Israel has great quality of life (if you’re Jewish and wealthy) 18 Aug 2010

Newsweek publishes a list of “the world’s best countries”. Finland is 1st, Australia is 4th, the US is 11th and Israel is 22nd.
Clearly occupying another people and discriminating against an Arab minority doesn’t affect the corporate mindset towards the Zionist state.


“Gaffes” by IDF soldiers 18 Aug 2010

Rupert Murdoch’s news.com.au publishes this AP story that is surely designed to make the reader feel sorry for the Israeli state; they just can’t keep “secrets” secret anymore. The poor dears. What on earth should soldiers occupying the Palestinians do with their spare time?

The security obsessed Israeli military is confronting a new adversary – trying to control what its own soldiers post to the Internet.
Facebook, along with YouTube and other popular sites, is turning into a formidable nuisance for the Israeli Army, as young recruits in the tech-crazy country post embarrassing and potentially sensitive information online, circumventing tight military controls.
The issue exploded onto the national agenda this week when young ex-soldier Eden Abergil posted pictures of herself in uniform, posing in front of handcuffed, blindfolded Palestinian prisoners on her Facebook page under the heading “Army – The Best Time of My Life”.
The controversial posting, along with a series of other recent gaffes, highlighted the challenges facing Israel’s high-tech military – known, among other things, for its shadowy electronic-warfare units – as it struggles to keep up with the ever-shifting sands of the internet.
Such incidents illustrate “how difficult it is for the military to operate, stick to policy, and keep people in line in light of the new communication realities”, said Sheizaf Rafaeli, director of the Sagy Center for Internet Research and the Study of the Information Society at the University of Haifa.


Muslims aren’t all the same (pass onto the clueless) 18 Aug 2010

William Dalrymple in the New York Times talks some sense about Islam and the “war on terror”, a message singularly ignored by many politicians and media hacks:

President Obama’s eloquent endorsement on Friday of a planned Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center, followed by his apparent retreat the next day, was just one of many paradoxes at the heart of the increasingly impassioned controversy.
We have seen the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to ending “unjust and unfair discrimination,” seek to discriminate against American Muslims. We have seen Newt Gingrich depict the organization behind the center — the Cordoba Initiative, which is dedicated to “improving Muslim-West relations” and interfaith dialogue — as a “deliberately insulting” and triumphalist force attempting to built a monument to Muslim victory near the site of the twin towers.
Most laughably, we have seen politicians like Rick Lazio, a Republican candidate for New York governor, question whether Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the principal figure behind the project, might have links to “radical organizations.”
The problem with such claims goes far beyond the fate of a mosque in downtown Manhattan. They show a dangerously inadequate understanding of the many divisions, complexities and nuances within the Islamic world — a failure that hugely hampers Western efforts to fight violent Islamic extremism and to reconcile Americans with peaceful adherents of the world’s second-largest religion.
Most of us are perfectly capable of making distinctions within the Christian world. The fact that someone is a Boston Roman Catholic doesn’t mean he’s in league with Irish Republican Army bomb makers, just as not all Orthodox Christians have ties to Serbian war criminals or Southern Baptists to the murderers of abortion doctors.
Yet many of our leaders have a tendency to see the Islamic world as a single, terrifying monolith. Had the George W. Bush administration been more aware of the irreconcilable differences between the Salafist jihadists of Al Qaeda and the secular Baathists of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the United States might never have blundered into a disastrous war, and instead kept its focus on rebuilding post-Taliban Afghanistan while the hearts and minds of the Afghans were still open to persuasion.


Humiliating Palestinians is a daily IDF affair 17 Aug 2010

Yes (via Haaretz editorial):

Eden Aberjil doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. The former soldier sees nothing wrong with posting photos on her Facebook profile showing her posing, grinning and amused, alongside blindfolded Palestinian detainees. “The pictures reflect the military experience,” she told Army Radio this week of her online photo album, entitled “The army: the best time of my life.”
Even more disturbing than the images – which depict the detainees as house pets – is Aberjil’s failure to understand the uproar they have caused. Whoever photographed her (other troops were likely there – it’s doubtful one soldier would be tasked with guarding all of the detainees ) also presumably saw their performance art as no more than a lark.
But Aberjil’s “experience” is reflective of a culture that has taken root over the course of decades of occupation, one which perceives Palestinian prisoners as subhuman – objects of amusement at best and at worst, abuse. It is a culture that gives rise to appalling conduct like forcing inmates to dance, sing Israeli patriotic and military songs, or photographing them as a hunter would his conquered beast. These “experiences” are no different than those of American soldiers abusing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison, pictures that shocked the world when exposed in 2004.
Aberjil’s photographs are troubling not only because they wreak untold damage on Israel’s image abroad, one already eroded by the long years of occupation. Focusing solely on the soldier’s behavior, including her decision to post the images online, is a mistake. Instead, we should look at the intolerable norm represented by her photos, and others released yesterday by the advocacy group Breaking the Silence. Taken together, they underscore commanders’ failure to inculcate their soldiers with the humane values the IDF touts, and the difference between Israel’s military and those of other countries.
It is imperative that explicit, unambiguous rules for what soldiers are and are not permitted to do to detainees are set, and to impress upon troops an ethical code that makes clear such behavior will not be tolerated. The humiliation of Palestinian detainees must not be remembered as the “best time” of any soldier’s army experience.


The Afghan war from the Taliban side 17 Aug 2010
Wikileaks needs all the defenders it can get 17 Aug 2010

Following the controversy over the recent Wikileaks information dump, Reporters Without Borders attempts to get out of a hole created by itself:

There has been a great deal of controversy about the Wikileaks website’s decision to post thousands of leaked reports that include the names of Afghan civilians who have collaborated with the international military coalition in Afghanistan. The controversy has grown even more since Reporters Without Borders and other NGOs criticised a lack of responsibility on the part of Wikileaks.
As hate messages and unfair accusations proliferate in the online newspapers that reported this criticism, Reporters Without Borders would like to caution against any attempts to put words in its mouth.
We reaffirm our support for Wikileaks, its work and its founding principles. It is thanks in large part to Wikileaks that the world has seen the failures of the wars waged by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also thanks to Wikileaks that we have seen how the US army deliberately targeted a Reuters crew in Baghdad in July 2007. The video of this tragedy has been posted on our website ever since it was leaked.
The controversy has resulted in a real threat to the website of closure in the United States and targeted persecution of its contributors. The US authorities would be very mistaken if they tried to use our criticism as support for a decision to silence Wikileaks. The Obama administration made a serious mistake when it broke its promise to reveal the human, moral and financial cost of the “war against terror” launched by President George W. Bush. Wikileaks has rightly defied this blockade on access to information.
Raising the question, as we did, of the danger of releasing certain sensitive data does not in any way constitute incitement to censorship or, less still, support for the war. Should we be blamed for pointing out that the information provided by Wikileaks could be used by the Taliban and could serve as grounds for reprisals? Is it contrary to a humanitarian organisation’s vocation to draw attention to the possible impact on human lives of high-risk information? Is it wrong to point out that Wikileaks’ recent actions could backfire not only on itself but also on the independent researchers and journalists who cover these subjects online?
A media is responsible for what it publishes or disseminates. To remind it of that is not to wish its disappearance. Quite the contrary. Editorial responsibility, liked freedom of expression, to which it is linked, cannot be reduced to mere partisan or ideological interests. To accuse Wikileaks’ critics of being “Pentagon accomplices” distorts and pre-empts any discussion about the work of the media and media ethics. The principle of free expression is indivisible, as is the careful observation of the media that it requires.


Backing Vanunu17 Aug 2010

The Guardian is spot on:

When the nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, was released from prison in 2004 after serving 18 years, 12 of them in solitary confinement, he said he was ready to start a new life. The authorities in Israel were not. He was charged with breaking the terms of his parole which forbade him from speaking to foreigners, a restriction which can be traced to the emergency regulations of the British Mandate. A week ago Vanunu was released once again, after serving 10 weeks for that so-called offence. He said he hoped the prime minister and the head of Shin Bet would solve the problem of having to rearrest him by letting him leave the country. The idea that 24 years after he leaked details and pictures of Israel’s nuclear bomb programme to the Sunday Times, and six years after he completed his sentence, this junior technician from Dimona would still have sensitive secrets up his sleeve is plainly ludicrous. It is one that no serious Israeli military analyst accepts. He survived his vindictive spell in isolation, and his pariah status as Israel’s most reviled man, with his head unbowed. As Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers has said, Vanunu is the preeminent hero of the nuclear era. By telling the truth, and revealing that his country’s stockpile was much larger than the CIA and others had guessed, he certainly caused it mild problems 24 years ago, when Norway announced a ban on exports of heavy water. He causes no problems now. Israel must allow Vanunu to go.


Australian churches finally start taking a positive stand against Israeli occupation 17 Aug 2010

Let’s hope the churches stand firm against Zionist bullying. The idea of boycotting goods made in the occupied Palestinian territories is the least the church establishment should be doing:

Australian Jewish and Christian leaders have met in Sydney to heal the wounds caused by a call last month for Australians to boycott Israeli goods made in occupied Palestinian territories.
The National Council of Churches in Australia called for Australians to consider the boycott at the request of Middle Eastern churches, but the Jewish community was outraged.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot wrote to the council that the resolution was a ”most unpleasant surprise … we feel that we have been badly let down by people we have long thought of as our friends”.
Last week senior members from both councils – including the heads of the Australian Catholic and Anglican Churches, Archbishops Philip Wilson of Adelaide and Philip Aspinall of Brisbane – met to restore good relations.
Yesterday both councils released a joint statement saying there had been a ”serious exchange of views” which helped Christian leaders better understand Jewish concerns and Jewish leaders better understand why the resolution was adopted.
But the resolution – which called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to all acts of terrorism, and suggested churches consider a boycott of Israeli goods from the occupied territories – remains in place. Representatives of both groups will meet again to work on a ”more comprehensive” statement for the Christian council to consider at its next meeting in November.

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