Saturday, January 26, 2013

Unprovoked IDF Killings in West Bank Rogue Elements or Worrying Trend?

Israeli forces kill woman near Hebron

by Ma'an News

HEBRON - Israeli forces shot and killed one person and injured another in the Hebron district on Wednesday, medics said.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Israeli soldiers traveling in a civilian car opened fire at a group of people at the entrance to al-Arrub refugee camp south of Bethlehem.

Lubna Munir Hanash, 22, was shot in the head and died from her injuries, medics said.

Suad Yusuf Jaara was shot in the hand and transported to Ahli hospital in Hebron.

Witnesses told Ma'an that after the shooting Israeli soldiers prevented an ambulance from arriving at the scene for around 10 minutes.

Locals said there were no clashes in the area at the time.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that "soldiers were attacked by Palestinians who hurled multiple firebombs at them while they were traveling near al-Arrub. Soldiers returned fire and the circumstances of the incident are currently being reviewed."

Israeli soldiers searched the area and found several firebombs ready for use, she said, adding that no soldiers were injured in the incident.

Earlier on Wednesday, Salih al-Amarin, 15, died of his wounds in an Israeli hospital after being shot in the head during clashes with Israeli soldiers in a refugee camp in Bethlehem on Friday.

That incident followed a spate of fatal shootings by Israeli soldiers that killed four Palestinians in a week.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad issued a statement calling for "strong condemnation from the international community" of these shootings, and urged "immediate intervention to compel Israel to desist from these serious attacks on our people."

The Legionaires Return to Africa: Making Niger's Uranium Safe for France

France sends troops to secure Niger uranium mines

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

Barely two weeks after invading Mali with over 2,000 troops of the Foreign Legion, France has dispatched special forces troops to neighboring Niger to secure uranium mines run by the French state-owned nuclear power company Areva.

The new French military intervention in northwest Africa was first reported by the weekly magazine Le Point and confirmed by military sources contacted by other sections of the French media. Le Point reported that French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had quickly agreed earlier this week to a “major innovation” in ordering the Special Forces Command to send troops to protect the Areva uranium production sites in Imouraren, and 80 kilometers away in Arlit. The magazine noted that this is the first ever use of the French commandos to directly defend the assets of a corporation.

The magazine reported that French government officials had taken the decision following the botched attempt to rescue the French hostage, Denis Allex, in Somalia and the recent bloody hostage-taking incident and siege at the Armenas gas facility in Algeria, where over 80 people were killed.

Those two events “in addition to launching the ‘Serval’ operation in Mali have significantly increased risk factors for French installations, including industry and mining in the region,” Le Point reported.

In reality, the dispatch of French commandos to the uranium mines in Niger only underscores the overriding economic and geo-strategic motives behind the French military intervention in Mali. Under the cover of a supposed war against Islamist “terrorists” and a defense of the central government in Mali, French imperialism is using its military might to tighten its grip on its resource-rich former African colonies.

Official spokesmen at both Areva and the French Defense Ministry refused to discuss the new military deployment, citing security concerns.

In Niger itself, officials denied any knowledge of the dispatch of the special forces commandos. “It’s true that the terrorist threat has increased today, but as far as I know there is no such agreement in place at the moment,” one official told Reuters.

A Niger army officer told the news agency that there were already security arrangements in place that had been agreed to with France and imposed after the September 2010 kidnapping of seven employees of Areva and one of its contractors in the northern Nigerien town of Arlit.

“We also have counter-terrorism units in the Agadez region,” said the officer. “For now, I don’t know of a decision by the Nigerien government to allow French special forces to base themselves in the north.”

Failure to inform the Nigerien government of its plans would not be out of the question. Ever since its independence in 1960, France, which had ruled the country as a colony for 60 years, has treated Niger as a semi-colony.

The uranium extracted from the mines in Niger have been considered of strategic importance by successive French governments. The yellowcake produced from Niger’s uranium ore has been used to make France’s nuclear bombs as well as to fuel its nuclear reactors, which account for over 75 percent of the country’s electricity.

While vast profits have been reaped from Niger’s uranium, the mining operation has benefited only a thin layer of the country’s subservient bourgeoisie. According to the United Nations human development index, Niger is the third poorest country on the planet, with 70 percent of the population continuing to live on less than $1 a day and life expectancy reaching only 45.

Moreover, the mining has exacerbated ethnic and regional tensions within Niger. Uranium production is concentrated in the northern homeland of the nomadic Tuareg minority, which repeatedly has risen in revolt, charging that whatever resources do accrue from the mining operations go to the southern capital of Niamey. One of the main demands of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), a largely Tuareg armed militia that has battled the Nigerien army, has been the more equitable distribution of uranium revenues.

Moreover again, the exploitation of uranium by Areva has created an environmental and health disaster in the mining areas. The environmental group Greenpeace found in a 2010 report that water wells in the region were contaminated with radiation levels up to 500 times higher than normal. In Arlit, site of one of the major Areva mines, deaths from respiratory diseases occur at twice the national average.

France has every reason to fear that its intervention in Mali, which has already seen the bombing of civilian populations and the torture and execution of civilians by the French-backed Malian army in predominantly Tuareg areas, could cause armed conflict to spill over the border into Niger.

However, in addition to securing its profitable facilities from “terrorism” or popular revolt, France has other reasons to flex its military muscle in Niger. In an attempt to increase its share of the uranium profits, the Nigerien government has recently issued exploration permits to Chinese and Indian firms. By dispatching armed commandos, Paris is asserting its domination of the former colony as part of its African sphere of influence.

As France stepped up its African intervention, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used testimony before a Senate committee Wednesday to affirm Washington’s determination to escalate its own intervention in the region.

“We are in a struggle, but it is a necessary struggle,” said Clinton. “We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven.”

Clinton acknowledged that the rebellion in Mali as well as the hostage siege at the gas plant in Algeria had been fueled in large measure by the US-NATO toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, where Washington and its allies armed and supported Islamist militias as a proxy ground force in the war for regime change.

“There is no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya,” she said. “There is no doubt that the Malian remnants of AQIM [Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb] have weapons from Libya.”

She argued that, while there was no evidence that any of these forces in North Africa posed a direct threat to the US, Washington should launch a preemptive campaign against them anyway. “You can’t say because they haven’t done something they’re not going to do it,” she said.

Yair Lapid: Israel's Smooth New Face

Hatred for Orthodox Jews Drove Israeli Elections 


Max Blumenthal says anti-orthodox parties likely to join Netanyahu's coalition and push even harsher measures against Palestinians

Watch full multipart Israel Elections 2013

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post,, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jakarta's Rising Waters: Killer Floods and Indonesia's Elite

Jakarta’s Killer Floods and the Elites

by Andre Vltchek

It is ‘biasa’ – business as usual – at the ‘Mall Of Indonesia’ in North Jakarta. As if there has been no tragedy of a great magnitude that occurred in this city just a few short minutes drive from its pseudo-Baroque arches and security guards.

Devastating floods, the worst since 2007, have taken at least 27 lives, whilst more than one hundred thousand men, women and children had been made homeless. Countless lives were ravaged in a hasty succession of events.

Most of the citizens were not even able to insure their dwellings against floods ahead of time, unless their houses were constructed on the premises of some posh and elevated gated community. In Jakarta, the flood-related calamities are re-occurring with alarming regularity. Risks are too high and private insurers prefer not to get involved.

The corrupt and inept state, which is stubbornly trying to build as little as possible of anything ‘public’ and non-profit in this feudalistic and market-driven archipelago, had failed to construct sound drainage and flood-preventive groundwork, and then took absolutely no responsibility for the consequences – for the lost lives and destroyed property.

The infrastructure of Jakarta, one of the worst in the world for a city of its size, has once again collapsed, despite the fanfare with which the previous city administration opened the East Flood Channel last year. Even before completion, the channel began deteriorating and got clogged with garbage. It is not surprising, as there isn’t a modern waste management facility in the entire city.

It only took a few days of heavy rains to defeat the channel and the other half-hearted measures protecting the city.

Entire neighborhoods disappeared under the brown filthy water, or at least the ground floors of the houses, where the great majority of people live, or did. Now there is rat urine in the water and the justified fear of leptospirosis, according to Doctor Rachmat Mulyana.

The President of Indonesia announced that he is putting aside $2.1 million to improve the situation, it’s a pittance. And even this amount of money, or at least most of it, will certainly disappear into the deep pockets of corrupt officials and go-betweens.

But who really cares? Most of the victims belong to the poor majority and therefore, to borrow from Orwell’s lexicon, are just a bunch of ‘un-people’.

Biking through the flood. (All photos by Andre Vltchek).

* * *

The night before, at Kampung Melayu neighborhood, I spotted a girl. She was about 5 years old. She was seated inside a scavenger cart. Her mother – the owner of the cart and a scavenger herself – was picking some wet rugs at the side of the road.

The girl was called Luna.

The cart she had been occupying was surrounded by stinky garbage, but the girl was happy; proudly hugging three wet, stuffed bears that her mom had managed to rescue for her from rushing water. Luna seemed to be content, even in the middle of the devastation and rot, simply because she was still too young to understand her condition, and because the three wet bears she was hugging, were more than she had ever owned in her entire short life.

We approached Luna’s mother and she began a conversation: “We live in Kebon Nanas and we are also flood victims. We haven’t got any help whatsoever. Nothing from the government; nothing!

Right next to her was the so-called posko – the post that is supposed to help victims of the flood. Why doesn’t she ask for help there?

“We are not from this neighborhood. They only help some local people. They are very selective… And in our neighborhood, where people are really affected, there is no posko at all.”

Luna was getting tired. It is almost ten at night, too late for a small girl like her. But her mother has to work almost until midnight. In Indonesia, poor people get no help; which means that most of the victims of disasters get nothing or extremely little. This single mother and her daughter have just lost their home, but they are left on their own.

It is all brutal and compassionless, but that is how the system works. And there are no cameras to bring their plight to the world. The only images that are broadcasted are those of some handpicked operations, from the places where at least ‘something is being done’. Most of such transmissions are for publicity purposes, promoting companies, individuals – ‘good Samaritans’, the government, or the military; some are aired for a fee.


* * *

The rich individuals, the foreign companies, the military, and the police: they are all cleaning the country of its natural resources, and they do it systematically. This is where the origin of the economic growth really is; the growth that is so celebrated in Western business circles and the media.

The result of the growth, the money, is distributed amongst an extremely small circle of the upper class. Very little reaches the majority of the people, and almost nothing gets constructed for them.

The government collects some taxes from the middle class. A big chunk of the cash disappears in frauds. Incompetence eats another lump. Since the 1965 Suharto coup, the words ‘social’ or ‘public’ were made synonymous with ‘dirty’. The taxes are also rarely used for improving the country.

Then some terrible disaster strikes.

The army and police are too spoiled, not really used to hard work, not in the habit of serving. Since 1965 they actually controlled the country and even now, the Generals are all at the top of the pyramid of the power structure. Even the President of Indonesia is a former Suharto General, and one of the commanders in the formerly occupied territory of East Timor.

Not used to tough labor, the armed forces still demand good publicity. And so the soldiers and police just show their faces on camera, rescue a few elderly people, and then return to their barracks.

In Indonesia, nothing moves without money. And almost no funds are available: no cash, and therefore, no emergency housing.

Look at the sky above the affected areas: no helicopters fly. Look down: no heavy pumps, no provisory hospitals. Cuban doctors would come, certainly, but even to invite them would be too much to ask from an endemically lazy and indifferent Indonesian ‘public service’. And then, the Communism is still banned here…

The poor are not allowed to demand anything in Indonesia. In this feudal society, they are actually not supposed to be too visible and to complain too loudly. Their laments stay behind closed doors.

And who would really dare to challenge the government that persistently consists of the military and civilian elites? Who would have the guts to accuse it of pocketing tax money, and then making sure that almost nothing is actually built for the nation, not even the most essential things?

This military and these elites have murdered 2-3 million people in the 1965 US-sponsored coup, and then 30% of the people of East Timor. They are responsible for well over 100,000 lost lives in occupied Papua, just to plunder and corrupt the natural resources; all this without blinking.

Not one of the military top brass is standing trial for crimes against humanity. On the contrary thanks to the servile media, the generals are treated as heroes.

So why should any of them be afraid to do nothing, or close to nothing, when the nation really needs them?

Helpless in the flood.

* * *

As we walk away from Luna and her bears, we literally stumble over an enormous concentration of human misery. There are hundreds of people living under a concrete flyover.

People are lying around, aimlessly; some are giving massages to each other. Mothers are breastfeeding their babies, the sick are moaning, children are crying or running around. Food is cooked from boiled flood-water. The sight is absolutely terrible. There is no government presence here, no police and no medical post, no coordinating body.

And there are no cameras, of course. This is how life is for the majority of those more than 100,000 victims. This is the reality. And it is exactly what you are not supposed to see with your own eyes, or ever believe, that things like that are happening.

Ngatini, a flood victim whose house used to be under the Ciliwung bridge in Kampung Melayu, confides in us: “We have been here since Tuesday, already for six days now. This is where we take refuge from the floods. We got no help from the government. There were several volunteer groups that came to give us some food, but that’s all. As you see, my daughter Siti, right here, has a baby and she has to live in the open like this. I hope our Governor – Jokowi – and his administration will come and help us to rebuild our houses, soon.”

But I know that this time “their Governor” Jokowi will not come. I know it, because I have covered dozens of conflicts and disasters in this country, and their aftermaths. Nobody will bother and nothing will happen. Eventually, there will be some foreign aid. Part of it will be eaten, almost immediately, by corruption, exactly as it happened in Aceh, Central Java, and elsewhere. From the local sources will come close to nothing, unless someone wants to advertise his or her ‘good deeds’; a few boxes of dry noodles in exchange for free publicity. So maybe it will not be exactly zero; just very close to nothing.

* * *

But all that was yesterday.

Now let’s go back to the mall, as the mall is the true symbol of Jakarta, after a local breed of savage capitalism cannibalized almost everything else in this horrid and segregated mega polis, where almost all the parks, sidewalks and other public spaces were grabbed by developers, privatized or ‘miraculously’ ceased to exist.

The malls are all there really is – the only ‘cultural and social institutions’ of the city, and the only places where one can still take a stroll and at least to some extent, enjoy life. Malls are sanitary places to escape from the filthy streets with no sidewalks, from decay and hopelessness, from the majority of fellow citizens living in misery of the overcrowded and unsanitary kampungs, or from the excessive heat and torrential rains. Malls are places to escape from reality, because reality looks like an enormous, decaying ghost ship in some horror film – too scary to look at.

So how does the mall react to the disaster?

Surely all that moneyed Facebook milieu – the Western media keeps describing Indonesia, admiringly, as one of the social media hubs – is now mobilizing, trying to feed the hungry, opening their houses to the victims, trashing the government for idleness?

No? But surely the mall socialites do protest, challenge the regime, demand compensation for those who lost everything? They don’t? They really don’t?

Is the mall itself at least in mourning for its former customers? Is the mall now feeding those who have lost everything, is it converting its vast spaces into temporary shelters? After all, it keeps taking all the money from the people: money they have and even more money they don’t. Does the mall give back anything when disaster strikes?

After some brief research I realized that the Mall does absolutely nothing. It does not react in any detectable way. And even if half the country sank, it probably wouldn’t take any action.

As entire neighborhoods are still under water, the outrageously kitschy ‘Mall of Indonesia’ is submerged in its own gaga universe, in virtual reality. Like in all Indonesian ‘public places’, there is no noise control here. Loud pop is flying from all directions, assaulting the ears of the visitors who have no clue that their mental health is being ruined by the unrestrained noises. As they have no clue that their country is being run to the ground by unmatchable greed, idiocy and the criminal behavior of the thugs that, through murder and theft, converted themselves into so called ‘elites’.

Some third rate drummer is on his ultimate power trip, to hell with the flood! He is shooting a barrage of amplified decibels all around the main lobby, while each store seems to be competing in a noise-producing frenzy. Thousands of patrons are window shopping, or staring blankly at their over-sugared drinks, alternatively taking photos of each other on the mobile phones.

It is all biasa, while people outside are dying.

What a bloody party!

* * *

This place is the last stop where one can safely park the car, before embarking on the journey to Pluit, to Kota (the historic Dutch-built neighborhood) and other heavily flooded parts of the city. We hail a taxi, we negotiate, we argue, as it seems that the drivers don’t want to go or they pretend not to know where to go.

Finally we are moving. The radio is blasting away. Elshinta Radio Station, 90.0 FM, is ecstatic, shooting to the ether near orgasmic squeaks. A hysterical female voice is screaming almost happily: Banjir lagi! ‘Floods again!’ ‘We will report on the floods!’

Floods are big entertainment. Ratings are skyrocketing. Everybody wants to hear something juicy about the floods, even those who are in the water.

Soon, the inundated streets appear: those in Pluit, Glodok, and Kota. Entire streets and alleys are converted into rivers. Scooters, now the main mode of transport in this city with no decent public transportation, are moving, slowly, half immersed, through the flood. People – men, women and children – are stoically walking through the water, their ankles submerged, their knees, and torsos submerged, their entire bodies submerged, some in the water up to their chins.

Like during so many disasters that have struck Indonesia with a terrifying regularity, one of the most shocking occurrences is the absolute lack of action taken by the authorities. Between the mall and the old town, for several kilometers, I detected not one military platoon at work, not a single pontoon boat, and no fire truck, or an ambulance.

Anyone who had witnessed the remarkable national mobilization during the disasters in countries like China, Vietnam, Cuba, Chile or Thailand, would be defeated by the thorough and cynical detachment, laziness and criminal idiocy of the Indonesian authorities, during these national emergencies.

And what is worse, the citizenry is conditioned to believe that everything is just fine. Few television images are showing the military helping the victims, (while working in and around the flooded areas I did not see one single soldier or police officer being involved in any work or activity), a few ‘posts’ at the side of the road, and a donation of old clothes or dry food, and everybody feels just great. In virtual reality, created by the subservient media, Indonesia is just another normal country, like any other normal place on earth.

To say that there is no action and ‘no help’ would be, of course, wrong. You would be accused of exaggerating, because in Indonesia, the essence or comparisons matter nothing, while form is everything. Fine, there is some help; there is something, once in a while. Particularly when the media crews, and eager journalists, are paid to cover and overstate each designated rescue operation. Sometimes the ratio could be: several reporters per box of help distributed. I saw it with my eyes, so many times: from Aceh right after tsunami, to these latest floods.

* * *

But on we go, through the inundated streets of the capital city.

At the entrance to the old town, the taxi stops. It cannot drive any further, as the water is too deep. There are no emergency boats in sight, although this used to be one of the main arteries of the old city. There is no assistance; there are no public services, not even one police officer or ambulance.

Everything suddenly becomes ‘for a fee’ here. Drivers of rotten minivans, angkots – the backbone of mass transit in all Indonesian cities – are hiking the prices up from just a few cents, to 7 to 10 dollars, for crossing one long, deep puddle.

Instead of national mobilization comes ‘grab all you can!’ I recall how years ago in Lombok, churches went up in flames while locals went bananas during the religious rioting spree. Then the operators of fast boats, instead of evacuating and saving people, elevated prices to a level absolutely unaffordable to most of the scared locals and visitors. Great solidarity! Great civic awareness! Biasa.

* * *

And suddenly, my goodness, I witness a miracle! There are two red and beautiful fire engines, with all their lights on, honking, and making their way towards Kota, towards the impenetrable puddle, towards us! The roofs of the fire engines are covered with dozens of people. They are smiling, waving and shouting.

It suddenly feels so fantastic. It feels like Cuba or China or Chile or Venezuela. I am thinking: “Am I hitting too hard at Indonesia? Maybe, after all, there are new winds I failed to detect! Maybe there is a new volunteerism, and a new civic awareness. Aren’t these people actually going to a battle, ready to risk their lives to help their fellow citizens?”

I definitely want to go with them, too!

I like moments like this; those of bravery and healthy patriotism; of optimism and incorruptible humanism. I wave at the trucks. One of them stops and we are allowed to climb up the ladder. The lenses of my cameras are hitting the shiny metal handles, but I could not care less: this is all for humanity, to help the victims. I feel like I am in some Eisenstein’s film: real good old socialist realism. I feel that Sukarno’s optimism has once again returned.

Our trucks, like ocean liners making huge waves, are passing through the historic town. Water is sometimes one, sometimes two meters deep. No rescue operation is taking place around here, there are again no authorities, no police and no army, but here we are; we are coming, on our red blinking monster-trucks!

And then, suddenly, I begin to notice something very strange: There are too many film cameras around. And they are not filming the flood and the victims; they are all pointed at one single person. I look closer, I ask, and I am told: the fire engines are transporting a young Indonesian pop star – Raffi Ahmad – a singer and soap opera actor! They are taking him and his entire entourage of bikers, media people, police officers and top brass from the fire department, somewhere… but where?

“Where the hell are we going?” I yell.

“Relax”, I am told. “We are going to one of the shelters.

After two minutes, we arrive. There is suddenly a solid rubber boat standing by, waiting for us, at the kerb. The road is like a mighty river. We are surrounded by helpless families; by women and children, forced to brave the aggressive streams of rushing water. But there is nothing for them on those huge trucks and inside the boat. This is just a set-up for the VIPs!

There are several dozens of groupies, journalists and paparazzi, and dozen or so men in uniforms. There are also some boxes with food, not as many as there are people, but at least some. Biasa.

The boxes are for those who are told to cheer. The victims in the shelter spot Raffi Ahmad and they begin to scream. The cameras are filming their extatic faces. Old women scream. They see some high ranking police officer and they cheer. They cheer as the fire department boss speaks. They cheer and cheer, and cameras are filming and filming this virtual reality – reality that will make those ‘big daddies’ in their pseudo-Baroque villas feel just ‘oh so good’, living in their Indonesia!

The shelter is neat, but there are hardly any people staying there. I perform a very quick count and reach a number of only around 25 adults, and a few children.

There are well over 100,000 newly-made homeless people, all over Jakarta, including that heartbreaking girl with her three wet bears – the girl called Luna. Just last night I saw several hundreds of people sleeping under bridges, getting no help. But who cares?

Raffi Ahmad is talking and talking, the police commander is talking, and the fire department guys are talking. Periodically, everybody hysterically yells and claps, and laughs again. There are bear hugs, shouting, and giggling.

There are dozens of cameras. Again, there will be television, media coverage, and plenty of it, for each box of dried noodles. It is a perfect deal, a real kill, given how expensive it is, these days, to air commercials and personal advertisements in Jakarta.

I ask other people who have arrived on the engines, who are they? They readily reply: “We are members of a big organization of bikers, based in Jakarta. We donated some funds for the victims of the floods. Today is our third day of going around. We can use these fire trucks, and even get a police escort, because we have many acquaintances in the fire department and also in police force.”

Really? So those mighty fire trucks are actually for hire, available for some personal promo action?

The Eisenstein and socialist realism images are suddenly all shattered.

I felt as if I was myself submerging into some filthy water full of excrement, and of extreme nihilism. Here, in Indonesia, nothing matters, anymore; nothing has anything other than financial value.

Haves and have nots.

* * *

The most outrageous thing is to see the spite of the Indonesian ‘elites’ towards the common individuals. Imagine all those top officers, pop stars and bikers (a hobby only for the richest in this country) – all filming each other, laughing, and basically embezzling all the heavy equipment –boats and trucks – from the rescue missions. Imagine dozens of firefighters standing in circles, idle, smoking and chuckling.

And then imagine this: right behind this circus, only a few feet away, there are those common people from the neighborhood: dozens, hundreds of them, braving the floods, with no help from those who are paid from taxpayer’s money to take decisive action during emergencies.

Such behavior would not be considered a crime, but high treason, in so many parts of the world. Behavior like this could easily bring down entire governments, ministries, police and fire departments. Images much less inflammatory than these have triggered uprisings and revolutions.

But not in Indonesia!

The area where I stood was full of media people, their cameras rolling, but all in the wrong direction! They were filming what they were paid to film, not the reality. The flood victims were just a decoration, some wallpaper; something that is used to promote the kindness and benevolence of the rich.

Not one person present appeared to be scared. Nobody was giving a damn! It was all big time pop and biasa.

I was wondering whether after 47 years of massive brainwashing, anybody in Indonesia was actually still capable of detecting reality. Everything seemed to belong to some neon-flash-pop-florescent-virtual gaga land. Only the suffering was real. The majority of people of Indonesia were really suffering. But most of them did not even know it, as they were repeatedly told that they are not.

I separated myself from the group, and once again climbed onto the roof of the truck. From there, the view was ‘magnificent’ and the perspective clear: the street turned into a river, a bunch of firefighters howling with laughter, the pop star and dozens of cameramen, paparazzi, the Indonesian police. And the un-people right behind; abandoned, helpless, not even realizing that something terrible and tremendously symbolic was just unveiling in front of their eyes.

I began working, slowly and steadily, snapping all this with my stills cameras. In my life I have seen a lot: in Congo and India, in Haiti, Palestine and so many other devastated places. But I could not think of too many other nations on earth, where the rulers have lost all their decency, all their limitations, and all their compassion towards their subjects, like they have in Indonesia! I don’t know how it happened and when, but it has. And the results are thoroughly repulsive.

* * *

Then someone from the group below spotted me and began waving. To them I was a foreigner with two expensive cameras; I was one of them. They have counted on people looking like me since the horrid US-sponsored coup of 1965.

And then, with absolute horror, I noticed that those dispossessed people in the middle of the street turned river, began waving as well. First they were waving at me, and than at the entire group of Indonesian elites. They were smiling. Originally their smiles were shy, then they became brighter and brighter. They spotted the actor; then they spotted the cameras. They were standing in the middle of the filthy water, robbed of everything, fucked and destitute, but they were smiling, because they had spotted those ‘above’. They were waving from their filth at the elites, who were too busy filming each other and had no time to even look at the water and the poor folks behind them.

Without even looking, without waving, the elites were getting what they came for. A filmmaker myself, I perfectly imagined the frame: majestic police, fire fighter bosses, and an actor – all smiles. And behind them, deep in the water, people laughing and waving, trying to look happy in their misery.

With their smiles they were thanking for coming all those who had just managed to kidnap and corrupt two precious trucks and a boat produced and purchased to help them in their misfortune.

With their smiles they were thanking them for ‘privatizing’ public property paid for by the people.

I suddenly wanted to run from this madhouse, from this nightmare called Indonesia. But instead I kept pressing the shutter as if it was a trigger, working on behalf of the girl called Luna and her three bears.


Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific – Oceania – is published by Lulu. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear” (Pluto). After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.

Ecology and Indiginous Rights Activists Vow to Continue Honduran Mining Fight

Honduran Mining Law Passed and Ratified, but the Fight is Not Over


Thursday, January 24, 2013

(Ottawa) On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, the Honduran Congress quickly passed and ratified a new mining law that had been developed with support from the Canadian International Development Agency against the will of important sectors of Honduran society.

The only step that remains is for the law to be published in the official Gazette, which could take place as early as next week. Once published, it will enter into effect and a moratorium on new mining concessions that been in place since 2006 will end. It is anticipated that this will be followed by an accelerated process to approve some 300 mining concessions, and that another 154 concessions that have already been approved will become active.

The following represent some of the most worrisome aspects of the law, as analyzed by the Honduran National Coalition of Environmental Networks:

  • It leaves the door open to open-pit mining,
  • Water sources that communities depend upon are left unprotected, except for those that have been declared and registered, which are a minority. This puts at grave risk the survival and economic sustenance of peasant farmer communities,
  • Mining is not prohibited in populated areas, which will continue to permit forced expropriation and the destruction and displacement of entire communities,
  • The consultation process described in the law theoretically allows communities to say no to mining, but only after the exploration concession has already been granted and after there is a contract established with mining companies. This means that community voices will not be heard because the state of Honduras will be bound by Free Trade Agreements that it has signed - such as the forthcoming agreement with Canada - that give transnational companies access to international tribunals in order to protect their investments,
  • It does not include a civil society proposal to incorporate a schedule of environmental crimes such that the Public Ministry could initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible when these occur, sanctions will only be of an administrative nature,
  • The law denies access to information about technical and financial aspects of projects and companies involved.

This is true disaster capitalism in which the Canadian government has played an entirely self-interested role.

In 2009, Honduran civil society had achieved a proposed mining law that had it passed would have incorporated their proposals. But this was shoved aside following the June 2009 military-backed coup of then President Mel Zelaya and never debated. In the wake of this rupture in the democratic life of Honduras, a country that has since become the murder capital of the world with frequent attacks and threats against human rights advocates, journalists and activists, the Canadian Embassy, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and CIDA have all gotten involved in lobbying for and providing assistance toward a law that would be satisfactory to Canadian industry, such as the one that passed yesterday.

The fight is not over for communities and organizations in Honduras. A November 2011 survey found some 91% of Hondurans opposed to open-pit mining and near unanimity in support of the environmental movement for a more just mining framework. In other words, despite the repressive environment, we can anticipate that communities will continue to organize to defend their lands and waters supplies. Also, the National Coalition of Environmental Networks plans to fight this Canadian-backed law through the Honduran courts and will once again be calling for international solidarity in order to urge the court to proceed fairly and expeditiously with their case.

In Canada, it's vital that this attempt on the well-being of communities - in which our government agencies are complicit - not go unnoticed and that the work to build solidarity with affected communities and their allies continue.

- 30 -

For more information:

Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada

Declaration from the National Coalition of Environmental Networks, January 22, 2013 (Original in Spanish follows):

New threat against the Honduran population - Mining law commodifies territory and people

The National Coalition of Environmental Networks (CNRA by its initials in Spanish) holds the National Congress, presided over by Juan Orlando Hernández, responsible for colluding with national and transnational economic groups to approve a mining law that is highly unconstitutional and disrespectful of human life and nature. The passage of this law reinforces the perception of Honduran citizens that “the deputies have once again betrayed the country.”

The approved mining law, has been elaborated in order to deceive undecided deputies and the public in general. As such, it uses very ambiguous language and many euphemisms, for example leaving the door open to open-pit mining by not explicitly mentioning the methods of mineral production that can be used.

The law also appears to respect citizen consultation processes, but in the end turns this into a simple procedure to bury the worries and right to effective participation of the population. Overall, the sovereign decision making process of the people is left aside.

The clientelistic tone of other laws currently before the congress that would hand over territory and broaden the “rights” of mining companies remains consistent. Companies can sell, transfer, mortage or do what they like with the mineral concession and minerals that are property of the Honduran people. Also, concessions are granted without a time limit, in other words, in perpetuity! For all of this, companies will pay miserable amounts to municipalities and the state.

As a result of the above, the CNRA demands:

1. That the Mining Law not be published as long as the demands of the population, environmental and human rights organizations are not incorporated, the same demands that were reiterated during the days of consultation in 2012.

2. That there be a halt to the deception, making people believe that consultation took place when there were already agreements between government authorities and the national and international private sector.

We call upon the Honduran people and organizations to:

1. Defend their territories and lives using their own means against this new threat

2. Exercise timely pressure so that the Supreme Court of Justice declare this law unconstitutional according to the legal measures that the CNRA will be bringing forward according to the Constitution of the Republic and other laws of the country.

Tegucigalpa, January 22, 2013

National Coalition of Environmental Networks

Centro Hondureño de Promoción para el Desarrollo Comunitario (CEHPPRODEC), Comité Regional Ambientalista del Valle de Siria, Instituto Hondureño de Derecho Ambiental (IHDAMO), Asociación de Organismos no Gubernamentales (ASONOG), Asociación Madre Tierra, FUNDAMBIENTE, Red Nacional de Comunidades Afectadas por la Minería, FORO AGRÍCOLA Mesa Nacional de Gestión de Riesgo, Movimiento Ambientalista Santa Barbarense (M.A.S.),Comité para la Defensa de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca( Coddeffagolf) Asociación Nacional para el Fomento de la Agricultura Ecológica (ANAFAE), Fundación Popol Nah Tun, Comités de Defensa de la Naturaleza de los Departamentos de Choluteca y Valle, Alianza Cívica por la Democracia (ACD), Red Ambientalista de los Municipios de Comayagua y La Paz (REDAMUCOP), Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguan (MUCA), Consejo de Cuenca del Municipio de Valle de Ángeles, Red de Sociedad Civil del municipio de Langue, Valle, Sociedad Civil del municipio de Aramecina, Valle, Sociedad Civil del Municipio de El Corpus, Choluteca, Sociedad Civil del Municipio de El Triunfo, Choluteca, Movimiento Indígena Lenca del Departamento de la Paz, Fundación SIMIENTE, Movimiento Amplio por la Dignidad y la Justicia (MADJ), Frailes Franciscanos de Honduras, Conferencia de Religiosos y Religiosas de Honduras (CONFEREH).
Nuevo atentado contra la población de Honduras
Ley de minería entrega territorio y población como mercancía

La Coalición Nacional de Redes Ambientales (CNRA) responsabiliza al Congreso Nacional, presidido por Juan Orlando Hernández, de confabularse con grupos económicos nacionales y transnacionales al aprobar una ley de minería que presenta fuertes indicios de inconstitucionalidad e irrespeta la vida humana y los bienes naturales. Tal parece que esta acción refuerza la percepción ciudadana de que “los diputados están incurriendo en un nuevo delito de traición a la patria”.

La ley de minería aprobada, presenta un texto hábilmente elaborado para engañar a diputados indecisos y al pueblo en general. Es así como, con lenguaje ambiguo y con muchos eufemismos, se mantiene la minería a Cielo Abierto sin mencionar tal método de explotación minero pero dejándolo implícito.

Esta ley aparenta respetar la consulta ciudadana pero al final la convierte en un simple trámite que sepulta las ansias y el derecho de participación efectiva de la población. En suma, se olvida de la toma de decisiones soberana del pueblo.

Continúa apareciendo la tónica entreguista de otras leyes en discusión al regalar el territorio y ampliar “derechos” a las compañías mineras. Estas podrán vender, transferir, hipotecar o hacer lo que mejor les convenga con la concesión y los recursos minerales que son propiedad del pueblo hondureño. Adicionalmente se otorgan las concesiones sin límite de tiempo, es decir, a perpetuidad! Para lo cual se comprometen a pagar cantidades irrisorias a las municipalidades y al Estado mismo.

Por todo lo anterior, la CNRA, exige:

1. No publicar ni poner en vigencia la Ley de Minería mientras no se incorporen las demandas de la población, de sus organizaciones ambientales y de derechos humanos, mismas demandas que se reiteraron en las jornadas de consulta efectuadas en el 2012.

2. No continuar engañando y/o utilizando al pueblo al hacerle creer que se le consulta cuando ya existen acuerdos entre las autoridades de gobierno y el sector privado nacional e internacional.

Llamamos al pueblo hondureño y a sus organizaciones a:

1. Defender por sus propios medios sus territorios y sus vidas frente a este nuevo atentado

2. Presionar oportunamente, para que la Corte Suprema de Justicia declare la inconstitucionalidad de esta ley en función de los recursos legales que desde la Coalición Nacional estaremos impulsando amparados en la Constitución de la República y demás leyes del país.

Israel Moves Inexorably Towards Stasis

Israeli Elections: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same 


Shir Hever says rising star Lapid will provide "moderate" cover for Netanyahu's perpetual negotiations; there is really no difference between them.'

Watch full multipart Shir Hever on TRNN

Shir Hever is an economic researcher in the Alternative Information Center, a Palestinian-Israeli organization active in Jerusalem and Beit-Sahour. Researching the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, some of his research topics include the international aid to the Palestinians and to Israel, the effects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories on the Israeli economy, and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. His work also includes giving lectures and presentations on the economy of the occupation. His first book: Political Economy of Israel's Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation, has been published by Pluto Press.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Revenging George - Or, Well Enough Left Unsaid of the Dead

Eyes Like Blank Discs: The Guardian's Steven Poole on George Orwell's Politics, and the English Language

by David Edwards - Media Lens

January 21, ‘Orwell Day’, marked the 63rd anniversary of George Orwell’s death, Steven Poole notes in the Guardian. To commemorate 110 years since Orwell was born (June 25), BBC radio will broadcast a series about his life while Penguin will publish a new edition of his essay, ‘Politics and the English Language’. This essay, Poole comments, is Orwell’s ‘most famous shorter work, and probably the most wildly overrated of any of his writings’.

Why ‘wildly overrated’?

‘Much of it is the kind of nonsense screed against linguistic pet hates that anyone today might compose in a green-text email to the newspapers.’

The essay’s ‘assault on political euphemism’, it seems, ‘is righteous but limited’, while its more general attacks ‘on what he perceives to be bad style are often outright ridiculous, parading a comically arbitrary collection of intolerances’.

This is strong stuff indeed. Was one of Orwell’s most highly-regarded essays really about venting ‘linguistic pet hates’? The answer is in the essay. Orwell noted that the writing he admired was generally provided by ‘some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line”. Orthodoxy, of whatever colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style’.

As for the mainstream productions of his day – the ‘pamphlets, leading articles, manifestos’:

‘one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them’.

This typically dramatic and disturbing passage makes clear that Orwell was not focusing on ‘linguistic pet hates’. Rather, he was motivated to resist a process of social dehumanisation facilitated by ‘imitative’ and ‘lifeless’ communication, by a toxic ‘orthodoxy’. He underlined his reasoning:

‘I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought.’

If this was a crucial issue in Orwell’s time, it is even more so today.

In his book The Sane Society, published five years after Orwell’s death, Erich Fromm explored the ‘curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being’ with his analysis of the ‘marketing orientation’:

‘In this orientation, man experiences himself as a thing to be employed successfully on the market. He does not experience himself as an active agent, as the bearer of human powers. He is alienated from these powers. His aim is to successfully sell himself on the market.’ (Fromm, The Sane Society, Rinehart and Winston, 1955, pp.137-8)

Fromm added:

‘Being employed, he is not an active agent, has no responsibility except the proper performance of the isolated piece of work he is doing… Nothing more is expected of him, or wanted from him. He is part of the equipment hired by capital, and his role and function are determined by this quality of being a piece of equipment.’ (Ibid., pp.175-6)

This, Fromm argued, was symptomatic of the rise of a ‘machine society’, which ‘has been described most imaginatively by Orwell and Aldous Huxley’. (Fromm, The Revolution Of Hope, Harper & Row, 1968, p.41)

Orwell and Fromm understood that broader political and ethical concerns were being eliminated from awareness by state-corporate forces persuading people to view themselves as producers and consumers rather than as responsible human beings.

More recently, American physicist Jeff Schmidt, who edited Physics Today magazine for 19 years, describes how media professionals are trained in exactly this way to internalise the understanding that they should not ‘question the politics built into their work’:

‘The resulting professional is an obedient thinker, an intellectual property whom employers can trust to experiment, theorise, innovate and create safely within the confines of an assigned ideology. The political and intellectual timidity of today’s most highly educated employees is no accident.’ (Schmidt, Disciplined Minds, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, p.16)

Ironically, Poole’s review of Orwell is itself a textbook example of the kind of alienated response described by Orwell, Fromm and Schmidt.

Far-Off Sandy Places And Pre-Emptive War

Whereas Orwell’s essay is the work of an impassioned, outspoken individual opposing 'the machine society’, Poole’s article is the work of a corporate professional operating ‘within the confines of an assigned ideology’.

Indicatively, Poole writes that Orwell’s essay ‘is savagely contemptuous of politicians and what they say’. True, but Poole omits to mention that it is also ‘savagely contemptuous’ of ‘pamphlets’ and ‘leading articles’ – that is, of Poole’s own profession. Clearly, it would have been absurd for Orwell to focus solely on the political abuse of language while ignoring mainstream journalism. But as we have documented many times, honest analysis of this issue is deeply problematic for any corporate media employee. Imagine Poole agreeing with, or even mentioning, this comment from Orwell's essay 'England Your England':

'Is the English press honest or dishonest? At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.'

Poole writes:

‘Media invocations of Orwell's virtues increased markedly after 9/11, when it seemed to some opportunist intellectuals as though his life and oeuvre prophetically justified the pre-emptive invasion of far-off sandy places.’

Orwell would have enjoyed the breezy reference to ‘far-off sandy places’ in describing British and American bloodbaths constituting some of the greatest crimes of the modern era. He would also have noticed Poole’s reference to ‘pre-emptive invasion’ and his omission of the key adjective ‘illegal’. In reality, of course, there was no question of the West acting to stop an intended attack by Iraq or Afghanistan. Noam Chomsky commented:

‘The [Bush regime's] strategy asserts the right of the US to undertake “preventive war” at will: Preventive, not pre-emptive. Pre-emptive war might fall within the framework of international law. Thus if bombers had been detected approaching the US from a military base in Grenada, then, under a reasonable interpretation of the UN Charter, a pre-emptive attack destroying the planes and perhaps even the Grenadan base would have been justifiable.

‘But the justifications for pre-emptive war do not hold for preventive war, particularly as that concept is interpreted by its current enthusiasts: the use of military force to eliminate an imagined or invented threat. Preventive war falls within the category of war crimes.’

Poole is unhappy with this, one of Orwell’s most celebrated passages:

‘In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’

Poole's problem:

‘What is worrying, however, is that Orwell's diagnosis of “cloudy vagueness” and “pure wind” might seem to sanction an impatient dismissal. Should we just assume that everything politicians say is hot air? To do so would be to let our guards down… Rather than waving it away as “pure wind”, it is necessary to listen all the more closely to this stuff, because you need to bring the buried argument out into the open in order to defeat it.’

These are really curious grounds for criticising such insightful and courageous comments. Orwell’s essay is precisely an exercise in bringing out the buried arguments in order to defeat them, as he makes clear:

‘One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs.’

Orwell’s concern was not at all with complacently ‘waving… away’ political speech, but with challenging and discrediting language that makes ‘murder respectable’.

Of The Critical Spirit And The Corporate Professional

Poole provides his own examples of the modern abuse of language:

‘Political rhetoric now as in Orwell's day exploits not only euphemism ("austerity") but dysphemism ("skivers") and loaded metaphor ("fiscal cliff")’


‘Take the ubiquitous calls today for European countries to do just what will “reassure the markets”, as though holders of government bonds were trembling, paranoid little flowers who must be psychically coddled at all costs.’

This is a feeble swipe, at best. Are these really the most toxic examples of modern ‘newspeak’? It is hard to imagine how anyone could write an article reviewing Orwell today without mentioning the endless use of the term ‘humanitarian intervention’ as a cover for savage Western realpolitik. Orwell would have found bitter significance in the fact that the destruction of Iraq – with one million dead as a result of the 2003 war – was part of an ‘ethical foreign policy': old-style imperialism conducted by 'New Labour'.

Similarly, to read Hans von Sponeck’s analysis of the sanctions regime imposed on Iraq at the cost of half a million infant lives, A Different Kind Of War (Berghahn Books, 2006), is to almost see the light catch on the spectacles of the international political system such that it ‘turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them’.

A further hard-to-miss classic of Orwellian ‘newspeak’ was the 2011 ‘no-fly zone’ used to enforce Nato’s ‘one-side-may-fight zone’ favouring Nato’s allies as part of the West’s cynical determination to impose regime change on Libya.

And how can we discuss Orwell’s views on thought control without mentioning, for example, that six media corporations closely allied to state power now control 90 per cent of what Americans read, watch and hear? The high-tech surveillance of an increasingly digitised world policed by untouchable killer robots fighting ‘perpetual war’ is also straight out of Orwell’s 1984.

By contrast, this mildly amusing episode of Poole’s Unspeak web-video series is closer to light comedy than to Orwell’s fierce political analysis.

Like so many corporate journalists, Poole writes with a detached, cynical tone. In our media culture, it is cool to mock, but decidedly uncool to become a ‘crusader’ for a cause in the way of Orwell, who was very nearly killed fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Orwell was passionately engaged in attempts to change the world. He perceived suffering and injustice as his personal responsibility, his work was clearly driven by the intense anguish he felt.

But this is really not what the Guardian, or corporate journalism in general, is about. Why? Because journalists are employed professionals, 'part of the equipment hired by capital'. Poole, for example, is paid to write book reviews for his employer, the corporate Guardian. And yet he has the gall to suggest that Orwell’s ‘assault on political euphemism’ is ‘righteous but limited’.

Schmidt highlights the gulf that separates free-thinking dissidents like Orwell from the average media professional:

‘Real critical thinking means uncovering and questioning social, political and moral assumptions; applying and refining a personally developed worldview; and calling for action that advances a personally created agenda. An approach that backs away from any of these three components lacks the critical spirit.’

Apparently oblivious to the compassion that drove Orwell, Poole pours derision on his ‘linguistic xenophobia’:

‘His essay comforts, for example, the kind of Little Englander of the verbals who is suspicious of words from beyond these shores. If you ever feel tempted to say “status quo” or “cul de sac”, for instance, Orwell will sneer at you for “pretentious diction.”’

Why? ‘Because these phrases are of “foreign” origin.’ Poole adds:

‘Orwell's eccentric final tip-list includes “Never use a long word where a short one will do” (why ever not?), and “Never use the passive where you can use the active.” No good reason is offered or indeed imaginable…’

Again, Orwell’s real objection is clear: language should be ‘an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought’.

Poole reveals much when he writes that Orwell’s writing tips are ‘are all undone by the last: “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.” But, the eager student might ask, how is one to tell whether what one has said is barbarous or not? Orwell is silent on the matter. Presumably it ends up being a question of taste.’

Here a cold light really is glinting from the ‘blank discs’ of modern corporate culture. Fromm again:

‘To the degree to which a person conforms he cannot hear the voice of his conscience, much less act upon it. Conscience exists only when man experiences himself as man, not as a thing, as a commodity.’ (Fromm, The Sane Society, op. cit., p.168)

In our corporate age, questions of conscience make no sense. In the absence of some guiding authority they become a mere ‘question of taste’.

Poole concludes his piece:

‘Orwell even concedes, at the end of “Politics”, that you could follow all his rules and “still write bad English”. But then, compiling lists of writing tips is a pleasant work-avoidance strategy for writers, too.’

Is there anything in our modern world that might cause us to be impassioned, outraged, even compelled to act? It seems not.

Shepherding us towards this conclusion, it should hardly need saying, is a key function of our corporate, decidedly unfree press.

Suggested Action

The goal of Media Lens is to promote reason, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to be polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive.

Write to Steven Poole


Twitter: @stevenpoole Write to Media Lens:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Israel Election Results Close

Israeli Election Results Closer Than Predictions


 Israelis react to surprise gain of Yesh Atid party that swept second place in Israeli elections, potentially changing the nature of the next coalition government Related Story: Israel's Labor Party Plays Desperate Game to Elections Watch full multipart The Real News in the Middle East

On Tuesday, Israelis went to the polls in record numbers. Monitors reported the highest voter turnout in over a decade. While most expected to see the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu re-elected, the number of seats he was projected to get was significantly greater than the 31 his alliance party won. Surprisingly, the new party of known TV anchor Yair Lapid won the second number of votes, while Labor followed in third place. Labor's leader Shelly Yechimovich threatend this might mean the next coalition government will not be headed by Netanyahu, but many predict Lapid will join the Prime Minister, instead of the opposition. Official coalition negotiations are to begin a week after the elections. The Real News' Lia Tarachansky spoke with regular Israelis on the streets of Tel Aviv.

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Israel Elects Fascism


Universalism and Individualism versus Tribalism

by William A. Cook

As it looks now, more than half the members of the 19th Knesset will belong to the extreme right and beyond, at least a dozen of them honest to goodness fascists. (Uri Avnery, Israel’s Elections and the Voters Dilemma”)

On Monday of this week, Martin Luther King’s Holiday, my wife and I took an overnight break in Temecula, California, a wine tasting town a bit north of San Diego filled with antique shops in the Old Town section. As we entered an old house converted to such a shop, we overheard a customer comment that “…today is Martin Luther King’s Holiday.” The proprietor, an old man of grey hair and stooped shoulders, blurted out: “It’s not my Holiday!” How quaint the old attitude rings out all these years after America’s founding; how visceral the silent anger as the Inaugural played out in the Nation’s capital at this very moment; how heart wrenching that the words of this man who suffered assassination 44 years ago should still be submerged in the sickness of superiority.

Listen to his words:
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last"!” (Martin Luther King, “I have a dream…”

Here indeed is the American Dream in all its glory—the universalism that joins all humankind in one blessed unity, “all of God’s children,” and individualism that exists in their natural rights granted to all by virtue of birth, “free at last! Thank God Almighty.” How can we still turn to that ancient crutch of “superior birth” when we all are accidents of birth having no choice in the matter; how turn to our “exceptionalism” when so many variables determine our direction whether chance, luck or fate; how damn the less fortunate when time, genetics, and chance mingle to create the circumstances that give us our lives? After 260 years of coddling the institution of slavery, after 85 years declaring it a legitimate institution established by omission in our Constitution, and after another 100 years of Jim Crow, segregation and the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, America and Americans finally cast off this amoral chain that shackled us to criminal laws, destruction of the innocent, hypocrisy, and self-shame. Finally, America could lift its head with pride and say to the world, we are free, free at last as the good God Almighty meant us to be.

Ironically, on this very day, our Black President was inaugurated for a second term, a day millions thought should never arrive. Ironic too, these same Americans flood the Christian churches every Sunday proclaiming their belief in the Son of God, who preached the Beatitudes and the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy, who so loved all his brothers and sisters that he gave His life for them, an atonement against the very proclamations of that Old Testament God that divided his creatures into the chosen and the damned, who recognized the value of each and every person, the rights of all to share the wonders of the earth that all might live in decency, respect, dignity and honor.

Unlike the old Proprietor, Barack Obama called on all Americans to respond to the words of the Declaration of Independence, a declaration imbedded in the words of Martin Luther King’s dream:
 “Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.”

Uri Avnery, in the quote that opens this piece, offers a cautionary word as the Israeli people head to the polling booths. Ironic it is, perhaps, that the Jewish State holds its election within a day of our President’s Inauguration. Of what significance is this to Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” or to the President’s appeal to the moral star that governs our nation, a nation dedicated to universalism and individualism?

Fortuitously, these apparently disparate events yoke together three realities that will govern our country for the next four years if the American people hold their President to his words. Nothing in Obama’s address focused on the state of Israel, yet every word he spoke addressed the inequity that has attended the fulfillment of America’s promise to recognize the inherent rights of the common man, the rights of all women, the rights of Gays and Lesbians, but nothing about the rights of the oppressed, the occupied in Palestine.

Why should they be included? Because this country has chosen to support the increasingly undemocratic state of Israel, the ever increasing tribalism that is pushing that state into a theocracy that denies the universalism of all human kind and imposes a set of beliefs that threaten to destroy the very concept of individual rights. America invests untold billions of dollars into this state ostensibly because it is democratic, a democratic friend in the mid-east, and it adheres to America’s core values. Nothing could be further from the truth.

America’s unqualified support for the State of Israel, for this looming contradiction to American core values--tolerance for all religions, inherent rights by birth for all citizens, belief in the pursuit of happiness, equality before the law, and justice regardless of race or creed or color or gender--hangs the rope of hypocrisy around our necks as we confront the communities of the world with our acceptance of a country that forces all to take an oath of loyalty to “the Jewish State” thereby denying individual freedom of thought, the antithesis of American values:
"The amendment (sic) to the citizenship law is completely racist [...] Israel's law books are becoming a guide for the world's most discriminatory and racist regimes'" (Haaretz, 2010).” 

When the government legislates beliefs for granting citizenship, an oath of loyalty to the Jewish State, democracy ceases to exist.

“Netanyahu’s rejection of peace, the obsession with the settlements, the deepening of the occupation – all these are turning Israel (Israel proper, not just the occupied territories) inexorably into an apartheid state. Already in the outgoing Knesset, abominable anti-democratic laws have been passed.” Avnery makes this terrifying observation: “… if this was not enough, these parties want to impose on us the Jewish Halacha, much as their Muslim counterparts want to impose the Shari’ah. They oppose almost automatically all progressive ideas, such as a written constitution, separation between synagogue and state, civil marriage, same-sex marriage, abortion and what not.” (Uri Avnery)

“We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice … not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice,” thus spoke our President. How hypocritical should we continue to support the rogue state of Israel and deny to the indigenous people their rights under international law, laws influenced and guided by our own. Without American support, Israel would have to become a legitimate member of the world’s communities, making possible a true Palestinian state.

Should the Israeli electorate vote into office the far right as Averny fears, then that government in its beliefs and its laws will be diametrically opposite to American values and, quite obviously, to the Universal Declaration of Human Right as Niki Raapana outlines here:

“The American founders (many of whom were devoutly religious freemasons) believed in a Universal Creator. The Creator of all life was called "God" by almost all of the American founders. They established every common man's inalienable right to pursue a happy life comes directly from God the moment man is born. Many founders further believed that only a nation based in Christian principles and the Ten Commandments could survive as a form of government designed to protect God-given, natural rights.
The First Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are called the U.S. Bill of Rights. The law expressly forbids the establishment of a state church. This is the only legal rule of law in the United States. The original Bill of Rights is a ONE PAGE document. Any literate second-grader can read it. The Jewish-Egyptian Talmud is enormous, it includes mysticism and unwritten, hidden texts, and much of the discourse about it is only written in Hebrew and practiced in Eqyptian secret ceremonies that worship the Light Being.
Noson Gurary, a Lubavitch rabbi insists "Jewish law is the basis of our legal system in America," but that's not entirely true. Property Rights, Common Law, Natural Law, and the need to protect individuals from tyrants is the basis for the legal system in America. American law was designed to protect the people from their government. Jewish law is not American law, it's Israeli law. It's also a vast, ancient library that claims the Jews are God's "chosen people." It has another set of laws for non-Jews who must obey a complex set of confusing rules and regulations that give control over all daily life functions to an agent of the Jewish "court." Much like the religious "law" practiced by priests in the Holy Roman Empire and the Protestant Churches in Europe, Jewish law does not protect the rights and liberties of the common born man (as does U.S. law), it protects the rights of their elites to confiscate all private land and direct the lives of the people placed under their ‘care.’" (Rense, 4-13-09).

Last April in an article titled “Tribalism and Universalism in Judaism” (barer38, 4/17/2012),
Daniel Gordis is quoted at some length:

“Gordis’ claim is that Judaism has always been a “tribal” religion/culture, and it is the fact that this aspect of Judaism irks (Peter) Beinart’s sense of universalism that is driving the vitriol directed at Israel in Beinart’s book. The fact that Judaism has contained a strong ‘tribal flavour’ throughout its history is not a reason for it to continue to do so.
“I would ask, in the same vein, whether someone as intelligent as Gordis could possibly imagine that any Seder in which serious conversation took place did not involve a repudiation or serious critique of the paragraph in the Hagaddah which begins with “Pour out Your wrath against the nations that do not know You,” which Gordis uses as a current example of Jews ascribing to Jewish particularism. The fact is, whether original or having first been expressed by the Reform movement, many Jews are deeply uncomfortable with the notion of particularism, or what Gordis calls “tribalism.”

Perhaps the most courageous and intelligent expression of this attempt to yoke tribalism or particularism together as inadequate to express the truth imbedded in the Torah, Love one another, has been Dr. Uri Davis’ reconfiguration of the Haggadah text to address the reality of the traditional version that is “out and out racist.” He refers to the exact same quote, “Pour out your wrath against the nations that do not know you.”

He elaborates:
 “The traditional version of the Passover Haggadah projects a message about life in general, and life within Jewish tribal societies in particular, that is unreservedly horrific…glorifyingly ugly ethno-centrism (notably, “Blessed art thou, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who hath chosen us from among all people ; and has exalted us above all languages”); applauding criminal collective punishments (notably the Ten Plagues”); as well as alleging that traditions and myths that are other than Jewish, notably paganism, are inferior, thereby laying the grounds towards the legitimization of genocide (Pour out thy wrath upon the nations that know thee not … pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heaven of the Eternal…”). [A Secular Anti-Zionist Companion of an Abridged Passover Haggadah, 2011].

This comment from Rabbi Brent Rosen’s sermon on Rosh Hashanah 5773 suggests that the tribalism of the Talmud is not compatible with the world of 2013:

“From the outset we learn that all human beings are equally worthy of respect, dignity and love – and, I would add, equally worthy of one another’s allegiance and loyalty. Moreover, a key rabbinic concept, Kavod HaBriyot, demands that we ensure all people are treated with honor and dignity. In a famous verse from the classic rabbinic text Pirke Avot, Rabbi Ben Zoma teaches: Who is honored? The one who honors all human beings.”
“To do this, I believe, we’ll have to construct a distinctly 21st century Torah – one that reflects a world in which the Jewish community has become inter-dependent with other peoples in profound and unprecedented ways. One that lets go of old tribal assumptions and widens the boundaries of our tent in new and creative ways.”

Regression to tribalism will not only destroy Israel’s relationship with its only true protector, the United States, once Americans understand that they are supporting exclusiveness, elitism, tribally proclaimed superiority over all others, and a tribal text that will justify in their minds how to manipulate and destroy their perceived enemies, but it will destroy Israel because the citizens of that state and their brothers and sisters throughout the world are divided on the virtues of the ancient ways, indeed, millions do not accept the religious teachings of the Talmud as it has defined others and constricted for them an independence of mind that will not be forced into obedience to a fanatical few.

Perhaps now is the time for this nation to abort its ties to and the controls imposed by its unreasonable support for a state that walls in those it does not like or tolerate, that attacks its neighbors at will without reasonable justification, that expressly intends to dominate the mid-east including nuclear domination, that willingly uses its American support to reject the censures of the United Nations because it can and does act with impunity, and a state that continues its theft of Palestinian land as it mouths words of peace when it has no intentions to work toward peace.

America’s journey of almost 200 years to reach the ideals expressed in its founding documents is not over, not if this nation intends to:
“support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice … not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice,” (Obama’s address).

Saudi v. Qatari Aims in Syria

Saudi Arabia vs. Qatar on Syria

by Peter Lee - China Matters

With all the reams of reporting on Syria, I am surprised that relatively little is written, in English anyway, about the divergence of aims between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood and, it appears, would not object to a brokered deal to end the insurrection that allows the MB to get its nose in the political tent, then make its play for winning control of the new government through some combination of foreign pressure, domestic mobilization, and elections.

Saudi Arabia, it appears, has no love for the Muslim Brotherhood and is perfectly happy to crater the Assad regime through a bloody insurrection abetted by foreign jihadis, in order to deny Iran a regional ally, score
another victory for fundamentalist Sunni rollback, and increase the pressure on the Shi’a-led government of Iraq by adding the factor of a hostile, pro-Saudi and overtly Sunni Syrian regime to the increasingly disgruntled and emboldened Sunnis of western Iraq (some of whom are reportedly participating in the Syrian

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton abruptly ordered the reorganization of the overseas Syrian opposition in November 2012, ostensibly to make it more representative (and possibly to make it appear less like a stalking horse for the Muslim Brotherhood), Qatar played along. Qatar hosted the reboot of the Syrian coalition—which still included a dominating MB component--as the “Syrian National Coalition for
Opposition and Revolutionary Forces”.

At the time, I wrote that the ghost at the banquet was Saudi Arabia (i.e. Saudi Arabia did not attend but was nevertheless a significant and disturbing presence, for people who don’t get the Macbeth reference), and pointed out that the aggressive Saudi agenda of regime collapse through jihadi-assisted insurrection would
ineluctably result in the other interested parties thinking about how to cope, sooner or later, with these dangerous, destabilizing, and viscerally anti-democratic and anti-Western armed assets.

The relevant precedent is the so-called “Anbar Awakening” in Iraq in 2006, when socially conservative but not particularly fundamentalist Sunni elites in western Iraq got nervous about the growing role of al Qaeda in
their anti-US resistance (and AQ’s challenge to their local authority and personal safety), switched over to cooperation with the United States, and participated in a counterinsurgency raree cum death squad purge of the jihadis.

Saudi Arabia has no interest in a moderate Sunni counter-revolution targeting its fundamentalist Sunni counter-revolution in Syria, so it has, in my mind, little interested in a negotiated political settlement that would presumably involve the long-suffering local Sunni elites clubbing together with a new, ostensibly moderate Syrian regime to annihilate the Saudi-funded and/or encouraged jihadis and restore a measure of stability and political control to the stricken country.

Therefore, at the SNCORF launch, a radical rump was able to veto a call for a negotiated settlement.

This week, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud, explicitly rejected any negotiated settlement—a position which, though advantageous to Saudi interests, was probably greeted with dismay by the war-weary Syrians of every political stripe, and the foreign powers who are tired of the Syrian sideshow and would like the whole problem swept under the rug with a Yemen-style transfer of power:

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Tuesday the scale of violence used by Syria's government when fighting rebels meant a negotiated settlement of the country's crisis was unthinkable.

"Damascus... which has been a city for the longest period of time, is carpet bombed. How can you conceive of the possibility of a negotiated settlement with somebody who does that to his own country, to his own history, to his own people? It is inconceivable to us," Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference.

The United States and its European allies, it appears, would welcome some kind of negotiated settlement as long as Western face is saved by Assad stepping down. Turkey, which is facing a growing Kurdish calamity and has probably had a bellyful of its Syrian adventurism, would probably agree. And, as noted above, Qatar has a post-Assad electoral agenda based on its MB assets.

However, Prince Saud has drawn the line in the sand, indicating that Saudi Arabia is optimistic about a scenario of total regime collapse—and a subsequent political endgame in which Saudi allies occupy a privileged and protected position in the new power structure instead of getting massacred by a tag team of threatened Sunni citizens and the newly “democratic” Syrian army.

If Turkey and the western powers feel compelled to clean up the mess after Syrian regime collapse, the Saudi position seems to be, they are welcome to send in an occupying army--Saudi Arabia certainly won't. This is something that the United States, EU, and Turkey are probably equally loath to commit to, for reasons beyond quite understandable 'last thing we need is another Middle East military quagmire' concerns.

The unwillingness of the anti-Assad coalition to encourage, enable, and validate the Saudi strategy by implying any intent to commit forces to restore order and nationbuild after a regime collapse—as much as fear of an eventual Syrian quagmire—probably accounts for the western squeamishness about threatening
armed intervention in anything more than the most toothless and abstract terms.

However, Prince Saud's statement indicates that potential trauma of a  post-Assad failed Syrian state--in which disciplined fundamentalist local and jihadi fighters have the potential to play an important role despite their smaller numbers-- is unlikely to deter Saudi Arabia from its regime collapse strategy.

And, after years of ostentatious vilification of Assad—and, I suspect, a callous willingness among Obama administration realpolitik practitioners to advance anti-Iran rollback notwithstanding the consequences for the Syrian people—the United States lacks the political will to demand a negotiated settlement of Assad—or of its allies in the anti-Assad coalition.

Saudi Arabia, by its intransigence—and, possibly through sustained, sub rosa support for religiously fundamentalist fighters, foreign and domestic, inside Syria—holds a de facto veto on the policy position of the anti-Assad powers and the future of Syria itself.

Dreaming the Impossible Arab Spring

Exploited and Misused: The Impossible Discourse of the ‘Arab Spring’

by Ramzy Baroud -

A reductionist discourse is one that selectively tailors its reading of subject matters in such a way as to only yield desired outcomes, leaving little or no room for other inquiries, no matter how appropriate or relevant. The so-called Arab Spring, although now far removed from its initial meanings and aspirations, has become just that: a breeding ground for choosy narratives solely aimed at advancing political agendas which are deeply entrenched with regional and international involvement.

When a despairing Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire on December 17, 2010, he had ignited more than a mere revolution in his country. His excruciating death had given birth to a notion that the psychological expanses between despair and hope, death and rebirth and between submissiveness and revolutions are ultimately connected. His act, regardless of what adjective one may use to describe it, was the very key that Tunisians used to unlock their ample reserve of collective power. Then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s decision to step down on January 14, 2011, was in a sense a rational assessment on his part if one is to consider the impossibility of confronting a nation that had in its grasp a true popular revolution.

Egypt also revolted less than two weeks later. And it was then that Tunisia’s near-ideal revolutionary model became prey for numerous, often selective readings and ultimately for utter exploitation. The Egyptian January 25 revolution was the first Arab link between Tunisia and the upheavals that travelled throughout Arab nations. Some were quick to ascribe the phenomenon with all sorts of historical, ideological and even religious factors thereby making links whenever convenient and overlooking others however apt. The Aljazeera Arabic website still has a map of all Arab countries, with ones experiencing revolutionary influx marked in red.

Many problems have arisen. What tools, aside from the interests of the Qatari government, for example, does Aljazeera use to determine how the so-called Arab Spring manifests itself? And shouldn’t there be clear demarcations between non-violent revolutions, foreign interventions, sectarian tension and civil wars?

Not only do the roots and the expressions of these ‘revolutions’ vastly differ, but the evolvement of each experience was almost always unique to each Arab country. In the cases of Libya and Syria, foreign involvement (an all-out NATO war in the case of Libya and a multifarious regional and international power play in Syria) has produced wholly different scenarios than the ones witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt, thus requiring an urgently different course of analysis.

Yet despite the repeated failure of the unitary ‘Arab Spring’ discourse, many politicians, intellectuals and journalists continue to borrow from its very early logic. Books have already been written with reductionist titles, knitting linear stories, bridging the distance between Tunis and Sanaa into one sentence and one line of reasoning.

The ‘Arab Spring’ reductionism isn’t always sinister, motivated by political convenience or summoned by neo-imperialist designs. Existing pan-Arab or pan-Islamic narratives however well-intended they may be, have also done their fair share of misrepresenting whichever discourse their intellectuals may find fitting and consistent with their overall ideas. Some denote the rise of a new pan-Arab nation, while others see the ‘spring’ as a harbinger of the return of Islam as a source of power and empowerment for Arab societies. The fact is, while discourses are growing more rigid between competing political and intellectual camps, Arab countries marked by Aljazeera’s editorial logic seem to head in their own separate paths, some grudgingly towards a form of democracy or another, while others descend into a Hobbesian ‘state of nature’ – a war of all against all.

But reductionist discourses persist, despite their numerous limitations. They endure because some are specifically designed to serve the interests of certain governments – some with clear ambitions and others are simply trying to ride the storm. In the case of Syria, not a single country that is somehow a party in the conflict can claim innocence in a gory game of regional politics, where the price tag is the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians.

Western media continues to lead the way in language-manipulation, all with the aim of avoiding obvious facts and when necessary it misconstrues reality altogether. US media in particular remains oblivious to how the fallout of the NATO war in Libya had contributed to the conflict in Mali – which progressed from a military coup early last year, to a civil war and as of present time an all-out French-led war against Islamic and other militant groups in the northern parts of the country.

Mali is not an Arab country, thus doesn’t fit into the carefully molded discourse. Algeria is however. Thus when militants took dozens of Algerian and foreign workers hostage in the Ain Amenas natural gas plant in retaliation of Algeria’s opening of its airspace to French warplanes in their war on Mali, some labored to link the violence in Algeria to the Arab Spring. “Taken together, the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, the Islamist attacks on Mali, and now this Algerian offense, all point to north Africa as the geopolitical hotspot of 2013 — where the Arab Spring has morphed into the War On Terror,” wrote Christopher Helman, in Forbes, on Jan 18.

How convenient such an analysis is, especially when “taken together.” The ‘Arab Spring’ logic is constantly stretched in such ways to suit the preconceived understanding, interests or even designs of western powers. For example, it is now conventional media wisdom that the US is wary of full involvement in Syria because of the deadly attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. When seen from Washington, the Arab region appears less compound and is largely understood through keywords and phrases, allocated between allies and enemies, Islamists and liberals and by knee jerk reactions to anything involving Israel or Iran.

One only needs to compare media texts produced two years ago, with more recent ones. Whereas the first few months of 2011 were mostly concerned with individuals and collectives that had much in common with Mohamed Bouazizi – poor, despairing, disenfranchised, and eventually rebellious – much of the present text is concerned with a different type of discussion. Additionally there are almost entirely new players. The Bouazizis of Tunis, Egypt and Yemen remain unemployed, but they occupy much less space in our newspapers and TV screens. Now we speak of Washington and London-based revolutionaries. We juxtapose US and Russian interests and we wrangle with foreign interventions and barefacedly demarcate conflicts based on sectarian divisions.
“Arab awakening is only just beginning”, was the title of a Financial Times editorial of Dec 23. Its logic and subtext speak of a sinister interpretation of what were once collective retorts to oppression and dictatorships. “The fall of the Assads will be a strategic setback to Iran and its regional allies such as Hizbollah, the Shia Islamist state within the fragile Lebanese state,” the editorial read. “But that could quickly be reversed if Israel were to carry out its threats to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, enabling Tehran’s theocrats to rally disaffected Muslims across the region and strengthen their grip at home. It is easy to imagine how such a conflict would drag in the US, disrupt the Gulf and its oil traffic, and set fire to Lebanon.”
Note how in the new reading of the ‘Arab Spring’, people are mere pawns that are defined by their sectarian leanings and their usefulness is in their willingness to be rallied by one regional power or another. While the language itself is consistent with western agendas in Arab and Muslim countries, what is truly bizarre is the fact that many still insist on contextualizing the ever-confrontational US, Israel and western policies in general with an ‘Arab Spring’ involving a poor grocer setting himself on fire and angry multitudes in Egypt, Yemen and Syria who seek dignity and freedom.

Shortly after the Tunisian uprising, some of us warned of the fallout, if unchecked and generalized discourses that lump all Arabs together and exploit peoples’ desire for freedom, equality and democracy were to persist. Alas, not only did the reductionist discourse define the last two-years of upheaval, the ‘Arab Spring’ has become an Arab springboard for regional meddling and foreign intervention.

To advance our understanding of what is transpiring in Arab and other countries in the region, we must let go of old definitions. A new reality is now taking hold and it is neither concerned with Bouazizi nor of the many millions of unemployed and disaffected Arabs.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press).