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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I've moved

I've moved to a new website. This site will remain alive, but will not be updated. New comments will no longer be accepted.

My new blog can be found here.

It was time to upgrade, modernise and move on.

Please join me.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The truth comes out

The Guardian's Israel correspondent, Chris McGreal, has produced some of the best reporting from the region. His latest reports (part one and part two) discuss the long-standing relationship between South Africa and the Jewish state and the similarities between apartheid South Africa and present day Israel. This series is some of the finest journalism I've read in months.

Meanwhile, as US Zionists are concerned about the Hamas win - and seem to believe that the US should undermine democratic elections if the desired party won't win - and complain about an awarded film from Palestine, facts on the ground continue to prove the devastation of the occupation. Amira Hass reports:

"While the international community busied itself with the disengagement from the Gaza Strip last summer, Israel completed another cut-off process, which went unnoticed: in 2005, Israel completed a process of cutting off the eastern sector of the West Bank, including the Jordan Rift Valley, from the remainder of the West Bank.

"Some 2,000,000 Palestinians, residents of the West Bank, are prohibited from entering the area, which constitutes around one-third of the West Bank, and includes the Jordan Rift, the area of the Dead Sea shoreline and the eastern slopes of the West Bank mountains."

Last, but not least, yet more confirmation that the Israeli security services always knew that the 2000 Intifada was not a premeditated move by Arafat.

When it comes to Israel, it's usually best to avoid official versions of every event. Lying has become a full-time business.

News bytes

- Craig Murray - the UK's former ambassador to Uzbekistan and now critic of the "war on terror - is facing hurdles in publishing his forthcoming book. The letter from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a shameless attempt at censorship and intimidation.

- Dick Cheney accidentally misses his intended target - himself.

- Uri Avnery explains the power of Israel's Kadima party.

- While an Australian Federal MP doesn't seem to know the difference between Papua New Guinea and West Papua and the Australia's Greg Sheridan believes the Indonesian military doesn't engage in war crimes in West Papua, it is worth reading the 2003 report by Yale University that reveals the extent of the devastation by the Indonesian military in the Indonesian province:

"Although no single act or set of acts can be said to have constituted genocide, per se, and although the required intent cannot be as readily inferred as it was in the cases of the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide, there can be little doubt that the Indonesian government has engaged in a systematic pattern of acts that has resulted in harm to-and indeed the destruction of-a substantial part of the indigenous population of West Papua."

UPDATE: A leading Chinese blogger explains the ways in which Microsoft is censoring material in China.

Targeting somebody, anybody

John Pike, a military analyst at GlobalSecurity.Org, argues that the Bush administration should rename its ideological struggle, The Forever War.

"'We're in the 17th year of The Long War,' he says, arguing the U.S. has been in perpetual combat since it intervened in Panama to remove Manuel Noriega from power in 1989.

"'Since then, we have been blowing somebody up, or getting ready to blow somebody up or coming back from blowing somebody up. It is so normal, people don't even notice any more.

"It's not about bin Laden any more. People aren't scared of him any more.

"My fear is that it is really the inauguration of the second Republic here because if you look closely at where this president is claiming his legal powers, it completely redefines the powers of the American government."

Bad omen

David Frost, The Observer, February 12:

"But I think when viewers watch al-Jazeera International, they will be closer to watching CNN."

While the world waits

While Israel's supposed leftist Labor Party prove their dedication to the extreme Zionist cause, the UN releases a report on the ongoing trauma of the occupation:

"Israel's separation wall and its network of checkpoints and roadblocks across the occupied West Bank have led to a 'de-development' of the Palestinian economy, a report by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator (UNSCO) said on Thursday, February 9.

"Francine Pickup, author of the report, said poverty and unemployment in the West Bank were expected to increase because of denying Palestinian workers access into Israeli markets."

As the Israeli state continues to demolish Palestinian homes in the name of upholding the law, the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah writes about the fall-out of the Hamas win:

"Palestinians are watching the post-election discussions rather calmly. For the time being, liberal Palestinians are dealing with the victory of the conservative Hamas with little more than jokes. Behind this jokes is an expectation, or hope, that Hamas politicians will be shaped by a stark reality they did not have to face in the past. This, along with Hamas's fear of being voted out in the next elections, is reassuring Palestinians that whatever happens will be an improvement.

"As many people are saying, it can't get much worse."

New exploiter, same rules

China's insatiable appetite for natural resources is taking the growing superpower to predictable places in Africa. For example, Sudan and China are increasingly close on military issues. Such behaviour is familiar to Western governments, fond of arming and supporting dictatorships throughout the continent. Black Looks blog, a Nigerian living in Spain, explains:

"I see no difference between the actions of the Chinese government and those of other Western governments and their multinationals except to say the Chinese seem to be far more open about the way they operate than Western governments and corporations."

Islam's Holocaust denial trap

John Bunzl, Haaretz, February 10:

"It was the late Edward Said who thought differently. He argued convincingly that recognizing the Holocaust for what it was (a genocide of the Jewish people) would increase the moral validity and legitimacy to demand recognition of the (very different) Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe of 1948), and that such recognition would make it easier to understand some features of Israeli society that genuinely reflect consequences of trauma and cannot be reduced to effects of political instrumentalization.

On the right side

Iranian Jews deserve support for their courageous stand:

"Iran's Jews have sharply criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust, saying his remarks have sparked fears in their ancient but dwindling community.

"Haroun Yashayaei, the head of Iran's Jewish community, sent a letter of complaint to Ahmadinejad two weeks ago.

"'How is it possible to ignore all of the undeniable evidence existing for the exile and massacre of the Jews in Europe during World War Two?' said a copy of Yashayaei's letter faxed to Reuters on Sunday.

"'Challenging one of the most obvious and saddening events of 20th-century humanity has created astonishment among the people of the world and spread fear and anxiety among the small Jewish community of Iran,' the letter added.

"A Jewish community leader said he preferred not to comment on whether Ahmadinejad had sent a reply to the letter, penned on behalf on the entire Jewish community.

"Jews occupy an awkward position in Israel's arch-foe Iran, often speaking out against Israeli treatment of Palestinians."

While reports suggest that the US is planning military strikes against Tehran, the international community should be rallying around individuals or groups expressing dissent from the official government line, such as Iranian Jews.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A reason for Americans to riot

Taking sides

Saree Makdisi, Counterpunch, February 10:

"...There can be no doubt that the Hamas charter is not only xenophobic, sectarian, and racist, but also ill-conceived, inaccurate, retrograde, and intellectually vacuous. Nevertheless, the obsessive attention being paid to this document in the US in recent weeks forces one to ask not merely what purposes such an obsession serves, but also what equally (or even more) important issues it elides or covers up.

"First, one has to marvel at the interest being paid to the racism of the Hamas charter, given the extraordinary lack of interest here in Israel's own racism, which is executed not merely on paper and in theory but actually, practically, materially.

"Israel's Basic Laws, for example, discriminate between Jews and non-Jews in ways that many of those Americans who object most loudly to the mixture of religion and politics strangely don't seem to find objectionable. And Israel's unique existence as a country that expressly claims to be not the state of its actual citizens but rather of a globally dispersed people manifestly privileges the (non-Israeli) Jews of New York and Chicago over Israel's actually existing non-Jewish citizens. Although they amount to some twenty percent of the state's population, the latter are literally written into second class status by virtue of their non-Jewishness in what loudly proclaims itself to be the Jewish state."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Making a clear choice

Conservative US commentator Andrew Sullivan publishes some "liberal" thoughts on the Danish cartoon controversy. Take this example:

"I'm honestly starting to suspect that, before this is over, European nations are going to have exactly four choices in dealing with their entire Moslem populations - for elementary safety's sake":

(1) "Capitulate totally to them and become a Moslem continent."
(2) "Intern all of them."
(3) "Deport all of them."
(4) "Throw all of them into the sea."

