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TSA refusing to release body scanner safety reports

By Jonathon Benson | NaturalNews | February 14, 2011

Two months after lawmakers ordered the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to release safety reports about the levels of radiation being emitted by baggage X-ray machines, naked body scanners, and other airport security equipment, the agency has yet to make this information public. The reports, which remain in the hands of TSA officials, are allegedly being retained to protect “sensitive security or privacy-protected information.”

NaturalNews covered TSA’s refusal to release safety inspection reports back in December 2010 shortly after USA Today petitioned the agency to release them. TSA workers and travelers have continued to file numerous complaints about radiation exposure not only from the new machinery but also from faulty and poorly-maintained machinery. TSA responded by insisting the machines have all passed safety inspections, but it refused to provide any trace of evidence for this claim (http://www.naturalnews.com/030655_T…).

“The public has a right to know, and there isn’t something so sensitive that requires holding it back,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who recently sponsored legislation to limit the use of full-body scanning machines.

TSA officials routinely insist that its scanning machines are all safe, and that no malfunctions have ever caused “an actual or potential additional radiation exposure.” But a 2008 report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that not only do TSA contractors routinely fail to properly inspect and maintain machinery, but malfunctioning machinery does indeed emit excess radiation, exposing workers and passengers to unknown levels of harm.

TSA also falsely insists that the electromagnetic wave versions of its naked body scanners are completely harmless, even though scientific tests have shown that the tetrahertz waves used in such machinery cause significant DNA damage.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | 1 Comment

Police clash with Bahraini protesters

Press TV – February 14, 2011
Bahraini youths protest in front of the police in Manama on February 14, 2011

Witnesses say police in Bahrain have violently clashed with pro-democracy protesters during the “Day of Rage” rallies across the country.

On Monday, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of demonstrators in Karkazan, a Shia village south of the capital, Manama, AFP reported.

Security forces stepped up their presence with helicopters circling over Manama.

At least 14 people were wounded in overnight and Monday clashes.

Activists, inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, have dubbed Monday “the Day of Rage” to express disappointment at the political reforms of the past decade, which have failed to bring prosperity and real change.

The majority Shia population in Bahrain has been complaining about inequality and oppression. The government has been clamping down on the opposition since the country’s controversial general elections in August last year.

Since late Sunday, Bahrain’s security forces have been patrolling shopping centers and other locations to monitor people’s movements amid calls by opposition groups for pro-democracy protests.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Police clash with Bahraini protesters

COLOMBIA VIDEO: Biofuel Terrorism

“Land and Territory—The Key to Peace in Colombia”

CPTnet – 14 February 2011

Christian Peacemaker Teams Colombia invites you to watch the video, “Land and Territory: The Key to Peace in Colombia,” produced by The Grassroots Communities and Peace Initiatives Network, which covers the story of three communities and their struggle for land in Colombia.  As the title indicates, land, along with legal title, must be returned to these communities and all displaced communities in order for peace and justice to emerge in Colombia.  One cannot talk about the Colombian conflict without discussing the takeover of land by multinational companies, both through legal means and through armed paramilitary violence.  CPT Colombia is accompanying the communities of El Garzal and Las Pavas, featured in the video, as they struggle to remain on their land and protect their communities.

 

The “greening” of a shady business – Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil

World Rainforest Movement | Grain | October 2010

Oil palm plantations have spread rapidly around the globe in recent decades, with profound implications for local communities and the environment. A“Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil” (RSPO) was formed to promote sustainable production practices. But is this possible? Or does the RSPO merely amount to the greenwashing of an inherently destructive industry? The World Rainforest Movement produced an analysis.1

Over the past few decades, oil palm plantations have rapidly spread throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, where millions of hectares have already been planted and millions more are planned for the next few years. These plantations are causing increasingly serious problems for local peoples and their environment, including social conflict and human rights violations. In spite of this, a number of interests – national and international – continue actively to promote this crop, against a background of growing opposition at the local level. It is within this context that a voluntary certification scheme has emerged – the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – with the aim of assuring consumers that the palm oil they consume – in foodstuffs, soap, cosmetics or fuel – has been produced in a sustainable manner.2

To pretend that a product obtained from large-scale monocultures of mostly alien palm trees can be certified as “sustainable”3 is – to say the least – a misleading statement, especially for oil palm plantations, with their history of tropical deforestation and widespread human rights abuses.4 This, however, is precisely what the RSPO is doing.
The first shipment of palm oil certified as “sustainable” arrived in the Netherlands in November 2008, under enormous controversy. Greenpeace pointed out that “United Plantations, the company producing the sustainable palm oil, is cutting down trees from vulnerable peat forests in Kalimantan, Indonesia.” It added that this company “does not comply with local Indonesian laws that protect the environment” and that it is “entangled in land conflicts with the local population.” It was not a good start for RSPO’s credibility.5

Corporations’ firm grasp

The power balance between corporations and NGOs is clearly shown in the RSPO’s current Executive Board (February 2010), where the majority of its members represent corporations or associations of corporations:

President: Jan Kees Vis – Unilever
Vice-President I: Adam Harrison – WWF Scotland
Vice-President II: Derom Bangun – Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI)
Vice-President III: Jeremy Goon – Wilmar International
Vice-President IV: Marcello Brito – Agropalma, Brazil
Treasurer: Ian McIntosh – Aarhus United UK
Members:
Marc den Hartog – IOI Group (Malaysia/Netherlands)
Paul Norton – HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad
Johan Verburg – Oxfam International
Timothy J. Killeen – Conservation International
Faisal Firdaus – Carrefour Group, France
John Baker – Rabobank International
Christophe Liebon – Intertek
Tony Lass – Cadbury plc
Mohd Nor Kailany – FELDA
Abetnego Tarigan – Sawit Watch

Only two environmental/nature conservation NGOs (WWF and Conservation International) and two social/development NGOs (Oxfam and Sawit Watch) are represented on the board. The other 12 members represent oil palm growers (4), palm oil processors and/or traders (2), consumer goods manufacturers (2), retailers (2), banks/investors (2).

Additionally, its ordinary and affiliate members include some very well-known corporations typically associated with social and environmental damage – Cargill, Cognis, International Finance Corporation, British Petroleum, Bunge, Syngenta and Bayer, among others.

The RSPO has been a long, time-consuming and expensive process, involving industry, commerce and some social and conservation NGOs.6 The question is: why did the private sector get involved in it? The answer is given very clearly in an “Overview of RSPO” included in a press release on 24 November 2008:

As a result of all the above-mentioned issues [tropical deforestation, social conflicts over land rights, food versus fuel] some environmental and social NGOs are actively campaigning against palm oil. There is a risk that the adverse publicity might lead the European Union to stop buying palm oil for biodiesel blending or remove tax support for palm biodiesel until palm oil meets the minimum sustainability criteria. Consumer outcry for sustainably produced palm oil in their food, soaps, detergents and cosmetics is also growing louder and must not be ignored.7

When the RSPO process started, the oil palm industry had already managed to achieve a bad reputation as a result of its direct involvement in human rights violations and environmental destruction. Documentation of these include Eric Wakker’s 1999 publication, Forest Fires and the Expansion of Indonesia’s Oil Palm Plantations, and one year later, Wakker and others produced the book Funding Forest Destruction.8

In 2001, having documented the impacts of oil plantations over several years, WRM published its first book on the subject (The Bitter Fruit of Oil Palm), which included three case-studies in countries that were major players in Asia (Indonesia), Latin America (Ecuador) and Africa (Cameroon), accompanied by a number of articles describing struggles in those and other countries against oil palm plantations. Apart from the environmental impacts of these plantations, the book documented a large number of human rights violations linked to oil palm expansion.9

The fact that both issues – forest destruction and human rights violations – had been well documented led large corporations linked to the palm oil chain (from plantations to retailers) to think strategically about the negative effects that growing opposition and negative publicity might have on their businesses in the future. What they felt they needed was a mechanism that could certify that the activity – from the production of oil palm fruit to the industrialisation of palm oil – could meet “minimum sustainability criteria” and garner sufficient credibility with importing country governments and consumers.

No World Bank money for palm oil

Rettet den Regenwald*

The World Bank has invested US$2 billion in palm oil cultivation and use since 1965, at least half of it in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil companies such as Wilmar International were regularly granted loans and development funds by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. Over the last 45 years, oil palm plantations have grown eightfold worldwide – 23-fold in Indonesia, according to the World Bank. The World Bank has financed 15 palm oil projects in Indonesia and boasts about the “successful establishment of 100,000 hectares of oil palm plantations”.
The impacts have been disastrous: oil palm expansion is the main cause of hundreds of – often violent – land conflicts, rainforest destruction and species extinction in south-east Asia. Indigenous peoples have been deprived of their homes and livelihoods for palm oil. Thousands of orang-utans are killed as rainforest is cut and burned down for plantations. In Africa and Latin America, too, people and nature are suffering as a result of fast-expanding, export-oriented oil palm plantations.
Last year, the World Bank could no longer ignore the complaints: in August 2009, World Bank President Robert Zoellick suspended all palm oil funding and announced a comprehensive palm oil strategy. Now, however, the World Bank seems determined to go back to “business as usual”. The new World Bank Draft Framework for Palm Oil is a farce.
The World Bank claims to want to promote “sustainable” palm oil production, but the vast industrial plantations which they want to continue funding and the production of great quantities of palm oil for the global market can be neither environmentally nor socially sustainable. Palm oil production consumes vast quantities of energy, land, fertile soils and water. RSPO certification cannot change this fact. Palm oil is now contained in ever more products, from food to cosmetics and cleaners, and it is being increasingly used for biodiesel and in power stations. This disastrous development must be stopped.
On 21 September 2010, environmental and social campaigners worldwide marked the International Day Against Tree Monocultures. Several NGOs collected signatures to a letter to be sent to the World Bank. The letter can be read at: http://www.rainforest-rescue.org/protestaktion.php?id=623


* Rettet den Regenwald (“Save the rainforest”) is a German-based NGO. For more information, see: http://www.rainforest-rescue.org/index.php

The “solution”: voluntary certification

The chosen mechanism –the RSPO – was to a large extent modelled on the previous WWF-led process of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). As in the FSC, the RSPO came up with a set of Principles and Criteria resulting from a negotiation process involving a broad range of “stakeholders”; compliance with those standards would be assessed by third-party certification. Both mechanisms also assure consumers that their certified products are sustainably produced: the RSPO through its own name, “Sustainable Palm Oil”, and the FSC through its stated commitment that “products carrying the FSC label are independently certified to assure consumers that they come from forests that are managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations”.10

The fundamental problem here, however, is that large-scale monoculture tree plantations cannot be socially and ecologically “sustainable”. In the case of FSC, WRM has produced ample documented evidence proving that large-scale monoculture tree plantations are uncertifiable due to their social and environmental impacts.11 The same is true for large-scale monoculture oil palm plantations. The only forms of palm oil production that are ecologically sustainable is that of local communities using natural palm stands in West Africa – where oil palm is a native species.12

However, most of the oil traded internationally – even from West Africa – comes from large-scale monoculture oil palm plantations with profound social and environmental impacts. As with plantations of other trees – such as eucalyptus and pines – the problem is not the species planted but the form and scale in which they are cultivated.
To avoid confusion, it is important to note that industrial production13 of palm oil fruit is carried out in three main forms: 1) large, corporate-owned plantations; 2) smallholder farmers’ land; 3) a combination of both – the “nucleus estate-outgrowers” model. However, in all three cases the result is the same: a large area of contiguous land is occupied by monoculture oil palm plantations.

The impact of such plantations on plant and animal biodiversity is enormous, because they destroy the habitat – usually forest ecosystems – of a large number of species. This impact is magnified by the heavy use of agrotoxins, ranging from herbicides to insecticides, that result in the elimination of yet more animal and plant species. The chemicals pollute local water resources, which are also affected by the extensive drainage systems put in place for the plantations. Monoculture plantations, moreover, provoke erosion, because land formerly covered by forest is cleared prior to plantation, leaving the soil exposed to heavy tropical rains.

The consequences of plantations for local communities are often severe, particularly in corporate-owned plantations that appropriate large areas of land which had hitherto been in the hands of indigenous or peasant populations and had provided for their livelihoods. The dispossession generates resistance from local people, who are then confronted by repression from state forces and the oil palm companies themselves. The violation of land rights is thus typically followed by other human rights violations, including even the right to life.

Leaving aside other social and environmental impacts, it is a well-known fact that most of the plantations owned by companies involved in the RSPO process have been established at the expense of tropical forests. In spite of that, the fruit harvested from those same plantations will be industrialised and sold as “sustainable” palm oil. This is made possible by one of the RSPO’s criteria (7.3), which states that certification will check that “New plantings since November 2005 have not replaced primary forest”. This of course means that all deforestation prior to that date will not be taken into account, and that plantations where such deforestation occurred will still receive the RSPO seal of approval. Given that oil palms can be harvested for up to 30 years, this implies that much of the palm oil traded with the RSPO “sustainable” seal in the next 10–20 years will be harvested from plantations that have “replaced primary forest”.

The scenario most likely to result from the RSPO process is that in the future there will be two production sectors supplying different markets. On the one hand there will be a group of companies with certification that will attempt to a greater or lesser extent to comply with the principles and criteria adopted by the RSPO, while on the other hand there will be a second group of uncertified companies that will continue with “business as usual”. The first will cater for markets like the European Union, where consumers – and governments – demand compliance with certain social and environmental standards, while the second will supply all the other, less demanding markets.

To complicate matters further, what is being certified is not the overall performance of an oil palm company, but specific plantation areas. This means that it is possible that one company will have some of its operations certified under RSPO principles and criteria while it carries out other operations that violate those same principles. This would be a likely scenario in plantations owned by one company in different regions within a country, as well as in different countries.

The final result will be that the cultivation of oil palm will continue to expand, and the accumulated impacts of both “sustainable” and other plantations will continue to have serious impacts on people and their environment. The RSPO will have fulfilled its main objective: growth (as stated in the RSPO website: “Promoting the Growth and Use of Sustainable Palm Oil”).

Global oilpalm area, 1980–2009 from 4.3m to 14.7m hectares

oilpalmchart

Source: FAOSTAT

Sustainable, improved or greenwashed?

The problem with the RSPO is that it conveys the message that palm oil can be certified as “sustainable”. Confronted with that claim, the only possible response from anyone who knows about the impact of large-scale oil palm monoculture is that RSPO certification is a fraud.

Most people would of course agree that a company that complies with some of the more progressive social and environmental criteria included in the RSPO’s principles and criteria will have improved its performance. Even when the wording of almost every criterion allows for some “flexibility” in its interpretation, some criteria are at least a step forward as compared with currently prevailing practices. For instance, criterion 6.5 establishes that “Pay and conditions for employees and for employees of contractors always meet at least legal or industry minimum standards and are sufficient to provide decent living wages.” It is not much to require “minimum standard” wages, and it is difficult to define what the phrase “decent living wages” means, but it is obviously better than nothing.

Some social organisations, particularly in Indonesia  have seen this process as an opportunity for helping to open up political space for indigenous peoples and affected communities. It is clear to them that the RSPO cannot solve the fundamental problems of land tenure and community rights, but it has been successfully used by some communities to assert their rights, and to force member companies to respect the rights of communities affected by their oil palm operations. As some companies attempt to apply the RSPO standard, this is helping to show that companies and the industry overall will not be able to respect indigenous peoples’ and communities’ rights unless there is legal reform.

The bigger question, however, is not whether the RSPO contributes to improving current practices –which it probably will in some cases – but whether it can be a useful means for addressing the industry’s most severe impacts on forests, local peoples, soils, water, biodiversity and climate. And the answer is: no.

With forests, the RSPO legalises past, present and future destruction of all types of forest, with the exception of “primary forests” and “rare, threatened or endangered species and high conservation value habitats”. As for the rights of local people, the criteria do not provide sufficient safeguards against the further expansion of oil palm plantations over their territories, which will deprive them of their lands and means of livelihoods and adversely affect their health. When it comes to soils, water and biodiversity, the RSPO will serve only to disguise the inevitable impacts of oil palm plantation management on these three crucial resources, while forest destruction will add further CO2 emissions to the atmosphere.

Widespread civil society opposition

In contrast to the Forest Stewardship Council – and probably as a result of experience with it – few civil society organisations have joined the RSPO process, and many are actively opposing it.

In October 2008, a large number of national and international organisations responded to the first Latin American meeting of the RSPO with an “International Declaration Against the ‘Greenwashing’ of Palm Oil by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil”.14 The choice of Colombia as the site of the meeting only confirmed the concerns of those organisations. The Colombian military and paramilitary forces have routinely used murder, torture, rape and “disappearances” in evicting whole communities to make way for oil palm plantations.

The declaration called the RSPO “a tool for the expansion of the palm oil business” and “another attempt at camouflaging and denying the true situation, providing ‘a green-wash’ to make a model of production that is intrinsically destructive and socially and environmentally unsustainable, appear to be ‘responsible’.” It gave several reasons for rejecting the RSPO, including:

  • that the principles and criteria proposed by RSPO to define sustainability include large-scale plantations;
  • that the RSPO is designed to legitimate the continuous expansion of the palm oil industry;
  • that any model that includes the conversion of natural habitats into large-scale monoculture plantations cannot, by definition, be sustainable;
  • that the RSPO is interested in economic growth and opening up markets for palm oil, not social and environmental sustainability;
  • that the RSPO is dominated by industry and does not genuinely consult affected communities;
  • that the participation of NGOs in RSPO, such as the WWF, only legitimates an unacceptable process;
  • that the RSPO allows companies to certify individual plantations, eluding overall assessment of their whole production.

A year later, just before the RSPO’s 2009 general assembly in Malaysia, an open letter was sent to RSPO and WWF by a number of organisations under the heading “Oil palm monocultures will never be sustainable”.15 The letter stated:

We are deeply concerned that RSPO certification is being used to legitimise an expansion in the demand for palm oil and thus in oil palm plantations, and it serves to greenwash the disastrous social and environmental impacts of the palm oil industry. The RSPO standards do not exclude clear cutting of many natural forests, the destruction of other important ecosystems, nor plantings on peat. The RSPO certifies plantations which impact on the livelihoods of local communities and their environments. The problems are exacerbated by the in-built conflict of interest in the system under which a company wanting to be certified commissions another company to carry out the assessment.

The need to step up the struggle

Regardless of the good intentions of the NGO representatives participating in the RSPO process, or even those of participants from other sectors, it is obvious that the majority of the members and affiliate members of the RSPO do not question the expansion of oil palm monocultures. On the contrary, they are actively seeking to boost both production and consumption in traditional markets (food, soaps, detergents and cosmetics) and in the emerging market of agrofuels. While it is true that many aspects of the production process can be improved, it is equally true that the model as a whole – even with these improvements – continues to be unsustainable.

The RSPO process did not emerge out of the blue, but was in fact an industry response to the many local resistance struggles and national and international campaigns waged to denounce the current situation. Therefore, rather than supporting or opposing the RSPO process, what is most important now is to step up these struggles and campaigns to curb the further advance of this essentially destructive industrial model. The key challenge today is not to improve large-scale monoculture oil palm plantations, but rather to halt their expansion.


1 – This article is an edited version of a briefing by the WRM. The full briefing, which was published in March 2010,  can be downloaded from: http://www.wrm.org.uy/publications/briefings/RSPO.pdf
2 – The website of RSPO is:  www.rspo.org
3 – Although the concept of sustainability is open to many interpretations, most people would probably agree with the following definition from Wikipedia: “Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of well-being, which in turn depends on the well-being of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.”
4 – See section on oil palm plantations on the WRM’s website at http://www.wrm.org.uy/plantations/palm.html
5 – http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/241082,greenpeace-first-sustainable-palm-oil-shipment-not-sustainable.html
6 – The RSPO was established in 2004 and the process for starting certification was completed in August 2008
7 – http://www.rspo.org/resource_centre/Press%20Release%20-%20Post%20RT6_1.pdf
8 – Eric Wakker et al., Funding Forest Destruction. The Involvement of Dutch Banks in the Financing of Oil Palm Plantations in Indonesia, Amsterdam, Bogor, Castricum: AIDEnvironment, Telapak and Contrast Advies, 2000.
9 – In September 2006, WRM published a second book: Oil Palm: From Cosmetics to Biodiesel – Colonization Lives On.
10 – http://www.fsc.org/vision_mission.html
11 – See WRM web page section on certification: http://www.wrm.org.uy/actors/FSC/index.html
12 – Wild groves are harvested by subsistence farmers, who extract the oil by traditional methods. In West Africa, palm oil is a major food item and it is typically used for making foodstuffs, as its natural flavour has a distinguishable effect on dishes.  Palm oil is also used to make palm wine and local medicines.  The leaves may also be used to make thatches, which are used as roofing material in certain areas.
13 – Harvesting from wild groves or small scale plantations is not considered to be “industrial production”.
14 – See: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/17-11-2008-ENGLISH-RSPOInternational-Declaration.pdf
15 – http://www.wrm.org.uy/plantations/RSPO_letter.html


GOING FURTHER

WRM, “RSPO: The ‘greening’ of the dark palm oil business”, Montevideo, March 2010.
http://www.wrm.org.uy/publications/briefings/RSPO.pdf
“International Declaration Against the ‘Greenwashing’ of Palm Oil by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil” signed by 256 Organisations.
http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/17-11-2008-ENGLISH-RSPOInternational-Declaration.pdf
“Oil palm monocultures will never be sustainable” Open letter to RSPA and WWF.
http://www.wrm.org.uy/plantations/RSPO_letter.html
“Sustainable monocultures no thanks!”, GRAIN, Against the grain, June 2006.
http://www.grain.org/articles_files/atg-6-en.pdf
The WRM website, with a special resource page on plantations: http://www.wrm.org.uy/

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, Video | 1 Comment

O’Grady’s Honduran Free Market Fantasies

By Belen Fernandez | Pulse Media | February 14, 2011

Mary O’Grady, editorial board member of The Wall Street Journal and champion of the 2009 coup d’état against Honduran President Mel Zelaya “because he was trying to extend his presidency in violation of the nation’s constitution” [read: because he was trying to conduct a nonbinding public opinion survey to gauge popular will to rewrite a document produced at the height of Honduras’ cold war service as a U.S. military base], has finally found an acceptable reason for constitutional revision.

O’Grady’s latest dispatch from Tegucigalpa begins:

What advocate of free markets hasn’t, at one time or another, fantasized about running away to a desert island to start a country where economic liberty would be the law of the land? If things go according to plan, more than one such ‘island’ may soon pop up here.

Honduras calls these visionary islands ‘model cities,’ and as the Journal’s David Wessel reported from Washington 10 days ago, the Honduran Congress is expected to soon pass an amendment to the constitution that would clear the way to put the concept into action.

The idea is simple: A sizable piece of unpopulated government land is designated for use as a model city. A charter that will govern the city is drafted and the Congress approves it. A development authority is appointed by the national government. The authority signs contracts with the investors who will develop the infrastructure. The city opens for business under rules that act as a magnet for investment.”

It would seem that free market advocates fantasizing about running away to desert islands of economic liberty might have already had their fantasies sufficiently fulfilled via sweatshop opportunities in Honduras.

Undeterred, O’Grady insists:

Now the little country that stood up to the world to defend its democracy seems to be affirming a belief that it needs to change if it wants to ward off future assaults on freedom.”

The valiant Honduran defense of democracy consisted, of course, of the overthrow by the country’s tiny elite, in concert with the U.S., of a president engaged in such assaults on freedom as a raise of the minimum wage to approximately $290 a month in certain sectors, support for legislation to ban open-pit mining, and willingness to discuss land reform.

It is meanwhile unclear how the designation of government land for what is essentially an experiment by an American economist can be construed as democratic in nature when Honduran farmers attempting to reclaim property illegally acquired by wealthy businessmen are subjected to assassinations and other forms of harassment by military and paramilitary units.

In case there is any doubt as to the identity of “the Honduran people” that O’Grady claims to speak for in her articles, she ends this particular one with a quote from Zelaya’s predecessor Ricardo Maduro, described as “a fan” of the model cities scheme:

If we want to develop we have to find a way to counterbalance the populism that causes us so much harm. The model city is a way of decentralizing power and connecting people to their government.”

As for previous counterbalancing efforts against threats posed by the non-elite, Maduro holds the distinction of having presided over a regime that, according to former chief of internal affairs for the Honduran police María Luisa Borjas, exterminated 3,000 extraneous Honduran youths via a liberal application of the term “gang member.”

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

US Air Force C17 transport caught smuggling arms and drugs into Argentina

Pagina/12 Report – February 14, 2011

Translation by Aletho News:

Argentina’s foreign ministry has issued a press release stating that it will be making a formal protest over undeclared weapons and drugs brought into the nation at Ezeiza last Thursday.

A manifest provided by the US did not list war materiel and drugs which were seized by Argentine authorities.

Among the confiscated materiel were communications interception equipment, encrypted communications equipment, sophisticated GPS devices, high power rifles, a machine gun and narcotics as well as a full trunk of expired pharmaceuticals including stimulants. All boxes had the stamp of the 7th Army Airborne Brigade based in North Carolina.

The Argentine government estimates the value of the goods and the C17 transport expenses to exceed $2 million.

The unreported contents also included an odd brochure with the phrase “I am a United States soldier. Please report to my embassy I have been arrested by the country.” translated into fifteen languages.

US documents described the shipment as intended for an Argentine government approved Federal police training course.

Argentina reiterated that it does not wish for the internal security practices of Rio’s favelas or El Salvador’s gangs to be the model for the Argentine nation.

The Argentine government will be suspending the police training program.

Argentina’s ambassador to the US described the situation as “a shameful embarrassment” before returning the cargo to North Carolina.

It is noted that any Argentine, civilian or military, who attempted to smuggle weapons and drugs into the US would be arrested immediately.

###

Spanish language source:

La Argentina “formulará una protesta” formal ante los Estados Unidos por el intento de ingresar de forma ilegal “material camuflado” en un avión militar que llegó a Ezeiza el jueves pasado, tal como informó ayer Página/12. Según un comunicado de prensa difundido anoche por Cancillería, entre el material que se incautó tras la inspección “hay desde armas hasta diferentes drogas” que no habían sido declaradas en el manifiesto… lea mas

More Spanish language source material

February 14, 2011 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 15 Comments

Revolution Coalition Demands Still Unmet

KABOBfest | February 13, 2011

For those who, in the euphoria of celebration, forgot what this revolution was all about, below is the list of demands from the Revolution Coalition. The success of the Egyptian revolution must be measured by how many of these demands have been met, in addition to the verdicts issued against Mubarak, Suleiman, Shafiq, and all other ex-government officials and business tycoons, even if they were members of the Egyptian so-called brave Military. All other measures that demand anything less are treasonous to the blood of the martyrs since January 25.

The January 25 Revolutionary Youth Communique No. 1

We, the peoples of Egypt, the true rulers of its land, destiny, and fortunes, who have retrieved them in full since the outbreak of the January 25 populace, civil, democratic revolution, and the sacrifice of our righteous martyrs, and after the revolution’s success in the deposing of the corrupt regime and its leaders; we announce the continuation of this peaceful revolution until victory and the realization of all our demands in full:

1 – The abolishing of the Emergency [martial law] conditions immediately.
2 – The immediate release of all political prisoners.
3 – The abolishing of the current constitution including all its amendments.
4 – The abolishing of both arms of the parliament and local governments.
5 – The creation of an interim presidential rule including five members, one military and four civilian, known for their patriotism and accepted by the people, and on the condition that none of them run for the first presidential elections.
6 – The creation of an interim government including capable, independent, and patriotic individuals; and excluding individuals with ties to political parties, to assume command of the nation’s affairs and prepare for fair and free general elections at the end of the interim period which must not exceed nine months; and no member of this interim government can run for the first elections.
7 – The formation of an original constituent assembly to write a new democratic constitution that concurs with the greatest democratic constitutions and international charters for human rights, put for public referendum within three months of the formation of this assembly.
8 – The freedom to form any political party, on civil, democratic, and peaceful foundations, without any obstacle or condition, and [they become legal] by simply announcing [their creation].
9 – The freedom of press [media] and the circulation of information.
10 – The freedom for union organization and the creation of civil institutions.
11 – The abolishing of all military and poll courts, and abolishing all verdicts produced by these courts against civilians.
12 – And finally, we, the peoples of Egypt, call upon Egypt’s righteous, national army, who is the son of this nation, who safeguarded the people’s blood and secured the nation in this great revolution, to declare its full adoption to all of these decisions and people’s demands, and to completely align itself with the people.

The Peoples of the January 25 Revolution

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Revolution Coalition Demands Still Unmet

Standing against Israel’s propaganda

Socialist Worker | February 10, 2011

VETERANS OF the Israel Defense Force (IDF) have opened a new front for psychological warfare operations (what Zionists call hasbara) in the U.S., speaking on college campuses in an effort to “humanize” the IDF and deflect attention from its institutional responsibility for war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Last fall, Sgt. Kenny Sachs spoke at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Approximately 50 activists mobilized by the Western Massachusetts Coalition for Palestine (WMCP) disrupted his presentation, using tactics modeled after protests staged earlier in the semester at the University of Michigan and Arizona State University.

The hasbara offensive in Western Massachusetts opened this spring with a thinly disguised recruitment pitch for the IDF delivered by Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, the self-described founder of Our Soldiers Speak, at Hampshire College on Thursday, February 3.

Sgt. Anthony’s talk was sponsored by the David Project, which has a history of circulating Islamophobic propaganda; the Hasbara Fellowships, which is linked to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the international arm of Aish HaTorah, an extremist settler group in Israel that has erected a one-ton model of the “Third Temple” close to the Western Wall in Jerusalem as a warning of “what’s to come” for Muslims living in the city; and Stand With Us, a group actively involved in “pink-washing” Israel and whose members recently pepper-sprayed members of Jewish Voice for Peace during a meeting.

Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine, supported by the WMCP and other local social justice organizations, mobilized to confront Sgt. Anthony and make clear that apologists for Israeli racism and oppression are not welcome on our campuses or in our communities.

A film representation of our protest inside the auditorium is not available, for reasons explained in the open letter that follows.

The protest at Hampshire underscores the urgency of developing tactical flexibility, studying the tactics and tendencies of hasbara organizations as they emulate the Pentagon in “perception management,” and creatively seeking ways to communicate our principled solidarity with the demand of the Palestinian people for self-determination.

Mark Clinton, a professor of political science at Holyoke Community College, shares an open letter he sent to the interim president of Hampshire College about a recent protest of a speech given by a member of the Israel Defense Force.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

An open letter to Marlene Gerber Fried, interim president of Hampshire College

February 6, 2011

Dear Dr. Gerber Fried,

On Thursday, February 3, I attended the so-called lecture delivered by Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) reservist, at Hampshire College.

I was so shocked–and I do not shock easily–by the role that members of Hampshire’s administration appeared to play in facilitating Sgt. Anthony’s hate-mongering recruitment pitch for the IDF that my conscience will not let me rest until I register my discontent with you.

If I had any doubts about the need to send you this open letter, they vanished after I read your letter of Friday, February 4, to the Hampshire College community, which a friend shared with me after I had written the first draft of my letter to you.

Your letter, which purports to represent an event you did not attend, is clearly based on “reports” from members of your own administrative team and, perhaps, supporters of Sergeant Anthony who were in attendance.

I hope you will forgive me if I tell you frankly that I was struck by its injudicious absence of the investigatory and critical spirit I would expect from a philosopher.

It is, I think, compelling evidence of the soul-deadening burden of overseeing an administrative apparatus.

At the outset, I must say that if the objective of Hampshire’s administration in its “facilitation” of Sergeant Anthony’s appearance was that of allowing Hampshire students and community members who attended a small taste of the oppression that Palestinians experience on a daily basis, I believe that you succeeded.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE EVENT began late, and one entrance to the auditorium was closed for no apparent reason. When those of us waiting there to enter inquired why we could not use what appeared to be a perfectly functional doorway, we were given no answer.

After waiting what seemed an interminable period in the lobby, people were finally allowed to enter the auditorium in single file while security guards counted us.

I kept nervously fingering my wallet, expecting at any moment to be asked for my identification papers, especially as I have a rather full beard and was wearing a keffiyeh as an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Given what transpired as the event began, I am somewhat surprised in retrospect that I was not refused admission to the auditorium because I was “disrespectfully” attired. Members of Hampshire’s administration began the event by enjoining the audience to listen respectfully and warning them sternly that anyone who disrupted or filmed the lecture would be removed from the auditorium.

