“Many of the citizens fall for US government propaganda justifying its military actions as often and as naively as Charlie Brown falling for Lucy’s football.
Wednesday 17 September 2014
By credited author on Wednesday 17 September 2014, 14:29
Wednesday 13 August 2014
By credited author on Wednesday 13 August 2014, 06:59
Monday 4 August 2014
By credited author on Monday 4 August 2014, 15:55 - Documents
The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed. The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties. UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians. We call for a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schools.
We continue to underscore that all parties must take all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties and protect the civilian population and comply with international humanitarian law.
Tuesday 29 July 2014
By credited author on Tuesday 29 July 2014, 18:08
NBC News edited a story about strikes near a hospital in Gaza to echo the official IDF version. The story originally clearly identified Israel as the perpetrator. Also see this piece.
Tuesday 22 July 2014
By credited author on Tuesday 22 July 2014, 15:23 - Know Your Empire
Exclusive: The U.S. media’s Ukraine bias has been obvious, siding with the Kiev regime and bashing ethnic Russian rebels and Russia’s President Putin. But now – with the scramble to blame Putin for the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down – the shoddy journalism has grown truly dangerous, says Robert Parry.
Thursday 20 March 2014
By credited author on Thursday 20 March 2014, 10:04 - Know Your Empire
The EU Parliament had issued a statement of concern over the Svoboda Party -
now in power in Ukraine and considered the "legitimate" government by the US -
in December 2013, including the following point:
European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2012 on the situation in Ukraine 2012/2889(RSP))
The European Parliament,
8. Is concerned about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada; recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU's fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party;
Monday 3 March 2014
By credited author on Monday 3 March 2014, 13:45 - Know Your Empire
I've been thinking back on my youth recently, on the 60s, and on how
convinced we were back then that there was such a thing as progress; on how
sure we were that by the time we were old, the world would have changed. I was
an American, and I had been raised on perpetual progress in all areas -
technology, human rights, quality of life - and was sure that the world would
be a more peaceful and prosperous place by now.
But now as I watch the news on television I see that sabers are again rattling, that the Russians are being warned by the US State department that the consequences will be severe if they attempt to keep Crimea in their sphere of influence. The TV news doesn't mention the fact that the crisis in Crimea - that is, in Ukraine - was directly caused by the US and its NATO allies through their fomenting the overthrow of the Yanukovich government.
Why? The supposed reason is that Yanukovich in Ukraine and Putin in Russia are despotic leaders and that the real majority of the people - not the "elites" whom these near-dictators serve - aspire to true democracy. The kind of democracy that exists in the US and France and the UK, for example. The real reason is that Washington and NATO have a master plan for continually extending their influence throughout the globe and that that master plan involves breaking up what was once the USSR into a number of smaller states that can be brought into the NATO fold and their resources channeled into the coffers of the elites in the NATO countries. This is of course in direct contradiction with the promises made at the time of the breakup of the former USSR and the de facto dissolution of the Warsaw pact - that NATO would not expand into the territory formerly covered by the Pact.
Back in the 60s, and for decades before then, the US and its allies were engaged in the same kind of interference in the affairs of other parts of the world - always on the pretext of "protecting democracy" or "midwifing freedom," or some similar formulation. Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 are examples that immediately come to mind. Never was it admitted that the machinations, and when the machinations failed, the direct military interventions, were in fact intended to protect the vital interests - meaning the financial interests - of the USA - meaning the elite that was in power, and is still in power. And, of course, there is another reason for the machinations and the ever-present threat of military action that is always in the background: justifying the existence of the US/NATO military machine and the $1.67 trillion* spent on it annually. Spent... or should we say extracted from the populations of the US and the NATO countries?
As I grow old and face the world of today, where the progress of technology seems to have been accompanied by regression in human rights and quality of life, I can only wonder, watching the news, how my attempts to make sense of my own life and make peace with my own past, natural as old age approaches, can make any sense in such a context. It's as if the leaders of the world were eternally young and eternally stupid - like the gods of the mythology our culture is founded on. It's as if we - when I say "we," I mean we as Americans, as French, as German, or as British, as represented by the leaders we have duly elected through our admittedly imperfect but at least functioning democratic processes - were trying to play at being Immortals by interfering in the lives of ordinary people to satisfy our own infantile need to have our way, our childish greed, never being satisfied with the wealth we have, or our pusillanimous desire to know everything everyone everywhere is thinking and saying. Is our democratic system really such a model for the rest of the world when those we put in power behave in this way? How much longer can we remain human if we continue to allow our leaders to play at being gods?
Wednesday 18 September 2013
By credited author on Wednesday 18 September 2013, 08:43 - Know Your Empire
The United Nations report on the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on August 21 does not, as newspaper headlines have indicated, “point to Assad’s use of gas” ; confirm that rockets were loaded with sarin ; or “come closer to linking Assad to sarin attack” . Nor, as US officials and some journalists have declared, does it “reinforce the case that Mr. Assad’s forces were responsible” ; “confirm Damascus’s responsibility” ; or “undercut arguments by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria that rebel forces … had been responsible.” 
This isn’t to say that Syrian forces didn’t use chemical weapons, only that the evidence adduced in the UN report doesn’t show, or even suggest, that they did. On the contrary, the report offers stronger evidence that attempts were made to manipulate evidence to attribute blame to the Syrian government.
Tuesday 17 September 2013
By credited author on Tuesday 17 September 2013, 14:15
Thursday 12 September 2013
By credited author on Thursday 12 September 2013, 08:16 - Know Your Empire
by Grace Livingstone
theguardian.com, Wednesday 11 September 2013 08.01 BST
Forty years on, declassified documents reveal an outpouring of
concern from the British public over Pinochet's coup – and the
Foreign Office's attempt to undermine the solidarity campaign
Forty years ago today, when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Salvador
Allende, the elected president of Chile, democrats across the world were
horrified. But not the British Foreign Office. Declassified government
documents show British diplomats reserved their harshest criticism for human
rights campaigners and journalists trying to alert the world to the
"disappearance" and torture of thousands of Chileans. The head of the Foreign
Office's Latin America department complained:
"Chileans must be wondering why on earth so much unfair attention is being paid to their change of government. The answer is that Chile is now being subjected to the full treatment by an international front organisation, the Chile Solidarity Movement. Chile has been chosen by the organised left as a new crusade."
Intelligence officers were sent to infiltrate the Chile Solidarity Campaign, a movement backed by Labour MPs, trade unions, students and church groups. The secret service reports, declassified earlier this year, can now be seen at the National Archives in Kew.
Journalists were another Foreign Office target. Complaining of "black propaganda against the Chilean armed services", British officials tried to manipulate the news.
When a team from the BBC Panorama programme visited Chile in November 1973, staff at the British embassy secured them "maximum co-operation from the junta".
The embassy was optimistic about the slant of the documentary, which included interviews with members of the Anglo-Chilean business community speaking approvingly about the coup. A British embassy official wrote: "The balance of the programme should be 60 to 75% favourable to the new regime." The embassy was not so pleased with a World in Action Granada TV team that arrived at the same time. The same official wrote: "I gathered that the WIA producer … came to cover torture and shootings … Granada's activities were certainly known to the junta whose press secretary told me that they had been seeing 'things they should not see'." An FCO official back in London scrawled on the letter: "Ominous news about the World in Action film".
But the archives also tell a more heartening story: an outpouring of concern and solidarity from the British public. In battered brown folders, sheaves of letters urge Edward Heath's government to take action against Pinochet – letters from an elderly couple in Leicester, "an appalled family" from London, from academics, students, Labour party branches and the "Bath Women's Liberation Front". There is even a telegram from a young Gordon Brown.
But most numerous are the letters from trade unionists. The shipbuilders' union urged the government not to sell warships to Pinochet, even though losing these contracts could threaten their own jobs. The government's response? To send spies to shipyards across Britain to check workers were not sabotaging vessels destined for Chile.
When Labour came to power in 1974, it cut off arms sales, aid and credit to Pinochet and, in 1977, withdrew the British ambassador. But existing arms contracts were to be honoured, so trade unionists took matters into their own hands. Employees at East Kilbride engineering yard in Scotland refused to fix bomber-plane engines destined for Chile, forcing Rolls Royce to break its contract with the Chilean air force. This forgotten history of solidarity will be celebrated across Britain today, the 40th anniversary of the coup.
Unsurprisingly, when Pinochet's most prominent defender, Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979, diplomatic relations were soon restored and arms sales resumed.
Declassified papers reveal that, by June 1982, her government had sold the dictatorship: two warships, 60 blowpipe missiles, 10 Hunter Hawker bomber planes, naval pyrotechnics, communications equipment, gun sights, machine guns and ammunition. A unique attempt at a British "ethical foreign policy" had ended.
Wednesday 4 September 2013
By credited author on Wednesday 4 September 2013, 09:30 - Know Your Empire
With President Obama asking Congress to back a military strike to punish Syria for alleged chemical weapons use, the U.S. is lurching toward a new war. Beyond doubts about what happened and whether a U.S. missile attack will help, there is scant public understanding of the Syrian conflict, notes Mideast expert William R. Polk.
Friday 26 April 2013
By credited author on Friday 26 April 2013, 21:33 - Know Your Empire
Isn't it funny that just a week after the Boston bombings and the
announcement that a terrorist plot driven by Iran was foiled in Canada, the
word has gone out that what we have feared for so long (or to put it another
way, what we have been prepared to accept for so long) has come about: Dr.
Assad has stepped over the red line - or is at least standing on it, with one
foot ready to come down on the other side (the former is the Republican take,
the latter the Democrat)?
In contrast, take a look at this (note the date - March 19th): http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article34344.htm
And look quick, because it might not be there much longer.
Also note how Chuck Hagel said yesterday that the reports were not to be taken seriously, while stopping short of criticizing Israeli intelligence:
But today, 24 hours later, Mr. Hagel... stepped over the line:
"(Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday the U.S. effort to determine whether Syria has used chemical weapons is a "serious business" that cannot be decided in a rush just because several countries believe evidence supports that conclusion.
"Suspicions are one thing, evidence is another," Hagel told reporters as he wrapped up a visit to Egypt that included talks about Syria and other regional issues.
"I think we have to be very careful here before we make any conclusions (and) draw any conclusions based on real intelligence. That's not at all questioning other nations' intelligence. But the United States relies on its own intelligence." "
"ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — U.S. intelligence has concluded "with some degree of varying confidence," that the Syrian government has used sarin gas as a weapon in its 2-year-old civil war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
Hagel, speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, said the White House has informed two senators by letter that, within the past day, "our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin."
"It violates every convention of warfare," Hagel said. "
When you're a new defense secretary, you learn fast...
Friday 19 April 2013
By credited author on Friday 19 April 2013, 10:48
Tuesday 5 March 2013
By credited author on Tuesday 5 March 2013, 16:09 - Know Your Empire
Current events have caught up with this post. It started when I bought my son, who was studying for his brevet exams – here in France the brevet is your ticket out of middle school and into high school – a review workbook for his Civics exam. The educational system being highly centralized in France, the curricula are nationwide and schoolbook publishing is a lucrative industry. Which may explain why French capitalists and their friends in politics tend to take an interest in it… But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My son began studying the book and at one point came and showed me the caption on a picture in a section entitled Les menaces pour la paix et la sécurité (“Threats to Peace and Security”). The picture is of a missile being fired, and the caption reads “Un missile à capacité nucléaire iranien” (“A nuclear-capable Iranian missile”). The picture was one of several “documents” that are supposed to serve as a basis for “reflection and discussion by students.” The strong implication is that Iran has a military nuclear program, and even nuclear warheads. This is being presented to my son and his generation of French middle-school kids as a simple fact.
Yet a little reading in the mainstream information media will demonstrate that it is anything but a fact. Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is in charge of surveillance of compliance with that treaty, has rejected “allegations” (mostly coming from the US and its allies) that Iran is pursuing development of nuclear weapons1.
The fact is that the United States and its allies, including France, have been exerting pressure on Iran to cease its program of uranium enrichment – to which it is entitled under the terms of the aforementioned treaty –, supposedly as a guarantee of Iran’s intention not to pursue development of a nuclear weapon. In the meantime, the NATO/US military machine has been stepping up its presence in the region, as if it were doing everything in its power to push Iran towards developing a weapon for purposes of deterrence.
So I looked to see who the publisher of the workbook is. The publisher turns out to be Hachette Éducation, the largest publisher of textbooks in France, with 1.052 billion euros in sales in 2007. Hachette Éducation is a division of Hachette Livre, which is part of the Lagardère group. The Lagardère group originates in the takeover of the French press-publishing giant Hachette by arms manufacturer Matra in 1980. The group today has a co-controlling share in EADS, which in 2010 ranked seventh in the list of the top ten weapons merchants, with 12.3 billion euros in sales. “Among EADS’s divisions is Matra BAe Dynamics, formed in 1996 via a merger of the missile business of BAe (BAe Dynamics) and half of the missile business of Matra Défense. (The other half remained as Aerospatiale Matra Missiles).”2
So a textbook writer working for Hachette would probably have little trouble finding stock photos of missiles to fill in a page in a Civics workbook…
According to the Reference for Business Company History Index3, in the controversial 1980 takeover of Hachette by Matra “[then French president] Giscard d’Estaing’s government supported Matra, its principal arms supplier” amid fears that “The publishing industry [was] gradually losing its financial and intellectual independence…” Were those fears justified? Well, today, 70% of the French press is controlled by arms manufacturers Lagardère and Dassault4.A 2004 article in The Economist5 expressed concern over the increasing influence of armaments makers on the French press and publishing industry. Isn’t it disturbing to see that the largest textbook publisher in France is part of an arms manufacturing group? And, given the incestuous relationship between business and government in France, that taxpayers’ money is being used to produce these textbooks?
As I said, current events have caught up with this post. The workbook dates from a couple of years ago, and so was published under the Sarkozy regime. Sarkozy, of course, is alleged to have long-standing ties to the US in general and to the CIA in particular. “Sarkozy the American” was the man who ended France’s tradition of keeping the US and NATO at arm’s length by returning France to NATO’s integrated military structure after a 43-year absence6,7. Sarkozy also demonstrated a taste for military adventurism when he spearheaded the 2011 attack on Ghaddafi’s Libya.
