Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To Flotilla's Israel-Demonizers: You Like Lawfare? We'll Give You Lawfare.

See all those heroes? Very few of them will actually be sailing to Gaza.
The Audacity of Hope will have about 40 on board, including crew.
They have raised several hundred thousand bucks in order to
bring...letters of solidarity to...Hamas.
Israel's demonizers have been using lawfare -- exploiting some countries' universal jurisdiction for war crimes cases -- during the past decade in order to weaken its international legitimacy. Some examples have included a 2009 arrest warrant issued for Tzipi Livni  for her role in Operation Cast Lead. Another for Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon who was forced to cancel a to Britain for fear of being arrested there, and a warrant for Ehud Barak, who was attending a meeting at the Labour party conference in Brighton. He escaped arrest after the Foreign Office told the court that he was a serving minister who would be meeting his British counterparts. This ploy has also been tried in Spain, Belgium and France. While most sane observers believe these attempts are frivolous, they nonetheless work their delegitimizing magic on a world stage.

Well, Israel's supporters have found a high profile way to fight back using lawfare-type ploys to hamper the 2011 Flotilla's advance towards the Gaza blockade (which a UN committee will assert as legal in an upcoming report). According the a NY Times report“The departure of a pro-Palestinian flotilla of international ships planning to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza has been delayed, largely because of the efforts of an Israeli advocacy group, both sides said Tuesday.

“Greek authorities have detained two of the ships docked here, including an American vessel, after the Israeli advocacy group, Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, submitted a complaint to the Greek Coast Guard suggesting that seven of the ships might be lacking insurance or were improperly registered.
“Ten ships are expected to head toward Gaza this week in a challenge to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which is governed by the militant group Hamas. All the vessels are insured and have been certified as seaworthy, said Adam Shapiro, a coordinator and spokesman for the flotilla.
“Shurat HaDin, which describes itself as a civil rights organization, has also contacted about 30 maritime insurance providers to warn that insuring the vessels may leave the companies open to prosecution for aiding a terrorist organization, said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of the group. There have been reports that several vessels have been unable to join the flotilla because of insurance problems.” Needless to say, USA to Gaza, the organizers of the 'Audacity of Hope' boat aren't that happy about this. Wow, like how how audacious of those Zionists!
As it is, Ynet reports that less than 300 participants are now planning to join the flotilla. Quite a comedown from last year when you consider that about 600 sailed on just the Mavi Marmara. Ynet has been handed an internal memo that reveals the pathetic decline in numbers:

"According to the memorandum the Italian ship Stefano Chiarim is expected to have 65 people on board – the largest number of passengers in the flotilla. The Canadian ship "Tahrir" will have 48 passengers and the American ship Audacity of Hope, which is currently being held at port by Greek authorities, is set to have 40 passengers.

"There are an additional seven ships from Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Greece and Norway which are expected to set sail. The organizers' most optimistic scenario is that there will be 292 passengers with an additional 36 journalists.

"But it is highly likely that some of the ships will be declared unfit to sail. In addition, it is possible that the Greek government will withhold a departure authorization, making the number of participants even smaller.

Of course, never ones to miss an opportunity to massage the truth, the Flotistas are managing to spin their failure this way, "The situation isn't good, it is true that we will sail with fewer passengers than the previous flotilla but aside from various reasons, we must remember that the Turks aren't participating so Israel won't be able to claim that this is an Islamist flotilla, so there are benefits."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Howard Jacobson Responds to Alice Walker's Gaza Flotilla Apologia - Update**

“Whatever its cargo, by luring the Israeli military into action which can be represented as brutal, the flotilla is engaged in an entirely political act. To call it by any other name is the grossest hypocrisy.”

Here is a sample of how Howard Jacobson parses Alice Walker's sanctimonious CNN essay about why she will be sailing on the Gaza Flotilla:

"The boat on which Alice Walker will be traveling is called The Audacity of Hope. Forgive me for seeing a measure of self- importance in that reference. It will be carrying, Alice Walker tells us, "Letters expressing solidarity and love." Not, presumably, for Israeli children. Perhaps it is thought that Israeli children are the recipients of enough love already. So what about solidarity? It is meant to sound innocuous. "That is all."

"Alice Walker makes plain, "its cargo will be carrying." But what will these letters of solidarity be expressing solidarity with? Solidarity is a political term implying commonality of interest or aspiration. So what interest or aspiration do Alice Walker and her fellow travelers share with the people of Gaza? A desire for freedom? Well we all aspire to that. A longing to live in peace?

"If they have such a longing we must be solid with them in that too, though the firing of rockets from Gaza is not, on the face of it, an expression of such a longing. And what about the declared hostility of Hamas to the very existence of Israel? Hamas, we are often told, is the elected government of Gaza, a government that fairly represents the wishes of its people. In which case we must assume that Hamas's implacable hostility towards Israel fairly represents the implacable hostility felt by the people of Gaza. Are Alice Walker's letters of love and 'solidarity' solid with the people of Gaza in that hostility?

Read Jacobson's whole essay here.
Marc Tracy in Tablet does a good job with Walker's topsy-turvey rationale that Jews, who were such important figures in the civil rights struggle, should understand her solidarity with Gaza. I personally find that she protests too much about how we must love all the world's children though she herself has managed to estrange her only child. But there are Mrs. Jellybys everywhere there are children of 'others' to be saved.

**A commenter --Blacklisted Dictator -- on Engage links to the whole piece by Walker as it appears on her website. It seems that CNN thought it was too obviously anti-Semitic to publish. Here's a bit:

“... the peace talks have been a ruse to continue their growth so that Jewish Israelis can claim the land by possession alone. Possession is nine-tenths of the law is one of the dictums I learned from my Jewish lawyer former husband. This belief might even be enshrined in the Torah. In any case it is a very old idea, and Israelis have made good use of it.”

Oh Syria, My Syria: Former President's Son Waxes Lyrical About a Syria That Never Was

Nureddin al-Atassi, president and chief 
ideologue of the Baath Party 1966-70
When you read in Mohammad Ali Atassi's op-ed in the NY Times today the following sentiments about his father, Nureddin al-Atassi, keep in mind that he was president (after a series of coups that solidified the Baath Party's iron-fist rule) when Syrian troops repeatedly targeted Israel from the Golan Heights, helping to precipitate the 1967 war; that he was president when Syria intervened to exploit the PLO's insurrection in Jordan during Black September 1970 and declared that, "We want a policy of scorched earth for Palestine." That during his time Syria was under Emergency Law from which it has never emerged.

Keep in mind also how predictable it is that, first and foremost, the son blames 40 years of dictatorial rule on, “…a concerted international effort to keep a dictatorial regime in power in the name of regional stability — preserving the security of Israel and maintaining a cold peace on the Golan Heights, like the snow that covers Mount Hermon.

“I remember my father, Nureddin al-Atassi, who himself had been president of Syria before he was imprisoned in 1970 as a result of Gen. Hafez al-Assad’s coup against his comrades in the Baath Party. I was 3 years old then, and it took me a while to understand that prison was not only for criminals, but also for prisoners of conscience. My father would spend 22 years in a small cell in Al Mazza prison, without any charge or trial. We counted the days by the rhythm of our visits to him: one hour every two weeks. At the end of a struggle with cancer, for which he had been denied medical treatment, he was finally released. He died in Paris in December 1992, a week after arriving there on a stretcher.”
“The next time I visit my father’s grave, I will tell him that freedom is reviving again in Syria. I will reassure him that the Syrian people have finally succeeded in breaking this big bottle of cologne, that the scent of freedom has finally been dispersed, that it cannot be drowned by the smell of blood.”
"...the Syria that has been out of sight for the 40 years of the Assads’ rule, a country and its aspirations placed on a shelf and forgotten for decades in the name of stability. ...Now this other Syria is appearing before our eyes to remind us that it cannot be forever set aside, that its people did not spend the decades of the Assads’ rule asleep, and that they aspire, like all people, to live with freedom and dignity."

Not to take away from the excitement and expectation created by the mass protests, but when the son decries the loss of freedom and dignity brought on by the Assad regime, do you wonder if the nostalgia he evokes has any basis in reality? Was there ever such a SyriaAnd isn't it terribly important for us not to be blinded by the very same ignorance that predicted such promise for the Egyptian Spring that is quickly turning into winter?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Summertime is a Dark Time for Moslem Girls

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, despite her vilifiication by some, persists in spreading the word about the relentless coercion of Moslem women to conform to the patriarchal dictates of their families, even in the US. Here is a shocker from her Foundation's latest e-newsletter:

Today is the first day of summer, and it's prime time for girls to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) or forced marriage, either here in the United States, or overseas.   

Does this really happen in the United States?

Forced Marriage   
There are numerous reports of girls being taken out of school in the United States in their early teenage years and returned to their parents' home countries to be forcibly married.  For example, in 2007, the New York Daily News reported that a number of girls were being forced to return to Pakistan to marry men chosen by their families. One woman recalled being tricked and drugged before being put on a plane to Pakistan and, once there, being forced at gunpoint to acquiesce to a marriage to a man chosen by her father.

Research conducted by the African Women's Health Center of the Brigham and Women's Hospital found that approximately 228,000 women and girls in the U.S. have either suffered the procedure or are at risk of FGM, a number that increased by approximately 35% between 1990 and 2000.

Because the procedure can have very serious health complications, summer is the optimum time for families to have their daughters cut as they will not be missed from school.  Recovery can take the entire summer and may cause complications for the girls entire life.  Numerous authorities suspect that the actual numbers are far higher, though there have been few reported cases of FGM being performed in the U.S.  There is also a concern that families send their daughters out of the country to suffer the procedure.    

Currently, it is not a crime to take your daughter abroad to undergo FGM. Representatives Crowley and Bono Mack introduced The Girls Protection Act last year that would make it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of FGM.  This bill has just been reintroduced and needs your support - contact your legislators today to ask them to pass this bill! 

Have a look at the foundation's website for more news and an opportunity to donate to its very important outreach efforts.

Friday, June 17, 2011

British Director Diss-honored with Israeli Film School Scholarship

Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh, who so pusillanimously reneged on his agreement to teach at the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School in Jerusalem last year, has been named in a gottcha-scholarship by Dan Gordon, a Hollywood screenwriter. It is ironically named the 'Mike Leigh Scholarship for Political and Moral Courage' an indication of what Gordon thinks of artists who bow down to pressure from Israel boycott activists.

You can read all about it here, here and here. What I really want to do is propose another set of academic honors in honor of Gordon's brilliant idea of shaming anti-Zionist Jews who sustain their street cred by being first in line to vilify Israel while congratulating themselves for their bravery and moral character. So here are a few suggestions for those who would probably cringe at having their names associated with Israeli universities. May they be shamed.
  • Judith Butler Chair in Anti-Zionist Rhetoric and Discourse, Tel Aviv University
  • Noam Chomsky Scholarship for Excellence in Linguistic Analysis, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology
  • Eric Hobsbaum Chair in Post-Communist Marxist Studies, Hebrew University
  • Jacqueline Rose Scholarship for The Psychoanalysis of Holocaust Survivors, Hebrew University
I know this is silly but, when you think about it, these aren't altogether impossible honors given the open nature of the intellectual discourse and academic freedom that exists in Israel's universities despite the kvetching of the likes of Ilan Pappe and Neve Gordon, or for that matter, PACBI's head honcho, Omar Baghouti, who is studying for his master's at Tel Aviv University.

H/T: Jewish Ideas Daily

Thursday, June 16, 2011

UN Human Rights Council Again Ignores 'Arab Spring' Massacres and Condemns Israel

From the UN Watch statement on the Human Rights Council's broken record automatic repeat session of it's Agenda Item 7: “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories” while massacres are taking place in Syria etc. 

"Our meeting is automatic—the consequence of a decision adopted four years ago, shortly after this council was created, to keep a permanent agenda item on one country only: Israel.

History will record that at a time when citizens across the Middle East were being attacked by their own government—by rifles, tanks, and helicopters—the UN focused its scarce time and attention on a country in that region where this is not happening; the only country in the region which, despite its flaws, respects the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion; the only country in the region with free elections, an independent judiciary, and the equal treatment of women; the only country where gays are not persecuted, arrested or stoned to death, but, on the contrary, march in their own annual parade, as they did in Tel Aviv three days ago.

History will record that when citizens were being persecuted or massacred by their own governments— in Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and elsewhere—the UN chose to turn a blind eye to the victims, and instead endorsed the cynicism, hypocrisy and scapegoating of the perpetrators.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Blockbusters from the Cohen Brothers

Roger Cohen and Richard Cohen: Brothers in credulity
Think irony (yours), think dark comedy (politics in the Middle East), think gullibility (the Cohens') and unintended consequences ... and you have the makings of a great send-up movie. Oh, wait, which Cohen bro are we referring to?  Roger (Jews are happy living in Iran) in the NY Times, or Richard (Israel was a mistake) in the Washington Post? Luckily Mark Tracy in Tablet was able to tell them apart and encapsulated their latest pitches beautifully in links to their respective op-eds this morning:

"Somebody had to take Seymour Hersh’s dubious article about the lack of an Iranian nuclear weapons program overly credulously, which is why we have Roger CohenAnd somebody else had to be a transcriber for the Saudi government vis-à-vis Israel, which is why we have … Richard Cohen?"

Roger showed his usual inability to grasp the reality that is Iran with his Iran Without Nukes. But luckily, Jeffrey Goldberg immediately found the problem with the script, that … er… it kinda contradicted the Times editorial of the same day and those experts who found Hersh’s New Yorker article rather preposterous:

From Goldberg: ‘“Roger Cohen today, giving the benefit of the doubt to the mullahs, again: “It might also be worth recalling that Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, declared last month that attacking Iran would be “a stupid idea.” He suggested his main worry was not Iran itself but Netanyahu’s susceptibility to “dangerous adventure.”

'"Dagan’s concerns have surfaced as Seymour Hersh concludes in a New Yorker article this month that, as he put it in one interview, “There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon.”
'"His reporting reveals that the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (N.I.E.) of 2007 — which concluded “with high confidence” that Iran had halted a nuclear-weapons program in 2003 — still pertains in the classified N.I.E. of 2011. As a retired senior intelligence official put it to Hersh, there’s nothing “substantially new” that “leads to a bomb.”
'"In other words, Iran, epicenter of inefficiency, unable to produce a kilowatt of electricity through its Bushehr nuclear reactor despite decades of effort, is still doing its old brinkmanship number.”
‘“Here is The New York Times editorial board, yesterday, not giving the benefit of the doubt to the mullahs: Iran continues to stonewall about its illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency isn’t falling for it. Nobody should. The agency’s latest report is chilling. While Tehran claims that its program has solely peaceful ends, it lists seven activities with potential “military dimensions.” That includes “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile”; new evidence that Iran has worked on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology; and research on missile warhead designs — namely “studies involving the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab 3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.”’

Richard’s scenario – Tough Talk from a Saudi prince about America’s favoritism towards Israel –  provided a megaphone for Prince Turki, who warned that, “There will be disastrous consequences for U.S.-Saudi relations if the United States vetoes U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state. It would mark a nadir in the decades-long relationship as well as irrevocably damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and America’s reputation among Arab nations. The ideological distance between the Muslim world and the West in general would widen — and opportunities for friendship and cooperation between the two could vanish.” 

Cohen let the prince have the last word with this salvo towards Israel, “I’d hate to be around when they face their comeuppance.”

Thankfully, many of his commenters were able to see this for the fatuous screed that it was:

From AMartin5: “Oh my, it's absolutely laughable for a Saudi to lecture anyone about human rights or occupation. The Saudis wouldn't know a human right if they walked smack into one. Saudi Arabia is a frightening place for anyone who cherishes freedom. Freedom of speech? Nada. Freedom of religion? Zilch. Freedom for women and gays? Ha! 
As for occupation, a little history lesson: if you ever look at an old map of the Middle East, there was once a country called simply, "Arabia." Now how did it become "Saudi Arabia"? Because the Saud clan rode into the territory many decades ago, and took it over, kicking out the Hashemites (who now rule over Jordan). So until the Sauds are willing to relinquish occupied Arabia, please let them be quiet about others.

From Mark McDonald: “Were it not for the vast oil reserves of Saudi Arabia who would care or even give attention to Turki? How is this many different than Himmler? A country that refuses women the right to even drive a car and still practices public beheadings certainly should be careful supporting democratic reforms in the Middle East or anywhere else. The Arab Spring is destined to arrive in Saudi Arabia and this of course is the real source of Turki's frustration with Israel. This is a typical and long time Saudi strategy--whenever there is trouble at home, point the finger at Israel--and Cohen has bought it hook, line and sinker. How on earth can Israel make peace with people who refuse to recognize its right to exist?

On the whole I don't think either of these will find their way into your local theaters... but actually, maybe they will. Americans are so eager for a little fantasy in these tough times.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Syrian Gay Girl's Own Brand of Pinkwashing

The real Amina, the Gay Girl from Syria

There is a delicious irony in how the anti-Israel activist duo, Tom MacMaster and Britta Froelicher, playing Amina the Syrian Gay Girl while sitting in cozy armchairs in Turkey, protested to their 2,171 followers that:

"Having lived in both worlds, I can tell you this in all honesty; I have never once encountered any problem here on account of my sexuality that I would not have encountered were I straight as an arrow. I have never once been attacked or beaten or even screamed at for being a lesbian in an Arab land. On the other hand, I have had dung thrown at me in America for wearing a hijab, been attacked and struck by strangers for being an Arab …"

Jelena Lecic
Well, now we know why Amina never experienced any hostility towards her gayness. She never existed. Or rather, her image was stolen from the Facebook page of Jelena Lecic, a Croatian woman living in London.

But, at any rate, according to the daring duo, accounts of repression and abuse of queer folk in the Middle East are greatly exaggerated and are part of a Zionist/Neocom conspiracy to Pinkwash Israel. In other words, hailing Israel as tolerant and liberal towards the LGBT community is just another way of beating up Arabs. Witness the pretzel-logic that feeds their accusations: 

"We’ve gotten used to being used rhetorically by the advocates of war, occupation, dispossession, and apartheid as ‘evidence’ that the primitive sand-people don’t deserve anything other than killing by the enlightened children of the West; we’ve seen this story used to advocate murder of Afghan villagers, Palestinian refugees, Iraqis and so on. It’s given as justification for genocide by the ranting bleach-blond buffoon in the Dutch parliament and as reason for reviving the worst of the Third Reich by neo-fascists across Europe and America. Now, it’s being used as an argument against democracy."

The logic of anti-Israel pinkwashing is explained right here, but the reality of LGBT rights in the ME is closer to this and this. And you can read some more about Tom and Britta's activism on Harry's Place.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

UK Shocker: Foreign Minister Really Socks it to Assad

I'm shocked...shocked. How rude of British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, for daring to suggest to Parliament that, "'President Assad is losing legitimacy and should reform or step aside.'" Rahlly, couldn't he have put it a bit more delicately?

Farrakhan to Nation of Islam : Join Scientology to Prepare for End Times

Are they tuning in to the same wavelength?

Thanks to Harry's Place for alerting us to The Southern Poverty Law Center's blogpost about Louis Farrakhan's endorsement of Scientology in his Saviour's Day Speech. I just had to share:

"Farrakhan, who in the past has suggested that no whites will survive the end times, now seems to be sold on the idea that Scientology is the means by which this can be accomplished. ‘All white people should flock to L. Ron Hubbard. You can still be a Christian; you just won’t be a devil Christian. You’ll still be a Jew, but you won’t be a satanic Jew. L. Ron Hubbard’s effort was and is to civilize white people and make them better human beings. Mr. Hubbard recognized that his people had to be civilized. He never wanted to continue this world nor was he trying to save this world. He was trying to prepare a people to build a brand new world and a brand new civilization.’”

And you thought you'd seen it all. Ha!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Al Naksa Day: A Reminder - Updated*

You're going to be reading here and here about how Israel killed 4 and wounded 12 Palestinians and their Syrian 'supporters' trying to breach the border in the Golan Heights in order to 'commemorate' Al Naksa Day, i.e. the 'setback' of the Arab loss of the 1967 War. You may find it ironic that while Bashar Al-Assad was busy killing -- so far over 1,000 -- of his people protesting his brutal regime, he still found time to help foment a little action on the border. Surely, he hoped to avert international scrutiny of what happened in Hama a couple of days ago -- at least 65 protesters were killed -- and in 1982, when his father massacred between 10,000 and 40,000 people. Also ironically, he allowed Al Naksa Day to be reported on official state television, unlike the media blackout he imposed on the rest of his burning country.

So, here is my reminder of the hopes that the 'setback' set back, in the form of cartoons published in Arab newspapers during the 1967 Six Day War:

Cannons of eight Arab states: Sudan, Algeria, United Arab 
Republic (then Egypt),Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon
Lebanese daily Al-Jarida, May 31, 1967

Tank forces of the UAR, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
Lebanese daily Al-Khayat,May 31, 1967

“The barricades in Tel Aviv.” Syrian army publication, Al-Jundi Al-Arabi,
 June 6, 1967 (Day 2 of the Six-Day War)

“How to use the Star of David.” Iraqi dailyAl-Manar, June 8, 1967
I found these cartoons, although there are probably many other sources available, in a wonderful blog I just discovered by renowned anthropologist, Dr. Melvin Konner, whose book, The Jewish Body, I plan to note in an upcoming post.

* HonestReporting has published the following from The Reform Party of Syria:

"The Reform Party of Syria has learned today, from intelligence sources close to the Assad regime in Lebanon, that Syrians storming through the Golan Height next to the Quneitra crossing are Syrian farmers who have migrated in recent years from the drought-stricken northeast Syria to the south. Estimates put the number at 250,000 impoverished migrants.

"Information received cite the regime has paid hundreds of these farmers $1,000 each to show-up and $10,000 to their families should any of them succumb to Israeli fire. In Syria, an average salary is about $200 a month and to these impoverished farmers, such a one-time sum can keep them economically afloat for six months." Palestinians and their staunch supporters. Right. Read the rest here.