Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Behind the Anti-Semitism Industry

"Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem [in the United States], fortunately. It's raised... because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control... they want to make sure there's no critical look at the policies the US (and they themselves) support in the Middle East." Noam Chomsky, 2002

Here are the opening lines of The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism, which Prime Minister Julia Gillard signed earlier this month:

"We, Representatives of our respective Parliaments from across the world, convening in London for the founding Conference and Summit of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, draw the democratic world's attention to the resurgence of antisemitism as a potent force in politics, international affairs and society. We note the dramatic increase in recorded antisemitic hate crimes and attacks targeting Jewish persons and property, and Jewish religious, educational and communal institutions."

"... resurgence... potent force... dramatic increase..."

Is Kristallnacht coming to a street near you? Or is someone perhaps pulling a swiftie here?

Before you get too carried away, consider this extract from Antony Lerman's revealing new book, The Making & Unmaking of a Zionist: A Personal & Political Journey (2012):

"The World Jewish Congress's ten-year-campaign against the President of Austria and former UN secretary general Kurt Waldheim, for hiding his Nazi past, which kept it at the forefront of international Jewish political activity, had run its course. Prompted by the surfacing of antisemitism in post-communist Europe, they now chose 'eliminating' antisemitism for their new blockbuster campaign. We [at the Institute of Jewish Affairs*] were already producing information and analysis on these developments, so when the WJC decided to kick off its new programme with a major international conference on antisemitism in Brussels in July 1992, we knew that IJA had to play a significant role in it. I conceived of the idea of producing an annual, worldwide, country-by-country survey of antisemitism - Antisemitism World Report - modelled on the annual human rights reports of bodies like Amnesty International, to be launched at the conference. Nothing like this had been done before.

"A major problem we faced was the variable quality of the available data. Especially problematic was the worldwide dissemination of often distorted and inaccurate lists of 'antisemitic incidents' by the Israel Government Monitoring Forum on Antisemitism. To overcome these difficulties we developed our own international network of researchers and began working furiously to produce the report in time for the Brussels conference. As we searched for objective experts we discovered that a significant proportion of what purported to be academically-based research was tainted by political and ideological bias. Especially troublesome was the Project for the Study of Antisemitism at Tel Aviv University - a new body, set up with the sponsorship and urging of the Forum and the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence service - which was planning to produce its own world antisemitism survey. In fact it was the Mossad that was responsible for gathering the data on antisemitism disseminated worldwide by the Forum.

"At the Brussels conference, where our report was well received, the Israeli Forum coordinated attempts to strong-arm us into stopping production of our report and 'cooperate' with the Tel Aviv Project, and others, on a joint venture. Persuasion turned to threat when we were told that unless we agreed, Tel Aviv would immediately start producing its own annual report. Not wanting to be accused of Zionist bias and deeply suspicious of working with the Forum, we declined. The Forum was seeking to establish Israeli hegemony over antisemitism monitoring undertaken by Jewish groups and individuals worldwide. It was also establishing networks of young Jews tasked with supplying it with country-specific data, which was then crudely collated and repackaged for worldwide dissemination. Its aim was to sensitise those young Jews to the danger of antisemitism and thereby encourage aliya.

"So, in short, the Israeli government's civil arm devoted to monitoring and dealing with the problem of antisemitism, working hand-in-hand with the Mossad, was acting as a Zionist recruiting tool of the crudest kind." (pp 98-99)

[*Research arm of the WJC]

Monday, April 29, 2013

Still Controversial After All These Years

The SBS World News bulletin at 6:30 tonight ran an item on Syria by ABC America. In reporting the reluctance of US officials and politicians to put 'boots on the ground' there, despite the Syrian opposition "begging" for this, the reporter, Reena Ninan*, sought to explain the US administration's reluctance to get more heavily involved in Syria by referencing the US response to the al-Qaeda bombing of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998:

"Following the US embassy bombings in Africa, a cruise missile strike was launched on an alleged Sudanese chemical weapons factory in 1998 after soil samples came back positive for chemicals used in VX [nerve agent] but that intel. turned out to be controversial..."

Rubbish! There is no controversy regarding this episode whatever:

"On August 17, 1998, Clinton went on national television and admitted that he had had a sexual relationship with [Monica] Lewinsky. Three days later, Clinton ordered the cruise missile attack against al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and against the pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, where the CIA believed al-Qaeda might be running a chemical weapons factory based on a soil sample scooped up by an agent that tested positive for a chemical component of VX nerve gas. Much of the 'actionable' intelligence that Clinton had relied on in these strikes proved to be faulty. The CIA was not able to establish that a high-level al-Qaeda meeting had in fact taken place at Khost. And the Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical factory proved to have no connection to either al-Qaeda or VX. It had been, however, a vital facility for producing desperately needed drugs for Sudan's civilian population and its destruction resulted in further deprivation for the Sudanese." (A World of Trouble: America in the Middle East, Patrick Tyler, 2009, pp 479-480)

It seems to be that, for corporate talking heads such as Ninan, USraeli terrorism is always and forever controversial but never the Arab variety.

[*Middle East correspondent for Fox News, 2007-20012]

The Vitriol Specialists

Vitriol from the vitriol specialists:

"Pity poor Edwina Storie. Just a couple of weeks into a career as the Sydney-based television reporter for Press TV the 24-hour English language news network owned by the Iranian government, and she has been all but blasted out of a job. Storie... came under withering fire this week from bloggers around the world who coupled her job with the widely perceived propaganda network for the Tehran government with photographs of an early career as a model hopeful. They also complemented their attacks with snaps she posted on her Facebook page showing her holding a full wine glass. Storie, 25, told PS she had closed her Facebook page off and was thinking about moving on. 'I did not expect to receive such vitriol, death threats... the hatred and threats received have been extremely unsettling but I am determined to continue focusing on my journalism career,' she says." (Storie's tough gig, Private Sydney, Damien Murphy, Sydney Morning Herald, 27/4/13)

I'm reminded here of SMH columnist Mike Carlton's ferocious beast:

"It is a ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby. Write just one sentence even mildly critical of Israel and it lunges from its lair, fangs bared." (See my 12/6/10 post A Ferocious Beast)

Should Edwina, who dares to report on such subjects as the 10th anniversary of our involvement in the criminal invasion of Iraq and local initiatives and manifestations of the BDS campaign for Palestinian rights, ever get around to reading Carlton's column on the Israel lobby, she'll realise she's in good company and not feel too intimidated.

I'm also reminded here of the constant Zionist whine about what they call 'the singling out' of Israel for criticism (the slanderous subtext of which is 'You must really hate Jews') as though one has to justify oneself for raising the issues of ongoing Israeli ethnic cleansing, colonization, and apartheid.

But, as the bucketful of vitriol tipped on Edwina Storie shows, the same pack of whiners and demonisers is more than happy to single out Iran for criticism, throwing around such descriptors as 'fascist', 'theocratic', 'tyrannical', 'fanatical', and 'mad' while studiously avoiding any mention whatever of those American-backed bastions of democracy and freedom on the other side of the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the rest.

And yet, despite its human rights failings, Iran is no colonial implant. It has dispossessed and robbed no indigenous population. It has not attacked any of its neighbors. It occupies no one. And it possesses no nuclear arsenal.

Go figure.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Latest Prime Ministerial Kowtow

As far as I'm aware the following prime ministerial kowtow to the Israel lobby has been totally ignored by the Australian ms media:

"In a show of solidarity with world Jewry, Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday became the first Australian politician to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism. Gillard, flanked by Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and Australian communal leaders at the offices of Investec in Sydney, said: 'It is with a sense of history that we do the signing'." (PM signs global anti-Semitism declaration, jewishnews.net.au, 26/4/13)

So what is it exactly she's committing us to?

Although the declaration's Preamble begins with talk of a supposed "resurgence of antisemitism as a potent force in politics, international affairs and society," the real agenda emerges in the following statement:

"We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations - in rhetoric and political action - against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel."

This of course is typical Zionist sleight of hand: while diverting us with the dubious assertion that Jews qua Jews are currently experiencing a new wave of anti-Semitism, seemingly on a par with that of 30s Germany, a reference to Israel is unobtrusively slipped in. This, of course, is consistent with Zionism's illegitimate conflation of Judaism and Zionism, of faith and political ideology, with the former exploited as a cover for the latter.

Another example occurs under the heading Challenging Antisemitism:

"1. Parliamentarians shall expose, challenge, and isolate political actors who engage in hate against Jews and target the State of Israel as a Jewish collectivity."

The very Zionist conceit here is that Israel represents not simply its own Jewish citizens, but all Jews, wherever they reside. Thus an attack on Israel, characterised here as the collective Jew, is construed as an attack on all Jews and must therefore be anti-Semitic in nature. All of which would be way over Gillard's head, of course.

Speaking of which body part, this is what reportedly emerged from the prime ministerial mouth after the signing: "In the 1930s, another generation of leaders failed the test. We face the same test - and we must not fail it." (PM signs...)

Wonderfully diverting Zionist rhetoric, of course, but the reality here is that Gillard is committing us to nothing less than the defence of Israeli apartheid. Providing such a commitment doesn't simply remain a dead letter, those who defend Palestinian rights in this country can presumably expect, from now on, to be exposed, challenged, and isolated - the correct word is smeared - as anti-Semites. Ho-hum...

At point 6, we read: "Governments and the UN should resolve that never again will the institutions of the international community... be abused to try to establish any legitimacy for antisemitism, including the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the international arena, and we will never witness - or be party to - another gathering like the UN World Conference against Racism... in Durban in 2001."

Still this only confirms Australia's existing practice, boycotting UN 'Durban' conferences (and indeed pushing others to do so) having become something of a diplomatic art form for this country.

At point 12, under the heading of Prohibitions, we read that "Parliamentarians should legislate effective Hate Crime legislation recognising... 'incitement to hatred' offences and empower law enforcement agencies to convict."

Now where have we seen that before? Oh yes, Baruch O'Farrell's NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Racial Vilification (See my last post but one).

Before moving on to the 'Why now?' of Gillard's kowtow,and just so we're crystal clear on where this London Declaration for Combating Antizionism, sorry Antisemitism, is coming from, it might be useful to take a look at the 6 individuals who make up its steering committee:

1) Yuli Edelstein: Likud Minister of Public Diplomacy & Diaspora. "During the years 2003-2006, he formed an inside opposition in the Likud against Sharon's plan of disengagement and managed to promote several bills that helped the evicted settlers from Gush Katif." (ICCA website biography) A greater Israel fanatic, obviously.

2) Dr Fiamma Nirenstein: Italian MP and author of 'Terror, the New Anti-Semitism & the War against the West' (2005) and 'Israel is Us' (2007). "Fiamma Nirenstein has done a lot of documentaries for Italian TV, the last titled 'Settlers', about the disengagement seen through the lives of the people involved in it." Interesting the way those poor Israeli settlers keep cropping up here!

3) Irwin - Bring me the head of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad! - Cotler: Canadian MP. See my 29/2/08 post Ahmadinejad: Our Part in His Downfall)

4) Congressman Christopher H. Smith: Rep NJ. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, in their 2003 survey of American politicians, Positions on International Middle East Human Rights, gave Smith a -2.

5) John Mann: UK Labour MP. "Mann is under no illusions that Britain faces a considerable antisemitic threat but feels we all need to tread that fine line between paranoia and complacency. 'Despite the fact that Jews are right to be on their guard, it is others who are on the receiving end of the brunt of racism in the UK,' he says. 'The overwhelming majority of race-hate crimes are committed against the Muslim community'." (Interview: John Mann MP, Simon Round, thejc.com, 2/12/09) Now what was that about a "resurgence" of anti-Semitism?

6) Professor Gert Weisskirchen:  German academic/politician. "Next to Gert Weisskirchen's active involvement in fighting anti-Semitism, he is a close friend of the Israeli nation and the Hebraic culture." (ICCA website biography)

Say no more.

On the 'Why Now?' front, the London Declaration has been around now since February 2009, so I think we're entitled to ask why Gillard is signing it now?

An educated guess is the best I can do, I'm afraid.

Given a) that we've got an election coming up in September and that funding is always a worry at such times, and b) that past behaviour is invariably the best predictor of present and future behaviour,  I draw your attention to the following report by the Herald's Peter Hartcher:

"The Jewish community was an important source of Labor funds for the 2007 election. A single lunch in Sydney raised $100,000. A Toorak tennis court party for 200, attended by Rudd and Julia Gillard, raised more." (What am I, chopped liver? How Rudd dived into schmooze mode, Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, 22/6/10) For the details of same, see my 22/6/10 post The Best Israel Policy Money Can Buy.

[*You can view the complete document at the website of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, antisem.org]

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Facts & Context: There's Just No Getting Around Them

Facts are seldom allowed to get in the way of a good story on the opinion pages of the Murdoch press. Take, for example, this little flight of fantasy from Spiked Online's Brendan O'Neill:

"[F]ar from being political, Islamic terror in the West is deeply nihilistic, a void of ideology... For [the Tsarnaev brothers], violence is not a means to an end but an end in itself." (Left & right have both misunderstood terror tantrums, The Australian, 24/4/13)

Hm... what could our two Muslim brothers possibly have against 'the West'? Well...

"The two suspects in the Boston bombing that killed 3 and injured more than 260 were motivated by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials told the Washington Post." (Boston bombing suspects motivated by Afghanistan, Iraq Wars: Report, Simon McCormack, huffingtonpost.com, 23/4/13)

Another terrible inconvenience for those who use the Murdoch press as a vehicle for their shoddy ideological wares is context.

Here, for example, is the Dutch drongo, Geert Wilders, telling us, 'I told you so':

"No, I was not surprised when the Tsarnaev brothers... turned out to be Islamic radicals... Nor will I be surprised if a similar attack happens in Australia - or Europe, or anyplace where the authorities remain blind to the true nature of Islam... Read the Koran [sic] and you will find the explanation. 'Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it,' the Koran [sic] tells the faithful (2: 216). In case anyone doubts what is meant by fighting: 'I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, maim them in every limb!' (8:12)" (It's no surprise the Boston bombers were fans of the sheik, The Australian, 26/4/13)

The trouble is, his Qur'anic quotes have been cherrypicked.

Now I have no idea what translation of the Qur'an Wilders is using here, but to illustrate my point, I'll be referencing the 2004 translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem:

Let's begin with the complete 2:216: "Fighting is ordained for you, though you dislike it. You may dislike something although it is good for you, or like something although it is bad for you: God knows and you do not'."

That, of course, can only be fully understood when read in conjunction with 2:217:

"They ask you [Prophet] about fighting in the prohibited month. Say, 'Fighting in that month is a great offence, but to bar others from God's path, to disbelieve in Him, prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and expel its people, are still greater offences in God's eyes: persecution is worse than killing'. They will not stop fighting you [believers] until they make you revoke your faith, if they can."

IOW, as the translator helpfully explains in a footnote: "To persecute people for believing in God is a worse offence than for the aggrieved party to fight back in the prohibited month." (p 24)

In sum, the verse cited by Wilders should be read in conjunction with its companion and the whole viewed in the context of a newly emerged religious community under attack in 7th century Arabia.

Now here's all of 8:12: "When you begged your Lord for help, He answered you, 'I will reinforce you with a thousand angels in succession.' God made this a message of hope to reassure your hearts: help comes only from God, He is mighty and wise... Your Lord revealed to the angels: 'I am with you: give the believers firmness; I shall put terror into the hearts of the disbelievers - strike above their necks and strike all their fingertips'."

As the translator reminds us, these verses relate to "the Battle of Badr (near Medina), the first fought between the Muslims and their Meccan opponents in the second year after the Migration. The Muslims... won in spite of being outnumbered, and began to question the distribution of the gains. The sura (Battle Gains) reminds them that it was God who brought about the victory." (p 110)*

And as for lopping off heads and hands in battle, you really don't need to be the proverbial rocket scientist to know that this was characteristic of all warfare, whether by Jews, Christians, Muslims or others, prior to the invention of the firearm.

So, when placed in textual and historical context, such verses lose the kind of universal, eternal authority that Islamophobes such as Wilders ascribe to them. Typically, Wilders & Co. are too busy grinding their ideological axes to do the necessary homework.

[PS: *To illustrate the mischief being made on a daily basis on the internet by Islamophobes/Zionists here's another variant on 8:12 from the comment thread to an Associated Press report for 18/6/13, Israeli official blasts idea of Palestinian state, by Ian Deitch. The 'comment', from RadicalIslamisCancer, reads as follows: "More truth from the koran..8:12... Terrorise and behead those who believe in scripture other than the Qur'an (8:12)."]  

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nailing Racists or Nobbling BDS?

Baruch O'Farrell's parliamentary Inquiry into Racial Vilification Law in NSW* is now underway and our friends from the Israel lobby, seasoned actors all, have delivered the usual award-winning performance. Particularly strong this time around is their timing:

"On Yom Hashoah last week, Jews around the world commemorated what is arguably the most tragic example of the extreme consequences of racial vilification. That same day, a NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) delegation - comprising former president David Knoll, CEO Vic Alhadeff and Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) executive director Peter Wertheim - was arguing that NSW's racial vilification laws are inadequate in front of a Legislative Council inquiry. Knoll and Wertheim, both lawyers, have extensive experience in dealing with racial vilification cases. 'We note that we make this presentation on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the day each year, Yom Hashoah, that the Holocaust is remembered across the world,' Knoll told the committee, which was chaired by Member of the Legislative Council David Clarke... Using anti-Indian posters in shop windows as a practical example - echoing similar signs against Jews displayed in Nazi Germany - Knoll outlined how section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 currently makes it difficult for racial vilification cases to be prosecuted. 'Requiring proof of actual or likely intimidation or harassment, or of a direct connection between a threat and likely harm to a person or property, constitute - as a practical matter - an insurmountable obstacle to prosecution,' he explained." (Board fronts Racial Vilification Law inquiry, The Australian Jewish News, 19/4/13)

So what do these Israel advocates want?

In their submission they state that a revamped law should target "public conduct that intentionally or recklessly incites racial hatred or racially harasses others." (And please note that they want "the publication of material on the Internet" included under the heading of "public conduct.")

"We do not," they stress, giving the game away, "advocate the criminal proscription of robust public debate on any topic, unless the manner of the debate descends to the level of such conduct."

Now don't you just love the proviso: unless the manner of the debate descends to the level of such conduct?

Since when, for dyed-in-the-wool political Zionists, has the honest defence of Palestinian rights ever not descended to the level of anti-Semitism?

Two aspects of their argument should give pause for concern:

The first is a reference to 'interpretation'. At one point in their submission they talk of a "slogan" being "interpreted as inciting people to exterminate Jews."

If BDS protesters were ever hauled into court, which I believe is the real agenda here, one can easily imagine what kind of interpretation would placed on their chant 'From the river to the sea/Palestine will be free'.

The second is a reference to 'perception'. "The vilificatory act may be perceived by the target person or group as extremely threatening."

So a Zionist alleging racial vilification need only assert that he feels threatened for the matter to end up in court?

The authors of the submission further state that "[t]he harm to specific minority groups who are the targets of vilificatory conduct goes well beyond merely 'offending' them. The harm is in the impairment of their ability to go about their daily lives with a sense of safety and security."

So, if a BDS protest outside a Max Brenner chocolate shop is enough to make 'Max' feel he's back in thirties Berlin with an impaired ability to go about his life with a sense of safety and security, then it's in the slammer with these BDS protesters, is it?

It is my fear that if the current legislation, revamped along such subjective lines, is used against BDS protesters, then a lot of good people could potentially be spending a lot of time in court, and possibly even in jail.

It is worth comparing the Israel lobbyists' nonsense with the submission of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, which argues that only "serious" racial vilification such as "action taken by certain individuals in the lead-up to the 2005 Cronulla Riots," should be the target of this law. In contrast with the kind of subjective elements proposed for inclusion in the legislation by the Zionist lobbyists, the  CCL wants there to be an "objective element to the offence [of racial vilification] which references the likely result of the offending conduct," that is "where a breach of the peace is likely to ensue."

[*See my 15/4/13 post And the Real Agenda is... for material on the genesis of this inquiry.]

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Anzac Day

Anzac as  faux patriotism:

"Anzac Day has morphed into Australia's one day of the year when war is a fit place for heroes and not much else. The fact is Anzac Day now is appropriated from supermarkets to the arming of Australian history. The past is now largely seen through the periscope of a Gallipoli Digger and the visor of Ned Kelly. If you think that I am guilty of hyperbole, consider this: Woolworths is selling a Unibic limited edition tin of Anzac biscuits. The lid has an embossed image of shirtless labouring Australian soldiers at Balikpapen, Borneo, in 1945... Anzac Day has become an excrescence of national identity.

"In their 2010 book What's Wrong with Anzac? The Militarisation of Australian History, professors Marylin Lake and Henry Reynolds argue persuasively that children in Australia's classrooms are taught, even at preschool level, uncritically, the Anzac story. It is a message of sabre-rattling nationalism under the guise of heritage. Their argument underscores the view that Australian history teaching at school level has become sycophantic and panders to populism. Or, as Lake's and Reynold's book, quoting one former soldier, puts it pithily: 'Australia needs to drop the sentimental garbage that Anzac Day has become. The soldiers of Gallipoli must be honoured; however, they are not apostles to be given religious reverence.'

"The contemporary reality is something else entirely. Australia glories in war and needs it as an assurance of who we are: patriotic and pugnacious. Anzac Day is now the country's annual nationalistic fix. It's an easy conduit for establishing national traits, from suspicion of authority to the mateship ethos. But surely it is time to rethink the heroic war message and disarm Anzac Day." (Anti-war poems can counter hero worship, Christopher Bantick, The Australian, 20/4/13)

Anzac as fetish:

The following text (with accompanying graphic) appeared as a full-page advertisement in the TV guide supplement to last Sunday's Sunday Telelegraph:
A little piece of beach a big part of history...
Make the ANZAC spirit part of your life
Bring it home with the sands of Gallipoli
The Battle of Lone Pine Collection Available Now
Mounted artworks and medallions contain actual sands from Anzac Cove
Visit www.sandsofgallipoli.com.au to view the collection
Proudly supporting SOLDIER ON

Anzac as brainwashing:

"In My Australian Story: Gallipoli, Victor March... 14, sets off on the adventure of his life to defend his country... Victor is an unskilled mine worker forced to leave school to support his family. Like many, he views enlistment as as a chance for change and betterment. Readers follow Victor through his training, his formation of friendships, his landing at Gallipoli and the hardships he faces there. He... transforms from boy to man, from soldier to hero. In many ways, Victor represents every boy who fought at Gallipoli." (From Aleesah Darlison's book review, Tales of heroism for innocent minds, The Sun-Herald, 21/4/13)

Anzac as piss-up:

"Phuket in Thailand is fast getting the reputation as the bogans abroad epicentre, and the behaviour of a group of Aussie males on Anzac Day 2008 did nothing to dispel this. The pack of package tourists let the alcohol and the heat get the better of them in a bar on Patong Beach. The bar was wrecked. Other punters were forced to do a runner rather than get caught up in the melee and 3 locals took a bashing. Not content with this, the group decided to pin it on one of their number. The fall guy woke up in a police cell, unable to talk until nearly midday the next morning because he was so drunk, and had to phone his parents to get the money required to repair the bar. The others had all got their flight home, and left their cohort's luggage and passport at the police station. (Bogan behaviour abroad, David Whitley, travel.ninemsn.com.au)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FBI Fiddles While Boston Burns

The following statement appeared in an opinion piece on the Boston Marathon bombings in the Sydney Morning Herald of April 22:

"Twelve years after the September 11 attacks the US is a transformed nation, for better and for worse. This was the first terrorism attack on US soil targeting civilians since 2001, a record that is the result of hard work and good luck. More than 45 jihadist plots have been foiled." (Freedom means life without fear)

It was penned by John Avlon, a columnist for The Daily Beast, and is basically a recycling of his September 8, 2011 piece, Forty-five foiled terror plots since 9/11.

It's obvious that Avlon hasn't bothered reading investigative journalist Trevor Aaronson's timely book The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism (2013), otherwise he wouldn't be quite so sure about either the number 45 or all that supposed "hard work," presumably a reference to the FBI.

You'll see why when you read the following Aaronson piece published today by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting: How the FBI in Boston may have pursued the wrong 'terrorist':

"Could the Boston attacks have been stopped? In the aftermath that question has gained urgency with the news that the FBI was on alleged bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's trail more than 2 years ago. But it is further underscored by another FBI operation conducted in the Boston area during that same period - one focused on a different subject of dubious importance.

"In January 2011, when the FBI looked into the alleged Boston Marathon bomber and dismissed him as a potential threat, agents in the Boston field office pursued another person they suspected could be a terrorist. While they apparently decided to stop tracking Tsarnaev - whose 6-month trip to Russia at that time is now of prime interest to investigators - the FBI conducted a sting operation against an unrelated young Muslim man who had a fantastical plan for attacking the US Capitol with a remote-controlled airplane.

"The way in which the FBI investigated these two potential extremists may help begin to explain how the federal government failed to prevent Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhohkar from setting off lethal bombs in the streets of Boston. The task of anticipating and stopping a terrorist attack is exceedingly complicated and the full extent of what the FBI may have known about the Tsarnaev brothers remains unclear. Some congressional leaders are now seeking further explanation. But the contrast of the two cases undertaken in Boston in early 2011 raises questions about the effectiveness of the FBI's counterterrorism strategy.

"Since the devastating attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI's top priority has been to prevent a next act of terrorism. Every year the bureau spends $3.3 billion on counterterrorism, the largest portion of its $8.2 billion annual budget. (That's roughly $650 million more than it spends on investigating organized crime, its next greatest priority by funding.) A key component of the FBI's strategy has been running sting operations against would-be terrorists - in many cases going to great lengths to enable otherwise unlikely perpetrators, as I documented in my award-winning investigation published in 2011 in Mother Jones and in my subsequent book, The Terror Factory.

"The FBI has often targeted these suspects using informants and Internet surveillance. With the latter, federal agents analyze a suspect's online presence and history, looking for activity on extremist web forums, interest in militant jihadi videos, and other activity that might indicate sympathy for terrorist organizations.

"After the Boston Marathon bombings, the FBI acknowledged that in 2011 agents had interviewd the 26-year-old Tsarnaev and scrutinized his Internet history, at the request of Russian officials. Yet, despite the Russians' concerns about Tsarnaev's potential links to militant separatist groups in Chechnya, the FBI determined he was not a threat.

"Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, the bureau vigorously pursued Rezwan Ferdaus, a Northeastern University graduate who was born in Massachusetts and lived with his parents in a Boston suburb. Ferdaus came to the FBI's attention through an informant posing as an al Qaeda operative - a man who was paid $50,000 by the FBI for his efforts, while hiding a heroin addiction from his handlers.

"According to court records, Ferdaus told the informant that he wanted to destroy the golden dome of the US Capitol using a remote-controlled model airplane loaded with grenades. If that plot was far-fetched, so was the possibility that Ferdaus could even attempt it: He did not have weapons, and even if he had known where to buy explosives, Ferdaus was broke, according to court records.

"Through the informant, the FBI encouraged Ferdaus to move forward with his idea to attack the US Capitol. They dedicated significant resources to the operation, giving him $4,000 to purchase an F-86 Sabre remote-controlled model airplane and providing him with 'explosives' - 25 pounds of fake C-4 and 3 inert grenades. In May 2011, Ferdaus travelled to Washington, D.C., to scout out locations from which to launch his weapon - all while being secretly recorded by FBI agents. Finally, on Sept. 28, 2011, after a 9-month sting operation, FBI agents arrested Ferdaus, charging him with, among other offenses, attempting to destroy a federal building and providing material support to terrorists.

"Ferdaus pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 17 years in prison, though no evidence indicated that he could have built and launched a weapon were it not for the FBI providing the money and materials.

"Since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI has arrested more than 175 alleged terrorists using operations like the one in Boston that nabbed Ferdaus. In these expensive and elaborate stings, the targets often are men on the fringes of Muslim communities; many are economically desperate and some are mentally ill, and they are easily manipulated by paid informants and undercover agents.

"But in the years since 9/11, several operational terrorists in the United States have gone unnoticed or have been overlooked by the FBI... And despite the FBI's initial interest in Tsarnaev, the same became true with him and his younger brother in Boston."

Now contrast Avlon's "45 foiled jihadist plots" with the following data from Aaronson's book:

"By August 2011, with nearly 10 years of terrorism prosecutions since 9/11, we had a database of 508 defendants whom the US government considered terrorists. The way the data broke down was illuminating. Of the 508 defendants, 243 had been targeted through an FBI informant, 158 had been caught in an FBI terrorism sting, and 49 had encountered an agent provocateur. Most of the people who didn't face off against an informant weren't directly involved with terrorism at all, but were instead Category II offenders, small-time criminals with distant links to terrorists overseas. Seventy-two of these Category II offenders had been charged with making false statements, while 121 had been prosecuted for immigration violations. Of the 508 cases, I could count on one hand the number of actual terrorists, such as failed New York City subway bomber Najibullah Zazi, who posed a direct and immediate threat to the United States." (The Terror Factory, p 15)

Finally, consider the use of sting operations against similar windbags and sadsacks here in Australia. The following item, for example, appeared in The Australian on 9 April:

"A man charged with terrorism-related offences engaged in 'jihadist chanting' and discussed how to make weapons and start bushfires with bombs, according to covert telephone recordings... He discussed making a bomb that would ignite a bushfire in Australia and said he had been trying unsuccessfully to buy a gun." (Accused terrorist faces court)

Now I know nothing of this case other than what is provided in this one brief report, including whether a paid informant was involved, but seriously, this particular boofhead sounds like he wouldn't even know which end of a match to strike on a matchbox.

[See my 25/2/12 post The Devil & David Irvine.]

Real Anzacs Don't Wave Flags

This message from Dr Jonathan King, author of Gallipoli: Our Last Man Standing and Gallipoli Diaries, should be compulsory reading for all Australians in the lead-up to the 25th April:

"With the Gallipoli centenary approaching, the nation should remember the words of our last Anzac Alec Campbell who pleaded on his death bed: 'For God's sake, don't glorify Gallipoli - it was a terrible fiasco, a total failure and best forgotten.'

"As his biographer, these last words from Campbell - the last surviving soldier from all nations fighting there, who only died 10 years ago - have been haunting me, as escalating commercial pressures threaten to turn the centenary into a Big Day Out. The prospect of a memorial service packed with excitable fans instead of mourners would have upset not only Campbell, but also the last 10 Anzacs I interviewed in the 1990s.

"Already, the Gallipoli 2015 Dawn Service is the place to be and it will be standing room only - for those who can get a ticket. At the moment, nobody can because the gate has been locked by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Turkish authorities. Worried by a possible stampede towards the little beach, they have created a ballot system restricting entry for this date with history. This ballot will allow 8000 lucky Australians along with 2000 New Zealanders to attend...

"As a tour leader who attended the 90th anniversary, when official presentations included pop music which inspired dancing and couples were seen canoodling near graves, I welcome this control. But what is needed - if punters are going to learn from historical mistakes - is an education campaign explaining that Australia lost and we are commemorating a bold endeavour and retreat with honour, not a glorious victory. After all, this is Australia's most famous and costly battle.

"Asked to locate Gallipoli, some recent straw poll respondents placed it off Queensland, France, England and even the US; others could not explain 'ANZAC' and thought Australia won. It is not their fault because censored war correspondent Charles Bean reported the failed invasion as a triumph, led by heroic bronzed sportsmen bravely scaling steep cliffs at great speed and driving the defending Turks inland. They were brave, but they still lost... The truth was not revealed until prime minister Andrew Fisher sent journalist Keith Murdoch in September 1915. When Murdoch told him the landing failed miserably, thousands were killed for little gain, an advance was impossible, hundreds were dying of disease and British leaders were incompetent, Fisher recommended retreat. 'Gallipoli is undoubtedly one of the most terrible chapters in our history,' Murdoch said. Nevertheless Bean's propaganda took hold. Winning the 1983 America's Cup, entrepreneur Alan Bond proclaimed: 'This is Australia's greatest victory since Gallipoli!'

"But Anzacs told a different story when I interviewed them for a documentary and book. In Sydney, Ted Matthews, a signaller at the landing, said: 'The British mucked the whole thing up. We landed on the wrong beach, the Turks knew we were coming, shot us to pieces and we never had a chance.' Infantryman Fred Kelly said: 'It was ridiculous. The beach was too narrow, the cliffs were too steep and exposed to enemy fire.' In Melbourne, military-Medal-winning sniper Jack Buntine said: 'We could never have won, the odds were too great.' Tunneller Roy Longmore said: 'We were badly equipped, not even prepared for winter - shocking leadership.' Water carrier Walter Parker said: 'Gallipoli achieved nothing. All those young Australians died in vain.' And Len Hall, who also fought at Beersheba, concluded: 'Next time I would fight for the Turks. They are good people and it was their land not ours.'

"Let's hope their words restrain the unbridled enthusiasm and put a brake on ballot winners glorifying 'one of the most terrible chapters in our history.' Leave any glorification to the Turks: they won and got a new nation out of it." (It's Anzac day - not the Big Day Out, Sydney Morning Herald, 20/4/13)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Flabergasted 3

Lorraine Levy's melodrama The Other Son continues to expose the appalling ignorance of its reviewers. This time it's David Stratton (of David and Margaret fame):

"For much of its length, this story is acutely moving, calling into question the appalling way in which neighbours and potential friends have been reduced to living in fear and loathing of one another." (House divided, The Australian, 20/4/13)

Stratton's been around now for over 70 years, and yet in all that time it appears he's led such a sheltered life that he actually believes that if only Israelis and Palestinians would drop in on one another for a cuppa, they'd get along like the proverbial house on fire. Almost a century of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in Palestine, it seems, has failed to register.

Once again, my flaber is well and truly gasted.

Now speaking of houses on fire, if only young Sundus Azza would get off her bum and whip up, say, a nice batch of scones for her 'neighbours' in Hebron:

"Nineteen-year-old Palestinian Sundus Azza cannot leave her family home, or the Sumoud & Challenge Center it is attached to, without making sure there is someone else there, because if she does, she might come home to find Israeli settlers living there. So far, settlers have attacked her house and the center with spray paint, fire, rocks, eggs, and filthy water, cut water pipes, and recently built a large wooden swinging chair sporting an Israeli flag in the middle of the garden in the backyard. A month ago, settlers brought dogs to attack Palestinian children playing in a field by Azza's home, and 5 months ago, a settler attempted to run over her 15-year-old brother with a minibus. 'They are trying to make us leave', explained the cheerful teenager as she pointed to the place on the outer wall near the front door where the fire scorched a black path. 'To be here is a form of resistance'." (Palestinian in Hebron: 'To be here is a form of resistance', Sarah Lazare, truth-out.org, 17/4/13)

Tony's Crew

The closer I get to E Day in September, the more I find myself sitting up and taking notice of what Opposition Leader Tony Abbot's cutthroat crew are saying, tweeting, or otherwise emitting.

Three recent items in particular are worth noting. Taken in isolation, they could perhaps be dismissed as aberrations. Put together, however, and it's a different matter. Read on and you can almost see the swagger, the glint in the eyes, and the flashing of knives in the moonlight:

1) What follows is a gobsmacking twitter exchange between South African-born, West Australian Liberal MP Dr Dennis Jensen and an indigenous Australian woman, in which the White Man tells the Black Woman to quit her whining and move on:

Jensen: Hell, how long ago was colonialism? Get over it... every country in the world has been successfully invaded in the past!

The Koori Woman: Do I snap my fingers and forget 213 years of oppression?

Jensen: It is time to unite Australia, not divide based on a victim mentality. What do you do when knocked down, just blame.

(Source: Tweet and sour: MP in spat with Aboriginal woman on colonialism, Dan Harrison, Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/13)

(BTW, the title 'Dr' denotes not Jensen's bedside manner - he has none - but his PhD in Materials Science and Physics.) 

Now, as you'd expect, this defender of colonialism is also an 'expert' on Palestine/Israel.

Did you know, for example, that those who say Ariel Sharon withdrew his thugs and maddies from the Gaza Strip in 2005 so that he could get the Americans off his back and focus on colonising the more strategic West Bank have got it all wrong?* Apparently, in a completely spontaneous (but in retrospect sadly misplaced) display of generosity and goodwill, this legendary White Man decided to give the sand niggers of Gaza the gift of self-determination! But, hey, were the buggers grateful for their tiny, walled Bantustan on the Med? Not on your nelly:

"Mr Forde, I was in Israel... in 2005 [when] Israel allowed Gaza self-determination. I would have thought that the way in which Palestinians at that stage would have shown goodwill was to try to make Gaza as much as possible a model state. Instead, what they did was that they started firing rockets into Israel."

How to account for the natives being so damn uppity? Dr Jensen, whose research skills are second to none, knows:

"If you look at at Palestinian Authority TV the stuff they put up is appalling... they are inciting children to jihad, which is basically doing a suicide action on behalf of Allah..."

His interlocutor, Mr Forde asks:

"Have you seen that TV... or are you relying on stuff you were given by... [Israel] lobby groups?"

And Jensen replies:  

I have seen it on the internet.

(Source: Supporting the Recognition of Palestine as a Non-Member UN State, Standing Committee on Petitions, 12/4/13)

2) "An article published by a Liberal Party-aligned think tank that advocates killing off the poorest 20% of Australians as a way to get the budget back on track has been described as a 'disgraceful rant' by Treasurer Wayne Swan. A 'modest cull of the enormously poor' has been suggested by right-wing business lobbyist Toby Ralph in a tongue-in-cheek opinion piece written in reaction to the federal government's attack on the 'fabulously wealthy' through superannuation taxes. 'In contrast to the fabulously rich, the enormously poor make little useful contribution to society,' wrote Mr Ralph, a long-time Liberal Party campaign strategist." (Kill poor to fix budget, writes lobbyist with Liberal links, Heath Aston, Sydney Morning Herald, 17/3/13)

3) "Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has demoted a member of his staff for threatening the head of an indigenous education charity. Mr Abbott has announced his director of policy, Dr Mark Roberts, has been demoted following an investigation into his behaviour at a Sydney dinner on Thursday night. Political commentator Peter van Onselen has insisted several witnesses saw Dr Roberts make a throat slitting gesture to Andrew Penfold, the chief executive of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation... 'I heard him say slit the throat or cut the throat, I heard the cutting of funding as an exact quote...' Mr van Onselen said. Mr van Onselen said Dr Roberts had made a throat cutting gesture which was witnessed by his wife and other guests at the dinner... Mr van Onselen said Dr Roberts later approached him and offered to give him information from within Mr Abbott's office in return for keeping quiet about the incident..." (Abbott staffer demoted after incident at Sydney party, Dan Harrison, Sydney Morning Herald, 19/4/13)

Be afraid...

[*See my 21/8/12 post Zionising the Draft Modern History Curriculum 6.]

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Flabergasted 2

What is it about this French/Israeli film The Other Son?

In my earlier post on it (Flabergasted, 16/4), I reported its director, Lorraine Levy, saying she was flabergasted at something or other. Today, after listening to Jason Di Rosso's interview with her on Radio National's The Final Cut, I'm the one who's flabergasted!

Here's some of Di Rosso's introductory patter:

"... Emmanuelle Devos in the role of the secular, French-Israeli mother is an extraordinary presence. While the film straddles the Israeli dividing wall, on the one side depicting the dusty streets and herds of animals, the other depicting the gleaming consumer paradise and immaculate beaches, it's never as convincing as when Devos is on the screen. She embodies this film's generous, thoughtful idea of what heroism is, and perhaps she reflects a mildly Eurocentric point of view, and maybe that's unavoidable given the film's pedigree. When I met up with Lorraine Levy this week, we spoke about cultural baggage and the difficulty of telling a story equally from both sides."

Here's his first question:

"There's a challenge for you in this film because, essentially, your point of departure is going to be more sympathetic to the French-Jewish characters in the film more than you are to the Arabic [sic] characters, the Palestinians. How did you deal with that? Because that, I assume, is the danger for you approaching this territory because you kind of need to be even-handed in this film."

And here's Levy's response:

"I find your question amusing. Are you suggesting that, as a woman, I can't project myself into the psychology of a man?"

Di Rosso explains - and here's where I start getting annoyed:

"I know what you're saying but I suppose what I didn't mention was the question of class and I'm wondering how it must be difficult for anyone from a Western, industrialised country like France or Australia to put themselves in the mindset of the kind of Arabic [sic] family you're depicting in this film."

The near 100-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict is a class conflict?! Incredibly, Di Rossi appears to be completely unaware of the Israeli occupation, let alone Israel's ethnic cleansing and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Is it really asking too much to expect an ABC presenter such as Di Rosso to have an elementary grasp of the nature of this key international issue?

But that's not all - it appears we've got a case of folie a deux on our hands here. Just listen to Levy's response:

"Obviously I had to do a lot of prep work in order to learn. For 4 months before the movie I went over there to meet people and many doors were opened to me. I got to talk to a lot of people, exchange ideas, have a look at a lot of family photo albums as well, and that was a great way for me to do my prep work. I had been to Israel before as a tourist and I've been to many Arab countries. In a way I love Arabic culture and music... with regards to the class issue, yes there is more money in Israel as opposed to the West Bank. I mean, apart from Ramallah, which would stand out as an exception, the West Bank is a very poor area indeed and I wanted to show reality without falling into another extreme. I mean the Palestinian family in the film lives in a house, drives a Mercedes, but the economy is as it is."  

The ECONOMY is as it is?!

Now I'm flabergasted! With a director that clueless, the film's got to be a complete dud.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

From Boston to Baghdad

"Let's clear something up: our responses to terrorism are not about the loss of innocent life... It's about the fact each of us is entirely interchangeable with the killed and injured; that we can so easily transpose ourselves into the situation. It's about the brutal unpredictability of the violence. This is partly why the Boston Marathon bombings have attracted so much more of our attention than the much deadlier bombings that struck Iraq on the same day. It's not just that we don't value Iraqi lives as much as American ones (although that is true, given our ability to rationalise away the mammoth loss of civilian life during the Iraq war). It's that there is nothing surprising about them. They do not shock us. And for that reason, they cannot truly terrorise us." (Bomb response refreshingly honest, Waleed Aly, Sydney Morning Herald, 19/4/13)

A deeper question: Why is there nothing surprising about the carnage in Iraq?

Because we have conveniently forgotten, or repressed, our responsibility for it.

We empathise with the dead and the maimed in Boston in the same way that we empathise with those suffering from cancer - because we could get it too. As an act of God or nature, it could strike any of us at any time. We're not responsible for the ravages of the cancer cell. We didn't pass it on.

But what, for the sake of argument, if we had? What if we were somehow responsible for contaminating cancer sufferers with the virus that would go on to metastasise and destroy them? I seriously doubt our capacity for empathy would kick in then. We'd more likely repress the awareness of our guilt, find ways and means to blame the afflicted for their suffering, and shun them like the plague.

This is what we've done in Iraq.

By choosing to become camp followers of the Bush-Cheney-Ziocon crusade against Iraq, we are directly responsible for unleashing the cancer of sectarian violence which has been ravaging that country now for over a decade. But we cannot possibly bring ourselves to admit what we've done. And so we repress the knowledge of our crime against suffering Iraqi humanity, and bury it under cliches about the Middle East being some Godforsaken, Hobbesian region naturally prone to this kind of violence.

Now lest I be accused of overstating my case here, the following deeply racist crap appeared on the letters page of today's Herald in response to Aly's piece:

"To say that we should be more aware of the concurrent tragedy in Iraq is unfair. Sadly, Islamic societies suffer these events frequently, usually over some minor differences in Islamic doctrine. I doubt the Iraqi media makes any mention of the Boston bombing." Lina Lockhart, Marrickville

The Saudi Marathon Man

by Amy Davidson
The New Yorker, 17/4/13

"A 20-year-old man who had been watching the Boston Marathon had his body torn into by the force of a bomb. He wasn't alone; a hundred and seventy-six people were injured and 3 were killed. But he was the only one who, while in hospital being treated for his wounds, had his apartment searched in 'a startling show of force', as his fellow tenants described it to the Boston Herald, with a 'phalanx' of officers and agents and two K9 units. He was the one whose belongings were carried out in paper bags as his neighbors watched; whose roommate, also a student, was questioned for 5 hours ('I was scared') before coming out to say that he didn't think his friend was someone who'd plant a bomb - that he was a nice guy who liked sports. 'Let me go to school, dude,' the roommate said later in the day, covering his face with his hands and almost crying, as a Fox News producer followed him and asked him, again and again, if he was sure he hadn't been living with a killer.

"Why the search, the interrogation, the dogs, the bomb squad, and the injured man's name tweeted out, attached to the word 'suspect'? After the bombs went off, people were running in every direction - so was the young man. Many, like him, were hurt badly; many of them were saved by the unflinching kindness of strangers, who carried them or stopped the bleeding with their own hands and improvised tourniquets. 'Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood,' President Obama said. 'They helped one another, consoled one another,' Cameron Ortiz, the US Attorney for Massachusetts, said. In the midst of that, according to a CBS News report, a bystander saw the young man running, badly hurt, rushed to him, and then 'tackled' him, bringing him down. People thought he looked suspicious.

"What made them suspect him? He was running - so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb - as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead - a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange.

"What happened next didn't take long. 'Investigators have a suspect - a Saudi Arabian national - in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings.' That's the New York Post, which went on to cite Fox News. the 'Saudi suspect' - still faceless - suddenly gave anxieties a form. He was said to be in custody; or maybe his hospital bed was being guarded. The Boston police, who weren't saying much of anything, disputed the report - sort of. 'Honestly, I don't know where they're getting their information from, but it didn't come from us,' a police spokesman told TPM. But were they talking to someone? Maybe. 'Person of interest' became a phrase of both avoidance and insinuation. On the Atlas Shrugs website, there was a note that his name in Arabic meant 'sword'. At an evening press conference, Ed Davis, the police commissioner, said that no suspect was in custody. But that was about when the dogs were in the apartment building in Revere - an inquiry that was seized on by some as, if not an indictment, at least a vindication of their suspicions.

"'There must have been enough evidence to keep him there,' Andrew Napolitano said on 'Fox & Friends' - 'there' being the hospital. 'They must be learning information which is of a suspicious nature,' Steve Doocy interjected. 'If he was clearly innocent, would they have been able to search his house?' Napolitano thought that a judge would take any reason at a moment like this, but there had to be 'something' - maybe he appeared 'deceitful'. As Mediaite pointed out, Megyn Kelly put a slight break on it (as she has been known to do) by asking if there might have been some 'racial profiling', but then, after a round of speculation about his visa (Napolitano: 'Was he a real student, or was that a front?'), she asked, 'What's the story on his ability to lawyer up?'

"By Tuesday afternoon, the fever had broken. Report after report said that he was a witness, not a suspect. 'He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,' a 'US official' told CNN. (So were a lot of people at the marathon.) Even Fox News reported that he'd been 'ruled out'. At a press conference, Governor Deval Patrick spoke, not so obliquely, about being careful not to treat 'categories of people in uncharitable ways.'

"We don't know yet who did this. 'The range of suspects and motives remains wide open,' Richard Deslauriers of the FBI said early Thursday evening. In a minute, with a claim of responsibility, our expectations could be scrambled. The bombing could, for all we know, be the work of a Saudi man - or an American or an Icelandic or a person from any nation you can think of. It still won't mean that this Saudi man can be treated the way he was, or that people who love him might have had to find out that a bomb had hit him when his name popped up on the Web as a suspect in custody. It is at these moments that we need to be most careful, not least.'

"It might be comforting to think of this as a blip, an aberration, something that will be forgotten tomorrow - if not by this young man. There are people at Guantanamo who have also been cleared by our own government, and are still there. A new report on the legacy of torture after 9/11, released Tuesday, is a well-timed admonition. The FBI said they would 'go to the ends of the earth' to get the Boston perpetrators. One wants them to be able to go with their heads held high.

"'If you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil - that's it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid,' President Obama said. That was mostly true on Monday; a terrible day when an 8-year-old boy was killed, his sister maimed, two others dead, and many more in critical condition. And yet, when there was so much to to fear that we were so brave about, there was panic about a wounded man barely out of his teens who needed help. We get so close to all that Obama described. What's missing? Is it humility?"

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Conga Line of BDS Bashers

Whenever Murdoch's Australian takes its hatchet to one or other manifestation of Australia's pro-Palestinian BDS campaign, a virtual conga line of Israel lobbyists and Zionist dupes is invariably trotted out to condemn it.

Christian Kerr's BDS targets uni over campus shop in yesterday's paper is a case in point.

But first the scene-setting:

"The University of NSW has been targeted by the anti-Israeli BDS movement over plans to open a Max Brenner chocolate shop on its main Sydney campus. Students for Justice in Palestine has launched a campaign against the campus outlet, expected to open in June, calling on the university to cancel the contract. Spokesman Damian Ridgewell warned of protests. 'There will be an active campaign on campus to encourage students and staff to boycott the shop', he told The Australian. BDS activists claim the Max Brenner chain is owned by the Strauss Group of food and confectionary manufacturers, which produces some rations for the Israeli Defence Forces, and accuses it of complicity in 'war crimes'. The company insists that it is wholly Australian owned and operated."

Then, one by one, the BDS bashers take the floor. There's the clueless spokesperson from admin:

"A UNSW spokeswoman said the university 'deplores any form of racism and discrimination' but added: 'Free expression of views and open debate are central to the life of a university'. The spokeswoman said staff and students had been surveyed over new stores on campus. 'Max Brenner was the equal second most popular choice'."

Oh, so that's an informed endorsement, is it? According to a 2012 Lowy Institute poll, only 39% of the 18 to 29 year olds surveyed expressed support for Australian democracy, while 23% didn't really care what kind of political system we had. All I can say is thank God we've got groups like Students for Justice in Palestine to promote a concern for the content of the student mind, as opposed to what goes into the student belly and the corporate coffers.

There's the rambammed politician 1:

"Tertiary Education Minister Craig Emerson slammed the boycott. 'The Australian government has always been firm and clear in its opposition to Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign', he said. 'Such boycotts against Israel in addition to harming Palestinian people economically, are unhelpful to the Middle East peace process'."

But seriously, what else is he going to say? After all:

"Emerson is an alumni of AIJAC's Rambam program, which sends politicians to Israel to learn the facts on the ground. As acting foreign minister he has condemned terrorist activities against Israel, and as trade minister condemned the NSW Greens' BDS policy, labeling it 'reprehensible'. 'Craig Emerson is somebody we've got to know well', [AIJAC director Colin] Rubenstein said. 'He's also a very quick learner and I think very positive and quite knowledgeable about the world and certainly about the Middle East'." (Australia-Israel relations after the fall of Rudd, The Australian Jewish News, 1/3/12)

There's the lobbyist:

"Executive Council of Australian Jewry head Peter Wertheim said action against Max Brenner had failed. 'Since the boycott campaign against Max Brenner Australia began in 2011, their business has really boomed', he said. 'Their shops are crowded with Australians of all backgrounds, including families with women wearing hijabs."

But he would say that, wouldn't he? In fact, he may have said too much! I mean, is Wertheim not perhaps concerned that the mere mention of hijabs patronising a Max Brenner outlet will scare away the hijab-hating shock troops of the Australian Protectionist Party who love Max so much that, whenever a BDS protest heaves into view, they're there with bells and whistles to protect him?

There's the rambammed politician 2:

"NSW opposition frontbencher Walt Secord urged 'a reverse boycott' of the shop."

LOL! If only you'd seen the memorable photograph of Walt at Jerusalem's 'Wailing Wall' on the front page of the March 22 edition of The Australian Jewish News, you'd swear the guy's been reverse-boycotting chocolate ever since he was knee high to the proverbial grasshopper.

And finally, there's the trainee lobbyist:

"Australian Union of Jewish Students political affairs director Dean Sherr... called BDS 'an ugly attempt to delegitimise an entire nation. The problem with BDS is that it does nothing to offer solutions or initiatives for peace', he said. 'It's about attributing all the blame to Israel and punishing it, and calling into question the Jewish state's very right to exist'."

Political affairs director, eh? How grand! A trawl through Dean's tweets suggest a guy who's more into footie than politics. This, I'm afraid, is about as good as it gets with Dean: "We should let them [asylum seekers] in as long as they promise to buy a Dogs, Roos or Port membership." (22/10/12)

What can I say? Herzl would be turning in his grave.

Best show in town, folks!

PS (19/4/13):  The Conga Line of BDS Bashers grows even longer in today's Australian with yet another rambammed politician, Liberal Senator Brett Mason, "accus[ing] the BDS movement of promoting an anti-Israel agenda rather than supporting the Middle East peace process." (Students were told about Brenner, Christian Kerr) Which sounds a bit like a corporate heavy accusing environmentalists of promoting an anti-development agenda rather than supporting the cloning of extinct species, no? Then we have a medicine man with a UNSW connection, Dr David Adler,  who says, "Boycotting a party is contrary to the mission of the university and in this particular case will not advance the cause of peace one inch." Is this the same David Adler, I wonder, who "recently visited Israel and was deeply inspired by his personal journey of discovery there," so much so, in fact, that he'll be lecturing to guests at a Young Adult Chabad function in May on "How many Miracles can you fit on the head of a Pin?"? (youngadult chabad.org) All about advancing the cause of peace by miles, of course.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The UN Goes to Water

It appears that Israel now has a veto of sorts in the UN.

A devastating, must-read report by The Australian's Middle East correspondent John Lyons:

"It would be difficult to imagine a more bizarre press conference. When UNICEF, the UN children's fund, recently notified journalists in Jerusalem that it was releasing a report on Palestinian children in Israel's military justice system, there was much interest.

"The issue has had a growing international focus, particularly in Britain where it has been the subject of parliamentary debates. Foreign Minister Bob Carr and his predecessor Kevin Rudd have taken up the issue with Israel. But something strange has happened.

"During the past 2 years several groups have been attacked for highlighting Israel's treatment of Palestinian children. Breaking the Silence, a group of 850 serving and former Israeli soldiers campaigning to improve Israel's human rights record, has been attacked for focusing on the issue.

"But not UNICEF. After the new report Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: 'Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing co-operation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect. This year Israel has joined the UNICEF board and our working relations and collaboration with the organisation are appreciated by the international community'.

"So why has UNICEF been spared an attack? It was obvious at the Jerusalem press conference that something was askew. The room had 60 chairs for only a handful of journalists. 'We were limited in the number of journalists we could invite', one official admitted. 'You wouldn't believe the pressure we were under to cancel this event', another said.

"Five UNICEF officials took their seats - with name tags and microphones - and television cameras were set up. It looked like a real press conference. Inquirer's photographer had brought a video camera to film for The Australian's website. But UNICEF's Jerusalem chief Jean Gough made an announcement: only the first 5 minutes could be filmed and no officials could be quoted. A press conference where you couldn't film? Or quote officials?

"Gough began speaking. During the first 5 minutes she praised Israel for its dialogue about the system under which Palestinian children from the age of 12 are tried by Israeli soldiers, while Jewish children in neighbouring settlements are tried before civilian courts. 'I want to thank them', she said of the Israelis.

"But once the cameras were off, a totally different story was told - one official said the ill-treatment of Palestinian children was 'widespread, systematic and institutionalised'; another told how Palestinian children were 'beaten, slapped and kicked' by Israeli soldiers. He said children were sometimes told they would be killed or that they or members of their families would be sexually assaulted if they did not confess, usually to stone-throwing. Another said there was 'a systemic pattern of abuse and torture'.

"This was not just media management but a distortion of the truth. The version from the first 5 minutes was highly positive to Israel, but the later version was of a horrific system in which children were taken from their homes - usually at night - by heavily armed soldiers, blindfolded, denied water and toilets, and even placed in solitary confinement for up to a month. And while UNICEF found Israel had engaged in actions that fitted its definition of torture, the report avoided using that word in its findings.

"An investigation by Inquirer suggested that UNICEF had caved in to pressure from Israel or self-censored. The more we questioned, the less UNICEF answered. Gough would not answer certain questions, referring us to UNICEF's New York executive director, Anthony Lake. But Lake would not answer a single question, even though he signed off on the report. In a circle of unaccountability, his office referred us back to Jerusalem because 'it is a report about children there, not a global report'. Lake's office stated: 'So we will close on this from HQ and you will receive your responses from the region'. But the Jerusalem office would not answer several questions - so for one of UNICEF's major reports many questions went unanswered.

"There were general references to torture, but when it came to specific findings the word was omitted. The report even deleted 'torture' when it quoted relevant sections of international law and substituted it with 'duress'. For example, it states: 'In the majority of cases, the principal evidence against the child is the child's own confession, in most cases extracted under duress during the interrogation... although many children reported providing confessions as a result of ill-treatment, few raise this matter before the court for fear that their complaints would lead to harsher sentences, even though international law prohibits the use of evidence obtained under duress by a court'. The report says this is based on article 15 of the Convention Against Torture - which refers to torture, not duress.

"The report lists practices that amount to 'torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment according to the Committee against Torture'. It says these include: restraining in painful conditions; threats, including death threats; kicking, punching and beating; excessive use of force; incommunicado detention; solitary confinement; sensory deprivation; not providing food and water. The report concludes that Israel has done many of these - but it does not use the word torture.

"Gough gave Inquirer various reasons for this. At first she said that if only one of these things was done it did not constitute torture. 'We don't have enough evidence to say that all of these things have happened to the one child', she said. Gough said UNICEF was not 'a complaints mechanism' and did not have enough staff to investigate individual cases.

"UNICEF says the evidence base for the report included more than 400 documented cases of ill-treatment. About 200 were provided by the Defence for Children International, which also gave UNICEF access to its report Bound, Blindfolded & Convicted. The cases in the DCI report included a boy who had his hands tied behind his back for 19 hours; a boy whose handcuffs were so tight that flesh came off; a boy who said he was hit in his testicles and a boy whose head was slammed against a wall.

"The bizarre Jerusalem press conference followed a year of debate. In March last year word emerged that UNICEF was not going to publish any report. One source said there were 'massive ructions' inside the organisation. The source said some argued that it would be wrong if the report was not published while others suggested the report could be postponed indefinitely, which would delay upsetting Israel. The source said a middle course was decided on - the launch would go ahead but the number of journalists invited would be limited to 'calm everybody down'. It was an extraordinary decision; normally organisations want as much coverage for their report as possible.

"Gough admits that during the draft process 'we took advise from Israeli lawyers'. Did the Israeli lawyers see the final draft? 'Of course', Gough says. 'We had a discussion on it. That is about ensuring we have a dialogue'. Gough, meanwhile, has been promoted to head the Nigeria office, UNICEF's second largest mission. Asked about her new job she says: 'It's a promotion'. But then she quickly adds: 'But not because of the report'." (UN's circle of unaccountability, 13/4/13)

Inevitably, as night follows day, AIJAC's Colin Rubenstein, an habitual defender of the indefensible, weighed in with a letter (17/4/13) accusing Lyons of "attack[ing] UNICEF for co-operating with Israel," and referring to what he called "the tone of moral outrage that has sometimes characterised [his] reporting."

Howling nonsense, of course, but typical of the capacity for Zionist propagandists to project their tactics onto others. You may, for example, recall Philip Mendes' letter in yesterday's post, which projected the typically Zionist 'Nasty Campaign to Boycott & Silence' (TM) onto Sydney University's SRC. Here we have Rubenstein projecting the equally typical Zionist 'Tone of Moral Outrage' (TM) onto Lyons.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Nasty Campaign to Boycott & Silence (TM)

Stung by reports of growing support for the Palestinian Boycott Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign at Sydney University in their fave paper, The Australian, the usual suspects have leapt into print on today's letters page to head off this latest existential threat to their One & Only Love.

Fulminates Monash University academic, Philip Mendes:

"It's disgraceful that Sydney University's SRC is supporting the extremist BDS campaign against Israel. This nasty campaign to boycott and silence Israelis violates the basic academic principle of supporting freedom of speech for divergent views."  

Nasty campaign to boycott and silence?

Now it's worth remembering that just as Middle East-related terrorism was pioneered by Menachem Begin's Boston-style bombings in Palestinian market places in Jaffa and Haifa in the thirties,* so too the the Nasty Campaign to Boycott & Silence (TM) critics of Israel was pioneered by the Zionist movement - and that long before the advent of BDS.

Take, for example, the case of Canadian churchman and journalist, the Reverend A. C. Forrest, who dared to report, for a range of Church-based newspapers in Canada and the US, on the plight of Palestinian refugees following Israel's conquest of the West Bank in 1967:

"In the months that followed the publication of my reports on the situation in the Middle East I was subjected to a barrage of innuendo and invective. In 30 years of more or less public church life, 15 of them editing the largest - and I like to think the most respected - church paper in the British Commonwealth, I had never known anything like it. One cannot take a place as a responsible editor in the free church press without angering some people. There is usually a way in which controversy can be carried on with decency. However, I have found no way to criticize the policies of the State of Israel, or question the philosophy of political Zionism, or tell my readers what the facts of the Middle East are, and escape slander and libel from the Zionist-Israeli community. In Israel it is different. (The Unholy Land, 1971, p 38)

"I was invited by several Jewish groups to speak to them. In one case it was an on-again, off-again matter over several months until the young lad in a synagogue youth group who asked me admitted they were under a lot of pressure from their parents to withdraw the invitation. The Jewish press was keeping up the attack and I was labelled, 'that creature', a 'virulent anti-Zionist', and 'an enemy of Israel'. One Toronto rabbi said I had admitted 'I had always hated Israel'. One rabbi at a distinguished social gathering told me, 'You'll have a page in Jewish history along with Adolf Hitler'. He also said loudly, 'I'd like to know what the Arabs are paying you'.

"Finally the synagogue speaking engagement was on, on condition that after I had spoken I would be answered by the Israeli Consul-General in Toronto, Mr Aba Gefen. I concentrated on 'the new refugees', and reported what I saw.

"Mr Gefen embarked on a personal attack. Where had I been when Hitler was coming to power, and where was I when he was killing 6 million Jews? (When I got a chance, although I don't like that kind of question, I admitted I had been a boy in high school when Hitler came to power and later wore an RCAF uniform during World War II, although I had done all my service in Canada and most of my fighting with Commanding Officers.) Gefen said: '... these refugees were urged by the Arab governments to return westward and incited to destroy Israel from within. And now thousands of them could be returning under categories approved by the Israeli government, their return is wantonly prevented. Thousands of refugees have Israeli permits to return, but the Jordanian government declared none will return'.

"That was in November, 1967.

"The thoroughly documented fact then was that 170,000 refugees in Jordan filled out forms applying to return (Israel says only 150,000) and Israel issued permits for 20,000 to go back. Only 14,000 returned. The reasons why the other 6,000 permits were not used are many. The main one was that in many cases Israel approved the return of part of a family and said 'no' to others, such as boys of 17 or 18. Rather than split up and run the risk of never seeing their children again families decided to stick it out in the refugee camps.

"I thought then that the Consul was deliberately misleading his audience. I have concluded since that he actually believed what he said. After a time I was honoured by attention from the Anti-Defamation League, which commissioned a Zionist professor named Arnold Ages, who had been in on the attack, to do some real research. He made a study of [The United Church] Observer over some 20 years - a very selective one for a research professor I must add - and the ADL circulated their 13 page single-spaced document among the newspapers and radio stations of Canada. It ended with a quotation from a line-toeing fundamentalist premillenialist, Dr Douglas Young of Jerusalem, who had attacked my call for a 'peace with justice settlement now'.

"Young addressed an Open Letter to me which was apparently published in the Jerusalem Post. It began 'J'Accuse', and continued: 'If war comes to the Middle East again, historians will record that your pen, which could have been a contributory to peace... will, like a sword of war, drip with the blood of the wounded and dead on both sides'.

"That quotation now continues to turn up here and there in Zionist attacks on me; even rabbis with standing quote it, as though Young were an authority. In Jerusalem, Dr Douglas Young and his Institute are almost unknown to the intelligent Christian community." (ibid, pp 45-47)

But there was more to the Zionist Nasty Campaign to Boycott & Silence (TM) A.C. Forrest.

It even extended to his book, The Unholy Land:

"Perhaps the biggest publicity the book has received, however, was the announcement by Coles Bookstores that they were removing it from their 29 outlets across Canada as 'an absolute non-seller'. This made the headlines almost coincidentally with the announcement of its reaching the best-seller list! This action, noted the Toronto Star, 'lends color to Mr Forrest's claim that there is a pattern in Canada of 'suppressing criticism' of Israel.' Three-to-six-column headlines proclaimed, 'Book critical of Israel disappears from Coles', 'Israel book ban 'smells', and 'Book criticizing Israel still sold by most shops'. Buckley's bookstore advertised, 'We do not suppress books however truthful they may be', and offered a dollar discount on The Unholy Land 'to all who believed that book banning died with Hitler'." (The Unholy Land enters 4th printing, L. Humphrey Walz, The Link, November-December 1971)

[*See my 27/6/08 post Breathtaking Zionist Hypocrisy.]

If They're Good Enough for the Technion...

In his propaganda piece in yesterday's Australian contra Sydney University's Student Representative Council's decision to back Associate Professor Jake Lynch's academic boycott of Israel, the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Philip Chester, drew attention to the Technion's alleged embrace of Palestinian-Israeli (or in Zionist parlance Arab Israeli) students:

"About 20% of the [Technion's] students are Arabs, which is proportionate to the Arab component of Israel's population... For more than 12 years, the Technion has been running an outreach program that specifically prepares Israeli Arab high school students for university... Some of the most successful collaboration between Palestinians and Israelis is in the field of science." (Appalling attempt to boycott Israeli uni)

(Which talk, incidentally, reminds me of the joint Israeli/Palestinian sporting teams set up by the Peres Centre for Peace, one example of which turned up in Australia in 2008,* designed to distract gullible Westerners from an understanding of Israel's colonial, apartheid reality.)

Chester is suggesting, of course, that a boycott of Israeli academic institutions such as the Technion is in fact anti-Palestinian/Arab and therefore counterproductive.

To argue in this way, however, is a potentially risky strategy for Zionist propagandists because it raises - or should raise - some fundamental questions about the very nature of a supremacist Jewish state in Palestine: if Palestinian-Israelis/Arab Israelis are good enough to study at one of Israel's oldest and most prestigious universities (or to play in Israeli sporting teams), then why are they not good enough to be treated as equal citizens with Israeli Jews; and why, for that matter, aren't the exiled Palestinian refugees of 1948 and 1967 good enough to be repatriated as full and equal citizens with Israeli Jews in a bi-national, secular, democratic Israeli-Palestinian state?


[*See my 5/10/11 post The Peace Team: Politics & PR.]

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald review of a new French? Israeli? French-Israeli? film due for release this Thursday in Sydney really had me squirming:

"The Other Son is a film that poses a potent question: what happens when two Middle Eastern youths - one Jewish, the other Palestinian - discover they have been accidentally switched as babies during a Gulf War air raid? As Joseph prepares to join the Israeli army for national service, he learns he is actually the son of a Palestinian family from the West Bank."* (Middle East fairy story a tale of faith tolerance, Garry Maddox)

So the Middle East conflict boils down to... religious intolerance? Oh really...?

"In shock, he wonders if he has to trade his skull cap for a suicide bomb."

Jeeesus! You're kidding me, right?

"Like Yacine, who has been living in tougher conditions in the West Bank..."

Never use the 'O'(ccupation) word if you can possibly avoid it!

"Director Lorraine Levy... says... 'I'm Jewish... But I profoundly respect Arabs, Christians, Buddhists - that's the way I was raised. I'm always completely flabergasted when some people reject others just because of their beliefs. For me that's just as crazy and stupid as during the Middle Ages when people who were heretics were burned'."

OK, Lorraine, if you're flabergasted by the idea of people rejecting others because they have different beliefs, what about the idea of people rejecting others because their mums aren't Jewish?

Come on, you're an adult. Surely you know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about Israel's bizarro Law of Return, which allows you, for example, to migrate to Israel because your mother's Jewish but gives the thumbs down to the return of all those Palestinian Muslims and Christians (and their kids and their kids) who were booted out in 1948 and 1967.

What say you? Crazy? Stupid? Medieval? Flabergasting?

"Levy is philosophical... 'Despite all the hatred embedded in centuries of history, I wanted to do something."

Hello? Centuries? Does the year 1917 mean anything to you?

And that embedded hatred rubbish, why do I suspect you really mean embedded Palestinian/Arab hatred? As in: the Palestinians are just the latest in a long line of vicious, Jew-hating mongrels stretching back to the pharaohs.

Is that your 'understanding' of the conflict? And you're going to do something about it?!

