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‘Democracy’ Means the U.S. and Israel Approve

By Alex Kane on June 16, 2010

Thomas Friedman sure knows how to flip reality on its head. In his New York Times op-ed column today, Friedman hops on the bandwagon of bashing Turkey for “joining the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran resistance front against Israel.”

Friedman accuses Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan of no longer promoting democracy and instead being more focused on “praising Hamas instead of the more responsible Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is actually building the foundations of a Palestinian state.” Friedman says of Erdogan:

I’d love to see him be the most popular leader on the Arab street, but not by being more radical than the Arab radicals and by catering to Hamas, but by being more of a democracy advocate than the undemocratic Arab leaders and mediating in a balanced way between all Palestinians and Israel. That is not where Erdogan is at, though, and it’s troubling.

Siding with the Palestinian Authority against Hamas would be a peculiar way of advocating for democracy in the Middle East, though.  History lesson time:  In the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas categorically defeated Fatah in what former President Jimmy Carter called “free and fair” elections.  The U.S., EU and Israel rejected those results, and after Fatah’s U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Hamas in Gaza failed, an “emergency government” composed of members of Fatah was installed.  This “emergency government,” still in place to this day in the West Bank, was not democratically elected and consolidated its power illegally.

In Friedman’s alternate universe, the Turkish prime minister is not advocating for democracy because…he supports the democratically elected government in Palestine that Israel has been trying to overthrow by way of “economic warfare” instead of the unelected government approved by the United States.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 2 Comments

What sort of Christians become Zionists?

By Stuart Littlewood | Sabbah Report | June 17, 2010

Not all Jews are Zionists. Many reject the Zionist project and fight against it.

So why on earth would a non-Jew wish to be one? Indeed, how could a genuine Christian seriously consider becoming a Zionist? It has puzzled me for a long time. The two ideas are incompatible, are they not?

So consider for a moment Anglican Friends of Israel, as an example. Their stated aims include:

  • To support the people of Israel and to secure defensible borders for the State of Israel.
  • To recall the Church to G-d’s Covenant with the Jewish people and to call the Church to affirm the centrality of Israel to the Jewish faith.
  • To call Anglicans to repentance for the wrongs – of both word and deed – inflicted by Christians on the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
  • To fight all libels against Israel and the Jewish people and their State.
  • To protect the Christian communities threatened by Islamic extremism in the Middle East.

Are they Zionists? It sounds very much like it. For them Israel can do no wrong and Christians need to apologise to the nation of Israel… er, what for?

And what makes them think that Muslims are more of a threat than Israeli extremists to Christian communities?

You should also see the sort of stuff the Anglican Friends of Israel post on their website.

AFI Press Release: The Mavi Marmara

Written by Anglican Friends of Israel

Wednesday, 02 June 2010

Anglican Friends of Israel are dismayed at international condemnation of Israel following attacks upon Israeli Defence Force personnel [by] a supposedly peaceful aid convoy… Israeli offers of peaceful means to deliver the aid into Gaza were refused. Video footage proves that the violence which tragically resulted in the deaths of some passengers and injuries to others including IDF personnel was begun by Aid convoy members… Terrorists in Gaza continue to fire rockets into Israel – over 60 this year so far – and to explode bombs in order to kill and maim Israeli citizens.

Western spokespersons might bear in mind that the terror threat to western nations springs from the same source as that faced daily by Israelis and be more circumspect in making demands on Israel before all relevant facts have emerged.

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking it was actually penned by the crapaganda unit in Tel Aviv. These Anglicans (if they are Anglicans) swallowed Israel’s poisonous concoction hook, line and sinker and re-broadcast it while the abducted flotilla aid workers – witnesses to the murderous assault and executions – were incarcerated in Israeli jails and unable to tell the outside world what really happened.

I don’t know of any danger to us from Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran, if those are the “terror” sources referred to. I doubt if groups who wish to see the Israeli nuclear threat to their region neutralised are also gunning for us, even though people like Anglican Friends of Israel and foreign secretary William Hague are doing their best to provoke them. But Israel of course wishes to make the British feel threatened and to draw us for strategic reasons into their schemes for permanent occupation and domination. There are always plenty of useful idiots to do their bidding.

A few days earlier the Anglicans issued a press release stating that the flotilla to Gaza was “a publicity stunt, not a genuine aid convoy”. The item was actually a statement by the Israeli embassy repeated word for word and containing meaningless information like… “Since last year’s January cease fire, 133 million liters of fuel entered Gaza from Israel – That’s more than enough fuel to fill the fuel tank of every car and truck in Israel!” and “Since the ceasefire, well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel – That’s almost a ton of aid for every man woman and child in Gaza.”

Meaningless, because the figures lacked context. You have to go to the UN for that. Whatever Israel lets in, says the UN, it’s only one-fifth of what’s needed.

Some apparently responsible people, it seems, would rather accept without question the disinformation fed them by the Israeli authorities than on-the-spot assessments and reports by the UN and various charities.

Actually Israel is letting in only a quarter of what it let in before Hamas was elected.

Without question there was a publicity angle to the voyage. The organisers had a political point to make – the whole ugly US/UK-created mess out there is a political cesspit. The Israelis couldn’t afford to see their illegal blockade breached. The evidence points to a planned execution raid on the Mavi Marmara in the dead of night with a pre-prepared hit-list.

And in a letter to the BBC these Anglicans insisted that Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s blitzkrieg on Gaza after breaking the ceasefire with Hamas, subsequently killing 1400, maiming heaven knows how many and making hundreds of thousands homeless) was an act of “self-defense”.

If you are as bewildered as I am why so-called Christians are persuaded to sign up to Zionism, a short paper explaining the phenomenon is available from Sadaka, The Ireland Palestine Alliance – see www.sadaka.ie. I found it very helpful.

“The destiny of the Jewish people is to return to the land of Israel and reclaim their inheritance promised to Abraham and his descendants forever. This inheritance extends from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. Within their land, Jerusalem is recognised to be their exclusive, undivided and eternal capital, and therefore it cannot be shared or divided.

At the heart of Jerusalem will be the rebuilt Jewish temple, to which all the nations will come to worship God. Just prior to the return of Jesus, there will be seven years of calamities and war known as the tribulation, which will culminate in a great battle called Armageddon, during which the godless forces opposed to both God and Israel will be defeated.

Jesus will then return as the Jewish Messiah and king to reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and the Jewish people will enjoy a privileged status and role in the world.”

That’s the Zionist dream in a nutshell.

… Zionists claim Jerusalem is theirs by heavenly decree. However, this holiest of cities was already 2000 years old when King David captured it. It dates back 5000 years and was named after the Canaanite God of Dusk.

Historians say that Jerusalem, in its ‘City of David’ form, lasted a mere 73 years. In 928BC the kingdom divided into Israel and Judah, and in 597BC the Babylonians conquered the city and destroyed Solomon’s temple. The Jews recaptured it in 164BC but finally lost it to the Roman Empire in 63BC. Before the present-day conflict the Jews, in total, controlled Jerusalem for some 500 years, whereas it was subsequently ruled by Muslims for 1,277 years. Before the Jews it belonged to the Canaanites. And for nearly 90 years it was also a Christian kingdom. A lot of competing claims, then, which is probably why the UN declared it should be independently administered as an international city.

In 1187 Saladin restored the city to Islam while allowing Jews and Christians to remain. Today Jewish religious groups want control of the city for their spiritual centre and for a third temple to be built in accordance with ancient prophecies. The plan to make the Israeli occupation permanent threatens especially the Muslim but also the Christian holy places and serves to keep political tension boiling. It is no surprise, given Israel’s reliance on ‘black’ propaganda, that when the Iranian president quoted the late Ayatollah Khomeini as saying the unfriendly regime occupying Jerusalem “must vanish from the page of time”, he was immediately reported as wanting to wipe Israel off the map.

Sadaka puts the genuine Christian position by quoting The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a statement by the Latin Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued in 2006…

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of world.

We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!

The Declaration, explains Sadaka, asserts that “Christian Zionists have aggressively imposed an aberrant expression of the Christian faith and an erroneous interpretation of the Bible, which is subservient to the political agenda of the modern State of Israel… Christian Zionism thrives on a literal and futurist hermeneutic in which Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish people are transferred to the contemporary State of Israel in anticipation of a final future fulfillment.”

I haven’t yet seen credible response from the Christian Zionists.

Alarmingly, the US-based Unity Coalition for Israel brings together over 200 organisations and is the largest pro-Israel network in the world. They claim to have 40 million active members and lobby on behalf of Israel through 1,700 religious radio stations, 245 Christian TV stations and 120 Christian newspapers.

The question I’d like answered is this. Are we to believe that an all-powerful supernatural Being has chosen and elevated one group of humans to a position of supremacy above all others, and has approved the use any means including murder and brutal eviction to achieve their goal, and now mobilizes millions of lesser mortals from around the globe, like those who regard themselves as upstanding Christians, to serve as tools and sing the praises of this ‘Grand Design’?

In the meantime I’m with the Churches of Jerusalem on this one.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | | Comments Off on What sort of Christians become Zionists?

Iceland Becomes “New Media Haven”

By Julian Assange | 17 June, 2010

Reykjavik, Iceland: The WikiLeaks advised proposal to build an international “new media haven” in Iceland, with the world’s strongest press and whistleblower protection laws, and a “Nobel” prize for Freedom of Expression, has unaminously passed the Icelandic Parliament.

50 votes were cast in favor, zero against, one abstained. Twelve members of parliament were not present. Vote results are available at http://www.althingi.is/dba-bin/atkvgr.pl?nnafnak=43014

One of the inspirations for the proposal was the dramatic August 2009 gagging of of Iceland’s national broadcaster, RUV by Iceland’s then largest bank, Kaupthing:

http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Financial_collapse:_Confidential_exposure_analysis_
of_205_companies_each_owing_above_EUR45M_to_Icelandic_bank_
Kaupthing,_26_Sep_2008

Two changes were made to the proposal from its original form as per the opinion of the parliament’s general affairs committee [http://www.althingi.is/altext/138/s/1329.html]. The first of these altered slightly the wording of the first paragraph so as to widen the arena for research. The second of these added two new items to the list of tasks for the government:

– That the government should perform a detailed analysis, especially with respect to operational security, for the prospect of operating data centers in Iceland.

– That the government should organize an international conference in Iceland regarding the changes to the legal environment being caused by expansion of cloud computing, data havens, and the judicial state of the Internet.

Video footage from the proposal’s vote will be available at:

http://www.althingi.is/altext/hlusta.php?raeda=rad20100616T033127&horfa=1

http://www.althingi.is/altext/hlusta.php?raeda=rad20100616T033306&horfa=1

For details of the proposal and press contacts, please see http://www.immi.is

Julian Assange is Editor in Chief WIKILEAKS

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties | Comments Off on Iceland Becomes “New Media Haven”

The Lobby strikes back

By M. Idrees | Pulse Media | June 17, 2010

The American Jewish Committee has found an interesting way to describe the Freedom Flotilla. It calls it the the ‘Terror Flotilla‘. AJC is the foreign policy arm of the Israel lobby. At present it is busy establishing a proliferating network of front organizations in Brussels and Geneva to lobby the EU and UN. Among them is Coalition Against Terrorist Media, founded by its Israel lobby affiliated Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, which has been seeking to ban all Middle Easter channels deemed hostile to Israel. In the US the lobby (led by AIPAC and MEMRI) has rammed through HR 2278 to put legislative muscle behind this effort to narrow the parameters of acceptable opinion. It had successflly pressured the EU to ban Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV a few years back. Now it has pressured France to ban Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV, too. (Remember, this is the lobby that Noam Chomsky and Phyllis Bennis tell you is a distraction).

As you’ll see in the al-Jazeera report below, the dubious Reporters Without Borders has refused to condemn this suppression of free speech. The French claim the channel was banned because of its ‘incitement to violence and racial hatred’. They give as examples only some 3D stimulation which glorifies Palestinian resistance against Israel. RWB apparently concurs. The incitement to violence and racial hatred is all the while a staple of Fox News. But to the best of my knowledge it has never been banned. So of course this is political. I hope activists recognize that it isn’t enough to participate in symbolic action. The space for dissent is being progressively reduced (take for example the calls by various US politicians to ban flotilla activists entering the US). It is time to think and act strategically. It is time to challenge the lobby.

Here is our friend Safa from Press TV reporting from Gaza, followed by a rather lackluster report from Al Jazeera.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | 1 Comment

Canada: Israel’s new defender

Muted support for Palestine, funding cuts for Arab groups, now a ban on the phrase ‘Israeli apartheid’: what’s going on in Canada?

By Jesse Rosenfeld | guardian.co.uk | 17 June 2010

At a time when many countries are becoming more critical of Israel’s policies, Canada seems to be moving in the opposite direction. A general reluctance to engage in open debate about the Palestinian issue is exacerbated by pro-Israel groups’ efforts to shut down discussion and the federal government’s unprecedented penchant for defending Israeli actions.

Since the beginning of 2010, the federal government has systematically cut funding to Arab-Canadian organisations and to UN relief works in Gaza. In March, the Ontario provincial legislature issued a unanimous condemnation of Israeli Apartheid Week, while the federal government considered introducing a similar motion.

However, self-censorship reached new heights last month when Toronto’s Pride Committee – which organises one of the world’s largest gay pride celebrations – announced it would be banning use of the term “Israeli apartheid” at the festivities.

Pride week in Toronto is a loud and highly visible public event, with a long tradition of activists linking their own campaigns for sexual rights to other struggles for liberation and social justice; however, this year the organisers caved in to pressure from pro-Israel groups and Toronto city council.

The main effect of the decision is to bar one group in particular – Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) – who have marched in the parade since 2008.

The reason given is that the phrase “Israeli apartheid” violates Toronto’s anti-discrimination policy. But when asked, neither Pride Toronto nor Giorgio Mammoliti – the Toronto city councillor mainly involved – could explain in detail what was discriminatory about describing Israel’s privileging of its Jewish citizens over others as a form or racism and apartheid.

“It’s absolutely bizarre the way they are trying to use the language around diversity and inclusiveness to exclude people,” QuAIA activist Tim McCaskell told me. “It was so 1984.”

Accompanying the onset of a Canadian McCarthyism dressed up as anti-discrimination, the mainstream left in Canada has been unwilling to take a clear political and moral stance on Palestine. Instead it has sought the approach of least resistance, trying to appease rather than take a stand against the silencing of Palestinian voices in Canada and Israel.

Writing in NOW Magazine, a progressive Toronto weekly newspaper, news editor Ellie Kirzner contended that Palestinians and their supporters should simply drop the term “apartheid”. “It’s a vulnerability the movement doesn’t need,” she wrote.

McCaskell, on the other hand, says QuAIA is bringing the fight against Israeli apartheid to pride because that is what Palestinian LGBT organisations have requested, and because Israel tries to present itself as queer-tolerant in an attempt to distract from its ill-treatment of Palestinians.

The two Palestinian LGBT groups, Aswat and al-Qaws (both based in Israel), issued a joint statement saying: “Pride parades started as political marches, and we firmly believe that solidarity should be with human rights first and foremost.” They continued:

We believe that as queers, one of the most disadvantaged and oppressed minorities in human societies, we should protest against all forms of oppression and struggle together to promote the rights of minorities and oppressed groups. As Palestinian queers, our struggle relates to social injustices caused by the discrimination that is deeply rooted in Israel’s policies and practices against the Palestinian people, straight and gay alike …
Over the past decades, Pride parades around the world have been a platform for queers, not only to increase public awareness for [LGBT] rights, but also a platform to promote and defend causes like the feminist struggle, and the fight to end apartheid in South Africa.

Trying to smother this debate in relation to Israel at Toronto pride could easily backfire, according to Ayala Shani, a queer activist with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. She points out that banning a term will only multiply its use and adds: “We are expecting to see ‘Israeli apartheid’ written and spoken all over pride parades around the world, including a parade in Tel Aviv.”

However, with the Canadian mainstream left dodging defence of Palestinians and the country at large continuing its polite silence on the Middle East, Toronto’s establishment may be taking more pride in silencing discussion of Israeli apartheid than even Tel Aviv.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Canada: Israel’s new defender

My question for J.J. Goldberg

By Alex Kane on June 17, 2010

During Tuesday night’s “Jewish perspectives on the BDS campaign” debate in New York, the audience had the opportunity to make comments or ask questions.  Esther Kaplan, the moderator of the debate and co-host of WBAI’s Beyond the Pale, called on me, and I had a question for the opponents of BDS.

Throughout the discussion, J.J. Goldberg, the columnist for the Forward, and Kathleen Peratis, a J Street board member, emphasized the need for solutions that would “work” to end the occupation. Goldberg made reference to the “peace process” and the 2003 Geneva Accord, seemingly saying that the way to settle the conflict was through dialogue and negotiations.

My question went something like this: The so-called “peace process” that you reference roughly started in 1991, with the Madrid Conference, and we’re now in the year 2010. That’s about 20 years. It appears that the “peace process” has failed and that negotiations have led to nowhere, and that was due to the Israeli refusal to accept a viable two-state solution. I said that both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are willing to accept a Palestinian state in only 22% of historic Palestine. Israel, it seems, wants it all.

So, if negotiations have failed, why do you oppose BDS as a tool to end the occupation? BDS is, in fact, slowly working; it hasn’t had a huge impact economically, but that’s not the whole point, as Hannah Mermelstein, a panelist in favor of BDS, pointed out. Mermelstein said that an important part of BDS was that it was an educational tool as well, and that it’s opening up the discourse on Israel/Palestine. The Israeli government is deeply worried about this growing movement, as evidenced by the hysterical reports coming out of the Reut Institute and the latest draconian bill in the Knesset that would criminalize BDS.

Goldberg responded to me by saying something like this (I don’t remember it word for word): The peace process really only went on for less than a decade, during the Oslo years. The negotiations didn’t fail because of the Israelis; no, it was the Second Intifada and the suicide bombings directed at Israeli civilians that killed the peace process. The intifada put the nail in the coffin of the Israeli Left, and now the Israeli public believes that there is no one to negotiate with.

I didn’t get a chance to respond directly, but if I did, I would have said something like this: Mr. Goldberg, it seems that you are omitting some very crucial facts about the Oslo years. During the 1990s, Israel relentlessly continued to colonize the West Bank and Gaza. The occupation, and all of its mechanisms of oppression, didn’t end; Israel just outsourced the responsibilities it wanted to throw off its shoulders to the Palestinian Authority, which, under the boot of Israel, was never a fully functioning government. The Oslo years were more about “normalizing” the occupation rather than ending it.

Yes, the Second Intifada was bloody, but let’s not forget that the Second Intifada began as a nonviolent popular uprising. It only turned violent after Israel brutally suppressed the uprising, firing 1.3 million bullets into the West Bank and Gaza Strip after Israeli security forces were directed to “fan the flames”, as Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar reported in 2004.

As John Dugard wrote in a 2008 U.N. report, the violence perpetrated against Israelis during the Second Intifada “must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation. History is replete with examples of military occupation that have been resisted by violence – acts of terror.”

I think the boat that Goldberg is on has sailed, and that the two-state solution is dead. Soon, Zionism and the idea of an ethnically exclusivist state that denies the rights of its indigenous inhabitants will run out of gas. The BDS movement is being fueled by the fire of history, and will end with justice for Palestinians.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | 2 Comments

Turkey to cut ‘all ties’ with Israel

Press TV – June 17, 2010

After an Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine Turkish citizens dead, Ankara has introduced a roadmap to “completely” cut its ties with Israel.

After Israel failed to apologize or pay compensations for the killing of the Turkish citizens in its attack on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, Turkish Defense Industry Implementation Committee (SSIK) reviewed the country’s military agreements and joint projects with Israel on Thursday.

The SSIK held a meeting chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday and decided to shelve 16 military agreements with Israel, including a $757 million plane and tank modernization project and a missile project worth over $1.5 billion.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul had earlier announced that a roadmap was to be prepared on the issue of sanctions against Israel.

“The roadmap details a process through which Turkey will completely cut its ties with Israel” in several stages, Turkey’s Today’s Zaman reported on Thursday.

According to the roadmap, the first step would be that Turkey’s ambassador to Tel Aviv, who had been previously recalled, will not be sent back unless Israel sends a member to a UN investigatory commission that aims to look into the Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Furthermore, the roadmap requires all military training and cooperation with Israel to be halted and states that an internal Israeli inquiry into the attack will in no way be recognized by Turkey.

Ankara announced, however, that joint projects between Turkish and Israeli private sectors are excluded from the plan that will put an end to all Turkey’s ties with Israel.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | War Crimes | Comments Off on Turkey to cut ‘all ties’ with Israel

War is no game, so why is it marketed to children as one?

In the post-conscription era, parents have subtler enemies to fight

AVRIL MOORE | Sydney Morning Herald | June 15, 2010

IT’S been nearly 40 years since five Melbourne women – Jean McLean, Joan Coxsedge, Irene Miller, Chris Cathie and Jo McLaine Ross – were sent to Fairlea prison for 14 days for their activities in the Save Our Sons (SOS) movement.

In the 1960s and early ’70s, SOS successfully campaigned against conscription and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Times are different now; we no longer have such barbaric laws, our boys simply ”volunteer”.

Last week, the front pages of most Australian newspapers displayed heartbreaking images of two young men – Jacob Moerland, 21, and Darren Smith, 25 – who died in Afghanistan from an exploding roadside bomb.

I wonder how I would react in the event that either of my two sons, the same ages as the two dead soldiers, decided to ”join up”?

So it is that mothers today must try to save their sons from themselves.

David Simon and Ed Burns are all too aware of young men and their often-misguided call to adventure. In their award-winning TV series Generation Kill, based on Evan Wright’s embedded reporting for Rolling Stone, the series documents the first three weeks of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In it a new generation of young marines or ”warriors”, who have been raised on hip-hop, heavy metal and video games, request the evacuation of a young Iraqi boy badly wounded by one of their more trigger-happy colleagues.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen ”Godfather” Ferrando acknowledges the situation is worse than ”shitty” but refuses their request. He reminds them that ”nobody put a f—ing gun to our heads and forced us to come here. We’re all volunteers.”

But surely this is disingenuous. Every year, the Pentagon spends $US6 billion using the latest digital gaming technology for training for the armed forces. This in turn has given rise to an effective recruitment tool called ”militainment”.

According to Peter W. Singer, director of the 21st Century Defence Initiative at the Brookings Institution, ”America’s Army” is one of the top 10 downloaded games on the internet.

Singer describes it as a ”first-person shooter”, where the player is a soldier who goes out on various missions. However, to access the game online you must sign up and give your personal information, which helps recruiters find you.

Although Singer acknowledges that a large number of the players engage for the fun of playing the game, it has turned out to be, according to one study, ”more effective than any other form of recruiting that the US Army has”.

Furthermore, in another survey of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24, 30 per cent reported they had a more positive view of the US military after playing the game.

We know from studies carried out on young men that the brain is only fully formed at about 24 years and that the last part of the brain to develop is responsible for impulse control and risk assessment.

So what possible influence do parents of Generation Y have when the modern theatre of war is aggressively marketed to their children (who, given this evidence, really do only have half a brain) via the excitement of computer games?

The irony is not lost on Simon and Burns, whose characters, barely 18 years of age, continually parody the idea that they are killing people due to all the ”Nintendo” they played as kids.

However, no amount of Simpson-esque or South Park-style wisecracking saves them from the horror of Iraq.

I live near Irene Miller and whenever I see her at the local shopping strip I am struck by how her tiny stature did not inhibit her maternal instinct to defy authority and protect her offspring.

In John Irving’s semi-autobiographical novel, A Prayer for Owen Meany, set during the Vietnam War, Owen, in an act of love, removes the right index or ”trigger” finger of his best friend John who has been conscripted, thus ensuring he fails his physical.

Would I deliberately injure one of my children to stop them from joining up? Possibly. How many years do you get for grievous bodily harm?

Given that 30 per cent of men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health disorder, are nine times more likely to commit suicide than veterans from previous wars and that horrific physical injuries are so prevalent that accurate statistics are unattainable, surely half a finger is a minor disability.

There is a scene in Generation Kill where armed marines who have surrounded a small Iraqi village watch as a fearless but clearly angry woman runs towards them.

“Women are the fiercest,” one of them observes. “You always gotta look out for the women. Doesn’t matter if it’s a black bitch from South Central or some rich white bitch from Beverley Hills. Don’t matter if you got a gun or whatever. They’ll come after you screaming.” Ooh-rah! to that.

Avril Moore is a Melbourne writer who lectures in visual culture at the Photography Studies College, Southbank.

Copyright © 2010 Fairfax Media

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on War is no game, so why is it marketed to children as one?

Argentina seeking justice for “systematic” crimes

By Kurt Fernández | Pulse Media | June 17, 2010

While some nations are known to take advantage of global distraction by the World Cup in order to perpetrate human rights violations, Argentina is pressing ahead in its efforts to prosecute crimes against humanity committed during the Guerra Sucia.

In the first of eight major human rights trials currently getting underway, a three-judge panel in Buenos Aires took up a case on June 3 in which six former military and intelligence officials from the 1976-83 dictatorship are charged with the illegal kidnap, torture, and murder of suspected political opponents from Uruguay, Chile, and Cuba.

The victims were among the 30,000 or so opponents of the Argentine regime who were disappeared during the Dirty War.

The case is “Automotores Orletti,” named for the Buenos Aires auto repair shop the dictatorship used as a ghastly clandestine “detention center.” One of many such facilities across the country, its kidnap victims were tortured with repair shop machinery and tools.

As most of the victims of this particular detention center were foreigners, Automotores Orletti serves to highlight the regional context of the Dirty War – part of a nearly continent-wide war waged on Communism by South America’s dictators at the encouragement of the United States government.

Operation Condor, named for the South American bird of prey, produced a solid block of state terrorism in which Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay worked in concert to illegally eliminate political opponents anywhere they might be. The best known casualty was Orlando Letelier, former Chilean chancellor under President Salvador Allende, assassinated in Washington, D.C., in 1976 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

The Argentine officials accused in the Automotores Orletti case include Néstor Guillamondegui, a former vice commodore of the air force, Rubén Visuara, a former army colonel, and Eduardo Cabanillas, an ex army division general.

Also charged are three former intelligence officials: Honorio Martínez Ruiz, Raúl Guglielminetti, and Eduardo Ruffo.

The trial got off to a ponderous start with the “lectura,” a reading of detailed victims’ testimony and charges against the accused. Court officials, in their rush to get through the mountain of material, barely stopped to take a breath for hours and days on end. The speed of delivery rendered most of the material gibberish yet the standard Dirty War criteria stood out: sequestration, property theft, sadistic and often perverse torture, trafficking in newborns, and sometimes death.

The Automotores Orletti trial is being held in a stark multiple use room in the basement of the court building. The railroad car-shaped room is divided in half by a glass barrier, on one side of which sit the judges, lawyers, and accused. The testimony of kidnapping, torture, and murder is bone chilling and strangely out of sync with the displays of affection going back and forth between the accused and their elegant wives on the other side of the glass, who wave and blow kisses in between gossiping and fussing amongst themselves.

The trial, which seeks justice for 65 victims of alleged crimes, picks up again June 18, when live testimony could begin, a clerk for the court told me on June 11.

Other significant trials on the four-month horizon target top military and police officials of the dictatorship era in the cities of Córdoba, Mendoza, Rosario, Santa Fe, and Resistencia. They culminate in a trial scheduled to commence September 20 in Buenos Aires in which prosecutors will try to link former military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla – already serving life in prison for other Dirty War convictions – and others to a “systemic plan” to steal children from their sequestered parents and give them to families considered worthy. The plan will test whether top officials could be considered as responsables remotos, or indirectly responsible, according to a June 1 press notice from the judicial information center of the federal court system. The full release [in Spanish] describes the trials and other cases underway as well as convictions obtained so far in 2010.

As for other major human rights developments expected soon, Julio Alberto Poch – alleged to have been involved in death flights of some 950 detainees – should soon learn whether a federal judge has found sufficient evidence to try him or whether he should be freed.

A possible breakthrough also is expected in a case involving the adopted children of wealthy Buenos Aires newspaper publisher Ernestina Herrera de Noble, suspected of accepting “orphans” who were stolen from their parents during the Dirty War. The children, Marcela and Felipe Noble Herrera, resisted cooperating with the judicial system, but have been forced to relinquish clothing for DNA tests to determine if they can be connected with their birth parents.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Argentina seeking justice for “systematic” crimes

AEI Does Syria

Demonization with Coffee and Croissaints

By FARRAH HASSEN | June 17, 2010

I knew what I was getting into when I decided to attend the Washington D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute’s Syria conference on June 10. Just look at the suggestive title: “Bashar’s Syria at Ten: Does the Eye Doctor See Straight?”

As I looked at the program I noticed that the panelists, supposedly an “international array of experts,” mainly came from the AIPAC allied Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which gave me little reason to believe that a three hour session on Syria at a conservative think tank—which housed notable cheerleaders for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, for example—would focus on the facts. AEI’s own Danielle Pletka served as a moderator on the “Terrorism” panel but mainly offered snark (and not even funny snark); female analysts were noticeably missing in action.

Despite this not-so-friendly environment for serious analysis, policy prescriptions and dare I say, dissent, I decided to attend this event because as a Syrian-American, as someone with family still living in Syria, I have a stake in U.S. Middle East policy.

I’ve met Palestinian and Iraqi refugees in Damascus, people who serve as a living testament to the consequences of war and occupation. With a Syrian filmmaker I walked around his destroyed hometown, Quneitra, in Syria’s Golan, occupied by Israel following the 1967 war. In the middle of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, I volunteered at a shelter in Damascus and served food to the thousands of Lebanese who sought temporary refuge in Syria. I’ll never forget hearing one woman say, “I hope my child doesn’t grow up to hate America,” referring to unquestioning U.S. government support for Israel.

U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) delivered the keynote address, in which he espoused “crippling sanctions” on Iran, without acknowledging that sanctions don’t work unless they have the backing of people against their governments (and most Iranians, like Cubans, Iraqis and yes, Syrians, don’t support sanctions). He berated the Syrian “regime”—note, according to AEI, Syria has a “regime,” not a “government,” and no speaker or audience member asking a question ever deviated from this rule—and admonished the Obama administration for sending the “wrong message” to Syria by seeking engagement.

According to the senator, Syria “must completely cut off the flow of terrorists slipping into Iraq. It must stop helping the numerous terrorist groups it supports outside of Iraq. It must recognize that Israel has a right to exist, and negotiate a real peace in good faith.” Other speakers would repeat these demands during panels on “The Bashar al-Assad Doctrine,” “Assessing Engagement” and “Terrorism.”

No one mentioned Syria’s cooperation with Iraq on border security, refugees and elections. No one mentioned that Syria as early as January 2002 opposed the invasion of Iraq, and warned the U.S. about the consequences, including the rise of extremism. No one questioned the illogic of the senator’s demand that Syria recognize Israel’s right to exist, given that Syrian and Israeli officials have been in the same room together on several occasions and have attempted to negotiate peace.

David Schenker, Andrew Tabler and Scott Carpenter, all from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Elliott Abrams, Tony Badran, Brian Fishman, Bill Harris and William Wunderle, from the Council on Foreign Relations, Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, New America Foundation, Otago University in New Zealand and the Pentagon, respectively, expressed their opinions freely—their right. However, on an intellectual level, their analysis and presentation of the facts left large holes.

I reminded the speakers after they finished presenting in the opening panel that none of them mentioned that Israel continues to occupy Syria’s Golan, a strange omission when discussing Syria’s foreign policy, or why Damascus views Hamas and Hezbollah as legitimate resistance movements. Israeli occupation of the Golan also relates to the larger impact that Israel’s occupation of Arab land has throughout the region.

Absence of context throughout the panels signaled to me that this AEI conference was an overall exercise in intellectual dishonesty and ideology, not serious analysis, much less discussion of U.S. policy toward Syria and the region.

For example, in making his case that President Bashar al-Assad is “worse” than the late Hafez-al-Assad, Schenker tried to score audience humor points by referring to a “bromance” between Assad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. In the same vein, while it is clear that Syria needs political and economic reform, Carpenter’s gloom-and-doom scenario of the human rights situation there (but not in U.S. allied Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE, for example) offered no constructive policy prescriptions.

I had hoped a panel entitled “Assessing Engagement” would actually “assess” reasons for and against engagement with Syria and cite historic precedents. Perhaps even point to examples of cooperation between Syria and the U.S., such as during the Gulf War or on intelligence sharing after 9/11, and discuss the lessons learned. Instead, Elliott Abrams, who in 1991 plead guilty to lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair, concluded that present U.S. policy toward Syria is “just giveaways in exchange for nothing.” AEI could have saved time and ink by nixing such a panel and replacing it with moderator Michael Rubin informing audience-goers at the outset, “No engagement with Syria because we said so.”

What did I learn after the event concluded? When someone asked the last panelists the “where do we go from here” question, no one answered it. Nor did anyone seem to want to. Why did AEI promote such an event? Based on what I heard, it wasn’t to offer probing insights on Syria rooted in scholarly research, or promote peace and security between Syria and Israel, and throughout the region; nor to improve relations between the U.S. and Syria, or elevate reform and development in Syria. Perhaps it really was just to schedule a public demonization of another country (with free coffee, croissants and fruit).

Am I more motivated now to lobby my Members of Congress to support crippling sanctions on Syria (and Iran)? No. Will I ask them to challenge President Obama’s decision to send an Ambassador to Syria? Nope.

However, I can thank AEI for reminding me to keep pushing for improved relations between the U.S. and Syria, which includes supporting peace, security and development inside and outside Damascus.

How about a conference on that?

Farrah Hassen is a writer and videographer living in Washington DC.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Turkey Accepts the Challenge; Middle East is Changing


Turkey is escalating its involvement well beyond Israel’s comfort zone.
By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | June 17, 2010

‘Even despots, gangsters and pirates have specific sensitiveness, (and) follow some specific morals.’

The claim was made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a recent speech, following the deadly commando raid on the humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza on May 31. According to Erdogan, Israel doesn’t adhere to the code of conduct embraced even by the vilest of criminals.

The statement alone indicates the momentous political shift that’s currently underway in the Middle East. While the shift isn’t entirely new, one dares to claim it might now be a lasting one. To borrow from Erdogan’s own assessment of the political fallout that followed Israel’s raid, the damage is “irreparable.”

Countless analyses have emerged in the wake of the long-planned and calculated Israeli attack on the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, which claimed the lives of nine, mostly Turkish peace activists.

In “Turkey’s Strategic U-Turn, Israel’s Tactical Mistakes,” published in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Ofra Bengio suggested Turkey’s position was purely strategic. But he also chastised Israel for driving Turkey further and faster “toward the Arab and Muslim worlds.”

In this week’s Zaman, a Turkish publication, Bulent Kenes wrote: “As a result of the Davos (where the Turkish prime minister stormed out of a televised discussion with Israeli President Shimon Peres, after accusing him and Israel of murder), the myth that Israel is untouchable was destroyed by Erdogan, and because of that Israel nurses a hatred for Turkey.”

In fact, the Davos incident is significant not because it demonstrates that Israel can be criticized, but rather because it was Turkey — and not any other easily dismissible party — that dared to voice such criticism.

Writing in the Financial Times under the title, “Erdogan turns to face East in a delicate balancing act,” David Gardner places Turkey’s political turn within a European context. He sums up that thought in a quote uttered by no other than Robert Gates, US defense secretary: “If there is anything to the notion that Turkey is moving Eastward, it is in no small part because it was pushed, and pushed by some in Europe refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought.” But what many analysts missed was the larger political and historical context, not only as pertaining to Israel and Turkey, but to the whole region and all its players, including the US itself. Only this context can help us understand the logic behind Israel’s seemingly erratic behavior.

In 1996, Israeli leaders appeared very confident. A group of neoconservative American politicians had laid out a road map for Israel to ensure complete dominance over the Middle East. In the document entitled, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” Turkey was mentioned four times. Each reference envisaged the country as a tool to “contain, destabilize, and roll back some of .. (the) most dangerous threats” to Israel. That very “vision” in fact served as the backbone of the larger strategy used by the US, as it carried out its heedless military adventures in the Middle East.

Frustrated by the American failure to reshape the region and unquestioningly eliminate anything and everything that Israel might perceive as a threat, Israel took matters into its own hands. However, in 2006 and between 2008 and 2009, it was in for major surprises. Superior firepower doesn’t guarantee military victory. Moreover, while Israel had once more demonstrated its capacity to inflict untold damage on people and infrastructure, the Israeli weapon was no longer strategically effective. In other words, Israel’s military advantage could no longer translate into political gains, and this was a game-changer.

There are many issues the Israeli leadership has had to wrangle with in recent years. The US, Israel’s most faithful benefactor, is now on a crisis management mode in Iraq and Afghanistan, struggling on all fronts, whether political, military or economic. That recoil has further emboldened Israel’s enemies, who are no longer intimidated by the American bogyman. Israel’s desperate attempt at using its own military to achieve its grand objectives has also failed, and miserably so.

With options growing even more limited, Israel now understands that Gaza is its last card; ending the siege or ceasing the killings could be understood as another indication of political weakness, a risk that Israel is not ready to take.

Turkey, on the other hand, was fighting — and mostly winning — its own battles. Democracy in Turkey has never been as healthy and meaningful as it is today. Turkey has also eased its chase of the proverbial dangling carrot, of EU membership, especially considering the arrogant attitude of some EU members who perceive Turkey as too large and too Muslim to be trusted. Turkey needed new platforms, new options and a more diverse strategy.

But that is where many analysts went wrong. Turkey’s popular government has not entered the Middle Eastern political foray to pick fights. On the contrary, the Turkish government has for years been trying to get involved as a peacemaker, a mediator between various parties. So, yes, Turkey’s political shift was largely strategic, but it was not ill-intentioned.

The uninvited Turkish involvement, however, is highly irritating to Israel. Turkey’s approach to its new role grew agitating to Israel when the role wasn’t confined to being that of the host — in indirect talks between Syria and Israel, for example. Instead, Turkey began to take increasingly solid and determined political stances. Thus the Davos episode.

By participating at such a high capacity in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, with firm intentions of breaking the siege, Turkey was escalating its involvement well beyond Israel’s comfort zone. Therefore, Israel needed a decisive response that would send a message to Turkey — and any daring other — about crossing the line of what is and is not acceptable. It’s ironic how the neoconservatives’ “A Clean Break” envisaged an Israeli violation of the political and geographic boundaries of its neighbors, with the help of Turkey. Yet, 14 years later, it was Turkey, with representatives from 32 other countries, which came with a peaceful armada to breach what Israel perceived as its own political domain.

The Israeli response, as bloody as it was, can only be understood within this larger context. Erdogan’s statements and the popular support his government enjoys show that Turkey has decided to take on the Israeli challenge. The US government was exposed as ineffectual and hostage to the failing Israeli agenda in the region, thanks to the lobby. Ironically it is now the neoconservatives who are leading the charge against Turkey, the very country they had hoped would become Israel’s willing ally in its apocalyptic vision.

– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | 2 Comments