Saturday, 7 August 2010

Uribe's appointment to flotilla probe guarantees its failure

José Antonio Gutiérrez and David Landy, The Electronic Intifada, 6 August 2010
Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez has been criticized for his abuses of human rights defenders. (Center for American Progress)

At the beginning of this month the Israeli government announced it would cooperate with one out of two international UN-sponsored investigation commissions into the 31 May Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre, a move which UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon claimed was "unprecedented." However, the details of this commission and who will take part in it -- particularly the notorious outgoing president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez -- cast doubt over its impartiality.

The commission is composed of four persons, one chosen by Turkey, one chosen by Israel and two chosen from a list provided by Israel. The latter two are former Prime Minister of New Zealand Geoffrey Palmer, who will be the chair, and Uribe, who will serve as vice-chair. While Palmer, an expert in international law, is an uncontroversial choice, the appointment of Uribe is as perplexing as it is shocking. It appears that "balance" in this commission involves balance between someone versed in international and human rights law and someone who is adamantly opposed to it. This notion of balance fatally weakens this commission even before it has started, and tarnishes the process of international law.

Uribe is a controversial president whose regime has engaged in severe human rights abuses; illegal surveillance and harassment of human rights defenders by the intelligence service (DAS); international law violations (such as the bombing of Ecuadorian territory); corruption; crimes against humanity and excesses by the army in their US-sponsored counterinsurgency warfare.

Uribe's scorn for human right defenders is notorious. According to Human Rights First, "President Uribe and other administration officials have branded [human rights defenders] as terrorist sympathizers and have insinuated that illicit connections exist between human rights NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and illegal armed groups. Irresponsible comments by government officials in Colombia put the lives of human rights defenders at even greater risk and threaten to undermine the value and credibility of their work" ("Human Rights Defencers in Colombia").

In September 2009 Colombia was visited by Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders from the UN Human Rights Commission. Sekaggya found that constant problems faced by human rights defenders in Colombia include "Stigmatization [of human rights defenders] by public officials and non-State actors; their illegal surveillance by State intelligence services; their arbitrary arrest and detention, and their judicial harassment; and raids of nongovernmental organizations' (NGOs) premises and theft of information" ("Report of the Special Rapporteur ...," 4 March 2010, pp. 13-18 [PDF]).

Public officials in Colombia constantly attack human rights defenders and members of the political and social opposition as aides of "terrorists," that is, left-wing guerrillas.

Uribe has led these attacks, calling human rights defenders "rent-a-mobs at terrorism's service who cowardly wave the human rights flag," "human rights traffickers," "charlatans of human rights," "bandits' [ie. guerrillas] colleagues," "intellectual front of the FARC [the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia]" and he has stated that "Every time terrorists and their supporters feel they will be defeated, they resort to denouncing human rights violations."

Uribe has referred in particularly harsh terms both to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch: "Amnesty International do not condemn international humanitarian law violations by the guerrillas and they give legitimacy to terrorism [...] they go around European bureaus like library rats, gossiping in low voices, undermining Colombian institutions." He said of the director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco: "Before Vivanco, a FARC defender [and] accomplice, came here to criticize our policy of democratic security, we were making serious efforts to put our country on its feet -- I don't have anything to learn from Mr. Vivanco when it comes to human rights" ("Defensores de derechos humanos: bajo el estigma del presidente Uribe," Agencia de prensa (IPC), 23 October 2009).

This is just a brief overview of Uribe's systematic attacks on human right defenders. In June 2010 an international human rights mission investigated the biggest mass grave in the western hemisphere -- containing some 2,000 execution victims who had been dumped there since 2004 -- which had just been discovered in the Colombian town of La Macarena. At the same time Uribe travelled to that very locality but not to pay his condolences to the victims' families, or guarantee that an investigation would determine what happened there. Instead, he went to visit the local military base -- exactly the same people that, according to victims' reports, filled that mass grave with its grisly contents -- to praise them for their work.

Uribe said on that occasion: "I want the country to know that now terrorists want to damn our partial victory by combining their means of struggle. Now the terrorists' spokespeople are talking of peace to have a break in order to recover, before we achieve our final victory. Terrorism combines means of struggle, so some of their spokespersons talk of peace; others come here to La Macarena to look for ways to discredit the Armed Forces and to implicate it in human rights violations. We will not fall into that trap, stay firm!" ("Voceros del terrorismo estan proponiendo la paz para poderse recuperar: Uribe," El Espectador, 25 June 2010).

It is hard to believe that, in spite of Uribe's appalling human rights record, he has been chosen to be part of a UN human rights commission. Going beyond Uribe himself, any representative of the Colombian state must be suspect when it comes to investigating human rights violations as official and "unofficial" state-sanctioned human rights abusers act with impunity; 98 percent of such cases remain unprosecuted ("Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia," February 2009).

It also strains credibility to believe that Colombia, the biggest recipient of US military "aid" after Israel and Egypt, a country that has agreed to host seven new US military bases on its territory last year, can be impartial in relation to Israel. Both the Israeli and Colombian governments share an ideological approach to their opponents, based on a belief that respecting human rights is a non-issue when it comes to pursuing their military goals against rebel groups. Unsurprisingly, there is also large-scale military cooperation between the two rogue states.

In recent years, according to news reports, Israel has become Colombia's number one weapon supplier, with arms worth tens of millions of dollars, "including Kfir aircraft, drones, weapons and intelligence systems" being used against opponents of the Colombian regime ("Report: Israelis fighting guerillas in Colombia," Ynet, 10 August 2007). According to a senior Israeli defense official, "Israel's methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia" ("Colombia's FM: We share your resilience," 30 April 2010).

There is a reason that Latin Americans often refer to Colombia as the "Israel of Latin America," and indeed why Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, ex-Minister of Defence and right hand of Uribe, expressed his pride at such a comparison ("Santos, orgulloso de que a Colombia lo comparen con Israel," El Espectador, 6 June 2010).

The Colombian government's bias in Israel's favor was made clear during an April 2010 visit of Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez to Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported Bermudez's "desire to strengthen Colombia's military relationship with Israel" and of the "need to do more in terms of the fight against terrorism." He confidently predicted that "whoever wins [Colombia's] presidential election next month will be supportive of [Israel]. I admire your people. I admire your country and I admire you. You have many friends in Colombia" ("Colombia's FM: We share your resilience").

The admiration is mutual, and Uribe undertakes his role of impartial investigator weighed down with awards from various Zionist organizations. These include the American Jewish Committee's "Light unto the Nations Award" and descending further into Orwellian doublespeak, the "Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism" from B'nai Brith.

While the Colombian government and Uribe are entitled to their choice of friends, this -- to say the least -- indicates that there will be no objectivity whatsoever with regard to Uribe's role in the commission.

It appears that Israel only agreed to cooperate with this particular UN inquiry as there is very little chance this commission will take an independent stance and deliver an unbiased verdict on the brutal Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Indeed, Israel has declined to cooperate with the other UN commission into the attack appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. It can be reasonably argued that Colombian and Israeli cooperation in this matter is a further step towards jointly "doing more in terms of the fight against terrorism" (to paraphrase Bermudez' remarks in Israel).

In reality this means attacking human rights defenders and aid workers and further undermining international law and respect for human rights. Participating in a whitewash of the illegal and brutal murder of human rights activists and painting them as "terrorists in disguise" will serve the military objectives of both countries as they struggle to undermine human rights defenders and "enemy communities" in their respective countries.

This is a maverick commission lacking credibility, which will serve only to show the influence of the United States and Israel on Ban Ki-moon's office. Such a commission will disappoint anyone expecting a neutral, impartial investigation that reveals the truth about the massacre of 31 May. This commission further undermines the credibility of the UN and serves to turn international and human rights law into a game played between the violators of these laws.

José Antonio Gutiérrez and David Landy are activists based in Ireland, involved respectively with the Latin American Solidarity Centre and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. José Antonio Gutiérrez writes frequently on Colombia for

Ogero Employee Milad Eid Prosecuted for Spying

07/08/2010 Senior Lebanese Telecom Ministry employee Milad Khalil Eid is being prosecuted for allegedly spying for the Israeli enemy.

A judicial source said Magistrate Saqr Saqr "took legal action against Eid for dealing with the Israeli enemy, engaging in plots and giving technical information in his capacity as head of international phone calls at the Telecommunications Ministry."

Eid was arrested by Lebanese authorities in July 2009 as part of an investigation into a spy ring spying for the Zionist entity.

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Israel Shocked: Army Turned to Be Resistance's Friend!

Hussein Assi

07/08/2010 The repercussions of the last confrontation between the Lebanese Army and the Israeli occupation soldiers didn't end yet as the Israeli enemy started expressing worries after the army turned to be Hezbollah's "strong friend."

Yes, it seems that Israel was shocked by the army's actions which reflected the military's principles and values. Perhaps, they thought that the army would change its doctrine. Maybe, they believed that deploying the army in the South would put an end to the occupation's resistance. But the army confirmed it once again: Israel is our enemy and we'll fight it, whatever were the sacrifices.

As a result of the South developments, Tel Aviv was shocked. Its media started talking about the necessity to "rethink" its Lebanon policy and politicians invented a theory of a "Hezbollahized army." For its part, Washington, Tel Aviv's "friend," was mad. According to its "logic," Israel has the right to violate the Lebanese sovereignty in a daily basis. However, the Lebanese army has no right to defend the land, its firing at the aggressor is simply "unjustifiable."

Meanwhile, the Zionist entity started rethinking its policy towards Lebanon. "At the end of the July war, the balance was too obvious. There were two camps in Lebanon: at one hand the evil-minded ones, represented by Hezbollah, and at the other the good one, represented by the Lebanese government that exerted pressure to disarm Hezbollah and deployed army troops in the South. But now everything has changed. The Lebanese government became compatible with Hezbollah and Israel paid the price with Lebanese leaders such as (President) Michel Sleiman and (MP) Walid Jumblatt claiming that Israel is the enemy, stances that were reflected by the Lebanese army recently," an Israeli TV expert said.

In the same context, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon warned that the Zionist entity will deal with the Lebanese army as an enemy if it attacks Israeli soldiers again. "There is a danger of the Hezbollization of the Lebanese army, if the army begins to behave like Hezbollah," Ayalon told public radio. "If Hezbollah manages to take control of the army, we will have to treat (he army in a completely different manner," he said.


Meanwhile, Israeli daily Haaretz said on Saturday that inthe wake of this week's flare-ups of hostilities in Lebanon and in the south, Israel would do well to reconsider its assumptions about the Israeli power of deterrence.

"Since the 2006 war, the Israeli public has been told that the army is on high alert along the northern border, determined to demonstrate sovereignty over every millimeter of its land so as not to abandon it to Hezbollah's machinations. But this week, the shooting of the battalion commander who was killed, and the company commander who was wounded, took place outside an Israeli-protected position. At first glance, it appears that the forces were deployed in a way that did not indicate the Israeli anticipated a shooting attempt. If this was a deliberate, planned Lebanese ambush, why didn't the army have prior intelligence about it?"

"But these incidents, particularly the Lebanese sniper fire that killed reservist battalion commander Lt. Col. Dov Harari near Misgav Am, raises the question of whether the stories we've been telling ourselves about the Second Lebanon War and its ramifications are still applicable in August 2010," the Israeli daily went on to say.

In another analysis, the Israeli daily explained the "change of tune" towards the Lebanese army. "After years in which Israel demanded that the Lebanese Army take responsibility for what is happening in southern Lebanon, it is now doing so and we've changed our tune. Why? Because it stopped behaving like Israel's subcontractor and is starting to act like the army of a sovereign state."

"We don't have any lessons to learn. We'll continue to ignore UNIFIL, ignore the Lebanese Army and its new brigade commander, who has the nerve to think that his job is to protect his country's sovereignty," the Israeli daily concluded.

Sleiman Vows to Arm Military with Advanced Weaponry

07/08/2010 Lebanese President Michel Sleiman vowed on Satuday that the cabinet will put a plan during its next session to arm the Lebanese military "with all that is necessary," regardless of the stances of other countries.

"We have launched a counter-campaign to arm the military," Sleiman said in the southern town of Adeisseh where he inspected the army base that was attacked by Israeli occupation troops in the town of Odeisseh on Tuesday and met with soldiers there.

The cabinet plan will be put "despite the negative stances of several countries on this issue," the president said. Arming the military is aimed at "protecting the dignity of the nation," he added.

Sleiman arrived in Odeisseh Saturday morning with Defense Minister Elias Murr. He met by Loyalty to the Resistance MP Ali Fayyad and also spoke with UNIFIL officers.

On Friday, Head of the Army Administration Department Maj. Gen. Abdul Rahman Chehaitli informed Suleiman about the tripartite talks held in Naqoura two days earlier.

Chehaitli reportedly told Sleiman that Lebanon asked UNIFIL to set rules on how to act at the “U.N.-drawn Blue Line”, particularly in areas where the country has reservations over.

State Minister Adnan Sayyed Hussein said Sleiman's visit to the south is aimed at stressing Lebanon's rejection of Israeli attacks on Lebanese sovereignty and repeated violations of Security Council resolution 1701.

The minister told An-Nahar daily in remarks that Israel doesn't have the right to attack Lebanon. "We are the country that came under aggression and we have the right to defend our sovereignty with all possible means," he told An Nahar.

Lebanese authorities "should fortify the interior and stress the role of the national dialogue in consolidating stability."
Sayyed Hussein said that the Israeli attack was aimed at thwarting an Arab initiative that called for stability in Lebanon through the Lebanese-Syrian-Saudi summit and the visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

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UN,... Sorry, US pushes for UN inspections in Syria ...

Via Friday-Lunch-Club

In the WSJ:
"... Syria's alleged nuclear work has complicated an outreach campaign by President Barack Obama's administration, which seeks to build stronger relations with Mr. Assad's government in an effort to counter Iranian influence in the region.

U.S. officials said Syria's lack of cooperation with the IAEA poses a major threat to the global campaign to contain nuclear weapons. But Washington wants to make sure a special inspection is the best tool to gain Damascus's cooperation and to maintain international unity, they say......

The IAEA's director general, under U.N. guidelines, has the authority to call for a special inspection of suspect facilities in any member country feared to be violating its commitment not to pursue atomic weapons. If the country rejects the IAEA's request, the agency can refer the case to the U.N. Security Council as an act of noncompliance, potentially triggering sanctions.
"At some point, you do need to make a decision and find a way forward. That point is coming with Syria," said Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA...."
Posted by G, Z, or B at 12:41 PM
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Israeli troops kidnap 700 children every year, 7 Palestinians killed last month, 65 injured

Israeli troops kidnap 700 children every year

[ 07/08/2010 - 02:22 PM ]

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Journalist for Haaretz newspaper Amira Hass said the Israeli occupation forces kidnap every year about 700 Palestinian children, many of them are rounded up from schools, at the pretext of throwing stones at troops and settlers.

Hass affirmed in a report on Friday that that 97 percent of those children complained about their exposure to torture and maltreatment, and 14 percent of them were sexually molested or received sexual threats from their interrogators.

The journalist explained that Israeli military courts started to deal with this issue two years ago when troops kidnapped a number of Palestinian children from Al-Arroub refugee camp on suspicion of throwing stones at passing cars in the area.

She said the soldiers claimed at first they caught the children red-handed throwing stones, but when they were questioned by lawyer Mahmoud Hassan who used facts to confront them, they confessed to not seeing the arrested children throwing stones at cars.

They also confessed to kidnapping children from Al-Zira'iya school in the refugee camp, she added.

Report: 7 Palestinians killed last month, 65 injured

[ 07/08/2010 - 10:05 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Ministry of Planning’s information center in Gaza issued a report Friday monitoring cases of Israel’s violations against the Palestinians in July, 2010.

According to the report, 7 Palestinians were killed and 65 injured, and one leader in the Qassam Brigades was assassinated. Israeli occupation forces (IOF) carried out 10 incursion operations on the Gaza Strip and 90 on the West Bank. There were 4140 cases of raids and house searches in the West Bank so far this year.

IOF troops arrested in July 200 Palestinians, including 19 children and 5 women, the report said, pointing to 1018 arrests so far this year.

86 structures were demolished last month, including the entire Negev village of Araqib. 300 people wee displaced in the incidence. 199 homes have been destroyed since the beginning of 2010.

One fisherman was wounded and two arrested during 5 attacks by IOF troops. The report noted that Israeli attacks against journalists are “ongoing”.

The Gaza Strip is still under siege, the number of barriers around the West Bank reached 585, as 65% of the main roads is closed and about 500 km of roads are prohibited for use by Palestinians.

The Israeli occupation authority revoked the residency of 108 Palestinians in Jerusalem since the beginning of 2010 and 721 in 2009.

17 houses were demolished in Jerusalem since the beginning of this year, including 9 in July.

60 Israeli settlement units were approved for construction in occupied Jerusalem, with blueprints for 60 other homes in Issawiya. 13% of the land area in Jerusalem is under conflict, with Israeli settlers currently controlling 87% of East Jerusalem’s area.

Three protesters wounded, dozens suffocate in Bil'in anti-wall march

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DR Mazin Qumsiyeh: Bridge Experience

Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 10:19PM

Gilad Atzmon

Not a single day pass without some bad news from Israel...

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Hammad: Abbas accepts international forces on borders

[ 07/08/2010 - 02:42 PM ]

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Nimir Hammad, the political advisor to former PA chief and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, said that Abbas accepts the deployment of an international force on the Palestinian borders regardless of its members' religion.

Hammad said in a statement to Abbas's news agency on Saturday that Abbas had clearly stated on many occasions and during meetings with international officials, the IPAC, and Israeli journalists that he did not mind the religion of those forces.

Abbas, however, said that he would reject any Israeli soldier regardless of his religion, Hammad added, noting that the Israeli army included other religions besides Judaism.

Media reports said that Abbas would not accept a Jewish soldier among the international or NATO forces to be deployed along the Palestinian-Israeli borders in the event an independent Palestinian state was established.

Sami Jamil Jadallah: We need UN to release our people form being held hostage by Israel PLO, Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, etc..

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JOHN PILGER : Tony Blair must be prosecuted

Via My Catbird Seat

- 07. Aug, 2010

Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like his mentor Peter Mandelson.

Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes.

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger writes about the “paramount war crime” defined by the Nuremberg judges in 1946 and its relevance to the case of Tony Blair, whose shared responsibility for the Iraq invasion resulted in the deaths of more than a million people. New developments in international and domestic political attitudes towards war crimes mean that Blair is now ‘Britain’s Kissinger’.

Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like his mentor Peter Mandelson. Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes. Blair’s will appear next month and earn him £4.6 million. Now consider Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenseless country, which the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the “paramount war crime”. This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.

In addition, four million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes and a majority of children have descended into malnutrition and trauma. Cancer rates near the cities of Fallujah, Najaf and Basra (the latter “liberated” by the British) are now revealed as higher than those at Hiroshima. “UK forces used about 1.9 metric tons of depleted uranium ammunition in the Iraq war in 2003,” the Defence Secretary Liam Fox told parliament on 22 July. A range of toxic “anti-personnel” weapons, such as cluster bombs, was employed by British and American forces.

Such carnage was justified with lies that have been repeatedly exposed. On 29 January 2003, Blair told parliament, “We do know of links between al-Qaida and Iraq …”. Last month, the former head of the intelligence service, MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, told the Chilcot inquiry, “There is no credible intelligence to suggest that connection  … [it was the invasion] that gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad”. Asked to what extent the invasion exacerbated the threat to Britain from terrorism, she replied, “Substantially”. The bombings in London on 7 July 2005 were a direct consequence of Blair’s actions.
Documents released by the High Court show that Blair allowed British citizens to be abducted and tortured. The then foreign secretary, Jack Straw,  decided in January 2002 that Guantanamo was the “best way” to ensure UK nationals were “securely held”.
Instead of remorse, Blair has demonstrated a voracious and secretive greed. Since stepping down as prime minister in 2007, he has accumulated an estimated £20 million, much of it as a result of his ties with the Bush administration. The House f Commons Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which vets jobs taken by former ministers, was pressured not to make public Blair’s “consultancy” deals with the Kuwaiti royal family and the South Korean oil giant UI Energy Corporation. He gets £2 million a year “advising” the American investment bank J P Morgan and undisclosed sums from financial services companies. He makes millions from speeches, including reportedly £200,000 for one speech in China.

In his unpaid but expenses-rich role as the West’s “peace envoy” in the Middle East, Blair is, in effect, a voice of Israel, which awarded him a $1 million “peace prize”. In other words, his wealth has grown rapidly since he launched, with George W. Bush, the bloodbath in Iraq.

His collaborators are numerous. The Cabinet in March 2003 knew a great deal about the conspiracy to attack Iraq. Jack Straw, later appointed “justice secretary”, suppressed the relevant Cabinet minutes in defiance of an order by the Information Commissioner to release them. Most of those now  running for the Labour Party leadership supported Blair’s epic crime, rising as one to salute his final appearance in the Commons. As foreign secretary, David Miliband, sought to cover Britain’s complicity in torture, and promoted Iran as the next “threat”.

Journalists who once fawned on Blair as “mystical” and amplified his vainglorious bids now pretend they were his critics all along. As for the media’s gulling of the public, only the Observer’s David Rose, to his great credit, has apologized. The Wikileaks’ exposes, released with a moral objective of truth with justice, have been bracing for a public force-fed on complicit, lobby journalism. Verbose celebrity historians like Niall Ferguson, who rejoiced in Blair’s rejuvenation of “enlightened” imperialism, remain silent on the “moral truancy”, as Pankaj Mishra wrote, “of [those] paid to intelligently interpret the contemporary world”.

Is it wishful thinking that Blair will be collared? Just as the Cameron government understands the “threat” of a law that makes Britain a risky stopover for Israeli war criminals, a similar risk awaits Blair in a number of countries and jurisdictions, at least of being apprehended and questioned. He is now Britain’s Kissinger, who has long planned his travel outside the United States with the care of a fugitive.

Two recent events add weight to this. On 15 June, the International Criminal Court made the landmark decision of adding aggression to its list of war crimes to be prosecuted. This is defined as a “crime committed by a political or military leader which by its character, gravity and scale constituted a manifest violation of the [United Nations] Charter”. International lawyers described this as a “giant leap”. Britain is a signatory to the Rome statute that created the court and is bound by its decisions.

On 21 July, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, standing at the Commons dispatch box, declared the invasion of Iraq illegal. For all the later “clarification” that he was speaking personally, he had made “a statement that the international court would be interested in”, said Philippe Sands, professor of international law at University College London.

Tony Blair came from Britain’s upper middle classes who, having rejoiced in his unctuous ascendancy, might now reflect on the principles of right and wrong they require of their own children. The suffering of the children of Iraq will remain a spectre haunting Britain while Blair remains free to profit.

John Pilger is a world-renowned journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s.  He regards eye-witness as the essence of good journalism. He has been a foreign correspondent and a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam war in 1967. He is an impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western governments. “It is too easy,” he says, “for Western journalists to see humanity in terms of its usefulness to ‘our’ interests and to follow government agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and present ‘our’ policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true. It’s the journalist’s job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society.” He believes a journalist also ought to be a guardian of the public memory and often quotes Milan Kundera: “The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

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Gaza aid flotilla to set sail from Lebanon with all-women crew

Ruth Sherlock
The Guardian

Fri, 06 Aug 2010 06:17 EDT
© Dita Alangkara/AP

A ship bearing aid for Gaza is preparing to leave Tripoli in Lebanon this weekend in the latest attempt to defy the Israeli blockade - with only women on board.

The Saint Mariam, or Virgin Mary, has a multi-faith international passenger list, including the Lebanese singer May Hariri and a group of nuns from the US. "They are nuns, doctors, lawyers, journalists, Christians and Muslims," said Mona, one of the participants who, along with the other women, has adopted the ship's name, Mariam.

The Mariam and its sister ship, Naji Alali, had hoped to set off several weeks ago but faced several delays after Israel launched a diplomatic mission to pressure Lebanon to stop the mission.

The co-ordinator of the voyage, Samar al-Haj, told the Guardian this week the Lebanese government had given permission for the boats to leave for Cyprus, the first leg of the journey, this weekend.

Israel says it is concerned a flotilla from Lebanon, with whom it has ongoing hostility, will smuggle weapons to Gaza. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, has warned that Israel reserves the right to use "necessary measures" in line with international law to stop the ship.

But al-Haj says the mission is purely humanitarian. "Our goal is to arrive in Gaza," she said. "It is the responsibility of the government to deal with the politics. We are not political."

She said that once news of the flotilla was out organisers were inundated with requests to join the voyage, with more than 400 from the US alone. At least 10 Americans will be on board.

The boat has been stocked with medical instruments and medicines to take to the Palestinians.

In preparation for the voyage the participants gathered at a hotel in Beirut to discuss their plans. The logistics are many: minimal grooming, strict food rationing, and limited water supply.

"There will be no showers, no skirts and no makeup," al-Haj told the group.

The participants are aware of the dangers, having followed the fate of another flotilla carrying aid for Gaza that was attacked by Israel in May.

Israeli forces landed on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel, killing nine activists on board. Al-Haj reminded the women to be prepared for a confrontation.

"Have blood tests in case we come under attack from Israel and you need a blood transfusion," she said. She added that organisers were going out of their way not to provoke Israel.

"We will not even bring cooking knives," she said.

Serena Shim, who is heavily pregnant, decided to join the voyage because of her belief that the blockade is unjust. "These people need aid,'' she said.

Asked how they would react to an Israeli military assault, one activist, Tania al Kayyalisaid: "We are not planning to fight or attack - but we will not leave the St Mariam."

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New Data about Karam Uncovered

New Data about Karam Uncovered

07/08/2010 New information has been released concerning Brigadier General Fayez Karam who was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of collaborating with Israel.

On Saturday as-Safir newspaper quoted an anonymous source connected to the investigation as saying that Karam had been in close contact with the Israelis while a candidate in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Karam, who is a Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) official, began working with the Israelis at the end of the eighties and they facilitated his stay in Paris for several years before he returned to Beirut with the return of General Michel Aoun in 2005, the source said.

The source said that Karam initially denied collaborating but confessed “within fifty minutes” after being confronted with evidence. The source added that the investigation was not politicized and that the evidence speaks for itself.

“Attention was attracted to Karam six months ago when a monitoring operation uncovered suspicious behavior, but authorities had waited to arrest him until they were satisfied with the evidence,” the source said adding that investigators were carefully monitoring Karam’s health since he had undergone open heart surgery not too long ago.

Al-Akhbar newspaper also quoted an anonymous source saying that Karam was not privy to secrets about the FPM’s relationship with Hezbollah or Syria. “All he had was marginal information that everyone in the movement knows,” the source said.

“In spite of the personal shock that struck Aoun and many in the FPM, General Aoun was not worried about what Fayez could have leaked to the Israelis,” the source added.

However, Ad-Diyar newspaper, quoting anonymous sources, reported that during the July 2006 war the Israeli Air Force (IAF) received and used information provided by Karam on the movements of Hezbollah leaders.

Ad-Diyar’s report said Karam befriended an Israeli officer during a training visit to the US in the early 1980s and supplied the Israelis with political analysis throughout the decade.

After he was released by the Syrians in the early 1990s, the Israelis facilitated Karam’s move to Paris where he gave them information on the Syrian prison in which he was detained, the paper said.

After his return to Beirut in 2005, Karam continued to visit Paris and answer Israeli questions about FPM negotiations for a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah as well as OTV television’s employees and political connections, the paper added.

“Karam was close to FPM members involved in the negotiations with Hezbollah and the Israelis encouraged him to build relationships with Hezbollah and Syrian officials,” the report said.

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Israel's siege on freedoms

Laila El-Haddad writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, The Electronic Intifada, 6 August 2010
Palestinians in Gaza don't want handouts and uncertainty and despair; they want their dignity and their freedom. (Ahmed Ghabayen/MaanImages)

It's three years since I've been back to Gaza. Much has happened since my last visit. Fatah waged a failed coup and now rules only the West Bank, while Hamas is in charge of Gaza. Israel launched its deadly Cast Lead assault. Fuel shortages. Electricity crises. And so on.

I needed to regain perspective. So I walked and I talked and I listened. I went to the beach where women -- skinny jeans and all -- were smoking water pipes, swimming and generally having a good time, irrespective of the purported Hamas ban on women smoking sheesha.

During the eight hours of electricity we get each day, I logged on to the Internet and browsed the English-language papers. It seemed like suddenly everyone was an expert on Gaza, claiming they knew what it's really like. Zionist sympathizers and their ilk have been providing us with the same "evidence" that Gaza is burgeoning: the markets are full of produce, fancy restaurants abound, there are pools and parks and malls ... all is well in the most isolated place on earth -- Gaza, the "prison camp" that is not.

If you take things at face value, and set aside for a moment the bizarre idea that the availability of such amenities precludes the existence of hardship, you'll be inclined to believe what you read.

So, is there a humanitarian crisis or not? That seems to be the question of the hour. But it is the wrong one to be asking.

The message I've been hearing over and over again since I returned to Gaza is this: the siege is not a siege on foods; it is a siege on freedoms -- freedom to move in and out of Gaza, freedom to fish more than three miles out at sea, freedom to learn, to work, to farm, to build, to live, to prosper.

Gaza was never a place with a quantitative food shortage; it is a place where many people lack the means to buy food and other goods because of a closure policy whose tenets are "no development, no prosperity, and no humanitarian crisis," Gisha, the Legal Centre for the Freedom of Movement, explained in a press release.

The move from a "white list" of allowable imports to a "black list" might sound in good in theory (ie everything is banned except xyz, to only the following things are banned) but in practice only 40 percent of Gaza's supply needs are being met, according to Gisha. The Palestinian Federation of Industries estimates that only a few hundred of Gaza's 3,900 factories and workshops will be able to start up again under present conditions.

Sure, there are a handful of fancy restaurants in Gaza. And yes, there is a new mall (infinitely smaller and less glamorous than it has been portrayed).

As for food, it is in good supply, having found its way here either through Israeli crossings or the vast network of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. Of course, this leaves aside the question of who in Gaza's largely impoverished population (the overwhelming majority of whose income is less than $2 a day, 61 percent of whom are food insecure) can really afford mangoes at $4 a kilo or grapes at $8 a kilo. A recent trip to the grocery store revealed that meat has risen to $13 a kilo. Fish, once a cheap source of protein, goes for $15 to $35 a kilo. And so on.

Prices are on par with those of a developed country, except we are not in a developed country. We are a de-developed occupied territory.

All of the above adds up to the erasure of the market economy and its replacement with a system where everyone is turned into some kind of welfare recipient. But people don't want handouts and uncertainty and despair; they want their dignity and their freedom, employment and prosperity and possibility.

Perhaps most significantly, they want to be able to move freely -- something they still cannot do.

Let's take the case of Fadi. His father recently had heart surgery. He wanted to seek followup care abroad, at his own expense, but he doesn't fall into the specified categories allowed out of Gaza for travel, whether through Egypt or Israel. "He's not considered a level-one priority," Fadi explained. "Can you please tell me why I can't decide when I want to travel and what hospital I can take him to?"

Even the cream of Gaza high-school students must lobby the Israeli authorities long and hard to be allowed out to complete their studies. They literally have to start a campaign in conjunction with human rights groups to raise enough awareness about their plight, and then look for local individuals to blog about their progress, explained Ibrahim, who was approached by one organization to "sponsor a student."

I have no doubt that if journalists Stephanie Gutmann and Melanie Phillips -- who devoted recent columns to disputing British Prime Minister David Cameron's description of Gaza as a "prison camp" -- lived in Gaza their principle worry would not be about "what parts of their bodies they can display," it would be the fact that they would not be allowed out again. It would be because everything from the kind of food they would have on their plate to when they can turn on the lights to what they can clothe those bodies with and whether or not they can obtain a degree is determined by an occupying power.

Using the phrase "prison camp" to describe Gaza is not vile rhetoric. It is an understatement and even a misnomer. Prisoners are guilty of a crime, yet they are guaranteed access to certain things -- electricity and water, even education -- where Gazans are not. What crime did Gazans commit, except, to quote my late grandmother, "being born Palestinian?"

Ketchup and cookies may be flowing to Gaza in slightly greater quantities than before. But so bloody what? Goods for export are not flowing out. Nor, for that matter, are people. So while there may be some semblance of civil life and stability in Gaza, there is absolutely no political horizon or true markers of freedom to speak of.

And as long as freedom of movement is stifled, whether by Israel or Egypt, and export-quality goods, which account for a large portion of Gaza's manufacturing output, are forbidden from leaving Gaza, all the malls and mangoes in the world won't make a bit of difference.

Laila El-Haddad is a Palestinian freelance journalist, photographer and blogger ( who divides her time between Gaza and the United States. A version of this essay was originally published by the Guardian's Comment is Free and is republished with permission.

Welcome to Lebanon: Graveyard of the Arrogant

"Failed State" Myths


Why has Lebanon ended up as the graveyard of so many invaders?

Israelis used to say in the 1960s that one of their military bands would be enough to conquer the country.

Sometimes, prior to Israel and Egypt agreeing a peace in 1979, they would add archly that “I don’t know which will be the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but I do know the name of the second.” The idea was that Lebanon, only the size of Wales and its population divided by communal, sectarian and party hatreds, would inevitably be a pushover for the greatest military power in the Middle East. Lebanon’s Maronite Christian minority was an obvious ally for Israel against the forces of Arab nationalism. The well-earned reputation of the Lebanese for commercial ingenuity and capacity to survive in all circumstances suggested that they would be the last people to die in the last ditch fighting an overwhelmingly powerful enemy.

Such a picture of future relations between Israel and Lebanon, and the inevitable dominance of the former, sounded likely enough forty years ago. In reality it turned out that the best day for anybody invading or even interfering in Lebanon is usually the first, after which their prospects begin to sour. So it was with Israel. Within a few years of the Israeli invasion of 1982 Israeli soldiers returning home would throw themselves to the ground to kiss Israeli soil as soon as they crossed the border, thankful only to have made it back alive. When the last Israeli troops withdrew in 2000 from the slice of territory they still held in south Lebanon they stole away in the middle of the night, abandoning their local Christian allies to triumphant Hizbullah guerrillas.

Just how and why Israel and most of the rest of the world so grossly underestimated the ability of the Lebanese to defend themselves is the main theme of David Hirst’s elegantly written and highly informed history Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East (Nation Books.)

