Israel’s garrison-like hilltop settlements

It is a mark of how the US media’s uncritical coverage of Israel is eroding when you see Roger Cohen in the New York Times consistently being allowed the space to describe the desolate scenes in the West Bank which are punctuated by “garrison-like settlements on hilltops”. In his latest article he writes of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit there, in which he states: “If you’re looking for a primer of colonialism, this is not a bad place to start.” This type of language represents a promising shift in the Times’ op-ed pages.

The sparring between the United States and Israel has begun, and that’s a good thing. Israel’s interests are not served by an uncritical American administration. The Jewish state emerged less secure and less loved from Washington’s post-9/11 Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy.

The criticism of the center-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come from an unlikely source: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She’s transitioned with aplomb from the calculation of her interests that she made as a senator from New York to a cool assessment of U.S. interests. These do not always coincide with Israel’s.

I hear that Clinton was shocked by what she saw on her visit last month to the West Bank. This is not surprising. The transition from Israel’s first-world hustle-bustle to the donkeys, carts and idle people beyond the separation wall is brutal. If Clinton cares about one thing, it’s human suffering.

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Printing Police Lies

An excellent article by George Monbiot, setting the abominable policing of the G20 protests into context. Monbiot explains that we are not merely dealing with “a few rogue officers [who] got out of control”, as much of media commentary in the UK would have it, but state-sanctioned violence that is “organised and systematic”.

If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who has been twatted by the police. As the tabloids turn their fire onto an unfamiliar target – the unprovoked aggression of Her Majesty’s constabulary – the love affair between the cops and the rightwing press has never been more fragile.

The policing of the G20 protests at the beginning of this month was routine. Policemen hiding their identification numbers and beating up peaceful protesters is as much a part of British life as grey skies and red buses. Across 20 years of protests, I have seen policemen swapping their jackets to avoid identification, hurling people against vans and into walls and whomping old ladies over the head with batons. A friend had his head repeatedly bashed against the bonnet of a police van; he was then charged with criminal damage to the van. I have seen an entire line of police turn round to face the other way when private security guards have started beating people up. I have seen them refuse – until Amnesty International got involved – to investigate my own case when I was hospitalised by these licensed thugs (the guards had impaled my foot on a metal spike, smashing the middle bone).

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The kind of things he writes…

Michael Tomasky isn’t the sharpest tool in the box. Sources tell me that the Guardian hired him because they were looking for a US commentator on the cheap, and he was all they could afford. The analysis as you can see is mediocre, and frankly quite worthless. You never get anything better than a diluted summary of the conventional wisdom in Washington, i.e., the accumulated inanity of the windbags that constitute the US punditocracy. See for example this piece on Paul Krugman’s critique of Obama’s economic policy. Strike that. The piece doesn’t say anything about Paul Krugman’s critique; this glorified gossip columnist reduces it to a personal feud. But more egregiously, see this report on Obama’s handshake with Chavez. The liberal realist that he is, he ridicules the tantrums of the extremists on Fox News etc to defend Obama. He does so however on the grounds that past presidents have shaken hands with bad people too! Not content with taking cheap swipes at Hugo Chavez, he then goes on to disparage his choice of a gift for the US president. He divines Obama’s inner feelings about the gift, telling us he was ‘not too happy’, because ‘We all know who Eduardo Galeano is, and what kind of books he writes’. As a matter of fact we do: he writes Great Books. Books of the kind that the Tomasky’s of the world will probably never read because they will remind them of their own inadequacies. Or perhaps simply because they are just too illiterate. That’s why the Guardian got him for a discount.

Here are ‘the kinds of things [Galeano] writes‘.

Salgado, 17 Times

Full view of the Serra Pelada gold mine Brazil, 1986 (Sebastião Salgado)

This is Eduardo Galeano’s essay introducing An Uncertain Grace, a collection of Sebastião Salgado’s photography:

1. Are these photographs, these figures of tragic grandeur, carvings in stone or wood by a sculptor in despair? Was the sculptor the photographer? Or God? Or the Devil? Or earthly reality?This much is certain: it would be difficult to look at these figures and remain unaffected. I cannot imagine anyone shrugging his shoulder, turning away unseeing, and sauntering off, whistling.

2. Hunger looks like the man that hunger is killing. The man looks like the tree the man is killing. The trees have arms, the people, branches. Wizened bodies, gnarled: trees made of bones, the people of knots and roots that writhe under the sun. The trees and the people, ageless. All born thousands of years ago – who knows how many? – and still they are standing, inexplicably standing, beneath a heaven that forsakes them.

3. This world is so sad that the rainbows come out in black and white and so ugly that the vultures fly upside down after the dying. A song is sung in Mexico:

Se va la vida por el agujero Como la mugre por el lavadero. [Life goes down the drain Like dirt in the sink.]

And in Colombia they say:

El costo de la vida sube y sube y el valor de la vida baja y baja. [The more the cost of living goes up the less life is worth.]

But light is a secret buried under the garbage and Salgado’s photographs tell us that secret.

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Torture? It probably killed more Americans than 9/11

A US major reveals the inside story of military interrogation in Iraq in this report by Patrick Cockburn, winner of the 2009 Orwell Prize for journalism

The use of torture by the US has proved so counter-productive that it may have led to the death of as many US soldiers as civilians killed in 9/11, says the leader of a crack US interrogation team in Iraq.

“The reason why foreign fighters joined al-Qa’ida in Iraq was overwhelmingly because of abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and not Islamic ideology,” says Major Matthew Alexander, who personally conducted 300 interrogations of prisoners in Iraq. It was the team led by Major Alexander [a named assumed for security reasons] that obtained the information that led to the US military being able to locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qa’ida in Iraq. Zarqawi was then killed by bombs dropped by two US aircraft on the farm where he was hiding outside Baghdad on 7 June 2006. Major Alexander said that he learnt where Zarqawi was during a six-hour interrogation of a prisoner with whom he established relations of trust.

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The liberal supremacists

‘Whether they like it or not, Dawkins, Amis, Hitchens and company have become weapons in the war on terror,’ writes Terry Eagleton, bane of the New Atheists. Don’t miss his delightfully scathing debunking of Dawkins here.

One side-effect of the so-called war on terror has been a crisis of liberalism. This is not only a question of alarmingly illiberal legislation, but a more general problem of how the liberal state deals with its anti-liberal enemies. This, surely, is the acid test of any liberal creed. Anyone can be tolerant of those who are tolerant. A community of the broad-minded is a pleasant place, but requires no great moral effort. The key issue is how the liberal state copes with those who reject its ideological framework. It is fashionable today to speak of being open to the “Other”. But what if the Other detests your openness as much as it does your lapdancing clubs?

There is no quarrel about how to treat those whose scorn for liberal values takes the form of blowing the legs off small children. They need to be locked up. But socialists as well as Islamists reject the liberal state, so what is to be done about them? Are they to be indulged only until they successfully challenge the state, at which point they too will find themselves behind bars with the zealots of al-Qaida?

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Rant against Hypocrisy

If Israel is not a racist state, if Zionism is not a racist ideology, then I do not speak English.

I don’t quite know why, but hypocrisy is the element in political discourse which catalyses my most murderous responses. Perhaps it’s because I like language, or respect it, and believe it shouldn’t be raped.

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Torture Tape Implicates UAE Royal Sheikh

Police in Uniform Join In as Victim Is Whipped, Beaten, Electrocuted, Run Over by SUV. An ABC exclusive by Vic Walter, Rehab El-Buri, Angela Hill and Brian Ross.

What Clash of Civilizations? They say the East and West meet in UAE. For once I’m inclined to believe it. We aren’t so different after all! There is a warning here for readers of Sheikh-themed romances. Watch out! This is what you might end up with.

(UPDATE: The Observer reports that the Sheikh has been accused of 25 other similar attacks)

A video tape smuggled out of the United Arab Emirates shows a member of the country’s royal family mercilessly torturing a man with whips, electric cattle prods and wooden planks with protruding nails.

A man in a UAE police uniform is seen on the tape tying the victim’s arms and legs, and later holding him down as the Sheikh pours salt on the man’s wounds and then drives over him with his Mercedes SUV.

In a statement to ABC News, the UAE Ministry of the Interior said it had reviewed the tape and acknowledged the involvement of Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, brother of the country’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed. Continue reading “Torture Tape Implicates UAE Royal Sheikh”

Police and PM in dock over arrest of terrorist suspects

Surprise, surprise! The British state cried wolf again. ‘Case against Muslim men amounted to one email and handful of telephone conversations’, report By Jonathan Brown, Robert Verkaik and Kim Sengupta. Also check out this brilliant indictment of the ‘war on terror’ by Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The case against 12 Muslim men involved in what Gordon Brown described as a “major terrorist plot” amounted to one email and a handful of ambiguous telephone conversations, it emerged last night after all the men were released without charge.

Eleven Pakistani students and one British man were freed after extensive searches of 14 addresses in North-west England failed to locate evidence of terrorist activity, according to security sources. Police did not find any explosives, firearms, target lists, documents or any material which could have been used to carry out an attack. Yesterday, the Government’s own reviewer of terrorism legislation said he would investigate the case.

The Home Office said it would deport the 11 Pakistani men, who are aged 22 to 38 and were in Britain on student visas, because the Government believed they represented a threat to national security.

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If Arab Oil Runs Out

As’ad Abu Khalil on the perversions brought by Arab oil.

What has oil madness brought to the Arab person? What can we say about the accumulated billions that have gone to support the Western banks and corporations hostile to our interests, or to buy arms for America to use to support those servile regimes, or for the sake of subjugating those who raise their voices against Israel. Is there anyone among us who will yearn for Arab oil and its political actions, if the oil runs out?
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