Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Israel’s N.S.A. Scandal

from the nyt-online edition

By JAMES BAMFORDSEPT. 16, 2014


WASHINGTON — IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. It gave me a chance to get a deeper understanding of who he is and why, as a National Security Agency contractor, he took the momentous step of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications as well as metadata such as who was calling whom.

Typically, when such sensitive information is transferred to another country, it would first be “minimized,” meaning that names and other personally identifiable information would be removed. But when sharing with Israel, the N.S.A. evidently did not ensure that the data was modified in this way.

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications. “I think that’s amazing,” he told me. “It’s one of the biggest abuses we’ve seen.”

It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.

The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.

It should trouble the American public that some or much of the information in question — intended not for national security purposes but simply to pursue political agendas — may have come directly from the N.S.A.’s domestic dragnet. According to documents leaked by Mr. Snowden and reported by the British newspaper The Guardian, the N.S.A. has been sending intelligence to Israel since at least March 2009.

The memorandum of agreement between the N.S.A. and its Israeli counterpart covers virtually all forms of communication, including but not limited to “unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.” The memo also indicates that the N.S.A. does not filter out American communications before delivery to Israel; indeed, the agency “routinely sends” unminimized data.

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Although the memo emphasizes that Israel should make use of the intercepts in accordance with United States law, it also notes that the agreement is legally unenforceable. “This agreement,” it reads, “is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law.”

It should also trouble Americans that the N.S.A. could head down a similar path in this country. Indeed, there is some indication, from a top-secret 2012 document from Mr. Snowden’s leaked files that I saw last year, that it already is. The document, from Gen. Keith B. Alexander, then the director of the N.S.A., notes that the agency had been compiling records of visits to pornographic websites and proposes using that information to damage the reputations of people whom the agency considers “radicalizers” — not necessarily terrorists, but those attempting, through the use of incendiary speech, to radicalize others. (The Huffington Post has published a redacted version of the document.)

In Moscow, Mr. Snowden told me that the document reminded him of the F.B.I.’s overreach during the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when the bureau abused its powers to monitor and harass political activists. “It’s much like how the F.B.I. tried to use Martin Luther King’s infidelity to talk him into killing himself,” he said. “We said those kinds of things were inappropriate back in the ’60s. Why are we doing that now? Why are we getting involved in this again?”

It’s a question that American and Israeli citizens should be asking themselves.

James Bamford is the author of three books on the National Security Agency, including “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret N.S.A. from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.”


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How historian Shlomo Sand "stopped being a Jew"


Rod Such The Electronic Intifada 15 September 2014


“Is not the very fact of defining oneself as a Jew within the State of Israel an act of affiliation to a privileged caste which creates intolerable injustices around itself?” the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand asks, and in turn answers in the affirmative in the very title of his latest book, How I Stopped Being a Jew.

Sand is speaking as a secular Israeli Jew, an atheist, who ultimately rejects the idea that he belongs to a certain ethnos simply by virtue of matrilineal descent.

The bulk of the book is devoted to how he came to this conclusion — but as to why, that story is relatively simple. His epiphany began inside Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv when he witnessed a Palestinian citizen of Israel being escorted away by security agents while he breezed through check-in, his Jewish nationality stamped on his Israeli identity card.

Privileges

Sand seeks to renounce the privileges that come with being Jewish in Israel, including being identified with the state itself, being able to own land non-Jews cannot, hold jobs non-Jews cannot, live in communities where non-Jews are not allowed, establish colonies on land that does not belong to you and resting assured that you will never be tortured or have your home demolished.

Sand teaches contemporary history at Tel Aviv University. He is best known for The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) and The Invention of the Land of Israel (2012). Both of those works did much to demolish Zionist propaganda myths.

Despite the provocative title, The Invention of the Jewish People is a scholarly inquiry into historiography — how history is written — that shows how histories of Judaism and the Jewish people changed over time. Only recently, Sand found, did Zionist-influenced historians weave a narrative myth of the Jewish people being forcibly exiled from Israel after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, wandering in the Diaspora until the Zionist movement finally succeeded in returning them to their “rightful, ancestral home” in 1948.

Sand shows what credible scholars of Jewish history have long known: that there’s no evidence of a mass forced exile by the Roman Empire and that Judaism spread to various parts of the world because it was a proselytizing religion at times in its history, aided by the conversion to Judaism of the rulers of several kingdoms.

Similarly, The Invention of the Land of Israel debunks the notion that ancient Israel was a nation-state, as we conceive of it today, promised to the Jews by God. Sand focuses on biblical texts that suggest the writers of those texts conceived of Israel as the land of monotheism in constant clashes with idolatrous or polytheistic religions, not as a nation-state or homeland of a particular tribe or ethnic group. He shows that, for centuries, most religious Jews did not conceive of the Holy Land as an actual place on earth. Only with the advent of nationalism and nationalist movements in the 19th century did a narrative emerge that depicted ancient Israel as a nation-state.

Departure

How I Stopped Being a Jew is a departure from Sand’s scholarly works. It’s a personal, reflective and brief essay in which he describes, often anecdotally, how he arrived at his decision to stop identifying as a Jew. Sand concedes that for a long time he held on to the belief that as long as anti-Semitism existed in the world, he would identify as a secular Jew because the anti-Semite would identify him as a Jew anyway, a formulation made famous by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in Jew and Anti-Semite. “And yet,” Sand writes, “as the years have passed, and in view of the radicalization of Israeli politics … my assurance in this definition of my identity has steadily eroded.”

One incident, in particular, played a role in his growing doubts. While living in France, a controversy erupted when Zionists protested the inclusion of a representative of the Roma people at a university conference on the Nazi genocide. Sand’s research showed that the Nazis exterminated roughly the same percentage of European Roma as they did European Jews — that is, almost totally. This attempted misuse of historical memory to focus exclusively on Jews, rather than to recognize the massive extermination of others, such as the Roma and nearly 2.5 million Polish Catholics, contributed to his unease at identifying himself as a secular Jew.

Sand recognizes that Nazism was more than just a radical racist movement, targeting Jews, Slavs and Roma, but also was unique for its extreme Social Darwinism. The Nazi quest for an Aryan utopia, for example, resulted in the murders of 300,000 mentally ill and cognitively disabled people who were the first to be killed with gas.

Sand charges that by making the genocide appear to be exclusively anti-Semitic, Zionism attempts to cast the Jewish people as perpetual victims and renders Hitler and Nazism as just another in a long line of persecutors. The result, he argues, is that the focus remains on the Jewish Holocaust, Nazism escapes the special scrutiny it deserves and Zionist propaganda can attempt to portray the Palestinians as the new Nazis.

Critique of modern identity politics

Under Israeli law, Sand cannot change the Jewish nationality on his identity card unless he converts to another religion. Since he’s not religious, he’s stuck with the nationality designation, which Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, conceived as a way of creating a Jewish ethnocratic state while seeming to grant democracy for non-Jews. But Sand notes that even the Israeli government has difficulty defining what a Jew is, in effect, leaving the decision to religious criteria. This, he says, “explains the growing need, in the official identity policy of the State of Israel, to preserve religious customs.”

How I Stopped Being a Jew is ultimately a critique of modern identity politics, which the author describes as “packed with barbed wires, walls and roadblocks that define and limit collectives great and small.”

His own choice, given that he lives in what he describes as “one of the most racist societies in the Western world,” is to resign from being a member of “a fictitious ethnos of persecutors,” while continuing to write books that might one day help revive his dream of a “confederation between two republics, Israeli and Palestinian,” based on equal rights for all.

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He is active with Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland Chapter and the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Obama Got Trolled by ISIS

ISIS knew Americans would freak out when we saw those beheading videos. So why’d they post them? Were they stupid? Hell, no

By Ted Rall
September 14, 2014 "ICH" - President Obama’s reaction to the videos of two American freelance journalists getting beheaded by Islamist militants gives me the uncomfortable feeling that the American people are getting punk’d — again.

The same thing happened 13 years ago this week, when a dozen and a half Muslim fundamentalists attacked our financial and political capitals using our own planes. The hijackers got exactly the reaction that they wanted: overreaction.You should never underestimate an adversary, least of all when their remarkable success against difficult odds have demonstrated the wisdom of their tactics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, like the 9/11-era Al Qaeda from which it split, is not run by stupid people. Stupid people don’t take half of Syria away from its longtime authoritarian dictator – whose armed forces happen to be better equipped and trained – and half of Iraq away from a puppet regime backed by the world’s most ferocious superpower – in two years.

Considering ISIS through the lens of proper respect for their leaders’ intelligence, what were they thinking when they posted those two gruesome videos? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Abu Suleiman al-Naser and other top officials of the Islamic State had to know they would provoke a political reaction. It has: More Americans (94%) are aware of the ISIS execution videos than any other news event in the last five years.

ISIS’ leaders also must have anticipated a military reaction. After the videos, a war-weary American public’s apathetic stance toward the civil war in Syria flipped toward strong support in favor of the bombing campaign announced by Obama (who paradoxically continues to poll poorly on foreign policy).

Clearly ISIS’ top brass believe they stand more to gain than to lose from the coming onslaught by U.S. drones and fighter jets. This should frighten us.

Put yourself into the mindset of the insurgents. Their enemies are the existing governments of the countries they seek to occupy: Syria, Iraq, possibly Jordan, certainly Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. But – again, like Al Qaeda in the early 2000s – they have a more formidable adversary: moderation.

To survive and expand, radical jihadists don’t need all, or even most, Muslims to join the fight. But they do require the tacit consent of the governed in the areas they control, and the political sympathy that prompts donors to send them the financial contributions that allow them to arm new recruits and hold their territory — factors that fuel legitimacy.

As radicals and fundamentalists, ISIS’ Manichean worldview portrays the West, and especially the United States and Great Britain, and their Middle Eastern client states – obviously Israel most of all – as monsters hell-bent on the oppression of Muslims, the exploitation and appropriation of Muslim lands, using moral corruption and godless capitalism as means toward global domination at their expense.

Until recently, most Muslims – including most Sunnis – didn’t buy it. Hundreds of millions of them drank, smoked, failed to pray regularly, and envied the liberalism and economic power of the West.

The genius of 9/11 was to provoke the United States and its allies into behaving exactly like the monsters Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups had long argued they were. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, brazenly embracing torture and mass kidnappings and opening a gulag archipelago of secret prisons everywhere from Eastern Europe to Guantánamo to jail ships floating in the Indian Ocean, as well as the brazen disregard for innocent civilians demonstrated by Bush and Obama’s willy-nilly drone program, convinced countless fence sitters and former moderates to join the militants, cut them a check, or at least look the other way. By the end of the Bush years, the United States was wildly unpopular, viewed as “violent” and “selfish” throughout the Muslim world.

We got trolled.

The tactics Obama plans to use against ISIS are more of the same. Once again, U.S. warplanes and remote-controlled killer air robots will rain death upon people, the vast majority of whom were innocent and had nothing to do with the group responsible for beheading those poor journalists. Once again, although we will on occasion succeed in killing some #1 or #2 “top terrorist,” we will lose this battle for hearts and minds because (a) the nature of guerrilla warfare is that no leader is indispensable and anyone can and will be replaced, and (b) each civilian death will generate thousands of fierce lifelong enemies – yes, some family members and many friends, but most of all the one group of people American pundits and journalists rarely reference when discussing “collateral damage” – ordinary people, there and in the region and around the world, who react with disgust and rage at our cruelty.

Ironically, disgust and rage are the very same emotions that triggered America’s latest tumble into the Islamist trap.

Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out this week. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.

Breaking the last taboo


Editor's note: The following article is adapted from John Pilger's Edward Said Memorial Lecture, delivered in Adelaide, Australia, on 11 September 2014.

Breaking the last taboo
by John Pilger

johnpilger.com
11 September 2014
"There is a taboo," said the visionary Edward Said, "on telling the truth about Palestine and the great destructive force behind Israel. Only when this truth is out can any of us be free."
For many people, the truth is out now. At last, they know. Those once intimidated into silence can't look away now. Staring at them from their TV, laptop, phone, is proof of the barbarism of the Israeli state and the great destructive force of its mentor and provider, the United States, the cowardice of European governments, and the collusion of others, such as Canada and Australia, in this epic crime.
The attack on Gaza was an attack on all of us. The siege of Gaza is a siege of all of us. The denial of justice to Palestinians is a symptom of much of humanity under siege and a warning that the threat of a new world war is growing by the day.
When Nelson Mandela called the struggle of Palestine "the greatest moral issue of our time", he spoke on behalf of true civilisation, not that which empires invent. In Latin America, the governments of Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador have made their stand on Gaza. Each of these countries has known its own dark silence when immunity for mass murder was sponsored by the same godfather in Washington that answered the cries of children in Gaza with more ammunition to kill them.
Unlike Netanyahu and his killers, Washington's pet fascists in Latin America didn't concern themselves with moral window dressing. They simply murdered, and left the bodies on rubbish dumps. For Zionism, the goal is the same: to dispossess and ultimately destroy an entire human society: a truth that 225 Holocaust survivors and their descendants have compared with the genesis of genocide.
Nothing has changed since the Zionists' infamous "Plan D" in 1948 that ethnically cleansed an entire people. Recently, on the website of the Times of Israel were the words: "Genocide is Permissible". A deputy speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, Moshe Feiglin, demands a policy of mass expulsion into concentration camps. An MP, Ayelet Shaked, whose party is a member of the governing coalition, calls for the extermination of Palestinian mothers to prevent them giving birth to what she calls "little snakes".
For years, reporters have watched Israeli soldiers bait Palestinian children by abusing them through loud-speakers. Then they shoot them dead. For years, reporters have known about Palestinian women about to give birth and refused passage through a roadblock to a hospital; and the baby has died, and sometimes the mother.
For years, reporters have known about Palestinian doctors and ambulance crews given permission by Israeli commanders to attend the wounded or remove the dead, only to be shot through the head.
For years, reporters have known about stricken people prevented from getting life-saving treatment, or shot dead when they've tried to reach a clinic for chemotherapy treatment. One elderly lady with a walking stick was murdered in this way - a bullet in her back.
When I put the facts of this crime to Dori Gold, a senior adviser to the Israeli prime minister, he said, "Unfortunately in every kind of warfare there are cases of civilians who are accidentally killed. But the case you cite was not terrorism. Terrorism means putting the cross-hairs of the sniper's rifle on a civilian deliberately."
I replied, "That's exactly what happened."
"No," he said, "it did not happen."
Such a lie or delusion is repeated unerringly by Israel's apologists. As the former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges points out, the reporting of such an atrocity invariably ends up as "caught in the cross-fire". For as long as I have covered the Middle East, much if not most of the western media has colluded in this way.
In one of my films, a Palestinian cameraman, Imad Ghanem, lies helpless while soldiers from the "most moral army in the world" blew both his legs off. This atrocity was given two lines on the BBC website. Thirteen journalists were killed by Israel in its latest bloodfest in Gaza. All were Palestinian. Who knows their names?
Something is different now. There is a huge revulsion across the world; and the voices of sensible liberalism are worried. Their hand wringing and specious choir of "equal blame" and "Israel's right to defend itself" will not wash any more; neither will the smear of anti-Semitism. Neither will their selective cry that "something must be done" about Islamic fanatics but nothing must be done about Zionist fanatics.
One sensible liberal voice, the novelist Ian McEwan, was being celebrated as a sage by the Guardian while the children of Gaza were blown to bits. This is the same Ian McEwan who ignored the pleading of Palestinians not to accept the Jerusalem Prize for literature. "If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed," said McEwan.
If they could speak, the dead of Gaza might say: Stay in bed, great novelist, for your very presence smoothes the bed of racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and murder - no matter the weasel words you uttered as you claimed your prize.
Understanding the sophistry and power of liberal propaganda is key to understanding why Israel's outrages endure; why the world looks on; why sanctions are never applied to Israel; and why nothing less than a total boycott of everything Israeli is now a measure of basic human decency.
The most incessant propaganda says Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel. Khaled Hroub, the Cambridge University scholar considered a world leading authority on Hamas, says this phrase is "never used or adopted by Hamas, even in its most radical statements". The oft-quoted "anti-Jewish" 1988 Charter was the work of "one individual and made public without appropriate Hamas consensus... The author was one of the 'old guard' "; the document is regarded as an embarrassment and never cited.
Hamas has repeatedly offered a 10-year truce with Israel and has long settled for a two-state solution. When Medea Benjamin, the fearless Jewish American activist, was in Gaza, she carried a letter from Hamas leaders to President Obama that made clear the government of Gaza wanted peace with Israel. It was ignored. I personally know of many such letters carried in good faith, ignored or dismissed.
The unforgivable crime of Hamas is a distinction almost never reported: it is the only Arab government to have been freely and democratically elected by its people. Worse, it has now formed a government of unity with the Palestinian Authority. A single, resolute Palestinian voice - in the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court - is the most feared threat.
Since 2002, a pioneering media unit at Glasgow University has produced remarkable studies of reporting and propaganda in Israel/Palestine. Professor Greg Philo and his colleagues were shocked to find a public ignorance compounded by TV news reporting. The more people watched, the less they knew.
Greg Philo says the problem is not "bias" as such. Reporters and producers are as moved as anyone by the suffering of Palestinians; but so imposing is the power structure of the media as an extension of the state and its vested interests that critical facts and historical context are routinely suppressed.
Incredibly, less than nine per cent of young viewers interviewed by Professor Philo's team were aware that Israel was the occupying power, and that the illegal settlers were Jewish; many believed them to be Palestinian. The term "Occupied Territories" was seldom explained. Words such as "murder", "atrocity", "cold-blooded killing" were used only to describe the deaths of Israelis.
Recently, a BBC reporter, David Loyn, was critical of another British journalist, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News. Snow was so moved by what he had seen in Gaza he went on YouTube to make a humanitarian appeal. What concerned the BBC man was that Snow had breached protocol and been emotional in his YouTube piece.
"Emotion," wrote Loyn, "is the stuff of propaganda and news is against propaganda". Did he write this with a straight face? In fact, Snow's delivery was calm. His crime was to have strayed outside the boundaries of fake impartiality. Unforgivably, he didn't censor himself.
In 1937, with Adolf Hitler in power, Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times in London, wrote the following in his diary: "I spend my nights in taking out anything which will hurt [German] susceptibilities and in dropping in little things which are intended to soothe them."
On 30 July, the BBC offered viewers a masterclass in the Dawson Principle. The diplomatic correspondent of the programme Newsnight, Mark Urban, gave five reasons why the Middle East was in turmoil. None included the historic or contemporary role of the British government. The Cameron government's dispatch of £8 billion worth of arms and military equipment to Israel was airbrushed. Britain's massive arms shipment to Saudi Arabia was airbrushed. Britain's role in the destruction of Libya was airbrushed. Britain's support for the tyranny in Egypt was airbrushed.
As for the British invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, they didn't happen, either.
The only expert witness on this BBC programme was an academic called Toby Dodge from the London School of Economics. What viewers needed to know was that Dodge had been a special adviser to David Petraeus, the American general largely responsible for the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this, too, was airbrushed.
In matters of war and peace, BBC-style illusions of impartiality and credibility do more to limit and control public discussion than tabloid distortion. As Greg Philo pointed out, Jon Snow's moving commentary on YouTube was limited to whether the Israeli assault on Gaza was proportionate or reasonable. What was missing - and is almost always missing - was the essential truth of the longest military occupation in modern times: a criminal enterprise backed by western governments from Washington to London to Canberra.
As for the myth that "vulnerable" and "isolated" Israel is surrounded by enemies, Israel is actually surrounded by strategic allies. The Palestinian Authority, bankrolled, armed and directed by the US, has long colluded with Tel Aviv. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Netanyahu are the tyrannies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar - if the World Cup ever gets to Qatar, count on Mossad to run the security.
Resistance is humanity at its bravest and most noble. The resistance in Gaza is rightly compared with the 1943 Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, which also dug tunnels and deployed tactics of subterfuge and surprise against an overpowering military machine. The last surviving leader of the Warsaw uprising, Marek Edelman, wrote a letter of solidarity to the Palestinian resistance, comparing it with the ZOB, his ghetto fighters. The letter began: "Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations - and to all soldiers [of Palestine]."
Dr. Mads Gilbert is a Norwegian doctor renowned for his heroic work in Gaza. On 8 August, Dr. Gilbert returned to his hometown, Tromso in Norway which, as he pointed out, the Nazis had occupied for seven years. He said, "Imagine being back in 1945 and we in Norway did not win the liberation struggle, did not throw out the occupier. Imagine the occupier remaining in our country, taking it piece by piece, for decades upon decades, and banishing us to the leanest areas, and taking the fish in the sea and the water beneath us, then bombing our hospitals, our ambulance workers, our schools, our homes.
"Would we have given up and waved the white flag? No, we would not! And this is the situation in Gaza. This is not a battle between terrorism and democracy. Hamas is not the enemy Israel is fighting. Israel is waging a war against the Palestinian people's will to resist. It is the Palestinian people's dignity that they will not accept this.
"In 1938, the Nazis called the Jews Untermenschen - subhuman. Today, Palestinians are treated as a subhuman people who can be slaughtered without any in power reacting.
"So I have returned to Norway, a free country, and this country is free because we had a resistance movement, because occupied nations have the right to resist, even with weapons - it's stated in international law. And the Palestinian people's resistance in Gaza is admirable: a struggle for us all."
There are dangers in telling this truth, in breaching what Edward Said called "the last taboo". My documentary, Palestine Is Still the Issue, was nominated for a Bafta, a British academy award, and praised by the Independent Television Commission for its "journalistic integrity" and the "care and thoroughness with which it was researched." Yet, within minutes of the film's broadcast on Britain's ITV Network, a shock wave struck - a deluge of emails described me as a "demonic psychopath", "a purveyor of hate and evil", "an anti-Semite of the most dangerous kind". Much of this was orchestrated by Zionists in the US who could not possibly have seen the film. Death threats arrived at a rate of one a day.
Something similar happened to the Australian commentator Mike Carlton last month. In his regular column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Carlton produced a rare piece of journalism about Israel and the Palestinians; he identified the oppressors and their victims. He was careful to limit his attack to "a new and brutal Israel dominated by the hard-line, right-wing Likud party of Netanyahu". Those who had previously run the Zionist state, he implied, belonged to "a proud liberal tradition".
On cue, the deluge struck. He was called "a bag of Nazi slime, a Jew-hating racist." He was threatened repeatedly, and he emailed his attackers to "get fucked". The Herald demanded he apologise. When he refused, he was suspended, then he resigned. According to the Herald's publisher, Sean Aylmer, the company "expects much higher standards from its columnists."
The "problem" of Carlton's acerbic, often solitary liberal voice in a country in which Rupert Murdoch controls 70 per cent of the capital city press - Australia is the world's first murdocracy - would be solved twice over. The Australian Human Rights Commission is to investigate complaints against Carlton under the Racial Discrimination Act, which outlaws any public act or utterance that is "reasonably likely... to offend, insult, humiliate another person or a group of people" on the basic of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
In contrast to safe, silent Australia - where the Carltons are made extinct - real journalism is alive in Gaza. I often speak on the phone with Mohammed Omer, an extraordinary young Palestinian journalist, to whom I presented, in 2008, the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Whenever I called him during the assault on Gaza, I could hear the whine of drones, the explosion of missiles. He interrupted one call to attend to children huddled outside waiting for transport amidst the explosions. When I spoke to him on 30 July, a single Israeli F-19 fighter had just slaughtered 19 children. On 20 August, he described how Israeli drones had effectively "rounded up" a village so that they could savagely gunned down.
Every day, at sunrise, Mohammed looks for families who have been bombed. He records their stories, standing in the rubble of their homes; he takes their pictures. He goes to the hospital. He goes to the morgue. He goes to the cemetery. He queues for hours for bread for his own family. And he watches the sky. He sends two, three, four dispatches a day. This is real journalism.
"They are trying to annihilate us," he told me. "But the more they bomb us, the stronger we are. They will never win."
The great crime committed in Gaza is a reminder of something wider and menacing to us all.
Since 2001, the United States and its allies have been on a rampage. In Iraq, at least 700,000 men, woman and children are dead as a result. The rise of jihadists - in a country where there was none - is the result. Known as al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State, modern jihadism was invented by US and Britain, assisted by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The original aim was to use and develop an Islamic fundamentalism that had barely existed in much of the Arab world in order to undermine pan-Arab movements and secular governments. By the 1980s, this had become a weapon to destroy the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA called it Operation Cyclone; and a cyclone it turned out to be, with its unleashed fury blowing back in the faces of its creators. The attacks of 9/11 and in London in July, 2005 were the result of this blowback, as were the recent, gruesome murders of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. For more than a year, the Obama administration armed the killers of these two young men - then known as ISIS in Syria - in order to destroy the secular government in Damascus.
The West's principal "ally" in this imperial mayhem is the medieval state where beheadings are routinely and judicially carried out - Saudi Arabia. Whenever a member of the British Royal Family is sent to this barbaric place, you can bet your bottom petrodollar that the British government wants to sell the sheiks more fighter planes, missiles, manacles. Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, which bankrolls jihadists from Syria to Iraq.
Why must we live in this state of perpetual war?
The immediate answer lies in the United States, where a secret and unreported coup has taken place. A group known as the Project for a New American Century, the inspiration of Dick Cheney and others, came to power with the administration of George W Bush. Once known in Washington as the "crazies", this extreme sect believes in what the US Space Command calls "full spectrum dominance".
Under both Bush and Obama, a 19th-century imperial mentality has infused all departments of state. Raw militarism is ascendant; diplomacy is redundant. Nations and governments are judged as useful or expendable: to be bribed or threatened or "sanctioned".
On 31 July, the National Defense Panel in Washington published a remarkable document that called for the United States to prepare to fight six major wars simultaneously. At the top of the list were Russia and China - nuclear powers.
In one sense, a war against Russia has already begun. While the world watched horrified as Israel assaulted Gaza, similar atrocities in eastern Ukraine were barely news. At the time of writing, two Ukrainian cities of Russian-speaking people - Donetsk and Luhansk - are under siege: their people and hospitals and schools blitzed by a regime in Kiev that came to power in a putsch led by neo-Nazis backed and paid for by the United States. The coup was the climax of what the Russian political observer Sergei Glaziev describes as a 20-year "grooming of Ukrainian Nazis aimed at Russia". Actual fascism has risen again in Europe and not one European leader has spoken against it, perhaps because the rise of fascism across Europe is now a truth that dares not speak its name.
With its fascist past, and present, Ukraine is now a CIA theme park, a colony of Nato and the International Monetary Fund. The fascist coup in Kiev in February was the boast of US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland, whose "coup budget" ran to $5 billion. But there was a setback. Moscow prevented the seizure of its legitimate Black Sea naval base in Russian-speaking Crimea. A referendum and annexation quickly followed. Represented in the West as the Kremlin's "aggression", this serves to turn truth on its head and cover Washington's goals: to drive a wedge between a "pariah" Russia and its principal trading partners in Europe and eventually to break up the Russian Federation. American missiles already surround Russia; Nato's military build-up in the former Soviet republics and eastern Europe is the biggest since the second world war.
During the cold war, this would have risked a nuclear holocaust. The risk has returned as anti-Russian misinformation reaches crescendos of hysteria in the US and Europe. A textbook case is the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in July. Without a single piece of evidence, the US and its Nato allies and their media machines blamed ethnic Russian "separatists" in Ukraine and implied that Moscow was ultimately responsible. An editorial in The Economist accused Vladimir Putin of mass murder. The cover of Der Spiegel used faces of the victims and bold red type, "Stoppt Putin Jetzt!" (Stop Putin Now!) In the New York Times, Timothy Garton Ash substantiated his case for "Putin's deadly doctrine" with personal abuse of "a short, thickset man with a rather ratlike face".
The Guardian's role has been important. Renowned for its investigations, the newspaper has made no serious attempt to examine who shot the aeroplane down and why, even though a wealth of material from credible sources shows that Moscow was as shocked as the rest of the world, and the airliner may well have been brought down by the Ukrainian regime.
With the White House offering no verifiable evidence - even though US satellites would have observed the shooting-down - the Guardian's Moscow correspondent Shaun Walker stepped into the breach. "My audience with the Demon of Donetsk," was the front-page headline over Walker's breathless interview with one Igor Bezler. "With a walrus moustache, a fiery temper and a reputation for brutality," he wrote, "Igor Bezler is the most feared of all the rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine... nicknamed The Demon... If the Ukrainian security services, the SBU, are to be believed, the Demon and a group of his men were responsible for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17... as well as allegedly bringing down MH17, the rebels have shot down 10 Ukrainian aircraft." Demon Journalism requires no further evidence.
Demon Journalism makes over a fascist-contaminated junta that seized power in Kiev as a respectable "interim government". Neo-Nazis become mere "nationalists". "News" sourced to the Kiev junta ensures the suppression of a US-run coup and the junta's systematic ethnic cleaning of the Russian-speaking population of eastern Ukraine. That this should happen in the borderland through which the original Nazis invaded Russia, extinguishing some 22 Russian lives, is of no interest. What matters is a Russian "invasion" of Ukraine that seems difficult to prove beyond familiar satellite images that evoke Colin Powell's fictional presentation to the United Nations "proving" that Saddam Hussein had WMD. "You need to know that accusations of a major Russian 'invasion' of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence," wrote a group of former senior US intelligence officials and analysts, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Rather, the 'intelligence' seems to be of the same dubious, politically 'fixed' kind used 12 years ago to 'justify' the U.S.-led attack on Iraq."
The jargon is "controlling the narrative". In his seminal Culture and Imperialism, Edward Said was more explicit: the western media machine was now capable of penetrating deep into the consciousness of much of humanity with a "wiring" as influential as that of the imperial navies of the 19th century. Gunboat journalism, in other words. Or war by media.
Yet, a critical public intelligence and resistance to propaganda does exist and a second superpower is emerging - the power of public opinion, fuelled by the internet and social media.
The false reality created by false news delivered by media gatekeepers may prevent some of us knowing that this new superpower is stirring in country after country: from the Americas to Europe, Asia to Africa. It is a moral insurrection, exemplified by the whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. The question begs: will we break our silence while there is time?
When I was last in Gaza, driving back to the Israeli checkpoint, I caught sight of two Palestinian flags through the razor wire. Children had made flagpoles out of sticks tied together and they'd climbed on a wall and held the flag between them.
The children do this, I was told, whenever there are foreigners around, because they want to show the world they are there - alive, and brave, and undefeated.

Cuba's Ebola Team: The Largest Sent From Any Single Country

World Health Organization (WHO)
September 12, 2014
World Health Organization

Cuba's Minister of Public Health announced September 12th that Cuba would be sending a medical team of 165 experienced medical professionals to Sierra Leone to help combat the Ebola crisis there. The announcement, which came at the World Health Organization's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, represents "the largest offer of a foreign medical team from a single country during this outbreak," according to WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.



Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization and Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, Cuban Minister of Public Health, WHO/M. Missioneiro,


Cuba is known the world over for its ability to train excellent doctors and nurses who can then go out to help other countries in need. Currently there are more than 50,000 Cuban-trained health workers in 66 countries.

And now Dr Roberto Morales Ojeda, Minister of Public Health, has announced that Cuba will send a medical team of 165 people to Sierra Leone to help in the frontline in the Ebola response efforts.

This is the largest offer of a foreign medical team from a single country during this outbreak.

“Money and materials are important, but those two things alone cannot stop Ebola virus transmission,” says Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General at the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Human resources are clearly our most important need. We need most especially compassionate doctors and nurses, who will know how to comfort patients despite the barriers of wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) and working under very demanding conditions”.

Experienced team that has worked in crises

The Cuban team consists of 100 nurses, 50 doctors, 3 epidemiologists, 3 intensive care specialists, 3 infection control specialist nurses and 5 social mobilization officers, all overseen by epidemiologist Dr Jorge Juan Delgado Bustillo.

All of the Cuban health workers have more than 15 years’ experience and have worked in other countries facing natural disasters and disease outbreaks. Some of the workers have already been working in Sierra Leone and Guinea for some years and are willing to continue their service there.

Once they have all followed WHO-standard infection control training in Cuba, the team will pack supplies of PPE and travel to Sierra Leone in early October. They will stay there for 6 months, working in shifts in smaller teams in Ebola treatment centres and community clinics.

Strong message of solidarity

Dr Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director at WHO, says “Those of us who have been working on the response efforts at WHO know how truly valuable this offer is. Many countries have offered money but no other country has offered such a large number of workers to go in and help do the most difficult jobs in this crisis.”

It is hoped that this offer of support will send a strong message of solidarity for Africa to the rest of the world and will catalyse additional offers of support from other countries.

Professor Salaita Termination for Speech Critical of Israel

from the Center for Constitutional Rights

Synopsis

CCR, along with the Chicago civil rights law firm of Loevy & Loevy, is representing Professor Steven Salaita, whose appointment to a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – for which he had resigned from another tenured teaching position and was preparing to move – was terminated following his public tweets criticizing the Israeli government's recent actions in Gaza. Salaita's termination, which functions as a penalty for his speech on an issue of public concern, constitutes “viewpoint discrimination,” a violation of the First Amendment, and also threatens academic freedom by punishing a faculty member for speaking as a citizen on a critical issue.
Status
For information about the September 9, 2014 press conference with Professor Salaita, please see the media advisory and Professor Salaita's statement.
Prior to representing Professor Salaita, CCR sent a letter to University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise regarding her decision to terminate his appointment at the University based on the content of his constitutionally-protected speech critical of the Israeli government’s military and political actions in Gaza. The University's betrayal of academic freedom has been widely condemned.
Description
Professor Steven Salaita was a tenured English professor at Virginia Tech University, whose scholarship focused on colonialism, militarism and occupation and who had written well-regarded books studying Arab-American literature and criticizing Zionism. It was on the basis of his excellent scholarly record that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offered Professor Salaita a tenured position in the University’s American Indian Studies department. Based on the contract he had with the University of Illinois, Professor Salaita resigned his tenured position at Virginia Tech University and had prepared to move his family to Illinois. Yet, one week before school was to start, Professor Salaita received a terse letter from University Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise, summarily informing him that his appointment was terminated. It offered no reasons why.

It is clear, however, that Professor Salaita’s termination was a result of a number of posts on social media highly critical of Israeli government atrocities in Gaza in recent weeks. The University received strong pressure from outside groups who, consistent with a broader strategy to silence Palestinian human rights activists, labeled Professor Salaita anti-semitic. CCR has seen similar attempts to silence Palestinian activists on campuses all across the country. Seven years of absolutely stellar teaching and scholarly evaluations for Professor Salaita totally belie claims that he would ever be “uncivil” to students in the classroom, as Chancellor Wise has since intimated.

The University’s action to repress or penalize Professor Salaita’s speech on a matter of public concern such as Israel/Palestine because of disagreement with its message is impermissible “viewpoint discrimination,” a serious First Amendment violation. It is also no defense for the University to claim that his speech was offensive or aggressive, as the First Amendment also clearly protects the tone and manner of speech others find objectionable. As CCR explained in our letter to Chancellor Wise, beyond the First Amendment violation committed in this instance, the University has “betrayed elementary principles of academic freedom which naturally extend protections to faculty members’ ability to ‘speak or write as citizens,’ and which must be free from ‘institutional censorship or discipline.’”

The University’s betrayal of academic freedom has been met with harsh criticisms, from academic boycotts of the University, withering editorial commentary, to a petition garnering over 16,000 signatures. A small sampling of statements in support of Professor Salaita and critical of the University of Illinois are below.
Statements of Support for Professor Salaita and Critical of University of Illinois's Actions
Letters from Legal Organizations
Letter from Center for Constitutional Rights
Letter from Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, CAIR-Chicago and NLG-Chicago
Open Letters from Academic Organizations
Letter from American Anthropological Association (AAA)
Letter from American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
Letter from American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)
Letter from American Historical Association (AHA)
Letter from American Political Science Association (APSA)
Letter from Arab American Studies Association (AASA)
Letter from California Scholars For Academic Freedom
Letter from Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA)
Letter from Modern Language Association (MLA)
Statements from Academic Organizations
Statement by American Association of University Professors (AAUP)
Statement by American Studies Association (ASA)
Statement by the Executive Committee of the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Statement by Cultural Studies Association (CSA)
Statement by Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA)
Statement by Society of American Law Teachers
Letters from Faculty
Letter from Constitutional Law and Free Speech Scholars
Letter from English and Literature Department Faculty
Letter from Scholars Committed to Advancing Critical and Open Perspectives on the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Letter from Scholars Who Have Traveled in Palestine
Letter from Bonnie Honig
Letter from Katherine Franke
University of Illinois Jewish Community Letter in Support of Our Professor Steven Salaita
Petitions and Academic Boycott Announcements
The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) Condemnation
Scholars Petition Boycotting University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Public Petition Demanding Reinstatement
Media Commentary
Mondoweiss: Salaita’s stellar teaching record exposes political motivation behind his firing
Inside Higher Ed: Fighting the Twitter Police
Academe Blog: Chancellor Phyllis Wise Explains the Firing of Steven Salaita
Inside Higher Ed: The Emails on Salaita
The News Gazette: UI precluded any honest debate
The Daily Illini: Termination of Salaita is Censorship
The News-Gazette: Salaita prompted donors' fury
The Washington Post: Did the University of Illinois rescind Steven Salaita's appointment to appease donors?
Timeline
August 1, 2014 - The Vice President and Chancellor of the University of Illinois informed Professor Salaita that they would not recommend further action by the Board of Trustees regarding his appointment to a tenured position.
August 7, 2014 - CCR sent a letter to University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise regarding her decision to terminate the appointment of Professor Steven Salaita at the University based on the content of his constitutionally-protected speech critical of the Israeli government’s military and political actions in Gaza.
August 22, 2014 - Chancellor Wise released a statement regarding her decision.
September 9, 2014 - Professor Salaita spoke publicly for the first time about the termination of his position at a press conference.
September 11, 2014 - The University of Illinois Board of Trustees voted to terminate Professor Salaita from his tenured position.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Israeli Officials Admit Hamas Leadership Had No Part in Kidnappings

To paraphrase Mark Twain: "A lie goes around the world before the truth has time to get its shoes on."


from democracy now webpage:

The Israeli government has quietly acknowledged Hamas leaders had no role in the abduction of three Israeli teens that led to a massive raid in the West Bank and the ensuing Gaza assault. According to the New York Times, documents released by Israeli police "provide no evidence that the top leaders of Hamas directed or had prior knowledge of the plot to abduct the three Israeli youths." The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israeli intelligence has concluded the abduction "was carried out by an independent cell."