What Some Indians Learn about the Middle East in their Textbook

One of the main homegrown board exams in India is the CISCE (Council for the India School Certificate Exams). The eleventh and twelfth standard years require students to study both Indian and global history. While the syllabus doesn’t stipulate which textbook teachers should adopt, many high schools in India seem to use Norman Lowe’s Mastering Modern World History. What the syllabus does delineate is the particular periods or events in history that students should cover in these grades. Of course, how any given teacher chooses to approach the textbook or the syllabus will vary.

Over the course of two years, students learn about the following main events:

1. World War One (with some emphasis on colonialism and imperialism)

2. The Great Depression and Roosevelt’s New Deal

3. The Development of Communism (USSR and China)

4. Japan’s Parliamentary Democracy

5. Fascism and Nazism

6. The Collapse of International Order

7. World War Two (which covers some theatres of war most students don’t learn about, like battles between the Allies and Axis in Egypt, but much of the war’s relationship to Indians and Indian soldiers, like Churchill’s man-made famine, is covered in Indian history not in the world history section)

8. Post World War Two and the Cold War

9. The Middle East

It is this last section that I will explore here as there are some serious problems with Lowe’s text (at least the third edition, published in 1997, which is the one I’ve read) as it attempts to cover West Asia. Although it should be said that the absence of lessons about Africa and Asia more generally–especially given India’s relationship to these places, for example forced migration and labour under the British that affected relations between East Africans and Indians–are troubling. One would hope that a post-independence syllabus would explore not focus so much on imperial and neocolonial powers and their history to the exclusion of the global south. To know further details, follow links embedded in the lines below.

As for the Middle East the ISC syllabus detains what students should know after studying this unit:

(i) Post War conflict in Palestine after World War I, till the formation of the state of Israel. A brief background of Arab nationalism and Zionism in the late 19th century. Impact of World War I: the conflicting promises made to the Arabs, the Jews (Balfour Declaration) and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. All these need to be understood clearly. A general outline of events from 1919 to the Arab Revolt of the late 1930s (the increased immigration of Jews under the mandate and the resultant conflict). The impact of World War II and the intensification of the conflict against Britain’s decision to withdraw – the UNO’s plan. Creation of Israel and the War of Liberation (a chronological account should suffice here).

(ii) The Arab-Israeli Wars from 1948 to Camp David Accord. The following conflicts should be studied – (1948-1949), the Suez Crisis (1956), the Six Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), Sadat and the Camp David Accord (1979). For each of these events, the causes and results should be done in some detail. Events to be done very briefly.

(iii) The war in Lebanon. A general account of the war.

There are some distinct problems with the language in this description, which appears to give a so-called balanced view between the British-Zionist colonial project and the indigenous Arab population of the region. Yet the language betrays this illusion by calling the nakba (the catastrophe that befell Palestinians when they were expelled from their land and massacred by Zionist forces) “the war of Liberation”. Additionally, the 1973 war is identified as “the Yom Kippur War”, even though a neutral party would call it the October War (it is also known as the Ramadan War).

It is also striking to see such language given the aims for the course that the syllabus states:

5. To develop the capacity to read historical views in the light of new evidence or new interpretation of evidence.

7. To encourage diminution of ethnocentric prejudices and to develop a more international approach to world history.

8. To develop the ability to express views and arguments clearly using correct terminology of the subject.

9. To familiarise candidates with various types of historical evidence and to provide some awareness of the problems involved in evaluating different kinds of source materials.

These goals are important to keep in mind as one reads through and evaluates Lowe’s textbook. The chapter in his book on the Middle East is called “Conflict in the Middle East”, already setting up a particular way of viewing the region as if fighting of some kind or the other is intrinsic to the place.  He begins by defining the geographical region and the states it includes before explaining Israel’s placement in the region:

The Middle East also contains the small Jewish state of Israel which was set up by the United Nations in 1948 in Palestine. The creation of Israel in Palestine, an area belonging to the Palestinian Arabs, outraged Arab opinion throughout the world…. (221)

Israel is the only state that gets the adjective “small” to describe it even though states like Lebanon are smaller. This is one of the oldest Zionist tactics–to emphasise the size of Israel in order to suggest its vulnerability.

The introduction continues by continuing to highlight Arab sentiments about the Jewish state:

The Arab states refused to recognize Israel as a legal state and they vowed to destroy it. Although there were four short wars between Israel and the various Arab states (1948-9, 1956, 1967 and 1973), Arab attacks failed, and Israel survived. The Arab desire to destroy Israel tended for much of the time to overshadow all other concerns. (221)

This a-contextual summary of the region spends a great deal of energy characterising Arab people as if there are no distinctions among the various peoples and cultures or the regimes governing them (they are all stubborn: “refused”; violent: “destroy”). The book treats all “wars” the same even though the nakba in 1948 was certainly not one and in 1956 and 1967 Israel instigated those wars.

Lowe feigns neutrality by illustrating that viewing history is subjective, without, of course, revealing his point of view:

Interpretations of the Middle East situation vary depending on whose viewpoint one looks at. For example, many British politicians and journalists regarded Colonel Nasser (Egyptian leader 1954-1970) as some kind of dangerous fanatic who was almost as bad as Hitler. On the other hand, most Arabs thought he was a hero, the symbol of the Arab people’s move towards unity and freedom.

To be sure, nowhere in the book does Lowe make a similar statement about Winston Churchill. Indeed, elsewhere in the book, he never suggests that Churchill is anything other than a statesman valiantly fighting the Axis powers. By omitting anything about his role in creating and exacerbating the Bengal famine, Lowe secures Churchill’s position in a Eurocentric version of history. Meanwhile, the mere suggestion of Nasser’s comparison to Hitler helps readers, if reading chronologically will have just finished learning about World War Two, to equate the two leaders. Moreover, throughout the book Lowe never refers to Nasser as President. He only ever calls him “Colonel”, as if to suggest he was a military dictator. Of course, nowhere in the book does Lowe intimate that one might have a different point of view about Palestine or Israel.

In the next section of the book Lowe begins with a factual error, one that conveniently feeds into a Zionist tactic of making the world seem as if there is a battle between Jews and Muslims:

They all speak the Arabic language, they are all Muslims (followers of the religion known as Islam, except for about half the population of Lebanon who are Christian and most of them wanted to see the destruction of Israel so that the Palestinian Arabs could have back the land which they feel is rightfully theirs. (223)

First of all, Arabs belong to several religious groups although most are Muslim (Sunni and Shi’a) and Christian. But there are also Druze, Baha’i, Alawis, and Jews. By Jews I mean Arab Jews who have always lived in the Arab world (as opposed to the European Zionists who worked with the British to colonise Palestinian land). And while it is probably true that most Arabs wanted to see Palestinians rightfully returned to the land from which they were forcibly expelled, without understanding that there was a planned expulsion (known as Plan Dalet), to remove the Palestinians by destroying their villages and massacring innocent civilians, one would likely form a negative opinion about Arab people. It would be like saying that freedom fighters in India–whether Vinayak Savarkar, Subhas Chandra Bose, or Mohandas Gandhi–wanted to destroy the British without ever explaining what the British had subjected Indian people to through the course of their empire. Finally, the use of the word “feel” in the last sentence above–one that Lowe uses quite a bit to describe goals of Arab people, but not Israelis–suggests that it’s merely an emotional attachment to their land or homes and not a legal right. He fails to mention the fact that many Palestinians retain title deeds (some of which are also in Turkey in various archives) to their land and homes. Ironically, it is the Zionist Jews who “feel” that Palestine belongs to them–not the other way around.

When Lowe describes what he calls “interference in the Middle East by other countries”, he leaves quite a bit out, including the Sykes-Picot agreement:

Britain and France had been involved in the Middle East for many years. Britain ruled Egypt from 1882 (when British troops invaded it) until 1922 when the country was given semi-independence under its own king. However, British troops still remained in Egypt and the Egyptians had to continue doing what Britain wanted. By the Versailles Settlement at the end of the First World War, Britain and France were given large areas of the Middle East taken from the defeated Turks, to look after as mandates…Although Britain gave independence to Iraq (1932) and to Jordan (1946), both remained pro-British. France gave independence to Syria and Lebanon (1945) but hoped to maintain some influence in the Middle East. (223)

Once again, it is through his diction that Lowe misleads readers. He accurately states that Britain “invaded” Egypt, but it’s an aside–as if it is not as important as the fact of them ruling that country. It also doesn’t attribute any responsibility to France or Britain for their unilateral take over of land and makes it seem like it’s benign–they “look after” these countries and “gave” them independence. The fact that some Arab countries maintain strong relations with Britain or France is not contextualised either and thus it merely gives credence to the illusion that Britain and France was just a kind, if paternalistic, overseer, taking care of things until they were capable of independence. In reality, both countries partitioned the region and divvied it up between themselves, with careful attention paid to borders that would likely cause future problems so that they could maintain their control. This is especially ironic given U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s speech about nations having the right to self determination just a short time before carving up West Asia. Moreover, this partition ignored promises the British made to Arabs in the region who fought on behalf of the British during World War One in exchange for help creating their own independent states. Instead, the British installed puppets who could be relied upon to uphold British policy in the region.

A theme perpetuated throughout the chapter is that Arabs lacked unity, but it never says why because that would implicate the British and French colonial powers for using divide and rule tactics to maintain that instability. Similarly, the book continues with its negative characterisation of Arab states by saying:

Most of the Arab states had nationalist governments which bitterly resented Western influence. one by one, governments which were thought to be too pro-West were swept away and replaced by regimes which wanted to be non-aligned; this meant being free to act independently of both East (communist bloc) and West. (224).

The desire to be nationalistic and also not under the thumb of another nation should make sense to most Indians; and of course India occupied a similar position during this same period. To make sure readers don’t think this is a positive trait in a state, the tone here is quite negative. One by one Lowe moves on to illustrate how such regimes fell starting with Egypt:

At the end of the Second World War, British troops stayed on in the canal zone (the area around the Suez Canal). This was to enable Britain to control the canal, in which over half the shares owned by the British and French. (224)

Lowe continues explaining how army officers, led by Gamal Abd el Nasser, nationalised the Suez Canal for the Egyptian people. But his language, Egypt “seized power”, makes it seem as if that power didn’t belong to them. Nowhere is any mention of the British desire to create or maintain this canal because of its colonial holdings around the globe, which were also quickly decolonising–especially across Africa as many people across the continent were inspired by Nasser.

For Jordan, Lowe offers little to no context for King Abdullah’s overthrow:

King Abdullah had been given his throne by the British in 1946. He was assassinated in 1951 by nationalists who felt that he was too much under Britain’s thumb. (225)

This point about King Abdullah being “given” the throne by the British certainly suggests that as a result he would be subjected to British control. Indeed, Abdullah, who was killed in Palestine at the al-Aqsa mosque, was killed because he was a puppet of the British.

With Iran, the only non Arab state discussed in this chapter, much more detail is provided, although not much context and serious key facts are left out:

The Western-educated Shah (ruler) of Iran, Reza Pahlevi, resisted the Russians and signed a defence treaty with the USA (1950); they provided him with economic and military aid, including tanks and jet fighters. The Americans saw the situation as part of the Cold War–Iran was yet another front on which the communists must be prevented from advancing. However, there was a strong nationalist movement in Iran which resented all foreign influence. This soon began to turn against the USA and against Britain too. This was because Britain held a majority of the shares int he Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and its refinery at Abadan. it was widely felt that the British were taking too much of the profits, and in 1951 the Premier of Iran, Dr. Mussadiq, nationalized the company (took it under control of the Iranian government). However, most of the world, encouraged by Britain, boycotted Iran’s oil exports and Mussadiq was forced to resign. (225)

Reza Shah Pahlevi ran a dictatorship that was financially supported by the U.S. Meanwhile Britain controlled the money from Iran’s primary natural resource: oil. What upset Britain, at first, was the fact that the people of Iran democratically elected Mossadegh and then he proceeded to nationalise Iranian oil for the Iranian people. Britain was incensed by this and enlisted the help of the U.S. to overthrow Mossadegh. Kermit Roosevelt, for the CIA, worked tirelessly to make that happen in the first CIA coup. Language like Mossadegh was “forced to resign” leaves out quite a crucial detail, such as the U.S. role in making that happen. Likewise, as with Egypt’s Suez Canal, Lowe paints a picture as if the canal and the oil fields somehow rightly belong to Britain because they invested money in it. The reimposition of the Shah, furthermore, led to more American control over Iran, which ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Not unsurprisingly, Mossadegh’s actions ultimately inspired Nasser in Egypt and Nasser would also be subjected to a violent reaction from Britain in the form of a war in 1956.

When it comes to narrating the history of Israel, Lowe fails yet again as all he seems to be able to offer is a biblical one:

The origin of the problem went back almost 2000 years to the year AD 71, when most of the Jews were driven out of Palestine, which was then their homeland, by the Romans. (226)

The problem with this assertion is that the Romans never exiled any population. This is a Zionist myth, not a historical fact. Regardless, even if one tends to view the Bible as a history textbook, for a people absent for such a long time to violently uproot the people living in that land is unconscionable. Just imagine how Indians would feel if people who fled during the partition decided to come back and reclaim their homes and land. It hasn’t been even a century, and yet I imagine that people in India would not be willing to give up their homes and land.

