A ‘new beginning will not be possible as long as we continue to spill the blood of the men, women, and children of Afghanistan,’ warns this message from notable American writers which appears in The Nation and the New York Review of Books..
Author: Idrees Ahmad
‘Friday’s airstrikes are evidence Obama will take the hard line he promised in Pakistan and Afghanistan,’ writes Juan Cole. ‘But he should remember what happened to another president who inherited a war’. Like most western commentators Cole reproduces uncritically claims about the deaths of ‘foreign fighters’ (unconfirmed, for the record). Pakistani officials are usually just as eager to conjure up foreign fighters in order to mitigate the backlash that the extrajudicial murder of innocent tribals would elicit.
On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered an Air Force drone to bomb two separate Pakistani villages, killing what Pakistani officials said were 22 individuals, including between four and seven foreign fighters. Many of Obama’s initiatives in his first few days in office — preparing to depart Iraq, ending torture and closing Guantánamo — were aimed at signaling a sharp turn away from Bush administration policies. In contrast, the headline about the strike in Waziristan could as easily have appeared in December with “President Bush” substituted for “President Obama.” Pundits are already worrying that Obama may be falling into the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam trap, of escalating a predecessor’s halfhearted war into a major quagmire. What does Obama’s first military operation tell us about his administration’s priorities?
This cowardly decision betrays the values the corporation stands for
Former BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn takes his former employer to task over its disgraceful acquiescence in Israeli efforts to withhold relief from Gaza’s long-suffering population.
On Tuesday, speaking from a pulpit in Westminster Abbey, the director general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, paid tribute to one of the corporation’s greatest journalists and broadcasters, Charles Wheeler, who died last summer at the age of 85.
Thompson spoke in reverential terms of Wheeler: his independence; his dislike of authority, any authority; his relentless search for the truth, in postwar Germany, in the United States of the 1960s and 1970s, LBJ, Vietnam, Nixon; in India, Kuwait, Kurdistan. Thompson was right. Wheeler was a giant among BBC journalists, rightly hailed as one of the best of his generation.
But even as Thompson spoke, the corporation was traducing every tradition that Wheeler, and many of us who still work for the BBC, have tried to live by. The corporation’s chief operating officer, Caroline Thomson, had refused to allow it to broadcast an appeal on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee for Gaza. She said that one reason was that “the BBC’s impartiality was in danger of being damaged”. Could the BBC be sure, she added, that money raised for this cause would find its way to the right people?
Continue reading “This cowardly decision betrays the values the corporation stands for”
Tony Benn Slams the BBC
Tony Benn slams the BBC’s ill-advised decision not to broadcast a Gaza Charity Appeal. He makes the appeal himself. And kudos to Benn for his refusal to reduce this to a mere humanitarian issue; as he points out, Hamas is the elected government of the Palestinian people.
The BBC refuses to broadcast Gaza charity appeal
The indispensable Media Lens has an important Rapid Response Media Alert. The BBC has already used your license fees to feed you foreign state propaganda, now it also wants you to be complicit in Israeli crimes. Don’t hesitate to register your protest.
Numerous members of the public have written to us expressing their bewilderment at the violence of Israel’s 22-day attack on Gaza killing upwards of 1,300 people and wounding 4,200. To many witnessing the onslaught on their TV screens (especially Al Jazeera) this appeared to be an act of state sadism.
Israeli forces repeatedly bombed schools (including UN schools), medical centres, hospitals, ambulances, UN buildings, power plants, sewage plants, roads, bridges and civilian homes.
On January 15, Helpdoctors.org reported that Al Quds hospital had been “again the target of bombing”. Some 50 patients, 30 in wheelchairs, fled as the burning hospital was “totally destroyed”.
Continue reading “The BBC refuses to broadcast Gaza charity appeal”
Rashid Khalidi on Gaza
I’m no big fan of Rashid Khalidi. He is a rather tame academic, not quite the fighter that Edward Said was. When in 2007 the London Review of Books organized a symposium in New York on the Israel Lobby, he, to the bemusement of his own debating partners, spent the better part of his time arguing against his own side. Like many veterans of the PLO, he remains too much of a Fatah man to be a spokesman for all Palestinians. He recently made comments during his trip to Egypt which could have come from Muhammad Dahlan’s script. However, now it appears even he is finding it hard to be a Fatah man. The following is a more nuanced analysis of the Gaza situation than his earlier words in Egypt but he takes a few disingenuous digs at Hamas all the same.
It is commonplace to talk about the ‘fog of war’, but war can also clarify things. The war in Gaza has pointed up the Israeli security establishment’s belief in force as a means of imposing ‘solutions’ which result in massive Arab civilian suffering and solve nothing. It has also laid bare the feebleness of the Arab states, and their inability to protect Palestinian civilians from the Israeli military, to the despair and fury of their citizens. Almost from the moment the war began, America’s Arab allies – above all Egypt – found themselves on the defensive, facing accusations of impotence and even treason in some of the largest demonstrations the region has seen in years. Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizbullah in Lebanon, reserved some of his harshest criticism for the Mubarak regime; at Hizbullah rallies, protesters chanted ‘Where are you, Nasser?’ – a question that is also being asked by Egyptians.
LRB contributors react to events in Gaza
Contributors to the London Review of Books — the best publication out there — react to events in Gaza.
A few weeks before the assault on Gaza, the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army published alevelheaded document on ‘Hamas and Israel’, which argued that ‘Israel’s stance towards the democratically-elected Palestinian government headed by Hamas in 2006, and towards Palestinian national coherence – legal, territorial, political and economic – has been a major obstacle to substantive peacemaking.’ Whatever their reservations about the organisation, the authors of the paper detected signs that Hamas was considering a shift of position even before the blockade:
It is frequently stated that Israel or the United States cannot ‘meet’ with Hamas (although meeting is not illegal; materially aiding terrorism is, if proven) because the latter will not ‘recognise Israel’. In contrast, the PLO has ‘recognised’ Israel’s right to exist and agreed in principle to bargain for significantly less land than the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it is not clear that Israel has ever agreed to accept a Palestinian state. The recognition of Israel did not bring an end to violence, as wings of various factions of the PLO did fight Israelis, especially at the height of the Second (al- Aqsa) Intifada. Recognition of Israel by Hamas, in the way that it is described in the Western media, cannot serve as a formula for peace. Hamas moderates have, however, signaled that it implicitly recognises Israel, and that even a tahdiya (calming, minor truce) or a hudna, a longer-term truce, obviously implies recognition. Khalid Mish’al states: ‘We are realists,’ and there is ‘an entity called Israel,’ but ‘realism does not mean that you have to recognise the legitimacy of the occupation.’ Continue reading “LRB contributors react to events in Gaza”
UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes
In the generally corrupt bureaucracy of the UN displays of principle and courage are often rare. Ever since the 60s , when decolonization around the globe turned the General Assembly into a more democratic forum, it has on occasion defied the reigning powers. This, however, has been neutralized through the Security Council and the ultimate in might-makes-right tools: the veto. If there is one body of the UN that has remained free of such pressures, its the UN’s Human Rights agency. The people often elected as rapporteurs are not career bureaucrats and hence are less constrained by the imperatives of advancement. That is why we have had such wonderful people like Richard Falk, Jean Ziegler, Mary Robinson et al defy the prevailing consensus and, to use the old cliche, speak truth to power. Joining their ranks is another distinguished name, Navi Pillay.
“Official calls for investigation into Zeitoun shelling that killed up to 30 in one house as Israelis dismiss ‘unworkable’ ceasefire”, The Guardian reports.
The United Nations‘ most senior human rights official said last night that the Israeli military may have committed war crimes in Gaza. The warning came as Israeli troops pressed on with the deadly offensive in defiance of a UN security council resolution calling for a ceasefire.
Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for “credible, independent and transparent” investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law, and singled out an incident this week in Zeitoun, south-east of Gaza City, where up to 30 Palestinians in one house were killed by Israeli shelling.
Pillay, a former international criminal court judge from South Africa, told the BBC the incident “appears to have all the elements of war crimes”.
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Another Chorister for Israel
Electronic Intifada, 6 January 2009; Counterpunch, 7 January 2009; Adbusters, January 2009; Arab Media Watch, 6 January 2009
On February 29 last year the BBC’s website reported that Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai had threated a ‘holocaust’ on Gaza. The story would undergo nine revisions in the next twelve hours with the original headline — “Israel warns of Gaza ‘holocaust'”– replaced by “Gaza militants ‘risking disaster’“. (The story has been revised again since then with an exculpatory note added to soft-pedal Vilnai’s comments). One can see why an Israeli threatening a ‘holocaust’ might be unpalatable to those who routinely invoke its spectre to deflect criticism from the Jewish state’s criminal behaviour. In a deft move, not only had the BBC redacted the reference to a ‘holocaust’, it also shifted culpability into the hands of the ‘Gaza militants’.
One could argue that the BBC’s radical alteration of the story reflects its susceptibility to the kind of inordinate pressure routinely brought to bear by the Israel Lobby. But, as subsequent examples reveal, this story is exceptional only for its initial candor. The norm is reflexive self-censorship. Continue reading “Another Chorister for Israel”