Good Company

Edward Snowden has been awarded the Right Livelihood Award. Together with the Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger he will receive the Honorary Award. As to its founder, German-Swedish philantropist Jakob von Uexkull,

“The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to honour and support those ‘offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today’. It has become widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ and there are now 153 Laureates from 64 countries.

Presented annually in Stockholm at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award is usually shared by four Recipients. The prize money for each Laureate is 500,000 SEK (2013) but not always all Laureates receive a cash award. Often an Honorary Award is given to a person or group whose work the Jury wishes to recognise but who is not primarily in need of monetary support. The prize money is for ongoing successful work, never for personal use.”

Snowden is also nominated for the Peace Nobel Prize which he certainly won’t receive next month. The Norwegian Committee in Oslo under its chairman, former Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland, has completely discredited itself when awarding U.S. American President Barack Obama in 2009 after he had given a couple of speeches in a number of locations. The choice of the European Union two years ago was widely criticized as well.

Snowden joins a group of illustrious laureates, for example Petra Kelly (1982), Robert Jungk (1986), Hans-Peter Dürr and Mordechai Vanunu (1987), who holds a honorary doctorate at my current university; and more recently Daniel Ellsberg (2006) and Amy Goodman (2008).

24 September 2014 @ 5:31 pm.

Last modified September 24, 2014.

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Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria


“This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

When recently addressing the American people, to explain his long-awaited new strategy in the never-ending Global War on Terror, President Obama suggested that ISIS, or self-proclaimed Islamic State, a fast growing, murderous gang of between 20,000 and 31,500 Sunni jihadist outlaws operating in largely deserted areas of civil war-torn eastern Syria and northern Iraq, had threatened America. As far as we know, so far this “biggest terrorist threat” has not, apart from outrageous beheading two kidnapped journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, in front of a camera. The latter, Sotloff, had allegedly been “sold” by so-called moderate Syrian rebels to ISIS, what the White House immediately denied.

Obama’s “core principle”, which had manifested itself in numerous drone attacks in Yemen and Somalia, is claimed to be successful (“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years”), is mentioned to announce air strikes not only in northern Iraq but Syria as well, again in brazen violation of international law.

Then comes another, and, considering flow of weapons and defection, be it by choice or involuntarily, of “moderate” rebels, nothing than illusionary flash of inspiration.

“Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground.  In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces. [...] Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition.  Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters.  In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.  Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.” (Emphasis added.)

What follows is what would have been expected by any reasonable observer who, by no means, feels threatened by ISIS but relates most of what currently emerges in the Middle East to 24 years of war in Iraq and what the U.S. is going to leave behind after 13 years of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and the rest of the Middle East after the September 11 attacks.

“Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks.  Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East.  And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.”

It’s a pity that president Obama may not be able to “mobilize the international community” after relations with Russia have recently reached a new low. It takes certainly two to tango here. Strategic item number four is even more self-evident.

“Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization.  This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities.  We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.”

The incubator-lie-like propaganda machinery in recent weeks about ISIS’s atrocities apparently had a huge impact even on president Obama.

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality.  They execute captured prisoners.  They kill children.  They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage.  They threatened a religious minority with genocide.”

Just crocodile tears. Since 1980 (for thirty-four years), Iraq is at war after its dictator Saddam Hussein, once an ally of the U.S., did attack neighboring Iran. Sympathy waned when he did the same with Kuwait in 1990. What followed was four American presidents bombing Iraq. Probably hundreds of thousands killed, millions displaced. Tens of millions without a future. Once the cradle of civilization, now a devastated homeland.

Rather, reparations are due. Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, shirks responsibility. When he praises values and achievements of the American people claiming their superiority, he seems to forget that what is happening now in Iraq and Syria had long been expected, in one way or the other. A new order in the Middle East may in fact emerge but America which has caused the mess must not complain when it is not what it had once envisioned.

Rice new ME12 September 2014 @ 12:59 pm.

Last modified September 12, 2014.

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The Root of Evil

Arab Times

The on-video beheading of freelance reporter Steven Sotloff by the same murderer who had severed already the head of freelance photo reporter James Foley last month (I haven’t seen either but rely on respective news by mainstream media) has sparked even more worldwide abhorrence. The aim of these barbaric acts by criminals of a self-proclaimed “Islamic State”, IS or ISIS, seems to be clear, draw Barack Obama back into the Middle East for another military adventure in Syria/Iraq. As tragic these killings are, freelancers should know that they may meet their fate when reporting in war zones.

Having lived for couple of years in the Middle East, I wondered whether these beheadings were covered by Kuwaiti tabloid Arab Times. Well, they were. An AP note was repeated. No commentary, no comments (as usual, Kuwait has no free press or freedom of speech and if and when opinions in Arab Times are expressed names are usually “withheld”). 386 online viewers had read it. What is interesting is the list of “Similar Stories” in the column to the right. It is a massacre.

“Court jails 18 for ‘terrorism’ offences – Saudi Arabia beheads 3 convicted of murder. Saudi Arabia beheads Pakistani for Afghan’s murder. ‘4 beheaded corpses found in Egypt’s Sinai’. Four Saudis beheaded for drug trafficking. Two Saudis beheaded for murdering compatriots. Saudi beheads convicted Pakistani drug trafficker. Saudi beheads man for killing wife with axe. Saudi beheads Yemeni for rape and murder. Saudi beheads Nepali maid for toddler murder. Indonesia pays $1.8m to save maid. Saudi ‘beheads’ man for murder. …”

This goes on and on. Human Right Watch reported that, in a surge of beheadings in the period between 4 and 20 August, 19 delinquents were executed in Saudi Arabia. Offences that resulted in death penalties and resulted in subsequent beheadings ranged from drug trafficking to sorcery (sic!). (No mistake, any execution, including recent botched executions in the U.S. or public hangings in Kuwait, are absolutely inhumane and need to be sanctioned by all civilized nations).

As far as we know, IS is basically financed by super-rich private donors in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the latter being the main sponsor of Salafi jihadist terrorist groups including al-Qaeda. All autocracies are primary allies of the U.S. in the Middle East. Rather than retaliate militarily in an extremely uncertain endeavour, Obama is better advised to rethink the relationship with top sponsors of terrorism.

As for the Israel lobby, support for dubious allies in the Islamic world sooner or later backfires.

3 September 2014 @ 1:19 pm.
Last modified September 27, 2014.
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Elie Wiesel’s Turn

Wiesel's ad

In the midst of the current and ongoing assault on Gaza, chief holocaust industrialist Elie Wiesel had written an ad which has been run in major U.S. and U.K. news outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wallstreet Journal and The Guardian. The London Times had refused to print it. The ad was organized and paid for by This World: The Values Network, an organization founded by radical orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

After centuries if not millenia of anti-Semitic blood libel, Elie Wiesel’s ad starts with a similar accusation against Hamas: “Now it’s Hamas’ turn.” It is worth to quote from Wiesel’s essay at length.

“In my own lifetime, I have seen Jewish children thrown into the fire. And now I have seen Muslim children used as human shields, in both cases, by worshippers of death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites.

What we are suffering through today is not a battle of Jews versus Arab or Isreali versus Palestinians. Rather it is a battle between those who celebrate life and those who champion death. It is a battle of civilization versus barbarism.

“Moderate men and women of faith, whether that faith is in God or man, must shift their criticism from the Israeli soldiers – whose terrible choice is to fire and risk harming human shields, or hold their fire and risk the death of their loved ones – to the terrorists who have taken away all choice from the Palestinian children of Gaza.”

The emerging trend of blaming the victim sounds like Joseph Goebbels’ rant “Die Juden sind schuld!” some 73 years ago.

Palestinian medic tries to comfort a wounded boy at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip,

Luckily, fortyJewish holocaust survivors and 287 of their descendants stood up today. In an open letter they have condemned Israeli acts in Gaza and expressed disgust of Wiesel’s exploit of the holocaust.

“Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. ‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

In his explanation why Jews reject child sacrifice for more than 3500 years, Elie Wiesel consults Akedát Yitzḥák, one of the Bible’s numerous most disturbing legends, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:1-18). In order to test his loyalty, God demanded the sacrifice while Abraham apparently obeyed. He was only stopped by God’s angel. He did not reject the bizarre call, he apparently accepted it. Wiesel claims, in his ad, that with this narrative, “monotheism and western civilization begin[s].”

Well, when asked what he thought of western civilization, Mahatma Ghandi replied, “I think that would be a good idea.”

24 August 2014 @ 8:14 am.
Last modified August 24, 2014.
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Under Which Circumstances?

When Henk Zanoli yesterday returned to the Israeli Ambassador in The Hague, Haim Davon, his 2011 medal which asserts that he is one of the Righteous Among the Nations, conferred by holocaust museum Yad Vashem, I wondered under which circumstances the then 88 years old long retired Dutch attorney had actually been awarded, 68 years after he and his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, had sheltered and thus saved the life of Elchanan Pinto whose parents Had vanished in German concentration camps. Why he has now returned the medal has been widely reported. His greater family consisted of in-laws in Gaza, six of whom had been killed in the relentless shelling including deliberate careless targeting hundred of civilians during IDF Operation Protective Edge last month.

What is even more intriguing is, why did he accept it then, two years after Israel had been accused of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity in a similarly brutal assault called Operation Cast Lead, in the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, see [pdf]? Was it because Richard Goldstone had lopsidedly modified the previous conclusions of the UN Fact Finding Mission just a few months before Zanoli has received his award in 2011?

In the meantime, another assault on Gaza had been launched by IDF, in November 2012; the so-called Operation Pillar of Defense, with about 100 Palestinian civilial casualties. In his letter to the Israeli Ambassador Mr. Zanoli writes,

“After the horror of the holocaust my family strongly supported the Jewish people also with regard to their aspirations to build a national home. Over more than six decades I have however slowly come to realize that the Zionist project had from its beginning a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews. As a consequence, ethnic cleansing took place at the time of the establishment of your state and your state continues to suppress the Palestinian people on the West Bank and in Gaza who live under Israeli occupation since 1967. The actions of your state in Gaza these days have already resulted in serious accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity…The only way out of the quagmire the Jewish people of Israel have gotten themselves into is by granting all living under the control of the State of Israel the same political rights and social and economic rights and opportunities.” (Emphasis added.)

Amazing that Mr. Zanoli seems to support a one-state solution. As Juan Cole notes today,

“[His] endorsement of a one-state solution betrays his legal training. He is objecting to the Palestinians being stateless, and therefore lacking political, social and economic rights and opportunities. Populations that do not enjoy citizenship in a state lack, [...] ‘the right to have rights.’ It was the Nazi stripping of citizenship from German Jews that laid the groundwork for the Holocaust.”

A fair one-state solution may nor longer be possible after the numerous wars since 1948 and, in particular, 2002. It would rather be the apartheid state which, according to not just few, Israel is already.

The main questions remain, Why had Henk Zanoli been awarded 68 years after his admirable humanitarian act by the Yad Vashem museum and why had he accepted the medal in the first place? Amazing that Henk Zanoli had already been removed from Yad Vashem’s list of Righteous, see here.

16 August 2014 @ 12:30 pm.

Last modified August 19, 2014.

Posted in Israel, Palestine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments