Aletho News


Gil Scott Heron cancels Israel gig

By James Meadway | 25 April 2010

Gil Scott-Heron, whose political poetry influenced a generation of rap artists, last night sensationally announced the cancellation of his planned gig in Tel Aviv.

Speaking on-stage at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Scott-Heron told the audience he “hated war” and, in a lengthy monologue, told the packed audience his Israel tour date would not be going ahead. His concert had earlier been disrupted by fans dismayed at the booking, repeatedly heckling the performer and asking him to cancel. Security was called and audience members threatened with removal.

A Facebook page had been set up to urge the legendary performer against going ahead with his Israel appearance. It stated “This is a huge mistake from an enduring cultural and political hero. Let’s see if we can change his mind.” Over one thousand people have joined the page.

Scott-Heron is perhaps best-known for the classic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, and was a leading voice in calling for the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, joining United Artist Against Apartheid in the 1980s. His sharply political songs have provided a space for his own militant, anti-racist politics.

With Palestinian artists and musicians calling for a cultural boycott of Israel, campaigners were deeply saddened by Scott-Heron’s apparent decision to play a high-profile gig there.

“Gil Scott-Heron’s music has always been about fighting racism,” said protester Sara el-Sheekh.

“But Palestinians daily face the most terrible oppression from the Israeli occupation – easily comparable to apartheid in South Africa. Musicians and artists should not be giving this apartheid state any legitimacy. It’s great news that this date has been cancelled. Scott-Heron was cheered and applauded when he made his announcement.”

Comment by Yael Kahn:

Gil Scott-Heron said at noon on 24 April that he had not been aware of the Palestinian call to boycott Israel and that having been informed of it he would not play in Tel Aviv. Later that night, on stage at 10pm, he told 2,500 fans that he won’t play Tel Aviv where not everyone is welcome.

I was in the top box at the RFH in London, having an excellent birds-eye view, I saw his whole persona change after he made his statement. He suddenly shed the burden, his tired presence became energetic. The audience was electrified. It was a great finale.

People who oppose racism, support justice and are against human rights abuse welcome Gil’s solidarity with the Palestinians.

Those who are in denial of the Israeli Apartheid, ethnic cleansing and siege could have never understood Gil’s lyrics.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Obama’s Favorite Weapons

By Nat Hentoff | CATO | April 14, 2010

With President Barack Obama’s firm approval, CIA pilotless Predator and Reaper drone planes — firing Hellfire missiles — are killing actual and suspected high-level terrorists. As Jane Perlez reports (New York Times, April 4), “flying overhead, sometimes four at a time” in Pakistan, the drones are also engaged in targeted assassinations in Afghanistan. It has been reported — but the CIA and Obama give us no facts — that in his first year, Obama has authorized more of these strikes than in President George W. Bush’s eight years.

Operated half a world away by remote control in Langley, VA., and outside of Las Vegas, the deaths sometimes unintentionally include those of innocent civilians, and are criticized here and in the targeted countries as “extra-judicial executions.”

Amid the growing controversy, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh insists that these drone attacks “comply with all applicable law, including the (international) laws of war.” (“Legality of Drone Strikes Still in Question,” InterPress Service, April 3).

The United States, he explains, “is in armed conflict with al-Qaida as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific attacks of 9/11.”

Koh, when he was Dean of Yale Law School, was a strong critic of the legal rationalizations of the Bush-Cheney war on terrorism. He is now part of what I call “The Obama Metamorphosis,” along with such other vehement opponents of the previous administration’s “dark side” as Attorney General Eric Holder and CIA Director Leon Panetta. These former critics are now loyal members of the Obama team.

There is some concern within the Obama administration that the drone planes’ corollary termination of civilians may aid our enemies’ recruiting efforts, as did the Bush torture policies at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. But Koh claims it is required that “the damage to civilians caused by those attacks … not be excessive.”

However, The Economist in England speaks of “a moral quandary” when “drone attacks often kill civilians,” pointing to “June 23, 2009, for example, an attack on a funeral in South Waziristan” (in northwest Pakistan, bordering on Afghanistan.) Those Hellfire missiles “killed 80 non-combatants.”

Does Koh regard that “damage” as “excessive?” Does Panetta? The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for answers to such questions, along with many other acutely relevant queries on what the Predators and Reapers are doing in our name. As of this writing, there has yet to be a reply to this uncomfortable FOIA request.

The Economist’s report on “remote-control warfare” refers troublingly to an ongoing refinement in automated warfare aimed at answering those here and abroad who are questioning the ethics of this futuristic form of combat. Cited is Ronald Arkin of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Interactive Computing.