For long one of the most perceptive correspondents in the Middle East, Hirst says that his decision to write this book followed the 33-day war in July and August 2006 when Israel rained explosives on Lebanon in a vain bid to cripple Hizbullah. An ill-organized ground invasion was equally fruitless, achieving nothing other than deflating Israel’s reputation for military invincibility. What was meant to be a demonstration of strength – notably by the Israeli air force – turned into an almost comic illustration of ineffectuality. Hirst asks how this could have happened.

“Could it even be said,” he wonders, “that Lebanon, the eternal victim – has now become the perpetrator too, posing no less a threat to greater states than they habitually posed to it?”

He is too intelligent to quite go along with the post-war claim by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, that his Jihadist fighters had won a ‘divine victory’ transforming Lebanon from being one of the ‘small’ states of the Middle East into one of its ‘great powers’. But he has no doubt that Israel, having gone to war to re-establish its own deterrent power, succeeded only in undermining it.

The explanation for Israel’s failure in Lebanon, not just in 2006 but over the previous three decades, is important because American interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia have followed a similar trajectory. It is scarcely news that small states are more dangerous than they look. Hirst takes his title from a remark by the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin in a letter to a friend in 1870 saying ‘Beware of small states’. Bakunin meant that small states were not only vulnerable to a strong and predatory neighbor, but that these neighbors would pay a price for involving themselves in the complex affairs of their victims. Half a century earlier the Duke of Wellington made a similar point, warning Britain against getting entangled in what at first glance appeared to be small-scale conflicts, saying ‘Great powers do not have small wars.’ This is as obvious in the 21st century as it was in the 19th and is as true of Iraq today as it was of Lebanon 150 years ago. The rivalries of imperial powers exacerbate the conflict between their local proxies, but this is a two-way street.

As the Ottoman empire disintegrated in Lebanon in the 19th century the British backed the Druze and the French supported the Maronites. “If one man hits another,” a local chieftain complained, “the incident becomes an Anglo-French affair, and there might even be trouble between the countries if a cup of coffee gets spilled on the ground.” The same happens today except now the rivals are Israel and Syria, neither of which can afford to let the other win uncontested control of the country.

Lebanon may be the ‘battleground of the Middle East’, as Hirst’s subtitle suggests, but this does not explain how it has become such a lethal trap for its tormentors over the last thirty years. The very absence of government appears to make the country easy meat, but would-be occupiers find that there is no uncontested local authority to co-opt or intimidate.

Lebanon is high up on the list of countries which Washington think tanks patronizingly refer to as ‘failed states’ with the implication that they are political basket cases where foreign powers are justified in intervening because of the absence of a sovereign power. But the think tankers seldom mention that it is in these supposedly ‘failed states’ that the US has suffered its worst humiliations in the years since 242 US marines were blown up in their barracks beside Beirut airport by a suicide bomber in 1983.

American intervention in states without effective governments has been almost uniformly disastrous. After the Marines were killed Ronald Reagan hastily withdrew survivors from Lebanon and invaded the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada by way of diversion. The debacle in Beirut was not unique. Ten years later the US intervention in Somalia ended humiliatingly after the bodies of US helicopter pilots were photographed being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Post 9/11, easy initial victories in Afghanistan and Iraq seemed to show that the US was the super-power it claimed to be, but early successes turned into draining guerrilla wars in which the $500-billion-a-year US military machine was baffled by a few tens of thousands of guerrillas. Conflicts expected to be short and victorious turned out to be long and inconclusive. The very puniness of America’s opponents made failure to win more damaging and withdrawal more humiliating.

One explanation for Israeli and American lack of military success stems from the outcome of the Iranian revolution in 1979. This was the same year that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty changed the balance of power in the Middle East by removing Israel’s most powerful Arab opponent from its list of active enemies. It opened the door to Israel’s armed intervention in Lebanon. But the revolution in Iran ushered in a more important change in the type of resistance that Israel faced.

The Arab nationalism originally inspired by Gamal Abdel Nasser dissipated after humiliating defeat by Israel in 1967 and the failure of corrupt and incompetent military rulers across the Arab world to confront Israel successfully. When the PLO fighters created a state within a state in south Lebanon they swiftly alienated the Shia population through their ill-discipline and by provoking Israeli air raids. “By the 1980s,” writes Hirst, “political fundamentalist Islam had supplanted nationalism as the great new credo and popular mobilizing force of the Middle East and beyond.”

Much of what the US government and media attributed to al-Qa’ida after 9/11, were first shown to be effective in Lebanon twenty years earlier. The fanaticism and cruelty of Islamic fundamentalists might alienate support, but they provided a core of committed fighters who would never surrender. Iraq and Afghanistan were the first wars in which suicide bombings took place on an industrial scale though the forerunners of Hizbullah in Lebanon had used them effectively in the early 1980s. Israeli patrols in south Lebanon would hurl themselves to the ground when a donkey and cart drove by . The American embassy on the Corniche in Beirut was blown up by explosives packed into a pick-up truck which killed 63 people including Robert Ames, the CIA’s chief intelligence officer for the Middle East, whose severed hand with wedding ring still attached was found floating a mile offshore. Israelis and Americans demonized the perpetrators of these savage attacks but continued to underestimate them. As late as 2006, as one Israeli critic quoted by Hirst put it, the attitude of Israel’s political and military leaders was a ‘combination of arrogance, boastfulness, euphoria and contempt for the enemy.’

This hubris of Tel Aviv and in Washington had a further devastating consequence. It might not be more than braggadocio but threats to expand Israel or America’s regional power were half believed in Damascus and Tehran. Damascus is only a short drive from Beirut and during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s the Syrians were never going to allow Israel’s Christian allies to seize power so close to their capital. Likewise in Iraq in 2003 the neo-cons in Washington were happily boasting that, after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the Iranian and Syrian regimes would be the next in line.

Unsurprisingly, the ferocious security services in both countries were not going to wait idly for this to happen and immediately took measures to give insurgents in Iraq enough backing to make sure the US never stabilized their occupation.

Defeat or victory in Lebanon is always well publicized and imitated across the Middle East. The country may be the sectarian state par excellence: top jobs such as that of the president, the prime minister and the speaker of parliament are allocated on a confessional basis, parliament is divided 50:50 between Muslims and Christians, and other jobs are distributed according to a quote system based on a census dating from 1932. Holding a new census might so transform the balance of power that it would provoke a civil war. The price Lebanese pay for living in such a divided and unstable society is well known, but at the same time Lebanon enjoys a freedom seen nowhere else in the Arab world. “It is and always has been, a more open, liberal and democratic society than any of its Arab neighbors,” writes Hirst. “In this respect its vulnerability to domestic dissension, its chief flaw, has become, as it were, its chief virtue. For the sectarian state just could not function at all unless its constituent parts agreed, at least in principle, that respecting the rights, interests and sensibilities of each was indispensable to the welfare of all. That amounted to a built in prophylactic against the dictatorship of one group, usually ethnic or sectarian, over others that has blighted the rest of the Arab world.”

