Raging with the Machine: Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh and Syria

April 25, 2014 § 33 Comments

Yassin al-Haj Saleh is a Syrian writer who spent 16 years in the regime’s prisons. In this exclusive for PULSE, Saleh, who has been described as the “conscience of Syria“, discusses the distorted lens through which most people are viewing the conflict.

In the West, Robert Fisk and Seymour Hersh are considered critical journalists. They occupy dissident positions in the English-speaking press. Among Syrians, however, they are viewed very differently.

The problem with their writings on Syria is that it is deeply centered on the West. The purported focus of their analysis – Syria, its people and the current conflict – serves only as backdrop to their commentary where ordinary Syrians are often invisible. For Fisk and Hersh the struggle in Syria is about ancient sects engaged in primordial battle. What really matters for them are the geopolitics of the conflict, specifically where the US fits into this picture.

On the topic of chemical weapons, Fisk and Hersh, completely ignore the antecedents of last summer’s attack on Ghouta .

A reader who relies exclusively on Fisk/Hersh for their understanding of Syria would never know that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons several times before the August 21, 2013 massacre in Ghouta. I was there at the time. I saw victims of sarin gas on two occasions in Eastern Ghouta and I met doctors treating them. The victims were from Jobar, which was hit with chemical weapons in April 2013 and from Harasta, which was hit in May 2013.

It is shocking that investigative journalists such as Fisk and Hersh know nothing about these attacks. They write as if Ghouta was the first time chemical weapons were used in Syria. Their credibility and objectivity is compromised by these omissions.

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The Cultural Cold War, Frances Saunders

January 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

cultural-cold-war-saundersFrances Saunders talked about how the Central Intelligence Agency created the Congress for Cultural Freedom in 1947 as a secret program of cultural propaganda in Western Europe. The program focused on creating and sponsoring pro-American arts and literature. Following her remarks she answered questions from the audience.

Frances Saunders is the author of The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, published by the New Press.

The article that first sparked Saunders’ interest in this subject can be read here: Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War.

Click here to watch the lecture.

Legitimizing A Military Occupation With Music: Zubin Mehta in Kashmir

August 26, 2013 § 6 Comments

"Facing the Music!" by Suhail Hassan Naqshbandi

“Facing the Music!”

PLEASE SHARE WIDELY! Thanks!

26 August 2013

To
Ambassador Michael Steiner,
German Embassy,
New Delhi, India.

Subject: URGENT Protest Letter to German Embassy on scheduled Zubin Mehta concert in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, on 7 September 2013

1. On 22 August 2013, a press release was issued by the German Embassy that Zubin Mehta would be conducting an orchestra on 7 September 2013 at Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.

2. The press release quoted you as stating that the concert was for the people of Jammu and Kashmir by way of a cultural tribute. The press release also reads that the concert was intended to give a message of hope and encouragement to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The concert, said to be a part of a “broader engagement” is being organized by the German Embassy and supported by the “competent authorities both at Central as well as at Union State level.” The costs of the concert are covered by “benevolent sponsors mainly from the business world in India and Germany, as well as “Incredible India” and the German Foreign Office”.

3. The people of Jammu and Kashmir take immense pride in our rich history of resisting oppression. We also have historically cultivated a sublime tradition in, and love for, music. Music – which appeals to the higher truths of love, justice, dignity, and peace; which genuinely acknowledges the long suffering, and yet bravely resisting, Kashmiris; and which is performed for the actual public – is wholeheartedly welcomed. However, legitimizing an occupation via a musical concert is completely unacceptable. Art as propaganda, as abundantly documented, was put to horrific use in Nazi Germany. We are sure you will understand that we cannot welcome anything even remotely analogous in Jammu and Kashmir. Sadly, the occupation will be amply reflected in the demographics of the audience of the proposed concert – the list of “invitees only” is bound to be restricted to the members of the apparatuses of the Occupying State: from perpetrators of crimes, as heinous as murder, rape, and torture, to the local collaborators of the State and perhaps some powerless, vulnerable and compliant few. « Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Community for Peace in Letter to Jose Feliciano: Healing with Music in Colonial Times, Building Bridges Over the Bodies of the Oppressed

August 22, 2013 § 2 Comments

Right: Jose Feliciano Left: Steve Schnur

Jose Feliciano is scheduled to perform in apartheid Israel on October 10, at Nokia Stadium. Already he’s being sent messages professing liberal language of equality and harmony for all, by that elite club for the endless cycle of war profiteering, whitewashing and violence, otherwise known as “Creative Community for Peace” (CCfP). Creative Community for Peace is a specialist in apartheid PR. They’re mere existence is about diverting attention from Israel’s systematic daily war crimes against the Palestinian population under its control, by abusing the word “Peace” and shooting the messenger- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists (BDS), who connect the dots between Israel’s image of itself and the reality of its erasure of the Palestinian narrative and people.

Unfortunately, Jose Feliciano, for the time being, endorses the “Creative Community for Peace” statement that has been sent to him, and has posted it on the website. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Jenin Jenin Amendment: Israel from Ethnocracy to Fascism

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last Monday, on the 6th of May, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided to approve the “Jenin Jenin Amendment” in a paramilitary hearing. The amendment [Hebrew] is an addition to the Israeli Defamation Law [Hebrew], stating that army personnel and the state can sue individuals, who expose army violence, for libel, without proving damages. The amendment comes as a reaction to Israel’s Supreme Court rejecting soldiers’ class action suit of defamation against actor/director Mohammad Bakri, for his documentary Jenin Jenin (watch it in full here), in which Palestinian testimonies describe their experiences of the 2002 massacre perpetrated by Israel’s army in the besieged refugee camp.

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True costs of Iraq War whitewashed by fuzzy maths

April 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

This article appears in The National. (Also see my earlier article on the causes of the war)

‘So many’, wrote TS Eliot, reflecting on the waste land left by the First World War. “I had not thought death had undone so many.”

This notion is unlikely to cross the minds of those surveying the devastation left by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The most frequently quoted fatality figure – about 115,000 Iraqis killed – is shocking. But compared to major conflicts of the past century, it is a relatively modest toll. The Battle of the Somme alone killed three times as many. More were killed by a single bomb dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War.

Former British prime minster Tony Blair, and then-US vice president Dick Cheney, were perhaps conscious of this when they expressed “no regrets” on the 10th anniversary of the war last month.

That the perpetrators of an aggressive war should accept the lowest costs for their folly is unsurprising. What is less explicable is why so many supposed critics of the war are crediting the same estimate. Brown University’s Costs of War project and the Centre for American Progress’s Iraq War Ledger use it as their main source.

You can read the rest here.

Israel 2012, The Question of a Nation: What Does Culture Have to Do with Politics?

December 12, 2012 § 6 Comments

For more information on how Israel is using this face to mask its evil, go to http://www.no2brandisrael.org/

The interesting thing about Israel is that its government and registered citizens have a wonky spatial perception, which feeds off itself: In Israel, you’re not in the state, the state is in you. Due to this cyclical perception, along with the “standard” “nation branding” (a marketing lie on to itself, and that sick capitalist perception of a state- a geographic territory with obligations and responsibilities towards its respective inhabitants- as a product which is on the market for sale), known as Brand Israel, much of Israel’s propaganda is based on the blurring of the lines between the individual and the state (and army).

As a BDS activist, whose main focus is cultural boycott, I’ve come up against a very common Israeli claim (individuals, small business, and government officials) that “culture has nothing to do with politics”. Most commonly it comes in the form of a puzzled “rhetorical” question: “What does culture have to do with politics?!” As if asking this question closes the discussion, because it’s so obvious that art, music, books, films, theater and dance are a pure form of entertainment that has no intellectual, political, anthropological value. As if cultural products aren’t bought and sold as commodities and status indicators.

Shuki Weiss Promotion and Production Ltd. in the Service of the State of Israel

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Boycotting the White City: Good for Tel Avivians

July 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

rev·o·lu·tion noun \ˌre-və-ˈlü-shən\

2
a : a sudden, radical, or complete change
b : a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed
c : activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation
d : a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm <the Copernican revolution>
e : a changeover in use or preference especially in technology <the computer revolution> <the foreign car revolution>

~ Merriam Webster Dictionary

Almost a year ago a wave of massive popular protests began within the state of Israel. Though my initial criticisms still stands, I’d like to add that over the past year, at least in the south of Tel Aviv, there’s a constant learning about egalitarian politics, co-ops and community projects. People are changing and that can’t be a bad thing. Still, on the Palestinian liberation front there’s little change. The protests have remained Jewish-centered and protesters are still hostile to the mere mention of Arabs (Palestinians are people from another country, of course).

Dr. White City and Mr. Tel Aviv

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Reinforcements Arrive

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

In other news from Syria, a respected German daily is reporting that UFOs have made contact with Khalid Abu Salah and joined the Syrian opposition. At an event marking the latest transfer of T-72s and Mi-24s to Syria, Vladimir Putin denounced the UFO intervention as an irresponsible intrusion into the country’s internal affairs.

Life through Medialens – but not as we know it

June 20, 2012 § 2 Comments

by Martin Rowson

This week I thought I’d describe my adventures with a website called Medialens over a cartoon I recently drew for The Guardian. It featured Bashar al-Assad, in the immediate aftermath of the Houla massacre, smeared in blood and pointing an equally blood-stained finger at his own chest. Also depicted were Vladimir Putin, Wen Jiabao, Ban Ki Moon, Kofi Annan, several cowled figures of Death, Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde lashing a pile of human bones with euro-laden cats-o’-nine-tails and the sleeping form of David Cameron, snuggled up to an enormous cat dressed in a blue pin-striped suit. The thing was captioned “Who? Me?!?”, although it’s by no means clear who’s saying these words, just as it’s not clear whose blood besmirches Assad, whether it’s his latest alleged victims’, from his earlier ones or, for that matter, whether the blood might be his own.

Anyway, I was asked by Medialens via Twitter (in 140 characters or less, even if a picture is, they say, worth a thousand words) what clear evidence I had for President Assad’s personal involvement in the Houla massacre. So far as I can tell, Medialens turn out to be a couple of blokes called David whose mission is to expose the lies, misrepresentation and manipulation in the “mainstream media”. « Read the rest of this entry »

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