He “proposes involving the drone itself — or rather, the software that is used to operate it — in the decision to attack.

“In effect,” the article continues, “he plans to give the machine a conscience.”

Is this science-fiction? As I will demonstrate next week, Arkin is not alone among American high-tech explorers devising non-human target killings in attacks on terrorism. To elaborate on the inventive Arkin approach, “The software conscience that Dr. Arkin and his colleagues have developed is called Ethical Architecture.”

During attacks, the judgment of the automated and autonomous Predator or Reaper drone “may be better than a human’s because it operates so fast and knows so much. And — like a human but unlike most machines — it can learn.” After a strike, this ever-alert machine can indeed learn from other sources whether the damage it caused — including dead civilians — exceeded its intentions.

With this information, a drone with a conscience can more precisely tailor future attacks and instruct other drones on how to more carefully direct their Hellfire missiles. Thereby, these ethical drones can provide support to future American officials defending the use of killer drones by showing how carefully the United States is working to be humane in its self-defense against international terrorism.

On March 23, in testimony before the House National Security subcommittee’s largely pro-drone panel. John Edward Jackson, professor of unmanned systems at the U.S. Naval War College, warned:

“If trends in computer science and robotics engineering continue, it is conceivable that autonomous systems could soon be developed that are capable of making life and death decisions without direct human intervention.” (Dan Froomkin,, March 24).

Another witness, Edward Barrett — director of research for the U.S. Naval Academy’s ethics and military policy think tank at the Stockdale Center — focused on whether these autonomous drones would make waging war too easy as this intensive research on robotic warfare continues.

He asked whether these nonhuman attacks “reduce the vigor with which nonviolent alternatives are pursued, and thus encourage unnecessary — and therefore unjust — wars.”

Added ethicist Edward Barrett: “Would a self-conscious and willful machine choose its own ends?”

Next week: More specific factual information on the active planning to make robotic warfare more “humane” and, indeed, human. It would be very helpful if President Obama would tell us — at a nationally televised press conference — what his own concerns are about this rapidly developing global technology.

Will there be any mention of drones by candidates of either party in the midterm elections?

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | 2 Comments

Japan premier approval rating drops

Press TV – April 26, 2010

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s approval rating has dropped sharply as a row over the US military presence heats up in the country. More than two-thirds of the respondents to an opinion poll published by the Nikkei newspaper have disapproved of Hatoyama’s policies. The survey shows that public disapproval of Hatoyama’s performance has jumped by more than ten percent in just a month.

The survey comes a day after tens of thousands of protesters rallied on the southern island of Okinawa. They gathered to call on Tokyo to move an unpopular US airbase off the island. The protesters lambasted the primier for failing to keep his campaign promise of moving the base to another location or even outside the country.

Hatoyama is facing growing criticism over his failure to settle the row over the base. The Japanese premier has promised to resolve the matter before the end of May. Fifty-seven percent say Hatoyama should resign if he does not meet his deadline to resolve the dispute.

Some 47,000 US troops are based in Japan, with more than half of the soldiers stationed in Okinawa. The issue has threatened the political future of Hatoyama with both Washington and his political allies putting him under pressure to find a solution to the deadlock.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | 1 Comment

AIPAC: The Voice of America — Part 1: The Orange and the Pea

Anthony Lawson — April 20, 2010

There can be no doubt, at least as far as Middle East Policy is concerned, that AIPAC is the Voice of America.

Although I have heard AIPAC pronounced in two distinct ways, one of which is A-PAC, I have chosen to pronounce the acronym with the same initial sound as in the word ‘aisle’. To me, this pronunciation is more appropriate, because the use of the A for America sound is subtly misleading. The organization has nothing to do with A for America, it is all about I for Israel.

In the graphic illustration near the end of this video, had the mathematical relationships been absolutely accurate, either the Orange would have filled the screen or the pea would have been invisible. The discrepancy between the power AIPAC wields, compared to the rest of the American population, is immense, and that power benefits one nation: Israel.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment

Supporting Goldstone without repudiating Israel, Zionism and Jewish collusion is cowardly

By Debbie Menon | 26 April 2010

This is a beautifully written and sympathetic letter addressed to Dr Richard Goldstone, from 25 souls out of a few million, and I am sure Dr Goldstone appreciates their sympathy.

Dear Judge Goldstone,

As rabbis from diverse traditions and locations, we want to extend our warmest mazel tov [congratulations or good luck] to you as an elder in our community upon the Bar Mitzvah [male coming of age] of your grandson. Bar and Bat Mitzvah [i.e. male and female coming of age] is a call to conscience, a call to be responsible for the welfare of others, a call to fulfil the covenant of peace and justice articulated in our tradition.