Such hysterical, racist nonsense may occupy the minds of supposed internationalists, but calmer heads must, and will, prevail.

Leading by example

Italian footballer Paolo Di Canio - "a fascist but not a racist" - has been given some appropriate punishment:

"Paolo Di Canio, the Lazio forward who has become the darling of the neo-fascist right with his repeated straight-arm salutes, has been summoned by the mayor of Rome to listen to fellow Italians who survived the Nazi death camps.

"The move is part of an initiative by the mayor that has already brought AS Roma players and officials face to face with Holocaust survivors in the city hall. For almost two hours on Thursday, Francesco Totti and the other members of the Serie A side listened in silence as former concentration-camp inmates appealed to them to stop playing as soon as they saw Nazi symbols in the crowd."

Di Canio may be ignorant but Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi caused outrage in 2003 by suggesting Mussolini "never killed anyone" and merely "sent people on holiday to confine them."

Differing realities

Leonard Fein, The Forward, February 10:

"Here's a puzzle, a small piece of a much larger set of nagging issues that bubbles just beneath the surface of our ordinary lives: On December 23, 2005, Lawrence Kaplan, a senior editor of The New Republic, asserted in The Wall Street Journal that 'Israeli officials were lukewarm about the war [in Iraq] from the outset, being far more concerned with the threat from Iran.'

"Yet now we have a book by James Risen, national security correspondent for The New York Times, titled 'State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,' that argues the exact opposite.

"In a section on the prewar jockeying in Washington, Risen describes the role of Paul Wolfowitz, then undersecretary of defense. Wolfowitz, he writes, found the CIA 'insufficiently hawkish,' believed it 'an arrogant, rogue institution...unwilling to support administration policymakers.' Specifically, Wolfowitz insisted on examining 'the possibility that Saddam Hussein was behind the [September 11] attacks on the United States,' a possibility that the CIA discounted.

"Now comes the kicker: 'Israeli intelligence played a hidden role in convincing Wolfowitz that he couldn't trust the CIA... Israeli intelligence officials frequently travelled to Washington to brief top American officials, but CIA analysts were often sceptical of Israeli intelligence reports, knowing that Mossad had very strong - even transparent - biases about the Arab world.' Wolfowitz, who 'had begun meeting personally with top Israeli intelligence officials,' preferred the Mossad's analysis to the CIA's.

"Now it cannot be that Israeli officials were at one and the same time 'lukewarm about the war' yet busy shuttling back and forth to encourage Wolfowitz's evident eagerness for that same war. From all that we know regarding Wolfowitz and his ideological associates - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and others - the Risen version seems to me the more plausible."

The full truth of the Iraq war is yet to emerge, though Israel's key involvement is a given. Now that the Jewish state's head of domestic security says he misses Saddam, one can be assured that the gross failure of the Iraq war is starting to bite.

Ending construction

After a group of British academics decided to boycott Israel in 2005 (though later overturned), the inevitable second stage is upon us:

"A group including some of Britain's most prominent architects is considering calling for an economic boycott of Israel's construction industry in protest at the building of Israeli settlements and the separation barrier in the Occupied Territories.

"The group said that architects, planners and engineers working on Israeli projects in the occupied territories were 'complicit in social, political and economic oppression', and 'in violation of their professional code of ethics'.

"It said that: 'Planning, architecture and other construction disciplines are being used to promote an apartheid system of environmental control.'"

While the chairman of the Israel Architects' Association may claim that the boycott is inappropriate because "the Government of Israel, which evacuated the Gaza Strip, is currently showing goodwill and trying to reach an agreement", the co-ordinator of the proposed boycott argues that, "since nothing seems to deter Israel, and western governments remain silent, civil society has to pressure Israel and those creating the physical reality of these injustices that are the cause of such instability in the Middle East."

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Real love

Our good friend and ally

Yet more evidence that Guantanamo Bay is the "gulag of our times":

"More than half of the terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay have not been accused of committing hostile acts against the United States or its allies, two of the detainees' lawyers said in a report released Tuesday.

"Compiled from declassified Defense Department evaluations of the more than 500 detainees at the Cuba facility, the report says just 8 percent are listed as fighters for a terrorist group, while 30 percent are considered members of a terrorist group and the remaining 60 percent were just 'associated with' terrorists.

"The evaluations were completed as part of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted during 2004 to determine if the prisoners were being correctly held as enemy combatants. So far just 10 of the detainees have been formally charged with crimes and are headed for military tribunals.

"According to the report, 55 percent of the detainees are informally accused of committing a hostile act. But the descriptions of their actions ranged from a high-ranking Taliban member who tortured and killed Afghan natives to people who possessed rifles, used a guest house or wore olive drab clothing."

Remind me to watch people in "olive drab clothing." One wonders where Australian captive David Hicks fits into the picture. His father, Terry, yesterday accused the US of holding his son as the "token white fella."

In further Guantanamo revelations, a recent article in the National Journal provides "powerful evidence confirming what many of us have suspected for years":

- A high percentage, perhaps the majority, of the 500-odd men now held at Guantanamo were not captured on any battlefield, let alone on 'the battlefield in Afghanistan' (as Bush asserted) while 'trying to kill American forces' (as McClellan claimed).

- Fewer than 20% of the Guantanamo detainees, the best available evidence suggests, have ever been al-Qaeda members.

- Many scores, and perhaps hundreds, of the detainees were not even Taliban foot soldiers, let alone al-Qaeda terrorists. They were innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants with no intention of joining the al-Qaeda campaign to murder Americans.

- The majority were not captured by U.S. forces but rather handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords and by villagers of highly doubtful reliability. These locals had strong incentives to tar as terrorists any and all Arabs they could get their hands on as the Arabs fled war-torn Afghanistan in late 2001 and 2002 - including noncombatant teachers and humanitarian workers.

- And the Bush administration has apparently made very little effort to corroborate the plausible claims of innocence detailed by many of the men who were handed over.

The military trials are a sham, based largely on guilt-by-association claims. Writer Stuart Taylor explains:

"The administration's unspoken logic appears to be: Better to ruin the lives of 10 innocent men than to let one who might be a terrorist go free. This logic would be understandable if the end of protecting American lives justified any and all means, including the wrecking of many more innocent non-American lives…"

Such realities perfectly explain the cynicism towards the US in certain parts of the world. Some of us prefer to simply regard the US as a rogue state.

News bytes

- Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez tells Tony Blair to "go right to hell" and accuses him of being a "pawn of imperialism."

- The Danish editor of "those" cartoons interviewed neo-con and Islamophobe Daniel Pipes in 2004.

- John Howard thinks the Greens are offensive. This is clearly much more problematic than sending a country to war on a lie. On a related topic, the Murdoch broadsheet says the local arts community is arrogant and out of touch. That rather reminds me of someone else...

- New Orleans is rebuilding.

Bring back that dictator

The head of Israel's domestic security agency, Yuval Diskin, proves Israel’s belief in Middle Eastern democracy:

"When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos. I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam."

The game with no end

While Nato dismisses the possibility of Israel entering the club as a "security umbrella" to protect the Jewish state from Iran and the World Jewish Congress launches a campaign against the Islamic state, John Pilger explains that the Western powers are preparing for a war of aggression:

"Like the invasion of Iraq, an attack on Iran has a secret agenda that has nothing to do with the Tehran regime's imaginary weapons of mass destruction. That Washington has managed to coerce enough members of the International Atomic Energy Agency into participating in a diplomatic charade is no more than reminiscent of the way it intimidated and bribed the "international community" into attacking Iraq in 1991.

"Iran offers no 'nuclear threat'. There is not the slightest evidence that it has the centrifuges necessary to enrich uranium to weapons-grade material. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, has repeatedly said his inspectors have found nothing to support American and Israeli claims. Iran has done nothing illegal; it has demonstrated no territorial ambitions nor has it engaged in the occupation of a foreign country - unlike the United States, Britain and Israel. It has complied with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to allow inspectors to 'go anywhere and see anything' - unlike the US and Israel. The latter has refused to recognise the NPT, and has between 200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons targeted at Iran and other Middle Eastern states."

Not unlike Britain, Washington is likely to ask Australia for troops and assistance. It is unlikely John Howard would deny the request and it is therefore vital to begin a campaign to avert a potentially catastrophic conflict.

Revenge is a two-way street

Amira Hass, Haaretz, February 8:

"The attempt to explain to Israelis that such acts of vengeance are puny compared to the intensity of the Israeli assault on every individual, and against the entire Palestinian community, is doomed to failure. On a daily basis, Israel attacks every Palestinian with systematic variety. The aggregation is lethal, even if the killing of a nine-year-old girl or setting a dog on an elderly woman are not daily occurrences. It's that aggregation that undermines any attempt to conduct a normal life. It's being locked up in the West Bank's enclaves, so that simple routines like going to school, work, or visiting family are impossible. There's the unceasing expropriation of land for roads and security fences for settlements; the trees uprooted by the army, livelihoods that are cut off daily, and the insult of that; the army's prohibition, on security grounds, against accessing farm and grazing lands; the break-ins to houses in the middle of the night, which the Israeli public rarely if ever hears about; the hours of waiting at checkpoints; the frightened children; the aimed rifles."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Moving to the left

Eva Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, explains why his country will continue to cultivate coca:

"You have to realise that, for us, the coca leaf is not cocaine and as such growing coca is not narco-trafficking. Neither is chewing coca nor making products from it that are separate from narcotics. The coca leaf has had an important role to play in our culture for thousands of years. It is used in many rituals. If, for example, you want to ask someone to marry you, you carry a coca leaf to them. It plays an important role in many aspects of life."

Read a fascinating interview with the new leader about British imperialism, US attempts to smear him and plans for his impoverished nation. It's worth remembering that, "in the 182 years since it was granted independence from Spain, this chaotic and crippled country has welcomed and waved goodbye to more than 190 failed governments."

In related news, Costa Rica is also turning away from the US orbit.

They're only Muslims, after all

Israel proves its expertise in cultural sensitivity:

"A dispute over the fate of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem threatened Wednesday to ignite tensions in Holy City as workers removed skeletons from the site despite Muslim pleas for the work to end.

"Israeli developers and archaeologists are removing the tombs to make room for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a multi-million-dollar Museum of Tolerance, dedicated in part to promoting understanding among different religions. Muslims are incensed.

"Mufti Ikrema Sabri, the senior Islamic cleric in Jerusalem, on Wednesday demanded that the dig stop at the site which until 1948 served as the main Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.

"'There should be a complete cessation of work on the cemetery because it is sacred for the Muslims,' Sabri told The Associated Press. The Waqf, the Muslim council in Jerusalem that Sabri oversees, was not consulted on the dig, he said. The cemetery was in use for 15 decades and friends of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad are buried there, Sabri said."

Imagine the justified outcry if a Muslim country desecrated Jewish graves?

The blame game

While the over-heated debate continues over Iran, some uncomfortable facts are surfacing:

"The George W. Bush administration's adoption of a policy of threatening to use military force against Iran disregarded a series of official intelligence estimates going back many years that consistently judged Iran's fear of a U.S. attack to be a major motivating factor in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"Two former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials who were directly involved in producing CIA estimates on Iran revealed in separate interviews with IPS that the National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on Iran have consistently portrayed its concerns about the military threat posed by the United States as a central consideration in Tehran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

"Paul Pillar, who managed the writing of all NIEs on Iran from 2000 to 2005 as the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, told IPS that all of the NIEs on Iran during that period addressed the Iranian fears of U.S. attack explicitly and related their desire for nuclear weapons to those fears."

Deliberate distortions

Following the recent controversy over Macquarie University's Centre for Middle East and North African Studies and its simulation programs, Director Andrew Vincent responds in this week's Australian Jewish News (February 9):


"The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has been successful in pressuring the NSW Department of Education to cancel Middle East simulations for high school history students (AJN 27/1). These simulations had been run with the help of the Centre for Middle East and North African Studies at Macquarie University, of which I am the director.

"The simulations for high school students have been popular among students and praised by teachers and parents alike for helping students understand the issues in an imaginative and highly-effective manner. We have not received a single complaint about the conduct of the simulations from any student, parent or teacher. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies action will be seen by many as heavy-handed and unfair. It has stifled legitimate discussion of the issues in the Middle East.

"I would urge the Board of Deputies to take great care in this matter. Australians expect open, fair debate of issues such as the Middle East. Just because my centre examines all points of view does not mean we have an 'anti-Israel bias', as claimed by Michael Danby MP. Of the 10 speakers we had on campus last year no less than three were Israelis. Only one was an Arab.

"In my opinion, one of the best speakers we have had was Professor Eli Salzberger from Haifa University. We invited him at the suggestion of the Jewish chaplain at Macquarie. That’s hardly displaying an anti-Israel bias.

"In its haste to push a pro-Israel line and stifle debate, the Board of Deputies has needlessly limited the educational opportunities for NSW high school students. It is also wrong to smear this centre with the label 'anti-Israel bias' when it is patently untrue."

Dr Andrew Vincent
Director, Centre for Middle East & North African Studies
Macquarie University, NSW

News bytes

- Hysterical hack David Horowitz - a man rather fond of a former oil man - has just released a new book, "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America." It promises to be a challenging read. One of his targets, Robert Jensen, has already responded and reminds the rabid Zionist that questioning the Iraq war and US foreign policy is a patriotic duty.

- Sami Ramadani, a political exile from Saddam's regime and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University, argues that the mainstream media is deliberately distorting the will of the Iraqi people:

"Only complete withdrawal will satisfy most Iraqis. And if genuine liberty and independence are not forthcoming, the spiral of violence will intensify from Afghanistan to Palestine."

- Debate over Victoria's racial vilification laws continues and church leaders are asking for change.

Jobs for the mates

The Bush administration likes to tackle terrorism in its own special way:

"State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties.

"The reorganization of the department's arms control and international security bureaus was intended to help it better deal with 21st-century threats. Instead, it's thrown the agency into turmoil and produced an exodus of experts with decades of experience in nuclear arms, chemical weapons and related matters, according to 11 current and former officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.

"The reorganization was conducted largely in secret by a panel of four political appointees. A career expert was allowed to join the group only after most decisions had been made. Its work was overseen by Frederick Fleitz, a CIA officer who was detailed to the State Department as senior adviser to former Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a critic of arms agreements and international organizations."

Take this one example:

"Thomas Lehrman, a political appointee who heads the new office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, advertised outside the State Department to fill jobs in his office. In an e-mail to universities and research centres, a copy of which was obtained by Knight Ridder, he listed loyalty to Bush and Rice's priorities as a qualification.

"Lehrman reportedly recalled the e-mail after it was pointed out that such loyalty tests are improper."

Lehrman would have fitted right into the "Evil Empire."

A lot of hot air

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni openly admits the failings of the Jewish state:

"When a state is being led by terrorists, then that state is going to become a terror state. The international community has certain conditions when it comes to such a situation."

