Dinosaur in Denial

Until recently it seemed that Syria, along with wealthy Saudi Arabia, was the state least likely to fall to the revolutionary turmoil sweeping the Arab region.

The first reason for the Asad regime’s seeming stability is Syrian fear of sectarian chaos. Beyond the Sunni Arab majority, Syria includes Alawis (most notably the president and key military figures), Christians, Ismailis, Druze, Kurds and Armenians, as well as Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. The state has achieved a power balance between the minorities and rural Sunnis while building an alliance with the urban Sunni business class. This means that Syria is the best place in the Middle East to belong to a religious minority, certainly better than in ‘liberated’ Iraq or in the Jewish state, and for a long time domestic peace under authoritarianism has looked more attractive than the neighbouring sectarian and strife-torn ‘democracies’ in Lebanon and Iraq (the American dismantling of the Iraqi state provided a serious blow to Arab democratic aspirations, neo-con fantasies notwithstanding).

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Report from Land Occupations in Post-Coup Honduras

Jesse Freeston reports for The Real News Network on the land conflict in the Lower Aguan region of Honduras, the continued killing of campesinos, and general repression by the regime of Pepe Lobo.

Battle for Benghazi: the first shots

New footage has emerged from the first moments of the uprising in Libya, showing gunmen – who appear to be Gaddafi loyalists – shooting unarmed protesters dead.

With armed men dragging people from Benghazi’s mosque, others were left to die on the streets.

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton reports from the city.

The Enduring Palestine Land Day

by Brenda Heard

For nearly three decades the Palestinian people had been brutalised and belittled.  Then on 30 March 1976 they took a collective stand.  They were not the nomadic nuisance denounced by the Western Israeli Alliance.  They were a people with the same inalienable rights as any people.  And they would determine their own fate.

They held a general strike and demonstrated against the recently announced intention of the Israeli forces to further snuff out Arab viability in the Galilee region.  But the Israeli armed forces would not tolerate what they viewed as insubordination; they turned their weapons on the protestors, killing six outright, injuring dozens and arresting those who persisted in raising their voices.   The Western Israeli media quickly put down the fatal day as an outbreak of rioting Arabs.  But the estimated 400,000 Palestinian people who had participated in the strike knew better.

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Information Wars

Part I of this episode of Al Jazeera’s Empire is available here.

Information is power and in the age of the information revolution, cyber and satellite communication is transforming our lives, reinventing the relationship between people and power. How will governments deal with the information revolution?

How Europe’s universities aid the Israeli occupation

by David Cronin

One of the most enjoyable things that has happened since I wrote a book on Israel’s relations with Europe is that I have been asked to speak at various universities. So when an invitation appeared in my email inbox to visit King’s College London (KCL), I immediately accepted. Big mistake.

The request came from the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), a partnership between King’s College and the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. I only became aware of the partnership one day before I was scheduled to address an ICSR seminar in January. Following a hasty consultation with some friends in the Palestine solidarity movement, I withdrew from the event, informing the organisers that I fully supported the campaign to boycott Israeli goods and institutions.

Set up in 2008, the ICSR boasts on its website that it is “the first initiative of this kind in which Arab and Israeli academic institutions can work together”. This appears to be a reference to how the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy is also involved in its research on political violence. However, the participation of an academic body from an Arab state does not exonerate the ICSR for embracing the Herzliya centre, which has long tried to cloak Israeli apartheid with intellectual gravitas.

Each year the IDC hosts the Herzliya security conference, attracting Israel’s political, military and business elite, as well as illustrious foreign guests. Speakers at this conference can spout racist invective without fear of being challenged; in 2003, Yitzhak Ravid, a senior researcher with Israel’s weapons development authority Rafael called for coercive measures to curb the birth-rate among Palestinians. “The delivery rooms in Soroka Hospital in Be’ersheba have turned into a factory for the production of a backward population,” he said, alluding to an area with a considerable number of Bedouin inhabitants.

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Neoconomics 101: Conscription and War as Wealth

neoconomicsYesterday Antiwar.com published Grant F. Smith’s book review  “Neoconomics: Conscription and War as Wealth”  discussing Dan Senor and Saul Singer’s 2009 book Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.

A 19 minute radio interview is available today.

2:19 Israeli conscription and societal cohesion
2:43 Bomb releases to electric car batteries
3:13 Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres as entrepreneurs
4:21 An international entitlement: preferential US market access
5:55 Are US entrepreneurs battle tested?
6:36 Start-up Nation’s exclusive focus on supply-side
7:20 US consumer market buys 40% of total Israeli exports
7:39 $10 billion in yearly trade surplus as aid to Israel
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Shoe thrower targets Iraq’s PM

The great Muntadhr Al Zaydi is alive and kicking.

Protests have also been taking place in Iraq – as demonstrators there call for sweeping reforms. In their midst is Muntadhr Al Zaydi, the man known internationally for throwing a shoe at former US president George Bush.

He had to stay away from his country for months after serving jail time, but he is now back on the streets of Baghdad. He is on a mission that is again putting him at odds with authorities.

Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh explains.

A war of Western imperialism?

by Ahmed Moor

Photo: Scott Nelson

There is a lot about the Western intervention in Libya that could go wrong – and it remains to be seen whether bombing Gaddafi and his mercenaries is a good decision.

However, large numbers of people around the world appear to support the objectives of the anti-regime forces. Also, the indigenous resistance movement – which requested help – would have been annihilated in the absence of those air strikes.

George Bush’s legacy of destruction extends beyond the piles of brick, flesh and mortar that we have been tallying for a decade now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than any other figure in the post-war 20th century, the last American president did more to erode the gains in legitimacy made by supranational institutions and their proponents.

After the Iraq war, the United Nations began to be perceived as a US rubberstamp body – or worse – as a meaningless exercise in bureaucracy.

The UN can only function legitimately through consensus (or consensus-lite) decision-making and it was clear that the US was strong-arming weaker states in 2003.

George Bush and the neoconservatives hijacked the legitimate language of consensus-based intervention for their own ill use.

So activists are not wrong to react cynically when they hear that language today; I don’t believe that bombing Gaddafi is a humanitarian gesture.

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