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Israel detains Palestinian cartoonist, family says

Ma’an – 16/02/2013

204892_345x230JENIN – Israeli authorities on Saturday detained a Palestinian cartoonist on his way back to the West Bank from Jordan, according to his family.

Muhammad Abdul-Ghani Sabanah, 30, was detained at the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank, his brother Tamir told Ma’an, adding that Sabanah was in Jordan for a meeting.

He said that on his way back, Israeli troops detained Sabanah, who is from the Jenin town of Qabatia, without giving any explanation.

Sabanah’s cartoons are widespread in the Arab world. He is well-known for his criticism through his cartoons, which focus mainly on the Palestinian people’s problems and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

He works as a public information officer at the Arab American University in Jenin.

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Israel detains Palestinian cartoonist, family says

Academy Awards for the Promotion of Torture?

By Dave Clennon | Dissident Voice | February 16th, 2013

I’m a member of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy. At the risk of being expelled, for disclosing my intentions, I will not be voting for Zero Dark Thirty — in ANY Academy Awards category.

Everyone who contributes skill and energy to a motion picture — including actors — shares responsibility for the impressions the picture makes and the ideas it expresses. If I had played the role that was offered to me on Fox’s 24 (Season 7), I would have been guilty of promoting torture, and I couldn’t have evaded my own responsibility by blaming the writers and directors.

So Jessica Chastain won’t get my vote for Best Actress. With her beauty and her tough-but-vulnerable posturing, she almost succeeds in making extreme brutality look weirdly heroic.

There’s plenty of “Oscar buzz” around Zero Dark Thirty. Several associations of film critics have awarded it their highest honors. I have watched the film (2hrs, 37min). Although torture is an appalling crime under any circumstances, Zero never acknowledges that torture is immoral and criminal.  It does portray torture as getting results. The name of Osama Bin Laden’s courier is revealed (in the movie) by a “detainee,” Ammar, who has endured prolonged and horrifying torture.

The two lead interrogators, both white, are not torturing Ammar at the moment he gives up the name (Abu Ahmed), but he is still utterly depleted from at least 96 hours of sleep-deprivation, and he knows they will torture him again, if he resists. “Y’know, I can …  hang you back up to the ceiling,” says chief interrogator Dan.

The “moral” of this particular screen story? Torture sometimes works.  Not always. Later, the female interrogator (and Zero’s heroine Maya [Chastain]), supervises

the “enhanced interrogation” of another detainee, Faraj.  These are some of the enhancements we see her employ: first, a thick brown liquid is poured into a funnel which has been pushed into Faraj’s mouth and rammed part-way down his throat; then Maya supervises his beating and near-drowning (aka waterboarding); he gasps for air, gags, shudders and chokes.

Director Kathryn Bigelow then shows Chastain in a clean, well-lighted restroom, looking pretty, but tired and frustrated; Bigelow does not give us a view of Faraj after HIS ordeal.  Next we see Maya complaining to her mentor Dan that Faraj hasn’t cracked.  “You want to take a run at him?” she asks, smiling hopefully.)

In minute 45 of Zero, we learn that Faraj has “gone south.”  Maya’s relentless, merciless torture has finally killed her detainee.  She is now a murderer. So, for the next hour and 45 minutes, we’re rooting for a gorgeous, murdering thug to track down a charismatic, murdering jihadist.

If, in fact, torture is a crime (a mortal sin, if you will) — a signal of a nation’s descent into depravity — then it doesn’t matter whether it “works” or not. Zero Dark Thirty clearly condones torture. Not a single character involved in “The Greatest Manhunt in History” expresses any regret about the CIA’s use of torture. Maya/Chastain gets her man (code named “Geronimo”!) and that’s all that counts. The end justifies the vicious means.

Individuals and groups protesting the easy tolerance of torture in Zero Dark Thirty have been dismissed by some commentators as having “a political agenda.” The grievous problem presented by torture is NOT political.  It’s moral. And it’s criminal. Decent people of the left, the right, and the center would all judge the torture in Zero Dark Thirty as immoral and criminal.

If the deeply racist landmark film Birth of a Nation were released today, would we vote to honor it? Would we give an award to Leni Riefenstahl’s brilliant pro-Nazi documentary, Triumph of the Will? Hundreds of millions around the world watch the Oscars, we’re told.  Are we going to show the world that we Americans STILL approve of torture?

After Jessica Chastain won Zero Dark Thirty’s only Golden Globe Award, it occurred to me that she is the new face of American torture — as Kiefer Sutherland was, for several years.  If the Academy votes her an Oscar, it wouldn’t be surprising if the world community concluded that the U.S.A. still tolerates this vicious, criminal behavior.

Sometimes, it’s not just a movie.  And acting in it isn’t just a job. It’s a moral choice.

Dave Clennon can be reached at djjc123@earthlink.net.

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Academy Awards for the Promotion of Torture?

The Drug Trade and the Increasing Militarization of the Caribbean

By Kevin Edmonds | The Other Side of Paradise | February 8, 2013

Given the current controversy surrounding the extent of the U.S. drone program and targeted killings, it is important to revisit that in the summer of 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency announced that unmanned drones would begin patrolling Caribbean airspace as an expansion of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). This is only one aspect of how the War on Drugs in the Caribbean is increasingly looking like the War on Terror.

The U.S.–Caribbean border is the often ignored “Third Border,” which the Department of Homeland Security has referred to as an “open door for drug traffickers and terrorists.” A recent study by the National Defence University has stated that “the region’s nexus to the United States uniquely positions it in the proximate U.S. geopolitical and strategic sphere. Thus, there is an incentive, if not an urgency, for the United States to proactively pursue security capacity-building measures in the Caribbean region.”

While the drones are unarmed for the time being, they will be primarily used to locate drug traffickers operating fishing boats, fast boats, and semi-submarines and would relay information to the Coast Guard, Navy or Caribbean authorities to carry out the interception and arrests. It has been revealed that the drones will be operating out of bases in Corpus Christi, Texas, Cocoa Beach, Florida and potentially the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

The shift towards the use of drones in the region is largely based off of an unconvincing pilot program carried out over 18 months in the Bahamas, in which “During more than 1,260 hours in the air off the southeastern coast of Florida, the Guardian (drones) assisted in only a handful of large-scale busts.” That said, the Caribbean governments increased militarization in the region when they implemented the never-ending War on Drugs without any public consultation or debate. This erosion of regional sovereignty may be a slippery slope to a dangerous future in which Caribbean nationals may very well find themselves on kill lists instead of facing a trial.

Such a conclusion is not baseless, as a November 2012 report by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security recommended that Latin American drug cartels be classified as terrorist organizations “so there is increased ability to counter their threat to national security.” Furthermore, in 2009, the U.S. Military drew criticism for placing 50 suspected Afghani drug traffickers on a “kill list” as part of their ongoing efforts to cut off finance stream of the Taliban. The controversy arose due to the fact that drug traffickers (generally classified as civilians) had now been placed into the same legal category as the Taliban “insurgents” and thus became legitimate targets.

This is especially important in light of how the extradition of Jamaican kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke was handled. In September 2009, the United States requested his extradition to face drug trafficking charges, but Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding blocked the request due to his deep political connections with Coke. It was only after months of intense pressure that Golding caved in May 2010. Jamaican Police and the Jamaican Defense Forces led the bloody operation to arrest Coke, which resulted in the deaths of more than 70 civilians—the vast majority of which were unarmed.

The resulting scandal led to the downfall of Golding as Prime Minister but highlighted the power that drug traffickers and gang leaders have had in Jamaican government and politics. It has since been reinforced that the operation was “assisted by the U.S. government and carried out, to a large degree, at its behest.” Information has emerged which reveals that a U.S. spy plane participated in the raid of Coke’s stronghold of Tivoli Gardens, and a Freedom of Information Act action has recently been levied against the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) by a group of law students to reveal the extent of U.S. involvement.

To prevent such explosive outcomes in the future, there has been a call for closer integration between Caribbean police forces and the U.S. DEA in a clear escalation of the War on Drugs. A September 2012 Senate Report revealed that Jamaica has been floated as a target for a Sensitive Investigative Unit, which consists of a highly trained police that collaborate with the DEA. A similar program exists in Kandahar, where U.S. and British troops have created and participated in a task force made up of Afghan police officers and U.S. DEA agents to disrupt the drug trade and investigate corrupt Afghan officials.

According to a seemingly benign Department of Homeland Security (DHS) press release announcing the drone program, the “DHS is partnering with Caribbean nations to enhance border security in the region through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) . . . . The DHS is conducting border security training in conjunction with CBSI to increase partner nation capacity to secure their borders.” The problem with such statements is that there is always more shady business going on behind the scenes. Given the direction of U.S. policy in the region, it will only be a matter of time until the War on Drugs becomes eerily similar to the War on Terror.

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Drug Trade and the Increasing Militarization of the Caribbean

How We Kill: Christopher Dorner and “the burner”

China Matters | February 15, 2013

The tactics employed against Christopher Dorner by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department are attracting an awkward amount of interest since an audiotape surfaced with law enforcement officials referring to a munition as a “burner”.

As in (all quotes from the Feb. 15, 2013 LA Times report titled “As Dorner fired, tactics got tougher”):

“We’re going to go forward with the plan, with the burner,” the unidentified officer said, according to a recording of police radio transmissions reviewed by The Times.

 “Seven burners deployed,” another officer responded several seconds later, according to the transmission which has circulated widely among law enforcement officials. “And we have a fire.”

I was interested in this issue because of an incident in Burma where Burmese police cleared an encampment of protesters trying to block expansion of a China-invested copper mine project.

The tear gas munitions fired into the protesters’ tents apparently caused severe burns to some of the protesters for reasons that are apparently not completely understood.

So I corresponded with an expert on police tactics and learned that there is indeed a munition commonly called “incendiary CS [CS standing for the inventors of the tear gas compound, Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton] gas” or, in day-to-day argot, “the burner”.

The tear gas chemical, 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, is actually a solid at room temperature, not a gas, and it doesn’t disperse quickly and thoroughly, as a gas would.  To be effective, the CS chemical has to be melted, dissolved in a solvent, or micropulverized and then mechanically dispersed.

In the burner scenario, the shell contains CS solution and an explosive charge which generates intense heat in order to aerosolize the solution and evaporate the solvent, so that the CS instantaneously precipitates in a cloud of solid particles, saturates the target area, and rapidly incapacitates the subject/victim.

Intense heat is a fundamental feature of the incendiary CS gas shell.

If the shell used in the Dorner case was similar to the munition employed in the disastrous siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco or the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia, an accurate description of the “burner” would be “thermal grenade with some tear gas added”.

With incendiary CS, fires are considered to be well-nigh inevitable if anything combustible is around. So, the “burner” is only used as a last resort by law enforcement.

Of course, there is considerable skepticism that the circumstances of the Dorner siege—he was alone, barricaded in a cabin, and surrounded by law enforcement officers—demanded that the SBSD fire seven “burners” into the cabin instead of waiting him out.

I don’t think the arguments put forth by defenders of the operation could withstand the scrutiny of a middle school forensics team.

Here they are, courtesy of the LA Times:

 “What difference does it make if one of the officers puts a … round in his head, drives the armored vehicle over his body when they are knocking the building down, or he dies in a conflagration?” said David Klinger, a use-of-force expert at the University of Missouri at St. Louis and a former LAPD officer. “If he is trying to surrender you can’t do any of those things … But if he is actively trying to murder people, there’s no doubt that deadly force is appropriate and it doesn’t matter what method is used to deliver it.”

Geoffery Alpert, a professor at the University of South Carolina who also specializes in police tactics, agreed.

“I don’t understand what the big deal is,” Alpert said. “This man had already shot two officers and was suspected of murdering other people. He wasn’t responding in a rational manner. The actions you take have to remove the threat and if it requires extreme measures, then so be it.”

I might point out that the arguments advanced by these two distinguished scholars both reference rules of war, not policing. I guess we can chalk this up to the further militarization of US security culture post-9/11.

In wartime, any force that is not actively engaged in surrender is fair game. This was the justification for the “turkey shoot” on the “highway of death” —the attack on Iraqi forces as they were withdrawing from the front lines after Saddam Hussein had accepted the UN resolution and a ceasefire had been declared, and the concurrent “Battle of Rumaili”, a five-hour air and artillery bombardment carried out by General McCaffrey’s forces against helpless units of the Iraqi Republican Guard boxed in on the Rumaila Causeway on their way back to Baghdad.

It is different for accused criminals in the United States.  Some kind of trial/sentencing/due process thing is supposed to intervene before someone can be killed for not surrendering.

Mr. Alpert, while upholding the proud tradition of South Carolina higher education, is further off base. Despite determined efforts by the United States to stretch the boundaries, under international law a pre-emptive strike is only permitted in the case of an imminent threat, not the past or potential threat represented by a guy barricaded alone in a cabin surrounded by dozens of law enforcement officers with guns.

As to the issue of who was “responding in a rational manner” that day…

The thought processes of the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department—which had lost one of their own to Dorner—are probably reflected in an alleged transcription from the radio chatter that the LA Times demurely declined to reproduce, but was reported by the no-holds barred NY Post:

“Burn this motherf–ker!” one officer shouted …Amid sounds of gunfire, voices can be heard shouting, “Burn it down!” and “Shoot the gas!”

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on How We Kill: Christopher Dorner and “the burner”

Robbery of Books and Ownership of Narrative

By Susan Abulhawa | Palestine Chronicle | February 16, 2013

I finally watched The Great Book Robbery at the University of Pennsylvania this weekend with some friends. It’s a film documenting Israel’s systematic looting of over 70,000 books from Palestinian public and private libraries after Jewish gangs in Palestine proclaimed the state of Israel and ethnically cleansed the native population.

The film itself is excellent and I have a lot of good things to say about it. But I was bothered by a certain element, at the very end, which was repeated by the Director, Benny Brunner, who was at the showing to answer questions.  So I raised my hand and asked a question about it. Mr Brunner became very defensive.

His reaction made me think and re-think on a topic that already preoccupies me on a near daily basis – namely, the Palestinian narrative: who tells it, in what context is it told, how is it told, and, ultimately, who owns it. The importance of such a discussion regarding a people’s narrative should not be underestimated, particularly in instances of oppression and ethnic cleansing.

Putting aside the single, albeit important, element that bothered me in the film, and the film director’s unfortunate reaction to uncomfortable questions, I will first tell you everything that was right and good about this documentary. For starters, it unveils another facet of the Zionist project to strip the indigenous Palestinians of everything tangible and intangible, not merely out of pure greed and opportunism, but also to necessarily fill in the various gaps and requirements of manufacturing a Jewish state in the 20th century. This documentary deals with our books – some ancient, others contemporary; some rare one-of-a-kind books, others reproduced. Most of them were personal, all were historic, and each was a piece of Palestinian cultural and intellectual heritage and identity.

As Zionists did with our homes, bank accounts, photographs, farms, orchards, and all remaining worldly possessions, they also stole our books. A large number of them were looted from wealthy families from Jerusalem and Haifa, and in the process of watching this documentary, the viewer gets a sense of the cultured and highly-educated Palestinian society that was dispossessed of home and history by foreign Jewish newcomers. One man in the audience made reference to this in a comment to the director. This film clearly changed the image of Palestinians in his mind from something other than cultured, to people he could relate to. That says something about the film’s power.

Several Palestinian personalities were featured, including Nasser Nashashibi, whose tears fell as he spoke of the loss of his library. Ghada Karmi, too, was in the film. Footage showed her returning to her home in Qatamon and finding the same lemon tree and porch tiles from her youth. Another poignant interview was with a Palestinian by the name of Ahmed Batrawi. He described himself as a prisoner of war who was forced to work and to clear out other Palestinian homes, including his own, and turn over all loot to Zionist authorities.  Although the director did not mention this, all evidence points to Batrawi having been in one of the many forced labor camps that Israel apparently established just 4 years after Nazis closed the last of their forced labor camps. Little is known of these camps and I first heard of them from Dr Salman Abu Sitta, whose research into the archives of the Swiss Red Cross revealed 5 camps with 6,360 prisoners who were forced into slave labor after 1948. But I digress.

The story was haunting and compelling. It provoked anger in me that plunged into a depth of sadness and loss. I think it would seem silly to some to mourn old books, especially when there is so much more to mourn, from stolen futures to extinguished lives. But perhaps it is precisely for the magnitude of our loss that our books, our intellectual heritage and narrative, matter so much.

Now I’ll tell you what bothered me about this film. Toward the end, text appeared on the screen to tell us that no attempts have ever been made to return any of these stolen books (marked abandoned property in the Israeli national library). Immediately after, there was text indicating that there has also been no organized Palestinian demand for these books to be returned. My well-honed antennae perked up with this statement and I sat through much of the Q&A session ruminating about the unspoken meaning of those words, particularly as they were coming from an Israeli filmmaker. In one of his responses to questions, he made another reference to Palestinian inability to coalesce around a demand for those books, “whose ownership is easily proven.”

It was here that I raised my hand. I asked the first of my questions, which didn’t pertain to what really annoyed me: “Palestinians can prove ownership of nearly all of Israel, what makes you think that demanding our books back would get a result different than demanding our homes back?” He said it didn’t matter whether we got them back or not, what mattered was the demand.

It seems that Israelis, especially those referred to as “leftists” can’t help but to lecture Palestinians. The kind of paternalistic finger wagging the director was doing seemed so natural. Even when I questioned him about it, he was indignant and self-assured in his right to criticize.

I reminded him that they – yes, he is part of the “they” – have taken everything from us and with what gall, with what right, did he think he could wag his finger at us when heroes like Samer Issawi are dying of hunger in their prisons.

He didn’t get it. And few in the audience understood my perspective. What an angry, ungrateful Palestinian I was being! This Israeli was on our side and here I was jumping all over the poor guy. Even the Palestinian young woman who organized the event stood up to defend Mr Brunner. I asked her to sit down if she was going to try to squash this discussion because he, the director, should be able to answer uncomfortable questions.

Mr Brunner defended his position and said he did indeed have a right to criticize Palestinians. He said the books were part of his history, too. I disagreed. The legacy of theft was all, and is all, he can claim of those books. Anything else is as ridiculous and laughable as “Israeli couscous” and “Israeli hummus”.

Mr Brunner further lectured that an ideal “solution” to the problem of these stolen books would be that photocopied replicas remain in the Israeli library while the originals could go to the “Birzeit library”. An astute Palestinian woman behind me asked why he thought they should be transferred to Birzeit when these books came from Jerusalem, Haifa, Yaffa, Lod, and other Palestinian towns quite a distance from Birzeit. His response? “It doesn’t have to be only Birzeit. The books can be split between there and Nablus, for example.” He clearly didn’t understand what the woman was asking or the deeply Zionist underpinnings of his response.

In his irrelevant response that followed, Brunner recounted how he was not permitted to participate in the showing of his film in Ramallah because his participation would have constituted normalization. He was indignant that Palestinians would not want to engage in a cultural event with an Israeli in Ramallah. Again, he didn’t get it.

It is not for Mr Brunner to lecture or criticize us. It is not up to him plot an ideal future for our books, one that is suitable to Zionist desires relocate Palestinian identity to the confines of “Birzeit” or “Nablus”, “for example.” Nor is it for him to decide or even express an opinion on how Palestinians should conduct a non-violent anti-normalization struggle.

This is an important lesson for us. Just because and Israeli makes a film and admits that Israel murdered, dispossessed, robbed, disinherited, marginalized, and terrorized Palestinians, it doesn’t mean they really understand. It doesn’t mean that they have a right to our story. Most of all, it doesn’t give them a right to express their endless subtext of ineffectual Palestinian efforts. We know our weaknesses and we know our (official) leaders have fallen short of leadership. Given the magnitude of his societies crimes against the indigenous population and the fact that Israeli society keeps electing one war criminal after another to lead them, perhaps Brunner should focus his criticism at his own and just stick to that.

I recounted this story recently to a friend who is African American. He laughed, cut me off, and said, “Susie, you don’t need to explain it to me. I’m a black man. You know how many do-gooder white people have tried to lecture me on everything wrong in the Black community and what we need to do to fix it?”

The fact is that Mr Brunner’s film is wonderful and he’s being compensated for it, with whatever funds, fame or recognition the film brings. And while there is nothing wrong with an Israeli contributing to our narrative, it is not okay for him or her to try to frame that narrative or the discussion of our narrative. When an Israeli filmmaker cannot understand why an occupied, imprisoned, oppressed society might not want to normalize relationships with members of the occupier’s society, that filmmaker does not have the right to condescend and criticize. That is something that must be earned by Israelis, and there are certainly some who have. They are those who have truly joined Palestinian society in one way or another. People like Neta Golan and Amira Haas come to mind.

The fact is also this: For societies that have been stripped of everything tangible and intangible, so little remains. Some of us still have a little property left. Some still have the privilege to wake up and see the land our forefathers and foremothers roamed (and the price of that privilege is living under the hell of occupation). But the one thing we all still have is our narrative. Our collective story. Our societal truth that’s made up of millions of individual histories. We should all guard, protect, and propagate that. It’s ours. We are the natural descendants of every tribe that ruled or submitted in that land, every conqueror who passed through and raped our mothers, every battle, every harvest, every wedding. We didn’t step off European boats and proceed to kill, terrorize, or steal everything in sight. I’d like every liberal Zionist or Israeli leftist to remember that before he or she presumes to adopt a paternal tone that criticizes or tries to shape the Palestinian narrative or Palestinian struggle.

– Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2010) – http://www.morningsinjenin.com – and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine – http://www.playgroundsforpalestine.org.

Related posts:

  1. Three Books to Stimulate Thought
  2. Zionists and the Palestine Narrative
  3. Five Books: Stories to Shape Life
  4. Deconstructing the Israeli Narrative
  5. Jim Miles: Between the Lines – Books Review

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments