jump to navigation

Iran’s Nuclear Scientists are not being Assassinated. They are Being Murdered January 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Iran, War on Terror.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

Killing our Enemies Abroad is Just State-sponsored Terror – Whatever Euphemism Western Leaders Like to Use

  by  Mehdi Hasan

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

© 2012 The Guardian

<!–

–>

Mehdi Hasan

Mehdi Hasan is senior editor (politics) at the New Statesman and a former news and current affairs editor at Channel 4. His New Statesman blog is here

Terror and torture May 3, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

abu-ghraib-matthew-langleyArtwork: Matthew Langley

Jim Miles

www.onlinejournal.com, May 1, 2009

The current media frenzy concerning Obama’s coming release of more information on U.S. torture between 2000 and 2005 is a political storm conveniently kept out of context.

There are two aspects to the context that are missing. First, this is not new information and well before current events erupted into the news, the case has been made all along that the Bush administration in general — Bush and Cheney, their political advisors and legal representatives — are all complicit in contravening the Geneva Conventions on torture and the treatment of prisoners of war. Secondly, terror and torture go hand in glove, the two are fully related and have been used by the U.S. and its proxies in many different contexts around the world — and are still doing so as Obama has put an end to torture at Guantanamo, but has not denied renditions to friendly torturers elsewhere.

The spin-doctors in the White House are no longer allowing the use of the term “war on terror” although the facts of the war have not changed. As the global war on whatever or the long war on whomever continues, the abuses associated with terror and torture will continue to spread.

The initiator of terror, of course, is the occupier of foreign territories creating the obvious wish on the part of the indigenous populations for the occupier to go home, currently involving most of the Middle East from Israel/Palestine through to Pakistan. This has happened throughout history, ancient and modern, from the Crusades and the Mongol hordes through the genocide of native populations in the Americas to the more modern terrors of a highly developed technological warfare that readily conquers “enemies” as defined by the political elites for a variety of reasons, from religious zealotry to political zealotry, frequently one and the same thing, seen most evidently in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . and Pakistan?

Put in simpler terms, the U.S. uses terror, the U.S. uses torture, its allies and compatriots use terror, use torture, and as the U.S. expands its war frontiers further into Pakistan, so will the edges of terror and torture expand.

Power and control

Torture is ultimately about power and control. It ranges from the pure brutality of physical torture often described in many of the wars for suppression of indigenous control in Central America to the more ‘refined’ torture currently used to break down a prisoner’s psychological persona without leaving the physical scars of the less sophisticated forms of torture. Torture is used to create terror, to create a population that is subservient and easily controlled by the very fear of the terror that it spreads. In turn, as terror and torture strips away the thin layers of civilization that control man’s baser instincts, terror and torture become devices used by the combatants on both sides.

As the most powerful country in the world, the U.S. role in abrogating human rights and crimes against humanity have a powerful effect elsewhere in the world. “The actions of the United States have also made it more difficult to critize the violations of international law by other countries, most notably Israel.” What occurred at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and Bagram airbase “bear more than a passing resemblance” with the “testimonies of Palestinians released from Israeli prisons.” [1]

As expressed shortly after Abu Ghraib, “the powerful often turn to torture in times of crisis not because it works but because it salves their fears and insecurities with the psychic balm of empowerment.” Even though torture does not do what it is purported to do, provide useful information, “a plea to torture one terrorist with a ticking bomb becomes the rationale for insecure leaders to win the right to torture someone, anyone, to assuage the uncertainties of rule and empower themselves for dominion.” [2]

Obama

I have no sympathy — and perhaps a seed of disdain — for Obama’s current problems on the political front with his inheritance of the Bush legacy of torture. If the world is to look forward with “hope” for “change” it needs to start at home. Simply releasing more information will provide neither hope nor change. If Obama wishes to be more than a man of wonderful sounding phrases, he will have to do what is correct by international law and arrange whatever is necessary under U.S. law to investigate and prosecute those involved with the torture — not just the low level people, those “following orders,” but the ones in the executive and legislative branches who formed the concept and provided the legal okay for it, contrary to international laws.

From readings of international law, Obama himself becomes guilty of torture as anyone who is complicit with aiding and abetting torture becomes guilty of the crime. If he refuses to act, then under international standards, Obama becomes guilty of the crime. Unfortunately the U.S. is one of the most contradictory countries when it comes to upholding laws, always telling others that they need to be transparent, open, democratic, but when it suits its own purposes it relies on ignoring, abrogating, or denying international law.

Guilty until proven innocent

Phillippe Sands’ work “Torture Team” examines one particular case related to Guantanamo and arrives at the clear conclusion that there is good case for prosecuting Bush, Cheney, Feith, Haynes, Gonzales, Yoo, Bybee and others from this case in itself. [3] Others included in this list are the medical workers, physicians and psychologists, who supported those actually applying the torture.

Within its own internal laws the U.S. has provided immunity from prosecution under the Military Commissions Act as it “Gives US officials immunity from prosecution for torturing detainees that were captured before the end of 2005 by US military and CIA.” [4]

Sands adds, “Legislation creating such an immunity would allow the crime to be covered up: it was almost an admission that a crime had occurred.” [5] That immunity, however arguable under U.S. law, does not extend outside the U.S.: “Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, any country may prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by anyone anywhere.” [6]

Alfred McCoy in “A Question of Torture — CIA Interrogation From the Cold War to the War on Terror” examines the history of torture up to the days of Abu Ghraib. He starts by stating “five intertwined aspects of its perverse psychology,” the fifth of which needs to be restated strongly today: “ . . . a nation that sanctions torture in defiance of its democratic principles pays a terrible price. For nearly two millennia, the practice has been identified with tyrants and empires. For the past two centuries, its repudiation has been synonymous with the humanist ideals of the Enlightenment and democracy. When any modern state tortures even a few victims, the stigma compromises its majesty and corrupts its integrity. Its officials must spin an ever more complex web of lies that, in the end, weakens the bonds of trust and the rule of law that are the sine qua non of a democracy.” [7]

For Obama to avoid complicity, for Obama to not be seen as opposing basic human rights, for Obama to avoid being labelled an ineffective orator, he needs to act on the information that is at hand and proceed with some form of investigation that has the power it needs to fully complete its legal tasks. For the U.S. to not be seen as it has for the past decade as a country that trammels other people’s international rights, the people of the U.S., and their elected representatives, need to support that investigation.

Canadian complicity

Canada is a minor player on the world political scene, increasingly seen as nothing more than a U.S. puppet, a minion succouring favour, trying to be one of the big boys on the global stage by supporting the Bush doctrine, even after Bush is gone. The Canadian government under Harper has supported the U.S. in Afghanistan and currently on into Pakistan without considering the context of who started the great mujahideen warriors in the first place (the U.S. CIA and Pakistani ISI) and why they are now fighting them in Central Asia (gas, oil, containment of China and Russia).

This complicity extends to torture. The case of Maher Arar is a relatively well-known extradition case that the government aided in. More recently, now that Guantanamo is being shut down, a Canadian citizen Omar Khadr is being denied entry back into Canada even though the Federal Court has said it should be allowed. One of the government’s arguments is that Khadr needs to be processed through the U.S. legal system (hmm . . . see above) even though under international law he could be tried here in Canada. While Harper wishes to appear tough on terrorism, he is only making himself complicit in the illegal practices utilized by the U.S. at Guantanamo, soon perhaps to be sanctioned by Obama as well.

The Canadian pretender to the throne, whom I do not always agree with, appears to understand the situation more clearly than Harper. Michael Ignatieff states, . . . even in emergency, even if some liberties must be suspended, a constitutional state must remain answerable to the higher law, a set of standards that protect foundational commitments to the dignity of every person. [8]

Terror’s answer

Terror is an act of aggression. It is part and parcel of the nature of warfare, and is a particular conjoint of unilateral preemptive warfare. The answer to terror is twofold. First the initiating countries, those that are doing the invading, manipulating, coercive activities, need to stop. The second is that terror used in response to terror cannot be stopped by war, but needs to be stopped by international police work and the upholding of international law internally and internationally by all parties.

For Canada, hopefully, Harper will see the last of his controlling reign in the next election and equally hopefully, Ignatieff can stand up his own beliefs in human rights extending beyond state legalities. Obama needs to act in his own backyard and ignore his own state legalities of the Military Commissions Act, or terror will continue regardless of any war label applied to U.S. actions. If it cannot be contained and brought to justice in the U.S., it will not happen internationally.

[1] Byers, Michael. War Law — Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver, 2005. p. 154.

[2] McCoy, Alfred W. A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2006. p. 207.

[3] Sands, Phillippe. Torture Team — Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law. Allen Lane (Penguin), 2008. See review at

[4] Anup Shah. “Military Commissions Act 2006—Unchecked Powers?Znet. October 02, 2006.

[5] Sands, ibid, p. 252.

[6] Byers, ibid, p. 143

[7] McCoy, ibid, p. 14.

[7] Ignatieff, Michael. The Lesser Evil — Political Ethics in an Age of Terror. Princeton University, 2004. p. 44.

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.

Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Tom Friedman Offers a Perfect Definition of ‘Terrorism’ January 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Media.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

by Glenn Greenwald

Tom Friedman, one of the nation’s leading propagandists for the Iraq War and a vigorous supporter of all of Israel’s wars, has a column today in The New York Times explaining and praising the Israeli attack on Gaza. For the sake of robust and diverse debate (for which our Liberal Media is so well known), Friedman’s column today appears alongside an Op-Ed from The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, one of the nation’s leading (and most deceitful) propagandists for the Iraq War and a vigorous supporter of all of Israel’s wars, who explains that Hamas is incorrigibly hateful and radical and cannot be negotiated with. One can hardly imagine a more compelling exhibit demonstrating the complete lack of accountability in the “journalism” profession — at least for those who are loyal establishment spokespeople who reflexively cheer on wars — than a leading Op-Ed page presenting these two war advocates, of all people, as experts, of all things, on the joys and glories of the latest Middle East war.

In any event, Friedman’s column today is uncharacteristically and refreshingly honest. He explains that the 2006 Israeli invasion and bombing of Lebanon was, contrary to conventional wisdom, a great success. To make this case, Friedman acknowledges that the deaths of innocent Lebanese civilians was not an unfortunate and undesirable by-product of that war, but rather, was a vital aspect of the Israeli strategy — the centerpiece, actually, of teaching Lebanese civilians a lesson they would not soon forget:

Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians – the families and employers of the militants – to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

Israel’s military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon – when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That’s when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: “What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?”

Friedman says that he is “unsure” whether the current Israeli attack on Gaza is similiarly designed to teach Palestinians the same lesson by inflicting “heavy pain” on civilians, but he hopes it is:

In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.

The war strategy which Friedman is heralding — what he explicitly describes with euphemism-free candor as “exacting enough pain on civilians” in order to teach them a lesson — is about as definitive of a war crime as it gets. It also happens to be the classic, textbook definition of “terrorism.” Here is how the U.S. Department of State defined “terrorism” in its 2001 publication, Patterns of Global Terrorism:

No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:

The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant (1) targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. . . .

(1) For purposes of this definition, the term “noncombatant” is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty.

Other than the fact that Friedman is advocating these actions for an actual state rather than a “subnational group,” can anyone identify any differences between (a) what Friedman approvingly claims was done to the Lebanese and what he advocates be done to Palestinians and (b) what the State Department formally defines as “terrorism”? I doubt anyone can. Isn’t Friedman’s “logic” exactly the rationale used by Al Qaeda: we’re going to inflict “civilian pain” on Americans so that they stop supporting their government’s domination of our land and so their government thinks twice about bombing more Muslim countries? It’s also exactly the same “logic” that fuels the rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas into Israel.

It should be emphasized that the mere fact that Tom Friedman claims that this is Israel’s motivation isn’t proof that it is. The sociopathic lust of a single war cheerleader can’t fairly be projected onto those who are actually prosecuting the war. But one can’t help noticing that this “teach-them-a-lesson” justification for civilian deaths in Gaza appears with some frequency among its advocates, at least among a certain strain of super-warrior, Israel-centric Americans — e.g.: Marty “do not fuck with the Jews” Peretz and Michael “to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause” Goldfarb — who love to cheer on Middle East wars from a safe and sheltered distance.

Some opponents of the Israeli war actually agree with Friedman about the likely goals of the attack on Gaza. Writing last week in The New York Times, Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi noted:

This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”

This AP article yesterday described how “terrified residents ran for cover Tuesday in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City as Israeli troops backed by tanks thrust deeper into the city.” It reported that “an Israeli warplane fired a missile at the former Gaza city hall, used as a court building in recent years . . . . The 1910 structure was destroyed and many stores in the market around it were badly damaged.” And it quoted an Israeli military officer as follows: “Soldiers shoot at anything suspicious, use lots of firepower, and blast holes through walls to move around.”

The efficacy of Friedman’s desired strategy of inflicting pain on Palestinian civilians in order to change their thinking and behavior is unclear. The lack of clarity is due principally to the fact that Israel is still blocking journalists from entering Gaza. But this Sunday’s New York Times article — reporting on unconfirmed claims that Israel was using white phosphorus on the civilian population (a claim the IDF expressly refused to deny) — contains this anecdotal evidence that The Friedman Strategy is actually quite counter-productive:

Still, white phosphorus can cause injury, and a growing number of Gazans report being hurt by it, including in Beit Lahiya, Khan Yunis, and in eastern and southwestern Gaza City. When exposed to air, it ignites, experts say, and if packed into an artillery shell, it can rain down flaming chemicals that cling to anything they touch.

Luay Suboh, 10, from Beit Lahiya, lost his eyesight and some skin on his face Saturday when, his mother said, a fiery substance clung to him as he darted home from a shelter where his family was staying to pick up clothes.

The substance smelled like burned trash, said Ms. Jaawanah, the mother who fled her home in Zeitoun, who had experienced it too. She had no affection for Hamas, but her sufferings were changing that. “Do you think I’m against them firing rockets now?” she asked, referring to Hamas. “No. I was against it before. Not anymore.”

It’s far easier to imagine a population subjected to this treatment becoming increasingly radicalized and belligerent rather than submissive and compliant, as Friedman intends. But while the efficacy of The Friedman Strategy is unclear, the fact that it is a perfect distillation of a “war crime” and “terrorism” is not unclear at all.

One might ordinarily find it surprising that our elite opinion-makers are so openly and explicitly advocating war crimes and terrorism (“inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large” and “‘educate’ Hamas by inflicting heavy pain on the Gaza population”). But when one considers that most of this, in the U.S., is coming from the very people who applied the same “suck-on-this” reasoning to justify the destruction of Iraq, and even more so, when one considers that our highest political officials are now so openlyeven proudlyacknowledging their own war crimes, while our political and media elites desperately (and almost unanimously) engage in every possible maneuver to protect them from any consequences from that, Friedman’s explicit advocacy of these sorts of things is a perfectly natural thing to see.

Leading Israeli Scholar Avi Shlaim: Israel Committing “State Terror” in Gaza Attack, Preventing Peace January 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Democracynow! January 14, 2009

AMY GOODMAN: The Israeli assault on Gaza is entering its nineteenth day, with no end in sight. Israeli warplanes are continuing their bombardment, launching over sixty air strikes overnight. Meanwhile, Israeli troops have edged closer to the heart of the densely populated Gaza City and are engaged in street fighting with militants.

 

Since Israel’s offensive began on December 27th, nearly 1,000 Palestinians have been killed. More than 4,400 have been injured, and an estimated 90,000 have fled their homes. Thirteen Israelis have died over the same period, ten of them soldiers, including four by so-called “friendly” fire.

 

As the war continues, humanitarian concerns are mounting. The chief UN aid official for Gaza, John Ging, has appealed to the international community to protect Gaza’s civilians, calling it a “test of our humanity”.

 

Meanwhile, a UN watch group has accused Israel of showing a “manifest disrespect” for the protection of children in Gaza. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, more than 40 percent of those killed in Gaza are women and children.

 

On Tuesday, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Gaza and said what he saw was shocking. ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger said, “It is unacceptable to see so many wounded people. Their lives must be spared and the security of those who care for them guaranteed.”

 

Despite a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution last week, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the military operation will continue.

 

Our next guest is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Arab-Israel conflict. Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. He is now a professor of international relations at Oxford University. In an article in The Guardian newspaper of London, he says he has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. But he says its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions. Professor Avi Shlaim is the author of a number of books, most notably The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. His latest book is Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace. Avi Shlaim joins us today from Oxford University in Britain.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

AVI SHLAIM: Thank you. I’m happy to be on your program in these very sad times.

AMY GOODMAN: As you look at what’s happening in Gaza from your vantage point, well, many miles away in Britain, can you talk about the kind of trajectory your evaluation has taken, where you started in your thoughts about Israel and where you are now?

AVI SHLAIM: As you mentioned, I did national service in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s. And in those days, Israel was a small state surrounded by enemies, and the nation was united in face of the surrounding Arab states. We all felt total commitment to the state of Israel and to the defense of the state of Israel. The Israeli army is called the Israel Defense Forces, and it was true to its name.

But 1967, the war of June 1967, was a major turning point in the history of Israel and the history of the region. In the course of the war, Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank from Jordan and Sinai from Egypt. After the war, Israel started building civilian territories in the occupied territories in violation of international law. So Israel became a colonial power and an imperial power.

And I, for my part, have never questioned the legitimacy of the Zionist movement. I saw it as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Nor did I ever question the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I reject, what I reject totally, absolutely and uncompromisingly, is the Zionist colonial project beyond the 1967 borders. So we have to distinguish very clearly between Israel proper, within its pre-1967 borders, and Greater Israel, which began to emerge in the aftermath of the June ‘67 war and has completely derailed the Zionist project.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, specifically talk about Gaza, how it has developed and where it is today, right now under assault by the Israeli military.

AVI SHLAIM: In a long-term historical perspective, I would begin with the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. I wrote a book, which you mentioned in your introduction, called The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. It is a history of the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1948. It’s a very long book, but I can summarize it for you in one sentence, that throughout its sixty years, Israel has been remarkably reluctant to engage in meaningful negotiations with its Arab opponents to resolve the dispute between them and only too ready to resort to military force in order to impose its will upon them. And the current vicious Israeli onslaught on the people of Gaza is the climax of this longstanding Israeli policy of shunning diplomacy and relying on brute military force.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to Professor Avi Shlaim. He is professor of international relations at Oxford University, served in the Israeli military. His latest book is called Lion of Jordan. He is one of the world’s leading scholars on the Arab-Israel conflict. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest right now is Oxford University Professor Avi Shlaim. He teaches international relations at Oxford University. He’s speaking to us from Oxford right now, leading authority in the world on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

We’ve had a number of debates here on Democracy Now!, Professor Shlaim, over the past weeks about what’s happening in Gaza and those who support the Israeli military continually say that in 2005, three years ago, Israel pulled out of Gaza entirely. You have a different picture of what happened under Ariel Sharon in August of 2005. Explain how you see the withdrawal of Israeli military at that time.

AVI SHLAIM: President Bush described Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. I’ve done a great deal of archival research on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I can honestly tell you that I have never come across a single scintilla of evidence to support the view of Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. He was a man of war, a champion of violent solutions, a man who rejected totally any Palestinian right to self-determination. He was a proponent of Greater Israel, and it is in this context that I see his decision to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza in August of 2005.

The withdrawal was officially called the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza. I would like to underline the word “unilateral.” Ariel Sharon was the unilateralist par excellence. The reason he decided to withdraw from Gaza was not out of any concern for the welfare of the people of Gaza or any sympathy for the Palestinians or their national aspirations, but because of the pressure exerted by Hamas, by the Islamic resistance, to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. In the end, Israel couldn’t sustain the political, diplomatic and psychological costs of maintaining its occupation in Gaza.

And let me add in parentheses that Gaza was a classic example of exploitation, of colonial exploitation in the postcolonial era. Gaza is a tiny strip of land with about one-and-a-half million Arabs, most of them—half of them refugees. It’s the most crowded piece of land on God’s earth. There were 8,000 Israeli settlers in Gaza, yet the 8,000 settlers controlled 25 percent of the territory, 40 percent of the arable land, and the largest share of the desperately scarce water resources.

Ariel Sharon decided to withdraw from Gaza unilaterally, not as a contribution, as he claimed, to a two-state solution. The withdrawal from Gaza took place in the context of unilateral Israeli action in what was seen as Israeli national interest. There were no negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on an overall settlement. The withdrawal from Gaza was not a prelude to further withdrawals from the other occupied territories, but a prelude to further expansion, further consolidation of Israel’s control over the West Bank. In the year after the withdrawal from Gaza, 12,000 new settlers went to live on the West Bank. So I see the withdrawal from Gaza in the summer of 2005 as part of a unilateral Israeli attempt to redraw the borders of Greater Israel and to shun any negotiations and compromise with the Palestinian Authority.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, Israel says the reason it has attacked Gaza is because of the rocket fire, the rockets that Hamas is firing into southern Israel.

AVI SHLAIM: This is Israeli propaganda, and it is a pack of lies. The important thing to remember is that there was a ceasefire brokered by Egypt in July of last year, and that ceasefire succeeded. So, if Israel wanted to protect its citizens—and it had every right to protect its citizens—the way to go about it was not by launching this vicious military offensive, but by observing the ceasefire.

Now, let me give you some figures, which I think are the most crucial figures in understanding this conflict. Before the ceasefire came into effect in July of 2008, the monthly number of rockets fired—Kassam rockets, homemade Kassam rockets, fired from the Gaza Strip on Israeli settlements and towns in southern Israel was 179. In the first four months of the ceasefire, the number dropped dramatically to three rockets a month, almost zero. I would like to repeat these figures for the benefit of your listeners. Pre-ceasefire, 179 rockets were fired on Israel; post-ceasefire, three rockets a month. This is point number one, and it’s crucial.

And my figures are beyond dispute, because they come from the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. But after initiating this war, this particular table, neat table, which showed the success of the ceasefire, was withdrawn and replaced with another table of statistics, which is much more obscure and confusing. Israel—the Foreign Ministry withdrew these figures, because it didn’t suit the new story.

The new story said that Hamas broke the ceasefire. This is a lie. Hamas observed the ceasefire as best as it could and enforced it very effectively. The ceasefire was a stunning success for the first four months. It was broken not by Hamas, but by the IDF. It was broken by the IDF on the 4th of November, when it launched a raid into Gaza and killed six Hamas men.

And there is one other point that I would like to make about the ceasefire. Ever since the election of Hamas in January—I’m sorry, ever since Hamas captured power in Gaza in the summer of 2007, Israel had imposed a blockade of the Strip. Israel stopped food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching the Gaza Strip. One of the terms of the ceasefire was that Israel would lift the blockade of Gaza, yet Israel failed to lift the blockade, and that is one issue that is also overlooked or ignored by official Israeli spokesmen. So Israel was doubly guilty of sabotaging the ceasefire, A, by launching a military attack, and B, by maintaining its very cruel siege of the people of Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel calls Hamas “terrorist.” What is your definition of “terror”?

AVI SHLAIM: My definition of “terror” is the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. And by this definition, Hamas is a terrorist organization. But by the same token, Israel is practicing state terror, because it is using violence on a massive scale against Palestinian civilians for political purposes. I don’t hold a brief for Hamas. Hamas is not a paragon of virtue. Its leaders are not angels. They harm civilians indiscriminately. Killing civilians is wrong, period. That applies to Hamas, and it applies equally to the state of Israel.

But there are two points I would like to make about Hamas, and that is—the first point is that it was elected in a fair and free election in January 2006. It was an impeccable election, monitored by a number of international observers, including President Jimmy Carter. So it is not just a terrorist organization. It is a democratically elected government of the Palestinian people and the representative of the Palestinian people in Gaza, as well as the West Bank.

And the second point that I would like to make is that since coming to power, Gaza has moderated its political program. Its charter is extreme. Its charter denies the legitimacy of a Jewish state. The charter calls for an Islamic state over the whole of historic Palestine. The charter has not been revived, but since coming to power, the leadership of Hamas has been much more pragmatic and stated that it is willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the state of Israel for twenty, thirty, forty, maybe even fifty years.

Thirdly, Hamas joined with Fatah, the rival group, the mainstream group, on the West Bank in a national unity government in the summer of 2007. That national unity government lasted only three months. Israel, with American support, helped to sabotage and to bring down that national unity government. Israel refused to deal with a Palestinian government which included Hamas within it. And shamefully, both the United States and the European Union joined in Israel in this refusal to recognize a Hamas-dominated government, and Israel withdrew tax revenues, and European Union withdrew foreign aid, in a shameful attempt to bring down a democratically elected government.

So, I do not defend Hamas, but I think that it hasn’t received a fair hearing from the international community, and Israel has done everything to sabotage it all along.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Shlaim, you say it’s done everything to sabotage it, except at the beginning, when you say it supported Hamas to weaken Fatah, which it now supports.

AVI SHLAIM: Indeed. Israel has always played the game of divide and rule. This is a very good tactic in times of war, to divide your enemies and pick them off one by one. No one can complain about that. But divide and rule isn’t a good tactic in times of peace. If your aim is to achieve peace with the Arabs, then you should want unity among the Palestinians and unity in the Arab world. But Israel continued to play this game of divide and rule.

Hamas emerged in the course of the First Intifada in the late 1980s. It is the Islamic resistance movement. The mainstream movement, Fatah, was led by Yasser Arafat. And Israel gave tacit encouragement and support to the Islamic resistance in the hope of weakening the secular nationalists led by Yasser Arafat. It was a dangerous game to play, because the end result of this game was that Hamas emerged as the strongest Palestinian political party.

And Israel helped Hamas inadvertently in another way, because Fatah signed the Oslo Accord with Israel in 1993. It expected the Oslo Accord to lead to a two-state solution. And yet, Israel, after the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, reneged on the Israeli side of the deal. So, the Oslo Accord, the Oslo peace process wasn’t doomed to failure from the start. It failed because Israel, under the leadership of the Likud, reneged on its side of the deal. So that left the Palestinians with nothing but misery and poverty and frustration and ever-growing Israeli settlements on the land. And it was this context that led to the success of Hamas at the last elections. So Israel has a lot to explain in the rise to power of the Hamas movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, we only have a minute, but I want to ask you where you see the solution at this point. Barack Obama will be president on Tuesday in just a few days. Hillary Clinton will be Secretary of State.

AVI SHLAIM: The solution—this is a political conflict, and there is no military conflict to—there is no military solution to this conflict. The only solution lies in negotiations between Israel and Hamas about all the issues involved. President-elect Obama is a very impressive man and a very intelligent man and a very fair-minded man. He hasn’t demonstrated any courage in the course of this crisis. He hasn’t taken any position. He hasn’t called for an immediate ceasefire. So the first step is an immediate ceasefire, and the next step would be negotiations between all the sides about restoring the ceasefire and then moving on to stage two, which is a political settlement to this tragic hundred-year-old conflict.

AMY GOODMAN: And Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, who said in her confirmation hearing yesterday she wouldn’t negotiate with Hamas?

AVI SHLAIM: Yes, but there are other signs from the Obama campaign that they would be willing to consider low-level, indirect contacts with Hamas. And one has to be grateful for small mercies, so small, minor, low-level contacts with Hamas could lead to a proper dialog in due course. So I remain optimistic that sanity and rationality would take over in American foreign policy after the dreadful last eight years.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Avi Shlaim, thank you very much for being with us. Professor Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, served in the Israeli military—among his books, Lion of Jordan: King Hussein’s Life in War and Peace—known as one of the leading authorities in the world on the Israel-Palestine conflict and Arab-Israel conflict. Among his other books, The Iron Wall.

From Canada: They hate us for our bombs January 2, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

From Friday’s Globe and Mail

A letter I received last year rebuked me for calling George Bush’s explanation of 9/11 – They hate us for our freedoms – “doltish.” Its writer said leaders must speak concisely and simply. “What would you say?” he challenged. I’ve chewed on this and chosen: “They hate us for our bombs.” It came to me during the bombing of Gaza this week. I use “hate” to parallel the Bush usage. “Consider us their enemies,” would be better.

This is so in Kandahar, where Canadians keep dying, and “they,” or some of them, don’t hate us for our good intentions, but for the bombs that land on wedding parties. It’s so in Gaza, where people often show bomb remnants marked “Made in U.S.A.” That’s why they see “us” as enemies, like Israel. That, plus “our” support for Israel’s bombing. George Bush said it was fine with him. “No comment,” said Barack Obama, squandering some of the goodwill toward him. “First and foremost, those rocket attacks must stop,” said Canada’s Foreign Minister. It’s the “first and foremost” that invited rage. Most people, including Palestinians, know that rocketing others is bad – but so is being bombed. This is about understanding how people think, not debating it.

Or consider this. Gaza is roughly half the area of Toronto, with a population closing in on 60 per cent of Toronto’s. To get comparable deaths for the current assault, you’d somewhat less than double: 450 there would be like 750 here, etc. In the first hour of bombing last Saturday, the morgues ran out of room. Then a university, mosques and a TV station were bombed.

The ratios between Palestinian and Israeli dead run between 100 and 150 to one, and have since Israel “withdrew” in 2005. That huge disparity is the difference between bombs and far less damaging rockets. It’s what happens when you leave a place, surround it, close it off like a prison and bomb it at will.

Context also matters, and how the bombed see the motives of the bombers.

In a 2006 election that everyone agrees was fair, Palestinians chose a Hamas government. “We” immediately withheld aid to show disapproval.

Israel illegally withheld revenues like customs. The U.S. built up anti-Hamas forces. A virtual Palestinian civil war ensued, and Hamas took over Gaza, not exactly first prize. Israel tightened its existing Gaza blockade on most goods and all exports with the explicit purpose, repeated this week by its Prime Minister to explain the bombing, of pressuring Gazans to turn on Hamas. This amounts to punishing innocent people for political ends, which is pretty close to the conventional definition of terrorism.

Let me add, quick as a bunny, that I find “those rockets” sent by Hamas into Israeli kindergartens and bus stops just as odious as those bombs smashing Gaza. Terror is terror, it always sucks. Ordinary people deserve to live their lives unterrorized. Plus, in the case of Palestinians, mass non-violent protest would be far more effective than puny rockets. There is room for peaceful compromise on every side – it’s all on the record – but the leaders choose to go other routes and “we” – the West – are likely the only ones who could apply the necessary pressure but we won’t, or haven’t. So in a way, “our” hands are bloodiest of all, since we have so little to lose.

Osama bin Laden says he sat in Beirut in 1982 watching U.S. bombs smash the “towers of Lebanon” and decided “they” would only stop doing it when it was done back to them. And an Israeli minister said last February that Hamas’s rockets would bring upon Gaza a “holocaust.” Of course, both were wrong, factually and morally. But it seems utterly typical of human beings to want to do unto others as was done to them. It makes you realize how radical, and even unnatural, is that rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I used to think it was trite, and obvious.

Dealing With Killers and Kidnappers: the High Cost of Free Trade December 6, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Colombia, Latin America, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
www.upsidedownworld.org Written by Cyril Mychalejko   
Tuesday, 02 December 2008
President Bush is using his final days in office to push through a free trade agreement with Colombia that would reward one of the hemisphere’s worst human rights abusers.

Meanwhile, major media outlets have ceded their role as critical watchdogs and instead have indiscriminately thrown their support behind a pact with a country which Human Rights Watch notes has “the world’s highest rate of killings of trade unionists… [and that] The violence there is so serious, and the lack of response by the authorities so overwhelming, that workers simply cannot exercise their rights,” such as the basic right to organize.

The U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report also makes a case for not passing the deal. Released in March, the report states that in Colombia “forced disappearances” occur, while the police and military have been tied to torture and extrajudicial killings. In September, the U.S. Labor Education on the Americas Project, a non-profit that supports workers in Latin America, revealed that “41 union members were killed in Colombia in the first eight months of 2008, more than the entirety of 2007.”

But never mind states the media. In a recent editorial, the New York Times argues, “The new agreement would benefit American companies.” The L.A. Times also states “Seal the Deal,” even though it admits “Colombia remains a violent country where…even the military and national police commit human rights abuses and atrocities.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post chastised Democrats’ opposition to the deal, and specifically for “arguing that Colombia has a dismal record on human rights.”

Another argument you’ll hear from free traders is that allowing U.S. businesses greater access into these often times fragile countries will subsequently help democratize them. But unfortunately reality trumps this free trade rhetoric.

Last year Chiquita Brands International Inc. was forced to pay the U.S. Justice Department a $25 million settlement for giving over $1 million to the right-wing terrorist organization United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). And even more disturbing, as the Washington Post in an Aug. 2, 2007 article pointed out, is that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, at the time of the payments assistant attorney general, knew about the company’s relationship with AUC and did nothing to stop it.

We can also look to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) as an example of how unleashing the “invisible hand” of the market in Latin America ends up strangling the people of the region. On April 23 six Guatemalan unions, along with the AFL-CIO, filed a complaint allowed through labor provisions of CAFTA, charging that the Guatemalan government was not upholding its labor laws and was failing to investigate and prosecute crimes against union members-which include rape and murder. The complaint states that violence against trade unionists had increased over the past two years (since CAFTA was ratified) and that the Guatemalan government may be responsible for some of the violence.

Commenting on the complaint and the violence of free trade in Guatemala, Thea Lee, chief international economist for the AFL-CIO, told Bloomberg News, “There is a climate of terror for trade unionists. But so far the Bush administration hasn’t lifted a finger to enforce any of the labor chapters.”

Then there is Colombia’s paramilitary scandal (you could devote a whole book to this), which involves all levels of the government and the military—even President Alvaro Uribe and members of his family.

So is opening up markets to U.S. companies in countries where violence against workers and impunity are the norm one of the “benefits” of free trade? When workers live in a “climate of terror” and are denied their right to organize so that they might be able to negotiate humane wages and working conditions, companies can keep wages and working conditions at inhumane levels. This undoubtedly maximizes profits. But is this the business model we want to continue export to the world?

One thing everyone should have learned from the last eight years, and from our nation’s subsequent miserable standing in the world, is that it’s time to use human rights to guide our foreign policy. If that’s to be the case, Democrats can begin this process by denying President Bush this last parting shot. 

Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at www.UpsideDownWorld.org.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 225 other followers