can’t see the forest

Rockets from the North

Posted in Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, middle east, Palestine, World News by Curtis on 1/8/09

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katyushaReports are surfacing that Katyusha rockets fired from within Lebanon  landed in the Israeli town of Nahariya early on Thursday morning, injuring at least one Israeli. Though no group has yet taken responsibility for the attacks, the Israeli Defence Forces have countered by firing artillery shells over the Lebanese border.

Al-jazeera reports:

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said the Katyusha rockets fell around the town of Nahariya, about 8km south of the Lebanese border, early on Thursday.

The Israeli military fired mortars into southern Lebanon in response to the missile barrage.

Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut, said there had been no immediate claim of responsibility, but Lebanese security forces were confirming that “one or two rockets” had been fired across the border.

At least one Israeli was slightly injured in the attacks, media reports said.

Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s correspondent southern Israel, said analysts were suggesting that the rocket attack could have been carried out by Palestinians in southern Lebanon.

She said the firing of rockets from Lebanon “could mean the opening of a second front” in the war on Gaza.

The Israeli military has been on alert in the north since it intensified the Gaza offensive, which it says is aimed at stopping rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip.

And, according to the BBC:

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attacks.

But it came a day after the leader of militant group Hezbollah, a strong ally of Hamas, spoke openly about the possibility of a renewed conflict with Israel.

Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah had already put its fighters on high alert along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Northern Israel came under attack from rockets fired by Hezbollah during the brief war with Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Israel said it had responded to the latest attack from inside Lebanon with a “pinpoint response at the source of fire”.

Reports from inside Lebanon said five Israeli mortar shells fell near the border inside Lebanon, but there were no injuries.

For the sake of human life, one hopes that this does not mark the opening of a whole new front in the conflict against Israeli hegemony. In its “self-defense,” Israel is not likely to show any more restraint in conflict with Lebanese groups than it has exercised in the Gaza raids which have claimed nearly 700 Palestinian lives to date. The events of 2006 doubtless yet burn fresh in the memories of the majority of Lebanese, whose farmland remains strewn with unexploded cluster bomblets of U.S. make.


New American Century: Bush Plans to Expand Military Involvement in Iraq

Before the mid-term elections: “Absolutely, we’re winning.”

After the mid-term elections: “We’re not winning, we’re not losing.” We need more troops. Yeah, that’s it! More troops.


In another turnaround, Bush said he has ordered Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to develop a plan to increase the troop strength of the Army and Marine Corps, heeding warnings from the Pentagon and Capitol Hill that multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are stretching the armed forces toward the breaking point. “We need to reset our military,” said Bush, whose administration had opposed increasing force levels as recently as this summer.

But in a wide-ranging session in the Oval Office, the president said he interpreted the Democratic election victories six weeks ago not as a mandate to bring the U.S. involvement in Iraq to an end but as a call to find new ways to make the mission there succeed. He confirmed that he is considering a short-term surge in troops in Iraq, an option that top generals have resisted out of concern that it would not help. [emphasis added.]

Let’s turn to the polls—certainly blunt instruments, but ostensibly democratic ones.

From a CNN poll, Dec. 15-17, 2006 (1,019 adults nationwide, +/- 3% margin):

“Do you favor or oppose the US war in Iraq?”
Favor: 31%; Oppose: 67%

From an L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, December 8-11, 2006 (1,489 adults nationwide, +/- 3% margin):

“As you may know, some members of Congress are calling for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, while others are saying that our troops should remain in Iraq until the country is secure, and others are proposing that more troops should be sent to Iraq. Do you think the United States should withdraw troops from Iraq on a fixed timetable, or should keep the current level of troops in Iraq as long as it takes to secure the country, or should send more troops to Iraq?”
Withdraw on a fixed timetable: 52%; Stay as long as it takes: 26%; Send more troops: 12%

So, then, according to these up-to-date polls, two-thirds of Americans are in fundamental opposition to the war in Iraq, and only about one-eighth of Americans favor the kinds of changes Bush has Gates cookin’ up in his first week on the job. It’s not about Congressional stance, and it’s certainly not about public opinion, from all appearances—it’s about executive power trips and immunity from accountability. It’s about a virtual dictatorship.

Is this the kind of democracy we are trying to export? I believe that it is.

Angelic BushAmericans have constantly and consistently been told by this administration that it “listens to the generals on the ground” when considering policy and strategy in this great crusade for democracy profit. Yet, clearly, we now have a situation in which the Bush White House is acting directly against the opinions of those enlightened personnel, and directly against the opinions of the “great beast” of the American public.

But far more pertinent than the opinions of American taxpayers or of our militaristic overlords are the views of—gasp!—the Iraqis themselves. While many Americans are content to continue believing that the War in Iraq has something to do with 9/11 specifically or with combatting “terror” in general, it can be soundly inferred that the citizens of war-ravaged post-Saddam Iraq are possessed of less endemically skewed perspectives on the situation at hand. It is their country, after all. They live there; they don’t watch or read motel room journalism from the fortified Green Zone.