When a Socialist president was elected last year, the issue of France’s participation in NATO and her military adventurism was very much a part of the campaign, and current president François Hollande, playing on his pacifist political inheritance, had promised “to re-examine the NATO question.” He has been accused by his political opponents of wanting to slash France’s military budget. But today he has shown himself to be as eager as Sarkozy was to “prove his mettle as a leader” and engage his country in war – for purely “humanitarian” motives, of course. And the mainstream press, unsurprisingly, has furthered that narrative.
Taking the train into Paris yesterday, I noticed that the billboard frames that line the tracks – usually devoted to yogurt or cheese or the latest vampire movie – were mostly displaying advertisements for France’s modern army. The billboards depict fit young men and women in camouflage, training in combat techniques or young men in Robocop-like crowd-control gear standing on a railway platform holding assault rifles, “protecting the population.” The French Army is recruiting 10,000 young men and women. Meanwhile, the French auto industry plans to fire 11,000 workers between now and 2015 – with the consent of the unions and the government.
It made me realize that in fact nothing has changed. France is one of the world’s leading armaments producers. And countries whose economies depend heavily on the production of weapons of war need to remain in a constant state of war. That state of war needs to be justified to the population, and the population needs to be provided with an enemy from whom it needs to be protected. Or else the war-waging needs to be sanitized, as is now being done with Syria and Mali, and as was done with Libya and earlier with Serbia/Kosovo, by convincing the population that what is being done with its tax money is “humanitarian intervention.” And that is where the press comes in.
Examples of how the press promotes the enterprise of war can be seen every day. During the preparation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 they were ubiquitous and egregious. The lesson of the Vietnam war was learned well. No reporter is allowed direct access to a combat area, and the information they have access to is kept under strict control. The mainstream press now supports the official narrative of what is happening wherever the US/NATO intervenes – currently in Syria and Mali. Is that surprising, given the degree of control the warplane makers have over the press?
But it goes farther than that. The culture of war is etched in myriad ways into the official and popular culture of countries where armaments are the lifeblood of the economy. Nick Turse, in The Complex, reveals how the Pentagon provides support for the development of computer shooter games and war movies. The recent film Zero Dark Thirty is reportedly the result of direct collaboration with the Obama administration8. What passes for entertainment – some would even call it art – is in fact metaprogramming, designed to ensure that the message Obama sent to the world in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech – that it’s going to be business as usual – is not forgotten: “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”
Presumably – in France, at least – violent conflict will be on the menu into our children’s lifetimes, too, and our textbooks need to condition them to accept that. Why? Is it because Obama’s words are, sadly, true? Or is it for another reason? Is it because the publisher of the textbooks is also a merchant of death?
Monday 11 February 2013
By credited author on Monday 11 February 2013, 12:41
“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
See more of what Kennan had to say here.
Monday 7 January 2013
By credited author on Monday 7 January 2013, 13:55 - Know Your Empire
“Consumer society is a booby trap. Those at the controls feign ignorance, but anybody with eyes in his head can see that the great majority of people necessarily must consume not much, very little, or nothing at all in order to save the bit of nature we have left. Social injustice is not an error to be corrected, nor is it a defect to be overcome; it is an essential requirement of the system. No natural world is capable of supporting a mall the size of the planet... [If] we all consumed like those who are squeezing the earth dry, we’d have no world left.”
-Eduardo Galeano, in Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World
Thursday 6 December 2012
By credited author on Thursday 6 December 2012, 22:11
It may be difficult for many people, and in particular Americans, to imagine a doctor being evicted from his home for non-payment of rent. But it can happen to a doctor in Greece. And Giorgos Kosmopoulos of Athens is a physician.
And not just any physician. He is a thoracic surgeon who studied under Dr. Christiaan Barnard in South Africa at the Heart Transplant Center, Groote Schuur University Hospital, Cape Town. He has been Senior Lecturer at the Department of Cardio-thoracic Surgery at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and head of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Agios Savas Anticancer Hospital in Athens. He has performed 3,535 operations as a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Giorgos Kosmopoulos is also a founder of StopCartel TV, a most beloved pioneer of the Livestream and one of the only bilingual livestreamers in Greece. Tomorrow morning, Giorgos and his family of six are facing eviction from their home of 14 years.
And where is Giorgos tonight? He is livestreaming, on location in the center of Athens. He said that despite his personal problems, he felt it was his duty to livestream and archive the clashes between the rioting Greek police and protesters who have gathered to commemorate the murder of 16-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was shot dead on December 6, 2008.
A lifelong activist, Dr. Kosmopoulos grew up in Greece during the junta and joined the resistance at age 17, when he entered university. During the decade he spent in South Africa, he was an anti-apartheid activist and survived two hunger strikes, one for 26 days and one for 30 days.
A personal family tragedy brought him and his family back to Greece, where they currently reside. At the age of six, his son Christopher, was shot in the head, leaving him blind in one eye and with half of his vision in the other eye. Doctors said that Christopher had lost half of his brain function, as well, and would have a more successful education in his mother tongue.
The family moved back to Greece and enrolled Christopher in a special school. After one month, the school called and said that Christopher did not belong there. So they enrolled him in a normal grammar school and he did well. He went on to High School and then to university. Christopher is now an economist and ran for Parliament in the last election on the SYRIZA ticket.
When Giorgos was head of Thoracic Surgery at Agios Savas in Athens, hospital workers’ wages began to be slashed. He went to Human Resources and asked if he was eligible to retire with a smaller pension. They told him he was and he resigned. He collected a pension for six months and then the payments simply stopped. The government said he was NOT eligible. Meanwhile, he only had two months to be reinstated in his old job. Since that window of opportunity closed, he started a private practice. But with the Troika’s two austerity Memoranda passing, people in Greece had no money for a private physician, and he had to close his practice. He applied to the government for a post as a doctor and after months of waiting, they assigned him a post far from Athens, in the remote Western Peloponnese. The pay was low and it would have been a hardship to move his entire family there. He asked to be reassigned to a post in the greater Athens area. He is still waiting for a post, but the wheels of the public sector have come to a grinding halt. It could take forever for him to get an assignment. Another 40% of public-sector jobs are on the chopping block.
Meanwhile, under the new “fast-track” eviction procedures that are only one of a multitude of measures – some small, some egregious – that are slowly bleeding Greece’s people through a thousand cuts, this distinguished physician and dedicated citizen journalist has been informed that he is to be evicted from his home. In many European countries, eviction is illegal under any circumstances during the winter months. But not in the Greece of today. Not in the Greece that has become a laboratory of neoliberal doctrine. That is why Dr. Giorgos Kosmopoulos is doing everything he can to inform the world, despite the silence and complacency of the mainstream corporate media, of the plight of his country.
He spoke about the pending eviction tonight on his livestream:
“We will prepare for peaceful civil disobedience tomorrow. We will not tolerate being violently removed from our home of 14 years. If the eviction is imposed, we will resist and express our disobedience. We will not allow them to get inside our house. They may resort to using violence and throwing our belongings on the street. We hope some comrades will come to our house to support us. Online, it’s not wise to say what we will do. This will all be online and live. So keep in mind you who are talking from the US, it will be difficult for you to view because of the time difference.
The world must know of the humanitarian catastrophe in Greece. Thousands of Greek families are homeless and nobody cares about us. Please do your best to spread the word and help raise awareness.”
The Kosmopoulos family is requesting a January 13 postponement for the eviction which will give them time to find a new flat and move their belongings.
Wednesday 21 November 2012
By credited author on Wednesday 21 November 2012, 09:13 - Know Your Empire
Obama’s second term opens with the worst kind of display of US power –
backing two clients who are hell-bent on creating mayhem against their
neighbors. Coming to the defense of Israel in Bangkok, Obama made
himself the laughing stock of the world. He said, “There is no country on earth
that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its
borders,” forgetting, of course, that US drones rain hellfire on Droneland –
from Yemen to Pakistan, in violation of the UN’s own position on such
extra-judicial assassinations, and it was Israel that began this particular
episode with its own extra-judicial killing of Ahmad Jabari. There is no
“reset,” no new liberalism. Drone strikes and other exaggerations of US aerial
power, fanatical defense of its allies, and refusal to come to terms with the
emergent multipolarity – this is the Obama Doctrine, now at work in Gaza and
Monday 19 November 2012
By credited author on Monday 19 November 2012, 05:12
A short interview broadcast by CNN late last week featuring two participants – a Palestinian in Gaza and an Israeli within range of the rocket attacks – did not follow the usual script.
For once, a media outlet dropped its role as gatekeeper, there to mediate and therefore impair our understanding of what is taking place between Israel and the Palestinians, and inadvertently became a simple window on real events.
The usual aim of such “balance” interviews relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is twofold: to reassure the audience that both sides of the story are being presented fairly; and to dissipate potential outrage at the deaths of Palestinian civilians by giving equal time to the suffering of Israelis.
But the deeper function of such coverage in relation to Gaza, given the media’s assumption that Israeli bombs are simply a reaction to Hamas terror, is to redirect the audience’s anger exclusively towards Hamas. In this way, Hamas is made implicitly responsible for the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.
The dramatic conclusion to CNN’s interview appears, however, to have otherwise trumped normal journalistic considerations.
The pre-recorded interview via Skype opened with Mohammed Sulaiman in Gaza. From what looked like a cramped room, presumably serving as a bomb shelter, he spoke of how he was too afraid to step outside his home. Throughout the interview, we could hear the muffled sound of bombs exploding in the near-distance. Mohammed occasionally glanced nervously to his side.
The other interviewee, Nissim Nahoom, an Israeli official in Ashkelon, also spoke of his family’s terror, arguing that it was no different from that of Gazans. Except in one respect, he hastened to add: things were worse for Israelis because they had to live with the knowledge that Hamas rockets were intended to harm civilians, unlike the precision missiles and bombs Israel dropped on Gaza.
The interview returned to Mohammed. As he started to speak, the bombing grew much louder. He pressed on, saying he would not be silenced by what was taking place outside. The interviewer, Isha Sesay, interrupted – seemingly unsure of what she was hearing – to inquire about the noise.
Then, with an irony that Mohammed could not have appreciated as he spoke, he began to say he refused to be drawn into a comparison about whose suffering was worse when an enormous explosion threw him from his chair and severed the internet connection. Switching back to the studio, Sesay reassured viewers that Mohammed had not been hurt.
The bombs, however, spoke more eloquently than either Mohammed or Nissim.
If Mohammed had had more time, he might have been able to challenge Nissim’s point about Israelis’ greater fears as well as pointing to another important difference between his and his Israeli interlocutor’s respective plights.
The far greater accuracy of Israel’s weaponry in no way confers peace of mind. The fact is that a Palestinian civilian in Gaza is in far more danger of being killed or injured by one of Israel’s precision armaments than an Israeli is by one of the more primitive rockets being launched out of Gaza.
In Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in winter 2008-09, three Israelis were killed by rocket attacks, and six soldiers died in fighting. In Gaza, meanwhile, nearly 1,400 Palestinians were killed, of whom at least 1,000 were not involved in hostilities, according to the Israeli group B’Tselem. Many, if not most, of those civilians were killed by so-called precision bombs and missiles.
If Israelis like Nissim really believe they have to endure greater suffering because the Palestinians lack accurate weapons, then maybe they should start lobbying Washington to distribute its military hardware more equitably, so that the Palestinians can receive the same allocations of military aid and armaments as Israel.
Or alternatively, they could lobby their own government to allow Iran and Hizbullah to bring into Gaza more sophisticated technology than can currently be smuggled in via the tunnels.
The other difference is that, unlike Nissim and his family, most people in Gaza have nowhere else to flee. And the reason that they must live under the rain of bombs in one of the most densely populated areas on earth is because Israel – and to a lesser extent Egypt – has sealed the borders to create a prison for them.
Israel has denied Gaza a port, control of its airspace and the right of its inhabitants to move to the other Palestinian territory recognised by the Oslo accords, the West Bank. It is not, as Israel’s supporters allege, that Hamas is hiding among Palestinian civilians; rather, Israel has forced Palestinian civilians to live in a tiny strip of land that Israel turned into a war zone.
So who is chiefly to blame for the escalation that currently threatens the nearly two million inhabitants of Gaza? Though Hamas’ hands are not entirely clean, there are culprits far more responsible than the Palestinian militants.
The inciting cause of the latest confrontation between Israel and Hamas has little to do with the firing of rockets, whether by Hamas or the other Palestinian factions.
The conflict predates the rockets – and even the creation of Hamas – by decades. It is the legacy of Israel’s dispossession of Palestinians in 1948, forcing many of them from their homes in what is now Israel into the tiny Gaza Strip. That original injustice has been compounded by the occupation Israel has not only failed to end but has actually intensified in recent years with its relentless siege of the small strip of territory.
Israel has been progressively choking the life out of Gaza, destroying its economy, periodically wrecking its infrastructure, denying its inhabitants freedom of movement and leaving its population immiserated.
One only needs to look at the restrictions on Gazans’ access to their own sea. Here we are not considering their right to use their own coast to leave and enter their territory, simply their right to use their own waters to feed themselves. According to one provision of the Oslo accords, Gaza was given fishing rights up to 20 miles off its shore. Israel has slowly whittled that down to just three miles, with Israeli navy vessels firing on fishing boats even inside that paltry limit.
Palestinians in Gaza are entitled to struggle for their right to live and prosper. That struggle is a form of self-defence – not aggression – against occupation, oppression, colonialism and imperialism.
The Israeli prime minister and defence minister have taken a direct and personal hand, above and beyond Israel’s wider role in enforcing the occupation, in escalating the violence.
Israel and its supporters always make it their first priority when Israel launches a new war of aggression to obscure the timeline of events as a way to cloud responsibility. The media willingly regurgitates such efforts at misdirection.
In reality, Israel engineered a confrontation to provide the pretext for a “retaliatory” attack, just as it did four years earlier in Operation Cast Lead. Then Israel broke a six-month ceasefire agreed with Hamas by staging a raid into Gaza that killed six Hamas members.
This time, on 8 November, Israel achieved the same end by invading Gaza again, on this occasion following a two-week lull in tensions. A 13-year-old boy out playing football was killed by an Israeli bullet.
Tit-for-tat violence over the following days resulted in the injury of eight Israelis, including four soldiers, and the deaths of five Palestinian civilians, and the wounding of dozens more in Gaza.
On November 12, as part of efforts to calm things down, the Palestinian militant factions agreed a truce that held two days – until Israel broke it by assassinating Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari. The rockets out of Gaza that followed these various Israeli provocations have been misrepresented as the casus belli.
But if Netanyahu and Barak are responsible for creating the immediate pretext for an attack on Gaza, they are also criminally negligent for failing to pursue an opportunity to secure a much longer truce with Hamas.
We now know, thanks to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, that in the period leading up to Jabari’s execution Egypt had been working to secure a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. Jabari was apparently eager to agree to it.
Baskin, who was intimately involved in the talks, was a credible conduit between Israel and Hamas because he had played a key role last year in getting Jabari to sign off on a prisoner exchange that led to the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Baskin noted in the Haaretz newspaper that Jabari’s assassination “killed the possibility of achieving a truce and also the Egyptian mediators’ ability to function.”
The peace activist had already met Barak to alert him to the truce, but it seems the defence minister and Netanyahu had more pressing concerns than ending the tensions between Israel and Hamas.
What could have been more important than finding a mechanism for saving lives, on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Baskin offers a clue: “Those who made the decision must be judged by the voters, but to my regret they will get more votes because of this.”
It seems Israel’s general election, due in January, was uppermost in the minds of Netanyahu and Barak.
A lesson learnt by Israeli leaders over recent years, as Baskin notes, is that wars are vote-winners solely for the right wing. That should be clear to no one more than Netanyahu. He has twice before become prime minister on the back of wars waged by his more “moderate” political opponents as they faced elections.
Shimon Peres, a dove by no standard except a peculiar Israeli one, launched an attack on Lebanon, Operation Grapes of Wrath, that cost him the election in 1996. And centrists Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni again helped Netanyahu to victory by attacking Gaza in late 2008.
Israelis, it seems, prefer a leader who does not bother to wrap a velvet glove around his iron fist.
Netanyahu was already forging ahead in the polls before he minted Operation Pillar of Defence. But the electoral fortunes of Ehud Barak, sometimes described as Netanyahu’s political Siamese twin and a military mentor to Netanyahu from their commando days together, have been looking grim indeed.
Barak desperately needed a military rather than a political campaign to boost his standing and get his renegade Independence party across the electoral threshold and into the Israeli parliament. It seems Netanyahu, thinking he had little to lose himself from an operation in Gaza, may have been willing to oblige.
Israel’s army has become addicted to two doctrines it calls the “deterrence principle” and its “qualitative military edge”. Both are fancy ways of saying that, like some mafia heavy, the Israeli army wants to be sure it alone can “whack” its enemies. Deterrence, in Israeli parlance, does not refer to a balance of fear but Israel’s exclusive right to use terror.
The amassing of rockets by Hamas, therefore, violates the Israeli army’s own sense of propriety, just as Hizbullah’s stockpiling does further north. Israel wants its neighbouring enemies to have no ability to resist its dictates.
Doubtless the army was only too ready to back Netanyahu and Barak’s electioneering if it also provided an opportunity to clean out some of Hamas’ rocket arsenal.
But there is another strategic reason why the Israeli army has been chomping at the bit to crack down on Hamas again.
Haaretz’s two chief military correspondents explained the logic of the army’s position last week, shortly after Israel killed Jabari. They reported: “For a long time now Israel has been pursuing a policy of containment in the Gaza Strip, limiting its response to the prolonged effort on the part of Hamas to dictate new rules of the game surrounding the fence, mainly in its attempt to prevent the entry of the IDF into the ‘perimeter,’ the strip of a few hundred meters wide to the west of the fence.”
In short, Hamas has angered Israeli commanders by refusing to sit quietly while the army treats large areas of Gaza as its playground and enters at will.
Israel has created what it terms a “buffer zone” inside the fence around Gaza, often up to a kilometre wide, that Palestinians cannot enter but the Israeli army can use as a gateway for launching its “incursions”. Remote-controlled guns mounted on Israeli watch-towers around Gaza can open fire on any Palestinian who is considered to have approached too close.
Three incidents shortly before Jabari’s extra-judicial execution illustrate the struggle for control over Gaza’s interior.
On November 4, the Israeli army shot dead a young Palestinian man inside Gaza as he was reported to have approached the fence. Palestinians say he was mentally unfit and that he could have been saved by medics had ambulances not been prevented from reaching him for several hours.
On November 8, as already noted, the Israeli army made an incursion into Gaza to attack Palestinian militants and in the process shot dead a boy playing football.
And on November 10, two days later, Palestinian fighters fired an anti-tank missile that destroyed a Jeep patrolling the perimeter fence around Gaza, wounding four soldiers.
As the Haaretz reporters note, Hamas appears to be trying to demonstrate that it has as much right to defend its side of the “border fence” as Israel does on the other side.
The army’s response to this display of native impertinence has been to inflict a savage form of collective punishment on Gaza to remind Hamas who is boss.
It is near-impossible to believe that Netanyahu decided to revive Israel’s policy of extra-judicial executions of Hamas leaders – and bystanders – without at least consulting the White House. Israel clearly also held off from beginning its escalation until after the US elections, restricting itself, as it did in Cast Lead, to the “downtime” in US politics between the elections and the presidential inauguration.
That was designed to avoid overly embarrassing the US president. A fair assumption must be that Barack Obama approved Israel’s operation in advance. Certainly he has provided unstinting backing since, despite the wildly optimistic scenarios painted by some analysts that he was likely to seek revenge on Netanyahu in his second term.
Also, it should be remembered that Israel’s belligerence towards Gaza, and the easing of domestic pressure on Israel to negotiate with Hamas or reach a ceasefire, has largely been made possible because Obama forced US taxpayers to massively subsidise Israel’s rocket interception system, Iron Dome, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Iron Dome is being used to shoot down rockets out of Gaza that might otherwise have landed in built-up areas of Israel. Israel and the White House have therefore been able to sell US munificence on the interception of rockets as a humanitarian gesture.
But the reality is that Iron Dome has swung Israel’s cost-benefit calculus sharply in favour of greater aggression because it is has increased Israel’s sense of impunity. Whatever Hamas’ ability to smuggle into Gaza more sophisticated weaponry, Israel believes it can neutralise that threat using interception systems.
Far from being a humanitarian measure, Iron Dome has simply served to ensure that Gaza will continue to suffer a far larger burden of deaths and injuries in confrontations with Israel and that such confrontations will continue to occur regularly.
Here are the four main culprits. They should be held responsible for the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis in the days and, if Israel expands its operation, weeks ahead.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.
Friday 12 October 2012
By credited author on Friday 12 October 2012, 02:46
To the financial institutions of the world, we have only one thing to say: we owe you NOTHING!
To our friends, families, our communities, to humanity and to the natural world that makes our lives possible, we owe you everything.
To the people of the world, we say: join the resistance, you have nothing to lose but your debts.
On O13, in the context of the worlwide "globalnoise" mobilisation, and within the Global Week of Action against Debt, we will mobilise against debt in several cities of the world: Barcelona, Madrid, Mexico, Paris, New York…
The state response to the financial and economic crisis is the same everywhere: cuts in expenditure and austerity measures under the pretext of reducing deficits and the repayment of a public debt which is the direct outcome of decades of neoliberal policies. The same neoliberal policies that have plungered economic and natural resources and exploited human lifes in Latin America, Asia and Africa for decades, are now also being imposed on the people of Europe and North America.
Governments in the service of finance are using this pretext to further reduce social spending, lower wages and pensions, privatize public utility and goods, dismantle social benefits and deregulate labour laws, and increase taxes on the majority, while social and tax giveaways are generalized for the big companies and the highest income households, the rich, the 1%.
The campaign to subdue the world to public and private debt is a calculated attack on the very possibility of democracy. It is an assault on our homes, our families, our social services and benefits, our communities and on the planet’s fragile eco-systems—all of which are being destroyed by endless production to pay back creditors, who have done nothing to hog the wealth they demand we make for them.
Faced with such coordinated attacks on our social gains, resistance is getting organized around the world, there are national general strikes and the ‘indignados’ movements are increasingly active. In Iceland, the people refused to pay the Icesave debt to the UK and the Netherlands. In Ecuador the people pushed the government into a Debt Audit that saved the country millions of dollars in debt payments. In Argentina, Brasil, Bolivia, Zimbabwe, Mali, Burkina Faso, Indonesia or the Philipines, among many other countries, people have been resisting and opposing debt for decades. In Spain, and in Portugal, from the 15th of September, enormous demonstrations against debt have gathered more than 1 million people, and a movement of major scale is growing around the surrounding of the Parliament in Madrid to demand a Constituent process.
We from the Occupy / Real Democracy Now / 15M / AntiDebt movement call for public and private debt resistance and refusal/repudiation. Debt resistance includes: fighting for free public education, free healthcare, defending foreclosed homes, demanding higher wages and providing mutual aid. But also a first step toward building a new economy, based on the principles of equality, solidarity and cooperation, and not greed, accumulation and competition.
In Europe as in Egypt and Tunisia, learning from our colleagues in Latin America, South Saharan Africa and Asia, initiatives for a citizens’ audit of public debt analyze how much of the public debt is illegitimate, odious or unsustainable, and must therefore be cancelled. Paying such creditors means stealing what rightfully belongs to the population and payments will continue to be the cause of college and hospital closures, wage cuts, pension cuts, and so on and on. And the debt feeds the debt.
We Don’t Owe, So We Won’t Pay! Were Are Not a Loan. Bad laws allowed all this debt. Let’s rewrite them together.
« previous entries - page 1 of 5