Wednesday, March 9, 2011

House Hearings on American Muslims Set to Begin Today

Republican congressman Peter King has called for hearings on whether American Muslims are being radicalized and whether they pose a threat to the American people. The mere language describing these hearings already sets up Muslims as an “other” and draws attention to the fact that King sees “American Muslims” as separate from “regular Americans.”

The provenance of these hearings in fact began with a 1999 speech by Hisham Kabbani, a Sufi leader and neo-con darling, who told the State Department that, “85 percent of all mosques have extreme leadership.” This statement, which was based on Kabbani’s personal opinion and not on any serious research, was picked up by Steven Emerson, who ran the Investigative Project on Terrorism, and then by Peter King, who is currently the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Hatem Bazian, UC Berkeley-based Islamic scholar and activist, says, “This fictional number became a factual record.” He claims that Kings policies, including the demand for these hearings, have been developed around this number. According to Bazian, actual research has revealed that American Muslim communities are penetrated by the same social problems as the larger American society- drug use, underage sexual activity- and for that reason are perfectly representative of American society, thus rendering useless the distinction between Americans and American Muslims.

Another reason King offers for calling for the hearings has been the lack of cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the Muslim community. King has claimed in interviews that, privately, law enforcement leadership has complained about this lack of cooperation, but publicly, they are saying the opposite. Attorney General Holder has said that Muslim cooperation, "Has been absolutely essential in identifying, and preventing, terrorist threats." Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, has said, “Many of our cases are a result of the cooperation from the Muslim community in the United States.” Similar examples abound. Perhaps this is why King has not invited any members of the law enforcement community to speak at the hearings.

This prompts us to examine who, exactly, is going to speak. The invited speakers, are as follows: Melvin Bledsoe, an individual with no scholarly or authoritative background whose son allegedly shot and killed an army recruiter in 2009; Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which released a film called "The Third Jihad”; Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who was invited to speak by the Democratic representatives on the committee, and who is expected to praise the Muslim community’s cooperation; Abdirizak Bihi, director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis; and two congressmen, one Republican, and one Democratic. The Republican representative, Frank Wolf of Virginia, as a member of a House subcommittee, overseas the budget of the FBI and the Justice Department. The Democratic representative, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is the first Muslim elected to Congress. There have been no scholars or researchers invited to speak.

Conspicuously absent is Daisy Khan, the woman behind the Cordoba House, which is the Islamic community center that has been incorrectly referred to in the media as “the ground zero mosque” (it is neither a mosque, nor at ground zero). Khan has said, “Islam is an American religion,” and has called extremists, “a fraction within a fraction within a fraction.”

It remains to be seen whether these hearings will devolve into a McCarthy-like witch hunt, with Muslims playing the part of the Communists, or whether King’s fellow committee members will see that America has actual problems to focus on that will not be solved by “othering” yet another minority group.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Guest Post: Who's Your Enemy

Who's Your Enemy?

by Iyas Sartawi

I can't explain the feelings that I had once I heard the news on the morning of Friday, February the 11th. I was woken up at exactly nine in the morning by a text message that said, "Mabrouk Egypt! Mabrouk Arab Nation." By that text, I found out that "president Mubarak" resigned - finally. I didn't have my glasses on so I jumped out of my bed, put my glasses on and reread the message. I hurried down and read the news on Aljazeera, and that's when all those feelings of joy, happiness, and triumph intensified and I could not help but drop a couple of tears. I put Aljazeera Live on and started watching the events about Mubarak and Tahrir Square. All of a sudden, the image of the assassination of Anwar Al Sadat on TV came to my mind. That image is one of the earliest scenes from TV that I can remember. I was seven years old then and I remember how it was big news for my father, who was watching anxiously, and seemed very much into it and seemed happy, and joyful. I did not realize the immensity of that assassination then. But, how would I know? I was too young to comprehend.

I did not see the celebrations of the inauguration of Hosni Mubarak to become the next Egyptian president then. I saw this 30 years later, on Aljazeera on the day when he resigned and delegated his presidential powers to the Armed Forces Supreme Council. Very ironic!

I spent some time watching the celebrations of the brave men and women of Egypt. Most of the scenes were transmitted from Tahrir Square in Cairo, occasionally showing from other Egyptian cities such as Alexandria and Suez. Aljazeera showed some scenes of the celebrations taking place in Ramallah and Gaza. Officially however, these celebrations were banned by both the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah and self-appointed Hamas government in Gaza.

I didn't take too long to get over the feelings of joy, as I realized the president's resignation is just the beginning, and also the easy part. What's coming ahead is where the hard work is. I am a proud Palestinian, but at that moment I felt that I wished to be an Egyptian so I could fly and be there among those millions in the streets of Egypt and be a part of the planning for the future, be one of those guards of the Revolution. I realize how many will want to hijack the revolution and steer it toward their own agenda and benefit, where hijacking the the popular revolutions and people's aspirations isn't something we did not experience in the history of the Arab World. I remember what my late father always said, and again, I never really understood back then. He said: In the Arab World, never be happy for a change in regime; who comes after is just worse, and you will just cry on the predecessor. This time, and for this popular revolution, I don't think so. I hope and pray this won't happen to these holy revolutions of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, they're pure and holy, as pure and holy as of the blood of those young Tunisian, Egyptian, and Libyan men and women who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the rest of us to live in dignity and for a new dignified and corruption-free Middle East.

That's when my thoughts turned to the core of this crisis, Palestine. I thought I'd copy Wael Ghoneim and create a page on Facebook that calls for a Third Intifada in the Palestinian territories. (In fact, I have been thinking about it for a while now, long before the unrest started in Tunisia and Egypt). An intifada against corruption, tyranny, and occupation. The hardest was not the plan, it was choosing the enemy. Unlike Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, and elsewhere in the Arab world, like Bahrain and Yemen where the enemy is just one--the corrupt regime--in Palestine, our enemy is many, whether the occupation forces of Israel, the corrupt regime of the illegitimate presidency of Mahmoud Abbas, the domination of the self-appointed Hamas government in Gaza, or the corruption in Jordan, where a large number of Palestinians reside, along with their Jordanian brothers and sisters, under harsh conditions of corruption and poverty. Tough job, isn't it?

My series of thoughts took me to a clip that I watched on Facebook the night before, where the clip showed footage of some of our fellow Tunisians being victorious after their revolution ended, shouting and calling for an Arab Unification. In the Middle East, we have this "dream" of an Arab Unification. We always viewed this unification as a dream. Well, just the liberation by itself from those evil regimes of the Middle East seemed something I never thought I'd live to witness, though I lived enough to see Baghdad fall to the American occupation forces.

The Egyptians woke up the morning of Saturday February the 12th, as free men and women since decades. I was thinking that when I woke up this morning, and I thought to myself, do they realize that it's a reality? Or is it just a dream? The sweetest of the dreams though? I would! Well, if my fellow Egyptians can wake up one day in liberty, freedom, and dignity, I believe this unity dream might come true one day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Popular Uprisings All Over the Middle East a Death Knell for U.S. Credibility

US has lost all credibility, as well as the opportunity to be relevant, in the region.

Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan have been the main topic of news media of late, and while the democratic yearnings of the populace should, in theory, be supported by the U.S., a change in the status quo is the last thing our government wants.

Since the days of Eisenhower, our government has striven to make democracy our #1 export, in the perhaps mistaken belief that any democratic country would be our ally. Israel was the first country in the Middle East to get the American stamp of approval and, since its inception, this tiny state the size of New Jersey has received a total of $140 billion of aid (source), $53 billion of which was military aid (source). This is a symbol of America’s “special relationship” with Israel.