September 2006 polling of Iraqis by the academically chaired Program on International Policy Attitudes indicates that seven out of ten surveyed Iraqis want US forces out of Iraq within one year. Most strikingly, an “overwhelming majority” of Iraqis believes that the US military presence is engendering more violent opposition than it is suppressing, and that the most effective way for the US to help the Iraqi government strengthen its grasp of its own affairs is actually a simple one: Get the hell out of Iraq as soon as is practiceable.

“No, no,” the White House protests. “You just don’t understand, Iraqis. We have interests at stake. The mission must succeed.

How many times must Americans and Iraqis be subjected to this forceful drone that sounds like something out of a Hollywood action flick? What mission, exactly? First it was eradicating the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction; then it was Bush’s “messianic mission” of exporting peace and democracy to the Middle East; now it’s a sort of amorphous quest for “security and stability in the region,” for pacifying a nation “on the brink of civil war,” a civil war that has, in fact, been positively raging virtually since day one of the US-led invasion. Do you notice a pattern? Each successive mission goal seems a little harder to define, a bit more perpetually elusive than the last.

That’s because the only mission to which the Bush regime is committed in Iraq—and in Afghanistan—is this: redrawing the map of the Middle East in a manner that is to the best advantage of U.S. business interests. Those are the “interests at stake.” It has very little to do with the will and the intention of the American taxpayer and absolutely nothing to do with the safety and stability of Iraqis or Afghanistanis.

The Iraq War is very much a war for oil, but the object is not simple possession of a resource. The object is more subtle and more geopolitically strategic. U.S. oil companies already have perpetual access to oil reserves in the Atlantic basin, in Canada, and elsewhere. But control over the immense and largely untapped oilfields of Iraq—not merely access to them—guarantees critical economic leverage over European and east-Asian competitors to US policymakers and corporations. Flooding the market with Iraqi oil would theoretically lower oil prices, to the immediate disadvantage of oil companies. Absolute, unchallenged American ownership of Iraqi oil, however, would mean that US business leaders could use Iraqi oil as a mechanism of blackmail on the long term. “What’s that, OPEC? A price spike in protest of US foreign policy? Watch this!” Because oil is also a strategic resource for increasingly independent-minded nations in South America, nations such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, control of Iraqi oil can also act as a mechanism to economically undercut the ability of these nations to establish a diverse international base of commerce independent of the U.S. sphere. Iraq Oil Map - U.S. DoE

The long-term objective of US planners in Iraq is given away by the name of the organization of neoconservative hoodlums behind the curtain: the Project for a New American Century. If the invasion of Iraq had ever been about benevolent concerns for the best interests of Iraqis, then Iraqi oil would already be nationalized and in the hands of Iraqis, and US troops would be on their way out even as I type. But if that country’s economic base is in the hands of its own people, then it cannot lie exclusively in the hands of US economic forces. It cannot be used as the Weapon of Mass Subservience of PNAC designs.

What does all of this mean? It is easy to be lulled by the never-ending sputter of corporatocratic propaganda into believing that the success of the US “mission” in Iraq is contingent upon the eradication of insurgent activity. On the Carollian chessboard of reality, the reverse is actually true: continued insurgent activity is the driving force behind even marginal support from US citizenry of a continuing or even an escalating military presence in Iraq (because, like, we can’t be defeated, of course. Defeat is unAmerican) and a continued and indeed perpetual military presence in Iraq is necessary to secure the country’s resources for long-term exploitation.

There is another factor in play in the ongoing travesties of Iraq and Afghanistan, and many an eighth-grader could espy its relevance simply by looking at a map of Middle East and taking note of just which nation sits sandwiched between these two newest, shiniest centers for projection of US military power. That would be the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Much like the US, but in sepia tones rather than technicolor, in Iran the political administration has an agenda which is often altogether different from that of its population at large. The Iranians are a peaceable people inclined to a high degree of cultural depth, to malleable and progressive attitudes on matters of significance, and to just getting along with the world in general. But the theocratic establishment in that nation, and Ahmadinejad’s government in particular, are oppressive hardliners. While I daresay the Iranians will not soon forget the events of 1953, the government has, perhaps beginning in 1979, I think, turned anti-Western sentiment into the same sort of oblique rallying cry that U.S. neoconservatives are attempting, successfully, to make of 9/11.

Ayatollah Ruhollah KhomeiniThe escalation of anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric from Teheran is reactionary and is not in and of itself wholly unjustified. The Iranian government is diametrically opposed to the US government on the matter of Palestinian sovereignty, and attempts to support pro-Palestinian “militants” in much the same manner (albeit far less grandiose) that the US supports Israeli hegemonists (who are somehow not militants or terrorists). Today Iran is clearly surrounded by US military power, and this is simply fuel on the fire. At least some Iranians must be wondering if their priests have not been right all along.

I do not doubt that military action against Iran may be in the cards for 2007. Nor do I doubt that such a maneuvre might be a major factor in Bush’s pending decision to deploy tens of thousands of additional troops to the region. The United States cannot invade Iran in the same way that it has made a painful example of Iraq, but it does—or will—have the power to quickly and utterly incapacitate the government and to effect political changes which are more conducive to US interests. If the region is going to be redrawn to support a New American Century, then the face of Iran must be reconfigured along with it. Thus, we can expect in 2007 to hear ever-increasing rhetoric about the “enemies of freedom” in Teheran, along with diminishing concern for the sovereignty and welfare of the Iranian people apart from how they might be of better service to American capitalist enterprise.

To anyone with even the most basic understanding of the underpinnings of “Islamic terrorism” and of fundamental causality, it should be readily apparent that the downright Nazi-ish Israeli oppression of non-Jews is the pea upon which the princess sleeps. If US planners really wanted to win the “great ideological struggle of the 21st Century,” as Bush has called it, they could easily do so by withdrawing the mindbogglingly immense financial and logistical support which the US provides to Israel even as the White House pretentiously maintains its avatar as “peacemaker” in the region. But the President will not act decisively in this way because it does not benefit his friends’ business interests. A hostile Iran and a tumultuous Iraq are necessary to further their aims. Congress will not act on behalf of the Palestinians because of the immense strength of the Israeli lobby and its virtual stranglehold on the US news media. The United Nations is also rendered inert to take action because Israel can count on the United States to veto or otherwise obstruct any meaningful resolutions towards the ends of a peaceful Middle East.

If there is peace in the Middle East, then there is no impetus to drive the warmongering and profiteering schemes of the neoconservatives and their corporate allies. Thus Iranian policy and prerogative will continue to be attacked as if they have no logical causal basis; thus Iraqi insurgents will continue to be milked for all their worth; thus Israeli racism and genocide will continue to be treated as the bleatings of a woefully misunderstood lamb of God. This is how we build a New American Century.

So upon whom are the Iraqis, the Afghanis, the Iranians, the Palestinians, and the Lebanese relying to bring peace to the region, to return sanity and sovereignty to peoples dispossessed of such luxuries since the early years of the 20th Century? They rely upon you and upon me, not upon elected officials. They have already had quite enough of our “democracy.” They would prefer, I think, a bit of activism from these quarters.

Rabbis Visit Teheran to Speak Out Against Israeli ‘Heresy’

A group of orthodox Jewish scholars is in Teheran, Iran to attend a conference on the great holocaust perpetrated upon European Jews and others by the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s. These rabbis say they are not there to deny the holocaust, but to question its use as a justification for the existence of the State of Israel.

The priests say that Israel’s dogma of ‘Never Again’ is heretical because, as horrible as the holocaust was, it must be viewed by Jews as divine will, just as many of the travesties visited against the Jews in the Old Testament are viewed as divine will. They say that Jews should realize they do not have the power to subvert divine will. They also say that the Talmud expressly forbids the use of human force in establishing a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah.

The BBC reports:

A handful of Orthodox Jews have attended Iran’s controversial conference questioning the Nazi genocide of the Jews – not because they deny the Holocaust but because they object to using it as justification for the existence of Israel.

With their distinctive hats, beards and side locks, these men may, to the untrained eye, look like any other Orthodox believers in Jerusalem or New York. But the Jews who went to Tehran are different.

Some of them belong to Neturei Karta (Guardians of the City), a group of a few thousand people which views Zionism – the movement to establish a Jewish national home or state in what was Palestine – as a “poison” threatening “true Jews”.

A representative, UK-based Rabbi Aharon Cohen, told the conference he prayed “that the underlying cause of strife and bloodshed in the Middle East, namely the state known as Israel, be totally and peacefully dissolved”.

In its place, Rabbi Cohen said, should be “a regime fully in accordance with the aspirations of the Palestinians when Arab and Jew will be able to live peacefully together as they did for centuries”.

Neturei Karta believes the very idea of an Israeli state goes against the Jewish religion…

Rabbi Friedman told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme that he was not in Tehran to debate whether the Holocaust happened or not, but to look at its lessons.

He says the Holocaust was being used to legitimise the suffering of other peoples and he wanted to break what he called a taboo on discussing it.

The main thing, he argued, was not Jewish suffering in the past but the use of the Holocaust as a “tool of commercial, military and media power”.

MIT on the ME

Recently, via Noam Chomsky’s website, I came across two excellent videos of talks given at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the past several months. Each of them pertains to geopolitics in the Middle East, and while each is something of a commitment in terms of time, I’d heartily recommend them for anyone interested in discerning viewpoints on the subjects at hand. The information presented is insightful, valuable, and constructively forward-looking—in other words, you won’t find it on a network newscast or in a major metropolitan daily.

The first, dated April 9, 2006, is a talk from the MIT Culture and Technology Forum hosted online by WGBH-TV. It is given by Robert Fisk, veteran Middle East correspondent for Britain’s The Independent. Mr. Fisk has resided in Beirut for the past 25 years and has covered (on location, not from hotel rooms) many of the crucial events which have shaped the sociopolitical landscape of that region during the past several decades. After an introduction by Professor Chomsky, Fisk discusses the bland, sanitized, uninformative and self-referential nature of US journalism on the Middle East in the context of the history of Anglo-American involvement in the region, beginning with the close of World War One. He tells of his encounters with individuals in the region and examines, through case studies, an appalling lack of concern for the human welfare of Iraqis and other Muslims in the war-torn Middle East—a condition he feels is coerced by liberal-intellectual attitudes in America and elsewhere.

The second, from November 22, 2006, is a talk given by Noam Chomsky and is hosted online by MIT World. In an unusually thorough and candid fashion, Dr. Chomsky discusses the escalating geopolitical crises in the Palestinian territories, in Lebanon, and in occupied Iraq, and gives his thoughts about the possibility of the development of an explosive situation concerning US-UK policy toward Iran. Chomsky makes it quite clear that the key to breaking apparent gridlock in the peace processes is, perhaps more than any other factor, the understanding of Westerners of the roles they play as citizens in supporting hegemonic policies and practices throughout the Middle East. In other words, the Middle East does not exist in some sort of vacuum outside of the influence—interference, rather—of Western government. These governments are of course, in turn, supported by their citizens.

Both of these talks will be invaluable to anyone seeking to learn more about the causality and policy behind much of the “senseless violence” and unrest plaguing the region. Both Mr. Fisk and Mr. Chomsky illustrate clearly and exhaustively that the crises in the Middle East, while daunting, catastrophic, and vastly unjust and imposing upon the lives of many of the region’s people in a variety of ways, are not really that mysterious. They demonstrate that many of the answers to these quandaries may be found, first and foremost, in the exercise of democracy west of the Bosphorous.

Processing Peace

The BBC’s Roger Hardy reports:

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is offering to release “many” Palestinian prisoners and hold a “serious dialogue” with the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas.

But there are two conditions.

The Palestinians must release the Israeli soldier, Cpl Gilad Shalit, who was captured by militants in June.

And they must set up a national-unity government committed to recognising Israel and renouncing violence.

So the onus is on the Palestinians to deliver – while at the same time maintaining the current fragile ceasefire in Gaza.

Things could still go wrong. But there is undoubtedly a new mood.

The current situation suits no one.

The Palestinians want to escape from the economic boycott imposed on them when their present government – led by the Islamist group Hamas – came into office in March.

The creation of a power-sharing government could give them an exit strategy.

The Israelis want to stop rocket attacks from Gaza and get their soldier back.

And Mr Olmert wants a success to compensate for his perceived mishandling of this summer’s war between Israel and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Among Israelis and Palestinians alike there is now a profound weariness, and this is something leaders on both sides can capitalise on…

As Uri Avnery might astutely (and jokingly) cry: “Help! The peacemongers are upon us, Israel!”

One must note at least two things: first, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza will temporarily curb the bloodshed, as will the cessation of Qassam fire. For that, if we are realists, we should be grateful. But that does nothing to alleviate the squalor and misery left behind, does nothing to pave over the bloody footprint of the IDF which has for decades made life in the region a living hell for anyone who dares challenge the legitimacy of the prodigal rogue state.

Second, this truce speaks nothing of the less acute but no less bleak situation in the West Bank.

Mr. Bushmert wants a success to compensate for his perceived mishandling of the offensive on Lebanon. Yes, that about sums up the position of the Israeli government. We need good news, damn the refugees, screw the dead and the wounded and the cluster-bombed farmland, start the presses. Our reputation must be polished.

The conditions for these “serious talks” are a bit odious. If the Epsilon Palestinians are so kind as to return the Alpha Minus Corporal, then there will follow the release of “many” of the nameless thousands of illegally held civilian prisoners languishing in secret Israeli prisons. Then, and only then, shall Olmert condescend to discuss with Abbas whatever can be done to remedy the upstart arrogance of the democratically elected—and yet somehow illegitimate—Palestinian government. How quaint. I wonder if it is even possible for Israel to come to the table without precondition, that diplomatic luxury of the strong and first line of cynical offense against the powerless.

Perhaps Olmert could begin the dialogue with a simple question: Why won’t your government recognize Israel’s right to exist? And supposing it is possible for Abbas to respond truthfully. He might say: Because you have long ago resolved to treat our people like cur. Because you deny us equitable access to things like water, good roads, electricity, airspace. Because you view our presence in our own country as an intolerable obstacle to your bright-eyed racist quest of short memory. Because you do not recognize our right to exist as anything other than swine in the pen. Because our right to exist does not depend on donated F-16s and UN vetoes, on ancient texts and modern warfare. Because you make sport of killing our women and children, and of doctoring the subsequent news reports to fit your distorted soliloquy of victimization. Because you perpetuate murderous hegemony at the expense of the quality of life of Israelis, much less Palestinians.

Well, there is no need for such dialogue now, beyond mere etiquette. Because the Israeli government, and the Israeli people even moreso, must realize the simplicity of what it would take for the uncomfortable silence in Gaza to become a meaningful one. The “onus to deliver” is most certainly not on the Palestinians, pace Mr. Hardy. Whether in two states or in one, the Israelis and the Palestinians will begin the process of reparation only when the Israeli government (onus be upon them) decides that Arabs are as human as Jews, regardless of the Palestinian lack of firepower and of gunship diplomacy. Then we will begin to see a peace process unfolding, not merely the further processing of peace.

As always, my thoughts are with the suffering on both sides of the ideological divide. Shalom, salaam, and think big. Presses be damned.

Propaganda 101: Jerusalem Post on UN High Commissioner Visit

This morning I came across a lovely editorial from The Jerusalem Post. It describes distorts the commentary of Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who recently made a five-day tour of Israel and Palestine. If you follow the link, you might notice to the right side of the article a banner ad attempting to interest you in an Israeli Air Force General-guided tour of the Jordan River, where you can “witness the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies” and receive “briefings by Mossad officials.” It’s all part of the Christian Zionist Mission, and it takes place in March of 2007—so reserve your place among the cheerleaders of state-sponsored murder and destruction right away.

Arbour ultimately decided simply that Israel should be held responsible for its own policies and actions in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon. But our keenly interpretative editorialist observes:

Sderot’s outraged citizenry had no patience for her [Arbour’s] skewed sanctimony. She was angrily shouted down and had to be whisked away from folks whose anguished cries gave voice to the charge that both she and the organization she represents “are against us.”

Arbour should have realized that there are very raw emotions and grievances on the Israeli side.

But the impact didn’t seem to deter her from the UN’s routine resort to the devil’s arithmetic – morality by body count. The side that sustains more fatalities is judged as more aggrieved.

Such were Arbour’s calculations during her Post interview. She did berate the shelling of Israeli civilians, and she lent lip service to Israel’s right to protect its population, but she averred that Israel is at fault even if civilians are accidentally killed during Israeli strikes.
“There is very little distinction,” she intoned, “between recklessness and intent.”

The bottom line is that if terrorists – be they in Lebanon or Gaza – target Israelis deliberately from crowded townships, whose inhabitants are conscripted as human shields, then Israel has no right to preempt such attacks, lest the human shields come in harm’s way.

The tragic irony is that this logic runs directly counter to that of the UN’s own charter. One wonders whether Arbour has read that charter or agrees with it, given that the charter’s logic – that peace must be maintained by identifying, punishing, and defending against aggression – is inescapable.

Hmmm. Let’s go over a few of these points.

First, in speaking of morality by body count, the impression is given that the mean old United Nations reduces the complexity of such situations as this to tally cards. But in her previous interview with The Post, Arbour clearly stated:

“I left Gaza with the sense that the right of its people to their physical integrity—their right to life—was particularly imperiled…”

and added that human rights should not be dependent upon peace. Even so, she also called on Palestinian authorities to contain the fire of Qassam rockets and other desperate acts of retaliation against the world’s longest-running illegal occupation.

Second, to the charge that “Israel has no right to preempt,” let it be serenely pointed out that Israel could have preempted these attacks, for one example among many, by expediently accepting Sadat’s reasonable U.S. and Iran-backed peace treaty of 1971, thirty-five years ago. Indeed, at any time, Israel could preempt much of the constant calamity and chaos by deciding to rethink its own existence as an ethnocentric state on robbed territory. Allowing Palestinians freedom of movement and access to essential resources like food and water—since they were never Israel’s to take away—could turn out to be highly preemptive.

But most charming is the author’s astute observation that “peace must be maintained by identifying, punishing, and defending against aggression.” It’s “inescapable.” Indeed. So let’s identify aggression. Let’s take the examination a wee bit further back than the last rocket attack—something of which the Israeli propagandists are seemingly incapable. In fact, why don’t we go all the way back to 1948, to the declaration of the Jewish State of Israel on multicultural territory. Let’s stop along the timeline to review the seizure of the Golan Heights, of the West Bank, of Gaza and the Sinai, carefully noting the hundreds of thousands of refugees created. Why not revisit the five US-backed invasions of Lebanon over the past thirty years, and the sporadically weakened but effectually perpetual occupation of the Palestinian territories, not forgetting to note the early 1970s comment of Moshe Dayan in opining to the Israeli cabinet that they should tell the Palestinians that there is no solution for them, that they will live like dogs, and that whoever will leave, will leave.

Well, the editorialist answers my proposal before it’s even made:

Aggressors must be fought and self-defense is a fundamental right. The only way that Israel can be seen as an agressor in this conflict is if our very existence is a form of aggression.

Pre-cisely. And not because you’re Jewish, but because your state exists on territory you stole from others while no one would stand in the way of such crimes. Because your philosophy has always been, and continues to be, U.S.-backed might makes right, period. Not all Israeli citizens agree with this philosophy, but the dissenting voices are increasingly marginalized.

Also not to be missed in The Post’s self-evincing commentary is this gem:

It should not be surprising that aggressors try to confuse the issue of responsibility by conflating attacker and defender into a morally homogenous “cycle of violence.” But the fact is that there is no predetermined or senseless “cycle of violence.”

This terminology is part and parcel of Arab propaganda which the UN promotes. Its raison d’etre is to undermine Israel’s moral position.

Paragraph 1: thank you for adequately and succinctly summing up the chief modus operandi of Israeli-American news reporting. However, the “cycle of violence” is both predetermined and senseless—predetermined because of Israel’s unquenchable thirst for imposition and expansion, and senseless because of Israel’s refusal even to admit, and much less to rectify, its own arrogance.

Paragraph 2: the UN Charter binds that organization to undermine the position of any world power which displays such indignant, arrogant contempt for international law. Not all states rely on the Old Testament to dictate policy, or on U.S. tax dollars to fund hegemonist expansion and destruction, and U.S. diplomats to routinely, perfunctorily veto any UN attempts to hold offenders responsible for criminal acts. U.S. diplomats are generally old hands at that tactic, having employed it in their own defense numerous times in recent memory.

That Israel has a right to exist because of the horrors of the Holocaust is an almost plausible proposition. But this Arab propagandist says: that Israel has the right to exist on terms which subject indigenous peoples to another kind of holocaust is most certainly not plausible, regardless of its status as the implicit official line among Israeli officials. But, in Israel as in nowhere else, the naked truth is often stranger than even the most surreal fiction. And certainly it is in this case more deadly, for disenfranchised Israeli onlookers and especially for the displaced and disparaged Palestinians and Lebanese.

Robert Fisk on the Aftermath of Gemayel Assassination

Posted in foreign policy, Lebanon, middle east, News, News and politics by Curtis on 11/24/06

Found by way of Candide’s Notebooks, this 23 November commentary on the Gemayel assassination in Lebanon by the great Robert Fisk of The Independent:

In the house of mourning, an old Lebanese home of cut stone, they did not show Pierre Gemayel’s body. They had sealed the lid – so terribly damaged was his face by the bullets which killed him – as if the nightmares of Lebanon might thus be kept away in the darkness of the grave.

But the Maronites and Greek Orthodox, the Druze and – yes – the Muslims who came to pay their condolences to Gemayel’s wife, Patricia, and his broken father, Amin, wept copiously beside the flag-draped casket. They understood the horrors that could unfold in the coming days and their dignity was a refusal to accept that possibility. . .

. . . Living in Lebanon, you learn these semantic tricks through a kind of looking glass. Nothing here ever happens by accident. But whatever does happen is never quite like what you first think it to be. So the Lebanese at Bikfaya understood yesterday as they gathered and talked of unity. For if only the Lebanese stopped putting their faith in foreigners – the Americans, the Israelis, the British, the Iranians, the French, the United Nations – and trusted each other instead, they would banish the nightmares of civil war sealed inside Pierre Gemayel’s coffin.

Fisk, in my opinion by far the most astute and courageous foreign correspondent today covering the Middle East, has resided in Beirut for 25 years. He is repeatedly derided, particularly in the American press, for his “incorrigible bias” against the cynically detached colonialist policies of Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom in that region.

Chavez to UN: “I Smell Sulfur,” “What a Strange Democracy”

Chavez addresses the UN

All emphases are editorial.

New York, New York, USA.
September 20, 2006
Hugo Chavez, President of the Republic of Venezuela

Madam President, Excellencies, Heads of State, Heads of government, and other government representatives: good morning.

First, and with all respect, I highly recommend this book by Noam Chomsky, one of the most prestigious intellectuals in America and the world, Chomsky. One of his most recent works, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. It’s an excellent work to understand what has happened in the world in the 20th Century, what’s currently happening, and the greatest threat on this planet: the hegemonic pretention of the North American imperialism endangers the human race’s survival.

We continue warning about this danger and calling on the very same U.S. people and the world to stop this threat, which resembles the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. I had considered reading from this book [flips through pages] but for the sake of time I shall leave it as a recommendation. It reads easily. It’s a very good book. I’m sure, Madam, you are familiar with it.


The book is in English, in Russian, in Arabic and German. I think that the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because their threat is in their own house. The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday.


Yesterday, the devil came here, right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of. Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the President of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as ‘the devil,’ came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly, as the owner of the world. I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday’s statement made by the President of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation, and pillage of the peoples of the world. An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: “The Devil’s Recipe.”

As Chomsky says here, clearly and in depth, the American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its system of domination. And we cannot allow them to do that. We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated. The ‘world parent’s’ statement—cynical, hypocritical, full of this imperial hypocrisy from the need they have to control everything.

They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that’s their democractic model. It’s the false democracy of elites, and, I would say,  very original democracy that’s imposed by bombs and weapons. What a strange democracy. Aristotle might not recognize it, or others who are at the root of democracy.

What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?

The President of the United States said to us right here in this room, and I’m quoting, “Anywhere you look, you hear extremists telling you you can escape from poverty and recover your dignity through violence, terror, and martyrdom.” Wherever he looks, he sees extremists.

And, you, my brother—he looks at your color and he says, “Oh, there’s an extremist.” Evo Morales, the worthy President of Bolivia, looks like an extremist to him.

The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It’s not that we are extremists. It’s that the world is waking up. It’s waking up all over, and people are standing up.

I have the feeling, dear ‘World Dictator,’ that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare. Because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, and for the sovereignty of nations. Yes, you can call us extremists, but we are rising up against the model of empire, against the model of domination.

The President, then—and this he said himself, he said “I have come to speak directly to the populations in the Middle East, to tell them that my country wants peace.” That’s true. If we walk in the streets of the Bronx, if we walk around New York, Washington, San Antonio, San Francisco, and if we ask individuals, the citizens of the United States, what does this country want? Does it want peace?

They will say “yes.” But the government does not want peace. The government of the United States does not want peace. It wants to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war.

It wants peace—but what’s happening in Iraq? What happened in Lebanon? In Palestine? What’s happening? What happened over the last hundred years in Latin America, and in the world? And now threatening Venezuela—new threats against Venezuela, against Iran.

He spoke to the people of Lebanon. Many of you, he said, have seen how your homes and communities were caught in the crossfire. How cynical can you get? What a capacity for shamefaced lies.  The bombs in Beirut with millimetric precision. Is this crossfire?

He’s thinking of a Western, when people would shoot from the hip and someone would get caught in the crossfire.

This is the imperialist, fascist, assassin genocide the empire and Israel fling on the people of Palestine and Lebanon. This is what happened. And now we hear “we’re suffering because we see homes were destroyed.”

The President of the United States came to talk to the peoples of the world. He came to say—I brought documents with me, because this morning I was reading some statements, and I see that he talked to the people of Afghanistan, the people of Lebanon, the people of Iran; and I see he addressed all these peoples directly. And you can wonder, just as the President of the United States addresses these peoples of the world, ‘What would those peoples of the world tell him if they were given the floor? What would they have to say?’

And I think I have some inkling of what the peoples of the South, the oppressed people, think. They would say, “Yankee imperialist, go home. “

I think that is what those people would say if they were given the microphone and if they could speak with one voice to the American imperialists.

And that is why, Madam President, my colleagues, my friends, we came here last year to this same hall, as we have been doing for the past eight years, and we said something that has now been confirmed—fully, fully confirmed.

I don’t think anybody in this room could defend the system. Let’s accept—let’s be honest. The U.N. system, born after the Second World War, collapsed. It’s worthless. Oh, yes, it’s good to bring us together once a year, see each other, make statements and prepare all kinds of long documents, and listen to good speeches, like Evo’s yesterday, or President Lula’s. Yes, it’s good for that. And there are a lot of speeches, and we’ve heard lots from the president of Sri Lanka, for instance, and the president of Chile.

But we, the assembly, have been turned into a merely deliberative organ. We have no power, no power to make any impact on the terrible situation in the world. And that is why Venezuela once again proposes, here, today, September 20th, that we re-establish the United Nations.

Last year, Madam, we made four modest proposals that we felt to be crucially important. We have to assume the responsibility, our heads of state, our ambassadors, our representatives, and we have to discuss it.

The first is expansion, and Lula talked about this yesterday right here: The Security Council’s expansion, both regarding its permanent and non-permanent categories. New developed and developing countries, the Third World, must be given access as new permanent members. That’s step one.

Second, effective methods to address and resolve world conflicts, transparent decisions.

Point three, the immediate suppression — and that is something everyone’s calling for — of the anti-democratic mechanism known as the veto, the veto on decisions of the Security Council.

Let me give you a recent example. The immoral veto of the United States allowed the Israelis, with impunity, to destroy Lebanon. Right in front of all of us as we stood there watching, a resolution in the council was prevented.

Fourthly, we have to strengthen, as we’ve always said, the role and the powers of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Yesterday, the Secretary General practically gave us his speech of farewell. And he recognized that over the last 10 years, things have just gotten more complicated; hunger, poverty, violence, human rights violations have just worsened. That is the tremendous consequence of the collapse of the United Nations system and American hegemonistic pretensions.

Madam , Venezuela a few years ago decided to wage this battle within the United Nations by recognizing the United Nations, as members of it that we are, and lending it our voice, our thinking.

Our voice is an independent voice to represent the dignity and the search for peace and the reformulation of the international system; to denounce persecution and aggression of hegemonistic forces on the planet. This is how Venezuela has presented itself. Bolivar’s home has sought a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council.

Let’s see. Well, there has been an open attack by the U.S. government, an immoral attack, to try and prevent Venezuela from being freely elected to a post in the Security Council. The imperium is afraid of truth, is afraid of independent voices. It calls us extremists, but they are the extremists.

And I would like to thank all the countries that have kindly announced their support for Venezuela, even though the ballot is a secret one and there’s no need to announce things. But since the imperium has attacked, openly, they strengthened the convictions of many countries. And their support strengthens us.

Mercosur, as a bloc, has expressed its support, our brothers in Mercosur. Venezuela, with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, is a full member of Mercosur. And many other Latin American countries, CARICOM, Bolivia have expressed their support for Venezuela. The Arab League, the full Arab League has voiced its support. And I am immensely grateful to the Arab world, to our Arab brothers, our Caribbean brothers, the African Union. Almost all of Africa has expressed its support for Venezuela and countries such as Russia or China and many others.

I thank you all warmly on behalf of Venezuela, on behalf of our people, and on behalf of the truth, because Venezuela, with a seat on the Security Council, will be expressing not only Venezuela’s thoughts, but it will also be the voice of all the peoples of the world, and we will defend dignity and truth.

Over and above all of this, Madam President, I think there are reasons to be optimistic. A poet would have said “helplessly optimistic,” because over and above the wars and the bombs and the aggressive and the preventive war and the destruction of entire peoples, one can see that a new era is dawning.

As Silvio Rodriguez says, the era is giving birth to a heart. There are alternative ways of thinking. There are young people who think differently. And this has already been seen within the space of a mere decade. It was shown that the end of history was a totally false assumption, and the same was shown about Pax Americana and the establishment of the capitalist neo-liberal world. It has been shown, this system, to generate mere poverty. Who believes in it now?

What we now have to do is define the future of the world. Dawn is breaking out all over. You can see it in Africa and Europe and Latin America and Oceania. I want to emphasize that optimistic vision. We have to strengthen ourselves, our will to do battle, our awareness. We have to build a new and better world.

Venezuela joins that struggle, and that is why we are threatened. The U.S. has already planned, financed and set in motion a coup in Venezuela, and it continues to support coup attempts in Venezuela and elsewhere.

President Michelle Bachelet reminded us just a moment ago of the horrendous assassination of the former foreign minister, Orlando Letelier. And I would just add one thing: Those who perpetrated this crime are free. And that other event where an American citizen also died were American themselves. They were CIA killers, terrorists.

And we must recall in this room that in just a few days there will be another anniversary. Thirty years will have passed from this other horrendous terrorist attack on the Cuban plane, where 73 innocents, in a Cubana de Aviacion airliner, died.

And where is the biggest terrorist of this continent who took the responsibility for blowing up the plane? He spent a few years in jail in Venezuela. Thanks to CIA and then government officials, he was allowed to escape, and he lives here in this country, protected by the government. And he was convicted. He has confessed to his crime. But the U.S. government has double standards. It protects terrorism when it wants to.

And this is to say that Venezuela is fully committed to combating terrorism and violence. And we are one of the people who are fighting for peace.

Luis Posada Carriles is the name of that terrorist who is protected here. And other tremendously corrupt people who escaped from Venezuela are also living here under protection: a group that bombed various embassies, that assassinated people during the coup. They kidnapped me and they were going to kill me, but I think God reached down and our people came out into the streets and the army was too, and so I’m here today.

But these people who led that coup are here today in this country protected by the American government. And I accuse the American government of protecting terrorists and of having a completely cynical discourse.

We mentioned Cuba. Yes, we were just there a few days ago. We just came from there happily.

And there you see another era born. The Summit of the 15, the Summit of the Nonaligned, adopted a historic resolution. This is the outcome document. Don’t worry, I’m not going to read it.

But you have a whole set of resolutions here that were adopted after open debate in a transparent matter — more than 50 heads of state. Havana was the capital of the south for a few weeks, and we have now launched, once again, the group of the nonaligned with new momentum. And if there is anything I could ask all of you here, my companions, my brothers and sisters, it is to please lend your good will to lend momentum to the Nonaligned Movement for the birth of the new era, to prevent hegemony and prevent further advances of imperialism.

And as you know, Fidel Castro is the president of the nonaligned for the next three years, and we can trust him to lead the charge very efficiently. Unfortunately they thought, “Oh, Fidel was going to die.” But they’re going to be disappointed because he didn’t. And he’s not only alive, he’s back in his green fatigues, and he’s now presiding the nonaligned.

So, my dear colleagues, Madam President, a new, strong movement has been born, a movement of the south. We are men and women of the south.

With this document, with these ideas, with these criticisms, I’m now closing my file. I’m taking the book with me. And, don’t forget, I’m recommending it very warmly and very humbly to all of you.

We want ideas to save our planet, to save the planet from the imperialist threat. And hopefully in this very century, in not too long a time, we will see this, we will see this new era, and for our children and our grandchildren a world of peace based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations, but a renewed United Nations. And maybe we have to change location. Maybe we have to put the United Nations somewhere else; maybe a city of the south. We’ve proposed Venezuela.

You know that my personal doctor had to stay in the plane. The chief of security had to be left in a locked plane. Neither of these gentlemen was allowed to arrive and attend the U.N. meeting. This is another abuse and another abuse of power on the part of the Devil. It smells of sulfur here, but God is with us and I embrace you all.

May God bless us all. Good day to you.