can’t see the forest

A representative of Mousavi speaks out

Posted in Iran, Iran election, middle east, Mousavi, World News by Curtis on 6/22/09

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, identifying himself as a representative of the purportedly defeated Iranian presidential candidate Hossein Mousavi, wrote in Friday’s Guardian (follow link for full article):

I have been given the ­responsibility of telling the world what is happening in Iran. The office of Mir Hossein Mousavi, who the Iranian people truly want as their leader, has asked me to do so. They have asked me to tell how Mousavi’s headquarters was wrecked by plainclothes police officers. To tell how the commanders of the revolutionary guard ordered him to stay silent. To urge people to take to the streets because Mousavi could not do so directly.

The people in the streets don’t want a recount of last week’s vote. They want it annulled. This is a crucial moment in our history. Since the 1979 revolution Iran has had 80% dictatorship and 20% democracy. We have dictatorship because one person is in charge, the supreme leader – first Khomeini, now Khamenei. He controls the army and the clergy, the justice system and the media, as well as our oil money.

There are some examples of democracy – reformers elected to parliament, and the very fact that a person like Mousavi could stand for election. But, since the day of the election, this ­element of democracy has vanished. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won, and that whoever opposed this will be suppressed – a position he affirmed speaking today in Tehran. People wanted to have demonstrations within the law, but the authorities would not let them. This is the first time we have seen millions on the streets without the permission of the supreme leader.

Now they are gathering to mourn those who have died. The people of Iran have a culture that elevates martyrdom. In the period running up to the revolution, when people were killed at demonstrations, others would gather again in the days following the death. This cycle carried on for six months, and culminated in the revolution. Today they are gathering in Tehran for those who were shot on Tuesday, and if there are more killings, this will continue.

So why do the Iranian people not want Ahmadinejad as their leader? Because he is nothing but a loudspeaker for Khamenei. Under Ahmadinejad, economic problems have grown worse, despite $280bn of oil revenue. Social and literary freedom is much more restricted than under his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami. The world views us as a terrorist nation on the lookout for war. When Khatami was president of Iran, Bush was president of the US. Now the Americans have Obama and we have our version of Bush. We need an Obama who can find solutions for Iran’s problems. Although power would remain in the hands of Khamenei, a president like Mousavi could weaken the supreme leader.

Protestors in Tehran (LATimes)

Protesters in Tehran (LATimes)

According to this BBC article, the circumstances surrounding the re-election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, a hardline conservative many Iranians see as merely a mouthpiece for the Supreme Leader, are viewed in much of Iran as questionable at best. This election saw a tenfold increase in the use of mobile polling stations, portable voting venues responsible to the Interior Ministry, run by a close ally of Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad also apparently picked up huge, unprecedented gains in areas where he has previously not fared so well. One liberal candidate earned 5% of the vote in a precinct where he had previously earned 55% in an earlier round of voting. And, overall, the election results were published and tabulated far more quickly than usual, with far less regional variation than would be expected.

Things just don’t add up, to put it succinctly. Juan Cole, an established writer on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, told the BBC: “It just seems to me the fix was in.” And, said an official from a Washington think-tank on Middle East policy, “This is something more than a manipulation. This is an outright coup.”

In an address on Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini made it clear that protests will not be tolerated. But still they persist, especially in the streets of the capital Tehran, where mounting unrest over police brutality and killings may force senior clerics to rethink their policies if they wish to remain unchallenged in authority.

According to the Iranian news service PRESSTV, former Reformist president Mohammed Khatami has called for an investigation into fraud allegations by an “impartial group.” But such a group may be difficult to find in the Iranian government if it exists at all—for example, the Guardian Council, which is currently in charge of investigating more than 600 complaints of fraud, is headed by a strong ally of the incumbent Ahmadinejad, and this group also safeguards the only legal avenues for removing the Supreme Leader of Iran.

So it is not as likely that protesters are as interested in a recount as in real democracy and transparency in a government which increasing numbers of young Iranians view as a medieval theocracy rather than a functional republic.

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IDF Fashion Report ’09

Posted in Israel, middle east, Palestine, World News by Curtis on 3/21/09

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From Haaretz:

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!” A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as “confirming the kill” (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.

Let the bodies hit the floor, right?

Such sickening practices only underscore the cruel and cavalier demeanor with which Israel, breathing the air of impunity pumped right over from Washington, carries on its colonial occupation of Palestine.



Iran to Obama: Change in words not enough

Posted in foreign policy, Iran, Israel, middle east, Obama, Politics, U.S. News, US, World News by Curtis on 3/21/09

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In a video message to Iran delivered to coincide with the spring holiday of Nowruz, U.S. President Barack Obama may have departed significantly from Bush-era policies by opening the door to constructive dialog between the two nations. But his overtures disappointed many and were less than warmly received by the government in Tehran largely because they seemed to embody a continuation of carrot-and-stick diplomacy oriented toward rewarding a sovereign nation for “good behavior” rather than truly engaging it as an equal.

The BBC reports on the response from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini:

Speaking to a large crowd in the holy city of Mashhad, Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran had “no experience with the new American government and the new American president.”

“We will observe them and we will judge,” he said.

“If you change your attitude, we will change our attitude.”

In the speech, which was carried live by Iranian television, he said Iran was yet to see such a change.

“What is the change in your policy?” he asked.

“Did you remove the sanctions? Did you stop supporting the Zionist regime? Tell us what you have changed. Change only in words is not enough.”

Matters were not helped, perhaps, in that Obama preceded his address by extending certain sanctions against the Islamic republic for one year, citing threats to U.S. national security.

Iran is due to hold presidential elections this summer. Former President Mohammed Khatami, a figure widely viewed as more open to reconciliation with the West, was at one point slated to run for reelection but then withdrew from the race. Whether or not current President Amahdinejad, seen as a foreign policy hardliner, is ousted from office, the U.S. and Israel need not expect the election to bring any major changes to the political climate.

It is good that the new White House is willing to engage in dialog with Tehran, but the fact remains that, if the U.S. wishes genuinely to create goodwill and a sense of cooperation with Iran, it must itself take steps toward enacting several policy changes:

  1. First and foremost, the U.S. must openly rethink its complete and unmitigated support for the government of Israel, particularly as it pertains to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Since the U.S. is largely responsible for the arming and funding of Israeli military operations, and has traditionally backed Israel diplomatically against all odds, it is seen as a de facto partner in the blockades and military offensives which have recently crushed millions of innocent Palestinians in response to rocket fire from a relatively small number of militants. The U.S. could help matters by intensifying its commitment to a political solution for Palestine.
  2. The U.S. must recognize Iran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy, and must adopt a policy of “innocent until proven guilty” towards its suspicions that Iran might be seeking to develop nuclear weapons. There remains no concrete evidence that Iran is working towards a bomb, but the hysteria over the idea continues to mount as Israel considers using missiles to destroy enrichment efforts. Iran may be willing to accept reliance on fuel enriched outside its borders, but not for nothing in return.
  3. The U.S. must work to end U.S. and U.N. sanctions against Iran. This could be made dependent on eliciting cooperation from Tehran on security issues in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the government may or may not be willing to give. But as long as such sanctions are in place, Iran is justified in feeling that it is being addressed as less than an equal, and little progress is likely.

In return, the U.S. should expect Iran to soften its support of Hezbollah and Hamas, to tone down its anti-Israeli rhetoric and provocative missile tests, and to become more receptive to cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, to keep realism on the table, we must remember that Iran reasonably views itself as a state under threat, surrounded on both sides by ongoing U.S. military operations and continually threatened by talk of missile attacks from Israel.

Obama’s latest move certainly signifies the hope of change, but it is not yet, for many, change we can believe in.

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.

Two Views Into the Darkness

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I wanted to highlight two articles dealing with the oppression and mutilation of Gaza which have recently appeared in Counterpunch. Each of them has something interesting and powerful to say about the situation there.

palestinian-loss-of-land

I have never traveled to the Middle East, and have in my time met only a handful of Israeli Jews or Arabs, or Palestinians. Yet the events in that beleaguered realm weigh heavily on my mind each day. Wherever my government’s support and therefore my tax money is used to unjustly maim, kill, and otherwise deprecate fellow human beings who strive for only a small part of the comforts I enjoy in the warmth of my den, there my thoughts are turned inexorably.

Why does Israel wreak such havoc on Gaza? The mainstream press is devoid of meaningful answers. Is it because of the sporadic rocket fire on Israeli cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon? Not hardly; even within the context-bleeped framework of Israeli yarn-spinning presented in the media these days, this does not make sense. If Israel merely wished the rocket fire to end, she could find much less bloodthirsty and roundly devastating ways to achieve this than indiscriminately killing Palestinians four hundred-fold and risking the lives of Israeli troops in a potential ground assault. There would be no need to put an economic stranglehold on an entire population for years running, just to stop some rockets. Why, come to think of it, she could simply offer Gaza all that it has asked for: self-determination and a real end to the Israeli occupation.

Does Israel fear Hamas, and truly see no way forward while it operates? No—we can easily imagine that living under the threat of Hamas rockets is a terrible existence for Israelis in the country’s south, to be sure. But this is of no more real concern to the Israeli government than the threat of terrorism at home was to the Bush administration when launching its incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems to me that the largest threat posed by Hamas is that, for Israel, there will be no way backwards while it exists. Because, unlike the government of Abbas in the West Bank, Hamas has no appetite for the sugar dripping from the forked tongues of Israeli officials who would promise Gazans peace and give them only continued subjugation on terms that Washington and Tel Aviv see fit. Hamas will continue to call international attention to the travesties unfolding in the region, and will not shirk from defending itself against the occupiers, even when unfortunate and deplorable violence remains its only meaningful mode of self-expression among a world community which is all thumbs.

In Jennifer Loewenstein’s piece, “If Hamas Did Not Exist,” the situation is summed up admirably:

Strip away the clichés and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.

Strip away the current symbols and language of the victims of our selfish and devastating whims and you will find the simple, impassioned and unaffected cries of the downtrodden; of the ‘wretched of the earth’ begging you to cease your cold aggression against their children and their homes; their families and their villages; begging you to leave them alone to have their fish and their bread, their oranges, their olives and their thyme; asking you first politely and then with increasing disbelief why you cannot let them live undisturbed on the land of their ancestors; unexploited, free of the fear of expulsion; of ravishment and devastation; free of permits and roadblocks and checkpoints and crossings; of monstrous concrete walls, guard towers, concrete bunkers, and barbed wire; of tanks and prisons and torture and death. Why is life without these policies and instruments of hell impossible?

The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders.

What role does the United States play in this terrible conflict which brings such misery to the lives of Palestinians and many Israelis? I haven’t the space or the energy to delve into a complete history of U.S.-Israel relations. But Washington’s support of Israeli hegemony and its persistent ideology of victimhood has been openly voiced at times, and even those whose only knowledge of world events comes from the usual suspects among media outlets are generally aware that Israel operates largely with American military equipment, American diplomatic support, and American tax dollars—a portion of which are directly funneled back into American arms dealers. Ralph Nader, in his “Open Letter to President Bush,” expresses his thoughts on the matter:

Your spokespeople are making much ado about the breaking of the six month truce. Who is the occupier? Who is the most powerful military force? Who controls and blocks the necessities of life? Who has sent raiding missions across the border most often? Who has sent artillery shells and missiles at close range into populated areas? Who has refused the repeated comprehensive peace offerings of the Arab countries issued in 2002 if Israel would agree to return to the 1967 borders and agree to the creation of a small independent Palestinian state possessing just twenty two percent of the original Palestine?

The ‘wildly inaccurate rockets,’ as reporters describe them, coming from Hamas and other groups cannot compare with the modern precision armaments and human damage generated from the Israeli side.

There are no rockets coming from the West Bank into Israel. Yet the Israeli government is still sending raiders into that essentially occupied territory, still further entrenching its colonial outposts, still taking water and land and increasing the checkpoints. This is going on despite a most amenable West Bank leader, Mahmoud Abbas, whom you have met with at the White House and praised repeatedly. Is it all vague words and no real initiatives with you and your emissary Condoleezza Rice?

Peace was possible, but you provided no leadership, preferring instead to comply with all wishes and demands by the Israeli government, even resupplying it with the still active cluster bombs in south Lebanon during the invasion of that country in 2006.

The arguments about who started the latest hostilities go on and on with Israel always blaming the Palestinians to justify all kinds of violence and harsh treatment against innocent civilians.

From the Palestinian standpoint, you would do well to remember the origins of this conflict which was the dispossession of their lands. To afford you some empathy, recall the oft-quoted comment by the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, who told the Zionist leader, Nahum Goldmann:

‘There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz; but was that their [the Palestinians] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?’

Alfred North Whitehead once said: ‘Duty arises out of the power to alter the course of events.’ By that standard, you have shirked mightily your duty over the past eight years to bring peace to both Palestinians and Israelis and more security to a good part of the world.

palestine-boy-tankI hope for the sake of all that the violence and hostility can end. Yes, that is my sincere wish, but it is not my highest hope. My highest hope is that a peace can be achieved without the usual price of humiliation, continued subjugation, and business as usual that has in the past been so carefully tacked on by Israel when dealing with her “attackers.” As history has amply demonstrated, peace at the price of sovereignty and the basic human rights of a people is a peace in name only. One can achieve peace by allowing one’s self to be beaten into submission. Peace is always viscerally preferable to violence, but one must ask: what does it mean?


Reign of Terror in Gaza Intensifies

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Or, “21st Century Colonialism: an Introduction”

Saturday, December 27, a day when many revelers in the west were still feeling too full to take down Christmas decorations and were perhaps solidifying plans for a joyous New Year’s, has been called the bloodiest day in the history of Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli occupation over forty years ago.

Israeli air assaults have killed dozens if not hundreds of Palestinians, and this amid a years-long embargo imposed by Israel which has emaciated the Gazan economy and citizenry on every imaginable level of existence. The embargo followed the free Palestinian election of a Hamas-led government. Israel roundly blames Hamas for sporadic rocket fire against civilian targets in Israel, but collectively punishes 1.5 million Gazans in retribution.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, told reporters that Israel is determined to “change realities on the ground.” There are fears that the air strikes may be a prelude to a ground offensive, as Israel has called forth large numbers of reservists. Israel has bombed tunnels which were being used to bring minimal amounts of food and humanitarian supplies into Gaza from Egypt, citing suspicions that weapons were also being imported.

The U.S. government insists that Hamas is responsible for the bloodshed on both sides of the border, much as it once insisted that Native Americans could have avoided much violence and misery had they only been a bit more reasonable.

Unfortunately, violence will only beget more violence. It is my feeling that, while the devastation on both sides is deplorable, Israel is using an iron fist to subjugate those whose lands and sovereignty it has molested, people with a fighting spirit and a sense of self-worth that no machinery of war can conquer—people who have been deliberately put into a position in which guerilla fighting in the face of F-16 jets and U.S. billions is, they feel, their only hope of resistance.

The BBC reports:

Israeli F-16 bombers have pounded key targets across the Gaza Strip, killing at least 225 people, local medics say.

Most of those killed were policemen in the Hamas militant movement, which controls Gaza, but women and children also died, the Gaza officials said.

About 700 others were wounded, as missiles struck security compounds and militant bases, the officials added.

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said the operation “may take some time”- but he pledged to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

“It’s not going to last a few days,” he said in a televised statement, flanked by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Israel said it was responding to an escalation in rocket attacks from Gaza and would bomb “as long as necessary”.

Such comments from Israeli officials amply demonstrate that, if there is a Reign of Terror in Palestine today, it is Israel which wears the ugly crown.

Dear World . . . Sincerely, Palestine

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occupation-and-defense

free_palestine

The Heathlander recently posted links to annual reports by various human rights organizations to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review concerning the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The article which includes the links represents the views of Richard Falk, a UN human rights investigator recently relieved of his position because of his “hostile views” toward Israel. The findings of a few of these reports are summarized below.

The State of Israel was founded in 1948, carved chiefly out of what had been colonial possessions of the United Kingdom. While many support the existence of a Jewish homeland, particularly in the wake of the events of the Second World War, fewer agree that these particular lands should have been ceded to the control of relatively new Zionist immigrants rather than to the Palestinian ethnic groups which had resided there for centuries. The Zionist settlers believed that they enjoyed a religious “right of return” to the area according to scripture, a controversial notion which, even where accepted, is not generally held to entail such brutal disregard for the sovereignty and basic human dignity of Palestinians.

Since 1967, Israel has occupied lands which were ceded to the Palestinians under a U.N. agreement, pursuing what many feel are policies of expansion, oppression, and apartheid against Palestinians. Additionally, Israel, which possesses without acknowledgment the sole known nuclear arsenal in the region, continues to threaten other surrounding powers—particularly Iran—which have criticized its occupation of Palestinian lands and cruel treatment of Palestinians. At one point or another, it has occupied lands belonging to all of its Arab neighbors; yet the Israeli government continually represents itself as an innocent victim of anti-Semitic violence, refusing to acknowledge that such violence, while unfortunate and deplorable, represents desperate guerrilla-type self-defense on the part of the disenfranchised Palestinians.

west-bank-wallIn 2006, Hamas, frequently described as an “Islamic militant” or “terrorist” organization due to its sponsorship of guerrilla activities against the Israeli military and some civilians, won free elections in Gaza. Since then Israel has aggressively boycotted the government in Gaza using blockades, military incursions, and other harmful and violent means which amount to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million citizens. The West Bank, in contrast, is now presided over by a U.S.-backed government.

The United Nations has, on too many occasions to count, reprimanded Israel and called for an end to these atrocities. Such proceedings are routinely boycotted by Israel, the United States, and sometimes a few other member states, while being overwhelmingly supported by the majority of the international community. The United States provides billions of dollars in financial and military aid to Israel annually, and is characteristically quick to defend Israeli hegemony and expansionism in the region in the name of self-defense.

The following are direct or paraphrased excerpts of just a few of the many 2008 reports to the UNHRC concerning conditions in Palestine. For the full set of reports, visit this page. These documents represent merely the latest additions to a huge book detailing many of the atrocities visited against the Palestinian people according to a pattern of U.S.-sanctioned abuse which stretches back for decades.

(more…)

Teen Town

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In honor of the Shministim, and with Tel Aviv in mind, we post here a 1977 appearance on Saturday Night Special of the fusion group Weather Report, performing the Jaco Pastorius showpiece “Teen Town.” It was enough for me to learn to play this bass line on a keyboard; for a hearty laugh, you should see me attempt it on a fretless.

Wayne Shorter, saxophone; Joe Zawinul, keyboards; Jaco Pastorius, bass/composer; Manolo Badrena, Latin perc.; Alex Acuña, perc.

Iraqi judge: Shoe-throwing journalist was beaten

Posted in al-Zaidi, George Bush, iraq, middle east, News, protest, USA, World News by Curtis on 12/19/08

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al-zaidi2

According to the investigating Iraqi magistrate, Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at visiting U.S. President George W. Bush and called him a “dog,” was beaten while in custody and had bruises on his face to show for it.

The Guardian reports:

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush was beaten afterwards and had bruises on his face, the investigating judge in the case said today, as a senior cleric in Iran urged others to wage a “shoe intifada” against the US.

The reporter, Muntazer al-Zaidi, had bruises on his face and around his eyes, said the judge, Dhia al-Kinani said.

Zaidi was wrestled to the ground after throwing the shoes during a Sunday press conference by Bush and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

He remains in custody and is expected to face charges of insulting a foreign leader.

Kinani said a complaint about Zaidi’s treatment had been filed on his behalf and court officials “will watch the footage to identify those who have beaten him … He was beaten and we filed a case for that. Zaidi did not raise a complaint and he can drop this case if he wants to.”

Clerics in Iran have praised al-Zaidi’s bravery, and his actions have been similarly hailed throughout the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez said that, while the throwing of shoes was uncalled for, the sentiment was justified. Al-Zaidi has asked the forgiveness of the Iraqi Prime Minister; if convicted of insulting a head of state, he could face up to 15 years imprisonment. Prime Minister Maliki has the authority to grant a pardon, but only if a conviction is first handed down. The Iraqi parliament is currently sharply divided on the issue.

Earlier, the journalist’s brother had claimed he was beaten in custody and was taken to an American military hospital for treatment for a broken arm, broken ribs, and other injuries. The court ostensibly intends to closely review video footage to determine if al-Zaidi’s injuries were sustained merely during the struggle to take him into custody, or were incurred or exacerbated later, while in detention.

In Muslim culture, feet and shoes are regarded as especially unclean; the throwing of shoes is therefore one of the most degrading physical insults which could be visited on a person.

I thought Barack Obama would be a shoe-in; I just didn’t know Bush would be a shoe-out. But if the shoe fits . . .

The Shministim and December 18

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Thanks to Monte Asbury’s blog, where I first caught wind of these courageous teenagers.

The Shministim are Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for conscientiously objecting to service in the Israeli armed forces because of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories and its decades-running ill treatment and oppression of Palestinians. Here is a short (2 min.) video:

Click here to add your name and message to a letter to the Israeli Minister of Defense calling for the release of these principled young Israelis. The Shministim movement goes back for several years, and these young people need to be publicized and applauded for joining the cause of equality, for choosing peace over apartheid.

Click here to read Howard Zinn’s moving message about the Shministim.

Thank you.