History will not be kind to the Syrian regime…

The great Palestinian philosopher and former MK Azmi Bishara on the Syrian revolution.

1) Let’s suppose that impoverishment of the people and the suppression of their freedoms are marginal when placed in the context of a grander goal, such as defending the homeland. That would only make sense, however, during limited periods of time, such as during wars. Anyway, such claims do not justify the way in which the people have to share out the misery between them, while the rulers enjoy the riches. Nor does such sloganeering justify the institutionalized, systematic denial of the rights of their people. There is no justification for the tyranny and corruption of the rulers, and their appropriation of the fruits of the masses’ labour. Trying to exploit a cause held dearly by both the people and the regime to achieve this is the beginning of demagoguery, and it is a tool used solely to preserve the existence of the corrupt, tyrannical regime. None of this, of course, takes away from the righteousness of the cause being exploited, but it does serve to bestow legitimacy on an illegitimate regime. Rebellion against this tyranny will necessarily place the removal of that regime as its first target, but the sanctity of the just causes which the regime exploits must also be preserved. This applies when the question comes to US plans to dominate our region, seeking to design the policies of Arab states with Israeli interests at heart, as well as the question of Palestine and the duty to resist the occupation at every turn.

2) No people, anywhere in the world, would accept torture, false imprisonment, financial corruption and the muzzling of the media for generation after generation, regardless of the justification. Nor does anybody to have the right that those being persecuted remain quiet for the sake of grander concerns, without hopes for a change, all to placate commentators who seem to think that the suffering of the people is secondary to the “Central Question”, especially as all the evidence that no progress on that same “Central Question” in the first place.

Continue reading “History will not be kind to the Syrian regime…”

Slumdogs vs. Millionaires: Rural Distress in the Age of Inequality

On 18 July 2012, P. Sainath talked about “Slumdogs vs. Millionaires” at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) of Göttingen University. P. Sainath is a distinguished journalist and critical observer of society and politics in today’s India. He is Rural Affairs Editor at the English-language newspaper “The Hindu”, but also publishes extensively in other media worldwide.

What happened in Houla?

On May 25, when regime militias entered the town of Houla and carried out a gruesome massacre killing 108, including 49 children, something very strange happened. Despite the fact that Channel 4 had entered the town the very next day and collected on-camera testimonies from survivors, reactionary outfits like MediaLens, media watchdogs like FAIR, and some left luminaries, including our friend Tariq Ali, started blaming the victims. There is no reason why official stories shouldn’t be doubted, but given the heinous nature of the crime, one would expect greater care with regard to evidence. As it happened, all of them were relying on a single article appearing in a German publication, written by an author who never visited Houla or met a survivor. This was no innocent mistake: it was pointed out to both Medialens and FAIR that their source was dubious and its claim highly questionable. The source was discredited soon afterwards, and Der Spiegel and the UN have since both confirmed the original reports. Neither Medialens nor FAIR has apologized. Here meanwhile is Al Jazeera’s investigation into the massacre.

On May 25, 2012, the once serene region of Houla in Syria became the scene of events that shocked the world – the massacre of around 100 civilians, almost half of them children. The Syrian regime blamed the massacre “terrorist” groups, but this investigation paints a different picture.

America’s Voices in Israel: Celebrities on the Oil Trail

  This is what sexist whitewashing of military occupation looks like: AnnaLynne McCord on tour with America’s Voices in Israel as displayed by the official IDF Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/7159040848/
This is what sexist whitewashing of military occupation looks like: AnnaLynne McCord on tour with America’s Voices in Israel as displayed by the official IDF Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/7159040848/

Celebrities embody a unique and very emblematic space in the capitalist system in which they are both human individuals and a brand name at the same time. They often endorse products and services they enjoy. Of course, one would be naive to assume that their enjoyment of these products and services and consequent endorsement is an organic process. Understanding the leveraging power of the celebrity status, corporations woo big name actors and musicians with thousands of dollars worth of sample gift baskets and free services, hoping the celebrity would tie their brand name with the corporation’s brand name.

The problem with this system, as is common with capitalism, is that in the majority of cases the celebrities don’t check the label, so to speak, and often endorse corporations which abuse the environment, animals and humans. As always, I’ll be tying this with the brand name that is no exception to capitalist brutality: Brand Israel.

Israel’s Tourism Industry and the American Celebrity

In May of this year a group of TV celebrities was brought to Israel via America’s Voices in Israel. The group included AnnaLynne McCord

Continue reading “America’s Voices in Israel: Celebrities on the Oil Trail”

Gore Vidal on the Republic and its Fall

The best interview with the late Gore Vidal that I’ve heard so far. Unsurprisingly it comes from the inimitable Christopher Lydon of Radio Open Source.

Having read all the Gore Vidal obits and the many more-and-less grudging encomia, I find the man himself at very near his best in my own conversational files — from an evening at Harvard just before Thanksgiving in 2003, on the occasion of his publishing Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams and Jefferson. He’d walked into the hall slowly, on a cane, that night, but his chatter was was crackling with fresh mimicry and mischief. (Two nights earlier, his reward at a joint reading in Provincetown was discovering that ancient nemesis Norman Mailer was getting around on two canes.) Great entertainer and great complainer, Vidal at 78 came through as passionate historian and erudite old comic who could still fill the house, and whose repartee was not all repertoire.

Why Afghanistan Can’t wait

by Kathy Kelly and Dr. Hakim

Ali and Abdulhai

Two days ago, we spent three anxious hours in an outer waiting area of the “Non-Immigrant Visa” section of the U.S. consulate here in Kabul, Afghanistan, waiting for our young friends Ali and Abdulhai to return from a sojourn through the inner offices where they were being interviewed for visas to come speak to audiences in the United States.

They are members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers and have been invited to travel with the U.S.-Mexico “Caravan  for Peace” that will be touring the United States later this summer.  We didn’t want to see their hopes dashed, and we didn’t want to see this opportunity lost to connect the experiences of poor people around the world suffering from war. The organizers of the Caravan envision and demand alternatives to the failed systems of militarized policing in the terrifyingly violent, seemingly endless U.S.-Mexico drug war. They want to connect with victims of war in Afghanistan especially since, as the top producer of opium and marijuana in the world, Afghanistan has a failing war against drugs as well.

It’s an unprecedented invitation, at a desperately crucial human moment.

Continue reading “Why Afghanistan Can’t wait”

Controlling the web

From the new season of Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines.

In January 2012, two controversial pieces of legislation were making their way through the US Congress. SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, the Protect Intellectual Property Act, were meant to crack down on the illegal sharing of digital media. The bills were drafted on request of the content industry, Hollywood studios and major record labels.

Continue reading “Controlling the web”

White Light / Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

White Light / Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

“This is the story of the only people to have survived a nuclear attack.”

Continue reading “White Light / Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”

Hiroshima

8:15 am tomorrow will be 67 years since the bombing of Hiroshima. To mark the occasion we are publishing the classic piece by John Hersey which was rated by a hundred US editors and journalists as the greatest work of 20th century journalism. [you’ll have to scroll down to p.5 to start reading].


Continue reading “Hiroshima”