Israel has problems but hey Hamas is nearby (relevance, Zionists?)
28 Oct 2010

Following my article yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald on Israel/Palestine, the following letters appear in today’s edition:

For an alternative to Antony Loewenstein’s polemic against Israel (“Western politicians prefer to ignore Israel’s inherent racism”, October 28) I refer readers to Freedom in the World: Israel 2010 by Freedom House, a venerable and widely respected non-governmental organisation.
Under the Freedom House criteria, Israel has the highest of seven rankings for political rights and the second highest for civil liberties. It is the only country in the Middle East rated “free”. Its media is described as “vibrant and independent”.
Although Israel describes itself as a “Jewish and democratic state”, freedom of religion is respected, with Christian, Muslim and Bahai communities having jurisdiction over their members in matters of marriage, divorce and burial.
The judiciary is independent and regularly rules against the government. Freedoms of assembly and association are respected. Workers may join independent unions and have the right to strike and bargain collectively. Women have achieved substantial parity at almost all levels of society. Openly gay Israelis are permitted to serve in the armed forces.
Certainly, some serious discrimination exists in Israel, as in other democracies. But overall, not a bad record for a country faced with neighbours such as Iran and Syria, and organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
Peter Wertheim Executive director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Sydney


By all means, let us go back to basics, starting with the United Nations partition plan for Palestine, as [Zionist lobbyist] Colin Rubenstein suggests (”Oath’s emphasis on a democratic nation state is soundly based”, October 28).
The plan showed clear borders of the two states, with Jerusalem as a UN zone which was barred from being the Israeli capital. The war between the Arab nations and Israel led to the occupation of territory clearly intended as belonging to the Arab state. At no time since it unilaterally declared its statehood has Israel confined itself to the boundaries allocated by the UN. Its illegal expansion into Arab territories continues.
The UN requirement that the rights of resident populations be recognised in the new state has been consistently ignored.
The British foresaw problems with the new state and its expansionist ambitions, and abstained from the UN vote. They have since fallen into line, as have we, with the blinkered Western view of the conflict.
Don Brown Narrabeen


Are we allowed to violently assault asylum seekers? Just asking
28 Oct 2010

Maybe one day, Western governments will ask themselves whether private companies should be tasked (and paid) to do the dirty work of removing refugees. Out of sight and out of mind:

The government’s deportation policy has been thrown into confusion after it emerged that the Home Office banned private security firms from forcing detainees on to flights following the death of a refugee, then lifted the moratorium 10 days later.
The chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, said he had “huge concerns” over the government’s apparent indecision about whether restraint could be used against deportees and accused officials of “flip-flopping”.
His concerns were echoed by Ed Balls, the shadow home secretary, who said it was now “vital” for the Home Office to release details of the circumstances surrounding the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan refugee who collapsed and died on a British Airways plane preparing for take-off at Heathrow earlier this month.
A ban on forcing detainees on to commercial flights, which officials described as a precautionary but “unprecedented” measure, was introduced on 15 October, three days after Mubenga lost consciousness while being heavily restrained by three guards working for the security firm G4S.
The Metropolitan police have since arrested the guards, who have been released on bail.
The firm, which conducts the majority of the 10,000 forced removals each year, informed the Guardian that use of restraint at boarding by its guards had been halted at the advice of the Home Office.
All private security firms were instructed by the Home Office to halt using force while officials checked that the techniques used to restrain deportees, which are the same used in prisons, were safe.


Nir Rosen on why Muslims don’t like occupation
27 Oct 2010

The fact that such sensible views are so rarely heard in the mainstream is revealing in itself:


Peace doesn’t sell on our TV screens
27 Oct 2010

How we view war, conflict and peace and our place in the world is primarily through the media. It’s no wonder, for example, that truly peaceful spokespeople (as opposed to generals and “officials) are routinely excluded from the debate:

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and Media Tenor today announced the results of “Measuring Peace in the Media”, the largest global study analysing the accuracy of international television networks’ coverage of peace, violence and conflict. The results show broad inconsistencies across geographies and networks, with US broadcasters much more focused on violence and conflict than their European and Middle Eastern counterparts. 
•         Four programmes included in the study devote more than 50% of their coverage to violence: CBS Evening News, Fox Special Report and ABC World News from the US and ITV News at 10 from the UK
•         The 10 TV programmes reporting the most violence dedicate on average 48% of their coverage to violence; 8 of these programmes are from the US or UK
•         The 10 TV programmes reporting the least violence dedicate 50% less of their coverage (24%) of their coverage to violence; 7 of these programmes are from Africa or the Middle East
•         US and European broadcasters dedicate more than 60% of their coverage on the Middle East to violence

The report includes a detailed case study on coverage of Afghanistan, which shows that a disproportionate amount of coverage is focused on defence and crime, while neglecting news of progress in critical areas needed to build lasting peace.

The study analysed 37 TV news and current affairs programmes from 23 networks in 15 countries* and then cross-referenced this with the 4th annual Global Peace Index (GPI) which measures the levels of peace and violence in 149 countries. BBC 2 Newsnight and ZDF Heute Journal were found to be the programmes whose editorial policies aligned their coverage most closely with the rankings of the GPI.
How Media Outlets Perform:
The World’s Eye on Afghanistan
CNN International, BBC World and Al Jazeera English all had similar number of reports on the topics that received the most total coverage – warfare, elections, crime and international politics.  However, Al Jazeera had the greatest breadth of coverage, including more coverage on topics which related progress in creating peace. Al Jazeera News was the most positive and had three times as many positive stories as BBC World, and more than eight times as many positive stories as CNN International Desk.


Mummy, why are Muslims so ungrateful when we kill them?
27 Oct 2010

Just in case you weren’t sure, Nir Rosen is one of the finest war reporters in the world. His new book, Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World, highlights Washington’s idea that guns and a few loaves of bread don’t bring love:

Supporters of General Stanley McChrystal, the former US commander in Afghanistan, liked to say “he gets it,” as if there was a magic counterinsurgency (COIN) formula they’d discovered in 2009. But Afghans have a memory. They remember, for example, that the American-backed mujahideen killed thousands of Afghan teachers and bombed schools in the name of their anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s. The Taliban atrocities had not arisen in a vacuum. Similarly, past American actions have consequences. Opinions were already formed. The Taliban were gaining power thanks to American actions and alliances. Warlords were empowered by the Americans. No justice was sought for victims. The government and police were corrupt. The president stole the elections. The message was that there was no justice, and a pervasive sense of lawlessness and impunity had set in.
Afghans who had been humiliated or victimized by the Americans and their allies were unlikely to become smitten by them merely because of some development aid they received. And the aid was relatively small compared with other international projects, like Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda, and East Timor. The Americans thought that by building roads they could win over opinion. But roads are just as useful for insurgents as they are for occupiers. The Americans had failed to convince Afghans that they should like them or want them to stay, and they certainly had not been convinced that President Hamid Karzai’s government has legitimacy. You can’t win hearts and minds with aid work when you are an occupying force.
The Taliban was the most obscurantist, backward, traditional, and despised government on earth. The fact that the Taliban was making a comeback was a testimony to the regime that the U.S. set up there, and to the atrocities that have been committed in Afghanistan by occupation troops and their Afghan allies. It was sheer arrogance to think that adding another 30,000 or 50,000 troops would change the situation so much that the occupation would become an attractive alternative.


When torture isn’t really about crushing a child’s balls
27 Oct 2010

How we love the New York Times…to obfuscate our crimes:

“Reports indicate meatbag tenderizing procedures”; “War logs show bothersome physical solicitations”; “Leaked war logs reveal that for which there is no emoticon”
Hitting the refresh button repeatedly, one can view dozens of other absurd headlines. The absurdity is the point, Rob Beschizza told me in a phone conversation. Beschizza is the managing editor at BoingBoing, and the above headlines are the result of his “New York Times Torture Euphemism Generator!” which was posted to the popular blog late Friday night. It includes an image of an article on the New York Times website with an interchangeable headline that provides a phrase meant to act as a stand-in for what many journalists consider a politically charged word: “Torture.” In the few days since being posted it has received over 460,000 page views.

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