Lowe jumps, as most Zionists do in their historical accounts, from AD 71 to 1897 when Theodor Herzl founded the modern Zionist movement. He explains a narrow context for its creation:

Zionists were people who believed that Jews ought to be able to go back to Palestine and have what they called “a national homeland”; in other words, a Jewish state. Jews had recently suffered persecution in Russia, France, and Germany, and a Jewish state would provide a safe refuge for jews from all over the world. The problem was that Palestine was inhabited by Arabs, who were alarmed at the prospect of losing their land to the Jews. (226)

Here a combination of misinformation and obfuscation through language makes this paragraph above sound quite reasonable. But there are problems. First, throughout this chapter, Lowe uses the word Arab to refer to Palestinians, something Zionists do because it makes it seem like, according to their narrative, that they have a number of places to live and the Jews have nowhere, so why not just give up their homeland for the European and Russian Jews. Second, Palestinians didn’t have a problem with their land being taken over because the people doing it were Jews; indeed there were many Palestinian Jews at that time residing in Palestine. They had a problem that anyone would take over their homeland. Lowe also fails to mention the depths to which Herzl’s endeavour was a colonial one. Both his admiration for Cecil Rhodes and his desire to make a Jewish homeland in Uganda or Argentina (because they were both controled by the British), makes this point clear. Finally, the desire for a specifically Jewish state, in a country where there were several religious groups living side-by-side, also reveals the problem of this project. However, Lowe’s reminder of oppression Jews faced at the hands of Europeans and Russians seems to somehow rationalise this (in the same way British Puritans who colonised North America rationalise their theft of indigenous land).

Lowe continues his attempt at explaining the history of Israel by distorting it further:

The British hoped to persuade Jews and Arabs to live together peacefully in the same state; they failed to understand the deep religious gulf between the two. Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany after 1933 caused a flood of refugees, and by 1940 about half the population of Palestine was Jewish. In 1937 the British Peel Commission proposed dividing Palestine into two separate states, one Arab and one Jewish, but the Arabs rejected the idea. (226)

Characterising the problem in Palestine as a religious one is a typical Zionist strategy, as I noted above. Further, Lowe continues to juxtapose problems European or Ashkenazi Jews experienced in Europe with Arabs, who had nothing to do with it. It is true that many Jewish people became refugees who sought a new home. But Lowe fails to tell his readers that both the U.S. and Britain closed its doors on them, refusing to allow them to even temporarily settle on their soil. This was a part of empire’s strategy to push them into Palestine so the West could have a foothold in the region. At the time this also was important for Britain so it could secure its hold over the Suez Canal, and thus an easier transportation route to India. Also left out of this is the fact that for four years prior to and following the Peel Commission, Palestinians led one of the longest resistance campaigns in history–which included work stoppage, striking, and a host of innovative activities to stop British and Zionist colonisation of their land. Yes, when a partition plan was presented to Palestinians, they rejected it. Is there a group of people in the world who wouldn’t fight to keep their land if they had the choice? (For maps indicating how much Palestinians were being asked to give up at this stage see here, here, and here.)

To his credit, Lowe does reveal that there was a Zionist terrorist campaign targeting Palestinians and British alike once the British, under pressure from the increasing conflict, limited the Jewish immigration numbers:

The Jews, after all that their race had suffered at the hands of the Nazis, were determined to fight for their “national home”. They began a terrorist campaign against both Arabs and British; one of the most spectacular incidents was the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which the British were using as their headquarters; 91 people were killed and many more injured. (226)

The precursor to this admission of Zionist terrorism–although what is not mentioned is the targeting of Palestinians, which happened exerted a far greater toll–is the mention of Jews as a “race.” Aside from the fact that race is a social construct, there is no ethnically or genealogically unique group of Jews. As with other monotheisms, Jews proselytised, thus creating Jews from various cultural backgrounds. As for Zionist terrorism, it was extensive and far reaching all dictated by a plan to remove Palestinians from Palestine.

The final fib Lowe tells about the creation of Israel is the so-called war that ensued after Israel declared its independence:

In May 1948 Ben Gurion declared the independence of the new state of Israel. It was immediately attacked by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. (227)

The sentences above move beyond mythology and into the realm of fantasy, as many historians have illustrated over the last couple of decades. First of all, the Zionist Plan Dalet, to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous population had already been well under way for a few years prior to 1948. Many Zionists were part of the British army and received military training and had greater access to sophisticated weapons. The Palestinians, as well as the Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Jordanians, and Iraqis barely had an army at all. The ration was about 50,000 Zionist soldiers to 10,000 Palestinians (plus a moderate number of Arab irregulars–not any state army). What the repetition of this myth does, is perpetuate the biblically-rooted fantasy that Israel is a tiny David surrounded by a sea of Goliaths.

In spite of these facts, Lowe amplifies his Zionist sense that it was some kind of extraordinary feat that Israel won the so-called war:

Most people expected the Arabs to win easily, but against seemingly overwhelming odds, the Israelis defeated them and even captured more of Palestine than the UN partition had given them. (227)

He gives only a cursory and vague nod to the Zionist-created Palestinian refugee problem:

After some Jews had slaughtered the entire population of an Arab village in Israel, nearly a million Arabs fled into Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria where they had to live in miserable refugee camps. Jerusalem was divided between Israel and Jordan. The USA, Britain and France guaranteed Israel’s frontiers, but the Arab states did not regard the ceasefire as permanent. They would not recognize the legality of Israel, and they regarded this war as only the first round int he struggle to destroy Israel and liberate Palestine. (227-228)

It is likely that Lowe is referring to Deir Yassin, a Palestinian village in Jerusalem, which has become infamous for the Zionist massacre there. However, this massacre was committed on 9 April–a good month before Israel declared its statehood and before its so-called “war of independence” began. Deir Yassin is an important milestone in Palestinian history, mostly because it scared other Palestinians into flight. But it was by no means the only massacre committed by Zionist militias (all of which became folded into the Israeli army after independence).

The most egregious oversight, however, is Lowe’s glossing over the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of over 500 villages, which were later forested over by the Jewish National Fund so that Palestinians could not return. He also fails to mention that Palestinians have the right to return to their land as enshrined in UN Resolution 194.

Finally, Lowe reiterates the idea that the Arab states are being difficult, stubborn, and defiant for not recognising Israel like Western states did. Once again, in the absence of context as to why people were so appalled at the take over of Palestinian land is conveniently left out.

After this section rooted in 1948, Lowe skips ahead to 1956 and the Suez War. Here, too, his theme continues of demonising Arabs, especially Nasser:

Colonel Nasser, the new ruler of Egypt, was aggressively in favour of Arab unity and independence, including the liberation of Palestine from the Jews; almost everything he did irritated the British, Americans or French: He organized guerrilla fighters known as fedayeen (self-sacrificers) to carry out sabotage and murder inside Israel, and Egyptian ships blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba leading to the Israeli port of Eliat. (228)

The use of the adverb “aggressively”, something Lowe never does when describing Israelis, posits Nasser once again as an unreasonable and dangerous man. But this paragraph also pieces together bits of history from different historical moments, none of which are related to the war in 1956. He blockaded the port in the Gulf of Aqaba in 1967. Palestinian freedom fighters made a much more powerful dent in their struggle during the 1960s–both after this particular war. Through his tone and cherry-picked events, Lowe also suggests Nasser was a problem for helping Algerians in their anti-colonial war against France and for siding with Russia in order to obtain weapons at the height of the Cold War.

Lowe does accurately portray the origin of the war as a “planned Israeli invasion of Egypt”, which he thinks “was a brilliant success” while British and French forces bombed Egyptian airbases (230). He mentions the U.S. demanding the war be halted, signaling a win for Egypt, and the positive effect the war had on Algerians who were fighting for independence, but he doesn’t mention Nasser’s triumphant influence from Ghana to India and everywhere in between.

The next war Lowe skips ahead to is the June 1967 War, which Israelis call the Six Day War. He claims that leading up to this war, a newly independent and left-leaning Iraq wanted to “wipe Israel off the map” (231). He says:

The Arab states had not signed a peace treaty at the end of the 1948-9 war and were still refusing to give Israel official recognition. In 1967 they joined together again in a determined attempt to destroy Israel. The lead was taken by Iraq, Syria and Egypt. (231)

Lowe also characterises the growing Palestinian armed resistance movement  in Syria, which “supported El Fatah, the Palestinian Liberation Movement, a more effective guerrilla force than the fedayeen” (231). Fatah was very much a part of the fedayeen whether in Syria or Jordan. While he does reveal that “The Israelis decided that the best policy was to attack first rather than wait to be defeated”, because troops amassed “along their frontiers” (232).

Of course, Israel’s success in that war meant it enlarged its colonial territories, including Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and the rest of historic Palestine: the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Lowe mentions that “this time [the Israelis] had ignored a UN order to return the captured territory” (232). But actually, Israel has ignored every single UN resolution related to their territory. This resolution was Security Council Resolution 242, which made clear that in international law no state may hold onto, or move a civilian population into, a territory acquired by war. It also reiterated the necessity of solving the Palestinian refugee problem, a problem that was greatly increased with this new war.

The final war explored between Israel and its neighbours is the one war that Israel didn’t initiate. In this scenario countries like Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, at least in part, to recover territory that Israel had illegally occupied since the previous war in 1967. For Lowe, the war was caused because:

Pressure was brought to bear on the Arab states by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under its leader Yasser Arafat, for some further action. When very little happened, a more extreme group within the PLO, called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, embarked on a series of terrorist attacks to draw world attention to the grave injustice being done to the Arabs of Palestine. (232)

This statement, which opens this section of the chapter, is extremely vague, although when one reads on it is clear that he is referring to Palestinians having to resort to new strategies to call attention to their plight. But in relation to what action or what did or didn’t happen, it remains unclear. Interestingly, like many Zionists, it is after the PFLP’s attacks that the word Palestine began, finally, to appear in the mainstream media. As if to reinforce Lowe’s opinion of painting Palestinians as terrorists here, he includes a photograph of Palestinian children whom he describes as follows:

The child soldiers of the Palestine refugee camps; trained from the age of 7, these boys and girls would be ready for front-line service by the age of 15. (234)

Note: there are no photographs of Israeli soldiers in training nor are there any photographs of Israelis except for Menachem Begin signing a peace treaty with Jimmy Carter and Anwar Sadat. Thus, through images Lowe is able to show Israelis as those who are striving for peace, and Palestinians as desiring to maintain a state of war.

Israel won this war, too, largely because of its increasing arsenal gifted from the American  government. But it sparked an important response from oil producing countries, creating an oil embargo that resulted in a global energy crisis.

The next jump in history moves to the peace accord signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979, a treaty that would cost President Sadat his life for isolating Palestinians and the rest of the region. Lowe tells readers that “Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, bravely announced that he would continue the Camp David agreement” (236).

From this event he shifts to Israel’s peace treaty with the PLO. Oddly, this jump in time skips over the first intifada, a popular movement that ran the gamut from refusal to pay taxes to throwing stones at Israel armoured tanks. It is this development that likely led to pressuring the PLO into signing the Oslo Accords. Lowe fails to highlight the way that this agreement was one sided, as it sent Palestinians down the road which would force them to constantly make concessions for little to nothing in return. Instead, he merely states that in addition to the PLO and Israel recognising one another:

the Palestinians were to be given limited self-rule in Jericho (on the West Bank) and in part of the Gaza Strip, areas occupied by Israel since the 1967 war. Israeli troops would be withdrawn from these areas. (237)

Today it is clear that each and every so-called peace treaty Israel pushed Palestinians into signing was another tactic to increase its colonial rule of Palestinians. And just as Israel has never honoured a UN resolution, it has never honoured any promise made in its treaties. As a way to relieve Israel from any blame, because “four bombings carried out by the militant Palestinian group, Hamas claimed 63 lives” (237). Of course, Israel’s divide and conquer colonial practice that helped to bolster Hamas is not mentioned in the textbook.

The last three sections cover other wars: Lebanon’s civil war, the Iran-Iraq war, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In its section on Lebanon, Lowe brings up the issue of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in ways that is both confused and quite uninformed:

The presence of Palestinian refugees from Israel: This complicated the situation even more. By 1975 there were at least half a million of them living in squalid camps away from the main centres of population. The Palestinians were not popular in Lebanon because they were continually involved in frontier incidents with Israel, provoking the Israelis to hit back at the Palestinians in southern Lebanon. In particular, the Palestinians, being left-wing and Muslim, alarmed conservative and Christian Maronites who looked on the Palestinians as a dangerous destabilising influence. By 1975 the PLO had its headquarters in Lebanon, and this meant that Syria, the chief supporter of the PLO, was constantly interfering in Lebanon’s affairs. (240)

First, Palestinian refugees were forced into Lebanon by Zionists before the state of Israel existed. They are refugees from Palestine, not from Israel. Second, Palestinians do not necessarily live away from main centres of population (Sur, Saida, Beirut, Trablus). Indeed, in Beirut there are several camps within the city itself. Third, Palestinians are not only Muslim and not only leftist–whether fighters or not. Indeed, many Palestinian fighters were Christian and many were not leftists.

But throughout this section, Lowe represents the Lebanese Civil War in highly sectarian ways. While part of the issue is certainly Lebanon’s sectarianism, it is not as simplistic as Lowe makes it out to be. Because he sees Palestinians as mainly Muslim and Lebanese as mainly Christian, here is how he characterises the fighting:

In the south, bordering on Israel, fighting soon broke out between Palestinians and Christians; the Israelis seized this opportunity to send troops in to help the Christians. A small semi-independent Christian state of Free Lebanon was declared under Major Haddad. The Israelis supported this because it acted as a buffer zone to protect them from further Palestinian attacks. (240)

Instead of truthfully explaining that Haddad’s army–known as the South Lebanese Army–was not independent because it was a proxy militia for Israel, Lowe merely tells readers it was a Christian group wanting to protect themselves and the border. Moreover, to further complicate the sectarian nature of Lowe’s book, SLA ran Khiam prison, in cahoots with the Israelis, where freedom fighters such as Soha Bechara, a Lebanese Christian communist woman, were held and tortured for years.

Elsewhere Lowe continues to take plays from Zionists by rationalising attacks on Palestinians by calling it a “reprisal”:

In 1982, in reprisal for a Palestinian attack on Israel, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon and penetrated as far as Beirut. For a time the Gemayels, supported by the Israelis, were in control of Beirut. During this period the Palestinians were expelled from Beirut, and from then on the PLO was divided. (240).

This passage elides several points. True, Israel was aligned with the Phalangists or Kata’eb political party in Lebanon, a right-wing Maronite (Christian) group. Although he makes it clear that Israel “invaded” Lebanon (not its first time to do so either, and certainly not its last), the notion that Israel was aligned with a particular militia makes it seem as though they were somehow welcome. More horrendous is his use of the word “reprisal” to suggest that whatever Israel did–something Lowe elides here–was warranted. What he forgets to tell his readers is that 1982 is precisely the moment when Israel perpetrated on defenceless Palestinians in the Beirut refugee camp Shatila (and the surrounding neighbourhood of Sabra) under the cover of the Phalange militia. Even Israel’s Kahan Commission found Ariel Sharon guilty for his part in orchestrating the massacre.

In the final two sections of the chapter, Lowe covers up more key points as he glosses over the conflict between Iran and Iraq and later the U.S. and Iraq. But the conclusion to the chapter seems to be the one place where some truth emerges as well through both his tone and language:

The war and its aftermath were very revealing about the motives of the West and the great powers. Their primary concern was not with international justice and moral questions of right and wrong, but with their own self-interest. They only took action against Saddam in the first place because they felt he was threatening their oil supplies. Often in the past when other small nations had been invaded, no international action had been taken. For example, when East Timor was occupied by neighbouring Indonesia in 1975, the rest of the world ignored it, because their interests were not threatened. (244)

It is quite odd to see Lowe making such a statement at the beginning of the paragraph, and then regress so ignorantly at the conclusion of the paragraph and chapter. It is also strange that he sees self-interest here, but not elsewhere–for example Britain’s desire to control the Suez Canal or Iranian oil fields. But the icing on the cake is this conclusion when he imagines that the world ignored it because their interests weren’t threatened. Indeed, the West, especially the United States, actively participated in the massacre and occupation of East Timor.

While this is just a small response to one chapter in a history book, I could certainly continue examining and pointing out inconsistencies, omissions, and false statements throughout the volume. It should be a reminder that we cannot accept any text at face value and that we should question what we read.

resuscitating language

one way palestinians and indigenous americans are alike is the long history of political imprisonment. it’s yet another means of separating people and destroying resistance recently leonard peltier was denied parole yet again. last week his attorney, eric seitz, wrote about it for the san francisco bay view news while going over some details of the case and letting us know what we can do about it:

The Bush administration holdovers on the U.S. Parole Commission today adopted the position of the FBI that anyone who may be implicated in the killings of its agents should never be paroled and should be left to die in prison.

Despite judicial determinations that the unrepentant FBI fabricated evidence and presented perjured testimony in Leonard Peltier’s prosecution; despite a jury’s acquittal on grounds of self-defense of two co-defendants who were found to have engaged in the same conduct for which Mr. Peltier was convicted; despite Mr. Peltier’s exemplary record during his incarceration for more than 33 years and his clearly demonstrated eligibility for parole; despite letters and petitions calling for his release submitted by millions of people in this country and around the world including one of the judges who ruled on his earlier appeals; and despite his advanced age and deteriorating health, the Parole Commission today informed Mr. Peltier that his “release on parole would depreciate the seriousness of your offenses and would promote disrespect for the law” and set a reconsideration hearing in July 2024.

This is the extreme action of the same law enforcement community that brought us the indefinite imprisonment of suspected teenage terrorists, tortures and killings in CIA prisons around the world and widespread disrespect for the democratic concepts of justice upon which this country supposedly was founded. These are the same institutions that have never treated indigenous peoples with dignity or respect or accepted any responsibility for centuries of intolerance and abuse.

At his parole hearing on July 28, Leonard Peltier expressed regret and accepted responsibility for his role in the incident in which the two FBI agents and one Native American activist died as the result of a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Mr. Peltier emphasized that the shootout occurred in circumstances where there literally was a war going on between corrupt tribal leaders, supported by the government, on the one hand, and Native American traditionalists and young activists on the other.

He again denied – as he as always denied – that he intended the death of anyone or that he fired the fatal shots that killed the two agents, and he reminded the hearing officer that one of his former co-defendants recently admitted to having fired the fatal shots himself.

Accordingly, it is not true that Leonard Peltier participated in “the execution style murders of two FBI agents,” as the Parole Commission asserts, and there never has been credible evidence of Mr. Peltier’s responsibility for the fatal shots, as the FBI continues to allege.

Moreover, given the corrupt practices of the FBI itself, it is entirely untrue that Leonard Peltier’s parole at this juncture will in any way “depreciate the seriousness” of his conduct and/or “promote disrespect for the law.”

We will continue to seek parole and clemency for Mr. Peltier and to eventually bring this prolonged injustice to a prompt and fair resolution.

Take action

News from North Dakota today is that Leonard Peltier’s parole has been denied. He won’t receive another full parole hearing until 2024, at the age of 79 years.

As sad as we all are, we are steadfast, undefeated. We will not go away. We will not be quiet.

Take a moment to reflect. Just a moment. But then put your disappointment behind you. Gather your strength. There’s much work to be done.

Action Item 1: Contact the Attorney General

On June 23, 1995, Amnesty International submitted a letter of concern about the Peltier case to the then U.S. Attorney General. There was no response. Write to Eric Holder, Attorney General. Ask him to conduct an executive review of the case and to finally right the wrongs of the past. Tell him it’s never too late to find the truth. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Write to Eric A. Holder, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20530-0001, (202) 353-1555.

And while you’re at it, ask Mr. Holder why more than 140,000 documents from a more than 30-year-old case are still being withheld by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Tell him America has a right to know what occurred over 30 years ago and demand the release of all documents related to the Peltier case.

Action Item 2: Contact Members of Congress

Use all the resources at your disposal to contact your members of Congress and continue urging them to support freedom for Leonard Peltier. That support should be formally expressed in correspondence to President Obama.

Also demand a full congressional investigation into the Reign of Terror on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the ‘70s. It’s long past time for the truth to be told. See http://www.FreePeltierNow.org/call.htm and http://www.FreePeltierNow.org/write.htm.

Do you use Twitter? Try using this service to quickly and easily reach your members of Congress: http://tcxs.net/.

You also can sign the petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Pine_Ridge/.

Congress will not be in session for most of August. This is a good time to meet with your members of Congress in their home offices. Make the appointment now. You can find locations, telephone numbers etc. via our congressional directory: http://www.FreePeltierNow.org/congressmaster.htm.

Action Item 3: Call the White House

Call the White House comment line to express your outrage at the outcome of the parole hearing. Demand that President Obama free Peltier now. Call (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1112.

You also can send an e-mail to the White House. Go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.

If you prefer, mail or fax a letter: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500, fax (202) 456-2461.

Better yet … do all three. It’s time to set him free … because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

“When you begin a great work you can’t expect to finish it all at once; therefore, you and your brothers [and sisters] press on and let nothing discourage you until you have entirely finished what you have begun.” – Teedyuschung, chief of 10 Delaware tribes, died in 1763

To learn more, visit Friends of Peltier at http://www.FreePeltierNow.org or email contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info. The Bay View thanks Freedom Archives, www.Freedomarchives.org, for compiling this information. Questions and comments may be sent to claude[at]freedomarchives.org.

recently, dahr jamail wrote a great article called “kill the indian. save the man” for truthout in which he offers a great historical overview of how the united states actively worked to destroy the indigenous. of course, one method was imprisonment, but yet another was cultural genocide, specifically destroying the relationship between american indian tribes and their languages:

Steven Newcomb, a Shawnee/Lenape Native American and author of “Pagans in the Promised Land – Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery,” has written: “It’s a little known fact that the Catholic Church issued a number of papal edicts in the fifteenth century that set into motion patterns of colonization that became globalized over many centuries. In the documents “Dum diversas” (1452) and “Romanus Pontifex” (1455), for example, issued by Pope Nicholas V to King Alfonso V of Portugal, the pope “authorized” the king to send men to the Western Coast of Africa and “to invade, capture, vanquish, and subdue” all non-Christians, “to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery,” and to “take away all their possessions and property.” Such patterns of thought and behavior became institutionalized in law and policy, and the patterns are still operative against indigenous peoples today under the concept of “the State.”

An effective means to institutionalize this process was to indoctrinate Native American children at highly religious boarding schools run by the Department of Interior. The children were severed from their families on reservations with the ostensible aim of saving them from poverty.

The original boarding school idea came from Gen. Richard Henry Pratt who formed the Carlyle Indian School in Carlyle, Pennsylvania, in 1878. He wrote in “The Advantages of Mingling Indians with Whites,” Americanizing the American Indians: Writings by the “Friends of the Indian” 1880-1900 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973), 260-271, “A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one, and that high sanction of his destruction has been an enormous factor in promoting Indian massacres. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”

Systematically, his school and its later extensions stripped away tribal culture. Students were forced to drop their Native American names, barred from speaking in their native languages and forbidden to wear long hair. Punitive measures and torture were rampant.

Pratt’s conviction of moral superiority can be gathered from his views on slavery, “Inscrutable are the ways of Providence. Horrible as were the experiences of its introduction, and of slavery itself, there was concealed in them the greatest blessing that ever came to the Negro race – seven millions of blacks from cannibalism in darkest Africa to citizenship in free and enlightened America; not full, not complete citizenship, but possible – probable – citizenship, and on the highway and near to it.”

here is one way palestinians and indigenous americans are different: palestinians still have their language. although in 1948 palestine there are some serious barriers to arabic for palestinians, particularly given the way the education and exam system is set up so that there are only incentives for palestinians to become adept in hebrew and not in arabic in the same academic ways. but there are american indians who are actively working to resist all that jamail catalogs in the above-quoted article. al jazeera did a great piece about indigenous americans and language on rageh omaar’s program witness a month ago and it’s well worth watching. it’s directed by amy williams and it follows tish keahna who shows us how the wind river reservation has created an arapaho language immersion school to reverse the effects of centuries of killing indigenous languages:

guantanamo then and now

jeremy scahill’s report yesterday about bill clinton’s appointment as a un envoy to haiti is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the united states continues to get away with murder with the complicity of the united nations:

Former US President Bill Clinton has been named by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as his special UN envoy to Haiti. Clinton will reportedly travel to the country at least four times a year.

“[It’s] an opportunity to bring in resources to address the economic insecurity that plagues Haiti,” says Brian Concannon, a human rights lawyer who works extensively in Haiti. “But if the nomination is to be more than a publicity stunt, the UN needs to honestly shed a spotlight on the international community’s role in creating that instability, including unfair trade and debt policies, and the undermining and overthrowing of Haiti’s constitutional government.”

Shining such a spotlight on those who created the instability, as Concannon suggests, would mean examining Clinton’s own role as president of the US during one of Haiti’s most horrifyingly dark periods.

Reuters news agency quotes a diplomat as saying Clinton is “an ‘excellent choice’ to help unlock Haiti’s potential as an investment target,” adding that his appointment “could attract investment in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation and help stabilize the country.”

That last statement about “stabiliz[ing]” Haiti would be humorous for its irony if the reality—and Clinton’s history in Haiti—wasn’t so deadly serious. The fact is that, as US president, Clinton’s policies helped systematically destabilize Haiti.

Dan Coughlin, who spent years as a journalist in Haiti in the 1990s for Inter Press Service, said he was “incredulous” when he heard the news. “Given the Clinton Administration’s aggressive pursuit of policies that profitted Haiti’s tiny elite, the IMF and big corporations at the expense of Haiti’s farmers and urban workers, the appointment does not bode well for the kind of fundamental change so needed in a country that has given so much to humankind,” Coughlin says.

In September 1991, the US backed the violent overthrow of the government of Haiti’s democratically-elected leftist priest President Jean Bertrand Aristide after he was in power less than a year. Aristide had defeated a US-backed candidate in the 1990 Haitian presidential election. The military coup leaders and their paramilitary gangs of CIA-backed murderous thugs, including the notorious FRAPH paramilitary units, were known for hacking the limbs off of Aristide supporters (and others) along with an unending slew of other horrifying crimes.

When Clinton came to power, he played a vicious game with Haiti that allowed the coup regime to continue rampaging Haiti and further destabilized the country. What’s more, in the 1992 election campaign, Bill Clinton campaigned on a pledge to reverse what he called then-President George HW Bush’s “cruel policy” of holding Haitian refugees at Guantanamo with no legal rights in US courts. Upon his election, however, Clinton reversed his position and sided with the Bush administration in denying the Haitians legal rights. the Haitians were held in atrocious conditions and the new Democratic president was sued by the Center for Constitutional Rights (sound familiar?).

While Clinton and his advisers publicly expressed their dismay with the coup, they simultaneously refused to support the swift reinstatement of the country’s democratically elected leader and would, in fact, not allow Aristide’s return until Washington received guarantees that: 1. Aristide would not lay claim to the years of his presidency lost in forced exile and; 2. US neoliberal economic plans were solidified as the law of the land in Haiti.

“The Clinton administration was credited for working for the return to power of Jean Bertrand Aristide after he was overthrown in a military coup,” says author William Blum. “But, in fact, Clinton had stalled the return for as long as he could, and had instead tried his best to return anti-Aristide conservatives to a leading power role in a mixed government, because Aristide was too leftist for Washington’s tastes.” Blum’s book “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II” includes a chapter on the history of the US role in Haiti.

The fact that the coup against the democratically-elected president of Haiti was allowed to continue unabated for three full years seemed to be less offensive to Clinton than Aristide’s progressive vision for Haiti. As Blum observed in his book, “[Clinton] was not actually repulsed by [coup leader Raoul] Cédras and company, for they posed no ideological barrier to the United States continuing the economic and strategic control of Haiti it’s maintained for most of the century. Unlike Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a man who only a year earlier had declared: ‘I still think capitalism is a mortal sin.’”

Blum added: “Faced ultimately with Aristide returning to power, Clinton demanded and received — and then made sure to publicly announce — the Haitian president’s guarantee that he would not try to remain in office to make up for the time lost in exile. Clinton of course called this ‘democracy,’ although it represented a partial legitimization of the coup.” Indeed, Haiti experts say that Clinton could have restored Aristide to power under an almost identical arrangement years earlier than he did.

When Aristide finally returned to Haiti, as Blum notes, “Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s reception was a joyous celebration filled with optimism. However, unbeknownst to his adoring followers, while they were regaining Aristide, they may have lost Aristidism.”

As The Los Angeles Times reported at the time:

In a series of private meetings, Administration officials admonished Aristide to put aside the rhetoric of class warfare … and seek instead to reconcile Haiti’s rich and poor. The Administration also urged Aristide to stick closely to free-market economics and to abide by the Caribbean nation’s constitution — which gives substantial political power to the Parliament while imposing tight limits on the presidency. … Administration officials have urged Aristide to reach out to some of his political opponents in setting up his new government … to set up a broad-based coalition regime. … the Administration has made it clear to Aristide that if he fails to reach a consensus with Parliament, the United States will not try to prop up his regime. Almost every aspect of Aristide’s plans for resuming power — from taxing the rich to disarming the military — has been examined by the U.S. officials with whom the Haitian president meets daily and by officials from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other aid organizations. The finished package clearly reflects their priorities. … Aristide obviously has toned down the liberation theology and class-struggle rhetoric that was his signature before he was exiled to Washington.

“While Bill Clinton oversaw the return of President Aristide in 1994, he also put significant constraints on what Aristide was able to do once back in power,” says Bill Fletcher, Jr, the Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. “Clinton advanced a neo-liberal agenda for Haiti thereby undermining the efforts of an otherwise progressive populist administration (Aristide’s). There is no reason to believe that [as a UN envoy] ex-President Clinton will introduce or support efforts to radically break Haiti from under the thumb of the USA and the dire poverty which has been a significant consequence of said domination.”

scahill was on democracy now! with amy goodman yesterday where he talked about his previous report on torture yesterday that i blogged about as well as its relationship to this story on haiti:

the “war on terror”: creating refugees one village at a time

tam tam and i have been planning a trip we want to take next summer. we’ve been thinking about where we want to go and who might want to join us. one of the criteria we have agreed on is that the place we go cannot be involved in or complicit with any colonial or imperial adventures. and, as you can imagine, this leaves out a number of places in the world. for instance, in nancy better’s article in the new york times today seems to be reporting that americans should take their summer vacations in the zionist entity (a place where tam tam is not allowed to visit because she is a palestinian refugee in lebanon):

Our Golan Heights excursion unleashed a torrent of questions about the war for independence and Israel’s 1948 declaration of statehood. We found answers at the Ayalon Institute, formerly a clandestine munitions factory built by the Haganah (the pre-independence armed forces) under a kibbutz near Tel Aviv. Restored and opened to the public, the institute is not mentioned in many guidebooks and gets little press. Yet Charlie — who devours detective novels and has twice toured the International Spy Museum in Washington — declared it his favorite site.

The place conveys a real sense of danger; had the Haganah members been discovered, they would have been hanged. The factory operations were concealed by a bakery and laundry; a 10-ton oven and a large washing machine hid entrances to the shop floor, which housed as many as 50 workers who, at the peak, produced 40,000 bullets a day. The noise of the washing machines camouflaged the din of the manufacturing process below ground.

David was especially fascinated by the sunlamps that munitions workers used to get an artificial tan. “It’s like an alibi,” our guide explained. “They pretended to leave the kibbutz each morning to work on a neighboring farm and then they sneaked back into the factory to make bullets. People would be suspicious if they looked too pale.”

Next we traveled to Akko, site of a medieval Crusaders’ fortress and later an Ottoman citadel. When the Turks were defeated by the British in 1918, the fortress became a high-security prison that held Jewish freedom fighters. Today the Underground Prisoners Memorial Museum pays tribute to them. A gloomy, ominous air hangs over the prison cells, with their thick stone walls, iron bars and narrow windows. Our group was mesmerized by the gallows room, with a noose centered over a trapdoor in the floor.

the above is just a sample of what the article says. you may click the link and read the entire piece and in it you will not find one use of the word palestine or palestinian. there’s no mention of the fact that akka is a palestinian city and that those so-called “jewish freedom fighters” were and are terrorists who massacred palestinians, stole their land, and created 750,000 refugees. there is no mention of syria either in their little excursion to occupied golan.

conversely, adrian bridge’s recent article in the telegraph on sri lankan tourism talks about the tamils, although as if they are only resistance fighters and not a massive civilian population massacred and made into refugees:

With the fighting still fresh, outrage over the number of civilians killed and fears that pockets of Tamil Tiger fighters may continue with terrorist attacks, the Foreign Office continues to advise against all travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka travel experts, however, hope that in the long term, the ending of the 26-year-long civil war will signal a fresh start for tourism in what is potentially one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Asia.

“This is a good step forward but we have to be cautiously optimistic; there is still a lot of work to be done to bring about a true peace,” said Jean-Marc Flambert, who promotes a number of hotels in Sri Lanka.

“But in fact the best beaches on the island are on the east coast. Also, with the rainy season there coming at a different time to the rain in the south and west it could turn Sri Lanka into a year round destination.”

the above link came to me via the amazing rapper @_m_i_a_ on twitter (aka maya arulpragasam) and her perfect tweet in response to the article was:

I SAY YEAH … IF U like swimming in blood and hiking and biking on mass graves and eating chemically contaminated fried fish for lunch.

the problem with this story about sri lanka and its war against a civilian tamil population is that even news sources like al jazeera continue to report in a decidedly biased way. take this report by tony birtley on al jazeera today in which he says that 17,000 tamil fighters were killed:

tamil net gives us rather different figures:

Sea Tiger Special Commander of the LTTE, Col. Soosai Sunday noon said that around 25,000 civilians injured in the artillery attack of Sri Lanka Army are dead and dying now without receiving medical attention. The LTTE has repeatedly requested the ICRC through Mr. Pathmanathan to evacuate the injured through Vadduvaakal or Iraddaivaaikkaal, but there was no IC response. Within a 2 square kilometre area, there are dead bodies everywhere while the remaining thousands are in bunkers amidst the use of every kind of weapon by Colombo’s forces. The SLA is not even allowing the people to flee but prefers to fire at them, Soosai said.

for people who want some background on the conflict al jazeera put up a time line on their website starting from sri lanka’s independence from british rule–1948 (yes, the british “leave” one colony and ensure the existence of a new one in the same year)–through the recent genocide. additionally the conversation on democracy now! yesterday between anjali kamat and ahilan kadirgamar that provided some context that doesn’t demonize tamils seeking liberation:

i think that the above interview is important for the way it reveals the orwellian language used by the sri lankan government in which internment camps become “welfare centers.” all of this has been enhanced and made possible by the u.s. exporting of the so-called “war on terror” in which any government wanting to clamp down on resistance groups can commit massacres and genocide and get away with it.

suren surendiran’s article in the guardian today gives us some further context and a broader understanding of the toll this has taken on the tamil people of sri lanka:

Sri Lankan military killed thousands of Tamil civilians over the past few months (not to mention the years before) using the full might of its fire power by way of artillery and air strikes. It has, with intent, starved its own people by refusing to send food and medicine in sufficient quantities and in adequate frequencies.

Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain.

What is deeply disappointing is the fact that powerful liberal states which have long espoused human rights, the Geneva conventions and, most recently, the responsibility to protect, have all allowed thousands of innocent lives to be lost unnecessarily and with full knowledge.

The slaughter went on every day, with many women and children being killed not just by the shelling but due to starvation and lack of medical care. Yet the international response, especially those of the UN and western liberal states, has been pathetic. Mere statements after statements were released by heads of states like Gordon Brown and Barack Obama and institutions such as the UN, EU and various non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty, HRW and Crisis Group. No one showed real leadership in stopping this genocide which took place in broad daylight.

Even now thousands of displaced young Tamils are being abducted and disappeared, the wounded and injured are not given medical care and families are separated and abused in overcrowded barbed-wire-fenced camps. Thousands are still lining up at check points which have no independent observers present. International media has no way of reporting without government interference.

Sri Lanka is conducting this war beyond its means. Its economy is in a mess due to mismanagement, as stated by the World Bank. Sri Lanka’s Central Bank is seeking an emergency loan from the IMF due to its fast depleting reserves. Yet, year on year defence budget has been consistently rising by huge percentages. Regional powers and others have assisted financially and otherwise to continue with this government’s war with its own people. Unemployed youth from Sri Lanka’s rural south who could be put to more constructive development use were being used for destruction and killing.

Pretending to promote human rights and high moral values, western governments are turning a blind eye to the state terrorism in Sri Lanka, but also incentivising such horrendous violations by granting large sums in loans and grants. Hypocrisy of the international community is obvious as they argue any sanctions against such financial assistance will hurt the wider economy of Sri Lanka. The same wasn’t true it seems for the poor Zimbabweans or the Palestinians of Gaza City.

of course, i wrote the other day about the zionist entity providing sri lanka with its weapons in order to carry out this genocide. the genocide may be over in sri lanka, but the trauma will not be over for a long time. nor will the refugees lead a normal life for some time to come either. and while this massive refugee crisis comes to a head the one in pakistan just continues to worsen also because of a so-called “war on terror” instigated by americans. unhcr is now reporting that refugees may be reaching 1 million:

The number of displaced people registered since May 2 by authorities with help from UNHCR climbed above the 1 million mark over the weekend and continues to rise rapidly. Most of the displaced are staying with relatives or friends, placing huge economic and social strains on the country. More than 130,000 others are staying in camps supported by UNHCR. The 1.17 million recently registered join another 555,000 Pakistanis displaced in earlier fighting since last August.

and for those who need reminding that this is a united states-made war on the civilian population of pakistan, the u.s. bombed the region yet again this week as alamgir bitani reported in the independent:

A bomb blew up in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on today killing 10 people, hours after a suspected US drone aircraft fired missiles at militants in another region on the Afghan border and killed 10.

The violence came as the Pakistani military battled Taliban militants in a northwestern valley in an offensive that has forced more than 900,000 people from their homes.

The blast in Peshawar blew up a passing school bus and city police chief Sifwat Ghayyur said four children and two women were among the dead.

“It was a remote controlled bomb. Ten people have been killed and 18 wounded,” Ghayyur told Reuters.

according to mainstream american news media, they are praising these actions in pakistan calling them “effective” on cnn as reported in common dreams:

U.S. airstrikes aimed at al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have been “very effective,” with few civilian deaths as a result, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Monday in a rare public acknowledgment of the raids.

Asked about criticism of the missile attacks by counterinsurgency experts, Panetta said he did not want to discuss specifics, “but I can assure you that in terms of that particular area, it is very precise and is very limited in terms of collateral damage.”

“Very frankly, it’s the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership,” Panetta told the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles.

i just wonder what is effective about creating 1 million refugees? bombing civilian villages? sowing the seeds of future generations who will seek justice for sure and perhaps vengeance. though who knows because the media campaign in pakistan seems to be as mythologizing as the american media with respect to distancing the war from the united states as declan walsh reported in the guardian the other day:

The human exodus from the war-torn Swat valley in northern Pakistan is turning into the world’s most dramatic displacement crisis since the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the UN refugee agency warned.

Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance since fighting erupted three weeks ago, the UNHCR said, bringing the total number of war displaced in North West Frontier province to more than 2 million, not including 300,000 the provincial government believes have not registered. “It’s been a long time since there has been a displacement this big,” the UNHCR’s spokesman Ron Redmond said in Geneva, trying to recall the last time so many people had been uprooted so quickly. “It could go back to Rwanda.”

The army reported fierce clashes across Swat, a tourist haven turned Taliban stronghold. After a week of intense aerial bombardment with fighter jets and helicopter gunships the army has launched a ground offensive to drive out the militants to rout the militants from the valley. Commandos pushed through the remote Piochar valley, seizing a training centre and killing a dozen Taliban, a military spokesman, Major General Athar Abbas, said. Gun battles erupted in several villages surrounding Mingora, Swat’s main town. Abbas said the military had killed 27 militants, including three commanders, and lost three members of the security forces. The figures could not be verified, as Swat has been largely cut off since the operation started.

The Taliban leader in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, remains at large. His spokesman vowed the rebels would fight until their “last breath”.

The operation continues to enjoy broad public support. Opposition parties endorsed the action at a conference called by the government, dispelling the notion that the army was fighting “America’s war”.

farooq sulehria has a great piece in dissident voice on the way that this media and military campaign has been playing out in pakistan, and here is the upshot:

Over 700 people have been killed in U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan since 2006, with 164 killed in 14 attacks under Obama’s watch. These drone attacks are further fueling anti-U.S. sentiments.

Instead of finding an exit strategy in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is practicing an Iraq-style surge. But it is U.S. presence in the region that will sustain the conditions that breed Talbanisation. The longer the USA stays in Afghanistan, the longer the Taliban’s defeat will be delayed and the suffering of the poor masses prolonged. For those lucky enough to survive bombs dropped by the Pakistan military in Swat, they will also have to deal with the possibility of having their throats slit by Taliban hit squads. Or they have the option to become refugees in their own country.

and just like the american support for the zionist entity when it gives it massive bombs to pound gaza (which it is doing as i type, by the way) and then gives money to rebuild gaza (which it only pledged, it never actually gave the money), the americans are paying to bomb pakistan and now paying to supposedly help the refugees:

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has pledged $110m in humanitarian aid to Pakistan as part of Washington’s new strategy for helping Islamabad counter Taliban’s growing influence.

Clinton announced the aid package during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday.

She said the money is meant to ease the plight of at least two million Pakistanis who have fled fighting in the country’s Swat valley and are living in squalid tent cities.

US officials said $100m in aid would flow from Clinton’s state department and the other $10m will come from the defence department.

welcome to daytonstan

certain words are in my mind and have particular connotations given my experiences. having spent a decade and a half in cincinnati, ohio, just a few miles down the road from dayton, ohio, the word dayton will forever be associated with this small ohio city. but that is is slowly starting to change. keith dayton is an american lieutenant who is based in palestine and who runs the palestinian authority polices forces, which were set up in the first place to do the dirty work of the zionist entity’s regime. when i see these palestinian police (which should really be called american-israeli police) and i think about the work they do here for the colonizer i cannot help but see this new layer of american imperialism layered on top of zionist colonialism. robert dreyfuss has a report on dayton in the nation this week outlining the american money invested in this imperial project and its context, to a certain extent:

Last Thursday, in what was billed as his very first on-the-record address, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, spoke to the 2009 Soref Symposium organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. WINEP, of course, is the chief think tank for the Washington-based Israel lobby.

And in his talk, Gen. Dayton delivered an important warning.

First, the background. For the past three and a half years, Dayton has lived and worked in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, overseeing the creation of three Palestinian battalions of troops, hand-picked in the West Bank, trained at an academy in Jordan, and then deployed in the occupied territory.

The three 500-man battalions are intended to grow, to as many as ten battalions. Their mission, he said, is to “create a Palestinian state.” Recognizing that many in the WINEP audience were not exactly enamored with the idea of an independent Palestine, Dayton told his audience: “If you don’t like the idea of a Palestinian state, you won’t like the rest of this talk.”

From the detailed description provided by Dayton, it’s clear that the Palestinian forces he’s enabling could certainly be accused of carrying out the self-policing of the West Bank for the Israelis. Because the West Bank is, after all, occupied by Israel and riddled with illegal settlements besides — plus beset by a surrounding wall, 600-plus intrusive checkpoints, and a network of Jews-only highways — the Palestinian troops are utterly at the mercy of the Israelis. Each recruit is vetted by US security forces (i.e, the CIA), then vetted by Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence arm of Israel, and then by Jordan’s super-efficient intelligence service, before they begin their training in Jordan. Dayton made it quite clear that the Palestinian units thus trained are primarily deployed against two targets in the West Bank: against criminal gangs, and against Hamas.

So far, they’ve received $161 million is US funding.

Dayton described how, during the Israeli assault on Gaza last December and January, the West Bank remained quiet — even though some analysts were predicting an upsurge of sympathy for Hamas, which controls Gaza, along with violence, even a third intifada. “None of these predictions came true,” said the general, who added that the Palestinian battalions allowed peaceful demonstrations of solidarity with Hamas, but kept the lid on violent actions. Israel, he said, “kept a low profile,” and not a single Palestinian was killed in the West Bank during the three-week carnage in Gaza.

Most of the work he’s done, Dayton said, occurred in the West Bank after the June, 2007, Hamas takeover in Gaza. “What we have created are ‘new men,'” he added.

Now for the warning. Recognizing that by organizing and training thousands of Palestinian troops, professionally led, he is creating in effect a nationalist army, Dayton warned the 500 or so WINEP listeners that the troops can only be strung along for just so long. “With big expectations, come big risks,” said Dayton. “There is perhaps a two-year shelf life on being told that you’re creating a state, when you’re not.” To my ears, at least, his subtle warning is that if concrete progress isn’t made toward a Palestinian state, the very troops Dayton is assembling could rebel.

Dayton was responding to a question from Paul Wolfowitz, the neoconservative former deputy secretary of defense, who now hangs his hat at the neocon-dominated American Enterprise Institute. “How many Palestinians see your people as collaborators?” Wolfowitz asked. In answering Wolfowtiz, the general acknowledged that Hamas and its sympathizers accuse the Palestinian battalions of being “enforces of the Israeli occupation.” But he stressed that each one of them believes that he is fighting for an independent Palestine. The unstated message: the United States and Israel had better deliver. Thus the two year warning. Which, to me, sounds spot on with the Obama administration’s timetable.

One more thing: General Dayton signed up for another stint in the West Bank. And how long did he agree to serve? Yes–two years.

the recruiting for dayton’s palestinian security forces is very specific. they target palestinian young men who are uneducated, who have not finished high school. they use the fact that people need salaries here, often desperately, to feed their families and to put other family members through school. this way the people who are in dayton’s security forces don’t have critical thinking skills. they don’t ask questions. they are easily influenced to think they are serving their country rather than the colonial occupying regime. or the american empire for that matter. they feed into this system that exists here that keeps people fixated on salaries rather than liberation. salaries, when they come from the palestinian authority, are a way of silencing people so that they don’t say anything that would jeopardize their income. and these fatah-dominated security forces are helping the americans and zionists in their divide and rule policy as a recent ha’aretz article makes clear:

The Palestinian Authority has established a special counter-intelligence squad in its security services to uncover agents working for Hamas and Hezbollah. To date the Palestinian Authority security services have arrested dozens of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with the two radical Islamic groups.

Israeli security sources said that the PA has made a focused effort to uncover foreign agents, noting that the new unit involves a large contingent of officers.

The new organization is part of a group of measures undertaken by the PA to counter Hamas . It is meant, among other things, to stanch information leaks from the various security groups in the PA to the Islamist groups, especially information about plans against them.

ben white had an article in electronic intifada last week that examined various aspects of the daytonization of the palestinian security forces. one of the victims of this has been my friend and colleague abdel sattar al qassim who ben writes about and whose trial is tomorrow morning. here are excerpts of ben’s article, but i strongly recommend clicking on the link and reading the entire thing about other aspects of daytonization of the pa:

Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues to invade PA-controlled areas, particularly at night, an arrangement which was actually a joint Palestinian-Israeli agreement. Moreover, while a weary Palestinian population is grateful for small economic upturns in their occupied cities, they are well aware that the PA’s law and order focus is a welcome part of Israel’s strategy in the West Bank; the BBC noted in December last year how the Israeli army was pleased with the “good job” Palestinian forces were doing.

One of the reasons for Israel’s complimentary report card is the extent to which PA forces have been arresting members of groups who oppose the official “peace process,” and in particular, detaining those who are either openly, or simply suspected, members and supporters of Hamas. According to the International Middle East Media Center, estimates give the number of detainees in Palestinian security forces’ custody at between 500 to 600, many of whom have had no trial.

The secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Saadat, himself a prisoner in an Israeli jail, noted just last week in a public statement that it was “impossible” for the PA “to demand freeing the detainees [from Israeli prisons] while the Palestinian prisons are full of prisoners jailed for resistance background or internal disputes.”

On 4 December of last year, Reuters reported on the claims being made of torture at the hands of Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security forces and General Intelligence. The article cited Ghandi Rabei, a lawyer from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) in Hebron, who told the news agency that “hundreds of civilians have been transferred to military courts without legal procedures in breach of Palestinian law and international norms.” The ICHR’s annual report for 2008 recorded 111 complaints of torture or mistreatment in detention in the West Bank, according to Agence France-Presse.

On 31 January, the British Daily Mail ran a story under the dramatic headline: “Financed by the British taxpayer, brutal torturers of the West Bank.” The paper reported how the British government’s Department for International Development had given 76 million British pounds in 2008 to the PA for what it called “security sector reform.” Once the figure is broken down, 3 million pounds went directly to the PA police, while “17 million [pounds] pays the salaries of the PA’s array of security organizations — including the Presidential Guard intelligence service and the feared Preventive Security Organization.”

One of the most important factors shaping these developments is the US strategy as directed on the ground by Lieutenant General Keith Dayton. Dayton started work with the Palestinian security forces at the end of 2005. While ostensibly charged with general reform of the PA security forces, it became apparent that the US was intent on building up Abbas-loyal PA forces in order to directly confront Hamas should the need arise.

Dayton’s plan involved giving the PA forces an increase in funding, manpower, training and weaponry. In October 2006, The New York Times reported that the US intended to expand Abbas’ Presidential Guard at a cost of $26 million. At the time, it was clear that any such plan — which also included “the transfer of thousands of guns from Egypt” to the Presidential Guard — would only go ahead with a “positive response from Israel,” according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, this “systematic effort to bolster Abbas and his Fatah loyalists to counter the political success of Hamas” suffered an embarrassing setback, of course, when Hamas forces easily triumphed over Fatah in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and thus “inherited thousands of guns, equipment and vehicles supplied by the United States.”

The only lesson learned, however, seems to have been that the US, Israel and the PA could ill-afford a similar debacle in the West Bank — and therefore Dayton’s work was to be intensified, rather than reconsidered. This, then, is what has been happening with increasing fervor in the West Bank in recent months.

On 27 February 2009, The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner wrote about the 1,600 Palestinians who “have been through American-financed courses in Jordan.” Dayton, the article said, “hopes to have a well-trained battalion based in each of eight West Bank cities” (plans to expand the program were also reported by Reuters this week). The Israelis, needless to say, are content to cooperate: an Israeli officer “inaugurated the firing range” at one of the US-funded Palestinian training camps.

Whether it is the “top brass” training provided by the US for Palestinian security officials in Ramallah, or the special “SWAT” team organized by Dayton, Salam Fayyad and the Jordanians, it is clear that the primary purpose of these forces is not neighborhood crime-busting. As the World Tribune reported in the case of the SWAT team, the “elite” forces can be used against “Hamas squads” and help “protect the PA.” As one critic put it, the PA’s security agencies in the West Bank are trained to “persecute resistance elements and provide Israel with intelligence with which to arrest or assassinate resistance leaders.”

Shawan Jabarin, general director of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, agrees that these training programs are more about internal suppression than “law and order”:

“If the senior officers who train them taught a respect for the rule of law, I’m sure we would feel that — but our feeling is completely different. I’m not saying they are training them how to torture people, but they don’t put any mechanism in place for monitoring these things. For political reasons, the Palestinians are trying to show that they are strong, that they are doing exactly what the others are asking them to do — this happened during [Yasser] Arafat’s time, and it’s also [happening] these days.”

If there was any doubt about the real purpose of these forces, one just needs to listen to Dayton himself. Dayton stressed to The Jerusalem Post in December that “the trainees are taught over and again that ‘you are not here to learn how to fight against the Israeli occupation.'” That’s why Dayton could affirm that he, the Israeli Ministry of Defense and his “IDF [Israeli army] colleagues” are of one mind: “something new is out there” and “it’s worth encouraging.”

It may not be new — one only has to go back to the mid-1990s to find something similar happening — but PA forces are certainly being encouraged to suppress dissent. While Israel was attacking Gaza in January, The Jerusalem Post described how the PA’s crackdown on the opposition in the West Bank was “being carried out in coordination with the IDF and under the supervision of US security experts.”

These were the very same police officers who had “received special training in Jordan and the West Bank as part of a security plan engineered by the US,” and were apparently reporting directly to Salam Fayyad. Israeli “security officials” “praised” Mahmoud Abbas’ “iron-fist policy” in the West Bank, reported The Jerusalem Post and “expressed satisfaction with the coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency].” Sometimes, “Hamas members were detained by the IDF only hours after they were released from PA detention centers.”

So why have key elements within Fatah and the PA decided to go down this path? It seems like the Ramallah-based political and intelligence elite are primarily driven by fear; fear of losing their power and privileges, and fear of Hamas. More specifically, there is a real sense that Hamas’ popularity has not suffered any kind of significant fall since 2006, and if anything, has been consolidated or increased.

At the same time as Hamas has emerged intact and uncompromising from Israel’s recent Gaza onslaught, the Fatah-dominated PA has nothing to show for its strategy of softly-softly negotiations; just an entrenched, apartheid-like Israeli occupation. The “peace process” has brought Israel a degree of peace, but left the Palestinians trapped between Israel’s colonies and wall. The PA’s only card is that it continues to pay the salaries of thousands of desperate Palestinians — money that is only forthcoming from the international community with strings attached.

Meanwhile in Nablus, Professor Qassem, who is considering a run for president in the future as an independent, feels like the PA “is reflecting its inner crisis against the population”:

“So instead of going back to their own people they are trying to punish their own people. Why? Because there is Dayton, and the money of the donor countries, which they cannot sacrifice. If they want to go back to their own people, they will lose their salaries, and the situation in the West Bank will be similar to that in Gaza.”

This is a deal that was made many years ago, but it has meant that there is a class of political leaders in the PA who are seemingly eternally wedded to the idea that the international community is directing the peace process in good faith. For reasons of self-interest, they are desperate to keep the PA, and all the assumptions of Oslo, alive — even while sometimes admitting that in terms of obtaining basic Palestinian rights, there is, and will continue to be, nothing to show for meeting the “benchmarks” and “roadmaps.”

If the US/Jordanian-trained PA security forces are the “stick” in the West Bank, then the manipulation of foreign aid is the “carrot.” This is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth mentioning in passing two recent Reuters reports on how “ventures backed by President Abbas’s allies have received loan guarantees, grants and agricultural assistance.”

At a critical moment for the Palestinian people, and the prospects for the region as a whole, it is arresting that many in the Palestinian leadership can sound like they are reading from Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman’s speech notes, when he said that “the path forward” lay in “security” for Israel, an “improved economy” for the Palestinians, and “stability for both,” as reported by The Jerusalem Post. As Shawan Jabarin said to me, “for political reasons you make a compromise and sacrifice human rights. This is what is going on these days.”

These are dangerous developments, something that Professor Qassem was quick to highlight in an interview with the Palestinian Information Center after his recent arrest: “Freedom of speech and expression is a paramount issue over which there can be no compromise … If we tolerate violations of our human rights and civil liberties, then we will be jeopardizing our future as a people.”

in a nutshell the daytonization of the west bank means collaboration with the zionist colonizing terrorizing entity, silencing dissent for those who would disagree with this, squashing resistance that fights for the liberation of palestine, and using american-zionist tactics of torture and repression to carry this out. it helps to divide and rule the country and to extend, rather than limit, zionist-american control of the west bank. welcome to daytonstan.

obama bombs over pakistan

a naive, and likely american, reader of my blog seems to think that the united states did not instigate and is not participating in the war on pakistan because this reader spoke to a someone in the military who denied it. ah, okay, that settles it. not! here is a reuters report about more american bombs targeting pakistan yet again:

Suspected US drone aircraft fired missiles in a Pakistani region on the Afghan border today, killing at least eight people, military and intelligence officials said.

The attack took place in a mountainous region of South Waziristan, a known al-Qa’ida and Taliban hotbed, the officials said.

“We have at least eight dead in the attack,” said a Pakistani military official who declined to be identified.

The target of the attack was not immediately known, he said.

The United States began stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan last year. There has been no let-up since President Barack Obama’s administration took office in January, despite complaints from the Pakistani government.

The United States has carried out about 40 drone air strikes since the beginning of last year, most since September, killing more than 320 people, according to a tally of reports from Pakistani security officials, district government officials and residents.

There have been 16 attacks this year, with five in April.

At least five militants were killed on Saturday in a drone attack, also in South Waziristan.

Pakistan says the drones violate its sovereignty and undermine efforts to deal with militancy because they inflame public anger and bolster militant support.

and julian barnes and greg miller report for the los angeles times that this is indeed a partnership between pakistan and the u.s.:

The U.S. military has begun flying armed Predator drones inside Pakistan and has given Pakistani officers significant control over targets, flight routes and decisions to launch attacks under a new joint operation, according to U.S. officials familiar with the program.

The project was begun in recent weeks to bolster Pakistan’s ability and willingness to disrupt the militant groups that are posing a growing threat to the government in Islamabad and fueling violence in Afghanistan.

For the U.S. military, the missions represent a broad new role in searching for Islamic militants in Pakistan. For years, that task has been the domain of the CIA, which has flown its own fleet of Predators over the South Asian nation.

Under the new partnership, U.S. military drones will be allowed for the first time to venture beyond the borders of Afghanistan under the direction of Pakistani military officials, who are working with American counterparts at a command center in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said the program was aimed at getting Pakistan — which has frequently protested airstrikes in its territory as a violation of sovereignty — more directly and deeply engaged in the Predator program.

now that the pakistani army has joined forces with the united states it does not absolve the united states from its role in creating this problem in the first place. al jazeera’s sohail rahman shows some of the destruction plaguing pakistan now as a result of the united states handiwork:

to be sure: the pakistani army would not have to be forcing half a million of its own people to become refugees or firing on its own people and communities had the united states not started its so-called “war on terror.” and this has been, of course, exacerbated by the americans who have, in the past year, begun its bombing of pakistan campaign.

meanwhile, taking a play from the zionist entity (or perhaps it is the other way around–it’s always hard to tell with these two they are conjoined) the united states has begun using white phosphorous on civilian populations in afghanistan as jason straziuso and rahim faiez report for ap news:

Doctors voiced concern over “unusual” burns on Afghan villagers wounded in an already controversial U.S.-Taliban battle, and the country’s top human rights groups said Sunday it is investigating the possibility white phosphorus was used.

The American military denied using the incendiary in the battle in Farah province — which President Hamid Karzai has said killed 125 to 130 civilians — but left open the possibility that Taliban militants did. The U.S. says Taliban fighters have used white phosphorus, a spontaneously flammable material that leaves severe chemical burns on flesh, at least four times the last two years.

Using white phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is considered legitimate under international law, but rights groups say its use over populated areas can indiscriminately burn civilians and constitutes a war crime.

Afghan doctors told The Associated Press they have treated at least 14 patients with severe burns the doctors have never seen before. The villagers were wounded during last Monday’s battle in Farah province.

Allegations that white phosphorus or another chemical may have been used threatens to deepen the controversy over what Afghan officials say could be the worst case of civilian deaths since the 2001 U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban regime.

don’t ask, don’t tell: aka the zionist entity’s nuclear arsenal

mr. fish
mr. fish

this week in ha’aretz there was an article in response to the obama administration’s nuclear non-proliferation treaty. read carefully in the quoted paragraphs below to see how they couch their language so as not to admit that the zionist entity has a nuclear arsenal, though the world knows they do (also click on the link for the rest of the article to see how they are shaking in their boots over the hypocrisy that the u.s. and europe pressure iran, but not the zionist entity):

It is unclear whether the U.S. assistant secretary of state’s call to Israel to sign on to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty indicates a change in Washington’s policy toward Israel’s nuclear program, or even if the move was anticipated by the White House.

It is clear, however, that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The U.S. has been protecting Israel for years, creating a diplomatic umbrella and pushing away any attempt, in any international debate, to discuss the nuclear weapons the entire world believes Israel possesses.

in yet another article in ha’aretz you can see some of this concern over a fear of pressure that may be exerted on the zionist entity over its nuclear weapons:

On the practical level, Washington recognizes the unique positions that Israel, India and Pakistan are all in, all of them important American allies. U.S. politics also plays an influential role – Democratic lawmakers tend to emphasize international diplomacy and the importance of nuclear monitoring, while Republicans are broadly less likely to do so.

Israel’s nuclear policy – its infamous “ambiguity” – is based on an unwritten 1969 agreement between then-prime minister Golda Meir and American president Richard Nixon, according to which, experts believe, Israel maintains nuclear ambiguity and does not conduct nuclear tests, and the U.S. refrains from pressuring it to sign the NPT.

But in 2009, the problem is more complex. As far as the Americans will progress in talks with Iran, demands will almost certainly arise for a full denuclearization of the region. In other words: “Dimona for Natanz.”

apparently, one of the changes the zionist entity is afraid of is first and foremost the admission, by the obama administration, that they in fact have nuclear weapons as saed bannoura reported:

An Obama administration official has provoked the anger of the Israeli government by implying that Israel has nuclear weapons.

While the US has never admitted that its ally Israel has nuclear weapons, the last Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted last year to the existence of the arsenal.

Anti-nuclear whistle blower Mordechai Vanunu spent eighteen years in Israeli prison for exposing the Israeli nuclear program with photos and testimony.

As a condition for his release he was denied the right to speak to foreigners and reporters.

But the U.S. and Israel have both continued to maintain a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ stance toward Israel’s nuclear arsenal of approximately thirty warheads.

Now, assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller may be breaking that taboo. She gave a speech in New York listing the countries that must adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. By including Israel in that list, she broke a thirty year silence by U.S. officials on the existence of an Israeli nuclear arsenal.

mordechai vanunu's photograph a nuclear weapon of the zionist entity
mordechai vanunu's photograph a nuclear weapon of the zionist entity

of course, seymour hersh’s important book, the samson option: israel, america and the bomb, (1991) detailed the facts about the zionist entity’s nuclear weapons. and much of what we know about this comes from mordechai vanunu’s work to expose their arsenal after having worked there for many years (and, of course, he was imprisoned by the zionists for this). john steinbach’s historicizes the criminal origin of their nuclear weapons for the center for research on globalization:

The Israeli nuclear program began in the late 1940s under the direction of Ernst David Bergmann, “the father of the Israeli bomb,” who in 1952 established the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. It was France, however, which provided the bulk of early nuclear assistance to Israel culminating in construction of Dimona, a heavy water moderated, natural uranium reactor and plutonium reprocessing factory situated near Bersheeba in the Negev Desert. Israel had been an active participant in the French Nuclear weapons program from its inception, providing critical technical expertise, and the Israeli nuclear program can be seen as an extension of this earlier collaboration. Dimona went on line in 1964 and plutonium reprocessing began shortly thereafter. Despite various Israeli claims that Dimona was “a manganese plant, or a textile factory,” the extreme security measures employed told a far different story. In 1967, Israel shot down one of their own Mirage fighters that approached too close to Dimona and in 1973 shot down a Lybian civilian airliner which strayed off course, killing 104. There is substantial credible speculation that Israel may have exploded at least one, and perhaps several, nuclear devices in the mid 1960s in the Negev near the Israeli-Egyptian border, and that it participated actively in French nuclear tests in Algeria. By the time of the “Yom Kippur War” in 1973, Israel possessed an arsenal of perhaps several dozen deliverable atomic bombs and went on full nuclear alert.

Possessing advanced nuclear technology and “world class” nuclear scientists, Israel was confronted early with a major problem- how to obtain the necessary uranium. Israel’s own uranium source was the phosphate deposits in the Negev, totally inadequate to meet the need of a rapidly expanding program. The short term answer was to mount commando raids in France and Britain to successfully hijack uranium shipments and, in1968, to collaborate with West Germany in diverting 200 tons of yellowcake (uranium oxide). These clandestine acquisitions of uranium for Dimona were subsequently covered up by the various countries involved. There was also an allegation that a U.S. corporation called Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) diverted hundreds of pounds of enriched uranium to Israel from the mid-50s to the mid-60s.

Despite an FBI and CIA investigation, and Congressional hearings, no one was ever prosecuted, although most other investigators believed the diversion had occurred. In the late 1960s, Israel solved the uranium problem by developing close ties with South Africa in a quid pro quo arrangement whereby Israel supplied the technology and expertise for the “Apartheid Bomb,” while South Africa provided the uranium.

helena cobban, writing for ips, addressed the implications of making the zionist entity’s nuclear weapons program transparent:

Now, it looks as if Washington may be preparing to join this movement toward stressing Israeli transparency and accountability. This would take the Obama administration back to the stance adopted by Pres. John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s. Just a few years later, however, in 1969, Pres. Richard Nixon signed off on a policy that Israeli nuclear policy expert Avner Cohen has described as one of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Back in the Cold War, there were many – including key Nixon adviser Henry Kissinger – who argued that colluding with Israel’s nuclear opacity was in the U.S. interest since, if Israel came out openly as a nuclear power, that could spark Soviet arms sales to pro-Moscow allies in the region and raise tensions in the region.

After the Cold War ended, many in the U.S. strategic-affairs community favoured continuing the policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They argued that Israel acted as an extension of U.S. power in the Middle East, so its capabilities should be supported, or that the U.S. was so powerful globally that it had no need to put pressure on or embarrass its Israeli ally.

Both those arguments were based on the judgment that U.S. interests always coincide with those of Israel. Now, as Obama and his top aides have started to hint, that judgment may be starting to change.

but just because these words sound different, don’t expect a new policy for real. because the u.s. is just as hypocritical as the zionist entity when it comes to its nuclear arsenal. and neither both will continue to build their nuclear weapons programs. both will continue to use them as a threat whether they are secret or public. and both will allow their allies to have nuclear weapons and they will both continue to threaten or bomb countries trying to develop their own as a way to defend themselves from these colonial or imperial powers.

update: jasmin ramsey at pulse media just published a post on this subject, which i strongly recommend!

on the criminals who escape prosecution

there was some really disturbing reporting on the situation of the tamils in sri lanka the past few days. here is an update from david chater on al jazeera:

i wish that al jazeera posted not only their reports in the field, but also the discussions that follow the reports live in the studio. because late last night they interviewed a woman from tamils against genocide. i couldn’t grab a pen to jot down her name, but she was really amazing. she mentioned a number of things that were particularly striking in terms of the way it resembles what israeli terrorists do to palestinians in gaza and in the past against lebanese. here are a few things she mentioned:

1. sri lanka is using cluster bombs
2. sri lanka is using white phosphorus
3. sri lanka has hired an american public relations firm to put out propaganda
4. sri lanka has trapped tamils and refuses to let them leave the war zone
5. sri lanka propaganda is now saying “there is no humanitarian crisis” (recall: tzipi livni)
6. sri lanka is only allowing journalists to be embedded with its army and will not allow them into the areas where tamils are trapped

to get an idea of what white phosphorus does here is a video from human rights watch on israeli terrorists’ use of the weapon in gaza:

the video is useful, but like cluster bombs i totally disagree with human rights watch that this weapon has a legitimate purpose in any context. they argue that there are legitimate uses of white phosphorus. i also have serious problems with human rights watch de-contextualizing palestinian resistance fighters’ use of qassam rockets. it is not the same. israeli terrorists have an army–and the fourth largest army in the world. palestinians have limited resources for its resistance. not unlike the tamil tigers in sri lanka.

there are, of course, historical parallels between palestinians and tamils, too, given the context of the british creating the problems in both places as well. suren surendiran wrote a great piece in the guardian this week that provides some historical context that will also resonate for those who know the history of palestine:

The Sri Lankan military is killing hundreds of Tamil civilians each day. On Sunday alone, a thousand people were killed by cluster bombs, artillery and machine gun fire. On Monday, hundreds died when Sri Lankan forces used them as human mine-sweepers and human shields to advance against the Tamil Tigers.

This “slaughter” of civilians, as Human Rights Watch has condemned it, has intensified since January. Over 5,000 Tamils have been massacred in the past three months alone.

Crucially, this genocide by the Sri Lankan state has been enabled by the international community, including Britain. This is why tens of thousands of British Tamils have been protesting outside Parliament here for several weeks.

We are British citizens, but our government is ignoring us and turning a blind eye to the ongoing massacres of our relatives and community in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka as a country was evicted from the UN human rights council last year for its gross violations of the human rights of its people. Sri Lanka does not let independent journalists report freely. The current government has been accused of being complicit in many abductions and killings of journalists and others.

The UK and other western states have suggested that by destroying the Tamil Tigers, Sri Lanka can be made peaceful. This is a profound misunderstanding of the state-racism and ethnic supremacy at the heart of the Sri Lankan crisis – a crisis that has now become genocide.

Britain is deeply implicated in this crisis.

When in 1948 Britain, the colonial power, granted independence to Sri Lanka, the Westminster-style democracy London set up allowed a pernicious Sinhala chauvinism to capture the state and begin the 60 years of violence and oppression the Tamils have now endured.

In 1977, after three decades of discrimination and state-backed mob violence, the entire Tamil political leadership united behind a demand for an independent state comprising the Tamil homeland as the only way to escape oppression.

The Sinhala-dominated state responded with violence, and a few years later, in 1983, a Tamil armed struggle emerged in response. This resistance to the Sinhala state is led by the Tamil Tigers or LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Until 1983 Tamils have tried through many of their democratically elected leaders and parties to resolve this injustice by negotiations and peaceful means. Even during the armed struggle, LTTE has many times attempted to negotiate with successive Sri Lankan governments. As recently as 2002, a ceasefire agreement was negotiated between the government and the LTTE by the international community. Just as before, the Sri Lankan state abrogated from this agreement unilaterally in January 2008.

Since 1983, the problem in Sri Lanka has been characterised by western states as conflict, rather than state chauvinism. They have sought to support the Sinhala-dominated state and pressure the LTTE to “make peace”.

The Tamils in Sinhala-dominated Sri Lanka face the same crisis as the people of Kosovo under Serbian rule. The international community could not make the Serbian state led by Milosovic cease its attempts to wipe out the people of Kosovo, and ultimately Kosovo was granted independence to assure their safety.

Having abandoned the Tamils to majoritarian tyranny, Britain has consistently ignored the Sinhala chauvinism deeply embedded in the Sri Lankan state. The UK has cynically sold weapons to the Sinhala military and tried to pass off the agitation by Tamils as one of poverty, merely requiring “development”.

We want Britain to compel the racist regime in Sri Lanka to cease its genocide. As a member of the UN security council, a close ally of the US and a member of the EU, Britain has the ability to do this. As the former colonial power that placed the Tamils at risk, and as a state that has sought explicitly to champion democracy and freedom, it has a moral obligation, too.

Remember, most British Tamils have direct relatives – mums, dads, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces – left back in the war zone. They are genuinely concerned for their safety and whereabouts.

That is why Britain’s Tamils are protesting outside Parliament day and night.

i wonder if sri lanka will get off as easy for its massacre of tamils as israeli terrorists have been getting off. although the news from norway bodes well that perhaps there may be some justice as saed bannoura reports:

A group of lawyers in Norway have filed charges with the nation’s top prosecutor against former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, accusing them of war crimes.

The charges stem from the Israeli government’s attack on the Gaza Strip beginning in late December 2008, which the lawyers say violated international law by illegally targeting civilians, using internationally-banned weapons and attacking hospitals and medical personnel.

In Norway, the tenet of ‘universal jurisdiction’ allows lawyers to file charges against people in other countries, including leaders and officials, if there is evidence of war crimes or other violations of international law.

The case is being brought on behalf of three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack, according to the lawyers.

The lawyers said they could not stand silent in the face of what they termed Israel’s ‘war crimes’ in Gaza. They said in their statement, “There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions.”

Similar charges filed in Spain last month were later revoked after pressure from the Israeli government and lobbyists threatened to change the very nature of the Spanish judiciary. Lawyers backed down from the charges after the campaign, saying that the ‘universal jurisdiction’ in that country did not apply if an investigation is ongoing within the offending country. Although Israel has claimed that their military conducted ‘investigations’ into the military’s actions in Gaza, but no on-the-ground evidence was actually gathered during, leading many observers worldwide to question its legitimacy.

The Norwegian lawyers said that the potential for diplomatic problems between their government and Israel was outweighed by the severity of the crimes in the case.

here is a discussion about israeli terrorist soldiers absolving themselves on al jazeera’s “inside story” with kamahl santamaria. it features an israeli terrorist with the jerusalem post, yaakov katz, and wesam ahmad from al haq, and the amazing incomparable dr. mads gilbert from…norway. i love santamaria on this episode. he always keeps the discussion back to the original text. just like a literature professor. love it.

of course it is not just sri lankans or israeli terrorists who turn the truth on its head in order to get out of paying the price for their war crimes. it is also the americans. case in point: barack obama on prosecuting those who created a policy and culture of torture in the bush administration. al jazeera reports that obama may allow for the prosecution of a few mid-level people, but top folks seem to be absolved:

Barack Obama, the US president, has left open the possibility of prosecuting officials over the CIA torture memos released by his administration last week.

Obama on Tuesday reiterated his belief that US intelligence agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other interrogation methods after acting on advice from superiors who defined such practices as legal should not face prosecution.

But Obama said it is up to Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, whether to prosecute lawyers under the administration of George Bush, Obama’s predecessor, who wrote the memos approving the tactics.

one of the key people who should be at the top of the list is, of course, dick cheney. david usborne reported in the independent quoted cheney in a way that shows he seems to be gloating:

Dick Cheney has returned to the fray to demand the CIA release documents that he says show “enhanced” interrogation techniques extracted crucial information from terror suspects.

The former vice president’s remarks follow Barack Obama’s decision to release top secret memos detailing controversial questioning methods used under the Bush administration.

“One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is that they put out the legal memos… but they didn’t put out the memos that show the success of the effort,” Mr Cheney told Fox News.

of course obama is likely covering his own ass because he knows that when he leaves office, because he is continuing bush’s policies, he and his administration could be subjected to the same prosecution if he opens up this can of worms now (in theory he could be regardless but that would mean electing someone moral and someone who is invested in justice, which amerians are not capable of). jeremy scahill’s report on the prison at baghram airforce base in afghanistan is one place where if we had access to more information i’m sure it would be made clear that torture is going on there:

As the Obama administration faces mounting pressure to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate torture and other crimes ordered by senior Bush administration officials and implemented by CIA operatives and contractors, the ACLU is opening up another front in the battle for transparency. But this one is not exclusively aimed at the Bush era. Today, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking to make public records on the US-run prison at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The group is seeking documents from the Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA.

As the ACLU states, “the U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram, including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been detained for as long as six years without access to counsel, and only recently have been permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators concluded that the deaths were homicides.”

in counterpunch scahill makes it clear why this is not a partisan issue in the u.s.: democrats and republicans alike are responsible for these american policies:

There are some powerful Democrats who certainly would not want an independent public investigation, particularly those who served on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees when Bush was in power and torture was being ordered and authorized. That’s because in the aftermath of 9/11, some in Congress were briefed on the torture methods in real time and either were silent or, in some cases, supported these brutal tactics or, as some have suggested, possibly encouraged them to be expanded.

perhaps we can get norway to add sri lanka and the united states to its list???

on just following orders

jeremy scahill blogged this bit of important news yesterday about obama and the cia torture memos:

Just two days after President Obama publicly announced he would not seek prosecution of CIA torturers because they had “in good faith” obeyed the orders of the Bush administration in their torture of other human beings, the UN is weighing in. The world body’s rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, told the Austrian paper Der Standard Obama’s refusal to prosecute is a breach of international law.

“The United States, like all other states that are part of the U.N. convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court,” Nowak said.

Nowak, according to Reuters, “suggested an investigation by an independent commission before suspects were tried and said it would be important for all victims to receive compensation.”

This comes at the end of a week which can only be described as a victorious one for torturers. Not only did Obama, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Attorney General Eric Holder assure the CIA torturers that they would not be prosecuted (Obama said it was a time for “reflection not retribution”), but Spain’s Attorney General said his courts would not permit a prosecution of the “Bush 6” for their involvement in legally sanctioning US torture policy. In his first remarks on that case, Obama said he wanted to “look forward, not backwards.” The six include Alberto Gonzales, the ex attorney general, Pentagon official Douglas Feith and Justice Department lawyer John Yoo. Yoo is believed to be the co-author of the now infamous “Bybee memo,” which was among the four memos released on Thursday by the Justice Department (after the ACLU sued) and provided a legal justification for waterboarding, banging prisoners against walls, placing them in wooden boxes, sleep deprivation other forms of torture.

Meanwhile, Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky blasted the decision not to prosecute CIA torturers. “This notion that ‘I was just obeying orders’ — I don’t want to compare this to Nazi Germany, but we’ve come to almost ridicule the notion that when horrific acts have been committed that people can use the excuse that, ‘Well, I was just following orders,’” she said. Schakowsky, who is on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence says that if the committee chair doesn’t proceed with investigations, her staff will.

for some further context into american torturing i recommend watching al jazeera’s new program “fault lines” (terrific name) with avi lewis and josh rushing (fabulous team). lewis interviews richard armitage who seems to think that he is above the law because he was “just following orders.” meanwhile rushing interviews maher arar, the syrian canadian man who the united states flew to syria to be tortured in one of its more public extraordinary rendition cases. this program and its interviews are reminders why scahill’s pressing for the release of these torture memos–and for the prosecution of those who tortured and those who gave orders–must persist.

yes, the u.s. is still a racist state

it is official. okay, well, that is a lie. it always has been a racist state. but those who drank the obama koolaid and think that somehow having a black president equals the “post-racism” are particularly delusional. i’ve been following the world conference against racism (a.k.a. “durban 2) religiously, but i haven’t really written much about it because most of that material is in a chapter in my book so i’ve put all my energy into that. but now that the conference will begin this weekend and that the final decision from the white house has been made i think it warrants some discussion. it is yet one more reason why obama is bush is clinton is bush is reagan is carter (you get the picture).

the latest is that the u.s. is boycotting the world conference on racism for the same reason the bush administration did in 2001: they are afraid of discussing the fact that zionism = racism and reparations for the trans-atlantic slave trade. ma’an news reports the decision:

The US will not reverse a decision to boycott the upcoming UN conference on the elimination of racism in spite of the removal of a clause from a document that identified Israel as a perpetrator of racist policies.

Senior White House officials informed American Jewish leaders in a conference call on Wednesday that the US would not change its position on the conference, according to news reports.

The US State Department earlier released a statement saying that “progress” had been made on the text of the document guiding the aims of the Durban Review Conference, which opens on 20 April.

“Substantial improvements have been made, including shortening the document, removing all language that singled out any one country or conflict, and removing language that embraced the concept of “defamation of religion” and that demanded reparations for slavery,” the State Department said.

The US withdrew from the last UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, due to an effort to condemn Israel and its occupation of Palestinian land as racism.

Israel and Canada are also boycotting this year’s summit.

the zionist entity’s media adds this:

In an attempt to save the anti-racism conference, Russia initiated a new draft which no longer included the negative references to Israel. However, the new document ratifies “Durban I” – the concluding document of the first World Conference against Racism held in South Africa in 2001, which includes a harsh condemnation of Israel.

Former US President George W. Bush boycotted ‘Durban 1’, but Obama did want the US to attend next week’s conference in Geneva, and even sent representatives to a preliminary meeting held a few weeks ago. The decision to boycott ‘Durban II’ was reached after the representatives said the US lacked the clout to omit the condemnation of Israel from the conference document.

in typical fashion they reverse everything around to obscure the truth. the truth is that they are a racist, fascist regime and this is why they–along with other states–will be called on the carpet at this meeting. as well they should be. as should the u.s., of course.

for a reality check of the larger picture here we must turn to the brilliant glen ford of the black agenda report for the context:

On Tuesday, April 14, according to the Huffington Post, the White House placed a conference call to American “Jewish leaders,” all but assuring them the U.S. would not show up for Durban II, the international conference on racism, in Geneva, Switzerland. President Obama’s close adviser Samantha Power, of the National Security Council, said the event’s revised draft document “met two of our four red lines frontally, in the sense that it went no further than reparations and it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language. But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”

Translation: although the document, under relentless U.S. pressure, has been watered down to the point of irrelevance, it remains unacceptable because it reaffirms declarations of the first World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. There is virtually no chance President Obama will reverse his decision to boycott Durban II, April 24-25.

We must first ask: Why is the White House reporting to “Jewish leaders” on an issue that is of interest to all Americans, most especially people of color? Has Obama arranged such briefings on Durban II for “Black leaders,” “Latino leaders,” or “Native American leaders” – representatives of constituencies that have suffered genocide, slavery, discrimination, forced displacement and all manner of racist assaults right here on American soil? No, he has not. Barack Obama knows full well that he risks nothing by disrespecting African Americans at will. Across the Black political spectrum, so-called leadership seems incapable of shame or of taking manly or womanly offense at even the most blatant insults to Black people when the source of the affront is Barack Hussein Obama.

Several weeks ago, popular Sirius Radio Black talk show host Mark Thompson (“Make It Plain”) wondered aloud if Obama’s threat to boycott Durban II should be a “deal breaker” – a “last straw” offense against Black interests and sensibilities. It should have been. The Obama administration’s fawning, damn near servile behavior when accommodating Zionist demands – and I use the word “demands” quite purposely – was a lesson in how Power responds to constituencies it favors, fears, or at least, respects. Blacks get nothing from Obama’s White House except permission to worship him as the ultimate role model. Less than nothing, as the unfolding Durban outrage demonstrates.

Obama has done more damage to the Durban process than George Bush, who pulled out of Durban I after the conference had begun. Important language survived the 2001 disruption, such as:

“We acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity not only because of their abhorrent barbarism but also in terms of their magnitude, organized nature and especially their negation of the essence of the victims, and further acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity and should always have been so, especially the transatlantic slave trade and are among the major sources and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian.”

and,

“Urges States to adopt the necessary measures, as provided by national law, to ensure the right of victims to seek just and adequate reparation and satisfaction to redress acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to design effective measures to prevent the repetition of such acts”

As University of Dayton, Ohio law professor Vernellia R. Randall has pointed out, pressures from the Obama White House caused revisions in the Durban II draft that

• withdrew language related to reparations;

• removed the proposed paragraph related to the transatlantic slave trade being a crime against humanity;

• removed proposed paragraphs designed to strengthen the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and,

• overall weakened the efforts related to people of African Descent.

And of course, language related to Palestinian rights and Israeli racism was totally eviscerated. (Samantha Power: “..it did drop all references to Israel and all anti-Semitic language.”) But none of that was enough to satisfy the Zionists, who hope to utterly destroy Durban II, and erase Durban I from the record. (Power, on remaining U.S. objections: “But it continued to reaffirm, in toto, Durban I.”)

George Bush’s walkout at Durban I provided a sour ending for the event, but allowed participants to make some important statements and carry out additional work over the next eight years. The United States and other countries were to report to Durban II on residential segregation, criminal justice, police brutality, felony disenfranchisement and Katrina displacement. That cannot happen if the official American delegation is not in Geneva. Samantha Power told her Jewish leadership friends, who don’t want Durban II to occur, at all, not to worry. “In order for us to participate in the negotiations, to sit behind the placard, to be involved in a frontal way, much more would need to be done. And all four of our red lines will need to be met.”

Israel and the White House speak of “red lines” that they will not tolerate being crossed in politics and diplomacy. But where are the “red lines” that so-called Black leaders will not allow to be breached? Where Barack Obama is concerned, such lines do not exist – which is why he is permitted to walk all over Black folks, with impunity.

Yes, Durban II should have been a deal breaker. Instead, it was mostly cause for sniveling lamentation and words of “concern” or wishful predictions by Black notables that Obama would change his mind (after the damage had already been done!) and attend the conference.

The National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL), although initially registering “profound disappointment” (oh, my!) with Obama’s boycott of Durban II, cheerily added, “we are confident that your Administration will be reversing its decision in time to participate in the conference and its remaining preparatory meetings….” That was on March 27, by which time Obama’s vandals had caused the shredding of almost every word of value in the documents. The Black lawyers’ “Open Letter to President Barack Obama” was signed by an impressive list of many scores of prominent organizations and individuals – but in its determined, concentrated meekness, should never have been expected to have any impact on the White House. And of course, it had none.

The likes of the NCBL would be flattered to have Obama’s people string them along – any attention would do. But Samantha Power and her boss won’t even bother, understanding perfectly well that the meek inherent nothing but manure. In her thorough and collegial report on Durban to Jewish leaders – who are anything but meek – Power said: “We will make our decision [to attend] up closer to the date of the conference, we want to show good faith to our allies and the people who are working hard to improve the text… But we are also not interested in being involved or associated with fool’s errands.”

Obama’s White House has not seen fit to show the slightest glimmer of good faith to Black people (at least, those not in his immediate family or employ), and seems to consider salvaging Durban I a “fools errand.” You know what color the “fools” are.

TransAfrica chairman Danny Glover placed an article in the April 8 issue of The Nation magazine that read like a letter to President Obama. “This should be a moment for the United States to rejoin the global struggle against racism, the struggle that the Bush administration so arrogantly abandoned,” wrote Glover. “I hope President Obama will agree that the United States must participate with other nations in figuring out the tough issues of how to overcome racism and other forms of discrimination and intolerance, and how to provide repair to victims.”

Let’s see if Glover calls Obama “arrogant” when the president finishes sabotaging Durban II. My bet is, “disappointed” is about as strong as Glover will muster. Obama sucks the spine out of Black people.
And as long as Black notables (let’s drop the “leadership” charade) turn into invertebrates at the mere thought of Barack Obama, so long will he treat the entire group as inconsequential, harmless ciphers.

but the united states and obama’s administration is not only failing to deal with these issues at the world conference against racism. it is failing to do so at home too. in the state where obama grew up, hawai’i, a group of leading indigenous scholars and activists have come together to pen an open letter to obama asking him to intervene in legislation that will undermine their historical and native rights to their land, colonized by the united states:

We, the undersigned Kanaka Maoli (indigenous Hawaiians) kupuna (elders), kumu (educators), and representatives address this letter to you on behalf of our people and nation, as well as of other Hawaiian Kingdom heirs. At our invitation, a number of our kako‘o (supporters) have also added their names to this letter.

Our primary purpose for contacting you, Mr. President, is to solemnly inform you of our categorical opposition to the proposed legislation now before the U.S. Senate and House that is entitled The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which is commonly referred to as the “Akaka Bill.” This legislation, first introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2000—and now confusingly existing in four versions (S. 381; S. 708; H.R. 862; H.R. 1711)—proposes that the U.S. Government recognize a “Native Hawaiian Government” that is to be certified by the U.S. Department of the Interior in conformity with U.S. federal law and practice regarding Native American tribal nations.

We reject this Akaka Bill for weighty reasons. To begin with, the historical harm the United States first committed in Hawai’i in 1893 brought down, not a “Native Hawaiian Government”, but the independent Hawaiian Kingdom composed of Kanaka Maoli as well as non-Kanaka Maoli subjects. Consequently, the Kanaka Maoli people and other Hawaiian Kingdom heirs have, since that time, accumulated fundamental political and other claims against the United States under international law that the United States must recognize rather than hope to dispel via the enactment of this Bill. Indeed, in our view, the passage of this Bill would constitute nothing less than a second illegal denial of our Kanaka Maoli people’s right to self-determination and the Kingdom heirs’ right to sovereignty. The first outrage, we note, has already been formally admitted by the U.S. Congress in its Apology Resolution of 1993 which, furthermore, pledged to right that original wrong. Not only does the Akaka Bill not follow through on that pledge, it in fact attempts to sabotage the rightful return of our people to our status prior to 1893-98 by imposing on us a colonial U.S. “wardship” that is anchored in the U.S. judicial doctrine of the plenary power of Congress over Native American nations.

Moreover, we submit that, presuming on the good faith of your Administration, Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation is now trying to ram through the Akaka Bill in the U.S. Congress before the latter can inform itself fully of the vehement and ever-growing opposition to the Bill in Hawai‘i among Kanaka Maoli, other Kingdom heirs, as well as kako‘o. We use the term “ram through” advisedly because, among other things, the delegation has held but ONE 5-day hearing, back in 2000, on the Bill since its inception, and only on the single island of O‘ahu. Moreover, while the video record of that lone hearing shows overwhelming opposition to the Bill, the delegation disingenuously reported the opposite to Congress.

In 1993, our Hawai‘i International People’s Tribunal—composed of world human rights leaders, including three eminent U.S. law professors—heard evidence on our main islands and found the following U.S. actions to be violations of international law: its intervention in the 1893 overthrow of our independent government; its 1898 annexation and military occupation of our homeland; its conduct of the fraudulent 1959 Hawai‘i statehood vote; and its ongoing seizure of our national lands with resulting ethnocidal effect on our people. These findings have been widely disseminated and embraced in our homeland.

That same year, the 1993 U.S. Apology Resolution (103d Congress Joint Resolution 19, P.L. 103-150, November 28, 1993) was signed by President William Clinton. The Apology acknowledges the role of U.S. Minister John Stevens and of the U.S. military in the overthrow of our Queen Lili‘uokalani in 1893 in direct contravention of bilateral treaties then binding on the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom. The Resolution further recognizes that “the indigenous Hawaiian people never directly relinquished their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people or over their national lands to the United States, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum.” Moreover, it pledges the United States to acknowledge the ramifications of the 1893 overthrow so as to identify a basis for reconciliation between the U.S. government and the Kanaka Maoli people. Shamefully, the Akaka Bill moves in a direction opposite to that pledge.

The Bill arrogantly attempts to unilaterally characterize the historical transgressions of the United States against our people and kingdom, and to unilaterally specify their remedy. We insist otherwise. U.S. crimes against our Kanaka Maoli people and other Kingdom heirs from 1893 on require, for their redress, that a mechanism composed of U.S. agents and wholly independent representatives of Kanaka Maoli and Kingdom heirs be bilaterally set up by your Administration and us to make findings of fact and conclusions of international law that could serve as a road-map for the resolution of the political and legal issues now outstanding between our two parties.

but the obama administration’s racism extends far beyond the shores of the u.s. on any given side. despite claims to the contrary things are not improving in guantanamo, for instance, as abuse of detainees continues on his watch. mohammad al-qaraani a prisoner there, called into al jazeera to report he was beaten and tear gassed as monica villamizar reports:

and of course it is not only there, but also in baghram in afghanistan where prisoners are being detained and likely tortured. jeremy scahill reports today about obama’s white house continuing several of bush’s policies related to imprisonment and torture:

As has been pointed out by several diligent journalists, human rights lawyers and critics, President Obama has continued—and continues to defend—some of the Bush administration’s most repressive “War on Terror” policies, although Obama prefers to not use that term anymore. On several occasions, Obama has invoked the “state secrets” doctrine, including to argue that a lawsuit filed against the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping should be thrown out. As former constitutional lawyer turned Salon.com columnist Glen Greenwald wrote, the move “demonstrates that the Obama DOJ plans to invoke the exact radical doctrines of executive secrecy which Bush used.”

Meanwhile, the White House is continuing to defend its use of the US prison at Bagram in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs was confronted about this by the great Helen Thomas:

Q Why is the President blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there —

MR. GIBBS: You’re incorrect that he taught on constitutional law.

Q — for many years with no due process.

MR. GIBBS: Well, there are several issues relating to that that have to do differently than in some places than others, particularly because you have detainees in an active theater of war. There’s a review that’s pending of court cases and decisions, and we want to ensure — we want to ensure protection and security of the American people as well as rights that might be afforded.

Q Are you saying these people in prison are a threat to us?

MR. GIBBS: Well, I think that part of that is the determination based on our detainee policy that the President announced on the 21st of January, that that’s part of that review, yes.

Chuck.

Chuck then changed the subject. (David Swanson has a humorous take on this back and forth at AfterDowningStreet, while Liliana Segura takes it on at AlterNet.)

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting today that “The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed in Central Intelligence Agency interrogations, despite a push by some top officials to make the information public.” The 2005 “Bradbury memos represent an effort by the Bush administration to keep the CIA program of ‘enhanced’ interrogations of certain detainees on a legal footing after the Bush administration in late 2004 withdrew earlier Justice Department memos on interrogation.”

this system of detaining, imprisoning, torturing muslims and arabs in these prisons is racist. it depends upon the targeting of one particular ethnic or religious group. but there is some good news…and obama if he continues down this path may face the same thing at the end of his term, if not sooner. it seems that at least in spain justice will be served to american war criminals as scott horton reports:

Spanish prosecutors have decided to press forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five top associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo, several reliable sources close to the investigation have told The Daily Beast. Their decision is expected to be announced on Tuesday before the Spanish central criminal court, the Audencia Nacional, in Madrid. But the decision is likely to raise concerns with the human-rights community on other points: They will seek to have the case referred to a different judge.

The six defendants-in addition to Gonzales, Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith-are accused of having given the green light to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners held in U.S. detention in “the war on terror.” The case arises in the context of a pending proceeding before the court involving terrorism charges against five Spaniards formerly held at Guantánamo. A group of human-rights lawyers originally filed a criminal complaint asking the court to look at the possibility of charges against the six American lawyers. Baltasar Garzón Real, the investigating judge, accepted the complaint and referred it to Spanish prosecutors for a view as to whether they would accept the case and press it forward. “The evidence provided was more than sufficient to justify a more comprehensive investigation,” one of the lawyers associated with the prosecution stated.