Or something like that. She was meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and discussed Hamas, terrorism and responsibilities in the peace process.

The women talked, the world ignored them and the IDF continued to kill children.

New foes

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Run to the hills

Voices of reason emerge over the cartoon controversy:

"Thousands of Muslims are expected to attend a rally in London at the weekend to protest at both the publication of cartoons defiling the image of the Prophet Mohamed and the response of Islamic extremists.

"Muslim leaders will use the demonstration to call for calm and urge the media to apologise for the offence they have caused. The rally, expected to be one of the biggest Muslim demonstrations in Britain, is to be sponsored by Muslim newspapers and broadcasters."

No such common-sense from some so-called "free-speech" advocates who, if they were honest, should admit that it's yet another way to justify their belief that Muslims are threatening our "Western" way of life.

But let's not forget: the Soviets also wanted to take over the world.

Find the evidence or shut-up

Former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mamdouh Habib says he was defamed by the Murdoch press:

"His barrister Clive Evatt QC today showed the four-person jury a series of articles published by The Daily Telegraph on April 20, 2002, which branded Mr Habib a suburban terrorist.

"Mr Evatt said the front page story and other 'hard-hitting' articles inside the paper made 'dreadful allegations' about Mr Habib, which he argued were defamatory.

"'We say an ordinary, reasonable reader looking at the whole thing...will come to the conclusion that what the Telegraph are really saying is that he is a suburban terrorist,' Mr Evatt said.

"Another opinion piece by Daily Telegraph columnist Piers Ackerman published on February 15, 2005, shortly after Mr Habib's release from Guantanamo Bay, criticised Mr Habib's claims he made in a TV interview that he was tortured while held prisoner by US authorities.

"Mr Evatt said the piece suggested Mr Habib had lied about being tortured, suggested he was a fundraiser for international terrorists and a would-be recruiter of fighters for the Jihad."

The media is not fond of taking responsibility for what it publishes. Habib was released from Guantanamo Bay, never charged with any offence and allegedly tortured while in custody. The press loves labelling anybody accused by the West as a "terrorist." The word has become almost as meaningless as being called a "communist." Perhaps the Murdoch press would like to present evidence that those scrupulous US authorities must have missed.

An impossible thought

Let's hope and pray that former UN weapon's inspector Scott Ritter is wrong about these comments about war with Iran:

"First, American forces will bomb Iran. If Iranians don't overthrow the current government, as Bush hopes they will, Iran will probably attack Israel. Then, Ritter said, the United States will drop a nuclear bomb on Iran."

His prediction about the US intentionally torpedoing diplomacy has disturbing echoes with Iraq.

Borders to peace

Israeli's Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - and likely future Prime Minster - has announced his plans if Kadima wins the March 28 election. The Jewish state must "separate" from the Palestinians, he claims. An independent Palestinian state is impossible, however, if these ideas are implemented:

"We will hold on to the major settlement blocs (in the West Bank). We will keep Jerusalem united."

Hamas may have a few things to say about that, as they should. If the international community is serious about building a contiguous Palestinian state, Olmert's comments should be condemned as the expansionist Zionism that they are.


Daniel Pipes reminds readers that some Muslims aren't so bad after all:

"It is a tragic mistake to lump all Muslims with the forces of darkness. Moderate, enlightened, free-thinking Muslims do exist. Hounded in their own circles, they look to the West for succour and support. And, however weak they may presently be, they eventually will have a crucial role in modernizing the Muslim world."

Perhaps he would like to remind his readers that the vast majority of Muslims are "moderate, enlightened, free-thinking" and a tiny minority are intolerant and violent. Not unlike most other religions, in fact.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A day in the life of "liberation"

The New York Times publishes a striking graphic of "31 Days in Iraq."

Because we can

While a poll conducted by the BBC World Service finds Iran and the US having "a negative influence on the world", Richard Perle, a key backer of the US-led war in Iraq, offers some gems on Iran and suggests that the West shouldn't wait too long before embarking on military action:

"If you want to try to wait until the very last minute, you'd better be very confident of your intelligence because if you're not, you won't know when the last minute is. And so, ironically, one of the lessons of the inadequate intelligence of Iraq is you'd better be careful how long you choose to wait."

Perle appears to be saying that intelligence is an imperfect science and shouldn't be relied upon to make military decisions. Therefore, military action should be an option because the West simply says Iran is a threat. No real evidence is required. Perhaps a hot flush is enough. The fact that Perle is even listened to, let alone respected in some circles, beggars belief.

Some questions about Oil-for-Food

While the oil-for-food scandal continues to gather victims in Australia and the mainstream media challenges the Howard government, numerous questions remain. Not least is wider investigation of Western complicity in the oil-for-food scandal. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died as a direct result of UN-led sanctions. Denis Halliday, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq in 1996, has said the following:

"Washington, and to a lesser extent London, have deliberately played games through the Sanctions Committee with this programme for years - it's a deliberate ploy...That's why I've been using the word 'genocide', because this is a deliberate policy to destroy the people of Iraq. I'm afraid I have no other view at this late stage."

Halliday later resigned from his post in disgust. Hans von Sponeck, Halliday's successor as UN humanitarian coordinator, also resigned for similar reasons. The pair wrote in the Guardian in 2001:

"The death of some 5-6,000 children a month is mostly due to contaminated water, lack of medicines and malnutrition. The US and UK governments' delayed clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this tragedy, not Baghdad".

The West, not Saddam, was principally responsible for the human calamity, but such truths have been largely buried in the Western media. Australia may have only played a relatively minor role in the scandal, but was clearly complicit, with the US and UK, in punishing the Iraqi people. No such questions have been placed at the feet of John Howard or his government during recent times. The media prefers to talk merely of corruption, rather than dead Iraqi men, women and children.

Many more questions remain about the current AWB scandal. Weren't the best and brightest of Australia's intelligence agencies tasked to watch for and prevent funds being secretly sent to Iraq to fund the heinous Hussein regime? That's quite an "intelligence failure". And, as Iraq was then "believed" to be supporting Al Qaeda, did no-one think to try to stop the cash being handed over?

Many sycophant terrorologists say that Al Qaeda has provided support to Jemah Islamiyah. Does this not allow under the Howard government's gaze for AWB funds to have travelled to Saddam then to Al Qaeda then to JI then to Bali to kill Australian tourists?

Where was ASIO, and in Iraq, also ASIS? Did they report back what they found? How was their advice handled by the government? If the intelligence agencies' prime loyalty is for the Australian public, not the government of the day, why did not one of them think to leak these matters?

Didn't the AFP ever consider telling Iraqi police what was going on so that they could make some headline-grabbing arrests at the airport as the cash was being smuggled in?

And remember that ASIS informed the US that an Australian company was selling aluminium tubes to Iraq in 2003, ensuring they were interdicted enroute in Jordan. So why did ASIS not detect and stop the 300 million getting to Saddam?

This raises a matter which could be at the stinking heart of this scandal. Ask this question - if the intelligence agencies were so politicised in the run up to the Iraq war, were they incorporated into the Australian effort to use bribes to sell wheat to Iraq? We know that ASIS is regularly involved in "backing" Australian trade efforts overseas. Could the very large ASIS station at the Australian embassy have been involved? Where any ASIS agents embedded inside AWB?

Is Australia going to call upon its Anglo-Saxon blood ties to the US intelligence agencies to help Howard get out of this one?

And if big bags of US cash were being transferred around by AWB, did any of it get diverted into other projects? Australia's own "IranContragate"?

(Thanks to a fellow journalist for thoughts on this story.)

Putting in perspective

Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, discussing the Muslim reaction to controversial cartoons:

"There are three things we have to bear in mind. First, it is against Islamic principles to represent in imagery not only Mohammed, but all the prophets of Islam. This is a clear prohibition.

"Second, in the Muslim world, we are not used to laughing at religion, our own or anybody else’s. This is far from our understanding. For that reason, these cartoons are seen, by average Muslims and not just radicals, as a transgression against something sacred, a provocation against Islam.

"Third, Muslims must understand that laughing at religion is a part of the broader culture in which they live in Europe, going back to Voltaire. Cynicism, irony and indeed blasphemy are part of the culture.

"When you live in such an environment as a Muslim, it is really important to be able to take a critical distance and not react so emotionally. You need to hold to your Islamic principles, but be wise enough not to overreact to provocation."

One country, two rules

Israel is a state where all citizens are treated equally, unless, of course, you're an Arab:

"Shin Bet security services show more leniency toward Jewish terror suspects than toward Israeli Arab or Palestinian suspects, the services chief, Yuval Diskin, was taped as saying on Monday.

"'If we're talking about discrimination, you would find out that the discrimination leans much more in favour of Jews than Arabs,' Diskin said in his talk last month."

Meanwhile, the settlement population in the West Bank rose in 2005. Yet another example of the Jewish state's dedication to the peace process.

Private eyes

The US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton is, thankfully, being watched.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Those double standards

Questionable legacy

This "gem", currently circulating around the world, can be found here. The sheer ignorance of the message needs little explanation. To many around the world, the Western legacy isn't quite so benign, instead often filled with exploitation, invasion and colonisation.

Not all Muslims are Islamists, and not all Jews are Zionists.

Our divided nation

So much for a tolerant, harmonious Australia:

"More than half of Victorian schoolchildren view Muslims as terrorists, and two out of five agree that Muslims 'are unclean', a survey has revealed.

"Just over 50 per cent believe Muslims 'behave strangely', while 45 per cent say Australians do not have positive feelings about Muslims."

These results, while unsurprising, should cause alarm. The "war on terror" has resulted in the political and media elite demonising Islam like never before. The obsession with "terrorism", whether in Iraq, Israel, Palestine, France or Australia, gives the impression that Islamists are but a step away from taking power across the world. This widely believed conspiracy - including by some on this blog - breeds distrust and hatred. Not every action against Western interests is terrorism and not every Muslim hates the West. These comments should be self-evident.

Until Australia is serious about appreciating all cultures and dispenses with simply parroting lines about our multiculturalism bliss, racial harmony will be nothing but a cheap, Murdoch-led fantasy.

More than free speech

The controversy surrounding the publication of cartoons that allegedly offend Muslims shows no sign of abating. While some prefer to laud the "superior" West and the British Empire, others retaliate by publishing anti-Jewish cartoons and a tiny, extremist minority believe violence is the only way to display their contempt. Calmer heads must prevail.

One author, Philip Hensher, believes that the West must stand up to its accusers:

"If anti-democratic forces in the Muslim world can make such effective use of a cartoon in a small European country, they would be much more encouraged by any signs of restriction on our part. Anyone in the Muslim world arguing for freedom of speech, on religious or other matters, has only one place to look to - the west. We ought to take into account the sorts of factions in the Muslim world who would regard legal restrictions on our side as part of a wider victory."

Such blind faith in "Western" ways should be treated with suspicion, however. Western exceptionalism is an ugly phenomenon. Moreover, the vast majority of the world's population do not live in Western societies and despite what some in the White House may believe, have no desire to live like them.

Guardian journalist Gary Younge takes a different view:

"But the right to freedom of speech equates to neither an obligation to offend nor a duty to be insensitive. There is no contradiction between supporting someone's right to do something and condemning them for doing it. If our commitment to free speech is important, our belief in anti-racism should be no less so. These cartoons spoke not to historic sensitivities, but modern ones. Muslims in Europe are now subjected to routine discrimination on suspicion that they are terrorists, and Denmark has some of Europe's most draconian immigration policies. These cartoons served only to compound such prejudice.

"The right to offend must come with at least one consequent right and one subsequent responsibility. If newspapers have the right to offend then surely their targets have the right to be offended. Moreover, if you are bold enough to knowingly offend a community then you should be bold enough to withstand the consequences, so long as that community expresses displeasure within the law.

"The inflammatory response to their protest reminds me of the quote from Steve Biko, the South African black nationalist: 'Not only are whites kicking us; they are telling us how to react to being kicked.'"

To suggest - as say some defenders of the cartoon - that this story is a test-case of how Islam can integrate into modern society, is based on a falsehood. Free speech has never been absolute in the West. Younge reminds us that Western societies routinely ban books and films, including American schools restricting Harry Potter.

Muslim-bashers don't really need an excuse to prove the backwardness, bigotry and bias of Islam, as if any sheik or individual speaks for an entire religion. For them, Islam is an inherently violent religion, almost beyond reproach. After all, we're constantly told, the West is under threat from militant Islam and publishing these cartoon is a slap in the face of Islamists the world over. Far too many today believe that Islam, by definition, is backwards and needs to be brought into the 21st century. This, usually, from people who have spent virtually no time in the Muslim world or with Muslims. And let's not forget that many Muslims are embarrassed at the violent response to these cartoons.

Rachard Itani, writing in Counterpunch, reminds readers of Europe's hypocrisy over the issue:

"In many European countries, there are laws that will land in jail any person who has the chutzpah to deny not only the historicity of the Jewish holocaust, but also the method by which Jews were put to death by the Nazis. In some of these countries, this prohibition goes as far as prosecuting those who would claim or attempt to prove that less than 6 million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis. In none of these countries are there similar laws that threaten people with loss of freedom and wealth for denying that large percentages of gypsies, gays, mentally retarded, and other miscellaneous 'debris of humanity' were also eliminated by the Jew-slaughtering Nazis.

"Quickly now: what defines a hypocrite? Answer: a person who follows the letter of the law, but not its spirit. The laws against anti-Semitism are just that: laws against anti-Semitism enacted by hypocritical Europeans with blood on their hands from the genocides in their recent and distant past, and much guilt to atone for in their hearts and minds.

"The spirit of the law, which would extend this protection to Muslims as well, if not indeed other religious groups, is nowhere to be found in the Western legal code. You can curse the Prophet of the Muslims at will and with total impunity. However, approach the holocaust at your own risks and perils if you do not include in your discussion the standard, ritualistic incantations about the six million Jewish victims of the European Nazis. There is a word for this in the English language: hypocrisy."

By all means, let's condemn the burnings of embassies. But let's not presume that this cartoon was designed to achieve anything other than provocation. Western societies tolerate, even encourage, such behaviour and this should be encouraged. But the issue is much wider than many are arguing. Robert Fisk rightly urges calm:

"In any event, it's not about whether the Prophet should be pictured. The Koran does not forbid images of the Prophet even though millions of Muslims do. The problem is that these cartoons portrayed Mohamed as a bin Laden-type image of violence. They portrayed Islam as a violent religion. It is not. Or do we want to make it so?"

At a time when political Islam is rising across the Arab world, and corrupt regimes imposed by the West are being rejected, the US, Israel and its proxies are fearful of the new vanguard. Anti-Semitism is rightly challenged, yet Islamophobia is excused and encouraged. We shouldn't be surprised that much of the Arab world regards the West as hypocrites.

The time is now

David Bernstein, The Age, February 6:

"Now is not a good moment for Israelis to be looking too deeply into their souls."

Writing about Spielberg's "Munich", Bernstein believes that Israel is "under an existential threat greater than at any time since the 1973 Yom Kippur War." His examples of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian territories and Iran's nuclear threat are both politically convenient ways for Jews and Israelis to ignore the gravest threat to the Jewish state: moral corruption. The ongoing occupation, nearly 40 years old, has left Israel - economically, spiritually and politically - in a parlous state.

There is never a "good time" to discuss the West's actions in the "war on terror", according to Bernstein. But then, he would always find an excuse to avoid the issue. Now, in fact, is the perfect time to condemn current thinking as counterproductive and find positive ways to engage with the wider world. Playing the victim, while accelerating a brutal occupation, is a sure way to engender hatred.

Hamas is no military threat to Israel and Bernstein knows it. Iran's leadership - while sprouting threatening and anti-Semitic statements - expresses a desire to wipe Israel off the map, but it is proper to regard such comments with scepticism, not least because, unlike Israel and the US, Iran is not occupying or invading other nations. Who is the real threat?

Offending everybody

The following letter appears in today's Age newspaper:

"On January 11 you published a Leunig cartoon relating to Ariel Sharon, who was at the time lying at death's door (and probably still is). The context of the cartoon was bad enough, but publishing it at that time was disgusting. Do you now have the guts to publish the disgraceful anti-Muhammad and anti-Islam cartoons that have already been published in Denmark, New Zealand, France, Germany and Italy - or is your policy that it is OK to antagonise the Australian Jews but not the Australian Muslims?"

N. Levin, Caulfield

Perhaps N. Levin needs to understand the nature of political cartoons. Leunig wasn't intending to offend Jews because they were Jewish, he was simply critiquing the role of a controversial leader. Judaism and Zionism are not one and the same thing. The "anti-Islam" cartoons are more directly related to denigrating Islam and seem intentionally aimed at provoking a reaction. Nothing, however, justifies the behaviour we have seen.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Random postcard

More at Postsecret.

Discouraging signs

While Hamas looks to Latin America for possible sources of future funding, a new poll, conducted by Zogby International and covering people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and UAE, offers some unsurprising results:

"One of the significant findings of his latest poll was that Arab citizens, by a margin of 75 percent, did not believe that democracy was the real objective of American efforts to promote reform and change in the Arab world. A full 58 percent of Arabs thought that the Iraq war resulted in less rather than more democracy in the region. Very large majorities of Arabs - three out of every four persons - believed that the main motives of American policies in the Middle East were 'oil, protecting Israel, dominating the region, and weakening the Muslim world."

As Daily Star commentator Rami G. Khouri rightly says, the Arab world is closely watching how the US reacts to Hamas, "as a litmus test of its attitude to promoting democracy in Arab lands."

Initial impressions are not encouraging.

Move over, Uncle Sam

Julia Day, The Guardian, February 3:

"Arabic-language media have an unprecedented chance to take over as the world's premier news source because trust in their US counterparts plummeted following their 'shameful coverage' of the war in Iraq, a conference heard today.

"The US media reached an 'all-time low' in failing to reflect public opinion and Americans' desire for trusted information, instead acting as a 'cheerleader' for war, said Amy Goodman, the executive producer and host of US TV and radio news show Democracy Now!, at a news forum organised by al-Jazeera.

"Newsweek's Paris bureau chief, Christopher Dickey, said the US media were dying because of cutbacks and weren't interested in covering the world outside America."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Flying over

Kurt Bassuener, International Herald Tribune, February 1:

"If the West is serious about stopping the mayhem in Darfur and offering real protection to the uprooted civilian population, it needs to summon the fortitude to cease treating Darfur as collateral damage of the Iraq war and other policies that create friction with the Muslim world, and offer the sort of assistance that only it can provide - both in the air, and on the ground."

Collective action required

Leading Jewish dissenter Shraga Elam argues that the Hamas win in the Palestinian elections will in fact worsen the situation for Palestinians:

"The sweeping electoral victory of Hamas is primarily a triumph for the Israeli government and a big defeat for Palestinian interests. The international pressure on the Palestinians is growing. If Hamas will not make substantial and painful concessions it risks a massive cut in the financial international support and further escalation in the Israeli anti-Palestinian measures.

"If Hamas commits to such concessions, it will not only betray its voters, but the Israeli government will demand more. Now, for example, Israel demands that Hamas recognize Israel and declare and end to armed struggle before substantial economic aid will be rendered. If Hamas fulfils these conditions, it will be confronted with others like the impossible demand to renounce the Right of Return for the Palestinian refugees.

"Even if Hamas does comply, the Israeli government will claim that Hamas is not to be trusted as it is a terror organization swallowing chalk but still remaining a wolf. Besides, Hamas will then have problems controlling Palestinian militants and chaos will break out.

"The Palestinian political leverage against the Israeli government is now even smaller than what the Fatah-led PA had, and this leverage was for sure not very extensive.

"This is a direct result of the fact that the Israeli government holds the Palestinians as hostages and can use the latter’s economical and military vulnerability as a deadly means of pressure."

Elam rightly slams suicide bombings as a "military, economic and political disaster for the Palestinians." His solution to the conflict is "new methods of effective non-violent struggle against the occupation, and deepening cooperation with the Israeli peace movements. This is the time to create ANC-like common movements that will address issues like racism or oppression. Like the people of South Africa, it has to be realized that a separatist nationalism means catastrophe and therefore has to be abandoned. The vision of one secular and democratic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea is the only viable and desirable alternative to the existing state of apartheid and to further terrible escalation."

His bi-national state solution is perhaps the best long-term answer. In the meantime, however, I still believe - and polls confirm - that a majority of Palestinians and Israelis want two-states, side-by-side. It is this, therefore, that activists should be working towards at present.

Dancing with the devil

Is the leading Murdoch pro-Howard broadsheet starting to turn against him?

"John Howard says he did not know AWB was paying bribes to secure sales of wheat to Iraq. He says his ministers did not know either. And the same goes for officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If it is established "in a proper legal sense" that AWB did pay bribes, Mr Howard says he will be very angry because "we frankly believed all along AWB was an organisation of complete integrity". So that's all right then. AWB was off on a frolic of its own, and the Government was gulled. No, it's not.

"The more AWB officers admit to Terence Cole's inquiry into the food-for-oil scandal, the more reason there is to wonder if the Government is gullible, duplicitous or worse. And whether ministers knew about this grubby business is perhaps the most important question the Prime Minister and his colleagues have faced in their decade in office. Australians fought Saddam Hussein's wretched regime twice in 15 years. Proof that the Government knew, or even suspected, AWB was paying off the dictator, but did nothing to stop the bribes, would be a betrayal of the men and women who risked their lives on active service. It is hard to conceive of circumstances in which any minister so implicated could survive."

For more on this growing scandal, see here, here, here, here and here.

When Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is forced to slam his accusers as having an "intemperate and demeaning approach to political debate", some of the mud is clearly starting to stick. And the pressure is starting to show. The key point, lost in some of the desperate attempts to defend the Dear Leader, is that ignorance is no defence. It is virtually inconceivable that leading Howard ministers, and possibly Howard himself, were unaware of the way in which AWB - and host of other companies around the world, for that matter - are "forced" to do business in any number of countries.

Involvement in a war to "liberate" Iraq from Saddam, while at the same time turning a blind eye to providing money for that regime, is hypocrisy at best and duplicity at worst.

A marriage made in hell

Israel may need friends, but perhaps this group is best avoided:

"A leading US evangelist is forming an umbrella organization under which all pro-Israel Christians in America can speak as one in support of the Jewish state."