As rabbis, we note the religious implications of the report you authoured. We are reminded of Shimon Ben Gamliel’s quote, “The world stands on three things: justice, truth and peace as it says ‘Execute the judgment of truth, and justice and peace will be established in your gates’ (Zekharya 8:16).” We affirm the truth of the report that bears your name.

We are deeply saddened by the controversy that has grown up around the issuing of the report. We affirm your findings and believe you set up an impeccable standard that provides strong evidence that Israel engaged in war crimes during the assault on Gaza that reveal a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel’s claim of security. Your report made clear the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centres and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian centres.

This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish people to face. Anyone who spends a day in Palestinian territories sees this truth immediately.

Judge Goldstone, we want to offer you our deepest thanks for upholding the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty of meaning. We regret that your findings have led to controversy and caused you not to feel welcome at your own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We believe your report is a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to the path of peace.

Rabbi Everett Gendler, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Rabbi Brant Rosen, Rabbi Brian Walt, Rabbi Haim Beliak, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Rabbi Shai Gluskin, Rabbi David Shneyer, Rabbi David Mivassair, Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, Rabbi Douglas Krantz, Rabbi Margaret Holub, Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Rabbi Mordecai Liebling, Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer, Rabbi Eyal Levinson, Rabbi Doron Isaacs, Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill, Rabbi Erin Hirsh, Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, Rabbi Benjamin Barnett, Rabbi Julie Greenberg, Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Rabbi Ayelet S.Cohen, Rabbi Jeffrey Marker

This is nice. The situation surely calls for a sympathetic note from fellow Jews who understand the importance of what has happened to Dr Goldstone at the advent of his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah,.

Such a note of understanding, and the expression of unity and sympathy, are commendable. However, given the personal nature of the event in question, the rabbis could have chosen to express themselves in a private communication. The fact that they chose to express themselves very publicly begs the question why?

Was it to send a note of understanding and sympathy to a man who has been denied his paternal privileges and dignity in his own faith and ritual, or was the purpose to  indicate the degree of holiness (we are holier than they who torment you) of a few rabbis who have a message or purpose of their own?

I admire the strategic thinking and purpose of the rabbis who wish to express sympathy and brotherhood with their co-religionist, Richard Goldstone, in his dismay at the treatment he has received at the hands of the hypocrites in his own family and synagogue.

But I read not a single hint of a solution, in terms of a proposal for change, or remedy in the rabbis’ letter.

“Return to the path of peace…” is empty rhetoric until someone defines a path for peace. There are many paths for peace, and it can even be argued that Israel has a “path for peace”, albeit one that is paved with the bodies of Palestinians and the death and destruction wreaked over six decades of aggressions and massacres.

Empathy for the demonization of Goldstone is in one sense justified, but empathy for the Palestinians living under oppressive occupation for decades, and enduring years of blockade and violence in Gaza, is where the focus and concern of all people of conscience and pundits in the media should be.

I hear none of the pious rabbis vociferously and unequivocally repudiating Israel, Zionism and world Jewry for what they have done to Palestinians and for the ethnic cleansing which continues to this day in broad daylight.

Those who condemn this evil seldom receive visibility in the mainstream media. A case in point is Judith Weisman who has given pretty powerful testimony and even more powerful poetry, built on some very hard truths about Zionism and Israel. Another laudable example is Michael Neumann who, totally condemning Israel and Zionism, said: “In the end, you will give the Palestinians some scrap of a state. You will never pay for your crimes and you will continue to preen yourself, to bask in your illusions of moral ascendancy.  But between now and the end, you will kill and kill and kill, gaining nothing by your spoilt-brat brutality?”

Leading Israeli Scholar Avi Shlaim says, in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, that Israel is committing state terror” in Gaza and preventing peace.

Avi Shlaim makes excellent points, but he neglects to mention that Israel and its lobbies in America, through money and the media, have an absolute lock on this and all other Middle East issues.

Anything that an American president might want to do for peace with Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Iran that is not in accordance with the Zionist interests would be a political kiss of death for him. The powerful 100,000-strong  American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other lobbies would go all out to ruin him, and they would succeed.

Video by Anthony Lawson documenting some powerful and tragic truths about the insidious nature of the Israel lobby in the US

Debbie Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai. For more information, go to her website My Catbird Seat.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 1 Comment

Ross Douthat’s Muslim problem

By Glenn Greenwald| April 26, 2010

Ross Douthat, The New York Times, today:

In a way, the muzzling of “South Park” is no more disquieting than any other example of Western institutions’ cowering before the threat of Islamist violence. . . . But there’s still a sense in which the “South Park” case is particularly illuminating. . . . [I]t’s a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all. . . .Our culture has few taboos that can’t be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.  Except where Islam is concerned.

The New York Times, March 28, 2010:

A Texas university class production of “Corpus Christi,” by Terrence McNally, below, has been canceled by college officials citing “safety and security concerns for the students” as well as the need to maintain an orderly academic environment, The Austin Chronicle reported. “Corpus Christi,” Mr. McNally’s 1998 play depicting a gay Jesus figure, was scheduled to be performed on Saturday as part of a directing class at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Tex. But early on Friday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst condemned the performance, saying in a press release that “no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the vast majority of Americans.” Although Tarleton’s president, F. Dominic Dottavio, first defended the students’ right to perform a play he considered “offensive, crude and irreverent,” university officials changed course late Friday night, canceling the performance after receiving threatening calls and e-mail messages, according to The Star-Telegram.

Dallas Star-Telegram, April 8, 2010:

A Fort Worth theater that had agreed to show a student-directed play with a gay Jesus character has withdrawn its offer.  The board of directors of Artes de la Rosa, which runs The Rose Marine Theater on North Main Street, decided Thursday against offering the venue for the production of Corpus Christi, just one day after saying it would. A March performance set for a directing class at Tarleton State University in Stephenville was abruptly canceled after the school received threatening emails.

It looks like Ross Douthat picked the wrong month to try to pretend that threat-induced censorship is a uniquely Islamic practice.  Corpus Christi is the same play that was scheduled and then canceled (and then re-scheduled) by the Manhattan Theater Club back in 1998 as a result ofanonymous telephone threats to burn down the theater, kill the staff, and ‘exterminate’ McNally.”  Both back then and now, leading the protests (though not the threats) was the Catholic League, denouncing the play as “blasphemous hate speech.”

I abhor the threats of violence coming from fanatical Muslims over the expression of ideas they find offensive, as well as the cowardly institutions which acquiesce to the accompanying demands for censorship.  I’ve vigorously condemned efforts to haul anti-Muslim polemicists before Canadian and European “human rights” (i.e., censorship) tribunals.  But the very idea that such conduct is remotely unique to Muslims is delusional, the by-product of Douthat’s ongoing use of his New York Times column for his anti-Muslim crusade and sectarian religious promotion.

The various forms of religious-based, intimidation-driven censorship and taboo ideas in the U.S. — what Douthat claims are non-existent except when it involves Muslims — are too numerous to chronicle.  One has to be deeply ignorant, deeply dishonest or consumed with petulant self-victimization and anti-Muslim bigotry to pretend they don’t exist.  I opt (primarily) for the latter explanation in Douthat’s case.

As Balloon-Juice’s DougJ notes, everyone from Phil Donahue and Ashliegh Banfield to Bill Maher and Sinead O’Connor can tell you about that first-hand.  As can the cable television news reporters who were banned by their corporate executives from running stories that reflected negatively on Bush and the war.  When he was Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani was fixated on using the power of his office to censor art that offended his Catholic sensibilities.  The Bush administration banned mainstream Muslim scholars even from entering the U.S. to teach.  The Dixie Chicks were deluged with death threats for daring to criticize the Leader, forcing them to apologize out of fear for their lives.  Campaigns to deny tenure to academicians, or appointments to politicial officials, who deviate from Israel orthodoxy are common and effective.  Responding to religious outrage, a Congressional investigation was formally launched and huge fines issued all because Janet Jackson’s breast was displayed for a couple of seconds on television.

All that’s to say nothing of the endless examples of religious-motivated violence by Christian and Jewish extremists designed to intimidate and suppress ideas offensive to their religious dogma (I’m also pretty sure the people doing this and this are not Muslim).  And, contrary to Douthat’s misleading suggestion, hate speech laws have been used for censorious purposes far beyond punishing speech offensive to Muslims — including, for instance, by Christian groups invoking such laws to demand the banning of plays they dislike.

It’s nice that The New York Times hired a columnist devoted to defending his Church and promoting his religious sectarian conflicts without any response from the target of his bitter tribalistic encyclicals.  Can one even conceive of having a Muslim NYT columnist who routinely disparages and rails against Christians and Jews this way?  To ask the question is to answer it, and by itself gives the lie to Douthat’s typically right-wing need to portray his own majoritarian group as the profoundly oppressed victim at the hands of the small, marginalized, persecuted group which actually has no power (it’s so unfair how Muslims always get their way in the U.S.).  But whatever else is true, there ought to be a minimum standard of factual accuracy required for these columns.  The notion that censorship is exercised only on behalf of Muslims falls far short of that standard.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment