Rachel Corrie Moment
(In Memory of Asma al-Mughayr*)
by Les Visible

the cross-hairs fix
across the rooftops
wind from the south -
... five knots
and leading across the space where birds
have flown
but now
in the hunter's eye
the young girl's form
moves
in laughing dance
arms gathering the laundry

she dreams
and surely she must hope

as finger tightens
upon trigger...

when it came
the explosion was
of such a force that
he came too

like Romeo's ghost upon
the imagination's palanquin of night

the bearers of the darkness
they toiled
underneath the thrust
of bullet and finger touching
the silenced heart
and
blood like a fountain
sprayed upon the sheets...
... some secret code
... that she read as
she fell dying to the roof

this -
her Rachel Corrie moment come
round at last.

[See my 6/7/10 post An Academy Award Performance]

"On my right was mounted a heavy machine gun. The gunner (normally the cook) was firing away with what I can only describe as a beatific smile on his face. He was exhilarated by the squeezing of the trigger, the hammering of the gun, and the flight of his tracers rushing out into the dark shore. It struck me then (and was confirmed by him and many others later) that squeezing the trigger - releasing a hail of bullets - gives enormous pleasure and satisfaction. These are the pleasures of combat, not in terms of the intellectual planning - of the tactical and strategic chess game - but of the primal aggression, the release, and the orgasmic discharge." (Ben Shalit, Israeli psychologist, quoted in On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War & Society, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, 1995, p 136)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Return to Sender

"Most people can see what is taking place on the ground in the Middle East. And they can see who needs our support. Everyone knows who's under the boot and who's got the mouthful of broken glass. The Palestinians are a prisoner nation, refugees and exiles treated as ghosts." (Here's hoping: Why I'm playing Britain's first major gig for Palestine, Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, guardian.co.uk, 15/10/04)

Most people... but not a certain letters editor:

Here's what the Sydney Morning Herald's letters editor, Mike Ticher, wrote today:

"Arguments about Israel and Palestine often seem to go in parallel tunnels with no connecting passages, and that was neatly illustrated by the response to Thursday's pieces by Antony Loewenstein and Colin Rubenstein. Many argued strenuously and coherently against one or the other, but almost no one tried to draw conclusions from a synthesis or overview of the two." (Postscript)

And here's the same guy on 17 January 2009:

"As ever most letters focused on moral rights and wrongs: who did what 40 or 60 years ago, who had or had not broken international law and was or was not justified in certain actions. Those certainly should be debated, but it would make a change to have a more pragmatic debate about what might realistically work to change the situation." (Postscript) [See my 20/1/09 post The SMH: Puerile & Pusillanimous.]

Oh, what a yawn it all is! Why can't they all just get together over a few bottles of chardonnay and sort things out sensibly?

Ticher's problem is that he just doesn't get it. He hasn't the nous to see that you can't synthesise colonialism and anti-colonialism, or occupation and resistance, or injustice and justice. He thinks history is merely academic. He cannot comprehend that, in the case of the Middle East conflict, the crimes of 1948 have been repeated every day since. For that matter, he probably knows nothing of 1948, and cares even less. He hasn't got a clue about the assymetric struggle against an utterly ruthless genocidal force that the Palestinian people are condemned to wage daily, whether they like it or not. He's obviously never had his back to the wall, the knife at his throat, or the boot on his neck. Hammer and anvil - it's all the same to him.

Our problem is that Ticher's inability to grasp such elementary matters determines that, for every honest and insightful letter on the conflict on his letters page, there will be, cheek by jowl, a thoroughly dishonest diatribe from one of the usual suspects.

Is it really too much to expect the letters editor of a paper such as the Herald to do a little honest reading on the Middle East conflict - a perennial subject for letter writers - before reflexively inflicting Zioprop or his own banal comments on us?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Herald Robs Loewenstein to Pay Rubenstein

On June 4 this year, on the occasion of Israel's Mavi Marmara massacre, the Sydney Morning Herald boldly - for the Herald that is - editorialised that "We believe that it is time for Jews of the diaspora to question Israel's actions. For too long the spectrum of Jewish opinion outside Israel has been narrowed on Middle East questions to a compulsory, unquestioning support for the Israeli government of the day, no matter what. A few brave individuals challenge this orthodoxy - to their cost." (Candour is not Israel's enemy)* [* See my 7/6/10 post The Herald Gets Bolshie.]

At the time, I fondly took this criticism for an indication that past editorial practice, which invariably involved the faux 'balancing' of any item critical of Israel (rare at best) with one taking the contrary view, always penned by a representative of one or other of the Zionist organisations that make up the Israel lobby, was about to change. Foolish me.

One of those few brave individuals referred to - anti-Zionist Jew, blogger and freelance journalist Antony Loewenstein - has, as far as I'm aware, only managed to crack the opinion pages of the Herald twice - twice! -on the issue of the Middle East conflict.

The first time was on January 5 (Gaza's suffering is Israel's shame). The second was today: Western politicians prefer to ignore Israel's inherent racism. The reference point for Loewenstein's piece was Israel's racist and discriminatory proposal to require non-Jews (mainly Palestinians) wishing to marry non-Jewish (ie Palestinian-) Israelis (and so becoming Israeli citizens) to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as 'a Jewish & democratic state'. Loewenstein's was predictably the kind of well-researched and insightful commentary we've come to expect from him. And good on the Herald for giving space on its opinion page to one of those aforementioned few brave individuals.

Except that the Herald has inexplicably reverted to past bad practice by publishing, bang next to Loewenstein's piece, a defence of the oath by those Jews of the diaspora it had earlier criticised for their compulsory, unquestioning support for the Israeli government of the day, no matter what, a sad reminder that the Herald did not have the courage of its convictions and was still in thrall to pressure from the Israel lobby to exclude or otherwise mute such voices as Loewenstein's. On no other issue can an independent writer know, with almost complete certainty, that, in the rare instance he manages to have an opinion piece published in the ms press, it will be accompanied, like the proverbial albatross around the neck, by a putrid propaganda piece.

To pick through just 3 strands of same - Oath's emphasis on a democratic nation state is soundly based, by the executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), Colin Rubenstein:

1) "[Israel's] oath is not dissimilar to the pledge new Australians recite."

See for yourself. Here's the text of Australia's Pledge of Commitment: "From this time forward, under God (optional), I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey." For it to be in any way similar to Israel's proposed new loyalty oath, Australia's PoC would need to be expanded to democratic and Christian beliefs.

2) "Let's go back to basics. The UN's 1947 Partition Plan called explicitly for the creation of a 'Jewish state', as well as an Arab state..."

Is Rubenstein seriously suggesting here that, in partitioning Palestine, the UN had anything in mind other than that the 'Jewish' state was for those Jews actually living within its confines at the time? There is no evidence whatever that the UN was in the business of rubber-stamping the Zionist fantasy that the 'Jewish' state referred to in the partition resolution was the sole property of Jews wherever in the world they happen to reside. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that the UN intended that the then existing Jewish community in Palestine had carte blanche to turf out the non-Jewish population (comprising almost 50% of the population) residing within its borders in order to make way for the likes of Colin Rubenstein, Vic Alhadeff and Co. (See my 11/11/08 post Talking Turkey on the Two-State Solution)

3) "Many democracies have 'established' religions, including Britain..."

I'm sorry, but the acquisition of UK citizenship is not, repeat not, based on birth to a Christian, let alone a Church of England, mother. (See my 30/6/09 post Calling Italy a Christian State which covers some of this territory.)

To return to the Herald editorial, in particular the sentence, "A few brave individuals challenge this orthodoxy - to their cost." What about a brave editor doing his/her bit? And if advertising revenue is affected, blow the bloody whistle! Now wouldn't that do wonders for the Herald's relevance?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meet Australia's Future Political Leaders

Here's a little rambam* that until now had slipped under my radar, probably because, as far as I'm aware, it received zero attention in the Australian ms media. The rambammed were a gaggle of Lib-Lab student politicians whose knowledge of the Middle East conflict appears to be zero, no doubt making them ideal material for a rambamming. Their essential cluelessness, and the wide-eyed innocence with which they appear to have taken the lolly waved at them by a certain unmentionable with a jutting agenda, surely marks them out for political office in this great nation of ours. [*For a definition, see my previous post.]

The extract below comes from a Jewish National Fund (JNF) press release, Young Australian politicians visit KKL Negev water projects, published in The Jerusalem Post on August 8. My comments in square brackets bold:

"'Many Middle-Eastern experts are of the opinion that future wars in the Middle East will be caused by the region's severe water shortage, which is why the issue is so high on Israel's priority list'. Tania Levi, a KKL-JNF tourist guide, was explaining the importance of KKL-JNF's water projects to a group of young Australian politicians who were visiting Israel as part of a fact-finding mission [!] to the Middle East. Members of the group included Duncan McDonald, John Shipp, Xavier Williams, Jesse Overton-Skinner, Eloise Howse, Jesse Marshall and Joel Burnie [of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)]. The organizers of the group's trip to Israel [Obviously, AIJAC] asked that the group visit KKL-JNF sites in the Negev desert where they could see Israel's water conservation efforts firsthand and understand their geopolitical significance. This was the first time that the group had heard about KKL-JNF [!!], so Tania briefly reviewed KKL-JNF's history and described the organization's unique position in Israel, emphasizing the fact that KKK-JNF is Israel's largest and and oldest green organization [!!! Just click on the JNF tag at the bottom of this post and check this one out. If you've only time for one post, read A Certain Jewish Tree Planting Group (14/6/08)] and leads the country's water recycling efforts. The site chosen as an example of a large-scale water recycling project in the desert was the recently dedicated Arye Pools near Beersheva, which is part of the Bnei Shimon region water reclamation project and is sponsored by JNF Australia. The building of the Arye Pools was made possible thanks to a contribution of Tom and Rae Mandel, also from Australia. Tania opened a map of Israel and showed the group where the Arye Pools and the Negev desert are located: 'To get an idea of how important water is to any agreement reached between the countries of the Middle East', Tania continued, 'let's look at the peace agreement Israel signed with Jordan. One of the stipulations of that contract is that Israel must provide Jordan with nearly 75 million cubic meters of water per year. This is quite an undertaking for a country with very limited freshwater resources. In order to be able to meet this obligation, Israel through KKL-JNF, has become the world leader [!!!!] in recycling purified sewage water for agricultural purposes. Almost 70% of our sewage is recycled, freeing up precious drinking water for domestic usage'." [What a wonderful neighbour Israel is! Sewage is recycled merely to please Jordan! Did our budding apparatchiks chorus 'Awesome!'?]

I interrupt young Tania for a minute to pose a question: What is the JNF really up to in the Negev?

In a word, Judaisation: "The [Israeli] government has several reasons for developing the Negev. It wants to bring jobs to rural Israel, more evenly distribute the country's population and tip the Arab-Jewish democratic balance in the Negev and Galilee regions - where there are heavy concentrations of Israeli Arabs - more solidly in favour of Jews. This is part and parcel with how Israel's leadership envisions the Jewish state. Not only must Israel as a whole be mostly Jewish, but every major region within it should be majority Jewish too... While the Negev is roughly 60% Jewish, the Arabs who live there - most of them Bedouin - have much higher birthrates than the local Jews. The government has tried to shore up the Jewish population of the Negev by encouraging new [Jewish] immigrants to move there... The JNF is investing $600 million [Tax free? but of course!] over 10 years in a plan called Blueprint Negev to build new communities in the rural desert, improve Beersheva's infrastructure, invest in the city's hospital, university and cultural institutions, and increase employment opportunities in the area." (The Negev's 21st-century pioneers, Uriel Heilman, B'nai B'rith Magazine, Winter 2008-2009)]

To return to Tania's greenwash: "KKL-JNF has built over 220 water reservoirs throughout the country over the past few years. In any future agreement with Palestinians, water will be a major issue. Water knows no political borders. If, for example, the Palestinian city of Nablus does not treat its sewage, it flows over the green line towards the Israeli city of Netanya [Is there no end to Palestinian terrorism?]... [T]he group was fascinated by Tania's detailed presentation, and asked many questions about KKL-JNF and the water crisis. They were especially interested to hear about recycling, desalination, and the proposed Dead Sea-Red Sea Canal. Their schedule, however, was very tight, and Tania wanted to show them how recycled water made the desert bloom... [An oldie, but a goldie. For the dirt on Israel's incredible reputation as a bloomer of deserts, see my 25/11/08 post Sir Bob Wows JNFaithful at Galah Dinner.]"

Dashed pity about the kids having such a tight schedule. I'm sure that's all that prevented them from popping into Beersheva's Ben-Gurion University and hearing from academic Neve Gordon a first hand account of Israel's other method of tipping the Arab-Jewish demographic balance more solidly in favour of Jews: ethnic cleansing: "The signs of destruction [in the Bedouin village of Arakib] were immediately evident. I first noticed the chickens and geese running loose near a bulldozed house, and then saw another house and then another one, all of them in rubble. A few children were trying to find a shaded spot to hide from the scorching desert sun, while behind them a stream of black smoke rose from the burning hay. The sheep, goats and cattle were nowhere to be seen - perhaps because the police had confiscated them. Scores of Bedouin men were standing on a yellow hill, sharing their experiences from the early morning hours, while all around them uprooted olive trees lay on the ground. A whole village comprising between 40 and 45 houses had been completely razed in less than 3 hours." (Ethnic cleansing in the Israeli Negev: The razing of a Bedouin village by Israeli police show just how far the state will go to achieve its aim of Judaising the Negev region, guardian.co.uk, 28/7/10)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Record Rambam

Rambam (v): To be sponsored by smooth-talking Israel lobbyists in Australia on a grooming session conducted by tough-talking PR people in Israel with a view to the sponsored adopting the missionary position for Israel when called upon in Australia. Usually said of Australian politicians, media hacks and other serviceable community misleaders.

Rambam Fellowship, Journalists Mission, Australia Israel Leadership Forum etc: Formal designations given to the process of rambamming. (From MERC's Dictionary of Zionist Discourse)

This is my 39th post on the subject of rambamming. The practice, as you'll see from the following report in today's Australian, is booming. And, take note, for the very first time, the ABC is getting in on the act. (My own comments in square brackets. Serial offenders (SO) are indicated where known. For the details see my 30/3/09 post I've been to Israel too):

"The largest ever Australian parliamentary delegation to visit Israel will travel to Jerusalem as part of a dialogue hosted by the privately funded Australia Israel Leadership Forum. Julia Gillard has given approval for 6 ministers and parliamentary secretaries to be part of the trip led by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd [SO]. They will be part of a record 17 members of the House of Representatives and Senate who will take part in the December visit. The other Labor MPs are Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Industry Minister Kim Carr, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs [In view of our voting pattern in the UN, how fascinating!] Richard Marles and MPs Michael Danby [SO. Labor's unofficial Minister for Israel] and Anthony Byrne. Bill Shorten [SO], the Assistant Treasurer, is expected to join.

"The Liberal Party plans to send 9 members and senators - deputy leader, Julie Bishop [SO], Christopher Pyne [SO], Andrew Robb [SO], George Brandis [SO], Kevin Andrews, Brett Mason [SO], Mitch Fifield [SO], Steven Ciobo and Guy Barnett [SO].

"And the ABC will break with long-held tradition and allow a journalist to attend, political editor Chris Uhlmann. AILF is the project of Melbourne property developer Albert Dadon... Mr Dadon said the record number of participants 'is testimony of the goodwill that exists between Australia and Israel'.

"Asked who was paying for the 17 MPs, Mr Dadon said: 'The general rule for parliamentarians taking part... is that they pay their own way to Israel and we take care of all expenses on the ground except for ministers, who are also paying for their expenses'.

"Five journalists are expected to attend, Uhlmann, Greg Sheridan [SO] from The Australian, Steve Lewis from News Limited, Tony Walker [author of a bio of Arafat] from The Australian Financial Review and Lenore Taylor from The Sydney Morning Herald.

"On the trip, a ceremony will be held at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum to honour William Cooper, the Aborigine who led a protest to the German consulate in Melbourne in 1938 after Kristallnacht (On November 9, 1938, the Nazis launched their first anti-Semitic attack on German Jews, to become known as the Night of the Broken Glass.) While various organisations protested after Kristallnacht, Cooper is the only known individual to have organised a demonstration*. Funding for a 'chair' dedicated to studying resistance during the Holocaust will be formalised. 'It's fitting that the study chair at Yad Vashem that will be researching the resistance against the Nazi occupation during the Holocaust be dedicated to the memory of the only man in the world who had the courage to protest and stand up against Kristallnacht', Mr Dadon said." (Record number of pollies to join tour of Israel, John Lyons) [* See my 2/8/10 post Insufficiently Righteous]

Unbelievable!

This man alleges he lost a few night's sleep before joining Bush's War of Aggression against Iraq in 2003: "By now Iraq was dominating my thinking. Other issues were dealt with, but the prospect of ordering forces into battle in a conflict that would be divisive in Australia troubled me. I wrote in my diary on February 19 [2003]: 'Anyone who thinks that I'm a warmonger should understand how I feel. I think about it all the time, have broken sleep and hope that a late capitulation (very unlikely) or assassination of Saddam will remove the need for military action'." (Why we took on Saddam's Iraq, John Howard, The Australian, 25/10/10)

The Bush/Blair/Howard War of Aggression against Iraq, and the Belligerent Occupation which followed, transformed it into a scene from Dante's Inferno: "Hundreds of the leaked war logs reflect the fertile imagination of the torturer faced with the entirely helpless victim - bound, gagged, blindfolded and isolated - who is whipped by men in uniforms using wire cables, metal rods, rubber hoses, wooden stakes, TV antennae, plastic water pipes, engine fan belts or chains. At the torturer's whim, the logs reveal, the victim can be hung by his wrists or by his ankles; knotted up in stress positions; sexually molested or raped; tormented with hot peppers, cigarettes, acid, pliers or boiling water - and always with little fear of retribution since, far more often than not, if the Iraqi official is assaulting an Iraqi civilian, no further investigation will be required. Most of the victims are young men, but there are also logs which record serious and sexual assaults on women; on young people, including a boy of 16 who was hung from the ceiling and beaten; the old and vulnerable, including a disabled man whose damaged leg was deliberately attacked. The logs identify perpetrators from every corner of the Iraqi security apparatus - soldiers, police officers, prison guards, border enforcement patrols. There is no question of the coalition forces not knowing that their Iraqi comrades are doing this: the leaked war logs are the internal records of those forces." (Iraq war logs: Secret order that let US ignore abuse, Nick Davies, guardian.co.uk, 22/10/10)

Today, the man who aided and abetted this Crime against Humanity, former Australian prime minister John Howard, is basking in the media spotlight, and, presumably, sleeps soundly in his bed.*

Yet the man who blew the whistle on this Crime against Humanity, by leaking the Iraq war logs, is a fugitive: "Julian Assange moves like a hunted man. In a noisy Ethiopian restaurant in the Paddington district, he pitches his voice barely above a whisper to foil the Western intelligence agencies he fears. He demands that his dwindling number of loyalists use expensive encrypted phones and swaps his own as other men change shirts. He checks into hotels under false names, dyes his hair, sleeps on sofas and floors, and uses cash instead of credit cards, often borrowed from friends." (Assange increasingly on his own as former colleagues abandon him, Burns & Somalya, The New York Times/Sydney Morning Herald, 25/10/10)

[*"[I]n his first year of retirement, Howard has racked up a $1 million bill at taxpayers' expense." (Ex-PM John Howard costs taxpayers more in retirement, Peter Rolfe, news.com.au, 2/8/09)]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Round Round Get Around... 7

They get around:

"On 7 April, Freda Guttman, a 76-year-old Jewish Montrealer, received a visit from agents of the Canadian Security & Intelligence Service (CSIS). She slammed the door on them so it's not clear if the visit was related to her role in Tadamon!, a Middle East solidarity collective, or her friendship with Canadian activist... Stefan Christoff. A tall, mild-mannered 29-year-old, Christoff has been one of Montreal's most effective grassroots activists for the past decade. Involved with various issues, recently he's devoted himself to Palestinian solidarity work, including the highly successful Artists Against Apartheid (AAA)... In the past 8 months at least 7 of Christoff's friends have been visited by CSIS agents. These unannounced visits usually take place early in the morning. The agents ask questions about Christoff's trips to the Middle East or AAA and in some cases they've feigned concern for the Palestinian cause, implying Christoff's radical activist roots might hurt it... The Conservatives have also strengthened Canadian intelligence cooperation with Israel. In early 2008 Ottawa signed a wide-ranging 'border management and security' agreement with Israel, even though the two countries do not share a border." (Is Canada passing information on its citizens to Israel? Yves Engler, electronicintifada.net, 17/8/10)

"A claim that Israel is using wiretapping equipment it sold Ankara to listen in on Turkish citizens is making headlines in that country. According to the pro-government newspaper Taraf, the Turkish army's deputy chief of staff, Aslan Guner, purchased sophisticated wiretapping equipment in Israel in 2007 to aid Turkey in fighting the Kurdish PKK, which is considered a terror group by Turkey. However, the newspaper claims the Israel Defense Forces communications branch has allegedly used the equipment to listen in on 2,000 Turkish citizens, including political activists, members of opposition parties and academics. According to information Taraf received from a senior army officer, Turkey gave Israel technical details of the GSM, or Global System for Mobile Communications, used in Turkish cell phones, so it could conform the equipment to it. This information, according to the officer, allows Israel to listen in on the cell phone conversations of any Turkish citizen..." ('Israel uses wiretapping equipment it sold to Turkey on Turkish citizens', Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, 2/9/10)

"The Iranians to the east, beyond the mountain, fire mortars at them, while the Turks to the west attack them with fighter-bombers and drones, with Israeli help... But no one can subdue these mountain people. As far as the PKK is concerned, its only major defeat was the capture of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who is now in a Turkish prison. That operation, too, involved assistance from Israeli intelligence, and I was still debating over whether it would be a good idea to tell the Kurdish commanders whom I was about to meet where I come from and where I live, or whether I should simply identify myself by my foreign passport. I had asked the go-betweens who guided me on the 5-hour trip to these mountains that I be given as much access as possible - namely an interview with the current leader of the PKK, Murat Karayilan. They told me they didn't know, and it seemed unlikely to them, but I might be able to talk to one of his deputies. They were vague on that, too. No one outside these mountains is supposed to know what any of the senior commanders is planning to do at any given moment. And obviously no such information should be given to journalists - especially not a journalist from Israel, which has been screwing them over for years." (PKK leader: Israel is helping Turkey to destroy us, Itai Anghel, Haaretz, 22/9/10)

"[Ecuador President Rafael] Correa's financial policies, as well as his foreign policy that saw him order out the American base at Manta and establish close ties with Venezuela, Iran, and other countries inimical to American and Israeli hegemony, placed a huge CIA and Mossad target on Correa's back. In June, Ecuador sponsored a resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Lima condemning Israel's attack on the Turkish aid flotilla transporting humanitarian aid to Gaza. Ten nations voted with Ecuador in support of the resolution. The uprising among Ecuadorean Air Force ranks, with Air Force personnel taking over and shutting down Quito's international airport, will have Ecuadorian counter-intelligence personnel looking closely at the possible role of Israeli technicians and trainers who support the Air Force's 26 Israeli-made Kfir combat planes. Israel also reportedly sold Python-3 air-to-air missiles to the Ecuadorian Air Force in 1997. Mossad also has its hooks into the Ecuadorian National Police, where the main coup plotters received support. Mossad is chiefly tasked with spying on Ecuador's large Ecuadorian-Arab community. The activities of the Mossad station at the Israeli embassy in Quito before and during the coup attempt will also draw the attention of counter-intelligence officers. Last year, Tel Aviv-based On Track Innovations received a contract to provide an electronic biometric-based electronic identification card system to Ecuador's Central registry office." (Obama administration fingerprints on Ecuador coup attempt, Wayne Madsen, voltairenet.org, 3/10/10)

"An Israeli man was arrested Thursday after he allegedly threatened to kill himself and all the passengers on board a Qantas flight from Australia to Hong Kong, according to various media sources. The 23-year-old Israeli allegedly started shouting that he would open the emergency doors and kill everyone, in what was described by witnesses as a nervous breakdown. The man apparently complained about the food and the service before the episode. Passengers on board the plane said the man was restrained by the the aircraft crew after he allegedly prayed in Hebrew and then went off on a tirade threatening to open the doors saying it was 'God's will'. Hong Kong police arrested the man after the aircraft landed." (Israeli arrested after threatening to kill passengers on Qantas flight, Haaretz, 7/10/10)

Meet Idris Mercus

You're all familiar with Palestinian Media Watch and its dear old director, Itamar Marcus, aren't you? Well, he's popped up again in Australia and he's been "speaking to a [blessedly] small gathering hosted by Albert Dadon, founder of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum," and explaining how "the Palestinian people are not ready for peace.":

"The Palestinians are saying one thing in English while contradicting themselves in Arabic, according to Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus... Marcus showed footage from a recent documentary, which speaks of a Palestinian state spreading along the Mediterranean from Gaza to Ashkelon to Haifa. He also displayed pages from schoolbooks with the Palestinian flag covering all the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories. 'There is a constant message to see a world in which Israel does not exist', Marcus explained." (Language barrier stalls peace, The Australian Jewish News, 22/10/10)

Well, it's time to meet Israeli Media Watch and its director, Idris Mercus:

'The Israelis and their overseas embeds are saying one thing in Hebrew while contradicting themselves in English', according to Israeli Media Watch director Idris Mercus... Mercus displayed a graphic in The Australian Jewish News of 15/10/10 (p 7) with the Israeli flag covering all the occupied Palestinian territories and the State of Israel. He also showed a State Zionist Council of NSW advertisement in the AJN of 22/10/10 (p 19) which failed to differentiate between Israel improper and the occupied Palestinian territories. 'There is a constant message to see a world in which Palestine does not exist', Mercus explained.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Burqa Rage

"Andrew White (Letters, October 22) says he 'shook with rage' watching Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie deliver their emotional speeches. Doesn't anyone feel that same rage when they see burqa-clad Afghan women or when they hear of girls having acid thrown in their faces for wanting to go to school? That people are willing to ignore these conditions in Afghanistan makes me shudder." Alice Khatchigian*, Ermington, Sydney Morning Herald, 23/10/10

OK, Alice, off you go! Rip off those bloody burqas! Stand between the acid throwers and their victims! No, writing a letter on such a subject isn't enough. Action speaks louder than words. Oh, so that's what our troops are there for? To save brown women from brown men? Well, why doesn't the PM just say so?

[See my 3/12/09 post Revolted]

Talk & Take

All you need to know about the Israeli approach to negotiations - a Circus Israel classic:

Israel to Defend Copyright on Bullshit Negotiations

"PM Binyamin Netanyahu declared today that Israel will take Iran to court. Almost immediately after the Iranian regime recently agreed to discussions and inspections for its nuclear enrichment program, Israel's leaders began threatening to enforce the Jewish State's ownership rights over the combination of phony, time-consuming negotiations and irreversible facts on the ground. But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ignored Israel's demands and persisted with conciliatory gestures toward the '5+1 Group' and the International Atomic Energy Agency. By this morning, Israel's cabinet had lost patience. It instructed government attorneys to take action against Iran's flagrant infringement of Israel's internationally recognized copyright. We wrote the book on 'Talk & Take', said Israel's insufferable Vice Prime Minister, Silvan Shalom. We put decades of R&D into this. The right balance of talking peace and absorbing what we want, the way we time and exaggerate our overtures and spin our expansions, one temporary step forward and ten permanent steps back. This's our work product. It belongs to the Jewish people.

"Israeli officials are particularly upset that Ahmadinejad believes himself capable of managing a sophisticated 'Talk & Take' program. That provincial fruitcake in a cheap windbreaker thinks he can play our game? asked Moshe 'Bogie' Ya'alon, Israel's other - and equally unnecessary - Vice Prime Minister. When I see him making those monkey smiles and going all nicey-nice, it just makes my blood boil. Cut the crap and act like the psycho you really are. Wait'll our lawyers get done with him.

"In fact, Israel's lawyers are already drafting formal petitions to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). But Israel has had its difficulties with both. It blasted the ICJ for a 2004 advisory opinion condemning Israel's West Bank separation barrier, and it repudiated the ICC's jurisdiction in 2002. So what? snapped vital Minister Without Portfolio Benny Begin. Now we want something.

"But let's be clear that these allegations can't be turned against us, cautioned smarmy President Shimon Peres. When you begin discussing insincere negotiations in the context of nuclear ambiguity, the State of Israel must not be put on the defensive.

"Disintegrating Israeli historian Benny Morris predicts swift victory for Israel in the international tribunals. From the inception of the movement toward a Jewish state, he said, Zionist leaders have consistently refreshed their ownership of faux flexibility coupled with implacable territorial usurpation. No Israeli leader can allow dilution of our rights, Morris said. Ben-Gurion would turn over in his grave. Arik Sharon would - wait, is he dead yet or what? (circusisrael.blogspot.com, 11/10/09)

SuperVic?

Faster than a speeding (IDF) bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound. Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's SuperVic! Yes, it's SuperVic - strange visitor from apartheid South Africa who came to Australia with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. SuperVic - who can change the course of mighty Mandelas, bend Australian politicians with his bare hands, and, disguised as Vic Alhadeff, mild-mannered former Australian Jewish News reporter turned Israel lobby supremo, fights the never ending battle for Strewth, Justice (Israeli-style) and the Zionist Way:

"Vic Alhadeff is the current chief executive officer of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and an outspoken supporter of Israel. Vic grew up in South Africa after his parents managed to escape from the Holocaust in Europe, but his childhood was still full of anti-Semitic experiences. In later years, as a crusading journalist in South Africa, he played a role in uncovering a scandal which brought down the prime minister of the day. Firmly opposed to apartheid, he worked against it and even confronted Nelson Mandela personally when he felt the great man had been hypocritical... He worked in South Africa where, as chief sub-editor of The Cape Times he played his part in exposing the biggest scandal of the day. 'It was an exciting time, but it was also a time where one could at least feel that one was opposing this horrific racist system and doing what one could. When my wife and I were getting married there was never a doubt in our minds that we would leave South Africa [this was still 1984]. We simply did not want to bring our children up in a country which judged people on the colour of their skin'. They moved to Israel, but Vic knew he couldn't stay there for too long. 'Socially, we were extremely happy there. It's a very robust democracy, and being a journalist at heart I very much appreciated that, and we very much enjoyed the open lifestyle. The problem for me as a journalist was the language. Professionally, I knew that I needed to get back into an English-speaking country'. After moving to Australia, he became editor of The Australian Jewish News. 'It wasn't just writing another story, it was dealing with issues that I care about. That's what took me into Jewish journalism - [issues] ranging from discrimination and anti-Semitism to giving me a platform to promote and advocate on behalf of human rights issues, whether or not they were intrinsically Jewish'." (Former journalist Vic Alhadaff, abc.net.au, 22/1/08)

Nah, it's just a bird:

"Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, was a sub-editor on The Cape Times newspaper in Cape Town at the time of the Soweto Riots. Then 24 years old, his version of the dark chapter in South Africa's apartheid history is through a journalist's eyes. 'Under the apartheid regime, South Africa had a draconian system of laws, which tightly restricted every word that appeared in the media', he said. As a sub-editor at The Cape Times, Alhadeff's task was to select stories for publication, edit them and design the pages. 'We consistently erred on the side of caution because we knew from harsh experience what the penalties were for violating the censorship laws. Journalists were monitored, banned, arrested, deported', he said. Such close monitoring affected the journalists' choice of content for the paper. Reporting an anti-apartheid demonstration could be construed as promoting the aims of a banned organisation, and it was also an offence to quote banned people or publish their photographs. Such restrictions meant opportunities for whites to hear the voices of the oppressed majority were scarce. 'All of which meant that a lid was kept on awareness of the extent to which anti-apartheid sentiment was brewing. When the Soweto riots erupted therefore, they were a shock to the system', Alhadeff said. He mentioned the earlier watershed protest, when thousands of blacks gathered outside the Sharpeville police station in 1960, and 69 were shot dead. 'Soweto was the other major signal that the iniquitous system called apartheid could not be sustained - that despite the suffocating authoritarian controls, a mass of people was desperate for its place in the sun and could not and would not be denied'." (Riots of change, The Australian Jewish News, 26/6/09)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists of Palestine

Anti-Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) crusader, Paul Howes, is gearing up to head off a push by a group of Australian unions to have the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) declare its support for BDS*.

In a recent speech to his fans at the Zionist Federation of Australia in Melbourne, Howes, who moonlights as national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, made much of a certain "landmark" agreement between the Israeli trade union federation, Histadrut, and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU): "The reality is that despite the headlines most of the trade union movement in Australia, and across the globe, has not backed BDS... Let's remember just a few months ago, in Vancouver, Canada, the World Congress of the global union movement, the International Trade Union Confederation - the ITUC - stared down attempts to label Israel an apartheid state... In an even-handed response - this was supported by both the Palestinian and Israeli trade unions - the World Congress praised the landmark agreement between the Histadrut and the PGFTU on the rights of Palestinian workers. The ITUC - now led by my former ACTU colleague Sharan Burrow** - of course played a key role in delivering that Palestinian-Israeli agreement... Most importantly... the Israeli national trade union centre, the Histadrut, was honoured by the global trade union movement. Its leader, Ofer Eini, was elevated to the ITUC's 25 member Executive Board, as well as its General Council.. Mr Eini was also elected as one of the global union group's Vice Presidents." (Standing up to the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement, awu.net.au, 10/10/10) [* See my 15/10/10 post Watch This Space ** See my 29/9/09 post ACTU: Missing in Action]

The Histadrut-PGFTU agreement is described on the ITUC website thus: "The key features of the agreenent include the reimbursement by Histadrut to the PGFTU of the outstanding balance of union and legal representation fees paid by Palestinians working for Israeli employers. The reimbursement is based on a detailed year-by-year analysis of the fees paid by Palestinian workers, taking into account funds previously transferred to the PGFTU. The PGFTU will have sole discretion as to how the funds will be spent, in line with its Constitution. In the future, at least 50% of the representation fees paid by Palestinians working for Israeli employers will be transferred to the PGFTU, to enable both organizations to provide representation, legal and other trade union services to the workers." (Israeli & Palestinian trade unions reach historic agreement, 6/8/08)

Given that this is the flimsy peg on which Howes hangs his grandiose-sounding, BDS-bashing outfit, Trade Unions Linking Israel & Palestine (TULIP), the Histadrut warrants closer examination:

It is certainly no ACTU. From its inception in 1920, the Histadrut has been "at the spearhead of the Zionist colonization in Palestine. Its choice position among the country's Zionist colonizers and its extremely strong organization made it a pioneer in agricultural colonization and in securing jobs for Jewish workers*, by evicting and excluding Arab peasants and workers. The Zionist slogans of the 20s and 30s - 'the Conquest of Work' and 'the Conquest of the Land' - found their principal realizers in the Histadrut." (The Other Israel: The Radical Case Against Zionism, ed. Arie Bober, 1972, p 124) [* The Histadrut was known until 1966 as the General Confederation of Hebrew Labour.]

With the Conquest of the Land (of Palestine) completed in 1967 and the Conquest of Work a fading memory, the Histadrut (in tandem with the Israeli government) turned from evicting and excluding Palestinian peasants and workers to robbing them blind. An enlightening January 2010 report by Kav LaOved and The Alternative Information Centre (AIC), The Economy of the Occupation (Zohar & Hever), tells how. It is worth quoting at length:

"Summary: Excessive deductions from Palestinian workers: In this report we propose an approximate calculation of amounts that the Department of Payments deducted from the salaries of Palestinian workers from the Occupied Palestinian Territoies (OPT) who were employed in Israel, or which were deducted for them from their employers, from 1970 to 2009. These amounts of money were formally deducted in order to finance various social rights for the workers, but in practice, a majority of the money was transferred to the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Histadrut. The calculation shows that over decades, the State of Israel accumulated a debt of billions of shekels to the Palestinian workers. This debt must be paid to the workers themselves or to their beneficiaries, in accordance with the full and detailed lists of the Department of Payments.

"The declared goal of establishing the Department of Payments was to equalise the salary condition of Palestinian workers from the OPT to those of Israeli workers. The Department was established in 1970 and belonged, until 2009, to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour (today it is attached to the Ministry of Interior, after Palestinian workers were defined as 'foreign workers'). The State obligated employers... to transfer the gross salary of the Palestinian workers to the Department of Payments.

"The Department of Payments is supposed to deduct from the salaries various taxes and deductions for social benefits equal to those of Israeli workers. In upholding its obligation to deduct money from the Palestinian wages, the Department was stringently meticulous. However, in upholding its obligation to provide workers with services and benefits in exchange for these deductions, the Department was negligent. Thus, for example, 92% of the money supposedly deducted for National Insurance for old age payments, disability, unemployment and child payments was transferred to the Ministry of Finance. Money was transferred to National Insurance only for insurance in cases of work accidents and bankruptcy of the employer. This is the most scathing example, but not the only one, of cruel theft under the protection of a government decision, the declared goal of which is 'protection' of Palestinian workers. We made the calculation for Palestinian workers who formerly worked in Israel. Two groups of Palestinian workers are prominently absent from this report: Palestinian workers in the Israeli settlements in the OPT and informal Palestinan workers, whose salaries were not transferred through the Department of Payments. Separate research should be undertaken concerning these groups..." (pp 6-8)

Fast forwarding to the exact amount : "The calculated amount of debt without interest is NIS 3.082 billion, and with interest the amount reaches NIS 8.350 billion. It is important to note that this calculation is accurate to 2009, in 2008 prices, and does not include central elements for which information is not available. The calculation is therefore lacking." (p 23)

While the report discusses a range of deductions, for the sake of brevity and because it mentions our "landmark Histadrut-PGFTU agreement," I'll zero in on item 4 only:

"4. Organising fees - Histadrut: In a 1970 government decision, which established the Department of Payments, the Histadrut also received a piece of the pie. Palestinian workers were forced to pay 'orgainizing fees' to the Histadrut at a level of 0.7% of their salaries. The Histadrut allocated to the workers individual assistance, but no defence of their rights vis-a-vis the Ministry of Finance and Department of Payments. Through its constitution, the Histadrut even denied the right of workers who are not citizens of Israel to become members.

"On 6 August 2008, the Histadrut signed an agreement with the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU). The Histadrut transferred to the PGFTU the amount of US$3.6 million (NIS 12.76 million, according to the exchange rate on the date of the agreement), an amount meant to represent the organizing fees collected since 1993. According to our calculations, from 1993 to 2008, the Histadrut collected organising fees from the Palestinian workers in Israel in the amount of NIS 66.2 million (not including interest): more than five times the amount returned by the Histadrut. The agreement additionally determined that half of the organizing fees collected by the Histadrut after signing would be transferred to the PGFTU.

"Based on a calculation of 0.7% of the salary of Palestinian workers as organizing fees for the Histadrut until May 2005 (when the fees were raised to 0.8%), we reached an amount of NIS 132 million (in 2008 prices) which was deducted from 1970 to 2009 as organising fees. After deducting the money that was transferred to the PGFTU and half of the fees in 2009, excessive deductions in the amount of NIS 116 million remain.

"Addititionally, the Department deducted an additional 2.74% for a Provident Fund and health tax, which were included in the same package of deductions as organising fees for the Histadrut. The health tax covered health insurance of the workers in the OPT. It is unknown to us where the money deducted for the Provident Fund went and on what authority it was deducted.

"On the basis of a circular of the Department of Payments, we know that for the Provident Fund, NIS 0.54 were taken from every worker in the construction sector for each day of work at least until 1993, ie. 3.1% of their salary. From here we calculated that from 1970 to 1993, NIS 152 million (in 2008 prices) were taken from them for the Provident Fund. We do not know if this deduction continued after 1993, but we do know that the workers did not receive a Provident Fund.

"Under the false definition of Palestinians as 'daily' or 'temporary' workers, a majority of the benefits determined in the collective bargaining agreements of the Histadrut with the employers were stolen from Palestinian workers, including increments for security, family upkeep, grants for not missing work, a 13th salary in the agricultural sector and more." (pp 11-13)

The term 'short end of the stick' comes to mind here, but, in light of the report's findings (dismissed by the Histadrut as "tendentious and false" (p 21)), it looks like the PGFTU (and those it supposedly represents) have been given more of a poke in the eye with a burnt stick. BDS activists take note.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dolchstosslegende

"'The last thing that people would want to see is soldiers* being stabbed in the back by their own government and I know a lot of people think that's what's happening', Mr Abott told the Macquarie Radio Network this morning, a day after returning from a visit to Australian troops in Afghanistan." (Tony Abott accuses government of 'deep failure' to support charged soldiers, Joe Kelly, The Australian, 12/10/10)

Hm... stabbed in the back. Now where have we heard that before?

"The Stab-in-the-Back Legend (German: Dolchstosslegende) was a right-wing political legend of post-First World War Germany, which remained current until the eve of the Second World War. In attributing Imperial German loss of the war to the public's failure in answering their 'patriotic calling', and to the war effort-sabotage of the Socialists, the Bolsheviks, and the Jews, and not to the Reichsheer's inability to engage battle, it exonerated the military of their defeat... Historically, the Dolchstosslegende proved important to the political ascension of Adolf Hitler; as the Nazi Party grew, it maintained an original, true-believer base, embittered Great War veterans who believed the patriotic legend and its mythic interpretation of Germany's recent military history. The Dolchstosslegende ideologically encapsulates the justifications of Nazi Germany's persecution and murder of Jews, Communists, Socialists, intellectuals, bringing into line every dissident." (Stab-in-the-back legend, Wikipedia)

[*Three Australian commandos are to be prosecuted for manslaughter in relation to a raid on a house in Afghanistan in 2008, which resulted in the deaths of 6 civilians, including 5 children.]

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Was Iran's Election 'Stolen'?

For our ms media operatives, Iran's 'stolen' 2009 election is enshrined in the halls of received wisdom along with Ahmadinejad's alleged threat to 'wipe Israel off the map'*:

"The most extraordinary thing about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rock-star welcome in Beirut this week is that it would not happen in his own capital, Tehran. Millions in Iran believe Ahmadinejad stole last year's presidential election - the evidence is strong. While he still has support in remote and rural parts, in larger cities such as Tehran, Shiraz and Esfahan he is largely despised." (Ahmadinejad rock star welcome proves who's paying the piper, John Lyons, The Australian, 16/10/10)

The evidence is strong? Really? Please consider:

"There is hardly any election, in which the White House has a significant stake, where the electoral defeat of the pro-US candidate is not denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite... The recently concluded, June 12, 2009 elections in Iran are a classic case: The incumbent nationalist-populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received 63.3% of the vote... The opposition led by Hossein Mousavi did not accept their defeat and organized a series of mass demonstrations that turned violent, resulting in the burning and destruction of automobiles, banks, public buildings and armed confrontations with the police and other authorities. Almost the entire spectrum of Western opinion makers, including all the major liberal, radical, libertarian and conservative web-sites, echoed the opposition's claim of rampant electoral fraud...

"What is astonishing about the West's universal condemnation of the electoral outcome as fraudulent is that not a single shred of evidence in either written or observational form has been presented either before or a week after the vote count. During the entire electoral campaign, no credible (or even dubious) charge of vote tampering was raised... As long as the Western media believed their own propaganda of an imminent victory for their candidate, the electoral process was described as highly competitive, with heated public debates and unprecedented levels of public activity, and unhindered by public proselytizing. The belief in a free and open election was so strong that the Western leaders and mass media believed that their favored candidate would win.

"The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations of opposition supporters, ignoring and downplaying the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations - the fact that the incumbent candidate was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while the bulk of the opposition demonstrators was drawn from the upper and middle class students, business and professional class.

"Moreover, most Western opinion leaders and reporters based in Tehran extrapolated their projections from their observations in the capital - few venture into the provinces, small and medium sized cities and villages where Ahmadinejad has his mass base of support. Moreover, the opposition's supporters were an activist minority of students easily mobilised for street activities, while Ahmadinejad's support drew on the majority of working youth and household women workers who would express their views at the ballot box and had little time or inclination to engage in street politics.

"A number of newspaper pundits... claim as evidence of electoral fraud the fact that Ahmadinejad won 63% of the vote in an Azeri-speaking province against his opponent, Mousavi, an ethnic Azeri. The simplistic assumption is that ethnic identity or belonging to a linguistic group is the only possible explanation of voting behavior rather than other social or class interests. A closer look at the voting pattern in the East-Azerbaijan region of Iran reveals that Mousavi won only in the city of Shabestar among the upper and the middle classes (and only by a small margin), whereas he was soundly defeated in the larger rural areas, where the re-distributive policies of the Ahmadinejad government had helped the ethnic Azeris write off debt, and obtain cheap credits and easy loans for the farmers. Mousavi did win in the West-Azerbaijan region, using his ethnic ties to win over the urban voters in the densely populated Tehran province... by gaining the vote of the middle and upper class districts, whereas he lost badly in the adjoining working class suburbs, small towns and rural areas.

"The careless and distorted emphasis on 'ethnic voting' cited by writers from The Financial Times and The New York Times to justify calling Ahmadinejad's victory a 'stolen vote' is matched by the media's willful and deliberate refusal to acknowledge a rigorous nationwide public opinion poll** conducted by two US experts just 3 weeks before the vote, which showed Ahmedinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin - even larger than his electoral victory on June 12. This poll revealed that among ethnic Azeris, Ahmadinejad was favored by a 2 to 1 margin over Mousavi, demonstrating how class interests represented by one candidate can overcome the ethnic identity of the other candidate. The poll also demonstrated how class issues, within age groups, were more influential in shaping political preferences than 'generational lifestyle'. According to this poll, over two-thirds of Iranian youth were too poor to have access to a computer and the 18-24 year olds 'comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all groups'. The only group which consistently favored Mousavi was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class. The 'youth vote', which the Western media praised as 'pro-reformist', was a clear minority of less than 30% but came from a highly privileged, vocal and largely English-speaking group with a monopoly on the Western media. Their overwhelming presence in the Western news reports created what has been referred to as the 'North Tehran syndrome', for the comfortable upper class enclave from which many of these students come. While they may be articulate, well- dressed and fluent in English, they were soundly out-voted in the secrecy of the ballot box.

"In general, Ahmadinejad did very well in the oil and chemical producing provinces. This may have been a reflection of the oil workers' opposition to the 'reformist' program, which included proposals to 'privatize' public enterprises. Likewise, the incumbent did very well [in] the border provinces because of his emphasis on strengthening national security from US and Israeli threats in light of an escalation of US-sponsored cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan and Israeli-backed incursions from Iraqi Kurdistan, which have killed scores of Iranian citizens...

"What Western commentators and their Iranian proteges have ignored is the powerful impact which the devastating US wars and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan had on Iranian public opinion: Ahmadinejad's strong position on defence matters contrasted with the pro-Western and weak defense postures of many of the opposition's campaign propagandists.

"The great majority of voters probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity." (From Iranian Elections: The 'Stolen Elections' Hoax, in Global Depression & Regional Wars, James Petras, 2009, pp 190-193)

[* See my 29/2/08 post Ahmadinejad: Our Part in His Downfall. **This poll was acknowledged in Lyons' own paper but only by way of a dismissive commentary by The Times' Martin Fletcher: "'The fact may be that the re-election of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people want', the pollsters Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty wrote in The Washington Post." The best case Fletcher could make out for electoral fraud, however, was: "There is no proof that Mr Ahmadinejad's victory was secured by fraud, but there is plenty of circumstantial evidence." (No proof of a fix, but much evidence, 19/6/09)]

Monday, October 18, 2010

One Incredibly Useful Fool

"[W]e live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews... There are many people waging this war. Some blow up cafes. Some fire rockets into civilian areas. Some are pursuing nuclear arms. Some are fighting the soft war, through international boycotts and resolutions condemning Israel." (No ceasefire means no peace in war on Israel, Rupert Murdoch, The Australian, 16/10/10)

And some are just collecting gravel...

"The Israeli military has been urged to investigate the recent shootings of at least 12 impoverished Palestinian teenagers and young men collecting gravel in an effort to eke out an income within 800 metres of Gaza's heavily guarded northern border. The youngsters - including at least 2 under 15 - were shot and injured as they gathered the gravel to sell cement manufacturers struggling to meet a fraction of the demand for building materials still banned from entering Gaza through Israel. The shootings - highlighted in reports by two human rights agencies - are the latest development to come to light in a more general military enforcement of a 'buffer zone' inside Gaza's border." ( Israeli soldiers 'shot at children collecting gravel by Gaza border', Donald Macintyre, The Independent, 12/10/10)

But, hey, "[t]he peace we all want will come when Israel feels secure..." (No ceasefire)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the winner of this year's Aaron Klein Award...

... for Schmoozing with Tewworists is... Antonio Salas (aka Mohammed Abdullah)!

Not content with serving up Koutsoukis' nonsense, the Fairfax press also saw fit to try us this weekend with When Carlos the Jackal called for a chat (Giles Tremlett, Guardian/Sydney Morning Herald, 16/10/10). Some doozies:

"Few undercover reporters have been prepared to sacrifice as much as the Spaniard who goes by the pseudonym of Antonio Salas. Circumcision was just one hurdle in passing himself off as a radical Islamist and infiltrating the shadowy, interconnected world of international terrorism." Ouch!

"He learned Arabic..." A doddle.

"Salas also wrote out the Koran by hand... 'It helped convince people', he says'." Ah, but did he write it in his own blood?

"We mocked up an apartment in Barcelona to look as though it was in Palestine and took photos." It's amazing how similar apartments look wherever you go, but that camel in the corner fooled those jihadis every time.

"The final part of his cover was to become a pro-jihad journalist, contributing to radical publications. He traveled to the Arab world, from Egypt to Jordan and Lebanon, writing articles that would help seal his militant credentials. 'I even wrote a couple of books', he says." In Arabic!

"Salas picked the Venezuela of President Hugo Chavez as his base. 'I had been told Venezuela was a mecca of international terrorism', he says." And believed every word!

"'The FARC group from Colombia was there, as were people from ETA'." FARC me dead! You mean, FARC and ETA have gone global?

"Numerous other small revolutionary groups had also set up under Chavez's benevolent gaze. There Salas established himself as yet another niche radical - flying the flag for Palestine and running a local branch of Hezbollah." FARC, Hezbollah too? Batten down the hatches. Head for the hills! None of us is safe! From the corporate media...

The View from South of the Border

"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came so close to the Israeli border this week he could almost be heard on the other side, calling for 'the Zionists to be wiped out'." (Lebanon visit shows new balance of power, Jason Koutsoukis, Sydney Morning Herald, 16/10/10)

However, his horns and forked tail, which cheekily flicked back and forth, could easily be made out, despite the great clouds of yellow smoke wreathing His Satanic Majesty's presence.

"... Hezbollah, the militant Shiite movement that gives the impression of being driven by two overrriding ambitions: the annihilation of Israel and the piecemeal takeover of Lebanon..." (ibid)

My God, they're a worry. Have I got this right? Israel will be annihilated, but Lebanon will only get Cadbury's chocolate bar treatment?

"As in most other paramilitary organisations, a certain level of paranoia permeates Hezbollah, even its political wing." (ibid)

Even its political wing? Jeez, these guys really do need to chill out!

"Mr Darwiche's workspace was more like a suite than an office. Thick carpet, mood lighting, a plush sofa or two and the requisite framed portrait of the Hezbollah secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, behind him. On another wall were framed portraits of Ragheb Harb, Abbas al-Musawi and Imad Mughniyah, all former Hezbollah leaders assassinated by Israel." (ibid)

Er... on second thoughts.

"It's such a cliche but you're only as good as your last story. People forget what was in the paper last week, let alone last year." Jason Koutsoukis (quoted in The art of reporting news, Rowena MacDonald, uow.edu.au) Not MERC, Jason.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lords...

... of Life:

"Twelve-year-old Stephanie Ann Elisabeth never attended a gym class or rode on a bycycle. A congenital heart defect makes it hard for her to perform any kind of physical activity. Now she may be able to realize her dream of playing volleyball after undergoing surgery in the Edith Wolfson medical Center in Holon. Stephanie Ann arrived in Israel from Haiti together with 2-year-old Jacqueline Santos and 3-year-old Jean Francois Drensky. All 3 came to Israel with their mothers in order to undergo heart surgeries for their various birth defects as part of a project organized by the Save a Child's Heart Foundation." (Haitian kids to undergo surgery in Israel, Meital Yasur-Beit Or, ynetnews.com, 21/9/10)

... & Death:

"GAZA CITY - Samir Tahseen al-Nadeem died after waiting 35 days for an exit permit for treatment for his heart condition. He was 26. The medicines he needed could not get in. But the coffins do. The health ministry now lists 275 deaths due to shortage of life-saving medicines. The medicines sit just outside the borders of the territory until most pass their expiry dates. But there are no expiry dates on about 10,000 coffins that have been donated for Gaza. The coffins do make it to those that eventually need them. By the end of last month more than 70% of medicines donated for Gaza had been dumped because they were past their expiry date, the health ministry says. They were worth many millions of dollars. They were worth many lives. 'Much of the donated medicines come from Arab states', Dr Munir al-Boursh, director of the pharmaceutical department at the health ministry tells IPS. This added up to 10,300 tonnes of medicines worth 25 million dollars, he said. Only about 30% of this could be used, he said; the rest either expired or was inaccessible because of restricted distribution by the Israelis, who control what gets into Gaza. It's not easy to dump medicines safely either. Much of the unused supply mixes with domestic waste, creating health hazards far from bringing relief. The World Health Organization has had to 'raise concern about the unsafe disposal of expired medication and other disposable material', a WHO spokesperson told IPS. But the Gaza ministry has received 10,000 coffins, about 1,000 of them for children, Dr Boursh said. Such help, he said, 'does not meet with the needs of the Gaza Strip'. What Gaza needs is 110 types of medicines and 123 types of medical equipment that the ministry has listed. Gaza is expected to run out of more medicines over the next few months. The announced ease in the blockade of Gaza has not currently brought more supplies." (In Gaza, no drugs, but coffins do come in, Mohammed Omer, antiwar.com, 13/10/10)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Your Radio Israel

If you thought you were listening to ABC radio yesterday, specifically to the item Iranian president's Lebanon visit stirs unease on The World Today with Eleanor Hall, you were wrong. You were actually listening to Radio Israel (my comments in square brackets):

HALL: Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has long talked of wiping Israel off the map (1) - with or without nuclear weapons. And today in a highly provocative move (2) he's preparing to visit Hezbollah strongholds (3) in southern Lebanon. That will bring him barely two kilometres from the Israeli border. But even inside Lebanon the Iranian leader's visit is highly controversial (4) because many accuse Iran of interfering in Lebanese affairs. Middle East correspondent Anne Barker reports.

[(1) No anti-Iranian Zionist propaganda piece would be complete without this canard. (2) So? Even when he rolls over in his sleep it's a highly provocative move. (3) Arabs live in strongholds, Israelis in towns and cities. (4) So? Even when he farts it's highly controversial.]

BARKER: He's a man who inspires the extremes of devotion or hatred wherever he goes. [Whose hatred, Anne?] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut to huge crowds who welcomed his first official visit to Lebanon. Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims lined the airport road waving Iranian flags and throwing flowers at the presidential motorcade. But most were supporters of Hezbollah [and Amal?]- the Shi'ite militia which relies on Iran for both funding and weapons and which shares Iran's hatred of Israel. [Really? Just because Israel's always threatening to nuke it?] Although at a press conference in Beirut president Ahmadinejad appealed to all Lebanese to resist the Zionist enemy. 'Iran and Lebanon have common points of view', he said. 'Both countries are against the occupation, aggressions and crimes committed by the Zionists'. Nevertheless the Iranian president's visit has instilled fear among Lebanon's majority non-Shi'ite population. Many [How many, Anne?] Christians or Sunni Muslims or the minority Druze believe that Iran through Hezbollah wields far too much influence on Lebanon's internal politics and government. A group of about 250 [Oh, that many!] politicians, lawyers and activists have written an open letter criticising president Ahmadinejad's support of Hezbollah and voicing fears that Iran is trying to drag Lebanon into a new war against Israel. 'Your talk of changing the face of the region and wiping Israel off the map', it says, 'makes your visit seem like that of a commander to his front line', the letter reads. It's that front line that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad plans to visit today in a move that many in both Lebanon [250?] and Israel interpret as a deliberate provocation. The Iranian leader will visit Lebanon's south where Hezbollah militants wield control including villages along the border that were bombed by Israeli forces in the last war in 2006. There were reports president Ahmadinejad might even throw stones across the border in a symbolic show of Iran's defiance. Mark Regev is a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister.

REGEV: The Iranians are showing the whole world that they have succeeded to dominate Lebanese politics through their proxy Hezbollah. They are forcing their agenda on Lebanon and are creating a hub for terrorism and a threat to regional stability. [And who better than Mark Regev to tell us about... Lebanon!]

BARKER: Even members of Lebanon's own government have expressed alarm at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit. [Members? Oh, you mean the Phalangist, Faris Said? Yes, I suppose that is more worthy of mention than reporting his meetings with both the Lebanese president and prime minister.] One politician has said the Iranian leader is seeking to transform Lebanon into an Iranian base on the Mediterranean. [Faris Said?] Others [No names, no pack-drill.] fear his visit will upset the fragile balance between competing religious and ethnic groups and set Lebanon on a new path to sectarian conflict. [Of course, Lebanon's fragile balance had nothing whatever to fear from Israel's 2006 attempt to "turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years" (Dan Halutz) or its current threat to "destroy Lebanon's army in 4 hours." ('IDF can destroy Lebanon army within 4 hours', ynetnews.com, 27/8/10)]

Watch This Space...

"Australian unions are signing up to an international campaign to boycott Israeli goods, but a fight is brewing over a proposal for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to endorse the movement. The broad-based divestment and boycott campaign is targeting companies that profit from the Israeli settlements. The Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU), the Queensland branch of the Rail Tram & Bus Union (RTBU) and the Finance Sector Union (FSU) have all passed a resolution supporting the international campaign of 'boycott, divestment & sanctions' (BDS) against Israel... Australian Workers Union (AWU) national secretary Paul Howes said he would fight any plan to see the ACTU endorse the sanctions..." (Unions to take Israel boycott plan to ACTU, Patricia Karvelas, The Australian, 15/10/10)

Omerta

"The Dubai Police chief says a major suspect in the [January 19] killing of [Hamas man] Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was arrested in a western country about 2 months ago - but authorities in that country asked that nothing be made public... 'I do not have an explanation for why they do not want to make it public, but there is a need for more transparency in this case. Why is it that every time an Israeli is involved in a crime, everyone goes mute? Lt Gen Tamim asked." (New arrest revealed in Mabhouh assassination, Wafa Issa, thenational.ae, 11/10/10)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Chosen Pariah

"Australia is viewed as the 'dumb blonde' of the world, attractive but shallow and unintelligent, says... visiting British branding expert Simon Anholt." (Our beauty is only skin deep, Dan Harrison, Sydney Morning Herald, 14/10/10)

I think he's got our measure perfectly.

Anholt has been 'branding' countries since 1996, and his Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI) is described as a "system for measuring and managing national reputation around the world." (gfkamerica.com) The NBI currently ranks 50 countries, measuring "the power and quality of each country's 'brand image' by combining six dimensions: exports, governance, culture & heritage, people, tourism, and investment & immigration." Its ranking is based on online interviews with 1,000 citizens in each of 20 countries around the world.

While the dumb blonde ranked 9th on the NBI for 2008, 2009 and 2010, I couldn't help wondering how the world's Light unto the Nations and Only Democracy in the Middle East was faring on the NBI.

While the complete year-by-year data appears to be available only to subscribers, Israel's 2006 performance was sufficiently bad for Anholt to comment thus: "Israel's brand is by a considerable margin the most negative we have ever measured in the NBI, and comes at the bottom of the ranking on almost every question' ... The survey also indicated that Israel came last in each area by a long margin, including the fact that of the 36 countries ranked, there is nowhere that respondents would like to visit less than Israel. Worse yet, the survey indicates that Israel's people were also voted the most unwelcoming in the world. And there was one more unpleasant surprise: Whoever thought that the US is Israel's best friend and Israel is loved in the US, the index indicated that Americans ranked Israel just slightly ahead of China in terms of its conduct in the areas of international peace and security." (Survey: Israel worst brand name in the world, Israel Today Magazine, 22/11/10)

Nor, it appears, did Israel fare any better in 2008, failing yet again to crack the top 50 ranking. Tellingly, Egypt (32), Turkey (36), Saudi Arabia (48) and Iran (50) had no such trouble.

If, to cite Anholt, Australia emerges from the NBI data as somewhat of a dumb blonde, it would appear that Israel emerges, despite its vaunted propaganda mill, as a swaggering bully. Nor, given its present course, is there much it can do to change that image. As Anholt correctly points out, "Places can't construct or manipulate their images with advertising or PR, slogans or logos... Places can only change their image by changing the way they behave." (The Israeli brand, Craig Smith, adbusters.org, 13/10/09)

Zionist pollster and PR expert Frank Luntz has "urged the use of carefully selected 'themes and emotions' in positioning [Israel], including one he called 'the human touch'" (The brand image of nations: Israel, Richard Cravatts, americanthinker.com, 16/2/07). Given that inhumanity is built into any colonial-settler project, let alone one as extreme as the ethnically-exclusive Zionist project, Luntz's solution to Israel's image problem is, needless to say, doomed to failure.

Breathtaking American Servility

I remember veteran Israeli activist Uri Avnery once writing that "The relationship between the United States and Israel is difficult to define. The US has no official mandate over our country. It is not a normal alliance between two nations. Neither is it a relationship between a satellite and [its] master country. Some people say, only half in jest, that the US is an Israeli colony. And indeed, in many respects, it looks like that. President Bush dances to Ariel Sharon's tune. Both Houses of Congress are totally subservient to the Israeli right-wing, much more so than the Knesset. It has been said that if the pro-Israel lobby were to sponsor a resolution on Capitol Hill calling for the abolition of the Ten Commandments, both Houses of Congress would adopt it overwhelmingly." (King George, counterpunch.org, 24/1/05)

Avnery could have added: if the Israeli government were to insist, as it has recently, that the Palestinian Authority publicly embrace Zionism, the US administration would immediately declare, And why not? We have.

Well...

Following Netanyahu's recent breathtaking display of Zionist Chutzpah (see my post of this title), offering the Palestinian Authority a 2 month settlement freeze in exchange for its recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, comes this breathtaking display of American servility:

"Though the Palestinian Authority has rejected an Israeli demand for them to declare their public recognition of Israel as a uniquely 'Jewish' state, citing concerns for the nation's Arab minority, the US State Department has been Johnny-on-the-spot with its own unsolicited declaration that they are committed to Israel's status in that regard. 'We recognize the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people', declared spokesman PJ Crowley. Crowley added that it was a 'core demand of the Israeli government, which we support'." (US committed to Israel as 'Jewish state', Jason Ditz, antiwar.com, 12/10/10)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

About That Falling Man

Surprise! Surprise! The Australian has bookended Christopher Hitchen's Dear Virginia, there really is an Israel lobby in its Saturday edition with Benny Morris' Look at moi, look at moi, Chrissy, look at moi please... in its Monday edition.

While Morris hearts Hitchens on his fingering of those bloody Arabs/Muslims as corrupt, violent, autocratic, nihilistic, medieval etc, he complains that, alas, "he still has a soft and blind spot for the Palestinians, who can apparently do no or little wrong..." (Portraying Palestinians as victims who can do no wrong is one-eyed, 11/10/10)

"In Hitch-22," moans Morris, "Hitchens approvingly cites (and expands) a metaphor coined (I think) by Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic* : a man (the Zionist Jew), to save himself, leaps from a burning building (in anti-Semitic and Holocaust Europe) and lands on an innocent bystander (a Palestinian), crushing him. To which Hitchens adds - and the falling man lands on the Palestinian again and again (the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, the suppression of the intifadas, the construction of settlements in the territories, etc). But the metaphor is disingenuous, and it requires amplification to conform to the facts of history." [*Wrong. It was coined by Isaac Deutscher.]

Now Morris is correct about Hitchen's metaphor being disingenuous, but not for the reasons he thinks. The falling man metaphor is based on the false premise that the Zionist project in Palestine was first and foremost a rescue mission for persecuted European Jewry, when, as American academic M Shahid Alam argues convincingly, it was more of a Jewish power-trip:

"It is unlikely that anti-Semitism was the chief catalyst in the thinking of the Zionist precursors. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Jews of Western and Central Europe were moving toward legal equality with the Gentiles; they were making their mark in Europe's finance, industry, politics, science, academia, and in artistic and literary circles. At this time, Jews were keenly aware of their success; they were acquiring a sense of their growing economic and social power. The Zionist precursors wanted to leverage this power, only recently acquired, to claim nationhood for the Jews. Anti-Semitism may not have been too far from the minds of these Zionist precursors, but, primarily, they were seeking Jewish national self-expression, a chance for the Jews to become important actors on the stage of history." (Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, 2009, pp 55-56)

IOW, to place Alam's insight in the context of Hitchens' misleading metaphor, the crushing of the innocent Palestinian bystander did not arise as the result of a desperate leap from a burning building, as this self-serving Zionist fairytale would have it, but rather as the inevitable result of a colonial-settler project set in train by the latest and strangest of all the species of toxic, ethnic European nationalisms.

Erstwhile historian, now unbuttoned Zionist propagandist, Morris continues: "In fact, as the leaping man nears the ground he offers the bystander a compromise - let's share the pavement, some for you, some for me. The bystander responds with a firm 'no' and tries, again and again (1920, 1921, 1929, the Arab revolt of 1936-39 and the 1947-48 War of Independence), to stab the falling man as he descends to the pavement. So the leaping man lands on the bystander, crushing him. Later, again and again, the leaping man, now firmly ensconced on the pavement, offers the crushed bystander a compromise ('autonomy' in 1978, a 'two-state solution' in 2000 and in 2008), and again and again the bystander says 'no'. The falling man may have somewhat wronged the bystander, but the bystander was never an innocent one, he was an active agent in and a party to his own demise."

Ho hum. What gives the game away here, though, is Morris' reference to the falling man somewhat wronging the bystander. Somewhat wronging! Ain't that a doozy? Morris was actually far more forthcoming in a 2004 interview with Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit:

"I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy... Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history." For the real Benny Morris, as opposed to the crafty apologist for the Zionist project on display in Monday's Australian, see my 11/5/08 post Benny Unhinged.

What a fraud!

Tell Us Something New

Christopher Hitchens discovers the Israel lobby:

"A few months ago, I wrote that the recent sharp deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations was at least partially explicable by a single fact: this past March, a key house committee voted to refer to the Turkish massacre of the Armenians in 1915 as genocide. The difference from previous years, I pointed out, was this: until recently, the Israel lobby on the hill had worked to protect Turkey from such condemnation. But after Turkey's Prime Minister and Israel's President had a public quarrel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the lobby was in no mood to do any more favours. In other words, a vote with major implications for US foreign policy - positive ones in my opinion - was determined by the supporters of a single power." (Fuss puts focus on influence of Israel lobby, The Australian/Slate, 9/10/10)

Finds Israel lobbyists somewhat whiffy:

"Self criticism among Jews, on matters of religion and statecraft, is actually rather noticeable. But anyone who has ever had a dispute with some of the spokesmen for the holy state may possibly [!] have detected a whiff of righteousness here and there." (ibid)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Breathtaking Zionist Chutzpah

"Just a day after the Israeli cabinet passed a resolution requiring all non-Jewish citizens to swear fealty to Israel's status as a 'Jewish state', Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu carried the ball further downfield, demanding that the Palestinian Authority do so as well, as a condition for the 60 day construction freeze in the occupied West Bank." (Netanyahu demands Palestinians recognize Israel as 'Jewish State', Jason Ditz, antiwar.com, 11/10/10)

John Wayne 101

Meet the good American, John Agresto:

"As an integral part of the independent state, Iraq's academic institutions were to be subject to sweeping change. In 2003 John Agresto was appointed Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research, reporting directly to Bremer. He told the Washington Post that before leaving for Iraq he knew 'next to nothing' about Iraq's universities but that he accepted the position because, 'This is what Americans do: They go and help... I guess I just always wanted to be a good American'. Agresto (formerly responsible for a minor liberal arts college in the US) was put in charge of the entire Iraqi higher education system with its 375,000 students. His aim was to 'reconstruct Iraq's decrepit [sic] universities and create an educational system that would nurture and promote the country's best minds'. He regarded the post-invasion looting of campuses as beneficial, saying that it provided 'the opportunity for a clean start'." (The Purging of Minds, Philip Marfleet, in Cultural Cleansing in Iraq: Why Museums Were Looted, Libraries Burned & Academics Murdered, ed. by Baker, Ismael & Ismael, 2010, p 226)

But our good American sustained a bit of a battering in Iraq, and ended up writing a book about his experiences there called Mugged By Reality: The Liberation of Iraq & the Failure of Good Intentions (2007). A sample:

"[T]he liberation and empowerment of women was widespread and deep-rooted in most parts of the country. Both of these - the liberation of women and secularization of Iraqi society - were things Saddam did. In part because of the loss of so many young Iraqi men in the long war with Iran, and no doubt in part because Saddam recognized their equal talent and usefulness, women, secular women, were in positions of authority in many sectors of Iraqi life. Unlike, say Afghanistan, women in Iraq were professors, doctors, professionals of every sort... Sorry to say, I now think that the situation for the average woman has now become worse than it was under Saddam... I'm told by my Iraqi friends who are still there that, unlike just 5 years ago, today no prudent woman goes out without the veil, that classes are again segregated by sex, that the great inequalities of Islamic law are again being applied, that rapes are a tool of the sectarian militias, and open and innocent interactions between young men and women are hardly possibe..." (Mugged By Reality: John Agresto's views on Iraq, jarrarsupariver.blogspot.com)

But John and his mission civilisatrice were not to be deterred:

"[The] American University of Iraq Sulaimaniya (AUIS) bloomed in the Northern Iraqi desert, a very artificial growth sustained hydroponically with US tax dollars. One night, at a very boozy faculty party, some veteran AUIS teachers told us the secret story of how the place was created. They claimed that AUIS was born when John Agresto, a right-wing academic and vassal of the Cheney clan, drove over the Turkish border with $500,000 cash taped to his body. There was something grotesque about this legend, because Agresto is a notably fat man, and once you'd heard the legend of his cash-strapped trip across the border, you couldn't help imagining him bulging with cash on top of his other bulges, like a wombat infested with botfly larvae... In the early stages of the US occupation... Agresto was in charge of 'reforming' the Iraqi education system on good Republican principles. To his credit, he wrote a reasonably honest book about the experience called Mugged By Reality. Unfortunately, the mugging didn't take; Agresto has gone back to his right-wing roots, avoiding that disrespectful thug, Reality, as much as possible. Agresto has a very typical right-wing biography, steeped in resentment and nourishing long, slow, vengeful designs on the academic profession which had humiliated him. He was a Reagan appointee to the National Endowment for the Humanities in the mid-1980s, joining his patron, Bill Bennett, in the project to defund the Left. But when he was nominated as Deputy Head, Agresto was bitterly humiliated. He was criticized as a 'mediocre political appointment' by the American Studies Association, with a dozen academic organizations joining up to issue a statement deploring his 'decidedly partisan reputation'. There were also raised eyebrows at the fact that a witness who testified for Agresto at his confirmation hearings had recently been given a large grant at Agresto's behest. After these bruising revelations, his nomination was dropped... All that bitterness, and all those wads of taxpayer cash, ended up in the creation of AUIS. It was planned, as we new faculty were told, as a three-campus system, with branches in Baghdad and Southern Iraq. But Reality mugged that plan savagely; any attempt to stroll the groves of academe in any other part of Iraq other than the Kurdish far north would have been interrupted with a lesson in practical physics from an IED. Agresto took that money to Sulaimaniya, in the Kurdish zone of Northern Iraq, and set up AUIS, with himself in charge. He apparently chose Kurdistan for the simple reason that Baghdad, the natural place to put an American university in Iraq, was already too dangerous for Americans." (I was a professor at the horribly corrupt American University of Iraq... until the neocons fired me, John Dolan, alternet.org, 8/10/10)

Oh well, even the goodest of good Americans can't win 'em all. But at least now the youth in this little corner of free Iraq are getting the best education America has to offer:

"There was a clear, simple formula for success at AUIS: be a Southern white male Republican with a talent for flattery, an undistinguished academic record, and very little experience in university-level teaching. Some of the faculty were so dismally unqualified and shameless that even our students, mostly reverent toward foreign authority-figures, saw through them. The man Agresto hired to teach American History makes a perfect Exhibit A in any list of what's wrong with AUIS. The first sign that he was not exactly committed to intellectual integrity with his choice of textbook for the course: an abominable book called America: The Last Best Hope by William Bennett. Yes, THE William Bennettt, Reagan's Secretary of Education, the buffoon who sermonized on virtue until his gambling losses added up so high that they drowned out his pomposities, the man who once scolded a child in public for wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt... Luckily for the students in American History, they spent most of their time watching war movies rather than reading Bennett's Sunday School tales. Since I taught in the same cabin as our American History instructor, separated from his class by a flimsy metal wall, I got to listen to a whole semester's worth of bad WWII films. Three long months of trying to teach my students to use the simple present, rather than the present progressive, in their essays, shouting to be heard over the corny dialogue coming through the wall: 'I'm hurt, Sarge! Uh... go on without me!' usually followed by explosions that rocked the thin metal wall, as Sarge and friends took their revenge for the Gipper. His one criterion was 'bad language'. He wouldn't show any movie with swearing in it (thus eliminating every decent war movie ever made). That scruple served him in place of any squeamishness about giving his teaching to the likes of William Bennett and John Wayne." (ibid)