They see themselves "as a Christian version of AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.] The group plans to "interact with the government in Washington" and persuade it "to stop pressuring Israel to give up land for peace. Besides the fact that this does not work, Israel has a Bible mandate for the land. Now that Gaza has been given to Hamas, it has a military foothold a thousand yards from Jerusalem."

Marrying Christian Zionism and other Zionists is a recipe for future disaster. Different goals, different ambitions and different religions. And who is truly using whom?

"We" are no better

Britain is serious about human rights, Tony Blair tells us. Except, of course, if it involves war criminals or retired Israeli generals:

"The government is considering weakening laws designed to capture alleged war criminals and torturers who enter Britain, after pressure from the Israeli government, the Guardian has learned.

"The changes would bar individuals from seeking international warrants for the arrest of people suspected of serious human rights abuses. The government has confirmed that Israeli officials have lobbied for changes in the law, which has kept some of their military officials away from Britain in case there should be an attempt to arrest them.

"The proposals follow Israeli anger after an attempt was made to arrest one of their senior retired generals, Doron Almog, at Heathrow last September. He was tipped off that police were waiting to arrest him for alleged war crimes in Gaza. He stayed on the El Al plane and flew back to Israel. The warrant was issued by Bow Street magistrates, central London, after an application from lawyers representing Palestinians who say they suffered because of the Israeli general's alleged illegal orders."

After all, say Labour ministers, such laws could "jeopardise international relations." Human rights lawyer Daniel Machover rightly sees the hypocrisy of the Blair position: "If the UK goes ahead and bends to Israeli pressure, while Israel continues its universally condemned illegal practices, this will sent the worst possible signal to the Israeli army. The British government is completely obsessed with controlling these processes."

Thankfully, at least one MP is raising her objection: "The obvious concern is the way in which the Israeli government in particular seems to be given quite favoured access to interfere in UK domestic policy."

Following the arrest of Western-friendly General Pinochet in 1998, there was faint hope that alleged war criminals - no matter their origin - would be treated equally before the law. Alas, Israel is always viewed differently within international circles and this seems to be no exception. Unless "we" are given the same consideration as "them", charges of Western hypocrisy are both warranted and necessary.

Equal time

"My message to the West - to America, to Europe, to everybody - is this: Hamas wants peace. We hate bloodshed and killing. We don't want to fight. There is a verse in the Qur'an that says whoever kills one soul kills all souls. And whoever brings life to people brings life to a nation.

"Our problem is with the Israeli occupation. Israelis are killing our children. The West has been oppressive, too. You are biased toward Israel. You support Israel. You are capable of telling Israel, 'Enough.' You are capable of telling Israel to withdraw. Why is the West concerned about the security of Israel and not concerned about our security?

"The West has nothing to fear from Hamas. We're not going to force people to do anything. We will not impose Sharia. Hamas is contained. Hamas deals only with the Israeli occupation. We are not Al Qaeda."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Buckle up

The Washington Post reports on the latest pronouncement from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld:

"The United States is engaged in what could be a generational conflict akin to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the world, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

"Rumsfeld, who laid out broad strategies for what the military and the Bush administration are now calling the 'long war,' likened al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin while urging Americans not to give in on the battle of wills that could stretch for years. He said there is a tendency to underestimate the threats that terrorists pose to global security, and said liberty is at stake.

"'Compelled by a militant ideology that celebrates murder and suicide with no territory to defend, with little to lose, they will either succeed in changing our way of life, or we will succeed in changing theirs,' Rumsfeld said in a speech at the National Press Club."

I wonder how long this "long war" may continue. I'm still young, but would like to retire before the end. After all, with so many "evil-doers" and "terrorists" to eliminate, I suspect I may be on my third pair of dentures before victory is declared.

A Bolt from the blue

Andrew Bolt is a columnist for Murdoch's Melbourne Herald Sun tabloid. Following his recent sycophantic "reports" from Iraq and Afghanistan - here and here - I was curious to discover who paid for his travels with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. I emailed him the following questions today:

"Dear Andrew,

"After reading about your recent travels to the Middle East with Foreign Minister Downer, I'd be interested to know who paid for your travels, accommodation, access etc? Did your employer pay for this or the Howard government? What kind of agreement was reached between the two parties?"

"Best wishes,

"Antony Loewenstein"

Within a few hours, I received this:

"I've publicly answered this question, and in a way that should satisfy you, but I did so in answer to people whose views are less repugnant than yours. Go fish [his "answer" is here.]

"Incidentally, how does if feel to be chosen for a university body as a token Jew, apparently - it seems to me - on the grounds that you're sufficiently anti-Israeli to give protective cover without harming the cause? [More information on this here and here.]

"Even a man with your views should have more pride than to accept. What do they call an Uncle Tom in Hebrew? May you one day awake in shame in the realisation of how you have been used.

"Grow up, Antony. Your excuse is, I know, that you are but young, but the words you write in ignorance today will be held against you in your more reflective maturity, should that day arrive. Give yourself less to repent."

I was tempted to simply enjoy Bolt's delicious words, but couldn't resist responding:

"Mr Bolt,

"Thanks for your kind response. Indeed, I feel very comfortable with my position on the board, my forthcoming book on the Middle East and a host of other projects. Perhaps it would be good to actually source your information from reliable people before making accusations. A foreign concept, as your recent trip to Iraq proved."

"Please continue your brave reporting. The masses are gagging for more.

"Best wishes.

"God bless.

"Antony Loewenstein"

UPDATE: Perhaps Bolt needs to remember his own words about civility:

From: Karen Hart

Comment: "I love how you and other morons say Hamas will destroy Israel. Israel has over 200 nuclear weapons Mr Bolt. That's enough to destroy the entire Middle East many times over which of course would make you very happy. Spare us your garbage, we all know the true terrorists are those that pardon their soldiers from emptying their machine guns into 9 year old girl corpses."

Andrew replies: "If you can find the quote in which I claim Hamas will destroy Israel, I shall apologise. If you can't I'm sure you won't. Abuse is always a sign of a person who has forgotten the conventionalities of civilised debate, using evidence."

Damn those "terrorists"

Murdoch's little helper, Andrew Bolt - his recent adventures in Iraq surely demand an Order of Australia - offers his review of Spielberg's "Munich":

"...There's never actually been a shortage of Jews or Americans required to die for Israel or the US, or for simply being citizens of the West. Plenty are blown up or shot each year.

"What the West needs is not citizens prepared to die for their countries but, if need be, to kill for them."

"Terrorists" must be snuffed out, according to Bolt. After all, "sometimes there is no other way to protect the citizens of a democracy than by killing those determined to wipe them out."

Wonder how Bolt would feel about the father of Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, labelled a terrorist by the British for belonging to the Jewish underground?

The symbol turns

This is US Marine Lance-Corporal Blake Miller in a famous photo taken during the battle of Fallujah by Luis Sinco. He was dubbed the "Marlboro Marine" and came to represent the supposed nobility and bravery of the US troops fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He was, however, soon forgotten, just another "hero" of the occupation.

He has started speaking out about his war experiences. Suffering from mental trauma, he now questions US tactics and advocates withdrawal:

"When I was in the service my opinion was whatever the Commander-in-Chief's opinion was. But after I got out, I started to think about it. The biggest question I have now is how you can make a war on an entire country when a certain group from that country is practising terrorism against you. It's as if a gang from New York went to Iraq and blew some stuff up and Iraq started a war against us because of that."

The US federal Veterans Affairs department recently revealed that up to a third of US troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan - around 40,000 - suffer mental health issues. Red tape is also an issue for returned veterans. Supporters of war focus on "liberation" and rarely examine the long-term effects of those actually involved in the fighting. It is unsurprising, therefore, that many former soldiers end up questioning their original missions.

Offend me

While controversy continues across the world over drawings of Muhammad that allegedly offend Muslims - and the pictures themselves are certainly inflammatory - a number of Danish Muslims have long complained of growing Islamophobia. Equating Islam with terrorism, an increasingly common ploy in the Western world, rightly upsets Muslims and should be resisted.

However, this issue should be placed in context. Canberra-based Iqbal Khaldun puts forward the most rational argument:

"May I be the first to say that the first sign of wavering faith is the inability to countenance criticism of it? Yes, the cartoon is likely racist, and I suspect there are more tasteful ways to lampoon a religion. But seriously, aren't there more pressing concerns? Should the 'Jesus Christ' character from South Park be similarly condemned (remember, he's slept with Eric Cartman's mother!)? Reading such stories is quite frustrating for someone like myself. Western progressives are the natural allies of moderate Muslims, and it is unlikely this quarter will dare say anything much too critical of the response to the Danish cartoons. But seriously, are Muslims so intolerant, yes intolerant!, and so lacking a sense of humour that we cannot even accept cartoon images of the Prophet, even where they are caricatures?

"I imagine the real answer to this question is no. We aren't that intolerant, and yes, we do have a sense of humour. But as usual, the self-proclaimed moral arbiters of the faith are vociferous and vocal, and the rest of us dare not contradict them."

Press freedom also requires that images and words - truly free speech doesn't exist anywhere - be allowed to provoke, offend and challenge. The sign of a mature democracy is a media unafraid to offend everybody. A war against Islam, however, is a developing menace, fanned by ignorance and fear. After all, doesn't every age need an "enemy"?

Understanding the "enemy"

While the FBI questions US journalists and their relationship with the Zionist lobby, a world away in Israel, the Jewish state is working feverishly to persuade the Bush administration to isolate the new Palestinian leadership. It's a typically short-term proposal, but successive Israeli governments have excelled at this kind of behaviour.

Meanwhile, Ismail Haniya, head of the victorious Hamas list, explains the reasoning behind his movement's thinking. Amira Hass reveals the Western hypocrisy:

"Israel does not recognize all Palestinians' rights to their homes, land, trees and family relations or their rights to study or move freely. It infringes daily on all those rights. It systematically sabotages the chance to implement a United Nations resolution to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The Hamas' victory and its non-recognition of Israel are used as a pretext by Israel to stop negotiations that were not taking place in any case, and an excuse to avoid peace initiatives that never existed in the first place."

Palestinians have a right, under international law, to resist occupation. The Hamas strategy, however foreign to many in the West, reveals a gradual but determined plan to reduce Israeli control over Palestinian land and people. The success of Hamas is fraught with roadblocks but to simply ignore or dismiss the organisation is both politically naive and dangerous.

Bomb them, no matter what

Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian, February 2:

"Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was 'solidly' behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.

"A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme."

Not at the point of no return

Just in case you weren't clear about how to "deal" with Iran:

"The unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth is that we are going to have to get ready for war with Iran. Being of a free-speaking, free-thinking disposition, we generally find in the West that hand-wringing, finger-pointing and second-guessing come more easily to us than cold, strategic thinking. Confronted with nightmarish perils we instinctively choose to seize the opportunity to blame each other, cursing our domestic opponents for the situation they’ve put us in.

"If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik Revolution and the coming of Hitler."

Gerard Baker, writing in the UK Times, seems to believe in the most extreme of hyperbole. The current situation - not a "crisis", according to IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei - requires delicate diplomacy, not military threats.

Two Georges

This damn t-shirt

The thinker

Liberal Phil

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Out with the new

Robert Newman, The Guardian, February 2:

"There is no meaningful response to climate change without massive social change. A cap on this and a quota on the other won't do it. Tinker at the edges as we may, we cannot sustain earth's life-support systems within the present economic system.

"Capitalism is not sustainable by its very nature. It is predicated on infinitely expanding markets, faster consumption and bigger production in a finite planet. And yet this ideological model remains the central organising principle of our lives, and as long as it continues to be so it will automatically undo (with its invisible hand) every single green initiative anybody cares to come up with."

The visionary

Confused priorities

Federal Labor MP Michael Danby is clearly a very busy man. If he's not defending the Zionist cause, slamming opponents or forgetting that he's actually an Australian politician, he's working feverishly on goodies for his lucky electorate. It seems, however, that attention to detail isn't his strength. Today's Australian reports (no link available):

"Michael Danby, federal member for Melbourne Ports, had a brainwave of sorts three years ago; he sent his constituents fridge-magnet calendars, highlighting public and religious holidays as well as school terms. Trouble was, he listed April 24 as Anzac Day. This year he got Anzac Day correct, but the good news ends there. He apparently still doesn't know what day of the week it is. Danby shaded in the NSW school holidays - of little use to local Victorians who include Simon Crean and Greg Combet. Labour Day is shaded in as being on March 20 - it's the 13th. He has listed most of the Christian and Jewish holidays, but only one Greek, and not a mention of any Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim significant dates. Oh yes, and there were a couple of misplaced suburbs in the map of the electorate. But the sin to end all sins was Danby's omission to register the biggest religious/public holiday of all - the Melbourne Cup on November 7."

Memo to Danby: spend less time on fighting the Zionist cause and more energy on actually providing useful information for your electorate.

Ditch the myths

May the myths continue to fall:

"Australia wanted East Timor to remain an Indonesian province and the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, lobbied Jakarta to delay a vote for independence, a report to the United Nations has found.

"East Timor's truth and reconciliation commission has been collecting evidence from thousands of witnesses for the past three years about Indonesia's takeover of the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

"It also makes special mention of the more recent role of Mr Downer before the vote for independence in 1999. It says he lobbied Indonesia to delay the poll because it was in Australia's interests for East Timor to remain part of the archipelago.

"'The commission finds that, even when [the Indonesian president B.J.] Habibie was moving towards his decision to offer the East Timorese a choice between remaining part of Indonesia and independence…[Mr] Downer made it clear that his government believed it should be several years before the East Timorese exercised their right to make that choice and that it would be preferable…if Timor-Leste remained legally part of Indonesia.'"

Dr Clinton Fernandes, author of "Reluctant Saviour", has long known that the myth of the Howard government's "liberation" of East Timor deserved greater scrutiny. Indeed, the government encouraged Indonesia's brutal suppression of East Timor until the very last minute, until massive public outcry forced a change of policy.

New monster created

The following letter appears in this week's Australian Jewish News (February 2)


"Pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth, that I am so meek and gentle with these butchers."

"The above was written by William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar over 300 years ago in an apology for an event that occurred over 2000 years ago. Jews were not the issue even though the author was a reported anti-Semite.

"In these modern times 'thou bleeding piece of earth' can be transposed to mean Holocaust victims and the Jews murdered by modern-day Jew haters.

"The list of Jews who should be quoting the first two sentences of this letter grows daily.

"At the top of that list is the 'sweet' little man with a New York Yiddish accent whose vehicle the Producers has made him a multi-millionaire ghoul, who has stepped on the bones of six million of his brethren. His validation is 'make fun of the murderers and you really sock it to them'. Mel Brooks, give me a break!

"Added to this list are men such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, but the most painful of all this to me is a man who was my hero. Steven Spielberg has become an apologist for killers of Jews (Munich)."

Moishe Grosberg
St Kilda East, Vic

Perhaps Grosberg would prefer if Jews who didn't blindly accept his paranoid view of the world be permanently silenced? After all, he clearly believes that Jews have any number of internal and external enemies that threaten the long-term survival of Israel and Jews.

Add another member to the not-so-exclusive "Jews are the only, and most convincing, victim's club."