Listen, I've got a great idea. Why not read a decent book on the subject first?

In French? No problem. I've got just the one for you, not too long: Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? (1973) by Maxime Rodinson:

"Those who automatically classify all the Arab movements and regimes as fascist simply because they are opposed to Israel are spreading an erroneous and deeply harmful conception of the problem. Similarly, all those who hold to legends about a gratuitous hatred of Arabs for Jews... are misleading themselves and others. If there is indeed hatred that often exceeds all bounds... it is all based on an objective reality for which the Zionist leaders are responsible: the colonization of a foreign land." (p 94)

"The only way forward in this conflict, I believe, is through a reasoned approach and compromise - with each party receiving a part of what they're entitled to."

Right! The only way.

So what exactly is each party entitled to, Lorraine?

What are the colons entitled to? And what the colonized?

What are the occupiers entitled to? And what the occupied?

What are the ethnic cleansers entitled to? And what the ethnically cleansed?

Do tell.

Oh, and do spell out those compromises while you're at it.

Don't be shy. You've bought into the issue with your film so we're entitled to know where you're really coming from, non?

[*So Palestinian women from the Israeli occupied West Bank were having babies in maternity wards in Israel at the time? Really...? And by "Gulf War air raid," I take it that Maddox means Saddam Hussein's Scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv in 1991.]

Monday, April 15, 2013

And the Real Agenda Is...?

This will be my fourth post on this subject.*

Let me be clear:

If NSW Premier Baruch O'Farrell declared for the very first time, at an Israel Independence Day function in April 2012, that a certain piece of legislation needed revamping, but later told a nosy journalist that the inspiration for said revamp came as a response to an instance of Muslim youth allegedly behaving badly in September 2012, then you'd probably be wondering what the real agenda behind the revamp was, right?

Here's the latest skerrick of information on the subject to filter down to us:

"A NSW parliamentary inquiry has been told that strengthening laws to make it easier to convict people for serious racism could restrict the democratic right to free speech. Current anti-discrimination laws have failed to result in any successful prosecutions since they were introduced in 1989, despite more than 27 public complaints about alleged breaches. Premier Barry O'Farrell launched an inquiry last year to examine whether the laws are too restrictive and should be broadened beyond the focus on physical harm. Simon Breheny, from the Institute of Public Affairs, said the law was appropriate, however it should not be expanded to catch any form of conduct less than specific threats of physical violence." (Sydney Morning Herald, 9/4/13)

[*See my posts Where's This All Going? (14/1/13); A Matter of Motive (27/1/13) and Not So Fast, Baruch O'Farrell (29/1/13)]

Blinded by the Light

For the Australian Labor Party, Ben Chifley's 'light on the hill' was long ago replaced by a guiding light of an entirely different order, one whose intensity - like white phosphorus in a Gaza sky at night - only seems to increase as the background gloom deepens:

"Israel is 65 years old, even as the state fulfills a dream of faith and rebirth that is over 3000 years old. We cherish Israel as a democracy in a region facing profound upheaval. It is a society, as I have noted previously, based on liberty, justice and peace, and which has guaranteed freedom of religion, language and culture to all its people. Just last month, President Shimon Peres, a founding father of the state, captured modern Israel with these words: 'We have a rich heritage and a great dream. As I look back, I feel the Israel of today has exceeded the vision we had 65 years ago. Reality has surpassed the dreams'. Israel is a modern miracle." (Message from Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Israel's 65th Independence Day*, The Australian Jewish News, 12/4/13)

"On behalf of the Victorian Labor Party, I offer my best wishes to the Jewish Community on the occasion of Israel's 65th Independence Day. Israel's Independence Day does not merely mark the signing of an instrument or the foundation of a Government. It marks the momentous attainment of a displaced people formally reunited with their historic homeland. When Israel's Independence Day is celebrated in Victoria, we are reminded of the values that bind our peoples. A deep faith in democracy, freedom and enterprise. A dedication to the sciences, to the arts and to human development. These are the foundations on which our societies are built, and these are the facets that define our friendship. Mazel tov to the State of Israel, and the community in the Diaspora, for reaching this important anniversary. In Israel's 65th year, may our friendship strengthen, and may we reinforce the close partnership which we have embraced for so many decades." (Message from Victorian Labor Opposition leader Daniel Andrews, Yom Ha'atzmaut 2013 supplement, The AJN, 12/4/13)

[*Begins tonight.]

Sunday, April 14, 2013

'Honest' John

John Howard in his April 9, 2013 speech to the Lowy Institute:

"I never believed that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks nor did president Bush..."

George Bush in his May 1, 2003 announcement that major combat operations in Iraq have ended:

"The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 - and still goes on. That terrible morning, nineteen evil men - the shock troops of a hateful ideology - gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the 'beginning of the end of America'. By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed... The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain. No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more." (The Iraq Papers, edited by Ehrenberg, McSherry, Sanchez & Sayej, 2010, p 176)

We Learned a Lot

What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song? 
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? 
No, it is bought with the price 
Of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.
William Blake

From Iraqi blogger Riverbend:

Ten Years On...

April 9, 2013 marks ten years since the fall of Baghdad. Ten years since the invasion. Since the lives of millions of Iraqis changed forever. It's difficult to believe. It feels like only yesterday I was sharing day to day activities with the world. I feel obliged today to put my thoughts down on the blog once again, probably for the last time.

In 2003, we were counting our lives in days and weeks. Would we make it to next month? Would we make it through the summer? Some of us did and many of us didn't.

Back in 2003, one year seemed like a lifetime ahead. The idiots said, 'Things will improve immediately'. The realists said, 'Things won't improve for at least 5 years'. The pessimists said, 'It will take ten years. It will take a decade'.

Looking back at the last ten years, what have our occupiers and their Iraqi governments given us in ten years? What have our puppets achieved in this last decade? What have we learned?

We learned a lot.

We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair - it takes the good people. Even in death you can be unlucky. Lucky ones die a 'normal' death... A familiar death of cancer, or a heart-attack, or stroke. Unlucky ones have to be collected in bits and pieces. Their families trying to bury what can be salvaged and scraped off of streets that have seen so much blood, it is a wonder they are not red.

We learned that you can be floating on a sea of oil, but your people can be destitute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and children can be eating out of trash dumps and begging for money in foreign lands.

We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in private torture chambers.

We are learning that corruption is the way to go. You want a passport issued? Pay someone. You want a document ratified? Pay someone. You want someone dead? Pay someone.

We learned that it's not that difficult to make billions disappear.

We are learning that those amenities we took for granted before 2003, you know - the luxuries - electricity, clean water from faucets, walkable streets, safe schools - those are for deserving populations. Those are for people who don't allow occupiers into their country.

We're learning that the biggest fans of the occupation (you know who you are, you traitors) eventually leave abroad. And where do they go? The USA, most likely, with the UK a close second. If I were an American, I'd be outraged. After spending so much money and so many lives, I'd expect the minor Chalabis and Malikis and Hashimis of Iraq to, well, stay in Iraq. Invest in their country. I'd stand in passport control and ask them, 'Weren't you happy when we invaded your country? Weren't you happy when we liberated you? Go back. Go back to the country you're so happy with because now you're free!'

We're learning that militias aren't particular about who they kill. The easiest thing in the world would be to say that Shia militias kill Sunnis and Sunni militias kill Shia, but that's not the way it works. That's too simple.

We're learning that the leaders don't make history. Populations don't make history. Historians don't write history. News networks do. The Foxes, and CNNs, and BBCs, and Jazeeras of the world make history. They twist and turn things to fit their own private agendas.

We're learning that the masks are off. No one is ashamed of the hypocrisy any more. You can be against one country (like Iran), but empowering them somewhere else (like in Iraq). You can claim to be against religious extremism (like in Afghanistan), but promoting religious extremism somewhere else (like in Iraq and Egypt and Syria). Those who didn't know it in 2003 are learning (much too late) that an occupation is not the portal to freedom and democracy. The occupiers do not have your best interests at heart.

We are learning that ignorance is the death of civilized societies and that everyone thinks their particular form of fanaticism is acceptable.

We are learning how easy it is to manipulate populations with their own prejudices and that politics and religion never mix, even if a superpower says they should mix.

But it wasn't all a bad education...

We learned that sometimes you receive kindness when you least expect it. We learned that people often step outside of the stereotypes we build for them and surprise us. We learned and continue to learn that there is strength in numbers and that Iraqis are not easy to oppress. It is a matter of time...

And then there are things we'd like to learn...

Ahmad Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim Jaafari, Tarek Al Hashemi and the rest of the vultures, where are they now? Have they crawled back under their rocks in countries like the USA, the UK, etc? Where will Maliki be in a year or two? Will he return to Iran or take the millions he made off of killing Iraqis and then seek asylum in some European country? Far away from the angry Iraqi masses...

What about George Bush, Condi, Wolfowitz, and Powell? Will they ever be held accountable for the devastation and the death they wrought in Iraq? Saddam was held accountable for 300,000 Iraqis... Surely someone should be held accountable for the million or so?

Finally, after all is said and done, we shouldn't forget what this was about - making America safer... And are you safer, Americans? If you are, why is it that we hear more and more about attacks on your embassies and diplomats? Why is it that you are constantly warned to not go to this country or that one? Is it better now, ten years down the line? Do you feel safer, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis out of the way (granted half of them were women and children, but children grow up, right?)?

And what happened to Riverbend and my family? I eventually moved from Syria. I moved before the heavy fighting, before it got ugly. That's how fortunate I was. I moved to another country nearby, stayed almost a year, and then made another move to a third Arab country with the hope that, this time, it'll stick until... Until when? Even the pessimists aren't sure anymore. When will things improve? When will we be able to live normally? How long will it take?

For those of you who are disappointed reality has reared its ugly head again, go to Fox News, I'm sure they have a reportage that will soothe your conscience.

For those of you who have been asking about me and wondering how I have been doing, I thank you. 'Lo khuliyet, quilbet...' Which means 'if the world were empty of good people, it would end'. I only need to check my emails to know it won't be ending any time soon.