A Crucial Distinction

peter-gooderhamWhy exactly did Britain lead a walkout of the UN anti-racism conference yesterday? True to form, rather than focusing on the obvious issue of what was said in the speech, and why the protesting governments considered it so objectionable, the media focused on the narrow diplomatic issues raised by the walkout itself. On BBC Newsnight Jeremy Paxman interrogated the UK Ambassador to the UN in Geneva in his usual manner,  firing off innocuous questions masked in an aggressive and irreverent tone. First he why the UK government had attended the conference in the first place.  He later accused the Ambassador of playing into the hands of the wicked Ahmedinajed. “What you have done today is exactly what someone like President Ahmedinajed wants,” Paxman complained, “He’s won today.”

One section of the interview however was revealing:

Jeremy Paxman: What is the difference between Zionism and racism?

Peter Gooderham: Well we see the two as being quite distinct…

Jeremy Paxman: Yeah what’s the difference?

Peter Gooderham: Well Zionism is a political movement related to the establishment of a homeland…

Jeremy Paxman [quietly]: So are some forms of racism.

Peter Gooderham:…a Jewish homeland, in the er…in what is now Israel and racism is something else. I mean racism is, I think we all know it when we see it and it’s not, it’s not that, and we have fought long and hard at the United Nations to keep that, to maintain that distinction.

So there you go. Zionism is not racism because we know racism when we see it and it’s not that. Just like we know terrorism when we see it, and it’s not this.

Khmer Rouge & Cambodia

An interview with Noam Chomsky on the UN-sponsored war crimes tribunal in Cambodia. While much of the Western media hail the trials as a “landmark genocide tribunal” holding out “hope” for justice for the Cambodian people, the genocidal crimes of the Nixon-Kissinger administration are dispatched down the Memory Hole.

March27, 2009 — Top Khmer Rouge (KR) leaders are going on trial in Cambodia. You have some history with Cambodia and have written extensively on the KR. Do you believe a United Nations trial is the best way forward, or should it be left to the Cambodian people?

I think it should be left to the Cambodian people. I can’t imagine a UN, international trial. But then it shouldn’t be limited to the Cambodians – after all, an international trial that doesn’t take into account Henry Kissinger or the other authors of the American bombing and the support of the KR after they were kicked out of the country – that’s just a farce – especially with what we now know about the bombing of Cambodia since the release of the Kissinger-Nixon tapes, and the release of declassified documents during the Clinton years. There has been a very different picture of the scale and intensity of the bombing and the genocidal scale of it. For an international trial to omit this would be scandalous.

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UN report accuses Britain of condoning torture

A new report by UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin finds evidence of UK complicity in a wide range of grave human rights violations, including torture – the prohibition of which constitutes an “absolute and peremptory norm of international law.” The report is only the latest in a growing series of indictments against the criminal conduct of the British state.

Britain has been condemned in a highly critical United Nations report for breaching basic human rights and “trying to conceal illegal acts” in the fight against terrorism.

The report is sharply critical of British co-operation in the transfer of detainees to places where they are likely to be tortured as part of the US rendition programme.

The report accuses British intelligence officers of interviewing detainees held incommunicado in Pakistan in “so-called safe houses where they were being tortured”.

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UN World Conference Against Racism and the Israel Lobby

In mid-February Obama met with Jewish leaders to explain why the government had decided to participate in planning the “controversial” World Conference Against Racism.  The Haaretz reported that:

The closed-door talks were led by the White House and the State Department, according to the JTA, and the content of the meeting was off-the-record.

The meeting was held after the State Department sent a high-level team to an informal preparatory session in Geneva this week, but declared that a “change in direction” was required before it could commit to full participation in the April meeting.

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Israel May Escape War Crimes Charges

An interview with Phyllis Bennis, a fellow of both TNI and the Insitute for Policy Studies in Washington DC, on holding Israeli officials accountable for war crimes committed in Gaza.

IPS: What are the specific war crimes Israel is accused of committing?

PB: The Geneva Convention’s prohibitions against collective punishment, targeting civilians, and disproportionate military force were all violated, as was Geneva’s requirement that Israel provide medical care for the wounded. The use of sometimes-legal white phosphorous and DIME weapons was made illegal under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons by Israel’s decision to use them in densely-populated civilian neighbourhoods. Israel’s (and Egypt’s) denial of the Palestinian civilians’ right to flee to find refuge over Gaza’s borders may represent a newly-defined war crime.

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Aid reaching Gaza, but is it enough?

As only 100-120 aid trucks are allowed into Gaza per day by the Israeli and Egyptian authorities (compared to 500-600 before June 2007), the humanitarian situation remains critical. A brief report from UN OCHA:

Israel says 453 trucks entered Gaza 18-23 January, but only about half of them carried humanitarian aid – not nearly enough for 1.5 million Gazans, say UN agencies and international aid groups.

“The donors and the general public have mobilised from all over the world but the aid is stuck outside Gaza,” said John Ging, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza.

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Two Petitions

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing these petitions, and please pass the word on. The first is for British citizens and residents  only, and it calls for the UK to impose an arms embargo on the apartheid state. The second is for all nationalities, and it calls on the UN General Assembly to create a tribunal to try Zionist war criminals.

An Attack too Close to Home

More from Safa Joudeh who describes the targeting of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Headquarters and the evacuation of her home.

We WON’T be victimized: An attack too close to home

La Repubblica, January 17th 2009

I thought I was dreaming, or still hearing explosions. After all I’d only been asleep for an hour and a half, and it wasn’t far fetched that the tanks may be firing from outside our front door. Wednesday night into Thursday morning had seen the most intense bombardment of Gaza city so far, and last I’d heard before drifting off was that the Israeli forces had advanced as far as the end of our streets, into the Tel al Hawa neighborhood. They’d already seized buildings there, so what’s to prevent them from making their way a little further in.
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Al-Fakhoura School Bombed, 42 Killed, Including Children

From Juan Cole who later asks, why, if militants were firing from the school, would refugees be taking shelter there?  It is such an obvious, propaganda based, lie, a lie that has become a knee-jerk reaction from Israel.

In 1996, Israeli jets bombed a UN building where civilians had taken refuge at Qana in south Lebanon, killing 102 persons; in the place where Jesus is said to have made water into wine, Israeli bombs made children into blood. In the distant, picturesque port of Hamburg, a young graduate student studying traditional architecture of Aleppo saw footage like this on the news [graphic]. He was consumed with anguish and the desire for revenge. He immediately wrote out a martyrdom will, pledging to die avenging the innocent victims, killed with airplanes and bombs that were a free gift from the United States. His name was Muhammad Atta. Five years later he piloted American Airlines 11 into the World Trade Center.

On Tuesday, the Israeli military shelled a United Nations school to which terrified Gazans had fled for refuge, killing at least 42 persons and wounding 55, virtually all of them civilians, and many of them children. The Palestinian death toll rose to 660. The Israelis say they took fire from one of the schools. Was it tank fire?

You wonder if someone somewhere is writing out a will today.  Continue…

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