Mid-East

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More Juan Cole stuff this morning. He’s making a good argument that these new Obama administration airline passenger screening measures are casting too wide a net and will end up alienating people. Also, they tell al-Qaida which countries not to send bombers from. For example, Indonesia and India aren’t on the list. And why is Cuba on the list?

It’s hard to find a discussion of these issues on the American media which is so scared it might be called ‘liberal’ that it constantly bends over backwards to appease the republicans, who are mostly right wing now, with vanishing numbers of ‘moderates’. So, it was refreshing to hear, thanks to Juan Cole, a different analysis of these new screening measures brought to us by, yes, you guessed it, AlJazeeraEnglish.

Here’s a 24 minute video from AlJazeeraEnglish with the title, “Inside Story – New airline security measures: Safe or discriminatory? – 5 Jan 2009″

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIRp4qKp138[/youtube]

So, if Obama’s rhetoric is high minded and progressive, are his actions more like a continuation of George W. Bush’s policies? In other words, is Obama becoming W-ized?

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Juan Cole this morning displayed this article from the Sunday Times of London and suggested all his readers do the same. Here it is!

From The Sunday Times
January 11, 2009

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime

ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.

The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.

For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.

Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. Israel could have agreed to renew the truce with Hamas. Instead it killed 225 Palestinians on the first day of its attack. As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

Ian Brownlie QC, Blackstone Chambers

Mark Muller QC, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Michael Mansfield QC and Joel Bennathan QC, Tooks Chambers

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, University College, London

Professor Richard Falk, Princeton University

Professor M Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Chicago

Professor Christine Chinkin, LSE

Professor John B Quigley, Ohio State University

Professor Iain Scobbie and Victor Kattan, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Professor Said Mahmoudi, Stockholm University

Professor Max du Plessis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College

Professor Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University

Professor Thomas Skouteris and Professor Michael Kagan, American University of Cairo

Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University

Daniel Machover, Chairman, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Dr Phoebe Okawa, Queen Mary University

John Strawson, University of East London

Dr Nisrine Abiad, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Dr Michael Kearney, University of York

Dr Shane Darcy, National University of Ireland, Galway

Dr Michelle Burgis, University of St Andrews

Dr Niaz Shah, University of Hull

Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer

Prof Michael Lynk, The University of Western Ontario

Steve Kamlish QC and Michael Topolski QC, Tooks Chambers

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Oh, who cares what Dennis says? But, hey, they gave him a whole minute here.

He does point out that the US gave Israel all those weapons only on condition that they not be used for aggression. Oh, but isn’t Hamas the aggressor? Depends how you define the word “aggressor”.

Watch this and you get a chance to see Bush telling a joke at the end. It’s really funny! Check it out.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy-60zSKiGE&[/youtube]

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550 to 5!

Who is ahead? Who’s on first base? 550 people killed in Gaza versus 5 in Israel. Those poor Israelis!

The New York Times has an editorial, Incursion Into Gaza, this morning which many find sadly out of touch. I’ve been reading the comments and have selected two, the first from Valenciennes, France, the second from Chicago, Illinois, which capture my views better than I myself might express them.

Are you joking? How can you honestly report these opinions? Essentially, what I gather from this article is “Well, Israel has killed an obscenely disproportionate amount of people, but now it’s time to use caution. But only if Hamas rocket fire stops.”

Why does no one speak of the cause for this rocket fire? Namely, the humanitarian crisis imposed on Gaza by the Israeli blockade. Food shortage. Mass unemployment. Blame Hamas, blame Palestine, but facts are facts. People are starving. Children are starving. There’s sewage in the streets. And now people and children are dying by the hundreds. Hospitals don’t have NEARLY the capacity or the medicine. And even if they did, there’s no electricity or running water.

That’s not to say that I support Hamas’s rocket fire. I think it’s counterproductive, stupid, and wrong, and it should be stopped.

We often hear about Israelis in Sderot developing trauma related disorders. A few days ago I heard a story about a young Palestinian boy, 14 years old, in the Gaza strip. He died of shock. Had a heart attack. A 14 year old boy.

Please, NY times, please reconsider

— Ed Caddell, Valenciennes, France


The Times has waited for several days before sharing its “wisdom” on Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and out popped a mouse. It would have been better not to say anything.

First, what is an “incursion”? Israel has invaded Gaza, and even the Times is forced to admit the gross disparity in death (550 Palestinians and 5 Israelis), although it mentions not the destruction, wounded, threats to public health, etc, to the Palestinians. Nor does it mention ambulances being destroyed, medical personnel being killed, assassinations, etc., all by the Israelis. Where I come from, that’s called “terrorism.”

Where is the demand that Israel cease and withdraw immediately–and more importantly, where it the demand that the United States cut off all funding to Israel? As long as the US gives a blank check to the Israelis, no possible just solution can emerge.

This is not to say Hamas have been saints. Rocketing Israeli civilians is not acceptable. Period.

But let’s recognize that Hamas is an Israeli invention, initially intended to undercut the sectarian PLO. Oops. And when Hamas competed in democratic elections, Israel and the United States rejected the outcome–we didn’t like the outcome.

Israel has created the world’s largest prison, and just cannot understand why human beings wouldn’t like being forced to live in those conditions.

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has failed for 60 years–or more. It’s clear that more repression will not work.

Israelis won’t be safe until the Palestinians are safe. The Palestinians won’t be safe until they have true equality with the Israelis; where the Israelis don’t have power over the Palestinians.

Any “solution” that does not address the extreme power differential is a joke, whether by the Bush Administration of the new Obama Administration. And only hinders a real solution that is just for both sides.

But the Times’ complicity in covering up the atrocities, and blaming Hamas for ordering those Israeli tanks and aircraft to attack, is beyond despicable.

— Kim Scipes, Chicago

Well, maybe Obama can get them all to sit down in a room together and talk, talk, talk, until a solution is reached, and then talk, talk, talk some more until the solution is refined and peace is achieved. Simple? Take a century? Maybe.

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Bloody Gaza

I found this on Juan Cole. It’s an interview with a Norwegian physician on the scene in Gaza. Believe it or not, it was done by CBS News.

Watch it and blame it on Hamas! Hey, that’s what Bush does as well as most of our media.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ev6ojm62qwA&eurl=http://www.juancole.com/&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

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Juan Cole tells it the way it is. Here’s his last paragraph:

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.

UPDATE: I keep hearing in our MSM that Hamas must stop its rocket attacks on Israel. It’s interesting that the first Israeli killed by a rocket from Hamas since the June ceasefire was killed after the Israeli’s launched their attack on Saturday. Now Hamas is launching mortars and rockets towards the Israeli towns. This is happening in response to the Israeli attacks, not the other way around. The only Democrat who is pointing this out is, of course, Denis Kucinich.

A Little Background: A disaster was waiting to happen, and no-one was doing much about it. There was of course a date for the end of the ceasefire – December 19th. As that date approached both sides sought to improve their relative positions, to test some new rules of the game. Israel conducted a military operation on November 4th (yes, you had other things on your mind that day), apparently to destroy a tunnel from which an attack on Israel could be launched, Hamas responded with rocket-fire on southern Israeli towns. That initiated a period of intense Israeli-Hamas dialogue, albeit an untraditional one, largely conducted via mutual military jabs, occasional public messaging and back-channels. Again though the main reliance was on Egypt – by now in an intense struggle of its own with Hamas. When Hamas pushed the envelop with over 60 rockets on a single day (December 24th), albeit causing no serious injuries and mostly landing in open fields (probably by design), Israel decided that it was time for an escalation. That happened today [Dec. 27] – on a massive scale – with an unprecedented death toll.

Robert Fisk

Here’s a cell phone video:

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Hey! Barack! Thanks for bringing the rest of your family!!
Now we’re gonna see some changes down in DC! Way to go!

A friend of mine of Middle East extraction sent me this photo. Good, huh?
:mrgreen: 😈 😯 😛 😛 😛

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What is the story on Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT grad who may have been imprisoned at Bagram, that notorious American detention facility in Afghanistan, for the past five years?

Siddiqui is a 36-year old Pakistani woman who when young was sent to America by her father, along with her two siblings, for education. But in 2003 while she was living in Karachi, Pakistan, with her parents and three children she suddenly disappeared. She was arrested on July 17 of this year on false charges, according to her lawyer, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, who says she has proof that Siddiqui was being held at Bagram Air Base for the past five years.

Sharp also says Siddiqui appears traumatized, is very passive, and is “like a person who has been excessively institutionalized.” I got this information from this NPR article. Eric Alterman has further details and links here. Particularly interesting is the investigation by Tim Bella at ProPublica, Mystery Surrounds Case of Terror Suspect. Here is a 3-minute video, The Case Against Aafia Siddiqui, from Aug 6, 2008, on AlJazeera:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMcJr0NbzNA[/youtube]
I doubt there is anything like this in the American media.

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Juan Cole posts a great visual history of Middle Eastern empires beginning about 1800 BC. This is the YouTube version of the Maps of War with a neat musical accompaniment add-on:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv22Iz9qJCE[/youtube]


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The above poem, Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley is perhaps appropriate, as Juan points out.

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The Embassy

Green grass, then tons of concrete. Yup, it’s the massive US embassy in Iraq under construction.

My buddy Juan Cole links to the following piece today: Abuse of workers building U.S. embassy in Iraq is alleged. Here’s his comment on that story:

Allegations are being made that the foreign workers building the massive US embassy in Baghdad have in some cases been Shanghaied (told they were going to Dubai but then taken to Baghdad instead) and, once in Iraq, have been abused. The charges are against the Kuwaiti contractor supplying the workers to the US government. It has been alleged before that forms of corporate slavery have underpinned some of the private contract work done in Iraq.

UPDATE 7/29/2007: Video testimony of medic Rory Mayberry from blog of Juan Cole this morning:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evRPwwyno_c[/youtube]

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