The youth in Israel are raised to willingly and even proudly enlist in the army. I personally remember being promised by my high school teachers that if something happened to me, Israel wouldn’t forsake its “sons and daughters”. It’s been a while since I was in school, but nothing has changed:
[IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi] also told the troops that Israeli soldiers “must always remember that if anything happens to them, we will make sure they are returned to their families.”
I often ask myself how this can be said, when raising crops of gun-wielding robots is the main focus of the Israeli educational system. When you encourage me to enlist, do you not encourage me to die? When you encourage my parents to turn me over to the state’s care, for the sole purpose of enlisting, do you not encourage them to make the ultimate Abraham’s sacrifice? How do people get so crazy as to willingly sacrifice themselves for a “greater good” that they are constantly told is unattainable, because the other side is no partner?
Israeli media is finally starting to feel the pressure. These past two weeks, the news has been full of the issues that activists have been working hard for and paying with their freedom for. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is slowly making headlines, the Goldstone report has been on the Israeli mind all week and the issue I’d like to highlight today, has been gaining momentum: The Shministim.
Meet the Shministim
In Hebrew “Shministim” means “seniors”. Every high school senior, in Israel, gets their drafting order in the mail. On rare occasions, these seniors refuse on ethical grounds, becoming conscientious objectors. In Israel, conscientious objectors are jailed by the army. They serve up to 28 days (those refusing to wear an army uniform, during their jailing, are sent to solitary confinement), are released and jailed again, until the army agrees to discharge them.
Sometimes I toy with he idea of suing my government in international court. If you take a good look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you reach a firm conclusion that, inherently, conscription is in fact illegal (I skip articles 1, 2, 28, 29 and 30, as they are unavoidably violated if any of the others are):
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. [Art. 3]
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude [Art. 4 – a conscripted soldier earns the equivalent of $0.026 an hour (the army does provide certain services at the time of service, but I’ll leave it to you to refute this as slavery)]
No one shall be subjected to… degrading treatment… [Art. 5]
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement… within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own… [Art. 13 – a conscripted soldier must be at base at designated times, otherwise considered “absentee”, which is an offense punishable by prison time]
Communiste et Rastignac. Christopher Caldwell reviews Pierre Péan’s Le Monde selon K., a book about Bernard Kouchner’s particular contributions to the rise of the New Humanitarian Order, a phase of imperialist interventions that has deployed human rights as its preferred justification. (Also see my earlier post on Kouchner’s Zionist activism)
In mid-May, as the Sri Lankan army completed its rout of the Tamil Tigers, President Mahinda Rajapaksa described the scorched-earth campaign as ‘an unprecedented humanitarian operation’. Others were more inclined to see it as a calamity. Among them was the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who had travelled to Sri Lanka with David Miliband to argue, in vain, for a truce.
Rajapaksa’s remark was in one sense a tribute to how Kouchner has changed the world. It is Kouchner, more than anyone, who has eroded the distinction between philanthropy and combat. As a young gastroenterologist and self-described ‘mercenary of emergency medicine’, he helped launch Médecins sans frontières in the early 1970s. He broadcast the plight of the Vietnamese boat people in the late 1970s, advised Mitterrand in the 1980s, roused public indignation over events in Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, and served as interim governor of Kosovo after Nato’s attack on Serbia; more recently he has become the most prominent of several socialists in Sarkozy’s cabinet. Kouchner may not have invented the concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’, but he has been its symbol for decades.
The U.S. Empire of Bases — at $102 billion a year already the world’s costliest military enterprise — just got a good deal more expensive. As a start, on May 27th, we learned that the State Department will build a new “embassy” in Islamabad, Pakistan, which at $736 million will be the second priciest ever constructed, only $4 million less, if cost overruns don’t occur, than the Vatican-City-sized one the Bush administration put up in Baghdad. The State Department was also reportedly planning to buy the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel (complete with pool) in Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, to use as a consulate and living quarters for its staff there.
Unfortunately for such plans, on June 9th Pakistani militants rammed a truck filled with explosives into the hotel, killing 18 occupants, wounding at least 55, and collapsing one entire wing of the structure. There has been no news since about whether the State Department is still going ahead with the purchase.
Neil Clark has an article in The First Post warning of the neoconservative orientation of the inevitable Cameron led Tory government. The piece repeats similar arguments made by the author in the Guardian back in 2005. In my opinion Clark tends to overstate the neocon influence in the Conservative Party and exaggerate the divergence between the neocons and the more conventional right-wing Tories. After all, none of Cameron’s neocon friends have foreign policy related front bench posts, whilst those that do – William Hague and Liam Fox – are pro-war Atlanticists but not really neocons in the strict sense. Still it is worth reminding ourselves that the Henry Jackson Society neocons are as potentially dangerous as they are actually nauseating. Here is Clark’s article in full:
The Iraq war is widely discredited. George W Bush and Tony Blair are both out of office. Barack Obama has talked of a “new beginning” in his country’s relationship with the Islamic world. Surely it’s game over for the neocons, the small group of hardline hawks commonly held responsible for the US-led attack on Iraq in 2003?
Don’t bet on it. If, as bookmakers believe, an overall majority for the Conservatives in the next election is a racing certainty, then the proponents of ‘Shock and Awe’ will once again be back in the corridors of power in Britain.
To understand why the neocons would be in such a strong position if David Cameron does make it to Number 10, we need to go back to the autumn of 2005, the time of the last Conservative party leadership election.
Incidentally Cockburn has been criticized by Michael Parenti for his credulity in accepting the official narrative on the JFK assassination. Also, while its true that US support for the Afghan factions started before the Soviet invasion, it was rather meagre enough to be insignificant. The spike only came after Reagan had been in office for a year.
How long does it take a mild-mannered, antiwar, black professor of constitutional law, trained as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, to become an enthusiastic sponsor of targeted assassinations, “decapitation” strategies and remote-control bombing of mud houses the far end of the globe?
There’s nothing surprising here. As far back as President Woodrow Wilson in the early twentieth century, American liberalism has been swift to flex imperial muscle, to whistle up the Marines. High explosive has always been in the hormone shot. Continue reading “How Long Does It Take?”