Newsflash; Israel still has many responsibilities in Gaza

From leading Israeli human rights, Gisha:

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Hard to disagree with Assange calling many mainstream editors shills for power

Yes:

Mainstream media and editors came under fire from WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at the Global Editors Network summit in Hong Kong today, as he accused most journalists of entering the profession to “crawl up the ladder of power to become associated with power”.

Addressing the conference via Skype, Assange told the audience of editors that most journalists aim to “sit at same table as those you hold to account” and as a result editors “become corrupted”.

“We all know what is going on. As insiders we all know when people in the media become powerful … editors are invited to sit at the table of those powerful individuals and the reality is that’s why most journalists go into journalism. It is to crawl up the ladder of power to become associated with power, to sit at the same table as those you hold to account.

“Editors become corrupted and they do not hold those very people to account, we know that. What is new is that the rest of the world is starting to know it. Not just as a result of reaction to attack by Washington on WikiLeaks, it is starting to know it as a result of there being other forms of publishing, unmediated publishing. There is a crisis of legitimacy within the mainstream press, a rightful crisis of legitimacy.

“We always maintained the line that our moral justification for our existence … is our moral virtue and our moral virtue is holding power to account. If the press doesn’t hold powerful corporations and governments to account then how can a democratic process work? But the mainstream press has failed in that task and failures are becoming evident and corruption in individual cases are becoming evident.

“The mainstream press is not able to be its own gatekeeper any more,” he added.

Speaking after Assange, Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director of Le Monde – one of the media partners involved in the release of the US embassy cables – responded saying “I didn’t do this job to crawl up the ladder of the powerful”.

“I don’t think this accusation stands,” she added.

During Assange’s speech – which came a day before the one year anniversary of the US embassy cables release and a day after WikiLeaks was awarded a Walkley award for most outstanding contribution to journalism – he also discussed the redaction process carried out by its news partners to remove material from the cables which he said would breach human rights.

As a comparison, he claimed that while the Guardian redacted one in four cables, the Hindu in India redacted just three out of 5000 cables, and questioned this “discrepancy”.

Kauffmann said she was “sorry” certain papers had been singled out which were not represented on the panel.

Returning to the debate later, Assange responded to Kauffmann by also questioning Le Monde’s redaction decisions. He also followed up on earlier criticisms of former media partners such as the Guardian and New York Times by saying: “Both of these organisations have done fine work with us, their best stories were very good.”

But he said, in his opinion, the “best journalism” from the cables has come not from “old democracies” but from countries including “India, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Kenya”.

“Those journalists are more courageous, hard working and often younger than ones in older democracies. And for them the stakes are higher and therefore journalism has more ability to impact the power structures within the country.”

When asked whether any information should be kept private, he re-stated the “duty” of news organisations. “Media organisations have a duty and that is to inform the public. We should be very careful about compromising that prime objective.”

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Woodside in the Kimberley; Exploitation Inc

My following investigation appears in today’s Crikey:

When West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said recently that he welcomed the announcement of a permanent US military presence in northern Australia, his words were worth considering in a wider context.

“We have a large open expanse in northern Australia, we are near one of the most troubled regions in the world and the problems of Asia are now our problems,” Barnett argued. “There’s no doubt that the offshore gas facilities are vulnerable … so I think we are wise to have a friendly military presence in our north.”

The premier was effectively advocating militarising the vast Kimberley, an expanse of desert that potentially holds billions of dollars of resources to be exploited in the coming decades. The current campaign by Woodside to develop James Price Point (JPP) near Broome is just the latest example of this trend.

Crikey recently visited the area — about one hour by car from Broome along mostly red, dirt tracks — and found a pristine area of coastline and signs of collusion between the West Australian police and private security forces against indigenous owners and protesters opposed to the massive $50 billion development. Crikey was told by local campaigners and activists that footage shot by private security is handed over to the police and used against them in a court of law, all without proper accountability of the process. Police have publicly said they support private companies suing peaceful protesters against JPP and Crikey was told many times that police would often turn up at the blockade and show them footage shot by a private security company.

Environmental issues continue to haunt the project.

Most of the mainstream media have ignored instances of strict policing, not least because the corporate press in Perth and elsewhere largely support the Woodside plans, despite investors questioning the company’s “execution risks” over various gas projects.

The company itself released its own draft environmental impact statement in mid-November (claims dismissed by a range of green groups with whom I spoke in Broome) and the company claimed JPP would bring 8000 jobs and “did not represent a significant risk” to the ecology of the area.

What I saw on the current Woodside compound near JPP challenged this assertion, with countless bits of broken concrete in the dirt, air-conditioners attached with flimsy pieces of rope and leaking water. Evidence for this damage is constant and includes environmental experts disputing Woodside claims.

As we walked around the site, a man appeared carrying a video camera — he refused to say what he was doing or for whom he worked — and began filming us. He disappeared 30 seconds later.

Later, another man appeared, wearing a bright-yellow fluorescent Thrifty car rental vest and dark sunglasses, and a small camera attached to his chest was flicked on to film us. He refused to say what he was really doing (apart from claiming he was protecting our “safety” near the Woodside compound) or where the footage would be screened or used.

My guides in the area, Damien and David, two men who have spent months at the blockade at JPP and established a sustainable camp with phone and internet coverage, said that these kinds of acts — the guards are employed by Hostile Environment Services (HES) — occurred daily.

ABC TV’s Lateline reported in May that Woodside-backed security were harassing and intimidating residents for peacefully protesting the JPP development. Damien said that massive generator-powered lights routinely shone into the camp in the middle of the night and HES guards appeared at all hours with video cameras filming them on public land.

Nothing has changed since the ABC story and it seems the pressure has only increased as Woodside notices a large swing in Broome against its plans — despite constantly inaccurate and pro-Woodside mainstream coverage.

Activists told Crikey that none of the appropriate state policing or environmental bodies took action against the evasion of privacy with the indiscriminate filming or environmental damage, despite being informed about them on a regular basis. I was shown large amounts of footage detailing HES interrupting scientists gathering evidence of dinosaur tracks in the area.

The Woodside plans have mostly received unquestioned state and federal government backing but they’ve been surprised by the diverse range of opposition in the Kimberley. Moreover, The Wilderness Society, the group I independently accompanied during my visit, has committed many resources to place JPP as its top campaign priority.

Groups such as Save the Kimberley and Environs Kimberley have utilised people power and social media to generate growing resistance to Woodside’s plans, principally by explaining through community events and actions that the JPP plans will not bring long-term economic gains. Both organisations state they are not ideologically opposed to any development but demand alternative forms of resource exploitation.

Even the former chief of the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority Barry Carbon recently stated to Perth Now that the state’s approval process for development projects was “corrupt”. ”It has now become a universal stand-over for proponents to contribute so called ‘offsets’ to governments, government friends, or favourite causes before approvals are considered,” he said.

The only major local organisation backing the JPP plan, The Kimberley Land Council, voted in highly suspicious circumstances  — earlier in the year and every Aboriginal land owner I met told me they believed indigenous people would not benefit from the JPP development despite the financial incentives given by Woodside.

Crikey was told by leading anti-gas hub campaigner Louise Middleton that, “we shouldn’t be bought by big business because they don’t have our interests at heart.”

The JPP development is an attempt by Woodside and its corporate partners to establish a stronghold in the Kimberley that will then allow them to invest in the upcoming gas boom. Crikey heard many times in Broome, including from The Wilderness Society’s Glen Klatovsky, that the Canning Basin could be the ultimate source of shale natural gas and fracking. Is Australia the next global energy hub, a future Saudi Arabia or Qatar? I was shown by the head of Environs Kimberley a document entitled the Petroleum Titles Map and it detailed the literally dozens of proposed fracking places across Western Australia. Rey Resources and TPL are two key companies involved.

This tantalising possibility is why the battle of JPP is so crucial. Stopping a $50 billion project would be an Australian first. This has global resonance as corporations ramp up their bids to win lucrative contracts in remote locations. Witness the successful lobbying in America and Canada against the Keystone XL pipeline that is now on semi-permanent hold  — with public protest a major factor in shaping this outcome  — and the largely ignored energy Great Game in Afghanistan.

*Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist currently working on a book about disaster capitalism.

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Hey #Occupy people; let the 1% enjoy the wealth, and cars, and island holidays

John Kenney pleads for understanding in the New Yorker:

We, too, have mobilized.

We come from near and far, by any means necessary, some on private jets, others on extremely large private jets.

But you will not find us sleeping in a park and waiting in line at a Burger King to urinate. Have you heard of Mustique? Because that’s where we have mobilized. Don’t bother trying to Google Earth us, though, because we have proprietary military software that prevents you from doing so.

Our numbers may be smaller than those demonstrating in New York and other cities, but we are still a movement, coalesced around a cause, sleeping two and sometimes three people to a villa.

Perhaps you are wondering what our cause is. Perhaps you’re wondering why we, the richest people on the planet, have come together. Perhaps you’re curious whether what we’re undertaking couldn’t technically be called a vacation. These are all good questions.

We’re angry. We’re angry at something we’re calling “imagined frustration.” By this we mean that, except for Congress, the White House, banks, major lobbyists, and the editorial boards of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, no one is listening to us. And we’re tired of it.

You claim to know something about us. You think we are rich beyond comprehension, that we can do anything we please at any time, go anywhere we want at a moment’s notice, wander the earth in a state of constant bliss, enjoying abundant and fabulous sex. Perhaps you do know us.

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Top 25 stories corporate media (largely) ignored in 2011

Project Censored has released its annual list:

Censored 2012: Stories of 2010-2011

1. More US Soldiers Committed Suicide Than Died in Combat
2. US Military Manipulates the Social Media
3. Obama Authorizes International Assassination Campaign
4. Global Food Crisis Expands
5. Private Prison Companies Fund Anti–Immigrant Legislation
6. Google Spying?
7. U.S. Army and Psychology’s Largest Experiment–Ever
8. The Fairytale of Clean and Safe Nuclear Power
9. Government Sponsored Technologies for Weather Modification
10. Censored # 10: Real Unemployment: One Out of Five in US
11.  Trafficking of Iraqi Women Rampant
12.  Pacific Garbage Dump—Did You Really Think Your Plastic Was Being Recycled?
13.  Will a State of Emergency Be Used to Supersede Our Constitution?
14.  Family Pressure on Young Girls for Genitalia Mutilation Continues in Kenya
15.  Big Polluters Freed from Environmental Oversight
16.  Sweatshops in China Are Making Your iPods While Workers Suffer
17.  Superbug Bacteria Spreading Worldwide
18.  Monsanto Tries to Benefit from Haiti’s Earthquake
19.  Oxfam Exposes How Aid Is Used for Political Purposes
20.  US Agencies Trying to Outlaw GMO Food Labelling
21.  Lyme Disease: An Emerging Epidemic
22.  Participatory Budgeting – A Method to Empower Local Citizens & Communities
23.  Worldwide Movement To Ban or Charge Fees For Plastic Bags
24.  South Dakota Takes Extreme Measures to Be the Top Anti–Abortion State  
25.  Extension of DU to Libya

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What’s a senior Murdoch editor to do apart from slam Muslims?

Another week and another column by a Melbourne Herald Sun editor Alan Howe on just how dysfunctional is the Middle East, Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians, Islamists etc. The man has form.

Yes, this is what countless Zionist lobby trips to Israel do to a Murdoch man. Hatred Inc:

In Arab lands, like-minded, militant Islamists abound. Some are Sunni. Some are Shia. Some are just bonkers.

Democracy? It’s all Greek to them.

The wave of uprisings this year is being called the Arab Spring, a name derived from the so-called Prague Spring of 1968 in which Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek untied a few of the shackles of Moscow-enforced communism.

He was a man before his time. Within months the Warsaw pact nations invaded Czechoslovakia sending 200,000 troops and 2000 tanks to forcefully take control of the nation, Soviet boss Leonid Brezhnev installed a puppet leader and communism was quickly restored.

That back-to-the-future lesson is a powerful one for the Arab world.

At first blanch, the Arab uprisings of this year looked to be advances for people often trapped by clerics and tyrants who have used Islam to enslave, torture and kill their people so that they can live in opulent grandeur among some of the planet’s poorest populations.

Iran might appear to be the odd man out. For a start its people prefer to fashion themselves as Persians, but it has a significant Arab core. Its supreme leader seems to shun the indulgences that define the lifestyles of his neighbouring leaders, but he and his president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are still the two of the most dangerous men on earth.

Ahmadinejad is mad. Barking. And soon to be nuclear armed.

This year saw movements for freedom in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Iran, Syria, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia.

The tyrannical states that enjoy Western support – Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – have largely survived, although Egypt fell quickly. Those who alienated the West, or threatened it, or attacked it, are gone. By the hand of their own people.

If the Palestinians put down their weapons, there’d be peace. If the Israelis put down their weapons, there’d be genocide.

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Explaining Stuxnet against Iran

From the Australian TV show Hungry Beast:

Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus from Patrick Clair on Vimeo.

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Disaster capitalism photo collection

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks in Western Australia and Christmas Island researching a book and other projects on disaster capitalism (overseas travels planned in 2012). I investigated the role of Serco in remote detention centres, Woodside attempting to develop a multi-billion dollar gas hub in the Kimberley and a tropical paradise being used for a prison.

Many articles and much else forthcoming, but here are the photos (Derby and Curtin detention centre, Broome and James Price Point and Christmas Island).

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Just what role does British government have in wanting war against Iran?

Jonathan Cook in Al-Akhbar English:

Last February Britain’s then defense minister Liam Fox attended a dinner in Tel Aviv with a group described as senior Israelis. Alongside him sat Adam Werritty, a lobbyist whose “improper relations” with the minister would lead eight months later to Fox’s hurried resignation.

According to several reports in the British media the Israelis in attendance at the dinner were representatives of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, while Fox and Werritty were accompanied by Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel. A former British diplomat has now claimed that the topic of discussion that evening was a secret plot to attack Iran.

The official inquiry castigating the UK’s former defence secretary for what has come to be known as a “cash-for-access” scandal appears to have only scratched the surface of what Fox and accomplice Adam Werritty may have been up to when they met for dinner in Tel Aviv.

Little was made of the dinner in the 10-page inquiry report published last month by Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet’s top civil servant.

Instead O’Donnell concentrated on other aspects of Werritty’s behaviour: the 33-year-old friend of Fox’s had presented himself as the minister’s official adviser and jetted around the world with him arranging meetings with businessmen.

The former minister’s allies, seeking to dismiss the gravity of the case against him, have described Werritty as a harmless dreamer. Following his resignation, Fox himself claimed O’Donnell’s report had exonerated him of putting national security at risk.

However, a spate of new concerns raised in the wake of the inquiry challenge both of these assumptions. These include questions about the transparency of the O’Donnell investigation, the extent of Fox and Werritty’s ties to Israel and the unexplained role of Gould.

Craig Murray, Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan until 2004, when he turned whistle blower on British and US collusion on torture, said senior British government officials were profoundly disturbed by the O’Donnell inquiry, seeing it as a “white wash.”

Murray himself accused O’Donnell of being “at the most charitable interpretation, economical with the truth.”

Two well-placed contacts alerted Murray to Gould’s central – though largely ignored – role in the Fox-Werritty relationship, he said.

Murray has pieced together evidence that Fox, Werritty and Gould met on at least six occasions over the past two years or so, despite the O’Donnell inquiry claiming they had met only twice. Gould is the only ambassador Fox and Werritty are known to have met together.

In an inexplicable break with British diplomatic and governmental protocol, officials were not present at a single one of the six meetings between the three men. No record was taken of any of the discussions.

Murray, who first made public his concerns on his personal blog, said a source familiar with the O’Donnell inquiry told him the parameters of the investigation were designed to divert attention away from the more damaging aspects of Fox and Werritty’s behaviour.

Subsequently, the foreign office has refused to respond to questions, including from an MP, about the Tel Aviv dinner. Officials will not say who the Israelis were, what was discussed or even who paid for the evening, though under Whitehall rules all hospitality should be declared.

Also unexplained is why Fox rejected requests by his own staff to attend the dinner, and why Werritty was privy to such a high-level meeting when he had no security clearance.

Nonetheless, O’Donnell appeared inadvertently to confirm that Mossad representatives were present at the dinner during questioning from an MP at a meeting of the House of Commons’ Public Administration Committee this week.

Responding to a question about the dinner from opposition MP Paul Flynn, O’Donnell said: “The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State [Fox] had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador [Gould]. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job.”

The real concern among government officials, Murray said, is that Fox, Werritty and Gould were conspiring in a “rogue” foreign policy – opposed to the British government’s stated aims – that was authored by Mossad and Israel’s neoconservative allies in Washington.

Brian Brady in the Sunday Independent:

They were the Odd Couple: the men with identical morning suits, matching jackets and jeans but from radically different generations. They commanded more column inches than any X Factor wannabe. The Mysterious Case of the Defence Secretary and the Strange Bloke with the Cheap Business Card gripped us all, until it culminated in Liam Fox’s resignation.

What on earth had they been up to, the nation wondered. The plot thickened somewhat when an official inquiry confirmed that the curious duo was in fact, at times, a trio. They had had two meetings with Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel, adding to claims that they were running a pirate (pro-Israel, or anti-Iranian?) foreign policy. Then, before we had got to know Adam Werritty properly, it all went quiet.

He has not been seen in the UK or abroad for several months; no neighbour has reported his presence at any of the various addresses unearthed when he was being sought by every news outlet in the country.

However, the trail has not gone cold because it emerges that Liam Fox and his adviser met Britain’s ambassador at least four times more than was previously admitted. So why were we not told this before? Isn’t this yet more evidence that they were operating outside the control of the Foreign Office?

The fog seems to extend even to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, whose report into the affair, which sealed Dr Fox’s fate, identified just the two meetings between the former minister, Mr Werritty and Mr Gould.

The three men met in Tel Aviv at “a private dinner with senior Israelis” and, before Mr Gould took up the ambassador’s post in Tel Aviv, for “a general discussion of international defence and security matters”. Sir Gus observed that Mr Werritty was invited “as an individual with some experience in these matters”.

Even this was a bit unsatisfactory, said Sir Gus. His report highlighted the September 2010 meeting in the UK with Mr Gould, then the UK ambassador-designate to Israel, ruling that “as a private citizen, with no official locus, it was not appropriate for Mr Werritty to have attended this meeting”.

Yet it has been left to the former UK ambassador Craig Murray to uncover four more similar meetings – although Sir Gus claimed last week that “some of those … took place before the election”.

The suspicion of even more secret meetings, an inquiry which did not cover all the ground and the spectre of a favourite bogeyman is a gift to conspiracy theorists. However there are legitimate questions to be answered. The IoS revealed last month that Mr Werritty had visited Iran on several occasions and was so highly regarded by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad that he was able to arrange meetings at the highest levels of the Israeli government.

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BDS has major bank victory in Israel?

Yes:

The powers that be are furious at BNP Paribas for shuttering its operations in Israel, and suspect it is acting due to Arab and anti-Israeli pressure in France, the bank’s home base.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Banks Supervisor David Zaken and their top officials believe the bank’s board of directors caved to pressure groups, contrary to its claims.

This is the first case in years of a foreign bank leaving Israel. BNP Paribas has had operations in Israel since 2003. Most of its business here involved financing large projects that involve French companies.

The bank recently decided to shut down its local offices and dismiss its 60 employees. The bank claims this is because it sustained serious damage from the Greek crisis. Yet the only foreign branch is closing is its Israeli one, even though BNP Paribas has branches all over the world, including in Israel’s neighbor countries.

The French bank is leaving a very limited representation in Israel. It does not need the Bank of Israel’s approval for this, even though its operations are still supervised by the central bank.

Fischer and Zaken held several harsh discussions with BNP Paribas executives, which brought no results, and also denounced the bank’s actions in internal meetings. Fischer reportedly said that one of his goals as Israel’s chief banker was to convince large foreign banks to do business in Israel. There is no reason for BNP Paribas to leave, he reportedly said.

The Bank of Israel said it could not comment on a specific bank.

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Memo to corporate hacks; objectivity doesn’t exist

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald is right:

Contrary to popular wisdom, there aren’t two types of journalists: those who express opinions and those who are objective.  The two types are those who honestly acknowledge their opinions and those who deceitfully pretend such opinions do not influence their journalism. One reason modern establishment journalism has become so corrupted and worthless is because of the conceit that they engage in some sort of objective reporting that is free of bias and opinion, even as they are the stalwart defenders of a clear set of political opinions and interests (those wielded by the same power factions which they pretend to hold accountable).

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On the frontlines of the ongoing Egyptian revolution

I salute them.

This amazing footage shot by Australian indy journalist Austin Mackell:

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