Remember Latma, the Zionist outfit in Israel run by the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick?
You know the ones. Hating Arabs and Palestinians in particular. Doing wonders for Israeli PR.
They’re back with another tasteful affair:
Remember Latma, the Zionist outfit in Israel run by the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick?
You know the ones. Hating Arabs and Palestinians in particular. Doing wonders for Israeli PR.
They’re back with another tasteful affair:
Dahr Jamail is one of America’s finest independent reporters.
He’s currently investigating the devastating effects of the BP oil spill:
I learn that due to a combination of part of the Mississippi River having been diverted (thus stopping the natural regeneration of land from silt deposits), oyster beds being depleted in the past, oil-production infrastructure causing erosion of wetlands, and now oil from the new disaster destroying marshlands, the Cajun coast is the fastest disappearing landmass on Earth. In fact, every 30-minutes sees an area the size of a football field disappear into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), established in April 2004 by a small group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals and widely supported by leading civil society associations, unions and networks, has not witnessed a sustained surge in cultural boycott of Israel as in the last year and a half, since the Israeli war of aggression on Gaza.
Today there are campaigns for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel in the US, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Norway, among others.
When artists or arts groups announce plans to perform — or display as the case may be — in Israel, PACBI and its partners around the world appeal directly to these artists, if a direct communication channel avails itself. Otherwise, we issue open letters and network with other groups to apply moral pressure on the artists/bands to convince them to cancel performances and exhibits in Israel.
Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid cultural boycott, PACBI has relied entirely on moral pressure, appealing to the conscience of the artists in question as well as their fans. When all else fails, supporters do at times organize civil protests at international concerts of artists who adamantly refuse to heed our calls. Our main argument is that performing in a state that practices occupation, colonization and apartheid, as Israel does, cannot be regarded as a purely artistic act, if any such act exists. Regardless of intentions, such an act is a conscious form of complicity that is manipulated by Israel in its frantic efforts to whitewash its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. This is because artistic performances in Israel promote a “business as usual” attitude that normalizes and sanitizes a state that has committed war crimes over several decades — in Gaza, Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev), and now in the high seas against international humanitarian relief workers aboard the Freedom Flotilla.
An artist who performs in Israel today — just like any artist who violated the boycott and performed in Sun City, South Africa, during apartheid — can only be seen by Palestinians and people of conscience around the world as motivated by profit and personal gain far more than by moral principles. We know that Israeli concert promoters offer large sums of money to lure international performers as part of Israel’s “Brand Israel” campaign, designed explicitly to hide Israel’s criminal violations of human rights under a guise of artistic and scientific glamour and a deceptive image of cultural excellence and “liberalism.”
In 1965, the American Committee on Africa, following the lead of prominent British arts associations, sponsored a historic declaration against South African apartheid, signed by more than 60 cultural personalities. It read: “We say no to apartheid. We take this pledge in solemn resolve to refuse any encouragement of, or indeed, any professional association with the present Republic of South Africa, this until the day when all its people shall equally enjoy the educational and cultural advantages of that rich and beautiful land.” PACBI hopes to achieve the same level of commitment from international artists in isolating apartheid Israel.
The main impact of the boycott at this stage is to expose Israel as a pariah, to increase its isolation, thus raising the price of its injustices against the Palestinian people and challenging international complicity in perpetuating its occupation and apartheid.In reaction to Israel’s Freedom Flotilla massacre which led to the murder of 9 unarmed Turkish humanitarian relief workers and human rights activists – one with dual Turkish/US citizenship — and to the injury of dozens more from several countries, leading cultural figures and bands reacted swiftly and decisively.
Endorsing a cultural boycott of Israel, world renowned British writer, Iain Banks, wrote in the Guardian that the best way for international artists, writers and academics to “convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation” is “simply by having nothing more to do with this outlaw state.” This position by Banks was later endorsed by Stephane Hessel, co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Holocaust survivor and former French diplomat.
Many British literary and academic figures published a letter in the Independent that said, “We … appeal to British writers and scholars to boycott all literary, cultural and academic visits to Israel sponsored by the Israeli government, including those organised by Israeli cultural foundations and universities.”
Cartoon artist Martin Rowson expressed the shock shared by millions in a cartoon in the Guardian. Rowson depicted intimidating, heavily-armed Israeli commandos commandeering Noah’s ark, incarcerating all the frightened animals, with one of the soldiers cruelly crushing a dead peace dove — olive branch and all — justifying it to a devastated Noah by saying, “[The dove] was clearly intent on pecking innocent civilians.”
In the world of performing arts, the Klaxons and Gorillaz Sound System cancelled their scheduled concerts in Israel, reportedly due to the Flotilla attack, and so did the Pixies.
The latest famous performer to cancel a gig in Israel was US folk singer Devendra Banhart. While holding on to the delusional and peculiar concept that a musician can simply “share a human not a political message” even if performing to the oppressor community, as it were, in the context of occupation, apartheid and extreme violations of human rights, Banhart justified his withdrawal by saying that “it seems that we are being used to support views that are not our own.” Israeli media outlets had tried to portray his scheduled gig as a political message in solidarity with Israel at a time of increasing isolation.
World best-selling writer, the Swedish Henning Mankell, who was on the Freedom Flotilla when attacked, called for South-Africa style global sanctions against Israel in response to its brutality.
The best-selling US author, Alice Walker, reminded the world of the Rosa Parks-triggered and Martin Luther King-led boycott of a racist bus company in Montgomery, Alabama during the US civil rights movement, calling for wide endorsement of BDS against Israel as a moral duty in solidarity with Palestinians, “to soothe the pain and attend the sorrows of a people wrongly treated for generations.”
In the weeks before the Flotilla attack, artists of the caliber of Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and Carlos Santana all cancelled scheduled performances in Israel after receiving appeals from Palestinian and international BDS groups.But even well before the latest Israeli bloodbath, many prominent international cultural figures had heeded or directly supported cultural boycott appeals issued by the PACBI and widely supported by Palestinian civil society. It may be most convenient to break down the various artists/cultural figures’ responses to the PACBI Call into three categories:
(A) Cultural figures (artists, authors, etc.) who explicitly support the Palestinian cultural boycott of Israel.The statement by 500 Artists against Apartheid in Montreal is the latest, most impressive of these efforts.Earlier, in 2006, the famous British author and artist, John Berger, issued a statement explicitly endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel. He collected 93 endorsements then on this powerful declaration, including some very prominent writers and artists.
Other intellectuals and artists in this category who were not on the Berger list include: Ken Loach, Judith Butler, Naomi Klein, The Yes-Men, Sarah Schulman, Aharon Shabtai, Udi Aloni, Adrienne Rich, John Williams (perhaps the greatest classical guitarist alive), and now Iain Banks, Alice Walker, among others.
(B) Cultural figures who openly refuse to participate in Israel’s official celebrations and festivals for unambiguous political reasons.
In 2008, countering Israel’s “60th Anniversary” celebrations, PACBI collected tens of signatures of prominent artists and authors for a half-page advertisement that was published in the International Herald Tribune on 8 May that year. The list included luminaries like Mahmoud Darwish, Augusto Boal, Roger Waters, Andre Brink, Vincenzo Consolo, and Nigel Kennedy. Some of the signatories on that ad later adopted the boycott explicitly, moving to Category (A) above.(C) Cultural figures who decline offers to perform/speak in Israel or agree and then cancel without giving any explicit political reasons.
This category includes: Bono, U2, Bjork, Jean-Luc Godard, Snoop Dogg, and others.PACBI appealed to Bono, for instance, in 2008 and again in 2010, urging him not to perform in Israel. Both times his performances were cancelled, but he never gave a specific reason to the media, other than the regular “scheduling” problem. PACBI deeply appreciates his decision not to entertain Israeli apartheid.
Many top artists refuse to perform in Israel from the start. The Forward, the leading Jewish daily in New York, informs us that at least 15 leading performers actually refused to play Israel, despite lucrative remuneration offers:
“In reaction, a music industry insider confirmed that the winds could be shifting. The music executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in light of his ongoing business ties with artists, said that in recent months he had approached more than 15 performing artists with proposals to give concerts in Israel. None had agreed. The contracts offered high levels of compensation. He called them ‘extreme, big numbers that could match any other gig.’”
Some artists argue that, instead of boycotting, they prefer to visit Israel and use the performance opportunity to express their views against Israeli injustices. This ostensibly noble idea is not only — unfortunately — too rare to be viewed as significant; it is ill conceived. Such a hypothetically courageous stance cannot possibly outdo or neutralize the far more substantial harm done due to these performances taking place, as Israel, with its formidable influence in mainstream Western media, cynically uses them to project a false image of normalcy that enables it to maintain its occupation and apartheid. Ultimately, a conscientious artist is expected to heed the appeals of the oppressed as to what they really need from them in the struggle to end injustice and colonial oppression. This was true in the South African anti-apartheid struggle, too.
As to the commonly used “art ought to be above politics” argument, it is patently ahistorical and political par excellence. Artists are humans who are expected to be more, not less, sensitive than others in empathizing with human suffering and rejecting oppression. When they choose to side with hegemonic oppressors for money, fame or other material gains at the expense of basic commitment to human rights, they end up selling their souls and declaring their utter ethical corruption. Artists, like Elton John, who violated the anti-apartheid cultural boycott and entertained South Africans at Sun City, were viewed as crossing a moral picket line. So are those that insist on entertaining Israeli apartheid today.
The great majority of Palestinian cultural figures stand solidly behind the call for a cultural boycott of Israel, as do all the main cultural institutions and associations. While Palestinian artists may indirectly suffer from a worldwide boycott, they view and accept this is as a minimal price to pay in order to see the light at the end of the long tunnel of Israeli occupation, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and racist denial of our refugee rights. In this context, Palestinian artists often express the commonly held view that world artists have a moral obligation to stop colluding with the oppressor, at the very least, in order to help end this multi-tiered oppression and bring about freedom and just peace.
Jewish groups have questioned claims by a former Australian ambassador to Israel that Julia Gillard was silent on the “excesses” of Israel.
And the former editor of The Age, Michael Gawenda, yesterday labelled as “bizarre” a report in the Fairfax newspaper and its sister paper, The Sydney Morning Herald, that linked Ms Gillard’s stance towards Israel with a job given to her partner by an Israel lobbyist.
Former ambassador Ross Burns reportedly wrote in a letter to the Herald that Ms Gillard had been “remarkably taciturn on the excesses of Israeli actions in the past two years”.
He said Ms Gillard led a delegation to Israel last year for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, but failed to raise the issue that was “No 1 on the horizon”.
Mr Burns said the perception that Ms Gillard’s support for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum was linked to a job later given to her partner, Tim Mathieson, by the man who helped to organise it, was unavoidable.
Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle said the newspaper report did not accurately portray comments made in the past by Ms Gillard and the Rudd government, nor their behaviour.
Speaking in Ramallah in the West Bank during the trip, Ms Gillard called for a freeze on settlement activity by Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories.
Mr Mathieson accompanied the then-deputy prime minister to Israel last year.
A few months after the trip, Mr Mathieson, a hairdresser, began working as a real estate salesman for the founder of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, Melbourne property developer Albert Dadon, who organised the leadership delegation.
Last night, Mr Dadon, chairman of the Ubertad Group, released a statement saying Mr Mathieson was employed to fill a vacancy as a real estate salesman, and the company was pleased with his performance.
He said contrary to reports that Mr Mathieson had lobbied the Victorian government for approval for Ubertas’s developments, Mr Mathieson was involved only in sales.
Ubertas has already made its mark on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road office boulevard with an $86m twin-tower apartment that backs on to the inner city’s Fawkner Park.
But flush with the success of that 505 St Kilda Road project, the group has already started work on an even larger project at 568 St Kilda Road that will have more than 313 apartments and cost more than $160m.
It is not a ”privilege” to talk to the US President with our troops at war.
The primary goal of the US lobby in Australia is to insulate the alliance from changes of government after elections and leadership movements within the major political parties. Bipartisan support for the US alliance cannot always be assumed, however, so strategies are devised to raise the strategic aspects of the relationship above the fray of domestic politics in both countries.
During the Second Gulf War, Washington’s boosters in the Australian media sought to quarantine the alliance from widespread public hostility to George Bush. So, Labor leader Mark Latham could get away with describing Bush as ”the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory”. But his questioning in his diaries of the value of the alliance confirmed for Australia’s US lobby that he was unfit for high office.
The Australian American Leadership Dialogue meets annually (alternately in the US and Australia). It’s an invitation-only bipartisan group of politicians, journalists, academics and businessmen who work to preserve and protect the bilateral relationship from criticism and challenges. Its deliberations are not made public.
One of the group’s primary aims is to socialise contemporary and future leaders into accepting the incontrovertible importance of the alliance. In the past week, the group has had good reason to believe that its investment in Julia Gillard – who has been attending its meetings for several years – has paid off.
In one of her first policy statements as Prime Minister, a remarkably obsequious Gillard told US President Barack Obama it was a ”great honour and privilege” just to talk to him. She then ”reassured” the President of her fidelity to the alliance, and gave him Australia’s continuing support for the military campaign in Afghanistan. Kevin Rudd may be gone, but his approach to the longest war in Australia’s history would not be changed by his successor.
To say that the conversation Gillard had with Obama was a missed opportunity does not fully capture the folly of her first foreign policy utterance as Prime Minister.
Three points stand out.
First, popular support in Australia for the Afghan war has collapsed. Depending on which poll you read, either 54 per cent (Lowy) or 61 per cent (Essential Media) of the population oppose continuing military involvement in Afghanistan and want Australian troops withdrawn.
These views have no representation in the lower house of the Federal Parliament. They are not even considered by the new Prime Minister to be a factor that qualifies Australia’s participation in the war. Gillard’s reflexive support may reassure Washington that she is ”sound” on national security – that the ”informal bar” on someone from the Left becoming Prime Minister could be lifted, to quote one lobbyist. However, it fundamentally betrays the wishes of the people she now represents.
In response to findings that 55 per cent of Australians are not confident that Australia has clear aims in Afghanistan (Lowy poll), former Labor senator Stephen Loosley reportedly said that ”as long as [there is] bipartisan support for [Australia's] Afghanistan contribution in Canberra, declining popular support for Afghan conflict is not an issue”.
This is a perfect illustration of elite disdain for public opinion. No wonder the same poll found that 69 per cent believe the government pays too little attention to their views ”in comparison to the opinions of foreign policy experts”.
Second, the vigorous discussion of the war now taking place in the US media and inside Washington’s is not mirrored here. This is largely the government’s fault. For a war that seems unwinnable and futile to so many Australians, the absence of an equally vibrant debate in this country is an indictment of our democratic processes. What are our politicians so frightened of?
The forensic examination of tactics, personalities, operations and the Taliban – which can be found across the US press every day – is almost entirely missing from the Australian media. It is only when tragedy strikes and casualties increase that analysis rises briefly above the superficial. Comparisons with the Vietnam War could not be more striking. Third, the humiliating departure of General Stanley McChrystal provided the opportunity to ask Obama critical questions – and leverage Canberra’s support against more definitive criteria.
We could be asking : What are your war aims? When will they be achieved? What are your criteria for ”success” in Afghanistan? What is the exit strategy? Instead, Gillard rushed to ”reassure” Obama (as if he needed it) that Australia would continue to be an uncritical ally in a war the public opposes. It’s an inauspicious start in diplomacy for our new Prime Minister.
The cynicism here is almost comical. The Australian Jewish community and their American Jewish friends are deeply concerned about the plight of Gilad Shalit currently in Gaza. They are ably assisted by pieces such as this in the Washington Post, comparing Hamas to the Nazis. Leaders of the Zionist lobby in the US write articles explaining how the Jewish state is constantly striving for peace and only wants resolution of the conflict.
What’s so absurd is that less and less people believe any of this spin. How tone-deaf is the Zionist community? This is what Israel has become:
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister, set out last week what he called a “blueprint for a resolution to the conflict” with the Palestinians that demands most of the country’s large Palestinian minority be stripped of citizenship and relocated outside Israel’s future borders.
Lieberman warned that Israel faces growing diplomatic pressure for a full withdrawal to the Green Line, the pre-1967 border. Lieberman said that, if such a partition were implemented, “the conflict will inevitably pass beyond those borders and into Israel.”
He accused many of Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of acting against Israel while their leaders “actively assist those who want to destroy the Jewish state.”
Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party campaigned in last year’s elections on a platform of “No loyalty, no citizenship” and has proposed a raft of loyalty laws over the past year targeted at the Palestinian minority.
True peace, the foreign minister claimed, would come only with land swaps, or “an exchange of populated territories to create two largely homogeneous states, one Jewish Israeli and the other Arab Palestinian.” He added that under his plan “those Arabs who were in Israel will now receive Palestinian citizenship.”
Unusually, Lieberman, who is also deputy prime minister, offered his plan in a commentary for the English-language Israeli daily newspaper Jerusalem Post, apparently in an attempt to make maximum impact on the international community.
He has spoken repeatedly in the past about drawing the borders in a way to forcibly exchange Palestinian communities in Israel for the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Peace throughout the Middle East cannot be achieved until Western nations such Australia show we are as concerned about justice for Palestinians as we are about security for Israelis. The Israeli lobby in Australia has been very effective in gaining the support of governments over the past 60 years.
Evidence that our new Prime Minister (The Age, 29/6) is following this pattern does not give cause for optimism that Australia will bring new initiatives to this conflict. Until our government shows respect and effective concern for the situation of the Palestinians, our costly commitments to bringing peace in Afghanistan and Iraq will be ineffective.
Wal Jenkyn, Manifold Heights
We may have Israeli lobbyists in Australia but we also have Palestinian lobbyists who work just as hard. In the past two weeks, two pro-Palestinian Labor MPs gave speeches in Parliament. Also, senators from both sides of Parliament and Arab ambassadors recently attended a dinner organised by Australians for Palestine. Visiting Palestinian activist Dianna Buttu was the guest speaker. It was one of many events organised by Palestinian lobbyists and was just as legitimate as Israeli lobbyists doing their job.
Lobbyists from all countries cover political and non-political issues. I am sure Australia has its own in Washington, Britain and China.
Michael Burd, Toorak
Noam Chomsky on a nation that threatens something other than Israel:
Such harrowing pronouncements aside, what exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided in the April 2010 study of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Military Balance 2010. The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it does not rank particularly high in that respect in comparison to US allies in the region. But that is not what concerns the Institute. Rather, it is concerned with the threat Iran poses to the region and the world.
The study makes it clear that the Iranian threat is not military. Iran’s military spending is “relatively low compared to the rest of the region,” and less than 2% that of the US. Iranian military doctrine is strictly “defensive,… designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.” Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders.” With regard to the nuclear option, “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”
Though the Iranian threat is not military, that does not mean that it might be tolerable to Washington. Iranian deterrent capacity is an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that interferes with US global designs. Specifically, it threatens US control of Middle East energy resources, a high priority of planners since World War II, which yields “substantial control of the world,” one influential figure advised (A. A. Berle).
Remember Israel’s hit on a Hamas operative in Dubai?
The story is still running though is largely ignored by the mainstream press these days.
Newsweek publishes an intriguing piece that adds more spice to the yarn:
European investigators believe that a man arrested by Polish authorities earlier this month may be a key fixer in Europe for Israel’s Mossad spy agency. The man, who a European official said was arrested at Warsaw airport when trying to enter Poland on June 4, was using an Israeli passport in the name of Uri Brodsky. A second European official familiar with the inquiry said investigators believe Brodsky is not the suspect’s real name and that his true identity remains a mystery.
Official and unofficial spy aficionados are still puzzled over why Israel would ruin its previously friendly relationship with authorities in a key Gulf emirate, and blow the identities of so many undercover operatives, just to eliminate an obscure Hamas operative. One theory gaining support among intelligence experts is that Mossad’s intent was to drug and kidnap Mabhouh, and then try to use him in a trade for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza by Hamas. But the Israelis, according to this theory, may have overdosed their target on knockout drops.
While here’s yet another mainstream journalist upset that Michael Hastings actually embarrassed military men in Afghanistan – it truly seems that many corporate reporters and commentators would rather general worship towards men and women in uniform – the real cost of two devastating wars is brought home. When was the last an injured service person was given air-time in our mainstream media as opposed to soft-ball interviews with war officials in Kabul?
A blogger and writer claims American military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan now exceed 500,000.
That’s if you count certain injuries and diseases including mental illness that he alleges the Department of Defense doesn’t include in its official combat-related casualty toll in an effort to soften U.S. military losses in the wars and win funding for them from the Congress.
For example, cases of traumatic brain injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as a result of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are excluded from the official list of casualties.
“Under this scheme, chronic injuries and many acute internal injuries such as hearing impairment, back injuries, mild traumatic brain injuries, mental health problems and a host of diseases suffered by personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan are usually not counted as being war-related regardless of how debilitating they are,” writes Matthew Nasuti in an article published on the Afghan news site and media organization Kabul Press. “They are either generally lumped into the category of ‘non-hostile wounded’ or simply not counted at all.”
This is weird. Pakistan is reportedly planning to massively increase its online censorship regime. Just another US-backed dictatorship wanting to shut down debate. Not much new here except one site has supposedly already been blocked, of Mr Walid Shoebat, former Palestinian militant and now rabid Zionist and anti-Islam activist.
Is Pakistan seriously banning this man because of his views on Islam?