:: { acid chat } ::

Albert Einstein: "It would be my greatest sadness to see Jews do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Galloway on sky

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Israeli soldiers accused of raping 11-year-old

At least 17 soldiers and five civilians are under investigation for the rape of an 11-year-old girl at an Israeli air base, the military confirmed yesterday.
A spokesman for the Israeli army told the local press that the incident was very grave and "seriously deviates from appropriate behavioural norms and values".

According to reports in the Israeli media, the girl - whose father is a non-commissioned officer in the army - was living with her family at an air base in the south of Israel. She began to have sex with soldiers and workers at the base from the age of 11 until the age of 14.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told investigators that she agreed to sex, but according to Israeli law a girl under 16 cannot legally engage in consensual sex, and the men are expected to be charged with statutory rape.

The news was greeted with shock by Israelis, who tend to believe their army is morally superior to those in other countries. The soldiers questioned in the case said that the girl told them she was 16 or 17, and that they had no idea of her real age. One of the suspects told the daily Maariv that the girl initiated the sexual encounters.

Military police became suspicious during a separate investigation and informed the base commander. The girl's family has since moved from the base and she has been in hospital several times for psychiatric illness, the reports said.

The soldiers under investigation are still serving although they are not allowed to be promoted or go on training courses. Police are carrying out a parallel investigation related to the civilian suspects.

The case marks a new low for the military, once Israel's most revered institution, which has been tarnished in recent years by incidents of financial corruption and sexual misconduct.

Air force officers were horrified by the scandal. One colonel told the newspaper Haaretz: "We are still trying to understand how this happened. I don't understand how our soldiers violated the norms of the IDF [Israel Defence Force] in such a callous way. What bothers me no less is the fact that we, the commanders, didn't know about it.

"We're trying to check how we missed such a serious incident for such a long time. I'm worried by the fact that not one soldier raised a red flag - not those who participated in the acts and not their friends who might have known about it. I would have expected that there would be a righteous man in Sodom who would complain so that these terrible acts would be stopped."

A former army psychologist told Israel radio that the continued offences would have required a widespread "conspiracy of silence". Colonel Gadi Amir said: "This kind of phenomenon couldn't have happened without many other people knowing about it, including officers. I believe there was a conspiracy of silence in this case."

Col Amir, former head of the army's behaviour sciences department, said the scandal marked a low point in military conduct. "This is well beyond a criminal offence. It is rape and it is a breach of norms and ethical codes that, without them, our army cannot continue to exist."

Court cases against senior army officers charged with sexual harassment and assault have been on the increase in recent years. Experts say it reflects a gradual shift in Israeli society toward women asserting their rights and refusing to accept behaviour that used to be considered routine.

A pressure group of ex-soldiers called Breaking the Silence has worked for two years to force Israeli society to confront the crimes committed by soldiers in their name by recording testimonies about the abuse and murder of Palestinians.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression in the United States suffered a jolt at the hands of the Zionist lobby when it virtually coerced two eminent Harvard professors to retract their studies on Israeli lobby’s influence on American foreign policies.

The act also underscores the widely known but unmentioned belief that the Zionist lobby exercises rampant influence on US media and the governing bodies.

Harvard University and its ancillary, the Kennedy School of Government withdrew their name and logo from the cover page of a study prepared by professor Stephen Walt of the Kennedy School and professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago on the influence of the Israeli lobby on the American foreign policy.

In the study, the researchers came to the conclusion that US foreign policy in the past decade had been formulated in such a way that it protected and promoted Israeli rather than US interests.

The professors concluded that these biased policies were the major factor that had led the Arab and Muslim world to view US foreign policy with distrust.

Once the report was released, and under unrelenting Zionist pressure, university authorities had to distance their institutions from the study by going public and stating that it was not an official document but simply a topic of debate.

Indeed it is both pathetic and comical that internationally renowned institutions of higher education are now being forced to distort facts to appease the Zionist lobby.

The US media has also unleashed a barrage of criticism on the two professors, and the universities concerned.

US-based Fox News, known as a mouthpiece of Zionist hard-liners, said the study fell pitiably short of the standards expected of the two professors who had been held in high esteem in academic circles.

According to media reports, Harvard and the Kennedy School received dozens of telephone calls from financiers of the two institutions expressing concern over the issues raised by the study.

Robert A. Belfer, former director and member of the executive committee of Enron, who had previously endowed the Kennedy School with a $7.5 million grant was furious enough to demand that professor S. Walt not mention in the study his position at the school.

The study has enraged the Zionist lobby in the US as it had accurately probed the depth and intensity of Zionist influence in America, and presented findings in the logical format of an academic document. The study is all the more significant because both professors were unbiased in their research and do not subscribe to any political or ideological groups.

They were simply bold enough to take on an issue that is rarely allowed to surface in print in the United States.

Ironically, as the Statue of Liberty overlooks the entry point to the US, freedom of expression has received one more blow by the Bush administration’s ban on Lebanon’s TV channel Al-Manar.

In justifying this act, the authorities said the channel promoted terrorism by its anti-Israeli stance.

The US is quick to label anyone who criticizes or opposes the Zionist doctrine or its interests a “terrorist”.

All this while American officials go on preaching about the inviolability of the freedom of expression.

It should also be noted that so far no unambiguous and official condemnation of the cartoons disgracing the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has come from US authorities.

One wonders if freedom of expression is applicable only when it comes to violating sacred symbols of Muslims

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ex-Israel Adviser appointed to head Foreign Office Legal Department

The British Foreign Office has appointed a controversial Israeli government adviser, Daniel Bethlehem QC, to one of its most sensitive posts as head of the legal department.

Daniel Bethlehem’s previous history indicates a pro-Israeli bias which should not taint any legal adviser for the British government. In 2002, Bethlehem’s advice led the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to block a UN inquiry into the Jenin massacre. Bethlehem warned in a memo for the Israeli government that if the inquiry's findings "uphold the allegations against Israel - even on a poor reasoning - this will fundamentally alter the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian leadership and may make it impossible for Israel to resist calls for an international force, the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state and the prosecution of individuals said to have committed the alleged acts."

Bethlehem also took the lead for the Israeli government at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2004 to defend the “apartheid wall” being built through the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Interestingly, the Foreign Office published a lengthy CV for Bethlehem listing 27 international disputes in which he has been involved but omitting Jenin.

Bethlehem will be now responsible for advising Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on a host of issues such as Guantanamo Bay, the occupation of Iraq and the legality of any pre-emptive strike against Iran. Indeed, Bethlehem's view on attacking Iran may be suggested by his evidence last year to the Commons foreign affairs committee. Although an Israeli pre-emptive strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 was judged to be illegal, a good case could have been made for it both then and now, he said.

Giving Chutzpah New Meaning

What do you do when somebody wants to publish a book that says you're completely wrong? If you're Alan Dershowitz, the prominent Harvard law professor, and the book is Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, you write the governor of California and suggest that he intervene with the publisher--because the publisher is the University of California Press, which conceivably might be subject to the power of the governor.

Old Balkan Joke

Q. What do you call a man who goes to a Serbian prostitute? A. Slobbadown Mycockyoubitch.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Israel: a strategic liability?

"Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?"

The centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy is its intimate relationship with Israel. Though often justified as reflecting shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, the U.S. commitment to Israel is due primarily to the activities of the “Israel Lobby.” This paper describes the various activities that pro-Israel groups have undertaken in order to shift U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.

Extracts are in the London Review of Books. An unedited version is available here, or here

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Palestine between Balfour and Straw

Britain betrayed the Palestinians at the start and is doing so again as the actions of Israel pass without censure, writes Amin Howeidy:

We all know that Arthur Balfour, the British foreign secretary, made the ill-fated promise issued on 2 November 1917 to give the Jews a national homeland on part of the land of Palestine. And we all know that Jack Straw is the British foreign secretary these days. The statements he issues are acceptable, but some of his actions contradict them. We must look at them in the context of him representing the state that created the problem by giving what it did not own to a group who did not deserve it.

Let us start with Balfour. He met Haim Weizmann, the young Zionist, at the start of the last century; this has a story of its own. Following the death of Theodor Herzl -- the prophet of Zionism as they call him -- Weizmann moved his residence from Geneva to London, where the Jewish community gave him a tepid reception. Most of them were enthusiastic about the project for making Uganda a homeland for bringing together their Diaspora, while Weizmann did not accept an alternative to Palestine as a national homeland for the Jews. His isolation drove him to move to Manchester, the main centre for studying chemistry, in which he specialised alongside his interest in the Zionist movement. There he met Balfour.

At that time, Balfour was a proponent of the Uganda project, but following Weizmann's repeated discussions with him, grew convinced to change his favour to that of the Palestine project. Weizmann once said to Balfour, "We refuse to talk about Uganda. My dear Arthur, if it were within my ability to offer Paris to you as a replacement for London, would you accept?" It was as though Palestine were his homeland although he had not yet visited it. The two men's friendship grew.

Time passed and Weizmann never stopped promoting his project. Then fate struck its blow on 22 March 1917 when his friend Balfour became foreign secretary within the wartime cabinet. After numerous manoeuvres, Balfour asked Weizmann to prepare a draft of the declaration he wanted presented to the wartime cabinet. On 18 September 1917, Weizmann submitted the draft declaration that included the British government's acknowledgment of all of Palestine as a national homeland for the Jews and granted them sovereignty under British protection. On 2 November 1917, the Balfour Declaration was issued.

The ill-fated promise stated that "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." The promise was in the form of a letter addressed to Lord Rothschild, a Zionist of fame and wealth.

To quote from Weizmann's memoirs: "While the wartime cabinet was putting together a report on the final text of the declaration, I was waiting in one of the cabinet's rooms. Sir Mark Sykse came to me with the historical document and said with joy, 'Dr Weizmann, it's a baby boy.' I did not love the newborn at first glance because it was not the child we wanted, but I knew that what had happened was something great in our history." It is noteworthy that Weizmann wanted to say that he was the main person responsible for the issue of the declaration, distancing the name of Rothschild and other Zionists in doing so.

The Jews welcomed the declaration despite it not giving them all of Palestine as a national homeland, sufficing with only part of it. Most unfortunately, however, it was not only the Jews who welcomed it; some prominent Arabs did as well.

But what is the story these days of Jack Straw concerning this difficult problem? Some diplomats prepared a report that criticises Israel for its actions by which it will seize control of Jerusalem and isolate it from its Arab-Palestinian hinterland -- the near completion of the construction of barriers around East Jerusalem far from the Green Line, the construction and expansion of illegal settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes, measures to separate East Jerusalem residents from those of the West Bank, discriminatory policies the Jerusalem municipality employs in imposing taxes and construction permits, and the Maale Adumim settlement, which splits the West Bank into two geographically separate areas.

The diplomats' report made it clear that these measures threaten completion of the "roadmap" because there is no Arab that would consent to losing East Jerusalem. On the contrary, Arab residents will be driven to more violence, which will put an end to attempts at peace. The report recommends that the European Union -- which does not acknowledge East Jerusalem's annexation to Israel since 1980 when the Israeli government declared it annexed and Jerusalem the capital of Israel -- declare its opposition to these measures and call on Israel to halt all plans to prevent the issue of Jerusalem being negotiated between the two parties.
The diplomats presented their report to the European Union in the final days of its British presidency. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, instead of presenting the report to EU members, ordered for it to be put on hold and for no measures to be taken to prevent the continuation of Israeli violations.

This move incensed many of those who knew about the report, including British writer Patrick Seale. He addressed an open letter to the British foreign secretary that was published in the London Al-Hayat newspaper. In it he wrote, "by your decision [to quash the report], you betrayed the Palestinian people, so often betrayed by Britain in the past; you betrayed the EU diplomats who wrote the report; and you betrayed all those who still believe in a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict."

He went on to say, "You had a chance to mobilise the EU's full weight behind this message, to help Europe carry weight in world affairs ... It is often said that Britain cleaves to America through thick and thin, because this gives Britain influence over American policy, especially regarding Palestine. Can you point to any visible result of this influence? By deciding not to give full publicity to the crucial Jerusalem question ... you have contributed to instability and violence in the region. Britain would do better to publish the report, add muscle to its recommendations and, in doing so, seek to save its battered international reputation."

He mentions that Jack Straw was an ardent supporter of military action in Iraq and that he had held on to his position even after it became clear that the war had been built upon a foundation of lies and forged evidence.

Indeed, the British are partners in drawing a new roadmap, one other than that declared. Akin to US President Bush, what Straw openly declares covers him while others carry out actions with impunity. In politics, what is important is not what is said but what is done.

Last century, Balfour gave part of Palestine as a national homeland for the Jews and erased facts. Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the situation is reversed to giving Palestine a disfigured part of Israel besieged from land, sea and air. Some call this a small prison and others a detention centre.

What else to say? Politics is said to be the art of the possible. Is it not more accurate to say that politics is about getting away with as much as possible?

Artistically correct - the imperfect imbalance

New Anatolian: "Balance is totally unimportant to art," says Israeli film producer Amir Harel. Well said. But does he have the correct stage for advocating this noble sentiment? Harel is among the producers of "Paradise Now," the controversial feature film, a front-runner for Best Foreign Language Picture at Sunday's Oscars.

"Paradise Now," you'll recall, is the story of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seen through the prism of two Jihadist suicide bombers. The movie was partially filmed in Nablus on the West Bank betwixt and between battles between Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters.

The film is creating a double-barreled rumpus. The Israeli parents of three children killed in one of the suicide bombings during the bitter years of the Palestinian Intifada are petitioning Hollywood with 32,000 names demanding the dropping of "Paradise Now" from the Oscars on the grounds that it promotes terrorism.

"Artistic terror," Yosef Mendelevich labels it. His 13 year-old son was among the 17 bus passengers killed three years to the day that the Oscars will be awarded. The film will simply encourage more bombers, argues Mr. Mendelevich: "What they call 'Paradise Now' is for us 'Hell Now'."

The second attack focuses on whom the film represents: Palestine (a country that does not technically exist, so that would in itself be a Hollywood premiere), or the Palestinian Territories (as formally designated in the peace agreements which brought about the creation of the Palestinian Authority in those territories.). The Arab director Hany Abu-Assad was actually born in Israel but lives in Europe -- the "Palestinian Diaspora."

He's endorsed the line of many Palestinians on suicide bombings -- it's understandable because they have so few effective weapons at their disposal against Israel's might. But, adds Abu-Assad, firmly denying the accusation that he is promoting suicide bombing as a tactic, the film seeks to "promote discussion, to stimulate debate."

The weight of the argument seems indeed to lie with his contention that this is an artistic exploration of a real here-and-now moral issue; having even an unbalanced agenda, in this context, is perfectly legitimate.

What, however, of the contention that the film is not entitled to justify its exploration of a specific viewpoint because it endeavors to go beyond art and to engage real life, that it is a document about real situation - in other words, journalism.

Into play comes the holy word projected as the basis of "good journalism" -- balance. But, like objectivity, balance in reporting is often a hollow reed. Real balance does not necessarily mean simply allowing each side equal time to advance their cause - what, for instance, if the argument of one side is entirely spurious? Real balance means getting as close to "the truth" of a situation as the journalist can get.

Must the artist labor under the same constraint? Are filmmakers not entitled to pursue their own truths…even if it happens to be a very brutal truth - like exploring the efficacy and the morality of a brutal tactic such as suicide bombing?

The real value of Abu-Assad's film may lie beyond whether it projects the Palestinian predicament and the Palestinian cause -- and by extension the Israeli cause -- fairly or unfairly.

It exposes one of the weak links in our global world -- the crisis in reporting reality, especially TV reporting. All too often, the fetish of "balance" gets in the way of further debate, in the way of really understanding a real situation. What "Paradise Now" offers its viewers is another reading of reality, one which many viewers may choose to embrace at the expense of so-called "balanced reporting". And, in so doing, accomplish Abu Assad's proclaimed objective -- the promotion of dialogue and debate (surely, also the goal of "objective" journalism).

One of the grieving parent petitioners Yossi Zur was quoted as saying that he does not seek a banning of the film, only that it not be given an award: "Free speech and artistic expression is sacred. But the Oscars should think twice about what it means to award such a movie a prize."

That could explode another lethal device in this Oscar minefield: as much as advocacy films are in vogue, as brave as the members of the Academy might be to brush off the balance lobby and to give Abu-Assad an accolade, they could yet chose to balance that by parallel rewarding of another film of the conflict -- Steven Spielberg's "Munich." That kind of rationale would amount to affirmative action at its worst.

For once, every which way, an Oscar ceremony really beckons. We viewers could be rewarded not with a Hollywood-style reality but with the chance to watch Hollywood grappling with a very non-Hollywood situation, perhaps one that has no happy end.

Britain's standing is now at a nadir in the Middle East

By colluding with the Israeli attack on Jericho, Straw has underlined the Americanisation of British policy in the region .

Jack Straw has brought Britain's standing in the Arab and Muslim worlds to its lowest point for half a century. By withdrawing British monitors from a Palestinian jail in Jericho on Tuesday, the government as good as handed over to Israel the prisoners it had made an international agreement to protect. In doing so, it colluded with its American co-sponsor and - at the very least tacitly - with the Israeli occupation regime in an armed attack on the prison and the seizure of an elected political leader regarded by many Palestinians as a national hero.

As the ruins of the British Council building in Gaza smoulder, the foreign secretary can reflect on his contribution this week to peace in the Middle East: the humiliation of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, the undermining of efforts to form a viable Palestinian administration and the confirmation in Arab and Muslim eyes that Britain cannot plausibly be regarded as an honest broker in the region. No wonder the prime minister struggled to defend the blunder in parliament yesterday.

As the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan turn ever bloodier and more disastrous, you might think that the last thing Britain would want to be responsible for was more degrading TV footage of Arab men being paraded in their underpants by another occupying army. But then this is the foreign secretary who used a recent visit to Beirut to praise Ariel Sharon's "courage and statesmanship" and "work towards a long-term peace settlement" - in the very city where he oversaw the massacre of 2,000 Palestinian refugees by Lebanese Phalangists in 1982. It's perhaps no wonder that British complicity with Israel's assault on Jericho was yesterday being compared in the Arab media to the duplicitous US deal which led to that slaughter. As anyone who has spent time in the Middle East will know, while Britons may not be familiar with the history of their country's involvement in the region, it is not forgotten by those who suffered at its hands: from the 1917 Balfour declaration, which promised Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people, to the collusion with France and Israel over the 1956 invasion of Egypt.

Both Straw and Tony Blair have claimed that a security threat to the British (and US) monitors justified the decision to withdraw them from Jericho. But no credible evidence of any such threat has been offered - and the complaint that the prisoners were allowed to use mobile phones cannot be treated as a serious reason to end the four-year-old agreement. The five prisoners captured as a result - including Ahmad Sa'adat, leader of the leftwing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - are accused by Israel of responsibility for the killing of the racist cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001, carried out in retaliation for the assassination of Sa'adat's predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa. The deal to hold them in a Palestinian jail under British-US supervision later ended the siege of Yasser Arafat's compound.

But judging by last week's joint British-US letter to the Palestinian president, it was the pledge by the newly elected Hamas to release these prisoners, rather than concerns about security, that lay behind the decision to withdraw the monitors. If they had been released, it would have been the Palestinian Authority, not Britain, that broke the agreement. As it was, in the knowledge that Israel was ready to seize the men, the British-US pullout makes far more sense as a calculated warning to Hamas and a favour to the acting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

In Israel the Jericho operation is of course highly popular and regarded as a boost for Olmert's electoral credibility as a tough successor to Sharon. But that only helps explain why waiting for Israeli politics to deliver a viable peace deal is a recipe for failure - and why the western powers that helped create this conflict will also have to help resolve it. Instead they have connived in the continued illegal occupation, colonisation and carve-up of the West Bank, the building of the land-grabbing wall and the throttling of Gaza - all the while paying lip service to a future Palestinian state whose viability looks less plausible daily. The landslide for Hamas in the Palestinian elections in January was largely a response to this unending misery and the breakdown of the Oslo arrangements of the 1990s.

Britain's strategic support for Israel while claiming to be even-handed in the Middle East conflict is nothing new: recent revelations of the UK's secret supply of nuclear materials to Israel in the 50s and 60s are a reminder of that. But there are also clear signs that the Blair government has recently tilted even further towards Israel in what appears to be a growing Americanisation of British policy in the region. Palestinians who deal regularly with British officials report an unmistakable shift in attitudes towards the conflict, now increasingly seen through the US prism of the war on terror, Iran and Iraq.

This shift may help to explain Tuesday's events; it certainly represents an unjustifiable abandonment of international responsibilities to protect an occupied people and help achieve their human and national rights, denied for nearly 60 years. But it is also a highly dangerous role to adopt in the most inflammatory conflict on the planet - and one which puts at risk the security of people in Britain, as well as the Middle East.