Majority of Israeli Jews think Arabs should be treated as second-class citizens, says poll
30 Nov 2010

A thriving democracy that only rabid Zionists could be proud of:

Approximately 86 percent of Israeli Jews believe any final Knesset decision regarding the country’s future political arrangement must be approved by a Jewish majority, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Israel Democratic Institute.
More than 62 percent of Israeli Jewish respondents also said that as long as conflict with the Palestinians continued, the state should not take into account Israeli Arab opinions regarding foreign policy.
The study also found that 53 percent of Israeli Jews believe the state has the right to encourage Arab citizens to emigrate, while 55 percent said Jewish cities should receive more government resources than Arab communities.
Another 51 percent of those polled said that Israeli Arabs and Jews should have equal rights.
Some 54 percent of Israelis said they believed legal action should not be taken against citizens who speak up against the state. Another 50 percent supported the claim that anti-Zionist parties should be allowed to run for the Knesset.
The study also revealed that almost half of the Jewish Israelis polled would be bothered to have an Arab neighbor. That topic also found that 39 percent considered patients in mental institutions and foreign workers to be the most disruptive kind of neighbor; 25 percent said living next to a homosexual couple was the most disruptive; 23 percent said ultra-Orthodox neighbors bothered them most; and 17 percent would rather not live next to Ethiopian immigrants.
The study found a high correlation between the level of religious observance and the belief that Arabs should have different rights. The study indicated that the Russian immigrants were the least liberal population in the country.
Israeli Arab respondents expressed less tolerance for foreign neighbors; 70 percent of whom said they would rather not live beside a homosexual couple, while 67 percent said they would rather not live next to Haredi families.
The study revealed, however, that 48 percent of Israeli Arab were tolerant of living beside foreign workers.
The study was conducted by six researchers and compiled its answers from public opinion polls that questioned more than 1,203 people.


Yes, US involved in shady dealings globally and its standing is still low
30 Nov 2010

Another day and more Wikileaks revelations. Who the hell is saying there’s nothing in these documents? Only people who resent light being shone on the true dealings of the US. More, please.

Pakistan‘s president, Asif Ali Zardari, whose wife, Benazir Bhutto, was killed in a suicide bombing, has made extensive preparations in case of his own assassination.
Last year Zardari told the US ambassador, Anne Patterson, that if he was assassinated, “he had instructed his son Bilawal to name his sister, Faryal Talpur, as president“.
This year Zardari requested the United Arab Emirates to allow his family to live there in the event of his death. His wife lived in self-imposed exile in the UAE for years before her ill-fated return to Pakistan in 2007.
The cables provide a changing portrait of Zardari, America’s key Pakistani ally along with the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani. A sharp-edged 2008 description of Zardari notes that he hails from a tribe with “little social standing” in Sindh; “there is a story that as children, Sindhis were told ‘a Zardari stole it’ if something went missing”.
But later dispatches portray him as a more capable leader, with considerable political nous, although often burdened by his association with deep-seated corruption.
Zardari is frank about the strength of the Taliban – “I’m sorry to say this but we are not winning” the war against extremists he told the US vice-president, Joe Biden, in 2009 – and his own limitations.
I am not Benazir, and I know it,” he told the US ambassador after his wife’s death.


Small teams of US special forces soldiers have been secretly embedded with Pakistani military forces in the tribal belt, helping to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaida fighters and co-ordinate drone strikes, the embassy cables reveal.
The numbers involved are small – just 16 soldiers in October 2009 – but the deployment is of immense political significance, described in a cable that provides an unprecedented glimpse into covert American operations in the world’s most violent al-Qaida hotbed.
The first special forces team of four soldiers was deployed to an old British colonial fort in the northern half of the tribal belt in September 2009, helping Frontier Corps paramilitaries to carry out artillery strikes on a militant base.
A month later, two more teams of six soldiers each were deployed to Pakistani army bases in North and South Waziristan, a lawless warren of mountains considered to be the global headquarters of al-Qaida.
Their job was to provide “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” support – ISR in military jargon – “general operational advice” and to help set up a live satellite feed from American drones flying overhead, presumably CIA-operated Predator and Reaper aircraft.
American officials, who had long been pushing for such a deployment in the face of “adamant” Pakistani opposition, were jubilant, viewing it as a sign of growing trust in an often troubled relationship.
“The developments of the past two months thus appear to represent a sea change in [the military’s] thinking,” read the cable.


The British government promised to protect America’s interests during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, according to a secret cable sent from the US embassy in London.
Jon Day, the Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, told US under-secretary of state Ellen Tauscher that the UK had “put measures in place to protect your interests during the UK inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war”.
The admission came in the cable sent on 22 September 2009, which recorded a series of high-level meetings between Tauscher and UK defence officials and diplomats, which involved the then foreign secretary, David Miliband.
Day was a senior adviser to the Labour government, and told the American delegation that “Iraq seems no longer to be a major issue in the US”, but said it would become a big issue – a “feeding frenzy” – in the UK “when the inquiry takes off”.
The revelation of the move to defend Washington threatens to undermine the inquiry, which was launched by Gordon Brown ‘to identify lessons that can be learned from the Iraq conflict’. It is due to deliver its findings around the turn of the year.
The diplomats do not record which measures the British government took to protect US interests. No American officials were called to give evidence in public, and evidence from US officials was heard in private during visits by inquiry members to the US. The inquiry was also refused permission to publish letters between George Bush and Tony Blair written in 2002 in the run-up to the war, even though they were referred to in evidence. There were fears that the release of the details could harm both UK-US relations, and those with other countries. In January, a Blair ally told the Guardian: “They are full of scurrilous remarks about other people, including [Jacques] Chirac [the former French president].”


Besieged by criminal inquiries and Congressional investigators, how could the world’s most controversial private security company drum up new business? By battling pirates on the high seas, of course.
In late 2008, Blackwater Worldwide, already under fire because of accusations of abuses by its security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan, reconfigured a 183-foot oceanographic research vessel into a pirate-hunting ship for hire and then began looking for business from shipping companies seeking protection from Somali pirates. The company’s chief executive officer, Erik Prince, was planning a trip to Djibouti for a promotional event in March 2009, and Blackwater was hoping that the American Embassy there would help out, according to a secret State Department cable.
But with the Obama administration just weeks old, American diplomats in Djibouti faced a problem. They are supposed to be advocates for American businesses, but this was Blackwater, a company that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had proposed banning from war zones when she was a presidential candidate.
The embassy “would appreciate Department’s guidance on the appropriate level of engagement with Blackwater,” wrote James C. Swan, the American ambassador in Djibouti, in a cable sent on Feb. 12, 2009. Blackwater’s plans to enter the anti-piracy business have been previously reported, but not the American government’s concern about the endeavor.
According to that cable, Blackwater had outfitted its United States-flagged ship with .50-caliber machine guns and a small, unarmed drone aircraft. The ship, named the McArthur, would carry a crew of 33 to patrol the Gulf of Aden for 30 days before returning to Djibouti to resupply.
And the company had already determined its rules of engagement. “Blackwater does not intend to take any pirates into custody, but will use lethal force against pirates if necessary,” the cable said.
At the time, the company was still awaiting approvals from Blackwater lawyers for its planned operations, since Blackwater had informed the embassy there was “no precedent for a paramilitary operation in a purely commercial environment.”
Lawsuits filed later by crew members on the McArthur made life on the ship sound little improved from the days of Blackbeard.


If you are a dictatorship, Washington is keen to help
30 Nov 2010

Before they’ve even been released, US ambassador to Sri Lanka already almost begs for global understanding. Only positive words towards Colombo and little about punishment or sanction for massacring thousands of Tamils:

Strongly condemning the release of classified diplomatic communications by WikiLeaks, the United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka said the U.S. has worked hard to assist the government and people of Sri Lanka to strengthen security, to further economic development, and to foster political reconciliation.
The U.S. Ambassador Patricia Butenis said her government is working hard to strengthen its existing partnerships and build new ones to meet shared challenges, from climate change to ending the threat of nuclear weapons to fighting disease and poverty and she is proud to be a part of that effort.
“As the United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, I’m proud to be part of this effort,” she said.
Butenis recalling the assistance given by the U.S. to Sri Lanka for its development said the diplomatic mission recently collaborated with the government of Sri Lanka to bring a delegation of business leaders to increase trade between the two nations.
In addition the Ambassador pointed out that USAID, has partnered with local companies to train people in the former conflict zones in new skills to aid their livelihoods and the U.S. has just handed over the first installment of a $1.5 million donation to the Sri Lankan Army’s Humanitarian Demining Unit.
Since 2009, the U.S. government has contributed approximately $180 million to help Sri Lanka, she said.


Being civilised means not covering for diplomatic cover-ups
30 Nov 2010

Heather Brooke in the Guardian on what Wikileaks offers and the choice we all must make:

The former US ambassador to Russia James Collins told CNN the disclosure of the cables, “will impede doing things in a normal, civilised way”. Too often what is normal and civilised in diplomacy means turning a blind eye to large-scale social injustices, corruption and abuse of power. Having read through several hundred cables, much of the “harm” is embarrassment and the highlighting of inconvenient truths. For the sake of a military base in a country, our leaders accept a brutal dictator who oppresses his population. This may be convenient in the short term for politicians, but the long-term consequences for the world’s citizens can be catastrophic.
We are at a pivotal moment where the visionaries at the vanguard of a global digital age are clashing with those who are desperate to control what we know. WikiLeaks is the guerrilla front in a global movement for greater transparency and participation.


Syria gives US lesson in Mid-East realities
30 Nov 2010

Robert Fisk, in a piece titled, “Now we know. America really doesn’t care about injustice in the Middle East“, writes that the Wikileaks cables are a depressing read of US and Israeli arrogance:

One of the most interesting reflections – dutifully ignored by most of the pro-Wikileaks papers yesterday – came in a cable on a meeting between a US Senate delegation and President Bashar Assad of Syria earlier this year. America, Assad told his guests, possessed “a huge information apparatus” but lacked the ability to analyse this information successfully. “While we lack your intelligence abilities,” he says in rather sinister fashion, “we succeed in fighting extremists because we have better analysts … in the US you like to shoot [terrorists]. Suffocating their networks is far more effective.” Iran, he concluded, was the most important country in the region, followed by Turkey and – number three – Syria itself. Poor old Israel didn’t get a look in.


Can we trust the press to be totally honest over Wikileaks (hint: no)
30 Nov 2010

I wish this interview was more comforting. The idea of a Murdoch editor talking about resisting potential Australian government requests not to publish certain Wikileaks cables requires a suspension of disbelief, not least because he argues about not challenging anything that “could imperil the lives of Australian soldiers, men and women serving overseas in a war effort which enjoys bipartisan support.” That’s Afghanistan. And let’s face it; governments will often claim something is top secret when in fact it’s simply embarrassing:

MARK COLVIN: So how might Australia’s editors react to an approach from the Government along the lines that Mr [Attorney General Robert] McClelland sketched out? Not a lot of them wanted to talk about it today but I’m joined now by one who would – David Penberthy, editor of news.com.au. First thoughts?
DAVID PEMBERTHY: Look I think that a lot of editors would respond pretty unfavourably to the request from the Attorney-General to somehow consider unilaterally desisting from publishing any of this material because I think that some of the material – and certainly listening to a lot of what you were broadcasting then in that report Mark – a lot of that is stuff which is wholly in the public interest.
I mean I would have thought that if there are senior ministers, senior world leaders who have serious drinking problems, behavioural issues, that that is something there’s absolutely no reason why aspects of those cables couldn’t be gleefully reported by the popular press.
I would even argue that the fact that it appears that China is wising up to what a dysfunctional dystopia North Korea is, is something which, shining a light on that pretty heartening little titbit of information could actually make the world a better place rather than a worse place.
MARK COLVIN: And what if McClelland came to you and said there was a matter of national security involved in one of these cables, Australian national security?
DAVID PEMBERTHY: You would have to assess it on its merits. I mean I doubt whether any news organisation in Australia setting aside any commercial imperatives because of the inevitable reader backlash that you would suffer – no one in this country is going to gleefully report on something which is a wholly logistical matter which could imperil the lives of Australian soldiers, men and women serving overseas in a war effort which enjoys bipartisan support.
But equally if it emerges that there’s stuff in these 1500 cables about Australia that go to the existence or more accurately nonexistence of weapons of mass destruction, you know stuff which might cause a bit of political embarrassment for people who are still in politics but has absolutely no operational bearing on the way the war on Afghanistan is being conducted or would endanger our remaining deployment of troops in Iraq, I think that instinctively any editor would think long and hard before agreeing to what the Attorney-General somewhat cutely calls an informal protocol.
Because it must be a pretty informal protocol because we’ve got rid of D notices in this country.
MARK COLVIN: I was going to ask you about the D notices, don’t notices. They petered out in the mid-90s. But for instance at one stage they protected the identity, the new identity and the whereabouts of the Petrovs, the famous defectors from Russia.
And the argument was that the Petrovs might be at risk from the Russians. They could be assassinated if their whereabouts were known. Would editors go along with that now?
DAVID PEMBERTHY: Well look I don’t know. I mean it would be something which would be decided on a case-by-case basis. And I think that if there was any evidence that someone was going to wind up being executed as a result of recklessly publishing any kind of information, particularly you know a person who had been working in the national interests of Australia, you know you’d think long and hard about it.
But I think that as a general instinctive rule particularly when this is quite a different round of leaks this time from WikiLeaks. A lot of the stuff that’s come out has been fascinating and harmless. A lot of it has shed light on a lot of diplomatic toing and froing which ordinary citizens are never privy to.
And I think that any blithe acceptance of a request from the Attorney-General, or worse any sort of suggestion that we’re going to somehow be locked into not reporting this, the absurdity would be if they were that worried about it they should stop the leaks in the first place.
Because we’re going to end up with this ridiculous situation where Fairfax, News Limited, the ABC – all of us are being told what we should do by the Attorney-General. Yet out there in the social media landscape no one’s going to be abiding by what some bloke called Robert McClelland has got to say about it and it’s all going to get published anyway.
MARK COLVIN: And that’s the other question I was going to ask you. Do the editors really have any power anymore?
DAVID PEMBERTHY: Well I think that you know that the daunting and excellent thing about the media these days Mark – and you as a frequent Tweeter know this yourself – is that information cannot be controlled. Nobody has a monopoly on information anymore.
So in a landscape where some you know fairly colourful young Australian guy who’s set up this website is quite clearly going to be madly publishing whatever lands in his lap, rest of us are going to look like saps if we sit here abiding by rules which don’t seem to apply to anybody else out there in the social media landscape.
MARK COLVIN: Thank you very much David Pemberthy, editor of news.com.au.


There ain’t no Islamic state in Gaza
29 Nov 2010

Dr. Ahmed Yousef is Deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza and the Former Senior Political Adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza. I interviewed him last year in Gaza City and he was a pretty Westernised man. His latest piece challenges the impression that “Talibanisation” has arrived in Gaza under Hamas rule:

To accuse Hamas of marketing fundamentalism and extremism in the Gaza Strip is false and inaccurate. There is no “Talibanization” of Gaza. Such a claim is based on Israeli propaganda and the deliberately distorted accounts of those in Gaza who are politically and ideologically opposed to the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. It is true that some individuals in the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs have acted in an overzealous or misguided manner driven by their own concern to preserve what they see as the culture of the community; but their actions were not done on the basis of any governmental decision or a ministerial policy. In fact on a number of occasions the government directly intervened to reverse their misguided actions.
Palestinian society is inherently a conservative society, where the values that govern people’s lives are mostly pure Islamic. The proper way to correct the kind of public behavior that can threaten those values is to address them through the existing educational frameworks of the family and the mosque.
Unfortunately, the combination of the Israeli misinformation campaign and the misguided actions of a few overzealous individuals who see themselves as the guardians of public morality provides the Western media with the kind of stories that feed the common stereotypes they have of Islamists. Hamas is portrayed as being a fundamentalist and extremist movement that intends to launch an Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip!


Whispering sweet Saudi nothings into Obama’s ear
29 Nov 2010

One of America’s finest allies in the Middle East:

Last year, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia proposed an unorthodox way to return Guantánamo Bay prisoners to a chaotic country like Yemen without fear that they would disappear and join a terrorist group.
The king told a top White House aide, John O. Brennan, that the United States should implant an electronic chip in each detainee to track his movements, as is sometimes done with horses and falcons.
“Horses don’t have good lawyers,” Mr. Brennan replied.
That unusual discussion in March 2009 was one of hundreds recounted in a cache of secret State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of news organizations that reveal the painstaking efforts by the United States to safely reduce the population of the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba so that it could eventually be closed.


Assange may have a new home
29 Nov 2010


Ecuador on Monday offered Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has enraged Washington by releasing masses of classified U.S. documents, residency with no questions asked.
“We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions,” Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas told the Internet site Ecuadorinmediato.
“We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the Internet but in a variety of public forums,” he said.



Wikileaks may not be quite as bad as al-Qaeda
29 Nov 2010

Another day and so much more Wikileaks news.
Currently snowed under with work related to the information dump, so here are a number of relevant links to keep things flowing (here,hereherehereherehere and here).
This is perhaps the funniest and more tragic response thus far:

American Conservative standard bearer Sarah Palin has compared the founder of Wikileaks to al-Qa’ida and accused US President Barack Obama of not doing enough to prevent the latest release of secret US documents by WikiLeaks.
In a message on her Facebook page, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate also suggested the use of what she called “cyber tools” to permanently shut down the WikiLeaks site.
Palin, who has been stoking speculation she will run for president in 2012, said the latest release of US documents by WikiLeaks “raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.”
“First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop WikiLeaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months?” she asked.
“Assange is not a ‘journalist,’ any more than the ‘editor’ of al-Qa’ida’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a ‘journalist,”’ Palin said of the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder.
“He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands,” she said.
“His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban.
“Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qa’ida and Taliban leaders?” she said.
Palin posed a series of questions about the handling of WikiLeaks.
“What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt WikiLeaks’ technical infrastructure?” she asked. “Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle WikiLeaks?”
Palin noted steps taken by the White House to prevent such leaks from happening again but said “why did the White House not publish these orders after the first leak back in July?”
“What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?” she said.
Palin concluded by saying that US soldiers in Afghanistan are “serious about keeping America safe.”
“It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task,” she said.


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