At the same time we were informed rather peremptorily that Sergeant Anthony’s private security team would be filming the event.

I could not help but wonder why Hampshire College was so interested in protecting Sergeant Anthony’s privacy as he delivered a public lecture (I recognized him instantly, by the way, since his photograph is widely available on the Internet) while having no discernible interest whatsoever in protecting the privacy of anyone who had a strong enough stomach or a weak enough heart to sit “respectfully” while he spewed his hate-filled bilge over the audience.

To hear Sergeant Anthony tell it, the IDF is the victim of a mainstream media that can only be motivated by anti-Semitism, which apparently was intended to explain why they actually covered the IDF’s violently disproportional attacks on Lebanon in 2006, on Gaza in 2008-2009, and on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last year.

While I wondered how Sergeant Anthony would attempt to explain that same media’s overwhelming silence regarding the quotidian violence and oppression of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and how I could manage to hold my peace, a young man whom I happened to be sitting behind rose and in a calm, loud voice observed that Israel’s occupation of Palestine de-legitimized Israel.

A member of your administration hurried over to inform the young man that if he did not stop disrupting the event, security would remove him from the auditorium.

As this warning was delivered, supporters of Sergeant Anthony and, presumably, Israeli aggression, shouted invectives at the young man.

I know it probably wasn’t respectful, but I could not resist asking the member of your administrative team if he was going to warn these members of the audience that they too would be removed.

I am certain that he heard me since he glared at me with what I could only interpret as contemptuous hostility and then turned on his heel without warning anyone else about their disruptive behavior.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

TO ME, the message was crystal clear: anyone who dared express dissent during Sergeant Anthony’s verbal barrage would be charged with disruption and cleared from the room, while it was open season for audience members who vocally supported Sergeant Anthony; they could say anything they pleased to the dissidents.

That Sergeant Anthony’s supporters reached roughly the same conclusion would appear to be indicated by the fact that one of them felt empowered to refer to a dissident in the audience as a “faggot” without reproach by any member of your administration.

It took another student rising and informing the homophobe that he too was a “faggot” and that the use of that word to characterize another human being was unacceptable to shame the homophobe sufficiently that he left the auditorium.

For those of us who did leave the auditorium of our own volition–and in the interests of full disclosure, I was one of the people who participated in an organized walkout during the “lecture,” walking in front of Sergeant Anthony and showing him the name of a Palestinian child killed during Operation Cast Lead (I guess that was why he needed a private security force–to protect him from exposure to the facts on the ground that disclose the unmistakable evidence of Israeli war crimes and discredit Israel’s attempt to maintain its master narrative of the fabled Israeli purity of arms)–Hampshire security announced that no right of return existed.

This rule, apparently created on the spur of the moment, was applied inflexibly, much to the surprise of people who had left for such a perfectly innocent reason as the need to use the restrooms.

The security guard enforcing this rule at the one functional entrance to the auditorium not only refused to give his name when one young man asked for it, he also conspicuously covered his name badge with one hand while engaging in this refusal, keeping it covered for several minutes.

Hampshire’s chief of security finally appeared and spoke to the group who had gathered in and around the stairwell adjoining the entrance, addressing us with what I can only describe as contemptuous hostility (I know that the phrase is redundant, but I cannot think of a better one.)

The security chief did finally inform us, “His name is Officer Erickson.”

He refused to answer any other questions, however.

In short, your administrative team and security officers did not so much provide neutral facilitation for Sergeant Anthony’s “lecture” as protection for a thug who had brought his own bullies with him, creating an atmosphere of intimidation.

I think it is a credit to Hampshire students expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people that they steadfastly displayed the courage of their convictions, and I am proud to be associated with them.

I have spent a great deal of time describing my observations of the fundamental procedural unfairness with which the event was conducted because there is actually nothing to say about the intellectual substance of the so-called lecture.

It was simply, as I observed in my opening paragraph, a hate-mongering recruitment pitch for the IDF, as I am sure you can assure yourself if you ask Sergeant Anthony to provide you with an unedited copy of the filmic record his security team made of the event.

In closing, I do have one question, however.

If Hampshire College does indeed intend to provide its students and members of the Pioneer Valley Community with all “sides” to contested issues of public discourse, when may I expect to receive an invitation to attend a recruitment speech by a member of Hamas that Hampshire’s administration will facilitate as subserviently as it did the appearance of Sergeant Anthony?

Sincerely,
Mark Clinton, Ph.D., professor of Political Science, Holyoke Community College
(for identification purposes only)

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | 12 Comments

Democracy Without Economic Independence is Worthless

By Sarakenos | KABOBfest | February 12, 2011

The Egyptian military, with a US green light, got rid of Mubarak for precisely the same reason they sent the police and thugs that killed over 300 and injured thousands last week — to allow for the economy to run smoothly again. In other words, the disposing of Mubarak is just another solution, as undesirable as it may be, to re-open banks and have business run as usual. Factories, banks, real state, and other businesses are still owned by the same corrupt leaders, with the fate of the Mubarak family stock still unknown.

The High Council of Armed Forces, in all their four communiqués, stressed the “economic interests” of the country, which, in a heavily-privatized economy like Egypt’s, means the interests of the private owners, some of whom are military generals. The forced removal of Mubarak, in the end, served owners’ interests foremost. This economic concern was ranked as the most important objective in the High Council of Armed Forces’ latest communiqué:

  • First: The High Council of the Armed Forces is committed to all contents in previous communiqués.
  • Second: The High Council of the Armed Forces has great confidence in the ability of Egypt, its institutions, and its people in surpassing the current critical conditions. And based on this, all sectors, public and private, must commit to their glorious and patriotic mission to push the wheel of economy forward, and that the people are held responsible in this matter.

The third point in the communiqué was only natural to forcefully uphold “the glorious and patriotic mission,” which is to keep the current government under Suleiman in power until new elections are held. The Council did not set up a time frame for these elections, but it definitively did so for resuscitating the economy (i.e. retrieve flow of income and profits on their investments) as a priority that cannot wait for democracy; which is now!  This communiqué went short of repeating Suleiman’s patronizing words yesterday when he said: “Go back to your homes and your jobs.”

There are a lot of people who simply cannot accept that the economy, at this stage, is of much concern to the Egyptian military regime (which is still in power) and the Obama administration and other US officials, let alone the general public and the revolution. But that is because these people are not trained sufficiently to have an economic eye on world affairs. The focus then shifts to the political aspects of the revolution: democracy, fair elections, and freedom of speech and religion. Make no mistake, these are absolutely important elements of any successful revolution, and achieving them deserves euphoric celebrations. But to ignore the economic demands, the very reason why this revolution even took place, is really an act of infanticide against this new-born Egyptian revolution. Bou Azizi (the true catalyst of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions) did not set himself on fire because he couldn’t vote in free elections. He set himself on fire because his only source of income was humiliatingly taken away from him.

