Archive for the ‘Mideast Conflict’ Category
I wonder if he’s getting pressure to take that video down. What do you bet?
UPDATE: I went to YouTube to pick up the video (below) and saw that comments for that video have been disabled. Touchy issue.
UPDATE: Wow! Read this column and watch that video.
Very interesting interview by Natasha Lennard in Salon:
Thousands of protesters worldwide joined in a “Day of Rage” late last week to decry Israel’s despicable Prawer Plan, a government policy (wildly underreported in this country) to destroy 35 Arab villages in the Negev desert, which will lead to the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Bedouin Israeli citizens.
The plan is further vindication of Max Blumenthal’s central thesis in his new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, namely that Israel’s raison d’etat is the maintenance and expansion of a colonial ethnocracy — the expansion of the Jewish Israeli demographic, the containment of all others.
While Israeli government policies like aggressive West Bank expansion, the Gaza occupation, the warehousing of non-Jewish Israeli Africans and the Prawer Plan fiercely bear out Blumenthal’s point, the author has, since Goliath’s publication, run the gamut of predictably fervid criticism from Israel’s attack dogs within the U.S. commentariat.
But Max Blumenthal is not surprised. The 35-year-old author and journalist knew what he was getting into with “Goliath.” It’s a bold, personal and unapologetic book. Its central thesis — that the very logic of the Israeli state is essentially that of a settler colonial ethnocracy — was, as Blumenthal well knew, bound to draw some flustered censure. On cue, following “Goliath’s” publication, Eric Alterman has written a whopping nine critical pieces (many of them ad hominem in nature) against Blumenthal; BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray compiled a decrial of Blumenthal; Alan Dershowitz wants Blumenthal’s father, Sidney Blumenthal, former aide to President Clinton (and Salon alum), to be personally denounced by the Clintons for his son’s book.
The younger Blumenthal was ready for the onslaught, which, he says, has played out with absolute predictability. While en route to his parents’ D.C. home (sorry, Mr. Dershowitz, Sid has yet to disavow his progeny), Blumenthal spoke on the phone to Salon about life in the Israel lobby’s cross hairs, and the unique challenges and importance of critiquing the Israeli government’s sugar-coated state narratives, buoyed by its unquestioning supporters in the U.S. The conversation has been lightly condensed for brevity.
“Goliath” does not just tell a story, or a series of stories, it offers a very specific critique of the very logic and ideology undergirding the Israeli state. Was this a hypothesis that you held before immersing yourself in Israeli life and politics to research for “Goliath,” or did your conclusions about Israel emerge while reporting?
My understanding of Israeli society was not upended or altered in any significant way by my immersion in it. I understood what I was getting into when I embarked on my first extended reporting trip to Israel and Palestine in May 2009. This was right after Israel elected the most right-wing government in its history. I decided to do this book because I had been following the situation for years and watching the religious nationalist and extremist trends in Israel and understanding its roots — the foundational structure of the state as a settler colonial ethnocracy. What spurred me to do this book was not some sort of epiphany or sudden understanding of what Israel had become but just a moment in history that, to me, marked the culmination of a transitional period into a permanent right-wing majority in Israel and a permanent right-wing future.
That moment was the national elections carried out during Operation Cast Lead — the three-week massacre of the Gaza civilian population. The assault and the elections propelled one another. You had a defense minister from the Labor Party competing against extreme right-wingers like Avigdor Lieberman, who was openly campaigning to strip Palestinian citizens of Israel of their citizenship rights. There is pretty clear evidence that defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak was running up the body count in Gaza in order to win over the Russian vote and outflank Lieberman as the tough guy. Tzipi Livni, who was running as a centrist, declared “our troops in the Gaza strip behaved like hooligans, which I demanded of them.”
“Goliath” highlights a number of highly specific examples of explicitly racist rhetoric employed by key Israeli politicians. These comments rarely get air in the U.S. media, despite being part of very public Israeli politicking.
That was another reason I decided to do this book. The rhetoric of mainstream Israeli politicians, which is bellicose, paranoid and racist, is so rarely conveyed to the American public. Meanwhile the issue of Palestinian incitement is a constant feature of mainstream American reporting on Palestinian society. There was a comment that formed the title of a chapter in my book, “This belongs to the white man.” And that chapter has been criticized or assailed by liberals like Eric Alterman and J.J. Goldberg.Of course, they don’t address the content of the chapter, and if they did it would probably throw them into some sort of personal existential crisis since their identity as Jews revolves around the ethnocratic state of Israel. And that chapter title is inspired by a quote by Eli Yishai, who served as interior minister from 2009 to 2013, and what he said was that, “these black Africans” — refering to the 60,000 non-Jewish African asylum-seekers living in Israel — “are Muslims who do not recognize that this country belongs to us, the white man.”
It’s an interesting comment given that he is of Tunisian descent and would not be considered white in the U.S. but, as a Jew, it marks him as part of the ethnic overclass and in his own mind he’s therefore “white.” That comment was printed but buried in the bottom of a New York Times article by Isabel Kershner on page A15 or A23 about a massive race riot in Tel Aviv on May 23, 2012, against the African population in which literally hundreds of vandals and thugs smashed the storefronts of African-owned businesses, attacked any African they found in the street and smashed African cars. That story was completely whitewashed in the U.S. — this was a riot encouraged from the highest level of Israeli government after a rally in South Tel Aviv attended by thousands where major Israeli government figures called Africans “a cancer in Israel’s body” and the crowd chanted, “nigger, nigger you’re a son of a bitch.” So there is a clear effort, a concerted effort by American correspondents in Jerusalem, to conceal from the public the horror — and the real horrific state of Israel society — the Moloch that Israel has become. What I sought to do with my book was merely fill the void and show Americans the Israel that Israelis know.
You’ve mentioned that the backlash you’ve received from writers like Alterman and Goldberg did not surprise you. Can you expand a little bit on the shape of the attacks you’ve received and in what ways they have and have not been predictable?
I fully expected the playbook of the pro-Israel propagandists to unfold as follows. First, they would attempt to ignore me and hope the book wouldn’t generate any attention, so that it would just go away, then there would be a freakout. I predicted two months before the book came out that if the Nation gave it any attention (I predicted this in a Real News Interview with Paul Jay two months before the book came out) that Eric Alterman would freak out. That’s exactly what happened. So I expected that.
Alterman broke the Jewish boycott on my book and what he attempted to do was to portray me as an unreliable narrator who didn’t understand Israel and got the facts and the history wrong. But he was dealt a really harsh blow when people like [Charles] Manekin, who is a professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, or Corey Robin at Brooklyn College, who is Alterman’s colleague, tore his argument apart and showed that it was he who got all the facts wrong. So Alterman was flailing; he had been pretty much knocked through the ropes. He started calling on his few allies like J.J. Goldberg at the Jewish Daily Forward and they got everything wrong and had to issue a correction. So from the second phase — trying to portray me as an unreliable narrator who got his facts wrong — it moved to a third phase, which was to smear me and smear my family and anyone associated with me. This culminated with BuzzFeed’s completely false smear piece, which should be retracted on the basis of its factual errors, by Rosie Gray.
Then Free Beacon attacked my father for hosting a party for me. I attempted to alert them to the fact that my mother ordered pizza for the book party, which means that she provided material support for delegitimization!
Alan Dershowitz called on the Clintons to denounce my father, since he worked in the White House with Bill Clinton, and he called on my father to denounce me. Of course, none of that happened. The final stage of this terminal phase was to point to a review on [white supremacist] David Duke’s website that was positive about my book, which is just the most pathetic and desperate tactic ever. So there are the three phases: ignore, undermine and smear. And then when all three of those failed, anything goes. So now we are in the anything goes phase. And I don’t know what that means but there are people who are less privileged than me who have experienced the devastating consequences for their work to counter Israeli human rights abuses.
A number of writers and theorists — philosopher Judith Butler comes to mind — have written about the dangers of conflating critiques of Israel or Zionism with anti-Semitism. As Butler wrote last year, “[T]he Jewish people extend beyond the state of Israel and the ideology of political Zionism. The two cannot be equated. Honestly, what can really be said about ‘the Jewish people’ as a whole? Is it not a lamentable stereotype to make large generalizations about all Jews, and to presume they all share the same political commitments?”
You have been smeared as anti-Semitic and extremist for your critiques of Israel. What do you think is the effect (social, cultural, political, ideological) of charging Israel’s critics with anti-Semitism? . . .
Continue reading. Click the link and read the full column, which includes a spirited rejoinder from Eric Alterman.
It’s worth noting that this is a polarizing book. Here are the current Amazon.com reader reviews:
Here’s a sample positive review:
406 of 472 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
The awful truth September 26, 2013
By Pamela Olson
I’ve been following Israeli news and politics and visiting the region for ten years, so there was little in this book that was fundamentally new to me. But for anyone who didn’t have time to keep up with the evolution of Israeli culture and politics over the last several years, this book is an excellent (and grimly entertaining) way to catch up.
An increasingly proudly racist segment of Israeli society has become mainstreamed and acceptable, saying things about Palestinians (or rather ‘Arabs,’ since they won’t deign to use the word ‘Palestinian’) that would make any Jim Crow partisan cringe with shame, kicking Bedouin off of land they have lived on for generations and into ghettos/reservations simply because they are not Jewish, forming vigilante groups to keep Jewish women from dating Arab men, and marching provocatively through Muslim neighborhoods in shows of force, contempt, and intimidation.
And this is in Israel proper. In the Palestinian territories, the situation is even more dire. From “price tag” operations to rabbis who advocate the killing of non-Jewish children, it’s a parallel universe, a parade of horrors of blind hatred and violence likened in many cases to “pogroms” even in the Israeli press.
When the vast majority of the Jewish Israeli public supported the grisly, pointless slaughter of Operation Cast Lead, it was truly a new low. The US government supports the Israeli government and its policies to the tune of $8 million every day, yet the American press tells us virtually nothing about these trends.
There are good people and great activists in Israel doing terrific and genuine work toward peace. But to understand what they are really up against — not to mention what the Palestinians are up against — this is an important book to read and an important set of realities to understand.
And here’s a sample negative review:
14 of 75 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars
more of the same ‘we hate israel & Jews’ November 12, 2013
I put it down after 123 pages because it was just a laundry list of ‘the evils of the modern world’ using Israel and jews as a proxy or microcosm for capitalists and the West generally. It’s a dishonest book; and not the first.
The real problem is the biased and prejudicial cherry-picking of anecdotes. The ‘real Israel’ and real Israelis are actual, living human beings who are bright, optimistic, and caring people. Just like most people in this world. Finding a dozen bad apples in a barrel of 7 million people is neither challenging nor honest.
A few years back I was at a chess tournament in Philadelphia. We were sharing a hotel room in a youth hostel kind of way (different people on different days and all chipping in) and one guy was an Israeli. At about 4am the Israeli guy got a phone call (no one was happy about that !!) and he was told there was a terrorist attack in Israel. Well, he spent about the next 4 hours calling around to find out how he knew several of the dead victims. That’s what Israelis do. They are like a big community; all sharing acquaintances, friends and family.
I don’t recognize my friend in any of the anecdotes found here.
Very interesting post by Juan Cole at Informed Comment:
Israel and Saudi Arabia have loomed large in reporting about the regional reaction to the UN Security Council plus Germany’s preliminary deal with Iran as they negotiate an end to the international boycott of Iran in return for practical steps permanently forestalling an Iranian nuclear weapon. Israel is a small country of 7.5 million with a GDP around the same as Portugal’s, and it isn’t actually all that important in the Middle East, which contains 600 million people if you include North Africa– and with which the US does $400 billion a year in trade.
But despite the fear-mongering and hysteria of Israeli politicians [see below], the general reaction in the region has been much more positive than the Likud government would have us believe. Moreover, far from there being an Israel-Arab consensus against the agreement, much of the Arab world welcomed the Iran deal and saw it as a first step toward getting nuclear weapons out of the Middle East altogether. That is, they are hoping that once Iran’s nuclear enrichment program is restructured as permanently peaceful, the United Nations Security Council will turn up pressure on Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the US that has some disputes with Iran (notably over Syria) nevertheless warmly greeted the announcement. Turkey has a population of 76 million, as does Iran, i.e., both are just a little less populous than Germany.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Twitter on Sunday,
“I welcome today’s agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. I have been advocating a solution through diplomacy and we hosted many diplomatic efforts in Turkey to this end . . . This is a major step forward. I hope it’ll be sealed with a final agreement soon. I congratulate all parties for their constructive engagement.”
Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a doctrine of seeking good relations with neighbors in order to expand trade. After AK came to power in 2002, Turkey’s foreign trade expanded a great deal ( it was $239 billion in 2012) and trade with the Middle East expanded from almost nothing under the nationalist, secularist generals to 22%. (Turkey’s GDP is $788 billion in nominal terms, more than that of the Netherlands and just behind Indonesia, making it the 17th largest economy in the world, lagging behind not only Indonesia but Mexico and South Korea).
The new commerce of the past decade is worth billions to Ankara and comes as cream on top of expanded trade with Europe and Asia. By 2011, Turkey’s trade with Iran had gone from almost nothing to $16 bn. Some 2500 Iranian companies have invested in Turkey. But in 2013 the value of the trade has fallen from the previous year, largely because of international sanctions that make it difficult for Iran to develop its oil and gas production and difficult for Turkish banks to interface with Iranian ones. Turkish officials view the level of trade with Iran as far below what could be achieved, and as currently almost insignificant. They would like to expand the trade to $100 billion, and had aimed for $30 billion by 2015.
International sanctions were therefore extremely inconvenient for Turkey’s policy of trade expansion in the region. Moreover, Turkey depends on inexpensive natural gas from Iran for some of its own electricity production. Compared to the Turkish-Iranian tiff over Syria, the possible cooperation in energy and trade expansion is much more important to Ankara. Likewise, the AKP supports the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, and has that in common with Iran. Turkey is champing at the bit to trade unhindered with Iran and to invest in it, as well as to welcome further Iranian investment in Turkey. The Kerry-Zarif deal could not be more welcome in Ankara.
Iraq, with a population of over 30 million and a GDP of $212 bn., also enthusiastically greeted the news. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said, . . .
Let me point out a highly relevant and cogently argued interview on the diplomatic progress with Iran.
Very interesting report at ThinkProgress from Ben Armbruster:
An Israeli military intelligence assessment appears to dramatically undercut arguments by both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. hawks about the danger of a proposed nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1. An Israeli military official said that based on the report’s conclusions, a deal resulting in the easing of economic sanctions on Iran could serve to boost regional security and stability.
Speaking about the contours of the report, the official also said, according to the Christian Science Monitor, that Israel’s military intelligence does not think the demand that Iran end all uranium enrichment — one promoted by Netanyahu and hawks here in the United States — is realistic:
Tehran has already become a “nuclear threshold” country, building the infrastructure, fissile material and know-how necessary to build a nuclear weapon within a relatively short time if it decided to do so, the intelligence officer said.
Iran has not made that decision yet, according to the assessment – likely because US threats of attack deterred Iranian officials, he said.
“We see a bit of a possibility, although it’s quite problematic, of more … stability,” said the Israeli military officer, adding that that stability depends on the success of the negotiations with Iran “over the nuclear project, but more than that, over the relief of the sanctions on the Iranian economy.”
Saying that Iran was one of several countries that could buck the general turmoil across the region, according to the Monitor, the official explained that a successful negotiation would shore up domestic support for new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but that without one, he “would likely see a major dip in support and possible unrest, according to the military’s calculations.”
CAP expert Matt Duss recently highlighted one aspect of this point:
[A] nuclear deal offers the best hope of improvement on human rights in the near term. A successful negotiation that eases Iran’s economic situation while also securing what Iran sees as its nuclear rights could create momentum that would help Rouhani’s administration address these broader issues. “It would give [Rouhani] and his team more bargaining power with the hard-liners,” Iranian activist Taghi Rahmani said recently. “A successful deal would definitely, positively impact social and political conditions inside of Iran.”
“The intelligence assessment is that we think Iranian regime has legitimacy problems,” the Israeli intelligence officer said. “The fact that economic numbers are not good and that there is some kind of noise among the public – at least about the economic situation – makes challenges for the regime. That’s probably why Rouhani was elected in such large numbers more than anything else.”
Members of Israeli security establishment has warned for years about the negative consequences of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. This report from Israel’s military intelligence is the latest example of the Israel security establishment pushing back against Netanyahu’s campaign to derail what he thinks is a “bad” nuclear deal with Iran.
Former Israeli intelligence chiefs have said they are keeping the door open to a possible deal, with one, retired Gen. Amos Yadlin, saying it’s “reasonable” to achieve a nuclear deal that allows Iran some uranium enrichment capabilities. The former head of Israel’s domestic security service said earlier this month that the current U.S. policy on Iran “is a policy of wisdom.”
UPDATE Editor’s note: this post has been updated for clarity. Some aspects of the Israeli military report have already been reported. The Christian Science Monitor’s story included a new analysis of the report from an unnamed Israeli official.
Just read this post by Juan Cole at Informed Comment. It begins:
The health minister in the Gaza Strip has warned that the territory is on the verge of a major health catastrophe.
Children are risking cholera and worse because they have to walk through raw sewage to get to school. The sewage has flooded the streets in Gaza City because the sewage treatment plant has no electricity. It has no electricity because the Israelis are blockading the strip, including its children (50% of the population). The Israelis are not letting cheap fuel in. Some inexpensive fuel used to come in from Egypt, but the military there has blocked smuggling tunnels leading into the strip from the Sinai Peninsula.
The Israeli military has since 2007 punished the whole Palestinian population because the Hamas Party won the 2006 elections. It actually produced figures on how much nutrition could be let in while keeping both children and adults among the Palestinians “on a diet.” US State Department cables revealed by Wikileaks show that the Israelis are deliberately keeping the Palestinians of Gaza just on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. As a result, 56 percent of residents are “food insecure.” They aren’t starving but they are just one or two lost paychecks away from starving. This kind of social engineering experiment on human beings (i.e. keeping Palestinians “on a diet”) is unconscionable to anyone in their right mind. It is also illegal in international law to impose collective punishment on an Occupied politician. Some 70% of the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza are from families expelled from what is now southern Israel by the 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign of Jewish settlers. Many could walk home in an hour or two but they are kept in refugee camps by the Israeli military. They are besieged on three sides by Israel and on one by Egypt, whose officers are cooperating with the Israeli-imposed blockade.
Here is a paraphrase of a report on the situation in the Palestinian Gaza Strip from AP: . . .
I fail to see the wisdom in this course. What, exactly, are the Palestinians supposed to do? Vanish?
Juan Cole has a thoughtful post at Informed Comment:
Rightwing Israeli politicians like Binyamin Netanyahu are squawkingfuriously about the prospect that Sec. of State John Kerry might reach an agreement with Iran over its civilian nuclear enrichment program.
The US is trying to convince Iran to scale back its program to the point where it cannot be used to produce a weapon in a short time period, and is solely a fuel-producing program. Nuclear fuel is typically enriched to 3.5-5%, whereas a bomb typically requires over 90% enrichment. Any gas centrifuge enrichment program theoretically could be ramped up to produce a bomb, but limitations on the number and kind of centrifuges used could make such a project time-consuming (at least a couple of months) and more easily detected by inspectors.
Why is the Israeli Right really apoplectic about such a deal? Here is my analysis of the faux and hypocritical outrage (Iran has no nuclear weapons program, but Israel has hundreds of nuclear warheads).
1. Since they broke their word to President John F. Kennedy and went for broke to produce their own bomb, the Israeli leadership can’t imagine that Iran won’t cheat on any deal. This is an example of mirror thinking. But Iran is being inspected, unlike Israel, and no country under active UN inspection has ever developed a bomb.
2. A US-Iran deal that involves the UN Security Council would make it impossible for Israel unilaterally to attack Iran. It would therefore reduce Israel’s range of options and detract from its position as Middle East regional hegemon.
3. A remaining Iranian nuclear program would always imply a “break-out” capacity for Tehran. Being known to be able to make a nuclear weapon has some of the same deterrent effects as actually having one, increasing Iranian clout in the region. (This is on analogy to Japan in East Asia).
4. Israel’s Likud Party still has designs on annexing southern Lebanon, deeply regretting Ehud Barak’s 2000 withdrawal, but is blocked by Hizbullah backed by Iran. An Iran with a break-out capacity would permanently end Israeli expansionist ambitions to the north and permanently deny Israel the waters of the Litani River, which its leaders covet.
5. Much of the Israeli public isn’t that wedded to being in Israel, a big problem for hawks like PM Binyamin Netanyahu. Probably a million or so first and second generation Israeli immigrants live in Europe and North America; it is not even clear that some of them aren’t being counted in the 5.5 million Israeli Jews claimed by Israel. Around 20,000 Israelis now live in Berlin! Nearly a third of Jewish Israelis have said in polling that they would consider emigrating if Iran developed a nuclear weapon. Keeping Iran weak is key to winning the hardliners’ psychological war in the Middle East.
6. Netanyahu uses the supposed threat of Iran, a poor weak global South country with a military budget somewhere between that of Norway and Singapore, to distract attention from Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory. A Western deal with Iran would throw the spotlight on the Palestinian West Bank, where Netanyahu is engaged in grand larceny on a cosmic scale.
7. If Iran is widely viewed by the international community to have stepped back from nuclear ambitions, Israel’s own nuclear arsenal will come to the fore as a focus, since it is the only Middle Eastern country with an arsenal of warheads, and that arsenal clearly drives a regional arms race (starting with Iraq in the 1980s).
Netanyahu seems more and more to be of a Tea-Party-like mindset.
The US press really is not very informative about most world events—part of the general deterioration of journalism—but Juan Cole has a good report at Informed Comment:
The youth organizations that made the 2011 revolutions were predominantly leftist or liberal. They revolted against seedy police states run by family cartels and their cronies. They had allies among labor unions and office workers.
These movements demanded free, fair parliamentary elections as the next step. But the groups best organized to campaign, canvass and fund-raise were the Muslim religious parties and to some extent the left-overs of the old regime.
The Muslim religious parties got about 60% of the seats in the Egyptian parliament in fall of 2011. Although that parliament was struck down by the courts for electoral irregularities, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Muhammad Morsi, won the presidency in June, 2012, and installed many party hacks in high positions. The Renaissance or al-Nahdah, religiously-inflected party won 42% of the seats in the Tunisian parliament and gained the prime ministership, though they had to ally with liberals and leftists, from which the president and speaker of parliament were drawn.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya did poorly in the summer, 2012 parliamentary elections there, a significant number of independents lean toward the religious right, though not a majority.
These outcomes were branded an “Islamic winter” by Neoconservative critics of the Arab world (what would you call people who are professional critics of a single ethnic group, about whom they never have anything positive to say?)
A raft of articles and books were published with the thesis that Arabs are religion-obsessed fanatics who can never be truly democratic because of their fascination with theocracy.
But in fall of 2013, things look different. A youth movement, Rebellion (Tamarrud) staged enormous demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt on June 30 and after, provoking a military coup and a thoroughgoing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been largely broken and driven underground. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been condemned by the officer corps and activist youth as dictatorial, secretive and grasping, as in short a kind of cult. The generals now dismiss it as a terrorist organization, having arrested 2000 party leaders. As a military-appointed commission crafts a new constitution, it is likely that it will outlaw religiously-based parties permanently. Most Egyptians are believers and either practicing Muslims or Coptic Christians. But most of them from all accounts have turned on the Muslim Brotherhood.
