Most flotilla truths getting lost in hasbaraPosted: 11 Aug 2010

An interesting and serious charge and one that doesn’t appear to have entered the mainstream media:

In the aftermath of the crimes perpetrated against those riding on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla by the Israeli government, it has been well-documented that the Israeli hasbara machine somehow transformed the victims into victimizers. A bit over two months later, the spin continues unabated. Ma’an News Agency reported on August 8 that “The Turkish organizers of a Gaza-bound aid boat said Saturday that Israeli authorities painted over ‘thousands of bullets’ in one of their recently returned ship … Reporters, according to the BBC, said the ship did appear to have been freshly painted.” The Israel Defense Forces can paint over their crimes and ruthless behavior all they want, but their crimes have seen daylight and have reverberated around the world. Indeed, another flotilla, named appropriately “The Audacity of Hope”, after Barack Obama‘s famous book, will set sea soon. The Flotilla disaster has opened up the debate in the United States and around the world, and one can only hope that The Audacity of Hope tears down the walls of the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Green new world?Posted: 11 Aug 2010

The following article is co-written with Lee Rhiannon, New South Wales Greens Senate candidate in the forthcoming collection and appears in Online Opinion:

The bottom line for big business is return on investment for shareholders. However, the way a business is perceived as environmentally friendly or destructive seriously affects their profits. This is why corporations increasingly try to persuade the population at large that they are our ethical guardians and conscientious caretakers of the environment.
Take the mining industry’s reaction to the recently neutered resources super tax (RST). The Minerals Council of Australia released advertisements claiming that the new tax would result in catastrophic job losses and a crippled Australian minerals sector – emphasising that their main concern was the loss of jobs. Yet the very same industry, during a time of record profits from November 2009 to March 2010, made 10,500 forced redundancies. It’s clear that this talk of “community concern” is only used when it suits the needs or image of big business.
The outcome of the RST served to highlight the government’s closeness to the mining companies. It was a reminder of the powerful influence major corporations maintain over our political processes. Transparency simply doesn’t exist and public cynicism inevitably grows.
The problem isn’t isolated to the mining industry. Even the most common aspects of our day-to-day of life, such as the water we drink, are affected. In 2008 Mount Franklin (a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Amatil) ran a trio of “earth-conscious” promotions. Prizes included a hybrid car and a trip to an eco-resort in the Daintree rainforest. This ethical posturing as “environmentally friendly” only served to obscure the environmental consequences of producing bottled water.
Coca-Cola paid just $181 for a water-extraction licence that allowed them to take 66 million litres of water from the Mangrove Mountain aquifer in NSW and yet bottled water is still more expensive than petrol. Even though PET bottles are completely recyclable, only 35 per cent of the bottles actually get recycled. The remaining 65 per cent of bottles end up in landfill, taking over 20 years to break down.
Because they have no reason to behave ethically, other than fear of a negative public image, some industries will use all means at their disposal to generate profits. This includes hypocritical marketing campaigns. For example in 2004 BP launched a nationwide ad campaign in the US framing itself as the “global leader” in clean energy production. Since becoming the “global leader”, BP has been involved in the dubious manipulation of the US propane market (in 2004); a devastating explosion at a BP refinery in Texas, killing 15 workers and injuring 170 (in 2005); and a spill of 260,000 gallons into the Arctic tundra from a BP pipeline in Alaska (in 2006). Throughout that period, BP’s sales rose from $192 billion in 2004, $240 billion in 2005 and $266 billion in 2006.
Following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Mexican Gulf, the consequences of which are still immeasurable, new information is emerging every day on the many ways in which BP cut corners when it came to safeguards on the rig, some which have been implicated in the current disaster. Yet BP’s outgoing CEO, Tony Hayward, received a 40 per cent pay increase in 2009 based on BP’s “improved performance.” On leaving BP, Hayward said that his company had been the “model of corporate social responsibility” in addressing the Gulf of Mexico disaster.
The simple fact is that the majority of large corporations will do whatever it takes to generate increased profits. We shouldn’t fool ourselves by thinking otherwise. And governments are often helping. In the US, both Republican and Democrat members of congress have received large contributions from BP. The top 10 recipients, including Barack Obama and his opposition in the 2008 presidential election John McCain, netted combined contributions from BP in excess of $388,000. The transformation to a low-carbon economy, inevitable through climate change and a scarcity of non-renewable resources, fills some people with the hope that this type of business culture will change. But this is not certain.
For instance, links have been discovered between the transnational electric car company Better Place and the Israeli army’s illegal behaviour in occupied Palestinian territory. According to the Sydney Morning Herald in July, Ben Keneally, husband of the NSW Premier, runs the Australian arm’s marketing and strategy and the firm is currently lobbying for NSW government support. The company has built charging stations along Highway 443, a road that runs 30km through Palestinian territory in the West Bank. Part of the highway remains inaccessible to indigenous Palestinians despite an Israeli High Court ruling demanding equal access for both Palestinians and Israelis. Just because a company makes electric cars doesn’t mean they are ethically or environmentally sound.
The idea that industry should be left to make its own ethical decisions is both dangerous and misguided. Unless Australians take the time to listen carefully to what they’re told is “good” or “green”, some big business will continue to get away with unethical behaviour. But the fact that industry feels the need to engage in ethical and environmentally friendly marketing is a positive sign. It suggests that community pressure does have an influence on how corporations behave.

Israel aims for humanity during Ramadan but failsPosted: 11 Aug 2010
The fact that this is even a story shows the apartheid-like conditions in Palestine. Shameful:

Israel’s military will allow Palestinian and Israeli relatives to meet during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and soldiers have been briefed on how to show respect during the fast.
The fast of Ramadan began Wednesday.
Civil Administration officials met with Palestinian religious authorities to discuss prayer times and upcoming religious events, and to tell them about the relaxation of the rules.
Soldiers operating in the West Bank were asked to avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public, especially at border crossings. The soldiers also were given pamphlets explaining the laws and significance of the holiday, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Palestinian families will be permitted to visit relatives in Israel during Ramadan, and Israeli Arabs will be permitted to enter West Bank areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority during the holy month. The hours of several crossings between Israel and the Palestinian Authority also will be extended.

That New York Islamic Centre should be built todayPosted: 11 Aug 2010

Jon Stewart wonders whether some Americans actually believe in freedom of religion (Islam is a religion, in case anybody is wondering):

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Municipal Land-Use Hearing Update

Talking on ABC TV about elections, Obama, Greens and trainsPosted: 11 Aug 2010

Last night I appeared on ABC TV’s News24 channel on The Drum panel alongside The Chaser’s Chas Licciardello and former Liberal leader Kerry Chikarovski.
We talked about the Australian election campaign and why personality politics is seemingly the name of the game. Policies are mostly secondary items (though there are exceptions).
Even those of us who want to avoid talking incessantly about looks and who is up and who is down find it hard to ignore discussing the details that are noticed by nobody except the political tragics.
I kept banging on about sustainability, a word that’s used and abused these days but is central to understanding how a country must engage with climate change, public transport, food production and quality of life. A shame that a three year election cycle convinces most politicians to not take the issue seriously.
The highlight was the interview with Nation political correspondent John Nichols, currently in Sydney, who spoke about the comparison between the US and Australian election campaigns. He said that down under it appeared that personality was less of an issue, as too many were seduced in the US by Barack Obama’s slick performance. But he’s simply a “moderate Republican”, a profound disappointment. A third party is needed, he argued.
Why the Greens actually have a vision for the futurePosted: 11 Aug 2010

Great ad for the Greens Party aired tonight on the ABC’s The Gruen Nation.
Clean, straight to the point, displays humanity and proves why the party is set to score very well on election day, 21 August.
They actually believe in something:
Why can’t we have a mature debate over Afghanistan here?Posted: 11 Aug 2010

A good editorial in the Guardian that highlights the growing civilian casualties in Afghanistan and why the US is increasingly viewed as having brought chaos to the country.
Victory, indeed.
The blessed age of multiculturalismPosted: 10 Aug 2010

A healthy reminder of how many in the conservative movement see those of the non-white variety in our lands:
Rich world fiddles while the planet burnsPosted: 10 Aug 2010

In a mature election campaign, this issue would be front and centre:

Rich countries have been put on the back foot after new research showed that current pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions could be wiped out by gaping loopholes in the UN climate change treaty put forward in Copenhagen last year.
Developing countries have argued strongly for minimum 40% emission cuts from industrialised nations by 2020. But new analysis from the Stockholm Environment Institute and Third World Network (TWN), released at the latest UN climate talks in Bonn, showed that current pledges amounted to only 12-18% reductions below 1990 levels without loopholes. When all loopholes were taken into account, emissions could be allowed to rise by 9%.
The research factored in four separate loopholes that are known to exist, but which countries have so far failed to address in the negotiations. These include land use and forestry credits, carbon offset credits gained from UN Clean Development Mechanism schemes, surplus carbon allowances accumulated by former Soviet countries and international aviation and shipping emissions, which are not currently included in emission reduction schemes proposed by countries.

Just another Jewish state effort at ethnic cleansingPosted: 10 Aug 2010

Joseph Dana, an American Jew living in Israel, spends much of time campaigning for Palestinian rights. He’s a brave soul, a friend and colleague.
His latest post reveals the ongoing oppression of Bedouin in the country. It’s heart-breaking:

In the early hours of 10 August, Israeli forces destroyed — for the third time — the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the northern Negev desert. Israel had first destroyed the village on 27 July as EI reported, and each time the villagers have attempted to rebuild. Joseph Dana witnessed the latest destruction.
We arrived in the darkness. The horizon was blurred from the desert night sky and all that could be seen was ruin. Piles of concrete, steel reinforcing bars and wood in places where the village once sat. In this maze of construction material there were small makeshift living spaces, barely suitable for the harsh desert climate. Simple tent structures consisting of four wood shafts and a black tarp was the only remains of this village.
We, Israeli and international activists, were invited to sit in these tents through the night and sip coffee in the cool desert night with the villagers. They told us about their livelihood now that the village is constantly facing demolition. Some talked about their military service in the Israeli army and their disbelief that the country they served could behave in such a way as to destroy their entire village. Others expressed hope that at least some Israelis understood the grave nature of their government and were standing arm in arm with them.
As the night closed and the light began to change, the first sounds of the demolition crew could be heard far off in the distance. Before we had time to blink, 200 fully clad police officers were on microphones telling us to leave and that any violence would be met with harsher violence. As soon as the voices on the microphones stopped, the bulldozers began to work. The place we had been sitting and having coffee through the night was leveled before our groggy, disbelieving eyes. We barely had time to register the fact that the village was being leveled, as the police began pushing us away from the living structures with extreme force.
The demolition crew worked efficiently and without pause. Every structure that served some form of life in the village was leveled and all the building materials from it were trucked away. As we were pushed further from the village, a couple of activists tried to sit inside or in front of the tents. This was met with violence by the police as people were thrown to the ground like rag dolls. At one point in the chaos, a professor of medieval  history at Tel Aviv University was grabbed by a police officer, who quickly wrenched his hand behind his back. The professor was held like this for a number of minutes and then arrested. It is still unclear under what terms.
Finally, the police confined us to a hilltop and had us look over the village as it was destroyed. The water canisters, which are needed because Israel refuses to give the villagers water pipes, were broken and then placed on flat bed trucks to be carted away. The image of massive bulldozers flanked by heavily armed riot police destroying makeshift Bedouin living structures is something that no one would be able to forget. As soon as the forces left, the villagers began rebuilding what little they have left. Every week, their resources shrink and yet they rebuild. They have no choice.
All of the police officers and members of the demolition crew this morning were simply following orders. It was another day for them and due to the Israeli cultural understanding of the Bedouins and Palestinians as “nearly people,” they will probably not lose a wink of sleep this evening. However, the complete destruction of the village of al-Araqib is yet another powerful example of the Israeli banality of evil.

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