Archives: December 2003
Wed Dec 31, 2003
The Geneva Bubble - Ilan Pappe on the prehistory of the latest proposals
Even though we live in an age of intensive and intrusive media coverage, TV viewers in Israel were lucky to catch a glimpse of the meetings that produced the Geneva Accord. The clip we watched in November showed a group of well- known Israeli writers and peaceniks shouting at a group of not so well-known and rather cowed Palestinians, most of them officials of the Palestinian Authority. Abba Eban once said that the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and that, more or less, was what the Israelis were saying now. This was their last chance, the Palestinians were told: the current offer was the best and most generous Israelis have ever made them.
It's a familiar scene. The various memoirs produced by the major players in the Oslo Accord suggest that much the same sort of thing was said there, while leaks from the Camp David summit in 2000 describe similar exchanges between Clinton, Barak and Arafat. In fact, the Israeli tone and attitude have barely changed since British despair led to the Palestine question being transferred to the UN at the end of the Second World War. The UN was a very young and inexperienced organisation in those days, and the people it appointed to find a solution to the conflict were at a loss where to begin or how to proceed. The Jewish Agency gladly filled the vacuum, exploiting Palestinian disarray and passivity to the full. More...
America's War for Global Domination
We are the juncture of the most serious crisis in modern history.
The Bush Administration has embarked upon a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity. More...
Tue Dec 30, 2003
The price of ignorance
The suicide bomber at the Geha Junction, Shehad Hanani, was from Beit Furik, one of the most imprisoned villages in the territories that is surrounded by earth roadblocks on all sides. It's a place where women in labor and the sick have to risk walking through fields to get to the hospital in adjacent Nablus. At least one woman in labor, Rula Ashatiya, gave birth at the Beit Furik checkpoint and lost her infant. Few Israelis are capable of imagining what life is like in Beit Furik: the almost universal unemployment, poverty, endless siege and humiliations of life inside a prison. A young man like Hanani, who was 21, had no reason to get up in the morning other than to face another day of joblessness and humiliation. More...
Senior UK bishop criticizes Israeli treatment of Palestinians
LONDON - One of Britain's most senior Anglican bishops said in an interview published Monday that the Israeli government was "asking for trouble" with its treatment of Palestinians. The Bishop of Durham, the Right Rev. Tom Wright, denied however that he was
excusing Palestinian suicide bombers.
"I'm not anti-Israel," he was quoted as telling The Independent daily. "But when I see what's been done to the Palestinians over the past 50 years, I say, 'Well I'm sorry, but if you put people behind barbed wire, keep them caged, take their land despite international resolutions, and bulldoze their homes, you are asking for trouble.'"
Cherie Blair Displays Cultural Insensitivity
Wasn’t it kind of the British prime minister’s wife Cherie Blair — a busy barrister and mother — to take such a personal interest in the Kingdom’s overseas image during a recent dinner in the House of Lords, also attended by Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to Britain?
Addressing the prince, she said: “I am so delighted that his Royal Highness came from Saudi Arabia because, as I said to your wife when I met her Sir, Saudi Arabia’s image in the world is appalling and we (note the ‘we’) need to do something about it.”
Oblivious to any public embarrassment she might be causing the prince, she continued: “Part of the reason it’s appalling is the perception that you treat your women like they are not equals but some sort of ‘other’.” More...
Sat Dec 27, 2003
AN OCCUPATION THAT CREATES CHILDREN WILLING TO DIE: ISRAEL BEYOND HOPE
Leah Tsemel is an Israeli lawyer working in Jerusalem. This is an edited version of her talk on childhood and human rights at the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice
MY PARENTS left Europe just before the Holocaust and they lost most of their family members in it. They came to that part of the world which today is called Israel, and used to be called Palestine, to promise me a better life and the security of a state of our own. After almost 60 years I cannot say that they succeeded; on the contrary. It seems that my parents and others who wanted to build the state of Israel did not understand that it is impossible to build a new future on the relics of oppression.
The Politics of Crying Wolf
Review of The Politics of Anti-Semitism, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (AK Press, 2003)
There's no more explosive topic in American public life today than the issue of Israel, its treatment of the Palestinians and its influence on American politics. Yet the topic is one that is so hedged with anxiety, fury and fear that honest discussion is often impossible.
--Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
There has been a concerted effort in the United States to block critical debate about what is happening in Israel-Palestine, and a pervasive last-ditch attempt to stifle criticism of Israel by smearing those who dare to raise their voices. This book is a collection of articles dealing with the means that the insidious slur of "anti-Semitism" has been used for political ends. The articles range from a philosophical examination of the term "anti-Semitism" to a survey of the topics that are not covered in US discourse because of self-censorship induced by fear, fear of being labeled an anti-Semite or fear of being targeted by pro-Israeli groups. The consequences of this are evident for all to see: an uncritical acceptance of interminable US wars, the generalized misery of the Palestinian people, bloated armaments budgets, and massive US resources siphoned off to Israel. To break the silence and allay fear over these topics requires critical appraisal of what anti-Semitism actually means and to tackle the taboo that it represents. More...
Wed Dec 24, 2003
Howard Dean: "beyond the mainstream"?
Howard Dean, a leading candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, published an opinion piece in the December 21 Washington Post replying to a December 18 Post editorial that criticized his positions on the Iraq war as “beyond the mainstream.” (See “Howard Dean and the shrinking US political ‘mainstream,’” WSWS, December 20, 2003.)
Tue Dec 23, 2003
Sharon's Speech : Decoded Version
He read out the written text of his speech, word for word, without raising his eyes from the page.
It was vital for him to stick to the exact wording, since it was an encoded text. It is impossible to decipher it without breaking the code. And it is impossible to break the code without knowing Ariel Sharon very well indeed. More...
Israel muzzles Palestinian journalists
The international press organisation “Reporters Sans Frontiers” (RSF) recently lambasted Israel for abusing and harassing Palestinian and foreign journalists covering the Intifada against Israeli occupation.
The Paris-based group did recognise that Israel generally respected “the local (Jewish) media freedom of expression”, but criticised Israel for violating the international covenant on civil and political rights, including press freedom, especially in the occupied territories. More...
Ya'alon: Refusal letter signatories could be thrown out of army
Thirteen members of a top commando unit who announced their refusal to serve in the Palestinian areas will be kicked out of the army if they do not back down on their decision, the IDF Chief of Staff said Monday. More...
Sun Dec 21, 2003
Medical evacuations from Iraq near 11,000
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The total number of wounded soldiers and medical evacuations from the war in Iraq is nearing 11,000, according to new Pentagon data provided in response to a request from United Press International.
The military has made 8,581 medical evacuations from Operation Iraqi Freedom for non-hostile causes in addition to the 2,273 wounded -- a total of 10,854, according to the new data. The Pentagon says that 457 troops have died. More...
Thu Dec 18, 2003
Global Eye -- Bullet Points
Sometimes the smallest sliver of glass can reflect the brilliance of the entire moon, full and blazing in the midnight sky. And just so, a simple story in an out-of-the-way journal can illuminate the ethos of an entire age, piercing the murk with a sudden flash of stark and painful truth.
The brutal essence of the Bushist Era was thus laid bare last week in the unlikely venue of the Army Times, a corporate-owned military newspaper in Washington. In an article detailing the effectiveness of a new kind of ammunition, the paper -- inadvertently, we assume -- stripped away the patriotic tinfoil wrapped around the arms industry and revealed that "patriotism" for what it really is: extortion, crude and thuggish, a raw greed driven by threats -- including the threat of turning their death-wares against the Americans they are purporting to defend. More...
Editorial: Some die, others profit
$2.64 a gallon for gasoline for Iraq? Pay to Haliburton is outrageous.
War profiteering has long been despised by Americans, and Halliburton's outrageous contract in Iraq ought to reopen that vein of moral outrage. Your government is paying the company more than twice what others are paying to bring in fuel from Kuwait, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
It is not unheard of for good to come from bad. George W. Bush misled the United States into war and occupation. His administration was recklessly negligent in its planning for the post-invasion period. It has poorly managed the challenges of nation building in Iraq, ensnaring the United States in an ugly (and lethal) mess. And he has alienated America from much of the world. Yet Bush has bagged Saddam Hussein, the butcher of Baghdad.
The capture of such a murderous fiend is good news. Hussein deserves to rot for the rest of his days in the underground rat's nest where he was found. But the apprehension of Hussein does not justify the war. In a way, it is the least that Bush could have done, after invading under false pretenses. More...
Wed Dec 17, 2003
Coming Soon to Arab TV's: U.S.
SPRINGFIELD, Va. — The United States' next great hope for winning Arab hearts and minds hides in a squat two-story building in a generic industrial park here, just off I-95. The only hint of what may lie within is the black-tape lettering on the front door that reads "News."
Inside, construction crews are working seven days a week to complete studios for the most ambitious United States government-sponsored international media project since the Voice of America began broadcasting in 1942. More...
Sat Dec 13, 2003
U.S. employs Israeli tactics in Iraq
JERUSALEM - In fighting insurgents in Iraq, the United States is drawing on some of Israel’s methods and experiences in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including running checkpoints and tracking militants with drone aircraft, Israeli officials say. More...
Fri Dec 12, 2003
Free history lesson for Thomas Friedman
Dear Mr. Friedman:
I have been reading your unsubstantiated reports concerning Arabs, the Middle East, Iraq, al-Qaeda, and whatever else rubs your fancy. To cut it short, I have been aghast at the lack of knowledge, which you purport to have, of anything related to Middle East affairs. You sell yourself off as someone who is an expert on the region, but despite having visited the region several times, you have yet to dig deep into the heart of matters.
Tony Blair has lost the knack of making himself popular
A most bewildering thing has happened to Tony Blair. He has become unfashionable. No wonder he feels disorientated, and is suffering from stomach pains. His fate is the awful fate of all fathers of teenage children who try to go on looking and behaving as if they were young and hip. More...
Thu Dec 11, 2003
People the law forgot (Part 2)
Guantanamo is a bleak, dull, repressive place for its inmates. Yet there is something about it which may not be immediately apparent to Europeans dismayed by the level of security, the chains and the punitive, degrading way the prisoners are caged: it is not dissimilar to facilities in the harsh US civilian prison system. By focusing on physical conditions, there is a risk of missing the unique aspect of Guantanamo - the arbitrary, unprecedented and unfair way in which President Bush and his administration have confined hundreds of people without either any idea how long they are to be locked up, or any way to plead their case. It is this which the legal establishment in the US and Europe finds most menacing. It is this which causes the greatest mental torment to the prisoners and their families. And the strange Pentagon creatures that have been set up to try some detainees, the military commissions, are, the Guardian has learned, troubling even the uniformed lawyers signed up to make them work. More...
People the law forgot (Part 1)
It is almost two years since the Guantanamo prison camp opened. Its purpose is to hold people seized in the 'war on terror' and defined by the Bush administration as enemy combatants - though many appear to have been bystanders to the conflict. Images of Camp Delta's orange-jumpsuited, manacled detainees have provoked international outrage. But the real horror they face isn't physical hardship, it is the threat of infinite confinement, without trial or access to legal representation. James Meek has spent the past month talking to former inmates and some of those involved in operating the Pentagon's Kafkaesque justice system. He has built an unprecedented picture of life on the base, which we present in this special issue.
Lost in Translation
Oct. 27 issue — The clash of civilizations rages in some surprising places, and one of them is the large room in the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office that houses a unit known as CI-19. In one set of cubicles sit the foreign-born Muslims; across a partition is everyone else.
They have the same vital job: to translate supersecret wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies. But the 150 or so members of CI-19 (for Counterintelligence) segregate themselves by ethnicity and religion. Some of the U.S.-born translators have accused their Middle Eastern-born counterparts of making disparaging or unpatriotic remarks, or of making “mistranslations”—failing to translate comments that might reflect poorly on their fellow Muslims, such as references to sexual deviancy. The tensions erupt in arguments and angry finger-pointing from time to time. “It’s a good thing the translators are not allowed to carry guns,” says Sibel Edmonds, a Farsi translator who formerly worked in the unit. More...
Detained at the whim of the president
NEW YORK The Bush administration has taken several important steps in recent days to resolve the legal status of some of the hundreds of people that the United States has detained without access to lawyers for the better part of two years.
Last weekend, the administration indicated that it would begin repatriating some of the 660 people detained without any judicial review at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A few days later, the Pentagon announced that it would begin making arrangements to allow Yasser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen, access to a lawyer after more than 20 months of incommunicado military detention.
These steps are welcome. But they should be understood as part of a broader strategy. More...
Wed Dec 10, 2003
Israelis unite to fight boycott
Israeli academics are to set up a forum to fight the international academic boycott of Israeli institutions, the heads of the country's universities decided this week at a meeting with Natan Scharansky, minister for diaspora affairs.
Hebrew University president Menachem Magidor suggested establishing an organisation to which academics could report boycott attempts and coordinate responses. He also suggested a non-governmental body so that academics could present Israel's case through lectures overseas.
Sat Dec 06, 2003
The BBC and Iraq: Myth and Reality
12/05/03: Greg Dyke, the BBC’s director general, has attacked American television reporting of Iraq. "For any news organisation to act as a cheerleader for government is to undermine your credibility," he said. "They should be... balancing their coverage, not banging the drum for one side or the other." He said research showed that, of 840 experts interviewed on American news programmes during the invasion of Iraq, only four opposed the war. "If that were true in Britain, the BBC would have failed in its duty."
Wed Dec 03, 2003
Why I have decided to give back my gong
Mingled with self contempt, I had begun to feel that to hang on to my MBE would be dishonourable. I could never again respect myself
Damn Benjamin Zephaniah. I blame and thank him for this epiphany. On Thursday the poet, sweet and modest, vegan, always gentle, caused a nationwide eruption by announcing that he was refusing an OBE and then explained in a blistering article why he despised the honours system, this Government and the monarchy. Zephaniah beamed a mercilessly bright light on the whole secretive and dubious system and the delusions which went with it. There was no escape; no patter that could diminish the force of his choice even though some of his arguments were questionable and were indeed questioned by decent black and Asian people who felt good and right about accepting their OBEs and MBEs and CBEs.
US liberals look to airwaves to combat right-wing shock jocks
For years they have been taking it on the chin, from motor-mouth talk-show hosts, take-no-prisoner conservative authors and all-knowing Republican pundits. Now liberal Democrats are fighting back, with best-selling books, a new Washington think-tank and probably their own radio network.
Tue Dec 02, 2003
Israeli academics fight 'racist' university test
sraeli academics are threatening to call for an international boycott of their own university heads if admission tests alleged to have curbed the number of Arab students are reintroduced.
The heads of the country's five universities last week announced that they would bring back controversial psychometric testing that favours middle-class Jewish students.
The boycott would include rejecting academic papers from individual heads. More...
"I punched an Arab in the face": A soldier's testimony
Staff Sergeant (res.) Liran Ron Furer cannot just routinely get on with his life anymore. He is haunted by images from his three years of military service in Gaza and the thought that this could be a syndrome afflicting everyone who serves at checkpoints gives him no respite. On the verge of completing his studies in the design program at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, he decided to drop everything and devote all his time to the book he wanted to write. The major publishers he brought it to declined to publish it. The publisher that finally accepted it (Gevanim) says that the Steimatzky bookstore chain refuses to distribute it. But Furer is determined to bring his book to the public's attention. More...
Mon Dec 01, 2003
Al-Jazeera fires Ridley
Yvonne Ridley, the former Express journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan and subsequently converted to Islam, has been sacked as editor of al-Jazeera's English-language service.
"Until I know why I've been fired, or given written notice, I can't say anything other than that I'm completely devastated and puzzled," Ridley told the Gulf News. More...
MoveOn moves up: online citizen movement grows richer and stronger by the day
Dec. 1, 2003 | Bill O'Reilly wants its nonprofit status revoked. Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie sees it as part of the "Democrat plan to subvert campaign finance laws." House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's office plays phone pranks on its staffers. A piece in David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine worries: "It could bypass the mainstream media, sneak around campaign spending limits, and become its own powerful channel for Leftist communication, indoctrination and mobilization."
Clearly, MoveOn.org has arrived.
The killing fields of Rafah
Quietly, far from the public eye, Israeli soldiers continue killing Palestinians. Hardly a day goes by without casualties, some innocent civilians, and the stories of their violent deaths never reach the Israeli consciousness or awareness. If there is one consistent piece of data in the current intifada, it is the number of Palestinian casualties: dozens a month, unceasingly.
There were 30 in November, 57 in October, 33 in September. In May and June, the number of casualties reached 60 a month (all data supplied by B'Tselem). While Palestinian terror shocks us with its brutality, the daily killing of innocent Palestinians in far greater numbers is ignored - unless it is a case of an army operation as in Nusseirat refugee camp in October. More...