Striking the Right Balance – BBC Style

Just heard this extract from BBC Radio 4’s World this Weekend aired on Sunday via a listeners complaint read out on the Feedback programme today.

Shaun Ley: The World This Weekend, this is Shaun Ley. Hello. Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has used a news conference this lunchtime to describe his re-election as President of Iran as an epic moment.  There have been more protest by opposition supporters and criticisms from Iran’s neighbours.

Daniel Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel: It is now high time for the international community to stop immediately the very dangerous and relentless campaign of Iran to achieve nuclear capabilities.

That’s the view from Israel. We’ll be hearing a US perspective and the son of the former Shah joins me live.

Its a good example of how the selection of expertise on the BBC frames its news and current affairs output. As the listener pointed out in his complaint, none of Iran’s actual neighbours were in fact consulted by the programme. Only Israel, the US and the son of its former puppet.

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”

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”

Blood and Religion

To add to my earlier comments about Jonathan Cook, here is a video interview in which he discusses his book Blood and Religion: Unmasking the Jewish and Democratic State. His focus is on those Palestinians who hold Israeli nationality. Their plight illustrates problems at the heart of Zionism which the two-state solution can do nothing to solve. A good source of video interviews, documentaries and reportage from Palestine can be found at Palestine Video.

Hollywood’s New Censors

John Pilger describes how censorship in Hollywood works in the age of the ‘war on terror’. Unlike the crude days of the cold war, it’s by omission and ‘introspective dross’.

When I returned from the war in Vietnam, I wrote a film script as an antidote to the myth that the war had been an ill-fated noble cause. The producer David Puttnam took the draft to Hollywood and offered it to the major studios, whose responses were favourable – well, almost. Each issued a report card in which the final category, “politics”, included comments such as: “This is real, but are the American people ready for it? Maybe they’ll never be.”

Continue reading “Hollywood’s New Censors”

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”.

Continue reading “UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes”

Israel continues attacks on UN


Israel widens its ongoing war on the UN in Gaza while the USA continues to hamstring the organisation.

The main UN aid agency in the Gaza Strip said today that it was suspending operations after an Israeli tank shell hit one of its convoys during the ceasefire period, killing two drivers.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made the announcement as the death toll from Israel’s war on Hamas shot up to 763 after new raids and dozens of bodies were found during a suspension in Israel’s bombing.

“UNRWA decided to suspend all its operations in the Gaza Strip because of the increasing hostile actions against its premises and personnel,” Adnan Abu Hasna, the agency’s Gaza-based spokesman, said.

Richard Miron, a UN spokesman, said the Israeli army had been notified in advance about the UNRWA convoy, which was hit as it approached the Erez crossing with Israel. Two Palestinian forklift drivers were killed.

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