Here Hirst is in agreement with Michael Young, whose eloquent colourful book The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon's Life Struggle is mostly about Syria’s attempt to control Lebanon, its alleged murder of the Sunni leader Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005, the protests known as the Independence Intifada or Cedar Revolution which followed, the withdrawal of Syrian troops and Syria’s subsequent attempts to restore its old influence. Young argues that for all its faults and institutionalized violence, Lebanon’s sectarian system has produced freedom because the power of religious and sectarian communities has weakened the state which Young rightly says ‘is the main barrier to personal freedom in the Middle East.’ Sectarian and factional division may invite foreign intervention, but also make it difficult for it to succeed if it alienates too many Lebanese communities at the same time, as Syria did when it assassinated al-Hariri. Its hegemony in Lebanon was temporarily ended when the Sunni, the Druze and Christians joined forces against Damascus.

It is a relief to find Young questioning the concept of state or nation building, as if this was an end unquestionably good in itself. Sectarian states in which jobs are openly or covertly filled by quotas institutionalize instability and do not end it, but in countries like Lebanon and Iraq sectarianism isn’t going to end regardless of the system of government. For all its faults the sectarian state involves acceptance of a balance of power between communities which rules out dictatorship or systematic authoritarian rule. Young does not claim to be an unbiased observer, of which Lebanon has few enough, and writes little about Israeli actions but he does convey the dangerous flavor of Lebanese politics.

As a Lebanese-American journalist brought to Lebanon at the age of 7 by his Lebanese mother after the death of his American father, Young’s memoir does bring Lebanon to life and his account of the Cedar Revolution – so named by an American official seeking to avoid calling it an intifada – is compelling. As for Syria, it always been better at gathering cards in Lebanon than playing them: taking advantage of Christian desperation in the Lebanese civil war in 1975-6 to move its troops into the country with Israeli and American permission, sabotaging Israeli-American predominance in 1982-84, and using its own anti-Saddam Hussein posture and opportunistic alliance with the US in 1990 to crush President Aoun and end 15 years of war. But as with other foreign players in Lebanon Syria ultimately overplayed its hand, crudely insisting that the period in office of its ally President Lahoud be extended and later killing al-Hariri. Young believes that Lebanon and Hizbullah’s state within a state cannot long coexist which may well be right, but instability is built into the Lebanese system.

Everything in the Middle East has turned out the opposite of what Israeli foreign policy planners expected half a century ago. Then the Israeli priority was to weaken the mainstream Sunni Arab powers and build up an ‘alliance of the periphery’ through which non-Arab states such as Iran and Turkey would be cultivated as Israel’s friends. Part of this policy worked: Arab powers like Egypt were marginalized by military defeat and became politically moribund. Secular Arab nationalism, of which the PLO was the symbol and proponent, has been discredited by its weaknesses and failures Yasser Arafat’s brand of Palestinian nationalism was discredited by his failed pursuit of a peace agreement with Israel after signing the Oslo accords. During the Israeli war in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008 the rest of the Arab world stood ineffectively on the sidelines. In seeking to ease the blockade of Gaza in 2010 it was Turkey rather than any Arab country which took effective action. Long after religiously-inspired nationalism had replaced secular nationalism, Israeli leaders were still obtusely expecting, despite bitter experience to the contrary, that implacable Islamic-inspired organisations like Hizbullah and Hamas would crumble under military pressure just as Arab armies had done 40 years earlier.

Analogies between failed states in the Middle East underline the strength of highly motivated non-state guerrilla movements but the states themselves are very different. Iraq, fragmented between Shia, Sunni and Kurd, looks increasing like a Lebanon-in-Mesopotamia and the hatred and fear dividing communities is no less than in Beirut. In both countries the Shiah are the largest community but in Lebanon they are still a minority and can never rule alone, while Iraqi Shia are 60 per cent of the population and can hope to dominate government. Even so power sharing is necessary in Baghdad but the nature of state power is different from Lebanon. Divided Iraq may be but its $60 billion a year oil revenues means that a faction which seizes control of the government machine can, like Saddam Hussein, maintain powerful security forces. In Afghanistan, by way of contrast, the state is weak and parasitic on the population, making it impossible for Americans to successfully use counter-insurgency tactics worked out in Iraq based on restoring central government authority.

One of the many fascinating aspects of Israel’s involvement in Lebanon is not that it got sucked into the Lebanese political morass but the way in which it kept on repeating earlier mistakes. Over thirty years there was continual underestimation of the other side, starting with the siege of Beirut in 1982. Israel’s response to political and military frustration has usually been to use more not less violence. In the case of the 1982 invasion this culminated in the massacre of at least 1300 Palestinian civilians – Hirst says that the real figure, taking into account bodies buried by the bulldozers, may go as high as 3,000 -- in Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in south Beirut by Christian militiamen. There was never much doubt about Israel’s ultimate responsibility for the slaughter since its generals knew full well how the militiamen had previously dealt with Palestinian civilians. ‘If you invite the Yorkshire Ripper to spend a couple of nights in an orphanage for small girls,’ commented the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, ‘you can’t, later on, just look over the piles of bodies and say you made an agreement with the Ripper – that he’d just wash the girls’ hair.’ The Israeli bombardments of Lebanon in 1996 and 2006 both involved the bombing and shelling of Lebanese civilians, culminating in each case in mass killings in the south Lebanese village of Qana. Hirst expresses some astonishment at the failure of Israeli politicians and generals to learn from their previous mistakes but offers no explanation other than their mindless arrogance. Indeed the only weakness in his splendid history is that he has a less sure touch when dealing with Israeli motives and is more reliant on second hand sources than he is when discussing Lebanon.

This is a pity because Israel’s repeated failures in Lebanon require an explanation beyond simple hubris and a tendency to underestimate one’s enemies. For all its modern equipment, undisputed control of the air and alliance with the US, Israel has not won a conclusive military victory since 1973. It had one partial success in 1982 when it succeeded in ending the Palestinian state-within-a-state in Lebanon, but otherwise its interventions there have invariably ended in failure. One explanation is that societies with an ingrained siege mentality are self-referential. Errors cannot be admitted making it more likely they will be repeated. Public dissent is increasingly persecuted as a sign of disloyalty. Israeli protests against the war of 2006 were far more limited than in 1982. When the war’s only conscientious objector went to prison the head of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, told Haaretz that he felt like strangling him.

Super patriotism and jingoism at times of war or threat of war are not an exclusively an Israeli trait but in Israel the propaganda is more intense and all pervasive. It distorts Israelis’ sense of reality. By any standards the assault by Israeli commandos on the May 2010 Gaza aid flotilla was a disaster, focusing international attention on the blockade and infuriating Turkey, once a strong Israeli ally. But by justifying this fiasco as a perfectly reasonable policing action in which the Turkish peace activists were at fault, the Israelis open the door for their own leaders to do exactly the same thing in future. And the very same leaders are likely to be in charge, because the refusal to admit that mistakes were made makes it impossible to fire those responsible for previous idiocies. Disaster-prone politicians like Benjamin Netanyahu and the Defense Minister Ehud Barack blunder on regardless of their long history of failing to balance high risks of failure against limited benefits from success. This is despite the fact that Israel’s wars against Lebanon in 2006, Gaza in 2008 and the Turkish aid flotilla in 2010 all left Israel weaker and its enemies stronger. At a time when Israel is threatening an air attack on Iran, its leaders are frighteningly incapable of calculating their own best interests.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of "Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

No amount of Hasbara could beautify Israel 's ugly face

[ 06/08/2010 - 09:49 PM ]

By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem

Israeli hasbara doctors and their mouthpieces in the West don’t stop dithering about the perceived failure of the Israeli propaganda machine "to get the message through" to western audiences.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year and the best of the best PR firms are recruited to do the job for Israel.

However, Israel 's image remains dark and ugly as many Europeans and others are drifting away from Israel as the outgoing British ambassador to Israel affirmed recently.

Of course, the failure of Israel's lying machine to get the message through has little or nothing to do with any presumed inefficacy of the lies themselves. After all, the Israelis have been professional liars since time immemorial and very few people under the sun could possibly outmatch them in this dishonorable field.

Moreover, the best of the best of what the West has to offer in terms of public relations means, tactics and knowhow, including a huge armada of Jewish-owned or Jewish influenced-media of communications extending from Australia to California, are readily available at Israel's beck and call to spread her often virulent lies about the criminal state's genocidal treatment of its Palestinian victims.

Hence, it is highly unlikely that some technical or extraneous factors are to blame for the alleged inadequacy of the Israeli hasbara.

Likewise, it is unlikely that Israel, with all its expertise in the PR field, doesn't realize that the matter goes far beyond mere skill and hucksterism. In the final analysis, all the public relations in the world wouldn't be able to make the cold-blooded murder of a schoolboy on his way to school or on his way home from school look as if it were an act of charity. A murder is a murder and no amount of spin could make it look an expression of self-abnegation.

It may be true that Israel could utilize certain things to enhance its image, such as having Arab doctors serving in Israeli hospitals and allowing Arab patients to be treated by Israeli doctors. There are also mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhoods in Israel, though very small in number, which could be used by the Israeli hasbara officials to show that Israel is not as satanic as some of its enemies portray it to be.

However, it is also true that for every positive aspect connoting or denoting humanity and civility on Israel's part, there are a thousand evil aspects which prove beyond the slightest doubt that Israel is a decidedly criminal, murderous, racist and even Nazi-like state. Indeed, the evils meted out to non-Jews in Israel/Palestine are structural, systematic and permeating every aspect of life.

It is true that Israel allows some kids from the West Bank and Gaza to be treated in Israeli hospitals, mainly for propaganda purposes. But it is also true that the Israeli Shin Beth, Israel's chief domestic security agency, often blackmails the parents of these ill kids into working as informers and collaborators in exchange for granting them a permit to enter Israel.

It is true that that some of these kids have undergone successful operations in Israel, but it is also true that the Israeli occupation army knowingly and deliberately murdered Palestinian children and youngsters specifically in order to harvest their internal organs for transplant in Jewish recipients. Israel may deny these "canards" and "blood libels" but the truth cries out to the seventh heaven, and one can't really belie his own eyes.

As a Palestinian who has been an eyewitness to Israeli crimes for so many years, I can testify before God and man that Israel is a Nazi state par excellence. This is why cataloging Israeli crimes would require a huge encyclopedia. After all, Israel's history is an uninterrupted concatenation of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, one would exaggerate very little by stating that Israel is itself a huge crime against humanity.

None the less, I would like to state some of the crimes the Israeli occupation army committed in the past few years, crimes which I witness myself:

I witnessed Israeli troops shoot and kill totally innocent Palestinians and then claim the victims had tried to attack soldiers. Very often, the soldiers would place a knife next the victim's body in order to give credence to the concocted Israeli account.

I have seen Israeli helicopter gunship fire hell-fire missiles on crowded streets, killing and maiming innocent children and other civilians.

I have seen Israeli tanks fire rounds of ammunition on markets, killing and maiming many civilians.

I witnessed Israeli soldiers shoot and kill totally innocent Palestinian youngsters and then claim that the kids put the soldiers' lives at risk when in fact the soldiers were well-protected inside well-armored vehicles such as Merkava tanks or APCs.

I have witnessed Israeli soldiers manning roadblocks in the west bank bar severely-ill Palestinian patients from proceeding to hospital, which happened to be a few blocks away, until they patients succumb to their illness. The same thing would happen to pregnant women in labor in which case the fetus or mother or both would die as a result of the soldier's bestiality.

I have witnessed Israeli soldiers murder journalists and cameramen without any justification, just to see to it that they wouldn't communicate the truth to the outside world.

I have witnessed the Israeli army storm Palestinian hospitals and fire gas grenades inside the corridors.

I have seen Israeli bulldozers create deep trenches in the heart of Palestinian towns in order to paralyze movement.

I have witnessed Israeli occupation authorities impose open-ended curfews on hundreds of thousands of citizens, causing incalculable harm.

I have seen Israelis withhold water supplies from Palestinians for several weeks in order to enable Judeo-Nazi settlers to enjoy an American-standard of life and welfare.

I have seen the Israeli authorities arrest and detain Palestinians in dungeons and detention camps for years without charge or trial.

I have seen the Israeli occupation authorities blow up people's homes for no justifiable reason, just to discourage other Palestinians from opposing the occupation.

I have seen Israeli bulldozers crush people's fields, orchards, and vineyards, just to scare them and let them know "who is the boss."

I have seen Israelis abduct young Palestinian kids and take them to nearby Jewish settlements where settler kids and youngsters would beat and humiliate them in order to show the Arab kids "who is the boss."

I have seen Israeli soldiers target innocent farmers, innocent vacationers, innocent travelers, innocent workers, and innocent students, and murder them in cold blood.

I have seen Israeli soldiers induce Palestinian kids to come out to the streets in order to kill them.

In fact, I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinians school kids while sitting in their classrooms.

In the Gaza Strip, the crimes Israel has committed against these badly-savaged people defies linguistic description. In fact, one would exaggerate little by saying that Israel's murderous criminality succeeded in pushing 1.6 million Gazans to the edge of Bergen Belsen, Auschwitz and Ghetto Warsaw.

The raining of White Phosphorus on crowded Gaza neighborhoods in December-January 2008 and 2009 de-masked Israel's Nazi face so much that no amount of hasbara and public relations was able to make the ugly reality seem less uglier.

In addition, Israel has shot passenger airplanes and attacked passenger ships, killing hundreds of civilians. Security is always invoked as the mantra that justifies every crime against innocent civilians.

As I said, one could write volumes upon volumes of books, chronicling Israeli crimes and criminality.

Israel is actually like an extremely ugly lady who exaggerates in the use of cosmetics in the hope of making herself look beautiful.

But Israel's face is ugly because it is ugly, not because the hasbara efforts are inadequate.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian