Palestine Festival of Literature: The Authors Speak

Michael Palin
Ex-Python Michael Palin with Munzer Fahmy at the Palestine Festival of Literature

From the Authors’ blog:

25 BethlehemMichael Palin

We’re now on the fourth day of Palfest. The skies have cleared, its as hot as I always thought it would be here, out here in lands I know only from the picture-books of the Bible.

So, its my first time in this part of the world – despite having been to over 90 countries, the Middle East has been a stranger to me.

When I left London I had a very clear idea of where or what Palestine consisted of. This trip has made me understand that though Palestine may not exist as a country on a map, it is a reality in the minds of 5 million people.

Continue reading “Palestine Festival of Literature: The Authors Speak”

20000 Killed While The World Wasn’t Watching?

As the London Times reports that its investigations into the final three weeks of fighting in Sri Lanka’s civil war yield a shocking figure of claiming more than 20,000 civilian lives, a UN official tells the paper the actual figure is “Higher. … Keep going.”  The three-week bombardment may have ended the 26-year war but what atrocities were committed during the final weeks when the Sri Lankan government kept out journalists and aid workers?

Continue reading “20000 Killed While The World Wasn’t Watching?”

Lecturers vote to boycott Israeli universities

Steve Bell on the peace process.
Steve Bell on the 'peace process'.

The BDS campaign is on a roll. The opinions of the antidemocratic UCU leadership are of little significance. It is interesting that the hacks who report on these developments always shrink from correcting the misleading arguments of the opposition. As is repeatedly made clear, the boycott is against institutions, and only those academics who refuse to condemn the illegal Israeli occupation.

Lecturers voted overwhelmingly to boycott Israeli universities and colleges today. Delegates said Israeli academics were complicit in their government’s acts against Palestinians…

The lecturers voted for a “boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign” against Israeli institutions in protest against Israel’s policies in the occupied territories and January’s incursion into Gaza.

The vote was carried at UCU’s annual congress in Bournemouth. It is the ninth time the deeply contentious issue of Israel and Palestine has surfaced.

Continue reading “Lecturers vote to boycott Israeli universities”

After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb

Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race
Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race

The ‘international condemnation’ of North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday was severely lacking in credibility for its fantastical double-standards, writes Seumas Milne, who argues only radical disarmament can halt their spread.

Here in Scotland the SNP made an attempt to seek support from this same ‘international community’ to rid the country of its nuclear weapons, which are stored in a naval base on the River Clyde. In October 2007 First Minister Alex Salmond wrote to representatives of 189 countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, seeking ‘observer status’ as defence is not an area devolved to Holyrood. The renewal of the Trident missiles is set to run into the tens of billions over the next 20 years, with the parent Westminster government insisting this is a necessary “deterrent” to protect “national security interests”. Sadly the list of replies were published last summer showing there to be little international support for this brave move from a minority administration.

This example reflects Milne’s Guardian article nicely I think.

The big power denunciation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons test on Monday could not have been more sweeping. Barack Obama called the Hiroshima-scale ­underground explosion a “blatant violation of international law”, and pledged to “stand up” to North ­Korea – as if it were a military giant of the Pacific – while Korea’s former imperial master Japan branded the bomb a “clear crime”, and even its long-suffering ally China declared itself “resolutely opposed” to what had taken place. Continue reading “After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb”

Colonizing Culture – Dahr Jamail

An Iraqi boy walks down a street in southern Baqouba, surrounded by US Army soldiers.
An Iraqi boy walks down a street in southern Baqouba, surrounded by US Army soldiers. (Photo: Marko Drobnjakovic / AP)


The geo-strategic expansion of the American empire is an accepted fact of contemporary history. I have been writing in these columns about the impact of the US occupation on the people of Iraq in the wake of the “hard” colonization via F-16s, tanks, 2,000-pound bombs, white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

Here I offer a brief glimpse into the less obvious but far more insidious phenomenon of “soft” colonization. That scholars and political thinkers have talked at length of such processes only establishes the uncomfortable reality that history is bound to repeat itself in all its ugliness, unless the human civilization makes a concerted effort to eliminate the use of brute force from human affairs.

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FAIR on the NYT’s Pentagon Propaganda

nytFairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has an action alert on the New York TimesPentagon Propaganda, detailing its misleading report on Guantánamo and terrorism. This comes as the same paper last year published David Barstow’s revelations about the Pentagon’s hidden hand in “news” coverage to generate pro-war propaganda and favourable coverage for the Bush administration, for which he has won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. (See also this interview on Democracy Now earlier this month). The NYT continues to try to have it both ways: (selectively) exposing propaganda as well as exercising it as an extension of the US military and political establishment. FAIR does well to keep the scrutiny turned right up:

While former Vice President Dick Cheney has been front and center in the media debate over the current White House’s national security policies, he’s not the only one trying to challenge the White House’s message. The New York Times published a front-page article (5/21/09) that bolstered the notion that former Guantánamo prisoners “return” to terrorist activity.

The remarkably credulous Times story, under the headline “1 in 7 Freed Detainees Rejoins Fight, Report Finds,” was based on a Pentagon report leaked to the paper before its release yesterday evening. The article emphasized the notion that former prisoners “returned to terrorism or militant activity”–without adequately explaining the definition of either term, or examining whether those former detainees were ever “terrorists” in the first place.

Continue reading “FAIR on the NYT’s Pentagon Propaganda”

Dubai, jewel in Israel’s sales crown

Lev Leviev's, "Levant" diamond store at Dubai's Atlantis Hotel

Guess where you have to go to buy yourself some blood diamonds these days? Adalah NY has been drawing attention to this for some time. Where International NGOs and Western consumers have been distancing themselves from Lev Levive’s blood diamonds, the Arab ‘brethren’ of the Gulf have been siphoning their petrodollars for settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories through his Levant stores. On the Le Monde Diplomatique blog Alain Gresh writes:

With the exception of Egypt, all Arab states officially boycott Israel, blacklist Israeli companies and ban imports of Israeli products. The same countries frequently lead the voices calling for sanctions against Israel. But sometimes life gets in the way.

Just a few weeks after the world financial crisis broke, a super-luxury hotel, the Atlantis, opened its doors in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The French chatter website of 21 November 2008 trumpeted the headline: “2000 stars at the inauguration of Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel”. It wrote:

“Dubai, Dubai, Dubai! Arab princes, flying carpets, oil, dollars… and the Atlantis Hotel! An extraordinary palace, which cost more than $1.9bn to create, celebrated its opening yesterday in high style.

“This little junket cost a trifling $38m! That’s what it took to tell the entire world about the arrival of a luxury hotel which sees itself as the planet’s most incredible palace, with its giant in-house aquarium…

“The Atlantis is at the heart of Dubai’s Palm Island, an artificial island built in the shape of a palm tree. The world’s greatest architects and designers worked on the Pharaonic project.”

Read the rest of the post here.

The Babbling Brook of Bullshit

Peter Brookes on real political sleaze
Peter Brookes on real political sleaze

Britain: the depth of corruption. John Pilger describes how the current scandal of MPs’ tax evasion and phantom mortgages conceals a deeper corruption that is traced back to the political monoculture of the United States. They are not not ‘playing into the hands of extremists’ as the New Statesman headline blared, he writes, they are the extremists, for the wars they launched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the torture they condoned.

The theft of public money by members of parliament, including government ministers, has given Britons a rare glimpse inside the tent of power and privilege. It is rare because not one political reporter or commentator, those who fill tombstones of column inches and dominate broadcast journalism, revealed a shred of this scandal. It was left to a public relations man to sell the “leak”. Why?

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Why aid to Pakistan won’t make a difference

Stephen Walt

Stephen Walt highlights why the House of Congress’ pledge of $1.5 billion per annum non-military aid for Pakistan isn’t going to do much to change the effect of disasterous American meddling.

At the New Yorker blog, Steve Coll reports that the U.S. Congress is preparing a five-year $1.5 billion per annum non-military aid package for Pakistan, with full support from the Obama administration. (You can read the text of the legislation, entitled the “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act,” here.)

This step sounds impressive, until one remembers that Pakistan’s population is nearly 180 million and its GDP in 2006 was about $144 billion. So the aid package amounts to around a 1 percent increase in Pakistani GDP, which works out to about $8 for each Pakistani. In other words, the U.S. Congress is going to increase their per capita income from $850 per year to about $858. (It’s actually less than that, because some of the money goes to administrative expenses, auditing, and the like.) Continue reading “Why aid to Pakistan won’t make a difference”

Crises that loom beyond the military action

Refugees line up for water at an IDP camp
Refugees line up for water at an IDP camp

The fragile colonial construct named Pakistan is risking its own long term survival through its myopic policy in Malakand. The difficulties faced by the refugees from Swat are well known. But according to Rahimullah Yusufzai the reugees are now also the victims of ugly ethnic chauvinism. The far-right Sindhi nationalist Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) and the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (which has renamed itself Muttahida Qaumi Movement in order to mask its narrow factional interests) have organized two major strikes against their migration into Sindh in search of sanctuary. The violence that accompanied the strikes saw Pakhtun property being torched by Sindhi-Muhajir mobs, and one 50 year old woman being burnt alive. The MQM is part of the ruling coalition (led by the fuedal Sindhi dominated PPP of Bhutto/Zardari) and according to Yusufzai the actions have more than the tacit support of the government since the PPP-led provincial government has been sending back many refugees from the border town of Kashmore. Poignantly, Yusufzai adds:

The ruling PPP cannot absolve itself of the blame for blocking the trucks and buses bringing the IDPs to Sindh at the border town of Kashmore and for insisting that they go back to their native NWFP or stay in not-yet-ready tented camps there in the middle of nowhere. It was an insensitive act that added insult to injury and contributed to the pain suffered by the IDPs and felt by all Pakhtuns. More pain was inflicted on the Pakhtun psyche by certain PPP leaders, including its blundering spokesperson Fauzia Wahab, when the IDPs were equated to the Afghan refugees. If this isn’t a slip of tongue, then it obviously means that many politicians and also other likeminded people from different walks of life in Punjab and Sindh have come to believe that the Afghan refugees too are primarily Pakhtuns and all of them need to be kept out of Pakistan’s two biggest provinces to avoid harm…The PML-N despite its praiseworthy relief work in support of the IDPs also damaged its growing reputation as a party sympathetic to the cause of smaller provinces by hesitating to allow setting up of IDPs camps in Punjab…The apathy of some of the Sindh- and Punjab-based political forces to the woes of the IDPs looks all the more glaring when one compares it to the unparalleled generosity shown by the common people all over the country.

Yusufzai contrasts this with the generosity shown the refugees in Mardan and Swabi, and ask why the refugees — 80 percent of whom are actually living with families and well-wishers — should be ‘a matter of concern for NWFP and the Pakhtuns only. ‘If that is the case, then one should be worried about the damage this attitude is causing to the concept of nationhood in the federation of Pakistan.’

Continue reading “Crises that loom beyond the military action”