In summer of 2013, as well, Tunisian youth and the labor activists of the UGTT (French acronym for General Union of Tunisian Workers) challenging the Renaissance, Muslim-religious prime minister, Ali Larayedh. They blamed him for being soft on Muslim terrorists and allowing two assassinations of members of the far-left Popular Front. They demanded he step down in favor of a caretaker government that would oversee free and fair parliamentary elections. Thousands assembled regularly at Bardo outside the parliament building, and the alliance of the crowds with the powerful UGTT gave them a bargaining chip. If the country’s workers struck en mass, it would paralyze the Tunisian economy, already limping. So by the past weekend, the Renaissance Party had agreed to step down in favor of a caretaker government. Many among the Tunisian demonstrators use a militantly secular discourse.
The Muslim religious parties are not in control of Egypt and nor do the have a firm grasp on power any more in Tunisia. They are merely influential in Libya, with leftist and pragmatic members of parliament dominating the scene politically.
Likewise in Yemen, . . .
Continue reading. This seems like good news.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came to the US on Monday to lobby Washington against a diplomatic resolution of the conflict over Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program. Netanyahu insisted that Iran’s “military nuclear” program be completely dismantled, even though the UN inspectors continue to certify that no Iranian uranium has been diverted to military purposes. That is, there is no proof that Iran has a “military nuclear” program, and Iran has consistently denied that it is trying to get an atomic bomb. Netanyahu also insisted that the Draconian sanctions on Iran, which are hurting ordinary Iranians’ ability to afford expensive imported medicine be kept in place. Netanyahu’s Iron Wall appears actually to be an iron wall for other people’s children living decent lives.
The irony, which no one wants to talk about, is that Israel has several hundred nuclear warheads, whereas Iran has none. Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or be inspected, whereas Iran has signed and is regularly inspected. Frighteningly, Secretary of State John Kerry recently demanded that Iran’s Fordow facility be opened to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But Fordow has been regularly inspected! If a worldly US official of such long experience in foreign affairs can make such a serious error because he has swallowed too much propaganda, what hope do we in the alternative media have at correcting the record? US media and even President Obama have now routinely begun referring to Iran’s alleged “announced” desire for a nuclear warhead, something that Iranian authorities have repeatedly denied they want. They say they want what Japan and South Korea have, the ability to fuel nuclear power plants to make electricity. Iran has been demonized in the US. But Israel has repeatedly invaded neighbors and usurped their territory or attempted to. Iran hasn’t invaded another country since at least the 1850s. Despite Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980, Iran has occupied no Iraqi territory nor made any territorial demands. Compare that to Israel’s illegal occupation of Arab territory in 1956 and 1967.
So that the Israel Lobbies and the US Congress have imposed a financial blockade on Iran’s petroleum sales and have so damaged the value of the Iranian currency that the lives of ordinary civilians are being harmed, is viewed by most of the global South as a travesty.
Just to put things in perspective, here is a reprint of a post from last year with pertinent statistics: . . .
Israel seems to think US foreign policy should be conducted on behalf of Israel, not on behalf of the US. A diplomatic solution to Iran and building some connections and bonds with that country is in the interests of the US.
The fact that we may be making major progress diplomatically—which to me seems a good thing and a step on the road to nations getting along, which is the goal, right?—-Israel becomes agitated that the US and Iran may find a way to make peace and co-exist harmoniously. Which I thought was the ideal goal toward which we were working/hoping.
At any rate, Juan Cole at Informed Comment notes:
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made no secret of his dismay that the Obama administration is entering into what look like serious negotiations with Iran over the latter’s nuclear enrichment program.
Israeli hawks such as Netanyahu want the US to bomb the Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities in Natanz near Isfahan and in Fordow near Qom. Sometimes they threaten to carry out the bombing raid themselves if the US won’t act. They regularly issue dire prediction that Iran will have a nuclear weapon in six months (Netanyahu has been making such predictions since the early 1990s).
