Recipient of Israel lobby hospitality, from Murdoch press, calls on military strike against Iran

The Zionist establishment must be rubbing its hands with glee. Another media figure, who has enjoyed those glorious trips to Israel to savour some Israeli apartheid, demands the West take action against Iran. Alan Howe, from Melbourne’s Herald Sun, has form. Here’s some of his latest bile:

Islamists differ from the rest of us; we may recognise the similarities that exist in the genome of the murderously insane Ahmadinejad and his ilk, but evolution has favoured the advanced, Western homo sapiens whereas deep pockets of the Middle East remain stalled somewhere in the seventh century.

Nonetheless, we’re to take seriously the ambitious Iranians and their plans for a global suicide in which all (Shia) Muslims will ascend to Paradise while infidels and Sunnis must queue for hell.

Because it’s not about Ahmadinejad and his theatrically hysterical speeches.

It is actually about an even more menacingly ignorant crew: Iran’s Republican Guard.

And a few weeks ago, Alireza Forghani, a fellow described as Khamenie’s “strategy specialist”, wrote a fascinating piece that appeared on a Republican Guard website and then on “approved” outlets around Iran.

In it Forghani states that the “Islamic world should arise and scream that an atomic bomb is our right, and so smash America’s and Israel’s dreams”.

He has previously called for a pre-emptive strike on the West and has compiled a religious argument justifying this mass slaughter.

He states that 5.7 million of the 7.5 million Israelis are Jewish and that 60 per cent of them live in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa and these can be wiped out in nine minutes.

If Forghani were, say, the Bob Katter of Iran, we could dismiss his resentful rants, but that his editorials appear prominently on Republican Guard-sponsored media means his ideas have traction with men who will have access to nuclear codes.

Forghani, and those for whom he works, understand that a conventional weapons strike in Israel would invite a conventional response.

What they want is a nuclear pass to Paradise.

The UN will do nothing. That’s what it does best.

It is up to us: The time has come for the West to really hurt Iran.

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Israeli racism and inequality in its DNA

My following article appears in Lebanon’s Al Akhbar:

“Moshe was simply not willing for the State of Israel to run him over anymore.”

Moshe Silman, a son of Holocaust survivors, was an Israeli man who died last week after suffering second and third-degree burns on 94 percent of his body. In an Israeli first, a week earlier he had set himself on fire during a large protest in the heart of Tel Aviv. He was desperate, poor and felt ignored by the neo-liberal, Israeli state.

But don’t tell the New York Times that editorialized recently how Israel is a “democratic state committed to liberal values and human rights”.

The reality for an increasing number of Jews is the exact opposite. A fellow activist told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that, “Moshe chose to harm himself in protest. It’s terrible when a person has to commit an act like that to explain their situation to people”.

The facts are stark. Israel spends only 16 percent of its GDP on public services compared to an average 22 percent across the OECD (http://www.oecd.org/). After Silman’s self-immolation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the act a “personal tragedy” but in reality Israel is increasingly withdrawing welfare, education and employment opportunities and a safety net for Israeli Jewish citizens.

2011’s J14 protest movement was designed to highlight the growing inequalities in Israeli society, though demanding justice for Palestinians and ending the occupation were notably excluded from the list of demands.

Last year, at least 400,000 Israeli Jews took to the streets to demand a fairer society. It was a middle class revolt against the rising cost of housing and living. But in 2012 organisers are aware that the corporate media, many very close to Netanyahu himself, are far less sympathetic to their message.

Daphni Leef, the initiator of the protest, told the New York Times in mid-July that, “I do not feel that we live in a democracy,” she said. “I feel we live in an oligarchy. A few wealthy families control this country.”

The one group excluded from this conversation are the Palestinians, on both sides of the green line. Their views are largely ignored in the Israeli mainstream and yet they’re expected to serve in the IDF. It is a fanciful idea that most Palestinians are dismissed from a state that clearly sees them as a demographic threat to a majority Jewish population.

What has focused the mind of many Zionist lawmakers is a recent report by former Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy who found that the occupation isn’t in fact an occupation and the Israeli presence in the West Bank is legal. Despite the fact that every respected international legal body decides that Jewish colonies are against international law, the Israeli government now has a document that merely confirms its belief that ever-expanding settlements can be covered by a legal document.

Levy’s decision has caused heartache in liberal Zionist circles. However, a curious response from JJ Goldberg in the Jewish Forward newspaper wasn’t so worried about the occupation as upsetting allies against Iran’s nuclear program. Rather than condemn the Zionist state for attempting to legitimize the over 600,000 Jewish colonists in the West Bank, Goldberg was scared that Levy’s decision would anger Washington when “Israel is threatened with extinction” from Tehran.

This is ludicrous hyperbole and reveals the dishonesty in supposedly serious journalistic circles. But it’s little different to mainstream Israeli media pundits who simply don’t bother talking or thinking about the Palestinian “problem” but obsess over Iran and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The occupation can be ignored until tomorrow, next week or forever. Soon enough, a person like Levy will create a legal fiction and legalize what the whole world knows to be illegal. The US issues muted criticism and colonization continues apace.

What remains fascinating about the Levy findings – American Zionist organizations still can’t bring themselves to speak clearly and honestly about Jewish housing in the West Bank – is what it means for Palestinian rights under occupation. If there’s no occupation, then surely there would be no problem granting full voting and civil rights to all citizens of the West Bank and Gaza. If that happened today, Jews would soon find themselves a minority. It’s called democracy and it’s something the Zionist leadership fears.

In the meantime, Israeli politicians and most commentators are wondering what the Arab Spring does to their country’s bunker mentality. In short, old friends are now seen as potential enemies (Egypt and Jordan) and allegedly ongoing threats, such as Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and Hamas, are in a period of transition. The Palestinian Spring has yet to happen, not least because the Palestinian Authority is an extension of the Israeli occupation, but Israel is today paying the price for years of seeing itself, as Defense Minister Ehud Barak one quipped, as a “villa in a jungle”. Such attitudes are increasingly challenged in elite political circles, including Britain.

Zionist supremacy and nationalist fervor has convinced many Israelis that the bunker is a comfortable place to reside. Unrivalled military might has allowed this delusion to grow to the point where, according to Israeli historian Tom Segev, “Israelis tend not to be interested in Arabs as people but as enemies. Sure, people will be pleased when Assad falls, as we were when Saddam went. But it won’t make any difference to the cost of renting an apartment in Tel Aviv.”

A viable alternative is the one-state solution, a state in which Israelis and Palestinian live equally. These views, once residing on the fringes on the debate, are increasingly going mainstream. Even a British conservative MP, Bob Stewart, who spent 28 years in the UK military, visited the West Bank and said he was “deeply upset by what I saw.” His response? “Unless the settlements stop, there can be no chance whatever of a two-state solution, and the only alternative … is a one-state solution. One state where Jews and Palestinians recognize one another as equals.Surely that is not totally utopian.”

Zionist fundamentalists also talk today proudly of a one-state equation but a reality in which Arabs remain second-class citizens.

In a new book I’ve edited with Ahmed Moor, After Zionism, we explain both the justice and sense of imagining a one-state future. One chapter, by Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook, highlights the case of Ahmed and Fatina Zbeidat, a Palestinian couple who face systematic discrimination simply because they’re not Jews. It is one case but its message is universal. A partition of land to entrench division in a nation that has spent over six decades of Zionist leadership determined to separate Jews from Palestinians has caused nothing other than pain and racism.

The Israeli social justice activists highlight key concerns of many middle class Israelis, but it will remain a blind movement unless it tackles the historical injustice of Jewish privilege over democratic equality for all.

Antony Loewenstein is an independent journalist, author and co-editor of After Zionism (Saqi Books)

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War, what is it good for (ask corporate media, they love freedom bombs hitting Muslims)

Many mainstream journalists love conflict. Gives them the opportunity to hang with military types in war zones and feel important. Truth be damned. Repeating official talking points is par for the course.

History has shown that far too many blindly (wilfully?) spread propaganda. The next target is Iran. Why? Because Israel and Washington tell them so.

Here’s Medialens:

What would it take for journalists to seriously challenge government propaganda? A war with over one million dead, four million refugees, a country’s infrastructure shattered, and the increased threat of retail ‘terror’ in response to the West’s wholesale ‘terror’? How horrifying do even very recent experiences have to be, how great the war crimes, before media professionals begin to exhibit scepticism towards Western governments’ hyping of yet another ‘threat’. Why is warmongering the default mode for the corporate media?

On Channel 4 News, the famed ‘pinko-liberal’ news presenter Jon ‘Six Pilgers’ Snow intoned ominously:

‘It is still not a nuclear weapon, but an upgrading of Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium ostensibly for its nuclear power plant.’ (C4 News headlines, February 15, 2012)

‘Still’ not a nuclear weapon – not yet? – but the primary focus is absolutely on an alleged military threat that does not actually exist. Foreign correspondent Jonathan Miller added:

‘This development does not bring Iran any closer to building a bomb… But if Tehran is trying to convince the world that its purpose is peaceful, no-one’s buying it…’ (C4 News, ‘Iran reveals its latest step in nuclear arms’, February 15, 2012)

That is not quite true, as we will see below. Miller added:

‘This may look like the set of a 70s Bond movie, but this is the Natanz reactor…’

The reference is telling – much media reporting does seem to be inspired by a Bond movie vision of the world. Token balance was provided:

‘There’s no evidence that Iran is intending to construct a nuclear weapon.’

This put Snow’s opening comment in perspective. A more accurate version would have been: ‘It is still not evidence that Iran has plans to build a nuclear weapon.’

Instead, the required propaganda pitch was clear. Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was defiantly sticking ‘two fingers up to the UN and a hostile world’. As ever, it is ‘us’ (the ‘world’) versus ‘them’. Miller continued:

‘The 74 million people of the Islamic republic are paying a high price for their leader’s defiance.’

As in Iraq, the Bad Guys, not the West, are responsible for any suffering caused. No question that Israel, the US and its allies bear any responsibility for the tension, or the lethal effects of sanctions. Miller added:

‘Their nation is isolated, they’re suffering from sanctions – prices are rising, credit tightening, currency plummeting. The Tehran regime thinks its brinkmanship gives it leverage – it has written to the EU offering to resume stalled nuclear talks.’

In media Newspeak, ‘isolated’ means ‘bad’. Likewise, ‘secretive’ and ‘hermit’. When North Korea is described as ‘the secretive, hermit state’ that is ‘increasingly isolated’, it means North Korea is Bad! Bad! Bad!

Meanwhile, on the BBC’s News at Ten, Huw Edwards presented the headlines:

‘The Iranians delight in the latest advances in their nuclear programme.’

Little wrong with that. But moments later, when the actual news report was introduced, ‘nuclear programme’ had mysteriously morphed into ‘nuclear weapons programme’. Edwards told the watching millions:

‘Iran has announced new developments in its nuclear weapons programme. State television reported that for the first time Iranian-made nuclear fuel rods have been loaded into a research reactor in Tehran. The event was attended by President Ahmadinejad.’

Behind a veneer of polite impartiality, the BBC – like Channel 4 News and the rest of the media – presents official enemies as Bond villains: grandiose, dangerous and absurd. Thus James Reynolds began his report:

‘Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a PhD in traffic management. But he often likes to play the part of nuclear physicist. This afternoon Iran’s president inspected new home-made fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran, all made without any help from the West.’

Here’s FAIR:

Claims that Iran has a nuclear weapons program are allegations, not facts (Extra!, 1/12)—but are treated as established background material in the corporate media: “The president, as you know, has been trying to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program,” explainsCBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley (2/6/12). The Washington Post editorializes (1/11/12) that Iran’s “drive for nuclear weapons continues.”

At the end of January, another provocative claim emerged: Iran was ready to unleash terrorism against the United States.

ABC World News (1/31/12) featured a blatantly propagandistic report on the Iranian threat. “America’s top spy warns that Iran is willing to launch a terrorist strike inside the U.S.,” announced anchor Diane Sawyer at the top of the program. “We’ll tell you his evidence.”

The ABC report was actually very light on evidence, but heavy on incendiary allegations from government officials—without the skeptical scrutiny that should be journalism’s primary function. The report was pegged to that day’s Senate testimony by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, who told lawmakers that the U.S. intelligence community believes that Iran may be “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”

Sawyer amplified Clapper’s allegation by setting up the report with the assertion that Iran is “more determined than ever to launch an attack on U.S. soil.” Correspondent Martha Raddatz, claiming that the “the saber-rattling coming from Iran has been constant,” told viewers that Clapper delivered “a new bracing warning…. Iran may be more ready than ever to launch terror attacks inside the United States.”

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When in trouble with the truth, Zionists, dredge up Hitler (or related)

This never ceases to amaze me. While Israel’s occupation deepens every day and racism towards Arabs grows – see this “fury” over religious Zionist politicians demanding an Arab judge recite the Zionist national anthem – the mostly old and crusty Jewish spokespeople globally just want the world to better understand poor little Israel.

In today’s Murdoch Australian, we have the sorry sight of South African born Vic Alhadeff, loyal Zionist lobbyist, upset that Israeli Apartheid Week is upon us and he really knows what apartheid is. Not that he mentions the occupation of Palestine at all:

I went to boarding school in apartheid Rhodesia and edited newspapers and wrote books under the constraints of South Africa’s apartheid system. This week is the so-called “Israel Apartheid Week” on university campuses in Australia, so it bears reflecting on what apartheid really meant and why it is obscene that the apartheid descriptor has become the default position for the global delegitimisation campaign against Israel.

his week campuses in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and elsewhere will engage in activities under the banner of “Israel Apartheid Week”, which will include erecting simulated checkpoints at which role-playing students will be “shot” by “Israeli soldiers”.

These scenarios will be buttressed by speakers, posters, displays and movies depicting Israel as an apartheid state, with organisations such as Socialist Alternative, Students for Palestine and Action for Palestine actively involved.

It is axiomatic that Israeli society is a work in progress and that Arab Israelis suffer disadvantage in various spheres.

This issue is not only acknowledged by Israel’s government, but has been embraced by it through the appointment of a minister of minority affairs. The ministry existed in the first years of the fledgling state and was re-established in 1999 with the express purpose of tackling these inequities.

It is also a given that the condition of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza is a serious issue, albeit inextricably bound up with the root cause of the conflict, which is the fundamental refusal to accept Israel’s existence.

Alhadeff’s pedigree makes his current position all the more offensive especially since many blacks who actually suffered under South African apartheid today say what is happening to Palestinians is worse than their plight.

This weekend sees Harvard’s One State Solution conference and apoplexy has set in. Call the authorities. Shut it down. Hitler is back. Or is it Bin Laden or Saddam or Arafat or Ahmadinejad? I always forget which bad guy Zionists like to quote.

Here’s Ruth Wisse in the Wall Street Journal:

In 1948, when the Arab League declared war on Israel, no one imagined that six decades later American universities would become its overseas agency. Yet campus incitement against Israel has been growing from California to the New York Island. A conference at Harvard next week called “Israel/Palestine and the One-State Solution” is but the latest aggression in an escalating campaign against the Jewish state.

The sequence is by now familiar: Arab student groups and self-styled progressives organize a conference or event like “Israeli Apartheid Week,” targeting Israel as the main problem of the Middle East. They frame the goals of these events in buzzwords of “expanding the range of academic debate.” But since the roster of speakers and subjects makes their hostile agenda indisputable, university spokespersons scramble to dissociate their institutions from the events they are sponsoring. Jewish students and alums debate whether to ignore or protest the aggression, and newspapers fueling the story give equal credence to Israel’s attackers and defenders.

 …
Students who are inculcated with hatred of Israel may want to express their national, religious or political identity by urging its annihilation. But universities that condone their efforts are triple offenders—against their mission, against the Jewish people, and perhaps most especially against the maligners themselves. Smoking is less fatal to smokers than anti-Jewish politics is to its users. Remember Hitler’s bunker.

Early in the last decade, when campaigns to divest university funds from Israel arrived at Ivy League schools, Larry Summers, then-president of Harvard University, took an important stand saying, “Not on my watch.’’ He explained that any effort to compare democratic Israel to apartheid South Africa was abhorrent and deserved to be rejected out of hand. The campaign soon died at Harvard as well as other campuses.

Now a new manifestation of extreme anti-Israel activity is coming to Harvard. “One State Conference,’’ scheduled for March 3-4, will explore the “contours of a one-state solution’’ in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and will feature leading anti-Israel activists, including Ali Abunimah, author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse’’; Stephen Walt, co-author of “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’’; and Ilan Pappé, author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.’’

The conference is student-sponsored by the Harvard Law School’s Justice for Palestine and the Kennedy School’s Palestine Caucus, Arab Caucus, and Progressive Caucus. Particularly troubling, however, is that Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Office of the Provost are supporting the conference financially, according to the conference website. The Harvard administration has somewhat distanced itself from the conference, saying that the university “would not endorse any policy that some argue could lead to the elimination of the Jewish State of Israel.’’

When Summers rejected divestment at Harvard, he raised the question as to whether those who were unfairly singling out Israel were motivated by anti-Semitism. He assumed that some probably were and others probably were not, but either way, he reasoned, the consequences of such activity were to make anti-Semitism more acceptable and more likely.

His words can be also used about a conference based on the idea that the only Jewish state in the world, the home of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, should disappear.

This Harvard conference is another wake-up call. The effort to delegitimize the Jewish state is moving apace. It is time for all good people, on campus and off, to stand up against this fundamental assault on the Jewish people.

Quick, everybody, look for the bomb shelters, the one-staters are coming demanding equal rights for both Jews and Palestinians. What a shocking idea.

Palestinian Diana Buttu, writing in the Boston Globe, is sensible and calm:

Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories already function as a single unit. There are no separate border crossings for “Palestine’’ and no separate Palestinian currency. Yet Palestinians of the occupied Palestinian territories are denied the same civil and political rights as Israelis. For Palestinian citizens of Israel, the picture is similar. Such citizens vote in Israeli elections, but are denied the same rights as Jewish Israelis. More than 35 laws explicitly privilege Jews.

Perspectives are already changing. Today, more than a quarter of Palestinians support a single democratic state, despite the absence of any political party advocating the position. Israeli perspectives are changing too on both the left and right.

The primary obstacle to one state is the belief that this system of ethno-religious privilege – similar to the privilege that ruled apartheid South Africa – must remain. Indeed, Jim Crow laws and South African apartheid were similarly entrenched in many minds. Yet history demonstrates that ethnic privilege ultimately fails in a multiethnic society. Palestinians and Israelis are fated to live together. The real question is how – under a system of ethno-religious privilege or under a system of equality?

 A key aspect in this debate is BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel, a peaceful and legitimate tactic to isolate Israel until it adheres to international law. It takes The Magnes Zionist, an Orthodox Jew living in Israel (and a contributor to a forthcoming book I’ve co-edited, After Zionism), to understand the essential BDS message:

I  agree that  innocent people shouldn’t suffer greatly for the sins of their government, even the ones they democratically elected, and whose policies they support. Those who think otherwise accept  the Bin Laden justification for  9/11.  But how much suffering has the BDS movement afflicted on Israel? With all due respect, a cancellation of a Tel-Aviv concert, or a boycott of Sabra Humus,  doesn’t hurt the Israelis at all, except, perhaps, emotionally. Such boycotts send a clear message, get front page coverage in all the press, and are used by Israelis as proof that Israel is an international pariah. We are not talking about crippling sanctions here.

Let’s face it: whatever steam the BDS movement has is because of the  Occupation. Nobody has cancelled a concert because the Palestinian refugee problem is unresolved, or because Israeli Arabs suffer discrimination. Maybe they should, but they haven’t. The three calls of the Global BDS movement should remind liberal Zionists (among others) that while the Occupation is the most egregious injustice perpetrated by Israel, it is not the only thing rotten in the state of Israel.

Endorsing targeted BDS and disagreeing with global BDS is fine for liberal Zionists…But dissing the global BDS movement, with its three eminently reasonable calls is not. Or rather, it is consistent with the tribal attitude of many liberal Zionists I know who are quick to throw stones against the settlers from their glass houses in Tel Aviv – or their stone Arab houses in South Jerusalem.

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How French Jews are embracing an anti-Muslim, French bigot named Marine Le Pen

Tablet reports on how blind love for Zionism and hatred of Islam has become a toxic mix:

Since its inception in the 1970s, the Front National has wrapped itself in the repellent rags of traditional French anti-Semitism. The series of outrageous dérapages, or verbal slips, of the movement’s founder and longtime leader Jean-Marie Le Pen—Marine’s father—are legion, ranging from his remark that the Holocaust was a “detail” of history to his rhyming of crematory (crématoire) with the name of a Jewish politician Michel Durafour. Thus the question of whether anti-Semitism was incidental or central to the Front National’s ideological essence was, from the perspective of French Jewry, entirely settled.

Until now, that is. Since she assumed its leadership at the beginning of 2011, Marine Le Pen has worked to “modernize” her father’s party—a diplomatic word for purging its most reactionary elements. Nolwenn Le Blevennec, a journalist for the news site Rue89 who reports on the Front National, notes that Le Pen has demoted party figures like Christian Bouchet, a notorious fan of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and expelled Alexandre Gabriac, who gave a Nazi salute at a party rally. She’s also distanced herself from Alain Solal, a prominent anti-Semite previously identified as one of Front National’s intellectuals. Even more notably, by making her father the honorary president of the Front National, Le Pen has effectively made him a figurehead shorn of actual power.

At the same time, Marine Le Pen has made a series of dramatic overtures to the Jewish community. Her trip to the United States in early November largely passed under the radar of the American media, but it was widely covered by the French press. At first, the visit wobbled between the surreal and slapstick. At one point, Le Pen’s handlers tried to bar the pack of French journalists from following her into the U.S. Capitol; once inside, the reporters found that Le Pen’s strenuous efforts to meet with a U.S. politician—indeed, any politician at all—ultimately yielded only a furtive 10-minute chat with Rep. Ron Paul. But then, days later, Le Pen pulled off a coup de théâtre: Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, attended a gathering she hosted at the United Nations. Despite the subsequent announcement from Israel’s foreign ministry that the meeting was based on a “misunderstanding,” all the press releases in the world can’t undo the image of a smiling Prosor standing side-by-side with a beaming Le Pen.

French Republicanism—the doctrine that affirms the equality and liberty of citizens and requires that the public sphere be entirely free of ethnic or religious claims—is the crossroads at which the Front National and French Jewry seem slated to either collide or collaborate. Upon their civil emancipation during the French Revolution, French Jews embraced republicanism, particularly its emphasis on a secular society, as their own.

But that might not be the case for much longer. The national debate over immigration and national identity—issues that involve the 5 million Muslims, mostly of North African origin, living in France—seems shriller by the day. The urban riots that convulsed France in 2005, followed by the appalling death of Ilan Halimi, a young French Jew tortured and murdered by several youths of North African background, have had an especially powerful impact on French Jewry. It may well be that the community has reached a point no less pivotal than 1967, when the Six-Day War, followed by Charles de Gaulle’s notorious remark that Jews were an elite and domineering race, ignited French Jewish self-consciousness.

According to Jean-Yves Camus, the political scientist, at least 5 percent of Jewish voters will support Le Pen in 2012. While he and other specialists debate the precise number—there are no surveys on the question—they agree that France’s Jewish community has been moving steadily toward the political right and, indeed, to the extreme right. Clearly, a Jewish Le Pen supporter is no longer the oxymoron it once was. Richard Prasquier, of the Jewish council, worries about this potentially tectonic shift, suggesting that French Jews are increasingly “receptive to and tempted by Le Pen’s discourse.” Perhaps the most immediate reason for this evolution is, that “for the first time since World War II, French Jews are afraid,” said the intellectual Alain Finkielkraut.

Against this background, Le Pen’s effort to seduce the French Jewish community takes on even greater significance. It is only by channeling popular fear and loathing at Muslims that the Front National has made room under its “republican” umbrella for its previous bête noire: the Jews.

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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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How the Zionist lobby corrupts the heart of British government

The influence of Likud-style, extreme Zionism at the heart of the British government is becoming clearer by the day.

Such moves are prevalent in most Western democracies and usually remain unquestioned. They should not.

This news emerged only by chance recently due to a political scandal:

Adam Werritty was at a meeting between the former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox and the Israeli secret service, Whitehall sources have disclosed.

The meeting between Dr Fox, Mr Werritty and the head of Mossad will raise further concerns about Mr Werritty’s role and his connections to the Ministry of Defence.

It has emerged that Mr Werritty has met several Iranian and Israeli figures in recent years, but his meeting with the secretive head of Mossad will increase concerns about the sensitive information available to Mr Werritty.

It casts doubt on the assertion of Sir Gus O’ Donnell that there was “nothing in the evidence” to suggest that Mr Werritty had access to classified information.

Mr Werritty has visited Iran on several occasions and met Iranian opposition groups in Washington and London over the past few years.

In May 2009, Mr Werritty arranged a meeting in Portcullis House between Dr Fox and an Iranian lobbyist with close links to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime.

In February this year, Mr Werritty arranged a dinner with Dr Fox, Matthew Gould, Britain’s ambassador to Israel, and senior political figures – understood to include Israeli intelligence agents – during an Israeli security conference in Herzliya. Iranian sanctions are understood to have been discussed at this meeting.

Mr Werritty also attended the Herzliya conference two years earlier, in February 2009, as an “expert” on Iran.

On that occasion, the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom), a pro-Israeli lobbying organisation, paid for his flight and hotel.

Despite Mr Werritty having no official MoD capacity, it is understood that the Israelis believed that Mr Werritty was regarded as Dr Fox’s chief of staff.

The chairman of Bicom is Poju Zabloudowicz, a billionaire whose companies have donated money to the Conservative Partyand.

A spokesman said: “For many years, Poju Zabloudowicz has helped fund not-for-profit organisations, not individuals, due to his passion for the promotion of peace and understanding between peoples in the United States, Europe and the Middle East.”

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Likudnik at heart of the British Tory government

The Independent on Sunday:

Adam Werritty, the man at the centre of the Liam Fox cash-for-access scandal, has been involved in an audacious plot to topple Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it was claimed last night.

The self-styled adviser to Mr Fox, whose close personal friendship with the former defence secretary led to Mr Fox’s downfall, has visited Iran on several occasions and met Iranian opposition groups in Washington and London over the past few years, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

Mr Werritty, 33, has been debriefed by MI6 about his travels and is so highly regarded by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad – who thought he was Mr Fox’s chief of staff – that he was able to arrange meetings at the highest levels of the Israeli government, multiple sources have told The IoS.

London Observer:

David Cameron has been accused of allowing a secret rightwing agenda to flourish at the heart of the Conservative party, as fallout from the resignation of Liam Fox exposed its close links with a US network of lobbyists, climate change deniers and defence hawks.

In a sign that Fox’s decision to fall on his sword will not mark the end of the furore engulfing the Tories, both Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians stepped up their demands for the prime minister to explain why several senior members of his cabinet were involved in an Anglo-American organisation apparently at odds with his party’s environmental commitments and pledge to defend free healthcare.

At the heart of the complex web linking Fox and his friend Adam Werritty to a raft of businessmen, lobbyists and US neocons is the former defence secretary’s defunct charity, Atlantic Bridge, which was set up with the purported aim of “strengthening the special relationship” but is now mired in controversy.

An Observer investigation reveals that many of those who sat on the Anglo-American charity’s board and its executive council, or were employed on its staff, were lobbyists or lawyers with connections to the defence industry and energy interests. Others included powerful businessmen with defence investments and representatives of the gambling industry.

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Rest easy, Israel, the storm has passed, keep on occupying

What’s that about an Israeli media bubble? You say there’s nothing to worry about? Sorry what? Occupying Palestinians is fine? Rising racism against Arabs best avoided? Yes, of course it is. Guy Bechor writes in Yediot, the country’s biggest paper, that Israel is now emerging from a down-turn and even falsely claims Australia has outlawed BDS. Welcome to paradise, Zionists:

Israelis were the first ones of all people to raise the de-legitimization argument: Israel would turn into the new South Africa as result of its isolation in the Western world, they said. They inflated this claim, which almost turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, there was never much substance to this argument, and even if there was, it was curbed in the past year.

Why did it happen? Because we are not talking about the establishment of a Palestinian state. Israel has agreed to it. We are now talking about the conditions for establishing such state, and here the Palestinians went back to their rejectionist role. A world premised on dialogues and talks is unwilling to accept a unilateral Palestinian dictate that has no peace, no recognition and no security.

Australia currently heads the states that decided to put an end to the racism festival. After an emotional debate in parliament, officials decided to make all protests and boycotts against Israeli businesses a criminal offense. Minister for Consumer Affairs Michael O’Brien said that “To think you are going to influence the policies of the government of Israel by attacking a business running in this state is just appalling.”

The change is already being felt in campuses worldwide. Dozens of Jewish and Israeli groups are being set up. They present the Israeli case and enjoy positive resonance. The universities are no longer reckless, as used to be the case in the past, even though some of them are still dominated by confused liberal discourse. Here’s an example of this change: Columbia University, which last year received Ahmadinejad with great honor, forbade him from visiting this year. This is a precedent that shall affect other global academic institutions.

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The desperate plea for Israel to hang onto land forever

It seems I’ve upset a man who rather likes Zionist occupation and dislikes my recent ABC piece on the UN Palestine bid and BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] against Israel.

In this week’s conservative Spectator magazine, a column by Rowan Dean, headlined, “Three words you’ll never hear from Loewenstein and his BDS pals”, rehashes every Israeli Foreign Ministry talking point of the last 20 years. Terrorism! Hamas! Terrorism! Hizbollah! Iran! Ahmadinejad! Terrorism!

It’s comical to read such pieces, such is their distance from reality. Israel can continue hanging onto the illegally occupied territories, but it will cease to be a Jewish majority state. Soon. Something people who truly believe in democracy should welcome.

Here’s Dean’s piece:

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Ahmadinejad’s Iran looking to isolate itself bit by bit

What a paranoid and fundamentalist regime looks like:

Iran has stepped up online censorship by upgrading the filtering system that enables the Islamic regime to block access to thousands of websites it deems inappropriate for Iranian users.

The move comes one month after the United States announced plans to launch new services facilitating internet access and mobile phone communications in countries with tight controls on freedom of speech, a decision that infuriated Tehran’s regime and prompted harsh reactions from several Iranian officials.

The upgrade had at first appeared as a relaxation of the censorship machine. Iran’s online community said on Monday that filtering was temporarily lifted for the entire country, giving users access to banned websites such as Twitter and Facebook. But hopes for an end to censorship were dashed when news agencies reported later in the day that the respite was due to the process of making the upgrade.

Despite the filtering, many Iranians access blocked addresses with help from proxy websites or virtual private network (VPN) services. The upgrade is aimed at stopping users bypassing censorship.

More than 5 million websites are filtered in Iran. Media organisations including the Guardian, BBC and CNN are blocked, though access to the New York Times website is allowed. On Google, the Farsi equivalents for words such as “condom”, “sex”, “lesbian” and “anti-filtering” are filtered out.

Iran is believed to be worried about the influence of the internet and especially social networking websites as pro-democracy activists across the Middle East use them to promote and publicise their movements.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted an unnamed official as saying: “The ministry of communications and information technology is strengthening the filtering system and recent disruptions were the result of this upgrade.”

At the same time, Nasimonline.ir, an agency that publishes short Twitter-style bursts of news, said it had received information that “a new filtering system that targets Google and Yahoo search engines” had been installed and tested on Monday.

“I think that the new upgrade in the filtering system is a signal from Iran that the regime is prepared to stop any attempt by the US to challenge the country’s online censorship,” said an Iranian who spoke to the Guardian by phone from Tehran on condition of anonymity.

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Some question and answers about responsibility of writers

Following my essay in the latest edition of literary journal Overland on cultural boycotts, politics, Palestine and Sri Lanka, the magazine interviewed me on various matters:

Passionate and outspoken about Israel/Palestine, among other things, Antony Loewenstein is a freelance independent journalist based in Sydney. Author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution, he is a denizen of the Twittersphere. Antony speaks regularly at literary festivals around the world and his essay ‘Boycotts and Literary Festivals’ is published in the 203 edition of Overland.

What was your pathway to becoming a speaker at literary festivals?

I wrote a book and many festivals in Australia invited me. It was My Israel Question, first published in 2006, and told the story of a dissident Jew challenging Zionist power in the West and the realities of occupation for Palestinians. Many Jews hated it, smeared me and tried to shut down the debate. It was typical Zionist behaviour. Thankfully, they failed miserably, despite continuing to try, and even today literary festival directors tell me that the Zionist lobby still tries to pressure them to not invite me to speak on the Middle East, or anything really. This is what Zionism has done to my people, convince them that victimhood is a natural state of affairs and that honest discussion about Israel/Palestine is too threatening to be heard by non-Jews.

The audiences at my literary festival events, since the beginning, have been largely supportive of my stance – though I don’t just speak about Israel/Palestine, also Wikileaks, freedom of speech, web censorship and disaster capitalism – and curiously the strongest Zionist supporters of Israel rarely raise their voices at literary festivals. Instead, they’ll later go into print arguing that festivals were biased against Israel (as happened recently by the Zionist lobby in Australia, condemning my supposedly extremist views on Israel during the Sydney Writer’s Festival). As I say, victimhood comes so naturally to some Jews.

I often have mixed feelings about attending writers’ festivals. I rarely reject an invitation – and have been lucky to speak at events in Australia, India and Indonesia – but it’s often a cozy club that shuns controversy. I like to provoke, not merely for the sake of it, but I know the middle-class audience will not generally hear such thoughts in events about ‘the art of the novel’ or ‘where is the US in 2011?’ I guess if I wrote about knitting or frogs, it may be harder to stir debates.

What is the purpose of a literary festival?

It should be to entertain, challenge and dissect contemporary life. As books sell less in our societies, attendance at literary festivals has increased. People crave intelligent discussion. They generally aren’t receiving that in the corporate media. To see massive audiences in Sydney, Ubud or Jaipur sitting or standing to hear robust debates on the ways of the world can only be a good thing. But there is an important caveat. Do these events too often provide comfort for the listener, a warm glow about themselves and their existence and all-too-rarely tackle the real effects of, say, government policies or the civilian murders in our various wars in the Muslim world?

I argue for a far more politicised literary scene, where intellectuals aren’t so keen to be loved and embraced by an audience but the art of discomfort is raised as an art form. This is why I argue for boycotts in my Overland piece, relating to Palestine and Sri Lanka. Surely our responsibility as artists is not to kow-tow to the powerful but challenge them? And surely our duty is to make people think about the role of non-violent resistance to situations in which we in the West have a role? Literary festivals are a unique opportunity to capture a large audience and throw around some ideas, thoughts which may percolate. If a reader can digest this, still buy a book and ponder something they hadn’t pondered before, my job here is done.

Writer discomfort, to being feted at literary festivals, is my natural state of being. I welcome it.

As a writer, what inspires you?

Passion, direct action, living life in a way that doesn’t ignore the hypocrisy of our realities, lived experiences, detailed journalism, inspiring tales of heroism (that don’t involve women giving up everything and living in Italy for a few months) and voices that struggle to be heard. I’ve always seen my job as a writer as to highlight and brighten the silenced voices in our society. It may be a Tamil or Palestinian, somebody living under occupation or the worker of a multinational who gets shafted for simply doing her job. This may sound pompous or self-important but frankly most journalists say they believe these things but then spend most of their lives dying to be insulated within the power structures of society.

The recent debate in Sydney over Marrickville council embracing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) over Israel was a rare example of government seeing injustice and trying to do something about it. The faux controversy concocted by the Murdoch press, Zionist lobby and Jewish establishment proved just how toxic the occupation of Palestinian lands has become. As a writer, I savoured the few brave individuals who stood up in the face of overwhelming bullying and spoke eloquently for Palestinian rights and real peace with justice in the Middle East. This position is not something that will be taught on a Zionist lobby trip to Israel (something undertaken by most politicians in Australia and many journalists) but real investigation. There are times, though, when I nearly despair, such as my recent visit to New York and attendance at the Celebrate Israel parade.

I think anger is an under-valued attribute in a good writer.

Where are you now, with your writing practice?

I know far more today than when I started my professional career in 2003. In some ways my anger is far more targeted and my writing has improved because of it. I’m pleased that both my current books, My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution, are currently being updated and translated in various countries around the world. I’m working on a book about the modern Left and another about disaster capitalism in Australia and the world. And that’s just for starters. I’m rather busy. I constantly struggle with the sheer volume of information that exists out there. The internet is a blessing and a curse. Taking time away from this device would be just lovely but I’m not too sure how to do it. Feeling connected as a writer is one of the most pleasing aspects of my job. From a schoolgirl who uses my work in her classes to an Iranian dissident who reaches out to raise the brutal nature of the Ahmadinejad regime.

Our society is infected with writers who seem to see their role as robots, spokespeople for a predictable cause, afraid to offend or provoke. Being on the road as a writer is a humbling experience, hearing people’s stories, but it can also be lonely. Being challenged on my positions, as I often am over an issue like Palestine, can (usually) only make my work better. The ignorance and cowardly behaviour of our media and political elites over such questions – Wikileaks, Palestine or refugee policies – is indicative of a wider societal malaise and sometimes I’m not surprised that I have so few friends in the media. It’s not a loss. Who wouldn’t want to breathlessly report on the latest press release by the Gillard government? Sigh.

If anything, I hope my Overland piece stimulates thought over the far-too-comfortable and insulated work of the literary and arts scenes in the West. Self-congratulatory back-slaps may feel good at the time but history ain’t being written by time-keepers.

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