But what about our special relationships with the dictatorships of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, and the monarchies of Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia? Are we “supporting” them to the tune of billions of dollars annually in the innocent hopes that they will voluntarily enact democracy in their countries? Since 1987 (the year Tunisia’s Ben-Ali took power), the U.S. has sold $349 million worth of weaponry to Tunisia (source). US military aid to Egypt totals over $1.3 billion annually (source). We gave Jordan $666 million worth of military aid in 2007 alone, spending $80 million of that on an anti-terrorism training center (source). All these countries either have rigged elections or no elections at all and we have propped up their governments with billions of dollars worth of military aid for decades. We even provided the gas with which Saddam Hussein committed an act of genocide against his own citizens (source), an act we apparently didn’t consider reprehensible until 20 years later.

In fact, during the Iran-Iraq war, we provided weapons not only to Iraq, but Iran as well, and even sent the proceeds of that arrangement to the Nicaraguan Resistance, which resulted in a little scandal called Iran-Contra. And now we lambaste Iran for providing funding and weapons to the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah. We call Hezbollah Iran’s proxy and say “no fair”, and meanwhile we have dozens of our own proxies that we fund and equip on a fantastically larger scale.

And now the citizens of all these countries call us hypocrites (like here), and we have the gall to build anti-terrorism training centers that are supposed to shield us from the results of our own actions.

Once upon a time, the U.S. had a chance to be truly relevant in the Middle East by brokering a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. We said we wanted peace, we sent our ambassadors and negotiators jaunting back and forth between Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and elsewhere. But, more than ever, it seems like that was play acting, what many political analysts refer to as “stagecraft” rather than statecraft. And now, with the Palestinian Authority seeking recognition from UN countries directly, without America’s support, it is even clearer that we are no longer needed.

The Palestinian cause is the poster child of injustice in the region. Everybody from Morocco to Qatar knows that the Palestinians are increasingly subjugated and abused in myriad ways by the U.S., who continues to fund the Israeli military machine at the rate of $8 million a day while expecting the citizens of our ally countries to believe that we are doing so because Israel is under threat (source). If Israel were to be attacked, the chances are staggering that it would be bombed with our missiles, dropped from our planes, by soldiers whose salaries are paid by our tax dollars.

We are financing war because it is more profitable than peace, and the Middle East, at least, is tired of the status quo.

We have lost our chance to be relevant. If we want a chance to survive at all, with any moral dignity, we need a drastic change of plans.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Oh for Christ's Sake

Sometimes I am sickened when I'm reminded how deeply racism is embedded in a country that is supposed to be a democracy equally serving all of its residents. And that's saying something, because generally I don't care about other people at all.

This article from today's ynet reveals a clear incident of violent racism within its own culture, all the while attempting to dress it up as justified violence.
Four Border Guard officers were lightly injured Friday after being run over by a Palestinian driving a pickup truck in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz. The driver was shot, and quickly died of his wounds. His body was later snatched from the hospital and he was buried at a cemetery near the Temple Mount.
There are just so many things wrong with this one little paragraph. Firstly, the officers were "lightly injured" after being "run over." Really? I feel like one or the other of those phrases might be misleading. Normally people aren't just lightly injured when they are run over. So I'm thinking that most likely they weren't run over. Probably a car passed by them rather quickly and gave them quite a fright. Secondly, the driver "was shot, and quickly died of his wounds." A little trigger-happy are we? I might give the border guards the benefit of the doubt if I didn't already know that if a Jewish citizen had committed the same crime, he would absolutely not be shot at. Lastly, his body was "snatched" in order to be buried. A little misrepresentation-happy are we? Not only are these fiendish Palestinians driving too fast, they are stealing and burying their family members in accordance with their religious beliefs. Where will it end????

Let's move on:
After the incident, the assailant attempted to escape by foot and was shot by a Border Guard force stationed in the area. He was critically wounded and died shortly afterwards. Police suspect the incident was nationalistically motivated....The company commander began chasing the assailant, who tried to flee the scene. According to the police, he was shot after failing to obey the police's call to stop.
So he was shot in the back while running away. Because the police officer probably yelled "stop" in a language he may or may not have understood. I'm not an expert but usually in situations like this, lethal force is only authorized if the suspect presents imminent danger to someone else's life. But I don't know, maybe running away, even though he had left his "weapon" (ie his car) behind, might have seemed like it presents an imminent threat. And then, "police suspect the incident was nationalistically motivated." What does that even mean? How on earth did they come to that conclusion? Absolutely no evidence whatsoever has been presented for such a claim. Whatever. It doesn't matter. The "assailant" was Palestinian and his "victims" were Israeli, so naturally it was a terror attack. Obviously.

