Saturday, July 18, 2009

Like Killing a Bird Today in Afghanistan

"The Killing of Women is Like Killing a Bird Today in Afghanistan": Afghan Women's Rights Activist
By Stephen de Tarczynski, IPS News
Posted on July 17, 2009, Printed on July 18, 2009

MELBOURNE, Jul 13 (IPS) -- It is easy to understand why epithets such as brave and courageous often accompany the name of Malalai Joya. Slight of stature and serenely demure, the young Afghan woman’s past and present encapsulate the plight of her countrywomen.

Malalai Joya returned to Afghanistan in 1998 -- she had spent most of her life until then in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan -- as an underground volunteer educator of girls, a decidedly dangerous and difficult role given that the hardline Taliban were in power.

She came to the world’s attention in 2003 when, at a constitutional convention attended by Afghanistan’s leaders, she publicly accused many of those present of being war criminals, drug lords and supporters of the Taliban.

Joya continued to speak out against fellow parliamentarians following her election to the national assembly in 2005. While her outspoken views have gained much support both inside Afghanistan and internationally, Joya has also created powerful enemies.

She remains suspended from parliament for being openly critical of fellow MPs and has survived several assassination attempts.

In Australia to promote her book Raising My Voice, Joya, still just 31, met with IPS writer Stephen de Tarczynski to discuss the position of women in her country. The following are extracts from the interview.

IPS: How do you see the situation for women today in Afghanistan?

Malalai Joya: Women and children, they were the most and first victims and still there is much violence against them. And the main reason is that the Northern Alliance fundamentalists, who are mentally the same as the Taliban but physically are different, came to power.

First of all, like the Taliban, they mix Islam with politics to use against women of my country. The situation of women is like hell in most of the provinces.

It is true that in some big cities like Kabul, like Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, some women have access to jobs and education but in most of the provinces, not only is there no justice at all -- even in the capital -- but in faraway provinces the situation of women is becoming more disastrous. The killing of women is like killing a bird today in Afghanistan.

IPS: In your book you quote George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address when the then-U.S. president said that the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captive in their own homes under the Taliban and became free when the Taliban were ousted from power. Do you regard Afghan women and girls as free?

MJ: The U.S. government lies and wants to pretend to the people around the world that for the first time they brought women’s rights to Afghanistan and that women do not wear burqas.

After 9/11 the main message of the U.S government was that women were not wearing burqas anymore but today, eight years later, most women wear burqas because of security [concerns]. I wear a burqa because of security.

In these past eight years, Afghan women haven't gained even the limited rights that they had in the 1970s and 1980s. In the past it was like in western countries. Women wore what they wished, as I wear what I wish now [in Australia]. But in Afghanistan I have to wear a burqa and most of the women of my country don't like that.

But burqas are not the only or main problem for women. We are wearing it now just to be alive. Even now it is useful, we have to wear it. Wearing the burqa is the main tactic I use to be alive, the same as I used in the period of the Taliban.

IPS: You’ve become a figurehead for women's rights in Afghanistan, but are there other women risking as much as you do but who we don’t hear about?

MJ: Even more than me. Only when they have been killed, then through democratic journalists the world knows it, people know it. As I said when Sitara Achakzai [a provincial council member in Kandahar who was murdered in April], the last great woman activist to be killed, she is not the first one and unfortunately she won't be the last one.

Before Sitara Achakzai, Safia Amajan has been killed in Kandahar [the teacher and public servant was 63 when assassinated in 2006]. In the same province Malalai Kakar [a high-ranking policewoman who was murdered last year] has been killed.

In Herat province Nadia Anjaman was a great poet-activist has been killed [at 25 years of age in 2005]. In Parwan [in 2007] Zakia Zaki was a young journalist on radio who had lots of supporters, people loved her, was killed in her house.

IPS: Do assassinations of women like Sitara Achakzai indicate that there is a fear in Afghanistan of women who raise their voice? Are the Taliban and others afraid of women like you?

MJ: Of course they are afraid. That’s why they are against the role of women, half the population of our country. That’s why I say that society is like a bird, with one wing being a man and one wing being a woman. When one wing is injured can the bird fly?

For society also it's impossible. That's why they want half the population to always be in darkness, to not have education, to not play a role, just to be in the house and give birth to babies.

Women are like machines to them. They don't even see a woman as a human.

Every year around the world on Mar. 8, women celebrate International Women's Day with lots of hope and happiness. But in my country, this year three women set themselves on fire on Mar. 8. But it's even more than that. Tens of women every month commit suicide.

Thirteen years ago, the fascist commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar threw acid in the face of women and girls who were outside looking for jobs or education. But the same crimes are happening, repeating now under the name of democracy.

IPS: Are there many other individual women and groups who fight for women's rights in Afghanistan?

MJ: Let me tell you about RAWA [Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan]. This is a woman’s political organisation whose leader Meena - in my opinion she is a hero of my country, my people love her a lot - was killed by the fundamentalists. Still they have projects and underground activists too. The same problems [exist] as under the Taliban.

But only one time they had a function in public, many people came to their hall. At that time I was here [in Australia] when they invited me. They weren’t afraid even though a bomb to kill them all was possible. But they gathered openly and exposed the mask of these warlords.

IPS: What is your message for people around the world?

MJ: My message always to democratic people around the world is to educationally support people of my country, activists of my country, democrats of my country because they are the alternative for the future of Afghanistan. They are able to fight against terrorism and fundamentalism [although] they are risking their lives. As always I am saying they are my secret heroes and heroines.

I have said many times condolences on behalf of my people to those families in Australia and the U.S., everywhere that I went, who lost their loved sons and husbands in Afghanistan. I said the condolences are not enough, to cry these tears is not enough. Please raise your voice first of all against the wrong policies of your government. This is a war crime.

They [U.S. forces] bombed Farah province in May. More than 150 civilians have been killed, most of them women and children. They even used white phosphorous but they're just saying 'sorry', that is it. They don't even want to give the exact reports, just that 20 or 30 people were killed while government officials are saying more than 150 civilians dead. Some of the children were as young as three years old, but even government officials don't want to include them in the lists. Are three-year-old babies not human?

IPS: Your country continues to be ravaged by war, women's rights are still being trampled on and you face the likelihood of further attempts on your life. What gives hope?

MJ: Another gift of the U.S. government, when [U.S. President Barack] Obama took office they want to get some Taliban, like [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar, to join the [Afghan] government.

But two days after that, acid was thrown on the faces of 15 girls in Kandahar. And [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai invited Mullah Omar to join the government. But at the same time when journalists interviewed those girls in a bad condition in the hospital they are saying they'll go back to school when they are healthy. It's hope. And these are steps towards democracy.

IPS: Where do you get your courage?

MJ: First, the truth itself gives courage. And also the sorrows and pain of my people, especially the condition of women. The history of my country and values like democracy and women's rights, these values give me hope. And I believe that these will not be given to us by someone.

But the U.S. government and its allies, unfortunately they have pushed us from the frying pan and into the fire. But we are the ones who firstly are responsible.

The silence of good people is worse than the actions of bad people. That’s why I don't fear death but I do fear the political silence against injustice. I'm sure that one day we will achieve these values as our history shows that we never accept an occupation and we have many heroes and heroines in our country who taught us that sitting in silence is not the way.

© 2009 IPS News All rights reserved.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dump Wars: OPP Move on Site 41

OPP threatens arrests at Site 41, protesters will not yield

This morning, four OPP officers verbally warned people blocking the gates at controversial dump Site 41 in Tiny Township to leave immediately or face arrest, putting Site 41 opponents on high alert. Police had previously said they had ‘no issues’ with the ongoing protest. The protesters were directed to immediately leave the gates or risk being arrested for Mischief under the Criminal Code which carries penalties of up to $5000 fine and/or six months in jail. Local residents, farmers, cottagers and First Nations people have blocked the four gates to Site 41 around the clock for the last 10 days.

“We have said all along that we will not let construction work continue on this dump, that we will protect the water,” said Vicki Monague, one of the Anishnabe Kwei from Christian Island that have been camped at Site 41 for more than two months. “We have maintained good relations with the police, the county and the contractors. We let the security guards in and out and we allow access for the pump contractor and various engineering and Ministry people to monitor the site and keep it safe,” said Monague, “and the county is welcome to come anytime and remove its machinery to put to work off site.”

“Just yesterday the police said they had no issues with the protest. What has changed?” asks Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow. The Council of Canadians is urging the OPP and local police not to arrest anyone, but rather let the matter be debated at Simcoe County council instead. “The way to resolve this is not by arresting peaceful protesters. This highlights the urgent need for an emergency session of Simcoe County Council, and an immediate moratorium on Site 41 construction.”

“A woman in her eighties was here blockading with us yesterday and she said to me ‘If I am going to get arrested once in my life it will be to protect the water.’” said Monague. “At her age, she is really protecting the water for the next generations. This touched me very deeply because that is my role as an Anishnabe Kwei.”

Dump site 41 was originally rejected as a landfill site in the late 1980s by the Ministry of the Environment but their decision was overturned through an Order in Council by the Liberal government of David Peterson. For the last two decades, the local agricultural community has fought to protect the Alliston aquifer that lies beneath the proposed dump site, which contains the purest ground water ever tested. Serious questions about the theoretical modeling in the engineering reports used to select the site have been reinforced by real facts revealed by the actual construction of the site.


For More Information:

Vicki Monague, Anishinabe Kweag, 705-305-8425
Dylan Penner, Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685,

Background Information on Site 41:

Sign up to receive Council of Canadians e-Newsletters and Action Alerts --
The Council of Canadians
700-170 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, ON K1P 5V5.
Tel: (613) 233-2773; Toll-free: 1-800-387-7177
Fax: (613) 233-6776

From: Council of Canadians

For Immediate Release
July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

By George!

Canada's Spy Agency and the Torture of Child Soldier Omar Khadr

Spy watchdog raps CSIS in Khadr affair

OTTAWA — Canada’s spy watchdog says CSIS ignored human-rights concerns in deciding to interview a teenaged Omar Khadr in an American military prison.

In a report released Wednesday, the Security Intelligence Review Committee said there is no evidence CSIS took Khadr’s young age into account either.

The Toronto-born Khadr, 22, is being held by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for allegedly throwing a grenade in Afghanistan when he was just 15, killing a U.S. soldier.

There was widespread media reporting on allegations of mistreatment and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Guantanamo and Afghanistan when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service interviewed Khadr in February 2003, the review committee report says.

“SIRC did not find any evidence that CSIS took this information into account in deciding to interview Khadr.”

The committee also raised serious concerns about Khadr’s tender age in the special report to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, cabinet member responsible for CSIS.

“It is well recognized in Canadian and international law that youth are entitled to certain fundamental rights because of their status as a minor,” the report says.

“SIRC found no evidence that CSIS took Khadr’s age into consideration before deciding to interview him at Guantanamo Bay.”

Documents have surfaced showing Khadr’s American captors threatened him with rape, kept him isolated and would not let him sleep.

It has also long been known that CSIS officers questioned Khadr at Guantanamo in 2003 and that they shared the results of their interrogations with the Americans.

Public release of an interrogation video in which a teenaged Khadr cries for his mother sparked an international uproar last year.

The report says SIRC hopes the changes CSIS has made in recent years concerning co-operation and information-sharing with foreign partners will help the spy service take human-rights issues into consideration in future probes.

It also recommends CSIS consider establishing a policy framework to guide its dealings with young people.

“As part of this, the service should ensure that such interactions are guided by the same principles that are entrenched in Canadian and international law.”

In a broader vein, the review committee says it may be time for CSIS “to undertake a fundamental reassessment of how it conducts business” and urges it to introduce measures to keep pace with “growing and evolving expectations” of how an intelligence agency should operate in a democracy.

“To that end, it would be helpful if CSIS received guidance and advice from the minister on how to accomplish this task.”

A spokesman for Van Loan had no immediate comment on the recommendation.

But he said the minister was reviewing the report and noted the government had already issued new direction to CSIS on dealing with individuals under age 18.

CSIS said Wednesday it welcomes a policy discussion about the role, mandate and expectations of an intelligence agency when operating abroad “as this function is vital to the security of Canadians.”

However, the spy agency was quick to add that while it was aware of media allegations of mistreatment of Guantanamo detainees, it had no reliable proof that Khadr had been mistreated before interviewing him.

Khadr has spent more than six years at Guantanamo, the lone remaining westerner at the U.S. holding facility for prisoners in the war on terror.

A U.S. military commission is considering the charges against him. Hearings have been suspended pending a review of his case.

Khadr’s lawyers have maintained that the interrogation of Khadr made Canadian officials complicit in rights violations.

Successive governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have refrained from intervening in the case. The Tories have rejected a growing chorus of calls to repatriate Khadr and deal with him on Canadian soil.

The Federal Court of Canada ruled in April the government must ask the United States “as soon as practical” to return Khadr home. The government is appealing that decision.

Critics object to the notion Canada should defer to U.S. proceedings against Khadr.

The Khadr family has gained notoriety for apparent longstanding ties to al-Qaida kingpin Osama bin Laden.

Omar’s father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was a purported extremist and financier for the terror network. He was killed by Pakistani forces six years ago. A brother, Karim, was left a paraplegic from wounds suffered in the shootout.

Another brother, Abdullah, is wanted by the Americans for allegedly supplying weapons to al-Qaida.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Dahr Jamail, Robert Parry, Janine Bandcroft

This Week on GR
by C. L. Cook

Approaching the seventh anniversary of the America invasion of Iraq few conscious observers still harbour any doubts the usurpation of Saddam Hussein had anything to do with either weapons of mass destruction, or providing aid to the long suffering Iraqi populace. Stripped of its supposed raison d'etre for being in Iraq, what is the American military fighting for? According to freelance journalist and author, Dahr Jamail, a growing number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq are simply not continuing to fight.

Listen. Hear.

Echoing the fading days of America's war agianst the people of Vietnam, the "boots on the ground," increasingly finding their patrol missions both futile and fatal, are failing to carry out orders.

Dahr Jamail is a multi-award winning journalist, recently returned from his third unembedded tour covering the unnatural disaster in Iraq. He's the author of, 'Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Iraq,' and the recently published, 'Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan,' from which he published the article 'Refusing to Comply: The Tactics of Resistance in an All-Volunteer Military' at Tom Dahr Jamail in the first segment.

And; what's old is nuevo again in Central America, at least as far as Honduras and the new Obama administration is concerned. Two weeks ago, the democratically elected Patrone-cum populist president, Manuel "Mel" Zelaya was rousted from his bed in the middle of the night and ousted from his country in a Coup d'Etat. Coming in the midst of high-minded U.S. disapprobations against the Iranian mullahs and their disdain for democracy, the Latin American coup, carried out by a host of graduates from the notorious School of the Americas, that training centre in the United States specializing in torture methods, death squad fundamentals, and of course, the proper conduct of coups d'etat, comes as a bit of an embarrassment for "enlightened" new president, Barak Obama. Robert Parry is a freelance journalist and author whose own experience encompasses the Dirty Wars in Latin America during Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush's reign of terror in the 1980's. He's founder of the web news site, Consortium, whose book titles include: 'Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,' 'Secrecy and Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq,' and 'Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth.' Robert Parry and back to the future in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher and CFUV broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will check in at the bottom of the hour from her current assignment on the road with the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba. But first; Dahr Jamail and Refusniks American style.

Essence of the Regime

The Essence of the Regime


Every German child knows the story of the Captain of Koepenick.

The scene is 1908 Germany, with the Second Reich at the peak of its power, ruled by a Kaiser who is almost always decked out in a splendid military uniform.

A shoemaker named Wilhelm Voigt is released from prison, after doing time for fraud. He needs a passport to get a job, but felons cannot obtain a passport.

The shoemaker goes to a masquerade shop and puts on the uniform of an army captain. He commandeers a squad of soldiers that happens to be passing in the street. They do notice some irregularities in his outfit but dare not disobey an officer.

The “captain” marches the soldiers to the little town of Koepenick, a suburb of Berlin, arrests the mayor and confiscates the safe, which contains blank passports. Later the police have no great difficulty making out who committed the outrage, and it is not long before he is arrested.

When an adjutant announces the news to the Kaiser, the court holds its breath. After a tense moment or two, His Majesty bursts out laughing. All of Germany laughs with him, along with the rest of Europe.

The “Hauptmann von Koepenick” became a legend, because his adventure threw into relief the very essence of the regime: in the militarist Germany of the time, just before World War I, military rank meant unquestioned authority.

* * *

PERHAPS IT is true that every country has an episode of this kind, highlighting with one stroke the main foibles of its regime. In Israel it was – until this week – the affair of the “Ramat Gan Light Bulb”.

In March 1982 the Economy Minister Yaacov Meridor, a leading member of the Likud, announced that a scientist by the name of Danny Berman had come up with an invention that would cause a revolution throughout the world. By a simple chemical process he was able to produce energy sufficient to light all of Ramat Gan with one single light bulb. Ramat Gan is a sister town of Tel Aviv, and almost as big.

Yaacov Meridor (no relation of the current minister Dan Meridor) was not just anybody. He had been the commander of the Irgun before the arrival of Menachem Begin, and later had set up major economic enterprises in Africa. He was the No. 2 Likud leader and it was no secret that Begin considered him his heir and successor.

Before Meridor’s announcement, a senior reporter of my news magazine, Haolam Hazeh, came to me and told me breathlessly about the wondrous invention. I responded with one word: Nonsense. My years as an investigative magazine editor had honed my nose for detecting phony stories. But the whole country was ecstatic.

In the following days, the revolutionary invention was exposed as a simple fraud. Berman, the genius who posed as a former Air Force officer, was exposed as an impostor with a criminal record. Meridor lost his political future. But a small band of True Believers, including my senior reporter, continued to swear that Berman was indeed a misunderstood genius.

How could a completely nonsensical story, without any foundation at all, capture a whole country and elicit general acceptance, at least at the beginning? Very simple: it expressed one of the deeply-held beliefs of the Israeli public - that Jews are the most intelligent people in the world.

That, by the way, is a conviction held both by many Jews and by anti-Semites. The infamous tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which discloses a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world, relies on this belief.

There are many theories which profess to explain the alleged superiority of the “Jewish Brain”. One asserts that in the thousands of years of persecution, the Jews were compelled to develop their brainpower just in order to survive. Another theory goes like this: in medieval Catholic Europe, the most intelligent men became priests or monks whose vocational celibacy prevented the transmission of their genes to offspring, while it was the habit in the Jewish communities for rich parents to marry their daughters to the most outstanding young scholars.

* * *

THIS WEEK, the Ramat Gan Light Bulb was trumped by an even more magnificent invention: the Heart Sticker.

The economic supplement of Haaretz published a sensational scoop: a virtually unknown Israeli company had sold a third of its shares to a Taiwan-British corporation for 370 million dollars, raising its own value to a billion. All this owing to a revolutionary invention: a small sticker that, when put on the breast, can foretell a heart attack a crucial half hour before it actually happens. The sticker sends out warnings by cellular phone and satellite, thus introducing the possibility of saving countless lives.

That evening, one of the chiefs of the happy firm appeared on TV and disclosed that the wonder-sticker could do much more: for example, it could measure the amount of sugar in the blood without invading the body.

My nose immediately began to twitch.

And indeed, a day later the media started to investigate the matter, revealing one curious fact after another. Nobody had actually seen the wonder sticker. No patent had been registered. No cardiologist or other expert had examined it. No scientific paper had mentioned it. And, it seems, no scientific experiment had been conducted.

The Taiwan-British company had sent no representative to Israel to examine the invention for which it had allegedly paid a huge sum. The negotiations had been conducted entirely by email, without any personal contact. The lawyers involved refused to show the signed agreement.

When reporters contacted the foreign company, they denied any knowledge of the matter. It appeared that the inventor had registered a computer domain with a similar name and thus actually sold the shares to himself.

At this stage, the house of cards started to fall apart. It was revealed that the inventor had twice done time in prison for fraud. But his partners still insisted that the matter was serious and that within days, if not hours, the genius of the invention would be revealed to all, and the critics would be compelled to eat their hats.

The hats remained uneaten, and the partners deserted the ship one after the other.

* * *

WHAT TRANSFORMED the affair from an amusing “sting” operation into a matter of national importance was the readiness of the whole country, for a whole day, to accept the story as another proof of Jewish genius.

No less typical was the identity of its heroes. No. 1 was the inventor himself, who continues to protest that this time, this of all times, he is not an impostor. No. 2 was his partner, the businessman, who was or was not an accomplice to the fraud. But the interesting characters are the other two main protagonists.

No. 3 has been for many years the closest friend of Binyamin Netanyahu, and especially of his wife, Sarah (known to everybody by the childish diminutive Sara’le). At the height of the scandal he resigned his job as CEO, after failing to obtain a copy of the famous contract. If it is assumed that this friend of Netanyahu’s is indeed innocent, his level of intelligence must be subject to grave doubts. However, it may not be intelligence that the Netanyahu family looks for in close friends.

That is even more true for No. 4: Haggai Hadas. The exact nature of his involvement is not entirely clear. At the beginning, he vigorously defended the invention and seemed to be involved from head to foot, but when the thing blew up he desperately tried to distance himself from it.

Why is this any more important than the usual gossip? Because Haggai Hadas, apart from enjoying Netanyahu’s confidence and being, reportedly, a personal friend of his wife, has served in the past as chief of the operations department of the Mossad, the third most important post in the spy agency. He could by now have been the Mossad chief, if the incumbent had not actively prevented everybody else from coming even close.

Some weeks ago, Netanyahu appointed Hadas to one of the most sensitive positions in the security establishment: to coordinate all the efforts to free the “kidnapped” soldier Gilad Shalit.

If we do not want to assume that this man, a confidante of the Prime Minister and a former senior officer of the Mossad, who has been responsible for life-and-death decisions, was an accomplice to a vile fraud, there is no escape from the conclusion that his judgment is grievously impaired and that he fell into a trap that any person with common sense could have spotted a mile off.

How can such a person possibly be entrusted with such a sensitive task as the negotiation for a prisoner exchange with Hamas, in which sophisticated Egyptian mediators are involved?

And what does this say about the judgment of Netanyahu, who appointed him to this task, especially assuming that his wife had demanded it?

* * *

THIS WEEK also marked a milestone: the end of the first 100 days of Netanyahu’s second term as Prime Minister.

The Kadima people have invented a catchy slogan: “100 days, 0 achievements”.

To start with, Netanyahu appointed a bloated government in which a third of all Knesset members serve as ministers or deputy ministers, many of them without any apparent duties. Two of the three most important ministries were allotted to totally unsuited persons: the Treasury to an economic toddler and the Foreign Office to a racist who is openly shunned by many of the world’s most prominent leaders.

Then there came a series of laws and measures that were announced with great fanfare, only to be dropped very quietly. The latest example: the levying of VAT on fruits and vegetables, which was abandoned at the last moment.

But the epitome of inefficiency was the inability to put together the Prime Minister’s staff. The Advisor for National Security, Uzi Arad, is not interested in peace with either the Palestinians or the Syrians, and wants to deal only with the Iranian issue. (This week President Barack Obama issued a public and unequivocal prohibition on any Israeli military attack on Iran.) The Chief of Cabinet, the Director General of the Prime Minister’s office, the Political Advisor and other members of the staff detest each other and do not make any effort to hide it. The Press Advisor has already been replaced, and this week a female friend of Sarah Netanyahu was appointed as advisor for “Branding the State” (Anyone know what that means??)

In the meantime, Sara’le has returned to the spotlight. A former airline stewardess who met Netanyahu in an airport duty-free shop when he was still married to his second wife, she was universally disliked and served as a butt of jokes during her husband’s first term. This time, efforts were made to keep her in the background. When the Prime Minister still insisted on taking her with him to Washington, Michelle Obama avoided meeting her. When he was due to visit several European capitals, she was struck from the list at the last moment. But it seems that she is very active behind the scenes, especially as far as crucial senior appointments are concerned.

Perhaps this country really does need a wonder sticker?

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.