July 2012 Archives

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This is an excellent article by Glenn Greewald, highlighting the way that media propaganda drives the West’s militaristic political agenda, while reminding us that it does not have to be this way, and that genuine ‘acts of journalism’ do still take place!

I suspect that we will look back on this period of history one day and see it as the era of media manipulation, where journalists and TV presenters took on the role once played by brown-shirted secret police – sanitizing approved criminal acts on the one hand and silencing dissidents on the other.

I note that the links in this article are very much worth following. Dave

As published on Salon.com…

Journalism v. Propaganda

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

22 July 12

The US and Israel blame Iran for the suicide attack in Bulgaria, but offer no evidence for the accusation.

Almost immediately after a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on Wednesday, Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blamed Iran, an accusation uncritically repeated by most Western media outlets even as Bulgarian investigators warned it would be a “mistake” to assign blame before the attack could be investigated. Now, Israel, along with the U.S., is blaming Hezbollah and, therefore, Iran for the attack. Today’s New York Times article by Nicholas Kulish and Eric Schmitt – headlined “Hezbollah Is Blamed for Attack on Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria” – uncritically treats those accusations as confirmed fact despite no evidence being offered for it

American officials on Thursday identified the suicide bomber responsible for a deadly attack on Israeli vacationers here as a member of a Hezbollah cell that was operating in Bulgaria and looking for such targets, corroborating Israel’s assertions and making the bombing a new source of tension with Iran. 
One senior American official said the current American intelligence assessment was that the bomber, who struck Wednesday, killing five Israelis, had been “acting under broad guidance” to hit Israeli targets when opportunities presented themselves, and that the guidance had been given to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, by Iran, its primary sponsor. Two other American officials confirmed that Hezbollah was behind the bombing, but declined to provide additional details. 
The attacks, the official said, were in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has blamed Israeli agents – an accusation that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied. “This was tit for tat,” said the American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way. . . . 
A senior Israeli official said on Thursday that the Burgas attack was part of an intensive wave of terrorist attacks around the world carried out by two different organizations, the Iranian Quds Force, an elite international operations unit within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as well as by Hezbollah.

By “identified,” “confirmed” and “corroborated” Iranian and Hezbollah responsibility, what The New York Times means is this: American officials asserted that this was so, even as they “declined to provide additional details” and even though “the investigation was still under way.” Indeed, this accusation is, as the NYT sees it, “confirmed” and “corroborated” even though “no details yet about the bomber like his name or nationality” are known; even though their anonymous American source “declined to describe what specific intelligence – intercepted communications, analysis of the bomber’s body parts or other details – led analysts to conclude that the bomber belonged to Hezbollah”; even though “the Bulgarians are still trying to figure out how the bomber entered the country, how he traveled around and where he stayed”; and even though the Bulgarian Foreign Minister said: “We’re not pointing the finger in any direction until we know what happened and complete our investigation.” All The Paper of Record knows is that U.S. and Israeli officials have blamed Iran and Hezbollah, and – as usual – that’s good enough for them. Identified, Confirmed and Corroborated.

By stark contrast, The Washington Post’s Karin Brulliard, reporting from Jerusalem, commits an act of actual journalism with her story on this event. She, too, notes the official accusations of Hezbollah and Iranian responsibility, but, as Think Progress’ Ali Gharib points out, she heavily qualifies that in the third paragraph of her story: “Israel offered no concrete evidence tying the bombing to Iran, and Bulgarian officials cautioned that it was too early to attribute responsibility.” That’s called basic journalism: instead of just repeating official claims, treating them as “confirmed,” and shaping the entire article around those assertions, she prominently notes that there is no real evidence to lead anyone to believe these accusations. She then adds more skepticism: “U.S. intelligence officials said it was ‘plausible’ that Hezbollah carried out the attack but that analysts at the CIA and other agencies were still evaluating the intelligence surrounding the bombing and had not reached a conclusion.”

I have no idea who is behind the attacks. If it turns out to be Hezbollah and/or Iran, that will not shock me: after all, if it is perceived that you have sent hit squads onto a country’s soil to murder their nuclear scientists, it’s likely that the targeted nation will want to respond with violence of their own. But there is no evidence to confirm the American and Israeli accusations. A reader of the New York Times article would not know that, while a reader of Brulliard’s article in the Post would. That’s the difference between journalism and propaganadistic stenography. It’s really not that difficult or complex, when repeating government claims, to note clearly and prominently that no evidence has been furnished to support those claims.

Following up on the argument I made about the Syria bombing – that Western political and media circles would treat the attack on Syrian officials as something to praise: the U.S. State Department, even when assuming it was a suicide bomb, refused to denounce the attack and came close to praising it, while The New York Times referred to the rebels’ “brazen assassination of top security officials.” While denying responsibility for the Bulgarian attack, Iranian officials noted this posture

The speaker of Iran’s Parliament, Ali Larijani, criticized the United States for not condemning the bombing in Damascus on Wednesday that struck at President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle, killing three senior defense officials. “By not condemning the assassination in Syria, the Americans show that they believe in good assassinations and bad assassinations,” he said, according to the Fars news agency.

Indeed, in one of the grandest understatements of the year, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, when asked about U.S. policy toward Israeli human rights abuses, recently acknowledged: “We are not always consistent.” That’s true even when it comes to the question of what counts as Terrorism and whether it is good or bad.

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The highlights in this report are mine.   Peace, Roy 

Nouran El-Behairy  July 25, 2012

Palestine seeking to upgrade UN status at the General Assembly despite warnings

Arab League representatives announced their full support on Sunday for upgrading the status of the Palestinian territories to a non-member state at the United Nations.

The announcement was made during a meeting of a follow up committee on the Palestinian peace process attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas previously announced his intention to seek non-member status last year but the United States and Israel both expressed dismay over the move.

“The Arabs decided to go to the UN to seek non-member state status for Palestine,” Palestinian Peace Negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP. “It has been agreed that we will start preparing the legal, procedural and political file relating to the Palestinian application for non-state membership.”

Erekat added that they will begin consulting UN groups like the African Group, the Non-Aligned Movement, the European Union and the South American Bloc in order to garner their support for the Palestinian request.

The appeal to the General Assembly will be prepared by a separate committee and reported to the next Arab League meeting scheduled 5 September in Cairo, where the date for presenting the application will be specified.

Palestinian officials are seeking General Assembly recognition in order to reaffirm the pre-1967 borders, leaving East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza within the borders of a Palestinian state. The areas were lost to Israel in the 1967 war and since then Israel has moved up to 500,000 settlers to east Jerusalem and West Bank in an effort to blur the pre-1967 borders.

Abbas made a bid for full Palestinian membership to the Security Council in September 2011, in a move that incurred the wrath of the US and Israel who believe negotiations are the only way for the recognition of Palestinian state. Abbas failed to muster the required votes.

This time, Palestinian officials feel confident in acquiring the simple majority required to win a seat at the General Assembly. The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad El-Malki told Ma’an News agency that he expects Palestine to get a majority of roughly 130-140 votes.

Another important detail about the bid is itstiming. If the Palestinians make their move before November this could affect the course of the US presidential elections.

Earlier this month, news reports mentioned that United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Abbas in Paris that if they sought a bid before the US elections, the Palestinian Authority would be subjected to political and economic sanctions.

El-Malki told Ma’an news that Palestinian officials do not fear US sanctions. “The decision is that the Palestinian leadership will go to the General Assembly despite the consequences,” Malki said.

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From Father Roy:   The underlying causes of anti-Semitism must sooner or later be addressed.  The highlights in the following report are mine.   Peace.

By KARIN LAUB 07/24/12 02:45 PM ET AP

West Bank Evictions

Palestinian women walk towards an Israeli checkpoint on their way to pray at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on the first day off the Muslim holy month of Ramadan near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, July 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)  

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Israeli Defense Ministry wants to evict hundreds of Palestinians from eight hamlets in a West Bank area the military has designated as a firing zone, rights activists said Tuesday, portraying the decision as a new Israeli land grab.

The firing zone, one of several in the West Bank, covers several thousand acres close to the border with Israel. Hundreds of Palestinian herders and farmers live there for part of the year in caves and shacks.

Israel’s government and Palestinian residents of the area have been waging a legal battle for more than a decade. The Defense Ministry told Israel’s Supreme Court earlier this week that those being ordered to leave the firing zone have permanent homes elsewhere, and that they must evacuate the area for their own safety.

Shlomo Lecker, a lawyer representing some of the Palestinians, said Tuesday that his clients own much of the area from which they are to be evicted. The Defense Ministry said herders and farmers could be granted access on weekends and Jewish holidays.

The firing zone is located in the southern Hebron Hills area, part of the 60 percent of the West Bank that remain under full Israeli control and are also known as “Area C.”

The Palestinian Authority, a self-rule government set up as part of interim peace deals in the 1990s, administers the remaining 38 percent of the land, where more than 90 percent of the Palestinians live.

Area C is home to about 300,000 Jewish settlers and 150,000 Palestinians, and critics say Israel is using an array of planning and administrative tools to restrict Palestinian development there while expanding settlements.

“The issue of the firing zone in the south Hebron Hills has to be viewed in the context of the Israeli policy in Area C,” said Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Government spokesman Mark Regev denied such a policy exists.He said the division of jurisdictions in the West Bank is a result of previous agreements signed by the Palestinians, and that the status quo can only change if negotiations on the borders of a Palestinian state resume. Israel and the Palestinians disagree sharply on the ground rules for the talks, which broke off in 2008.

He said Palestinians are given the option of seeking redress from Israel’s Supreme Court.

A date for a high court decision on the case of the Palestinian herders has not been set.

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The fanciful dialogue below is courtesy of Father Roy. He gives me far too much credit of course, but some of the articles he links to (such as the one on ‘Israel’s Negotiating Strategies’) are definitely worth looking at.  Dave

Click here:… JPost – Diplomacy & Politics

(WHISPER)   “Bibi, Fr. Dave Smith is becoming a dangerous man.  He advocates statehood for Palestine.  He circulates Uri Avnery’s essays.  He networks with an Imam in Tehran.  He’s supportive of Mordechi Vanunu, and he’s friendly with Miko Peled.  What’s more, he admires Julian Assange.  He’s got an extensive international mailing list.  He rejects conventional behavoir.  We’ve got to find ways to discredit this renegade Priest before he exposes Israel’s Negotiating Strategies.”

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What Barghouthi says is not new but that doesn’t make it any less tragic. It is simply crazy that a man of his stature should be denied access to the city in which he was born, and what is more obscene is that the ‘West’ turns a blind eye to this legalized racism and indeed finances it! Dave

‘Separate and Unequal’ is unacceptable to Palestinians 

By Mustafa Barghouthi, member, Palestinian Parliament

07/27/12

When presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives in Israel Saturday and travels to occupied East Jerusalem to see the holy sites there he will be entering a city I am no longer allowed to visit – privately or as a medical doctor or as a presidential candidate. He somehow possesses more rights to the city than I do despite the fact that I was born in Jerusalem and worked as a medical doctor in Makassed hospital for several years. During my presidential campaign I was arrested and deported four times for entering the city to meet Palestinian voters.

My enforced absence pains me enormously. And I believe that my inability to enter — and that of hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians — points to the fast-approaching demise of the two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his international friends are simply not interested in addressing the dispossession and absence of rights endured by Palestinians.

The demise of the two-state solution is right there with climate change: It’s staring us all in the face. But politicians are either too incompetent to see it, too scared to address it, or too content with a reality that benefits Jewish settlers and harms Palestinians because it works to their political advantage.

Palestinian politicians and civil society leaders have signaled the impending impossibility of two states for several years. Yet too many international observers regard us as the boy who cried wolf. I do not know precisely when a younger generation of Palestinians will decide that two states is an outdated pipe dream of their parents’ generation, nor when Fatah officials will reach the same conclusion. But I do suspect that Israeli moderates and American officials will one day look back at this time period and wonder why Israeli leaders did not seize the moment, freeze settlement activity, and strike a deal with the Palestinian people. Hubris and a zealot’s certainty are likely causes of the Israeli leadership’s inability to see with clear eyes what should be done.

The settler population in the West Bank has grown by 18 percent in Netanyahu’s three-plus years in office. Israel’s hold on the West Bank is increasing and the growing population ensures that no Israeli leader would dare to abide by international law and insist that settlers move out. Recently, the Levy Commission determined that there is not even an occupation of the West Bank, though Israeli, American, and international officials have recognized its reality for years. Netanyahu is reportedly poised to embrace the Commission’s findings.

Levy is, of course, wrong in his legal reasoning. But far more important is what he leaves unsaid. What will be the rights of Palestinians in a West Bank no longer regarded as occupied? Will we be afforded full voting rights or subjected to a system of apartheid?

I fear the latter. In introducing a 166-page report in December 2010, “Separate and Unequal: Israel’s Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations at Human Rights Watch, stated, “Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits. While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp – not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes.”

The Palestinian reality has only deteriorated since then with the Israeli Knesset taking up discriminatory legislation. A New York Times editorial recently noted that “activists say, more than 25 bills have been proposed or passed by the Parliament to limit freedom of speech and of the press; penalize, defund or investigate nongovernmental groups; restrict judicial independence; and trample minority rights.”  When Israel sneezes, or gets a bad flu on the rights front, one can be certain that the reality in occupied Palestinian territory is even more dire.

How else can we describe this week’s report that Israel intends to demolish eight Palestinian villages in the West Bank and force the inhabitants to live elsewhere? This is surely a form of ethnic cleansing as it makes way for the Israeli military and perhaps later for settlers to seize land Palestinians have tended for centuries. The proposed demolition is precisely why nonviolent Palestinian and international activists are pressing for divestment from Caterpillar. The company’s equipment is already being used against individual Palestinian homes, but more recently Israel has begun to use it to demolish whole communities.

President Barack Obama’s increasing reticence on Palestinian rights suggests that Israel’s fiercest right-wing advocates have carried the day with the President. He’s now locked in a battle with Romney to prove his hardline, pro-Israel bona fides. And he’s feeling the heat when Romney states, “Well, I think by and large you can just look at the things the president’s done and do the opposite. I mean, you know, you consider his first address to the United Nations, he castigated Israel for building settlements.”

President Obama was right to criticize such law-breaking. It showed wisdom and responsibility and the realization that settlement expansion works against a two-state solution. But Obama’s recent silence and Romney’s seemingly neo-conservative embrace of Israeli expansionism suggest that the prospect of a two-state solution will end during one administration or the other.

If President Obama and Gov. Romney expect Palestinians will meekly accept apartheid then they are quite wrong. A battle for equal rights is looming in the near future because of the arrogance of Israeli and American leaders who are proving incapable of understanding the discriminatory conditions they are creating with the expansion of settlements and ongoing disregard for Palestinian rights.

Barghouthi, a doctor and member of the Palestinian Parliament, is secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party. 

Source: thehill.com…