All indications seem to favor sustaining the Egyptian economic system and excluding it from the revolution. For example, the Finance minister, Samir Radwan, appointed by Mubarak during the January 25 Revolution, is still running the country’s economic affairs with almost no objection from anyone. He spoke to CNN’s Piers Morgan last night to share his feelings of jubilee, but in fact refrained from using any revolutionary words, and referred to the last eighteen days as “the crisis.” Luckily so far, according to Qatar News Agency (Feb 7, 2011), he refused IMF intervention:

“The minister quoted the CBK chief as stressing that the government’s procedures would be enough to confront the current crisis.”

But then yesterday, he was quoted saying that a stimulus package may be needed, without specifying the source of those funds, to boost up employment.  These all sound like innocent events to the economically illiterate. But lessons must be learned from past revolutions, like the Polish Revolution in 1989, when all the fruits of revolution were finally reaped by private owners of the country’s most important resources and industries, after being drowned by IMF loans in return for speeding up the process of privatization and doing away with labor laws and trade barriers.

The January 25 Revolution does not address the private ownership of the country’s telecommunications industry, power grid, water, post, and other major financial infrastructures. Should the country’s resources also belong to the people in the same way that the parliament and presidency ought to? Would democracy be worth anything if the democratically-elected government had no say or authority over the country’s oil, gas, water, energy, agriculture, stock markets and banking regulations, because they are “privately” owned?

Recall that the world stood by watching as the Free Officers Movement, led by Mohammad Najib and Abdul Nasser, took over power in Egypt in 1952. It was only when Abdul Nasser began a campaign of nationalizing the economy (especially the Suez Canal), that the world super powers (Britain, France, and Israel) turned against Egypt and declared war in 1953. This must be a hint to all spectators, that as long as the new freely-elected Egyptian government (to be) secures business contracts and foreign investments, the world shall embrace Egyptian democracy. However, should they choose to nationalize the major sectors of the economy, the free world will turn against Egypt, and we’ll hear western media pundits talking about how Egyptians were never ready for democracy, and how democracy does not fit the Arab mentality or society, and how dictatorships are necessary for the security of the United States of America against possible terrorist cells growing in chaos-hot-bed Egypt.

The Egyptian military, however, being itself invested in the privately owned neo-liberal economy of Egypt, had made assurances in their communiqués to the effect that they are going to protect the economy (read securing investments, foreign and domestic) as a major priority. The Egyptian Revolution of January 25 has put Egypt on the road to democracy, but will it lead to Egyptian economic independence — where economic decisions are made in Egypt, by Egyptians, and serve the interests of Egyptians? Or will they forfeit economic independence and honor free trade agreements that supersede democracy and the people’s will?

One thing is for certain. The Egyptian military rule (and all other dictatorships) can only be forced to make concessions through peaceful and total economic paralysis, as had been witnessed in the past eighteen days of the greatest Arab victory since Saladdin. The lesson to be learned for future Arab revolutions, and all world revolutions, is to keep the economy in the background of all tactics, strategies, and objectives.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Democracy Without Economic Independence is Worthless

Forming a new government in West Bank unconstitutional

Palestine Information Center – 14/02/2011

GAZA — The Hamas Movement said that de facto president Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to mandate Salam Fayyad to form a new government in Ramallah city is unacceptable and unconstitutional, adding that the current government in the West Bank is already illegal.

“Any government can only be legitimate after it is referred to the legislative council and gain a vote of confidence, and this thing was not there in Fayyad’s government,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri underlined in a press statement to the Palestinian information center (PIC).

Spokesman Abu Zuhri affirmed that the intended formation of a new de facto government in Ramallah is proactive step aimed at preventing the West Bankers from taking to the streets to protest against the Palestinian authority (PA) and its policies especially after Al-Jazeera channel’s revelations.

The spokesman emphasized that the PA has to straighten its political deviation and stop its security crimes and cooperation with the Israeli occupation or else the Palestinian street will certainly move against it.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation | Comments Off on Forming a new government in West Bank unconstitutional

Palestinian Quarry Ordered to Close Due to Settler Action

By Circarre Parrhesia & David Steele – IMEMC & Agencies – February 14, 2011

A Palestinian quarry in Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem, is to close due to “enforcement activities” by the Israeli authorities.

Although Beit Fajjar is located deep in the West Bank, the area falls within zone C, and thus is under full control of the Israeli military. As a result, the quarry has been informed that it is mining on “State Land”.

An Israeli pressure group, the National Land Protection Trust, brought a case against the business to the Israeli High Court of Justice, which ruled against the company.

Shortly after this ruling, the Israeli military began ‘enforcement activities’, which “led to an almost complete cessation of quarrying in the unlicensed area”.

The authorities confiscated a large number of items in a series of raids last year. The National Land Protection Trust has vowed to prevent any attempts to license the quarry, due to the fact that nearby settlements had suffered from dust and noise.

Mining is one of the major economic contributors to the town, along with their agricultural industry, with over 20% of the West Bank’s mines found in Beit Fajjar alone.

On October 4 2010, a mosque in Beit Fajjar was set alight, by settlers, in the early hours of the morning. In addition to the arson, settlers left “price tag” graffiti near the entrance.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Palestinian Quarry Ordered to Close Due to Settler Action

Egyptians call for release of prisoners

Press TV – February 14, 2011

Egyptian protesters have called on the new military rulers to release hundreds of people who were arrested in the recent popular revolution that toppled the Mubarak regime.

The military has promised to enforce the will of the people following President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, but the people say their demands have not been met yet, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Protesters, who are gathering in Liberation Square for the 21st consecutive day, have called on the army to fulfill its promises following its takeover of power.

One of their demands is the release of all political prisoners.

At least 500 people were arrested in the recent popular protests that toppled the ruling regime.

But an estimated 17,000 political prisoners were already locked up in Egyptian prisons — notorious for the use of torture.

Egypt has also been the US destination of choice for its extraordinary rendition program — the practice of taking terror suspects to a country where torture is used in an attempt to extract confessions.

For years, former intelligence chief and current Vice President Omar Suleiman has been the CIA’s point-man in Egypt for extraordinary renditions.

Protesters have been cordoned off by police and military soldiers. Protesters say they are now discussing their next move.

They are demanding a clear timetable for the transfer of power to a civilian government.

Activists have demanded the release of political prisoners, the lifting of a 30-year-old state of emergency and the disbandment of military court. They say demonstrations will continue until the army accepts the reforms.

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | 1 Comment

Egypt’s revolution and Israel: “Bad for the Jews”

Ilan Pappe, The Electronic Intifada, 14 February 2011
Is Arab democracy bad for Israel? (Matthew Cassel)

The view from Israel is that if they indeed succeed, the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions are bad, very bad. Educated Arabs — not all of them dressed as “Islamists,” quite a few of them speaking perfect English whose wish for democracy is articulated without resorting to “anti-Western” rhetoric — are bad for Israel.

Arab armies that do not shoot at these demonstrators are as bad as are many other images that moved and enthused so many people around the world, even in the West. This world reaction is also bad, very bad. It makes the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and its apartheid policies inside the state look like the acts of a typical “Arab” regime.

For a while you could not tell what official Israel thought. In his first ever commonsensical message to his colleagues, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked his ministers, generals and politicians not to comment in public on the events in Egypt. For a brief moment one thought that Israel turned from the neighborhood’s thug to what it always was: a visitor or permanent resident.

It seems Netanyahu was particularly embarrassed by the unfortunate remarks on the situation uttered publicly by General Aviv Kochavi, the head of Israeli military intelligence. This top Israeli expert on Arab affairs stated confidently two weeks ago in the Knesset that the Mubarak regime is as solid and resilient as ever. But Netanyahu could not keep his mouth shut for that long. And when the boss talked all the others followed. And when they all responded, their commentary made Fox News’ commentators look like a bunch of peaceniks and free-loving hippies from the 1960s.

The gist of the Israeli narrative is simple: this is an Iranian-like revolution helped by Al Jazeera and stupidly allowed by US President Barack Obama, who is a new Jimmy Carter, and a stupefied world. Spearheading the Israeli interpretation are the former Israeli ambassadors to Egypt. All their frustration from being locked in an apartment in a Cairean high-rise is now erupting like an unstoppable volcano. Their tirade can be summarized in the words of one of them, Zvi Mazael who told Israeli television’s Channel One on 28 January, “this is bad for the Jews; very bad.”

In Israel of course when you say “bad for the Jews,” you mean the Israelis — but you also mean that whatever is bad for Israel is bad for the Jews all around the world (despite the evidence to the contrary since the foundation of the state).

But what is really bad for Israel is the comparison. Regardless of how all this would end, it exposes the fallacies and pretense of Israel like never before. Egypt is experiencing a peaceful Intifada with the deadly violence coming from the side of the regime. The army did not shoot at the demonstrators; and even before the departure of Mubarak, already seven days into the protests, the minister of interior who directed his thugs to violently crash the demonstrations had been sacked and will probably be brought to justice.

Yes, this was done in order to win time and try to persuade the demonstrators to go home. But even this scene, by now forgotten, can never happen in Israel. Israel is a place where all the generals who ordered the shootings of Palestinian and Jewish anti-occupation demonstrators now compete for the highest post of Chief of the General Staff.

One of them is Yair Naveh, who gave orders in 2008 to kill Palestinian suspects even if they could be peacefully arrested. He is not going to jail; but the young woman, Anat Kamm, who exposed these orders is now facing nine years in jail for leaking them to Israeli daily Haaretz. Not one Israeli general or politician has or is going to spend one day in jail for ordering the troops to shoot at unarmed demonstrators, innocent civilians, women, old men and children. The light radiating from Egypt and Tunisia is so strong that it also illuminates the darker spaces of the “only democracy in the Middle East.”

Nonviolent, democratic (be they religious or not) Arabs are bad for Israel. But maybe these Arabs were there all along, not only in Egypt, but also in Palestine. The insistence of Israeli commentators that the most important issue at stake — the Israeli peace treaty with Egypt — is a diversion, and has very little relevance to the powerful impulse that is shaking the Arab world as a whole.

The peace treaties with Israel are the symptoms of moral corruption not the disease itself — this is why Syrian President Bashar Asad, undoubtedly an anti-Israeli leader, is not immune from this wave of change. No, what is at stake here is the pretense that Israel is a stable, civilized, western island in a rough sea of Islamic barbarism and Arab fanaticism. The “danger” for Israel is that the cartography would be the same but the geography would change. It would still be an island but of barbarism and fanaticism in a sea of newly formed egalitarian and democratic states.

In the eyes of large sections of Western civil society the democratic image of Israel has long ago vanished; but it may now be dimmed and tarnished in the eyes of others who are in power and politics. How important is the old, positive image of Israel for maintaining its special relationship with the United States? Only time will tell.

But one way or another the cry rising from Cairo’s Tahrir Square is a warning that fake mythologies of the “only democracy in the Middle East,” hardcore Christian fundamentalism (far more sinister and corrupt than that of the Muslim Brotherhood), cynical military-industrial corporate profiteering, neo-conservatism and brutal lobbying will not guarantee the sustainability of the special relationship between Israel and the United States forever.

And even if the special relationship perseveres for a while, it is now based on even shakier foundations. The diametrically-opposed case studies of the so far resilient anti-American regional powers of Iran and Syria, and to some extent Turkey, on the one hand, and the fallen ultimate pro-American tyrants, on the other are indicative: even if it is sustained, American support may not be enough in future to maintain an ethnic and racist “Jewish state” in the heart of a changing Arab world.

This could be good news for the Jews, even for the Jews in Israel in the long run. To be surrounded by peoples who cherish freedom, social justice and spirituality and navigating sometimes safely and sometimes roughly between tradition and modernity, nationalism and humanity, aggressive capitalist globalization and daily survival, is not going to be easy.

Yet it has a horizon, and it carries hope of triggering similar changes in Palestine. It can bring a closure to more than a century of Zionist colonization and dispossession, to be replaced by more equitable reconciliation between the Palestinian victims of these criminal policies wherever they are and the Jewish community. This reconciliation would be built on the basis of the Palestinian right of return and on all the other rights the people of Egypt so bravely fought for in the last twenty days.

But trust the Israelis not to miss an opportunity to miss peace. They would cry wolf. They would demand, and receive, more funds from the American taxpayer due to the new “developments.” They would interfere clandestinely and destructively to undermine any transition to democracy (remember what force and viciousness characterized their reaction to democratization in Palestinian society?), and they would elevate the Islamophobic campaign to new and unprecedented heights.

But who knows, maybe the American taxpayer would not budge this time. And maybe the European politicians would follow the general sentiment of their public and allow not only Egypt to be dramatically transformed, but also welcome a similar change in Israel and Palestine. In such a scenario the Jews of Israel have a chance to become part of the real Middle East and not an alien and aggressive member of a Middle East which was the figment of the hallucinatory Zionist imagination.

Ilan Pappe is Professor of History and Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter. His most recent book is Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel (Pluto Press, 2010).

February 14, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment