The Stalinist state known as Israel: Chomsky
Posted: 17 May 2010 07:51 AM PDT

More on Noam Chomsky’s barring from entering the West Bank by “democratic” Israel (a move supported by an Israeli politician of the supposedly centrist Kadima party but opposed by a leading columnist):

In a telephone conversation last night from Amman, Chomsky told Haaretz that he concluded from the questions of the Israeli official that the fact that he came to lecture at a Palestinian and not an Israeli university led to the decision to deny him entry.
“I find it hard to think of a similar case, in which entry to a person is denied because he is not lecturing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps only in Stalinist regimes,” Chomsky told Haaretz.

Who helps us torturing “terror suspects?” Hint: Egypt and Israel
Posted: 17 May 2010 07:32 AM PDT

Robert Fisk on our friends in the “war on terror”:

I began my column last week with the words “We know all about Guantanamo”. I was wrong. Courtesy of the Toronto press – until a few days ago, when half of them were censored out of the drumhead courts martial that pass for “justice” in this execrable place – I have been learning a lot more.
Because the case involves a Canadian citizen – and because the Canadian government is doing sod-all for its passport-carrying prisoner – it hasn’t been getting a lot of publicity on this side of the Atlantic. It should.
Omar Khadr was 15 when he allegedly – the word “‘allegedly” is going to have to be used for ever, since this is not a fair trial – shot and killed a US Special Forces soldier in eastern Afghanistan in July 2002. Last week, a former US serviceman called Damien Corsetti, nicknamed “The Monster” at the Bagram jailhouse where torture and murder were widespread, agreed via a video link to the Guantanamo “court” that Khadr was trussed up in a cage “in one of the worst places on earth”. “We could do basically anything to scare the prisoners,” Corsetti announced.
Beating was forbidden, “The Monster” acknowledged, but prisoners could be threatened with “nightmarish scenarios” like rendition to Egypt or Israel where, according to Canada’s Globe and Mail, “they would disappear”. Which tells you a lot about Israel. Or what the Americans think of Israel. Quite a lot about Egypt, too, come to think of it.

How slamming Goldstone does nothing for Palestinian rights
Posted: 17 May 2010 07:25 AM PDT

A stirring call from Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Civility and reason exists in Israel; just don’t expect the mainstream to agree:

What will they come up with next? The campaign to discredit Judge Richard Goldstone, his fact-finding commission and the report that now bears his name seems to reach new heights every week. The latest installment in this high-drama farce has been the revelations about Goldstone’s record during apartheid-era South Africa, and the implication that his report can therefore be disregarded. The mind reels at the intensity of attempts by Israeli officials and others to do everything to dodge the real questions of accountability, policy and justice that have been lingering inconveniently since Operation Cast Lead. But inconvenient questions do tend to linger, and the attempts to deploy an ever-thicker smokescreen usually only draw more attention to what may be hidden behind it.
And yet, the recent attacks on Goldstone have been helpful in re-introducing into public discourse what is perhaps the most important question of all: moral responsibility. How must individuals behave when faced with injustice? What do we expect from our judges, public servants and elected officials? And what do we expect from ourselves? The focus on Goldstone’s past, far from enabling us to escape the lingering questions of Cast Lead – and other questions that must trouble anyone seeking justice – actually serves to throw them into sharp relief.
So here are some complementary questions about justice and those involved in its disservice. And mind you, these questions were not drawn from a far-away past, but from the here-and-now. It is the present that will determine our future – and to what extent justice will be a part of it.
Consider this: What is the reader’s moral judgment of a law that allows some people to reclaim past ownership rights but denies the same rights to others? This is the question today in Sheikh Jarrah.
How just do we deem the conduct of legal advisers who approve the evacuation of longtime indigenous residents from the center of a thriving city, enforcing almost complete separation between the hundreds who have moved in and the thousands who were displaced? This is the question today in Hebron.
What do we think of military commanders who collectively punish more than a million human beings, systematically answering their nutritional needs with provisions that keep them just above a state-secret “red line”? This is the question today in Gaza.
What do you make of a court of justice that speaks in lofty terms of how wrong segregated roads are, but falls short of connecting principle and practice, and does not simply ban such wrongs outright? This is the question today regarding Route 443.
Morally speaking, how do you feel about a government that orders the arrest of leaders of nonviolent civil protest? This is the question in West Bank villages like Bil’in.
These were not questions about Goldstone’s past. There are questions about our present. Standing knee-deep in moral quicksand may not be the most convincing of postures from which to question someone else’s morality.
But let us not stop here. Let us go further and assume for a moment that Goldstone is indeed guilty as charged of having served an unjust regime. If you will, while at it, let us believe in the fiction that – as was falsely claimed by Im Tirtzu’s extremists – a huge part of Goldstone’s report was based on the work of Israeli human rights NGOs. So what? How does this information affect the real questions about justice and morality that should be concerning us? Do any of these diversions make the real questions about the Israel Defense Forces’ rules of engagement during Cast Lead or about civilian, noncombatant casualties in Gaza during the military operation less urgent or essential?
At the end of the day, after Goldstone is finally exorcised as a witch and Israel’s human rights NGOs shut down, what then? Won’t accountability still be a cornerstone of the rule of law? Putting the diversions aside for a moment – and the author is appreciative of how difficult that is, given the government’s urge to obsess on nothing but diversions – are we not still left with alarming suspicions, partial information, and a very real need for a credible, independent investigation into Cast Lead?
Not only Goldstone, but all of us, are morally responsible for our actions and inactions, for when we choose to speak out for justice and for when we keep our silence and help perpetuate what is unjust. South Africa’s past became a part of its future through the truth and reconciliation process; but here in Israel not only is there no reconciliation process, there is no desire by the government nor among most of the public to confront inconvenient truths. Rather, the focus is on truth-dodging, which only serves to further steer us away from reconciliation or justice.
The growing distance between where the moral compass points and where we as a society are headed is no one’s problem more than our own. We can stick pins in the Goldstone voodoo doll as much as we want to but, when we wake up tomorrow morning, the very same reality will still be right here, exactly as we left it. Morally speaking, it’s high time for our wake-up call, for a sincere look at our own image as reflected in our mirror, for truth-seeking instead of desperately, cynically, self-servingly trying to hide it – and hide from it.

How Colombo killed innocent Tamils for simply being Tamil
Posted: 17 May 2010 05:07 AM PDT

Lest we forget:

Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians died in the last, bloody months of Sri Lanka’s civil war, the International Crisis Group said in an investigative report to be released Monday, most of them as a result of government shelling of areas that were supposed to be safe zones.
The report, which cites witness testimony, satellite images, documents and other evidence, calls for a wide-reaching international investigation into what it calls atrocities committed in the last months of the Sri Lankan government’s war against the Tamil Tiger insurgency.
The war ended a year ago, when the Tigers’ top leadership was killed on a narrow strand of beach in northeastern Sri Lanka, capping a two-decade armed struggle by a group that pioneered some of the ugliest insurgent tactics in the world, including female suicide bombers and child soldiers.
Because the government barred independent journalists and most humanitarian workers from the war zone, the death toll of the final months of fighting, when at least 300,000 Tamil civilians were pinned down on a beach, caught between the rebels and government forces, is not known.
United Nations workers counted about 7,000 dead in the last weeks of April, just before the last phase of the fighting, but diplomats, aid workers and human rights activists have long argued that those figures far underestimated the dead and did not include the final weeks of battle. Government officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly denied singling out civilians, and have said that the total number of people killed is much lower.
Sri Lankan officials declined to comment on the report, saying they had not yet seen it.
The report by the Crisis Group, an advocacy organization based in Brussels and Washington that seeks to resolve and prevent armed conflicts, said that despite its promises to protect civilians and aid workers as it made its assault on the Tigers, the Sri Lankan government had bombed relentlessly in areas where it knew unarmed people were present.
“Evidence gathered by Crisis Group provides reasonable grounds to believe that during these months the security forces intentionally and repeatedly shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations,” the report said. “It also provides reason to believe that senior government and military officials were aware of the massive civilian casualties due to the security forces’ attacks, but failed to protect the civilian population as they were obliged to under the laws of war.”
The report said that the insurgents, known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also committed atrocities, particularly in choosing to corral as many people as possible around its fighters, hoping to maximize civilian casualties and force international intervention.
“Their calculation, ultimately an incorrect one, was that escalating civilian casualties would eventually get the attention of the international community to broker a cease-fire so the L.T.T.E. could regroup or perhaps enter negotiations,” the report said, using initials the Tamil Tigers are also known by.
Instead, the Sri Lankan government pressed the rebels to the bitter end. Tamils who tried to escape were killed, children were forced to fight, and the sick and wounded were left to die, the report said.
But it was the Sri Lankan government, the report concluded, that carried the greatest responsibility for the killing.
“All but a small portion of these deaths were due to government shelling,” the report said.

This is an issue that particularly interests some people in Australia:

On Monday, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, said the government should reverse the suspension on Sri Lankan refugee claims in view of the ICG report.
The evidence supported claims that the country’s armed forces massacred tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, he said.
“The international community needs to lend the Tamil community of Sri Lanka a helping hand, not turn a deaf ear,” he said.
More than 100,000 Tamils remain in government-run internment camps in Sri Lanka.
Prof Lynch said the suspension was also at odds with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice which warns Australians not to travel to Sri Lanka due to a state of emergency.
“It’s time for the Australian government to take a leadership role to restore human rights within our region and reverse its barbaric suspension of refugee status for Sri Lankans,” he said.

Religion: what is it really good for?
Posted: 16 May 2010 10:20 PM PDT

The Auckland Writer’s and Reader’s Festival was a blast, ending yesterday. So much interest to talk openly about Israel/Palestine and audiences literally crying out for their corporate media to allow a wide range of views, including Arabs, anti-Zionists and skeptics.
This New Zealand blogger reported on my event yesterday, a conversation about religion with Economist journalist Adrian Woodridge and author Mike Otterman:

Over breakfast this morning, today’s session titled Religion: What is it good for? led inevitably to impassioned discussion regarding Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Bruce Springsteen, and the (mis-)appropriation of pop music for literary purposes.  Sadly, our lot failed to reach consensus, unlike the panelists in the real Festival session.  Adrian Wooldridge, Michael Otterman and Antony Loewenstein were remarkably united on several fronts, not the least being their disdain for Richard Dawkins.  I’ve already outlined some of the main points about these three guys here, and for Michael Otterman’s session, here, and told you it’s impossible to cover their topics in a short blog post, so won’t revisit, but I will attempt to provide a bit of the flavour of this combined session, before you rush off to find the books.
Chair Sean Plunket led off with a request for each speaker to make his own personal declaration of their beliefs.  In their own words – Antony Loewenstein identifies himself as a Jewish atheist who is agnostic about whether religion is good or bad; Michael Otterman is an agnostic cultural Jew from New York, which means he loves Seinfeld and eats bagels on Sundays; and Adrian Wooldridge, having been born C of E, is therefore an atheist who is relatively sympathetic to religion, and who also enjoys Seinfeld.
Whether or not you believe in God, Wooldridge says, current research shows that religion itself is a force for good in the world, for three reasons:  1. it affirms the bonds of community, and therefore is good for the individuals who embrace these bonds, making them healthier, wealthier and longer-living.  2.  it provides a set of social services for those in need, picking up those people who ‘fall through the cracks’.  and 3.  it persuades people to do what are otherwise irrational things (he gave here an example about a pastor who tackled and expelled an entire neighbourhood of violent drug-dealers).  Following on from this, he also notes that religion is “a peculiarly powerful source of social capital”: at a time when secular governments cannot continue to sustain current levels of social aid, religious-based organisations are the ones that are willing and ready to aid, and in many cases are the only ones left still working when everyone else has packed up and gone home, New Orleans being a case in point.
However, he does caution that there are also opposite forces at work, and that the fusion of religion with certain forms of power is one of the most worrying trends in the world today.  At this point, Michael Otterman comments, “Yes, you wouldn’t say that being a Sunni Muslim in Iraq is good for your health, wealth, or long life.”
All three agree that the separation of church and state is an absolute imperative, and Otterman notes that a hugely bad precedent was set when the US supported Iraq’s new constitution recognising Islam as the only law.  And Loewenstein draws parallels with Israel’s stated desire to be a “Jewish state”.  It was also noted that France’s current push to ban the burqa is a huge negation of its status as a secular nation – if church and state are truly separate, the state should have no power to alter people’s religious freedoms.
A long discussion followed regarding the mainstream media (MSM), and its impact on people’s perceptions of religion, tolerance and terrorism.  All agree that the MSM are very good at finding the extremes of any religious group, or  individual, and then making the only reportage available “scandals, caricatures and stereotypes” (think shoe bomber,  paedophile priest, Times Square terrorist, or pentecostal Christians), while both ignoring all the good that is being done in the world by religious groups, and also creating what Otterman refers to as “the silent space” – the wide open area which should instead be filled with debate, discussion and information.
Likewise, lots of Western governments dismiss, ignore, or don’t take seriously religion, which in turn leads to huge problems when they have to deal with other governments or states who do.   And there is also the tendency among some governments or peoples to have what Loewenstein describes as a “fundamental exception policy, or blind spot”   towards their own behaviour and actions.  He uses Israel as en example of this, noting that “unacceptable things become acceptable when done by Jews”.
So much more was discussed that it is impossible to do justice, and even the questions at the end could have each led to another session in themselves.  If you are dead keen to know more, give me a shout and I will wave my pages of scrawled notes at you; and as I have repeatedly said, go read the books!

We deserve to know the full story of Australian complicity in East Timor
Posted: 16 May 2010 09:48 PM PDT

An important story that deserves widespread Australian coverage, on a period in our history that the political elites, of all sides, would like to forget. This story appears in today’s Canberra Times and is written by Philip Dorling:

Independent Federal MP Robert Oakeshott has called on Defence Minister John Faulkner to release secret intelligence papers that would shed new light on the deaths of the Balibo Five journalists in East Timor in 1975. Mr Oakeshott has used the recent passage of the Federal Government’s freedom of information reform legislation to highlight the Defence Department’s continuing refusal to release 41 current intelligence reports written in the lead up to Indonesia’s December 1975 invasion of East Timor. The 35-year-old reports are understood to show the Australian government’s knowledge of Indonesia’s preparations to invade the then Portuguese colony and cross-border incursions, including the raid that resulted in the deaths of the five Australia-based journalists at Balibo in October 1975. ”Yes, it may cause some political discomfort for former prime ministers Whitlam and Fraser, but let’s get the story told and have an open and honest debate about events from 35 years ago,” he told Federal Parliament last week.
In mid-2007, Australian Defence Force Academy senior lecturer Clinton Fernandes applied under the Archives Act for access to the still-classified reports prepared by the Joint Intelligence Organisation, the forerunner to today’s Defence Intelligence Organisation. Dr Fernandes served as historical adviser to producer Robert Connolly’s movie Balibo, which deals with the murder of the five newsmen by Indonesian troops. After more than two years’ delay, the Defence Department released a number of reports, some formerly classified Top Secret For Australian Eyes Only. However, almost all of the contents have been blacked out on the publicly released copies on the grounds the information ”continues to be sensitive”.
A former military intelligence officer, Dr Fernandes said he remained ‘’surprised” by the decision to withhold the information given ”the lengthy passage of time, the independence of East Timor [and] democratic political change in Indonesia”. ”There is a deep-seated culture of secrecy within Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade in which ‘national security’ serves as an easy alibi to conceal all manner of embarrassing truths,” Dr Fernandes said. The department’s decision to withhold the East Timor reports from public access is now subject to review by the Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Mr Oakeshott said responsibility ultimately rested with Senator Faulkner, who had previously been an advocate of greater transparency in the defence portfolio.

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com


  1. First of all I want to say great blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Many thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *