After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb

Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race
Steve Bell on the new nuclear arms race

The ‘international condemnation’ of North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday was severely lacking in credibility for its fantastical double-standards, writes Seumas Milne, who argues only radical disarmament can halt their spread.

Here in Scotland the SNP made an attempt to seek support from this same ‘international community’ to rid the country of its nuclear weapons, which are stored in a naval base on the River Clyde. In October 2007 First Minister Alex Salmond wrote to representatives of 189 countries signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, seeking ‘observer status’ as defence is not an area devolved to Holyrood. The renewal of the Trident missiles is set to run into the tens of billions over the next 20 years, with the parent Westminster government insisting this is a necessary “deterrent” to protect “national security interests”. Sadly the list of replies were published last summer showing there to be little international support for this brave move from a minority administration.

This example reflects Milne’s Guardian article nicely I think.

The big power denunciation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons test on Monday could not have been more sweeping. Barack Obama called the Hiroshima-scale ­underground explosion a “blatant violation of international law”, and pledged to “stand up” to North ­Korea – as if it were a military giant of the Pacific – while Korea’s former imperial master Japan branded the bomb a “clear crime”, and even its long-suffering ally China declared itself “resolutely opposed” to what had taken place. Continue reading “After Iraq, it’s not just North Korea that wants a bomb”

Why aid to Pakistan won’t make a difference

MIDEAST ISRAEL LOBBY CRITICS
Stephen Walt

Stephen Walt highlights why the House of Congress’ pledge of $1.5 billion per annum non-military aid for Pakistan isn’t going to do much to change the effect of disasterous American meddling.

At the New Yorker blog, Steve Coll reports that the U.S. Congress is preparing a five-year $1.5 billion per annum non-military aid package for Pakistan, with full support from the Obama administration. (You can read the text of the legislation, entitled the “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act,” here.)

This step sounds impressive, until one remembers that Pakistan’s population is nearly 180 million and its GDP in 2006 was about $144 billion. So the aid package amounts to around a 1 percent increase in Pakistani GDP, which works out to about $8 for each Pakistani. In other words, the U.S. Congress is going to increase their per capita income from $850 per year to about $858. (It’s actually less than that, because some of the money goes to administrative expenses, auditing, and the like.) Continue reading “Why aid to Pakistan won’t make a difference”

The Plot Against Hamas and Khalid Mishal

Khalid Mishal, leader of Hamas' political wing
Khalid Mishal, leader of Hamas' political wing

Paul McGeough’s Kill Khalid on the rise to prominence of the Hamas leader Mishal is examined in The London Review of Books this month. This astute analysis by Adam Shatz helps to dispel some of the myths propagated towards the Palestinian resistance group and its leader as a mindless Islamist entity hellbent on eradicating world Jewry, instead portraying Mishal as a shrewd realist politician. For instance, it is often circulated by Israel and its western backers that Hamas is “committed to the destruction of Israel”, making reference to its renowned 1988 charter. Much like the misquoted and possibly misinterpreted words attributed to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad towards Israel, the charter in fact makes calls to ‘raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine’, which certainly falls short of a complete annihilation of Jews in the region that is often suggested. However even if this early manifesto does imply such extreme measures, Shatz notes that its fails to reflect the contemporary thinking of the group, with Mishal reportedly viewing that particular article as an embarrassment. Other important aspects of the group (often absent in the rhetoric of the mainstream western narrative towards Israel-Palestine) is Mishal’s announcement in Mecca in 2007 that the group would be willing to begin negotiation over a peace settlement based on a pre-1967 borders two-state solution (which would not necessarily be the permanent solution). Another is and the offering of a ‘Hudna’, a truce lasting as long as 30 years. Although the Obama administration’s language has softened, the relative isolation towards Hamas remains. While Hamas retains such popular support amongst Palestinians in occupied lands, the legitimacy of any peace talks will be questionable.

In early September 1997, Danny Yatom, the head of Mossad, arranged a special screening for Binyamin Netanyahu, who was then prime minister. The film, shot on the streets of Tel Aviv, presented the plan for the assassination of Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau in Amman. Twenty-one Israelis had died in Hamas suicide attacks in the previous two months, and Netanyahu was eager for revenge. The peace process might be undermined, but that would be just as well: Netanyahu shared Hamas’s hostility to Oslo, and had compared trading land for peace to appeasement with Hitler. Mishal, Paul McGeough writes in Kill Khalid, his gripping account of the plot, was selected from a list of targets by Netanyahu not only because he was suspected of orchestrating the suicide bomb campaign, but because he made an articulate case for Hamas’s position, in a suit rather than clerical robes: ‘he was too credible as an emerging leader of Hamas, persuasive even. He had to be taken out.’ Continue reading “The Plot Against Hamas and Khalid Mishal”

Lieberman’s party proposes ban on Arab Nakba

As Palestinians mark Nakba Day to recognise the catastrophe of 1948, yet more evidence emerged of the racist nature of Israeli foreign minister Avignor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party. In a clearly provocative act they now want to ban the some 1.5 million Arabs within Israel from celebrating this day and would threaten anyone doing so with jail terms. This is nothing new for Lieberman and his mob who have openly called for Arab Israelis to swear allegiance oaths to the state and even “voluntarily forfeit” their citizenship in exchange for land. Such policies are clearly aimed at “transfering” the remaining Arabs that reside within Israel’s borders and finishing the job that the Zionist project started. To announce proposals on such a day should be roundly condemned for the grotesque insensitivity that they represent.

In another article in Haaretz , Palestinian participation in this day is trivialised and reduced with a cheap dig at the division between the two main political factions in the Palestinian territories: Hamas and Fatah. “Only 2000 turn out….for March held by Hamas” reads the headline, while the top line refers to the “dispersal” of Palestinians during the so-called “War of Independence”. However, not mentioned (which is noted in the Lieberman article), is that many ceremonies were in fact held a day early because May 15 falls on Friday, the Muslim day of rest. Why let this get in the way of having a dig at Hamas while downplaying the anguish that 61 years of injustice has already caused eh? The description of “dispersal” is also particularly euphemistic, as if the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians merely faded-away or quietly scattered from their villages, rather than the terrorization and intimidation that they were subjected to by Irgun and Haganah thugs.

Nakba remembered amid Gaza suffering

As ever Al Jazeera is one of the few media outlets which recognises that the narrative of the Jewish state began with an ethnic cleansing in 1948, which aimed to erase the history of an entire people and falsely create that of another. We hear how the Palestinian suffering caused during the Gaza war invokes memories of the first Nakba. “61 years and we are still waiting to return,” said one man displaced with his family in a makeshift tent. “Our grandfathers told us the stories about their catastrophe and sadly it is now our turn to tell our children and their children about our catastrophe.” One unfortunate note is that the journalist in the report refers to how hundreds of thousands of Palestinians “fled”, as opposed to being “expelled” by Israeli forces, as was ordered by the future Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Vodpod videos no longer available. 

Trivializing the Holocaust

The framing of Iran as an “existential threat” to Israel is shown up for the sham that it is in this critique by Israeli journalist Uri Avnery.

First of all, I want to apologize to all the good women who are engaged in the world’s oldest profession.

I recently described Shimon Peres as a political prostitute. One of my female readers has protested vigorously. Prostitutes, she pointed out, earn their money honestly. They deliver what they promise. Continue reading “Trivializing the Holocaust”

US: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Greatest Threat of All?

Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service give an insightful analysis of events in Washington over the past week. At the AIPAC conference Israel hawks espoused hyperbole towards the “existential threat” that Iran poses towards Israel in the fight to secure foreign policy agenda ahead of the more pressing ‘Af-Pak’ issue, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari conducted summit talks with President Obama.

WASHINGTON, May 10 (IPS) – A potentially major clash appears to be developing between powerful factions inside and outside the U.S. government, pitting those who see the Afghanistan/Pakistan (“AfPak”) theatre as the greatest potential threat to U.S. national security against those who believe that the danger posed by a nuclear Iran must be given priority.

The Iran hawks, concentrated within the Israeli government and its U.S. supporters in the so-called “Israel lobby” here, want to take aggressive action against Iran’s nuclear programme by moving quickly to a stepped-up sanctions regime. Continue reading “US: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Greatest Threat of All?”

The Left-Wing Media Fallacy

Excellent report by Media Lens on the myth of the institutional left-wing bias in the British media, citing Jeremy Bowen, the BBC, and ‘national treasures’ such as Channel 4’s Jon Snow.

It is a mistake to imagine that media corporations are impervious to all complaints and criticism. In fact, senior editors and managers are only too happy to accept that their journalists tend to be ‘anti-American,’ ‘anti-Israel,’ ‘anti-Western,’ indeed utterly rotten with left-wing bias.

In June 2007, an internal BBC report revealed that Auntie Beeb had long been perpetrating high media crimes, including: “institutional left-wing bias” and “being anti-American”. (‘Lambasting for the “trendy Left-wing bias” of BBC bosses,’ Daily Mail, June 18, 2007) Continue reading “The Left-Wing Media Fallacy”

Israel ‘using tourist sites to assert control over East Jerusalem’

The Judaisation of Jersusalem continues reports Rory McCarthy. Israel is using its well-known tactic of building tourist sites on falsified Jewish ‘historical spots’ to erase the past of the indiginous population. Unfortunately McCarthy’s own historical account of the Israel-Palestine conflict only starts with Israel’s annexation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, rather than extending back to 1948 with the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which would provide readers with the context required to understand how that same policy has continued since.

Israel is quietly extending its control over East Jerusalem in alliance with rightwing Jewish settler groups, by developing parks and tourist sites that would bring a “drastic change of the status quo in the city”, according to two Israeli groups.

Ir Amin, a group working for a shared Jerusalem, said the purpose of the “confidential” plan was to link up several areas of East Jerusalem surrounding the Old City with the goal of asserting Israeli control and strengthening its claim to Jerusalem as its capital city. Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, a move not recognised by the international community. Continue reading “Israel ‘using tourist sites to assert control over East Jerusalem’”

Afghans to Obama: Get Out, Take Karzai With You

Patrick Cockburn writes of the impotency of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s seven years in power. Karzai was at the State Department this week for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari to discuss a joint strategy against terrorism, though the visit was inconveniently soured by the killing of as many as 100 Afghan civilians or more by US military strikes. However awkward, Karzai refused to allow the this symbolic display of ‘unity’ pass by and expressed his gratitude for Clinton “showing concern and regret” and added that “we hope we can work together to completely reduce civilian casualties in the struggle against terrorism.” Yet on Friday he adopted a markedly different tone to the media and demanded an end to US air strikes. With elections looming clearly Karzai recognises the political implications of his past grovelling and schmoozing with the Americans. Biting the hand that feeds you springs to mind.

When President Hamid Karzai drove to Kabul airport to fly to America earlier this week, the centre of the Afghan capital was closed down by well-armed security men, soldiers and policemen. On his arrival in Washington he will begin two days of meetings, starting today, with President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari about their joint efforts to combat the Taliban. Karzai is also to deliver a speech at the Brookings Institution think tank on “effective ways of fighting terrorism.”

The title of his lecture shows a certain cheek. Karzai’s seven years in power since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 have been notable for his failure to prevent their resurgence. Suppose the president’s motorcade this week had taken a different route and headed, not for the airport, but for the southern outskirts of Kabul, he would soon have experienced the limits of his government’s authority. It ends at a beleaguered police post within a few minutes’ drive of the capital. Drivers heading for the southern provincial capitals of Ghazni, Qalat and Kandahar nervously check their pockets to make sure that they are carrying no documents linking them to the government. Continue reading “Afghans to Obama: Get Out, Take Karzai With You”