We have DWB in the U.S.- driving while black. Here in Israel, I guess its DWA- driving while Arab.

And the end of the story reveals that
Another passenger who was in the car with him was apparently injured by stones hurled at the road earlier and was evacuated to the Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital. The police are looking into his version that the driver who run over the officers was trying to evacuate him to receive medical treatment.
So in reality, he might have just been rushing his friend to the hospital and in his haste was not driving very carefully. Maybe. But now his life has been ended, so what difference does it make.

Finally, I would like the point out that the article includes a photo of the bulldozer from the "bulldozer attack" of two years ago. As if it is related in any way.

The first intifada started when a car accident was at first thought to be an intentional act of violent racism, by the way.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Flotilla Fiasco

Alright already. Now that the flurry (no, blizzard? Sandstorm? World-ending hurricane?) of rumors has ended I can finally report on the Flotilla Fiasco without reporting the same likely untrue information that everyone else was.

But seriously though. As soon as this thing happened, every news outlet and blog in the world was foaming at the mouth to get some information, any information about it. People were reprinting the most ridiculous things, subjects were branching off into whole other emotionally-motivated subjects. Like the whole Helen Thomas thing. Just wait 'til I get to that.

The Build-Up

So, first of all, we knew the ships were coming weeks in advance. The activists had made it clear they were coming, despite Israel's warnings. Both sides fueled the media hype by upping the ante, throughout the voyage. Israel was accused of trying to sabotage the ships (Israel is accused of trying to sabotage the ships every time an aid group sails to Gaza), and Israeli spokespeople (including Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman) went on about how the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (henceforth, IHH), who had provided much of the support for the operation, was secretly a terrorist organization and a front for Al-Qaeda. When asked for proof of this by savvy bloggers, Israel backpeddled a bit (as they will be forced to do throughout this debacle), saying that IHH supports Hamas and is "sympathetic to al-Qaeda" (source).

From the very beginning, the flotilla group made much better use of media, especially new media, tweeting and blogging and facebooking and youtubing away. Israel has attempted to match this threat in the media war by posting videos on the official IDF youtube page, but it was too little, too late. In my opinion, any formal entity, no matter how media-savvy its members are, cannot possibly match the pitch and intensity of an informal entity, whose members are not bound by any hierarchy, security concerns, or accountability. There has been in more recent days talk about an international enquiry into where the fault lies for this whole thing (the details I will get to, keep your pants on) but even if such an enquiry were to determine that Israel's use of force was justified and that the activists were at fault, who would shoulder the blame? It would be dispersed, symbolically, among everyone present. The Turkish government would have a little egg on its face (nothing compared to what Israel is currently wearing) but it would be a bit like when a mob starts a stampede on Black Friday because everyone's kid wants that toy and the store won't open its doors yet and it's 5am and everyone is tired and annoyed. Somebody started shoving first, all right, but we'll never know who it was.

So basically, before the confrontation even happened, everyone in the world knew Israel was going to end up looking bad, not least of all, Israel itself. FM Lieberman said on May 28, days before the action, that the whole thing was, "an attempt at violent propaganda against Israel."

In the Morning

On Monday, May 31, I woke to headlines about the "Flotilla Massacre." 10 people "at least" were dead, many more injured. Perusal of stories showed that Israeli "commandos" had slid down ropes from helicopters and opened fire on the unarmed activists. I simply put my head in my hands and sighed. I knew that, no matter what further information came to light on this issue, Israel had shot itself in the foot with this idiotic maneuver. In fact, it might not just have been the foot. Israel may have shot itself in the liver and will slowly and painfully bleed to death. We'll see. Threats have been made, but have proved to be most likely empty. But I have yet to get to that.

The headlines that day were mostly speculative. How many were dead? Who were they? Of what nationality? Who started the fighting? What would the international reaction be? And of course, where are all the images? In today's world, when everyone has at least a cellphone camera, and the people on the boat had already demonstrated their prowess for media technology, the curious question was why haven't we seen anything?

We found out later Israel was making serious attempts to control what information got to the press. It had cut communications on the Mavi Marmara just as Al-Jazeera correspondent Jamal Elshayyal was finishing a broadcast. He reported that two people had been killed and there were still sounds of live fire.

All cameras (or, we found out later, almost all) were confiscated from the activists as part of their intake at the Ashdod holding facility, and no media was allowed to speak to them. Prior to the Mavi Marmara's arrival, Israel had invited several journalists to observe the operation (codenamed Operation Sea Breeze) from Israeli vessels. However, these journalists were not allowed to share their observations due to a gag order.

The press was dying for information, as was I. I called my contacts, who provided me with almost no additional information. I called an activist friend of mine in Ramallah and when he picked up the phone, still sounding groggy, I said right away, "Do you know anything?"
"About what?" he responded.
"Are you kidding me?"
"Well I just woke up. Why? Did something happen?"
"Jesus look at the news."
He turned on his tv and flipped through the channels.
"There's nothing...nope...I don't see anything."
I apprised him of the situation and he promised to get back to me if he had more information. The next day, there was a "demonstration" in Ramallah, wherein a dozen or less activists held signs like "Pirates of the Mediterranean" and spoke to reporters about freeing Gaza. The reporters were tenfold more numerous than the demonstrators, which shows how desperate the press was to get anything, anything at all, to show.

The Light Shines On

Over the next fews days, videos galore came to light, along with commentaries about their validity. There was edited video, audio, and still photographs. Journalists on various sides of the issue cricitized anyone on the other side who had obviously edited the information, claiming it was a coverup.

A video emerged of Israeli soldiers on the deck of the Mavi Marmara, with rifles in hand. It looked like the sun had just come up. This contradicted the army's earlier claim that they had not had rifles at all, but also contradicted the activits' claim that they had begun shooting from the air, which was they became violent in return. So why are these Israeli soldiers standing calmly on the ship with rifles in hand, and nobody is fighting them?

There was audio clip of an Israeli seaman requesting by radio that the Mavi Marmara reroute to Ashdod, the nearest Israeli port, instead of attempting to reach Gaza. Someone from the other side responded, "Shut up, go back to Aushwitz." But then blogger Max Blumenthal pointed out that this clip was clearly edited and in fact included a photo from another video clip where nothing of the kind was said. Both clips were published on youtube by the IDF press office. When the IDF was pressed about the discrepancy, they responded that they did in fact edit the clip, but only for clarity. They also admitted that as it was recorded from an open line, anybody, on any ship, could have said it.

Reuters even got heat for publishing edited photos taken by the activists aboard the ship. In the original photos, you can see an activist holding a knife and standing over two injured soldiers, pool of blood and everything. Reuters edited the photo so that it included only one injured soldier (the least bloody of the two), no knife, and no blood pool.

The IDF also uploaded several videos of the activists attacking the soldiers. The activists' responses were usually that they had the right to defend the ship. The issue that the raid happened in international waters also featured prominently.

The Videos

The Interviews

After people began to be released (ie deported) from the temporary holding facility in Ashdod, interviews trickled out to the rest of the world.

Here is a clip with several interviews of different passengers, but unfortunately I am unable to embed it.

There were of course a gazillion more interviews, but all the ones I'm currently finding are either with people who were on other ships (where the violence was minimal and nobody was killed) or are total nutjobs and not worth listening to.

What I Think

Basically, what I can piece together from what I've seen and read, is that the Israeli navy first attempted to board the Mavi Marmara from the sea, but was rebuked by the passengers throwing things and spraying water. The soldiers then boarded the ship from the air, sliding down ropes from helicopters. Eyewitnesses and video footage agree that the activists attacked the soldiers immediately when they reached the deck of the ship. At least three were taken inside the ship ("taken hostage" say Israel's supporters, "taken into protective custody" say the activists). The next round of soldiers who came down from the helicopters was larger and they came down shooting live ammunition.

What is amazing here is that all of the 9 people reported dead were Turkish nationals, one with dual U.S. citizenship. Let's say for fun that the soldiers were told before the operation that they were to put the hurt on the Turks aboard the ship. Even in such a case, how would they have known which people were Turkish, especially in such a melee? What seems more likely to me is that, in an effort to save themselves and their fellow soldiers, they shot at whoever was being the most violent. While its true that Israel's claims that the IHH are a secret terrorist organization lack evidence, I can think of few reasons that only Turks were killed in the raid. There were a dozen nationalities on that ship. In this interview, a witness aboard the ship said, when asked how the Israelis boarded the ship, "The main boarding of the ship was by the helicopters and by sea, but the first attempt of the helicopter attack, or descent- the Turkish Resistance, I can say, grabbed four Israeli army and took them down."

Now, as to my opinion on where the fault lies. Firstly, there was no need for Israel to board the ship in the first place. Whether or not I think the siege on Gaza is right or the flotilla is right is not the issue. If Israel wanted to divert the ship to Ashdod using peaceful means, it could have. The propellor could have been disabled and the ship towed to Ashdod, without the soldiers ever boarding the Mavi Marmara, and thus avoiding the whole disgraceful nightmare. There was some jibber-jabber from the government press office that this type of ship is too big for such a maneuver, but my government contacts (who remain anonymous for obvious reasons) tell me that is completely untrue. Furthermore, the general consensus regarding why such a poor decision was made is that military minds only know how to design military solutions- a nod to Israel's current Minister of Defense- Ehud Barak- former general and Army Chief of Staff.

On the other side of the coin, let's take into account the actions of the Mavi Marmara's activists. They do not deny that they attacked the soldiers, saying it was their right to defend the ship. But what if they had just sat down? The same result would have been reached- that their ship would have been rerouted to Ashdod, their cargo unloaded for inspection, and themselves deported to their countries of origin- only nobody would have died. But maybe that wasn't preferable to them. Several media reports remarked that some of the Muslim activists were preparing for martyrdom.

One woman in this clip says, "We are now waiting for one of two good things- either to achieve martyrdom, or to reach Gaza." Another interviewee in this clip said, when asked if he had been subject to torture during his detainment, "No, unfortunately not." The one Turkish-American national who was killed kept a diary aboard the ship, the last words of which were reportedly, "Only a short time left before martydrom."

The Rachel Corrie

On Saturday, June 5, the Rachel Corrie (named after slain Gaza activist) was boarded by the Israeli navy. This time the activists did sit down, the soldiers met with the captain, and the activists agree to comply.

The passengers disembarked at Ashdod without incident.

This group was led by Mairead McGuire, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. The Israeli coverage of this event included a full-page photo on the front page of Yediot Ahronot of an Israeli soldier offering McGuire his hand to help her disembark, which she took graciously. The caption was, "This is what a real peace activist looks like."


In line with the amount of attention paid to the "Go back to Aushwitz" comment was a similar yet, really if you think about it, completely irrelevant incident. Helen Thomas had been a White House correspondent for Hearst news for 57 years, I do believe the longest term ever for this job. On May 27, as the flotilla was very publicly on its way to Gaza, someone asked Thomas to comment on Israel. She said, "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine." And to the question, "Where should they go?" she answered, "Go Poland, Germany."

Much, unfortunately, was made of this statement. Clearly it was in bad taste, but because of the timing, it was somehow used to confirm that exhausted line of Israel's reasoning that says everyone is against them. Ten days later Thomas hastily retired.

Naturally there was also a huge media mess regarding Israel's ties with Turkey. They had, before this incident, had a very good relationship, although it had declined slightly in the last few year as PM Erdogan began re-Islamizing the state and distancing himself from Israel. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel after the flotilla raid and proceeded to make vague threats that it then retracted. Ergodan reportedly threatened to personally accompany a new aid flotilla that would be escorted by the Turkish Navy. Turkey's foreign minister later retracted that statement.

Iran's Ahmedinejad also threatened to send an aid convey with a military escort but denied Israel the conundrum of whether to kill him by stating he would not personally be aboard the ship. No more has been heard about this threat.

Numerous concerts have been cancelled, for example the Klaxons, Gorillaz, and the Pixies.

Finally, I leave you with this:

(For the record, I find it distasteful and unhelpful, but it provides a comment on the issue.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Well This Makes Me Feel All Warm and Fuzzy

Lots of interesting things are going on over here, news-wise, but your favorite snarkist is neck-deep in finals over here in the holy land and I just don't have time to report on it. But, however, even so, and although...I do find this particular Haaretz article to be important based simply on how it makes me feel inside. It is one of several articles in the Israeli press of late that has speculated on whether there will be a summer war with Lebanon and whether Israel's military is ready for such a war.

The piece says, in part:
Hezbollah tries not to carry out openly military activities in the border area, and in all of south Lebanon for that matter, but reports of heightened activities have recently spiked. A former intelligence officer told Haaretz that lately he and other Galilee farmers have seen plainclothes Hezbollah personnel traveling along the border and photographing Israeli positions.

They are sometimes accompanied by individuals who do not appear to be Lebanese, as well as interpreters, who appear to be Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers and who have by now integrated into every command level in Hezbollah.
Several questions detract from the sheer unpleasantness this extract suggests: How do you know they're Hezbollah if they are in plainclothes? How do individuals appear to not be Lebanese? How do people appear to be interpreters? And finally, how do people appear to be Iranian Revolutionary Guards? If these questions could please be answered to my satisfaction, I could continue on with my goosebump fest, thankyouverymuch.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The News that Isn't News

The world has known suspected for many years that Israel has nuclear weapons, but Israel's "ambiguous" policy toward announcing that fact means they will never confirm or deny this fact suspicion. But as Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Haaretz, and others are reporting today, another nail has just been hammered into ambiguity's coffin.

Writer Sasha Polakaw-Suransky broke the story wide open yesterday when he finally announced the results of his extensive research into Israel's nuclear activities. Basically what happened is he discovered documents that strongly suggest that Israel offered to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa in 1975. The problem with the airtightness of the case is that the signature of Shimon Peres, current Israeli president and former defense minister, is on a secrecy agreement with South Africa, which was signed four days after a meeting between Peres and the South African defense minister. In the minutes of the meeting, typed and preserved by South Africa, nuclear weapons exchanges were discussed. So naturally, Peres is spinning the story by saying, correctly, that his signature is not on any document suggesting Israel has nuclear weapons or plans to proliferate them.

Polakaw-Suransky says about this, "he is speaking as a politician and someone predictably weasling his way out of a situation."

Yossi Melman, Israeli journalist, jumps on board the denial train and says that if Israel does currently have nukes, it didn't obtain them until 1979 and therefore couldn't have sold them to SA in 1975 even if they wanted to. He did however confirm that Israel traded tritium to SA in exchange for uranium.

In the above interview on Al Jazeera, the interviewer says to Melman, "Israel is not really in a position to cast dispersions on other peoples' nuclear ambitions. For instance, Iran."

Melman has that look on his face your kids get when you know they're doing something they're not supposed to do and you ask them what they're doing anyway and they respond, "Nooooooothiiiiing." You can tell he's thinking goddammit I should have known he was going to say that. So he takes a few moments to stutter and responds, "Well, that's not the same case. Israel has never admitted that it has nuclear weapons. It has never threatened to use nuclear weapons."

Wait. Am I...isn't that exactly the same case? Has Iran admitted it has nuclear weapons? Did I miss that announcement?

There are two main points of newsworthiness about this story. The first is obviously the evidence pointing toward Israel having nukes. The second is Israel's clear cooperation with Apartheid-era South Africa, which is unseemly and certainly doesn't help the image of today's Israel since its critics are constantly comparing Israel's policies toward Arabs to apartheid. However, as usual, only the Israeli press included the word "apartheid" in headlines about the event. Which is typical. Jewish guilt or whatever. I don't know.