UPDATE I, II, III, IV and V on the BBC’s despicable coverage below.
Al Jazeera International, 30 May 2010 — A deadly attack has taken place off the coast of Gaza – as Israeli forces stormed at least one ship – attempting to break the blockade of Gaza. Commandos lowered themselves from helicopters and onto the Mavi Marmara – the lead ship in a flotilla of six vessels which are carrying aid for the Palestinian territory…Israeli radio is reporting the death toll may be as high as 16 people. Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal onboard the ship sent this report before communications were cut
Mustafa Barghouti on Al Jazeera rightly notes that this constitutes an act of war against multiple countries. The ship was in international waters carrying the flags of several countries. This is a flagrant violation of international law.
People have been against both the idea and practice of Zionism since its inception. Zionism is an ideology that has never earned the support of all Jews, and one that has never been accepted by the vast majority of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Zionism has likewise failed to achieve significant support in the so-called Third World, and has been almost uniformly rejected by black nationalists inside the United States. Yet Zionism has been successful insofar as its desire to create a Jewish-majority nation-state has been achieved. Despite its discursive self-image as a liberation movement, Zionist practice is colonialist and brutally violent.
In his latest book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan), M. Shahid Alam explores these paradoxes with great skill and insight. Israeli Exceptionalism takes its place among a series of recent books that question the logic of Zionism. Most of these books argue in favor of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; inherent in that argument is a rejection of Zionism. Alam takes a slightly different approach in his rejection of Zionism, one that is global in scope. He points out that “[a]s an exclusionary settler colony, Israel does not stand alone in the history of European expansion overseas, but it is the only one of its kind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries” (14). Israel, in other words, is an anomaly: a settler colonial society still in thrall of the ideologies and racism of the nineteenth century. As with the European colonization of North America, Zionism conceptualizes itself as an exceptional force of good in history.
May 26, 2010 (IPS) – In 2005, ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Irish rock star and philanthropist Bono dedicated a concert to Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs for his services to global poverty alleviation. Time magazine twice named Sachs one of its 100 Most Influential People. His 2005 book “The End of Poverty” was a New York Times bestseller. He has served as a special advisor to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals. In 2007 Vanity Fair was moved to declare him the “savior of Bolivia”.
From the fawning sobriquets it would be hard to tell that Sachs was the architect of the “economic shock therapy” which in Russia during the transition years (1991-1994) contributed to a 42 percent rise in male deaths, and 56 percent in unemployment. His Bolivian “reforms” brought inflation under control but unemployment, inequality and the cost of living soared.Following a decade of unrest, Russia was only saved by an authoritarian nationalist leadership and Bolivia by economic populism. The neoliberal experiment was a failure.
If Sachs has today recanted his extreme free-market views, it is only because of a personal epiphany. At the peak of his power, he was constrained by neither public censure nor official accountability.He is an exemplar of a new breed of influencers who operate in the interstices of official and private power and exploit the ambiguity of their multiple overlapping roles to evade both public oversight and market competition. It is this emerging power that is the subject of social-anthropologist Janine Wedel’s indispensable “Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market”.
In order to reveal something about the salience of incoherence in today’s world, let’s examine this recent event:
On May 21st, the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled that detainees at Bagram do not have the right to habeas corpus; that is, the right to challenge their detention; that is, the same right that was extended to Guantanamo detainees in two separate Supreme Court rulings, Rasul (2004) and Boumediene (2008). The Bagram decision was based on reasoning that because the prison is located in Afghanistan – a zone of active combat – the precedent in Boumediene, concerning Guantanamo Bay, cannot be applied. Additionally, the Court ruled that while the United States, in maintaining full and complete control over Guantanamo Bay for over a century, was constitutionally required to provide detainees with the right to challenge their detention, the status of Bagram was a different case because the U.S. does not intend to maintain control over Bagram with any “permanence.” At first, the logic of the court, which is grounded in Supreme Court precedent, ‘may’ sound compelling to the reader, but this is where things get sticky…..
On the evening of May 25th, I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of Jeremy Scahill’s brave new documentary, Blackwater’s Youngest Victim. The film, which is a collaborative effort by Scahill and Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films, tells the story of nine year old Ali Khanani, who was shot by Blackwater mercenaries on September 16, 2007 in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.
Nisour Square is considered to be the highest profile deadly incident involving Blackwater–or any private war contractor. The government’s case against five former Blackwater security guards charged with manslaughter and firearms violations in the Nisour Square incident was supposed to finally hold private security companies accountable for their alleged crimes. However, earlier this year, federal court judge Ricardo Urbina decided to dismiss that case. Rather than focusing on the evidence that existed against these men, Urbina based his decision for dismissal on the grounds that prosecutors in the case had committed gross misconduct and violated the constitutional rights of Blackwater men. The administration responded to the courts decision with assurances that the dismissal would be appealed, but legal analysts everywhere predict that the case is a losing battle. And, perhaps we should not be surprised given the administration’s painstakingly apparent contradictory agenda in both claiming that it wants to hold Blackwater accountable, while simultaneously maintaining Blackwater (now Xe) as a war contractor in what can only be described as the most privatized war in history. As Scahill’s ongoing reporting for The Nation suggests, the number of private contractors currently hired by the state has more than doubled under the Obama Administration.
Anniversaries measure time. In one respect, they are an artificial concept. We decide, for instance, that twenty-five years of marriage should be celebrated, but we ignore the subsequent days as merely marking the path to twenty-six years. And reaching twenty-six years, though obviously a greater length of marriage, will not be celebrated with the same gusto as the twenty-fifth anniversary that boasts pre-printed greeting cards and foil balloons.
As the contrivance of marking anniversaries in many ways defies common sense, we might ask ourselves why we do it. Perhaps it is because the infinite, amorphous magnitude of time must be taken in bite-size pieces. It would otherwise be overwhelming. When we stop the passage of time—no matter how arbitrarily, no matter how superficially—then we are in effect looking for significance in what we accomplish with our lives.
On the 25th of May 2010, we observe the ten-year anniversary of the Lebanese Resistance and Liberation Day. A full decade has passed since the victory that baffled the Western world. A twenty-two year military occupation was virtually uprooted and expelled. The balance of global power was unhinged.
The demonstration in Bil’in was conducted in solidarity with the Israeli settlement boycott movement. Two children, including a mentally disabled boy, were injured and three Israelis, including myself, were arrested after the soldiers, yet again, invaded the village in order to make arrests. Cuffed and blindfolded, we were taken to the Benjamin police station at the Beit El/Adam settlement, which can be easily found on the map.
Islamabad–Abir Mohammed, a refugee from Bajaur, says that the battles which raged in his home province since 2008 have dramatically changed his life. We met him in a crowded Islamabad café where he politely approached customers, offering to shine their shoes. He isn’t accustomed to shoeshine work. But, he needs to earn as much money as possible before reuniting with family members who await him, near Peshawar, in a tent encampment for displaced people.
Formerly, he lived with his wife, his five children, his mother and four brothers in a home near the Afghanistan border. “We were very satisfied with our life,” says Abir Mohammed. “My brothers and I cultivated wheat crops and maintained orchards.” His land is full of rich soil. “But, in these days,” says Abir, “due to disasters and lack of water and electricity, there is no chance of cultivating crops.”
To readers I would highly recommend Norman Finkelstein’s new book, ‘This time we went too far’. It is the most systematic and thorough dismantling of the hasbara edifice erected by Israel and its apologists (including Morris). On paper, Morris is a fine historian, but in his media appearances he always dons the hat of the propagandist. In this debate from Russia Today’s CrossTalk, Benny Morris comes across as defensive and boorish. He uses the familar tools of the propagandist, derision and ridicule, to evade serious questions. Every one of his claims about Gaza — that Hamas used human shields, and that its leadership took sanctuary in basements of hospitals — is rebutted by extensive research carried out by the Goldstone Commission, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. (via MondoWeiss)
On this edition of Peter Lavelle’s CrossTalk, he asks his guests whether the current “indirect talks” between the Israelis and Palestinians are a waste of time.
The devastation could not be more heartbreaking. From one end to the other, the whole tribal area presents the spectacle of a war zone. Houses blown up, villages decimated, infrastructure no more.
Add Dir, Buner and Swat to that. Vast swaths are in ruins in Maidan, in the Dir region. Whole villages in Buner have disappeared. Matta and the adjoining areas in Swat present a picture of a powerful cyclone having devastated the whole area.
Between Khar and Nawagai, in what once was a most fertile area, villages on both sides of the road have been razed to the ground.
Many of the returning IDPs of Bajaur and Dir could not determine where their villages had once stood, to say nothing of their homes. They had to make return journeys to their camps.
In Qaudahari, in the Safi area of Mohmand, the situation is no better. The wreckage of a war is everywhere, with houses and villages having ceased to exist.
Bara, in Khyber Agency, an area once administered by an Assistant Political Agent, presents the picture of a ghost town.