But former Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak admitted that Iran has not decided to use its civilian enrichment program, which makes fuel for nuclear reactors, to also produce a bomb. Making a bomb is far, far more difficult than enriching uranium to 5% for fuel or 19.75% for medical isotopes. A bomb would require enrichment to 95% or so. Nor is the case that just running the centrifuges longer would be sufficient to enrich to bomb grade. Technical problems have to be solved that the Iranians give no sign of having solved.
The danger of the Netanyahu bombing run is great. Such a bombing raid from 30,000 feet is highly unlikely to destroy the enrichment facilities. US generalshave pointed out to Congress that in any case, Iran could fairly quickly recover from a loss of centrifuges to bombing, and just make or import more. Only by occupying Iran militarily, as was done to Iraq could the US be sure of mothballing Iran’s nuclear program.
Since the program won’t be destroyed but only somewhat damaged, such a raid will merely push Iran to rebuild the enrichment facilities. In the aftermath, the Iranian authorities could well decide to reverse their public stance and go for a bomb, since their airspace would have been violated and their sovereignty violated.
That is the real lesson of the 1981 Israeli bombing of the Osirak reactor in Iraq. The Osirak reactor was built by the French and was a light water reactor.Light water reactors either can’t be used to make a bomb at all or it would take 100 years to collect enough fissionable material from them.
So Osirak simply was not a threat to Israel. But in bombing Osirak, the Israelis threw a scare into the regime of Saddam Hussein, which tried to use magnets (a magnetatron) to enrich uranium to bomb grade in the period from the early 1980s through 1991. The UN inspectors rolled up this nuclear program after the Gulf War of 1990.
It is not practicable to invade and occupy Iran, which is three times as populous as Iraq (and we all remember how well that went).
Therefore, . . .
Some strong videos at Informed Comment:
First the Israelis again erased a Palestinian population, ruling that the 120 Bedouin inhabitants of Khirbet Makhul in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank did not have proper “building permits” for the huts in which they lived. These people have lived in Palestine since forever, and they are not in Israel. It is the Israelis who don’t have any permit to be in the West Bank. No international body ever awarded them this Palestinian territory. They just attacked it and conquered it and then started acting like they own it. Then the Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and other European-heritage Israeli troops whose families mostly came in the 1930s and after demolished these “unlicensed” dwellings, leaving the people homeless. The Palestinians refused to take the hint, and they stayed on their land. Then some European diplomats tried to drive out to give them some blankets and food, and Israeli troops stopped them, attacked them with sound grenades, threw some of them to the ground, and confiscated the aid. Among those tossed into the dust was French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing, who has diplomatic immunity. . .
Continue reading to see videos.
Read Kevin Drum’s post for a summary of evidence.
Found via a comment from a reader, this interesting report in The Scottish Times by Alexander Porter hasn’t made it into US news reports:
Dale Gavlak – an Associated Press and Mint Press News Middle East correspondent – has reported that Syrian rebels have tacitly admitted committing the chemical weapons attack in Damascus and its suburb Ghouta where Doctors Without Frontiers said over 255 people were killed.
While some of the information remains to be independently verified Gavlak, who has also worked with the BBC, reports that the identity of the perpetrator of the chemical attack may not be, as the Russian government and others warned, as clear cut as some western governments have claimed.
The new information has come to light in a series of interviews where according to local “[...]doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.”
In one interview which Gavlak conducted with a well-known rebel leader in Ghouta – named only ‘J’ to protect the subject’s anonymity – referred to an al-Qaeda-linked group claiming it supplied to insurgent groups the weapons and that because of the lack of training with them, they were set off by accident: “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,”…“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,”.
Gavlak also reports that one rebel fighter who wanted to be names as ‘K’ for fear of reprisal said: “They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,”…“We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”…“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,”
Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighter who lives in Ghouta reportedly told the interviewer: . . .
Good report (with several video clips) at Informed Comment.
Jonathan Bernstein writes in Salon:
We just witnessed several weeks of unfolding diplomatic events whose consequences could have life-or-death implications. But if you were expecting the press to give you the full story on Syria, you left disappointed.
Here are five things that (most of) the press got totally wrong in reporting on the Syria story over the last month.