Danny Danon talks to Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera’s Teymor Nabili interviews Danny Danon, the far-right deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset about his views on Israel’s future and the “so-called Palestinians.” Nabili wrote this on his blog yesterday:

The deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, Danny Danon, appeared on my radar only recently, after he co-sponsored the country’s recent “Boycott Bill”, a piece of legislation that was widely attacked as anti-democratic both at home and by Israel’s traditional supporters in the US.

Danon was, and is, unapologetic about his action, calling critics “hypocrites” and seeing no problem in a law that rides roughshod over one of the bedrock principles of justice – the presumption of innocence.

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Kharotabad killings and the cover up

In an in-depth investigation, Mehreen Zahra-Malik reveals the sordid details behind the May 17th murder of five Russian/Tajik civilians by Pakistani security forces near Kharotabad in Baluchistan. This article first appeared on Al Jazeera.

One wounded woman makes an appeal for surrender moments before her body is riddled with more bullets.

Jamal Tarakai had barely sat down to a late lunch on May 17 when he heard gunshots. Leaving his food untouched, he jumped on his motorbike and drove towards the source of the noise. About 200 metres from his home in Kharotabad on the outskirts of the capital of Balochistan, Quetta, was a Frontier Corps (FC) check post. As Tarakai pulled up on the chowk, he saw at least five FC guards shooting into a pile of sandbags, the firing so intense it created a whirlwind of dust, making it difficult for the cameraman to see who, or what, was being shot at so fiercely.

Pulling out his camera, the journalist started filming the scene. At some point, there was a pause in the firing. The dust settled, somewhat, and the lower portion of a woman in a red shalwar-kameez could be seen lying on the ground. She slowly raised an arm and waved it in the air, fingers stretched out – to signal surrender? To seek mercy? The outstretched hand prompted two of the men in fatigues to start firing again, until it was certain anything living on the receiving end was now almost certainly dead.

TV channels immediately began to pump out congratulatory stories, cheering the FC guards for a job well done. Five alleged Chechen suicide bombers, including three women, had been killed in an encounter with security forces, it was reported. The Balochistan Home secretary quickly issued a statement saying the suspects were wearing suicide vests and had hurled hand grenades at the FC, killing one FC guard, Naik Mohommad Sajjad. The Capital City Police Officer, Daud Junejo, said the five foreigners were Chechen militants linked with Al Qaeda; that they had been planning to carry out attacks in Quetta; and that the women had showed the officers suicide vests and threatened to blow themselves up.

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All of the President’s Men: The Bolivarian Succession?

by C.L. Smith

This article first appeared at Upside Down World.

Since his first electoral victory in 1998, Hugo Chávez Frias has gradually come to permeate practically every facet of Venezuelan society imaginable. Whether it is the daily polemical headlines that scream at passersby from humble newsstands, or the massive roadside billboards displaying the loquacious leader in a variety of guises, it is pretty much impossible to remain ignorant, let alone indifferent, to the omnipotent role that the former paratrooper commander occupies in the collective national psyche.

During the course of his rule, Chávez has attempted to redress the massive economic inequality that exists in this petroleum rich South American nation through a simple redistribution of oil profits to the most disenfranchised demographic in the form of extensive social programs. However, in doing so, the confrontational president has effectively drawn a line in the sand for the Venezuelan electorate over the past twelve years, with few brave citizens daring to openly occupy the middle ground.

Therefore, it came as a shock to Venezuelans of all political affiliations and loyalties this past June 30th when the normally overactive and overexposed president finally dispelled the vicious swirl of rumors surrounding his unusual disappearance from the public eye some two and a half weeks priorby admitting that he was recovering from an operation that had removed cancerous cells from his pelvic area. The news predictably generated feelings of schadenfreude amongst the more sadistic elements of the opposition, while conversely prompting legions of chavistas to openly pray and declare their love for the afflicted leader.

This was all to be expected in the event of such a revelation. What was not, however, was the apparent power vacuum left in the wake of Chávez’s unexpected convalescence in Havana. Amidst the furor of the opposition, who claimed that not only was his undisclosed absence irresponsible yet unconstitutional, the highest ranks of the ruling party PSUV presented a united front to not only their constituents, but to the outside world as well.

However, a different reality belied this perception.

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Vidal in Venice

At an old bookshop that I frequently visit, I recently found a book titled Vidal in Venice, a glossy coffee-table hardback about the history, architecture and culture of Venice, illustrated with superb artwork and photography. The book was a companion edition to a series of documentaries Gore Vidal wrote and presented in 1985 for Channel 4 about the city he calls ‘perhaps the most beautiful cliche on earth.’ Thanks to the wonders of youtube, today I was able to find it and here it is in its entirety.

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Murdoch: The Mogul Who Screwed the News

This is a very revealing documentary, a must see.

Jacques Peretti talks to everyone from Hugh Grant to Rupert Murdoch insiders to find out how celebrities, cops and politicians cosied up with, and then turned against, Murdoch.

Cold War on British Muslims

Spinwatch publishes report on two influential neoconservative think-tanks, the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange.

In a report published today (download .pdf), Spinwatch examines the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange; two key right-wing think-tanks involved in the debat e on Islam and multiculturalism which are thought to have influenced the Coalition Government’s new Prevent strategy.

The report, which was completed before the recent terrorist attacks in Norway, argues that right-wing think-tanks have understated the rise of Islamophobia on the far-right and in some cases condoned the rise of
groups such as the English Defence League because of their own links to the ‘counterjihad movement’.

The Cold War on British Muslims, shows how the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange have rejected counter-terrorism policies based on public safety and have instead sought to revive discredited counter-subversion policies from the Cold War era – policies which targeted a generation of trade union leaders and peace activists including future Labour Ministers.  The report warns that reviving such policies is likely to stigmatise and even criminalise politically active Muslims, as well as liberals and leftists, and risk undermining the traditional freedoms enjoyed by churches, schools, universities and public libraries.

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The Sultan’s Shaikhs and Salafis

Update: Syria’s tame mufti Hassoun has said there is no truth to the news which I repeat below, that Buti, Hassoun and other clerics met with the minister of Awqaf and decided to cancel taraweeh prayers. I heard the false report from someone in Syria. Obviously a rumour was circulating.

When I lived in Syria in the 1990s people would speak very respectfully about Shaikh Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti, a Damascus-based cleric and a traditionalist. I could never quite understand why. I attended his mosque once after an American bombing run on sanctions-starved Iraq; on that occasion Buti blamed the deaths in Iraq on ‘a lack of love between the Muslims.’ Perhaps some of the congregation imagined this was a veiled criticism of the Arab leaders. People called al-Buti honest and fearless.

I had a conversation with someone who taught archeology at Damascus University. This academic arranged a debate on human origins, the scientific versus the religious view. The debate went very well until Shaikh Buti arrived, with entourage. The cleric encouraged noisy religious chanting until the debate had been entirely disrupted, at which point he declared ‘this is a victory for belief over unbelief’ and had himself carried away on the shoulders of his admirers. A great victory indeed.

Throughout the Syrian uprising, Buti has told Syria’s Muslims to trust the regime that is murdering them. He has repeatedly condemned peaceful demonstrations for dignity and rights. He has accused the protestors who set out from Friday mosques of not knowing how to pray. I accuse Buti of not knowing how to think, or feel, and of having no moral sense. Yesterday, following the most savage massacres yet perpetrated by the regime, Buti released a ‘fatwa’ cancelling the taraweeh prayers which are held every evening during Ramadan. The truth could not be clearer: this ‘honest, fearless’ cleric is even willing to cancel prayers when he is ordered to by the state. He is to religion what Dunya TV and Syria Comment are to objective reporting; what the shabeeha are to domestic security. Many of Syria’s Christian leaders, meanwhile, have taken the most unChristian step of joining in state propaganda against unarmed Syrian citizens even as these citizens – of all sects – are tortured, maimed and humiliated.

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