Friday, January 30, 2009

War Totals

Bush's War Totals
by John Tirman

We are now able to estimate the number of Iraqis who have died in the war instigated by the Bush administration. Looking at the empirical evidence of Bush's war legacy will put his claims of victory in perspective. Of course, even by his standards -- "stability" -- the jury is out. Most independent analysts would say it's too soon to judge the political outcome. Nearly six years after the invasion, the country remains riven by sectarian politics and major unresolved issues, like the status of Kirkuk.

We have a better grasp of the human costs of the war. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. The availability of healthcare, clean water, functioning schools, jobs and so forth remains elusive. According to Unicef, many provinces report that less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water. More than 40 percent of children in Basra, and more than 70 percent in Baghdad, cannot attend school.

The mortality caused by the war is also high. Several household surveys were conducted between 2004 and 2007. While there are differences among them, the range suggests a congruence of estimates. But none have been conducted for eighteen months, and the two most reliable surveys were completed in mid-2006. The higher of those found 650,000 "excess deaths" (mortality attributable to war); the other yielded 400,000. The war remained ferocious for twelve to fifteen months after those surveys were finished and then began to subside. Iraq Body Count, a London NGO that uses English-language press reports from Iraq to count civilian deaths, provides a means to update the 2006 estimates. While it is known to be an undercount, because press reports are incomplete and Baghdad-centric, IBC nonetheless provides useful trends, which are striking. Its estimates are nearing 100,000, more than double its June 2006 figure of 45,000. (It does not count nonviolent excess deaths -- from health emergencies, for example -- or insurgent deaths.) If this is an acceptable marker, a plausible estimate of total deaths can be calculated by doubling the totals of the 2006 household surveys, which used a much more reliable and sophisticated method for estimates that draws on long experience in epidemiology. So we have, at present, between 800,000 and 1.3 million "excess deaths" as we approach the six-year anniversary of this war.

This gruesome figure makes sense when reading of claims by Iraqi officials that there are 1-2 million war widows and 5 million orphans. This constitutes direct empirical evidence of total excess mortality and indirect, though confirming, evidence of the displaced and the bereaved and of general insecurity. The overall figures are stunning: 4.5 million displaced, 1-2 million widows, 5 million orphans, about 1 million dead -- in one way or another, affecting nearly one in two Iraqis.

By any sensible measure, it would be difficult to describe this as a victory of any kind. It speaks volumes about the repair work we must do for Iraqis, and it should caution us against the savage wars we are prone to. Now that Bush is gone, perhaps the United States can honestly face the damage we have wrought and the responsibilities we must accept from it.

John Tirman, executive director and principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for International Studies, is co-author and editor of The Maze of Fear: Security and Migration After 9/11 (New Press).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Israel: Into the Storm

Israel Heads into a Political Storm
by Patrick Seale

Israel goes to the polls on 10 February in a collective state of mind that is highly disturbed and seemingly ill-prepared for the important choices which lie ahead. This is bad news for Israel itself, for its neighbours, and for the prospects for peace.

The Israeli electorate will be struggling to find answers to at least three important questions:

1) How will the fall-out from the war in Gaza affect Israel?
2) What will Barack Obama’s Administration mean for U.S.- Israeli relations?
3) And which of the three or four Israeli politicians competing for the post of prime minister -- a mediocre lot by any standards -- can best be entrusted with Israel’s future?

Although much of the world viewed the war in Gaza as a criminal enterprise against helpless civilians, in Israel it produced an alarming surge of flag-waving nationalist triumphalism. Indifferent as ever to Palestinian suffering, the Israelis rejoiced at their army’s ability to wreak havoc on an Arab society. Many wanted the ferocious onslaught to continue until Hamas was obliterated and Gaza itself was “wiped off the map.”

As well as the deplorable mix of arrogance and paranoia, characteristic of Israel’s relations with its neighbours, the war revealed a deep current of Arab-hating racism at all levels of society, even in what had previously been thought of as the literary and political left. Expressed in political terms, the Israeli electorate has turned decisively to the Right.

The polls suggest two likely developments: first, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, resolutely opposed to peace and to Palestinian statehood, has increased its lead over Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima, itself hardly a model of peaceful intentions; secondly, Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) -- an ultra nationalist, even fascistic, party -- stands a chance of supplanting Ehud Barak’s Labour Party as the third largest party on the political scene.

Once the nationalist fervor subsides, however, Israelis are likely to face a painful awakening: The outcome of the war will probably be the very opposite of what Barak, Livni and Ehud Olmert -- the discredited outgoing Prime Minister -- had intended.

Israelis will be obliged to see that, far from destroying Hamas, the war has strengthened it and given it legitimacy. All Israel’s diplomatic agitation is unlikely to prevent some sort of contact between the European Union and Hamas -- already in the cards, led by France -- followed eventually by a U.S.-Hamas dialogue, as former Secretary of State James Baker and other influential Americans now recommend.

Far from continuing its blockade on Gaza, Israel will face great pressure to open the crossing points. Far from forcing a defeated Hamas to free Corporal Gilad Shalit, Israel will no doubt have to agree to exchange him for at least one thousand Palestinian prisoners -- if, that is, it decides at long last to pay the price of freeing him, rather than letting him rot.

In brief, far from putting peace on the back-burner -- as Israel’s ultra-nationalists and land-grabbing settlers had hoped -- the war has stimulated unprecedented international efforts to arrive at a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, involving a necessary Israeli withdrawal from the remaining territories captured in 1967.

Even more painful for Israel’s warmongers will be the striking change of attitude in the White House. Israelis will have to come to terms with a U.S. President anxious to restore relations with the Arab and Muslim world -- relations which were severely damaged by George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, his blind support for Israel’s wars in Lebanon and Gaza, and his indiscriminate ‘Global War on Terror,’ which was widely seen as a war on Islam.

This week Obama gave an interview to the Dubai-based satellite network al-Arabiya. “Now my job,” he declared, “is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.” Never has an American President used such language.

More specifically, Obama said: “I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state… that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life…” Never has an American President delivered such an indictment of current Israeli policies and practices.

Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, former senator George Mitchell, is already in the region preaching a message of peace, reconciliation and territorial compromise. He has, to some extent, pre-empted the results of the 10 February elections. Israel’s leaders -- whoever they may be after the elections -- will have to respond to a fundamentally changed political environment.

Israel’s politics are chaotic and deeply fragmented. This is a result of an electoral system based on an extreme form of nation-wide proportional representation, inherited from the pre-independence yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine under the British Mandate) when a profusion of groups all wished to make their voices heard. The system ordains that the number of seats which each list receives is proportional to the number of votes it wins at elections. Any list winning as little as 2 per cent of the vote is entitled to a seat in the Knesset. This results in a large number of tiny parties, each representing special interest groups, often of extreme views.

The result is that, unlike the situation in Western democracies -- such as Britain or France, or indeed the United States -- no single Israeli party is able to govern alone. To be able to govern, any one of the three or four major parties -- whether Likud, Kadima, Labour or indeed Israel Beiteinu -- must do deals with others. It must look for coalition partners among its rivals and/or among the smaller parties -- such as Shas, the National Religious Party, United Torah Judaism and Meretz, not to mention the hard-pressed Arab parties, which narrowly missed being banned by racist pressure from the election altogether.

It is easy to see how such rickety coalitions can greatly restrict the freedom of action of any Israeli government, especially when it comes to negotiating peace.

This is the tricky situation with which George Mitchell will have to deal. Bringing Israel, kicking and screaming, to the negotiating table -- and actually achieving a settlement -- will take a great deal of skill, determination and pressure, especially if the next Israeli government is headed by Binjamin Netanyahu.

All that one can say is that, unlike any of his predecessors, President Barack Obama is determined, from the very beginning of his mandate, to press ahead in the search for Arab-Israeli peace. He enjoys unrivalled personal authority and political support at home. So dependent is Israel on American backing – whether financial, military or political -- that it would be exceedingly rash for an Israeli government to confront him or earn his displeasure.

This is the best -- indeed perhaps the only -- favourable augury for the future of a deeply troubled region.

Patrick Seale is a leading British writer on the Middle East, and the author of The Struggle for Syria; also, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East; and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire.

BBC and the Second Gaza "Air Attack"

Beeb airwave strike on Gaza is deadly
by George Galloway

THE BBC's admirable reporter Alan Johnston was rescued from his cruel incarceration in Gaza by the Palestinian government led by Hamas.

At the time, the BBC thanked the people of Gaza, and Hamas Prime Minister Ismael Haniya in particular, for breaking the criminal gang of extortionists who had seized their man - at the risk of their own lives to save his.

Now in the winter of their hardships, as 61,000 families shiver in the ruins of their bombed-out houses, in rags and hungry, the same BBC has stabbed them in the back. The achievement of the corporation's management, in uniting the Government, the opposition, the churches, the press, right and left, the anti-war movement, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, on one side and they and the Israel lobby on the other is almost unparalleled in modern public relations.

After a 22-day attack which has left thousands of children dead or orphaned and left the Strip looking like a moonscape, the publicly funded, bloated, arrogant, insensitive bosses who've presided over the Beeb through scandals from Blue Peter to Jonathan Ross have now launched their own airwaves strike on the refugees. And their smokescreen of "impartiality" will prove as deadly to these refugees as any cloud of white phosphorous gas.

The BBC, once the proud emblem of Britishness, is now branded around the world, and dangerously the Muslim world, as an arm of Israeli propaganda.
Its journalists - new Alan Johnstons - have been imperiled. Its reputation for "impartiality" shot full of as many holes as a UN compound under Israeli bombers. Its arguments against broadcasting the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal for Gaza are an insult.

First to the intelligence of the people who pay their licence fees and second to the British charities within the DEC, the likes of Christian Aid, Save the Children (Patron HRH the Princess Anne), Oxfam and the rest.

The BBC's claim that they can't be sure the aid will get through is a clear accusation against the very humanitarian organisations we trust to deliver aid from Britain in every other world disaster around the world.

In any case, Gaza is a tiny place, now, though not when it most mattered, moving with western journalists. Gaza is sealed shut.

Where could Christian Aid's deliveries of medicines and nappies go if not to the suffering?

The mouthpiece of the corporation in this miserable scandal is a Scot, like Alan Johnston.

She is Caroline Thompson, the daughter of Dundee's highest political achiever, the late Lord George Thompson, a member of Harold Wilson's cabinet in the 1960s and a former European Union Commissioner.

'Once an emblem of Britishness, the BBC is now branded around the world - and the
Muslim world - as an arm of Israeli propaganda'

Email her at and let her have apiece of your mind.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Breaking the Back: Harper Budget Gives Little to Poor and Unemployed

Federal budget – On the backs of unemployed workers
By Peter Ewart

For unemployed workers across Canada, there has to be some cruel irony in the fact that the Federal Government’s entire “Economic Action Plan” that was just announced will cost a bit over $50 billion. This $50 billion in the Plan will be used for everything from bailing out banks, to tax cuts, to home renovations. Indeed, it is the federal government’s recipe for dealing with the current economic crisis that is sweeping across the country.

So, what is the irony about this $50 billion? Well, $50 billion is about the same amount that the federal government has looted from the Employment Insurance fund to use for other purposes. This fund was accumulated as a result of worker and employer contributions – there was no government contribution whatsoever. But that did not stop the federal government from scooping the funds.

Indeed, an argument can be made that the entire Economic Action Plan has been financed on the back of the unemployed workers of the country. That being said, what is in the Plan specifically for these workers? Not a heck of a lot.

We have entered an economic period that many claim, including representatives of the Federal Government, is unprecedented in our lifetime for the threats it poses to our jobs and economy. The Federal Government is forecasting that this difficult period could last as long as five years, i.e., it is predicting deficit budgets for that long. Clearly, having EI benefits that last for only 45 weeks, as currently the case, is not anywhere near enough.

So how much will EI benefits be extended for in the Economic Action Plan? Five weeks – for a maximum of 50 weeks. This is outrageous. There are forestry dependent communities across Canada that have been gripped by Depression level layoffs now for several years. And the same holds true for auto industry towns in Ontario and Quebec. What difference will five extra weeks make to a laid off worker in Mackenzie, BC, where all the major mills are shut down, or an auto worker in Windsor, Ontario, where over 20,000 are out of work? Very little.

EI work-sharing agreements have been extended by 14 weeks to 52 weeks. But again, for workers in many communities that are experiencing catastrophic levels of unemployment, 52 weeks is not enough by a long shot.

Funds have been increased for EI related training. For example, $500 million is slotted “to extend EI income benefits for Canadians participating in longer-term training” which, according to the Federal Government, will benefit “up to 10,000 workers.” But didn’t the government check its own unemployment figures? For example, in November of 2008, over 506,000 workers were collecting EI. That number was a 15,300 increase over the previous month alone. Providing funds that will assist 10,000 workers get retrained, doesn’t sound like that much when unemployment is galloping ahead at over 15,000 a month. And, as the Toronto-Dominion Bank has suggested, that figure could amount to over 251,000 newly unemployed by the end of 2009.

It should be noted that another $500 million over two years is targeted towards “individuals who do not qualify for EI training” and for “those who have been out of work for a prolonged period of time.” The total number of these workers is hard to pin down, but in some parts of the country, some analysts suggest that there could be as many as 2 or 3 times or more actually unemployed than the number registered for EI. In other words, as many as 1 million or more additional unemployed workers, for whom there is federal funding to train presumably another 10,000 workers.

Many people and organizations across Canada called for the Federal Government to eliminate the two week waiting period for EI benefits, to increase the amount of the benefits which are not enough for families to survive, and to extend benefits for up to two years. In addition, they called for structural changes so that regions in Ontario, British Columbia would not be penalized because they had relatively high employment in the past. However, none of these proposals were implemented.

Recently, the Federal Government pledged to “backstop” the Asset Backed Commercial Paper investors for $1.3 billion. How many investors were there? About 2,000, a lot of whom were wealthy financiers.

That’s about the same amount as the 500,000 to 1,500,000 unemployed workers across Canada will get in the Federal budget to extend and “enhance” their EI payments. It’s not hard to see who has the priority.

Peter Ewart is a writer, instructor and community activist based in Prince George, BC. He can be reached at:

Self-Inflicted Apocalypse

Capitalism's Self-Inflicted Apocalypse
by Michael Parenti

After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.

The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.

Plutocracy vs. Democracy

Let us consider democracy first. In the United States we hear that capitalism is wedded to democracy, hence the phrase, "capitalist democracies." In fact, throughout our history there has been a largely antagonistic relationship between democracy and capital concentration. Some eighty years ago Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis commented, "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Moneyed interests have been opponents not proponents of democracy.

The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of popular demands.

In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property qualifications for voting and officeholding. They opposed the direct election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still with us). And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored groups such as propertyless working men, immigrants, racial minorities, and women.

Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges, inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that consistently "malfunction" to the benefit of the more conservative candidates.

At times ruling interests have suppressed radical publications and public protests, resorting to police raids, arrests, and jailings-applied most recently with full force against demonstrators in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The conservative plutocracy also seeks to rollback democracy's social gains, such as public education, affordable housing, health care, collective bargaining, a living wage, safe work conditions, a non-toxic sustainable environment; the right to privacy, the separation of church and state, freedom from compulsory pregnancy, and the right to marry any consenting adult of one's own choosing.

About a century ago, US labor leader Eugene Victor Debs was thrown into jail during a strike. Sitting in his cell he could not escape the conclusion that in disputes between two private interests, capital and labor, the state was not a neutral arbiter. The force of the state--with its police, militia, courts, and laws-was unequivocally on the side of the company bosses. From this, Debs concluded that capitalism was not just an economic system but an entire social order, one that rigged the rules of democracy to favor the moneybags.

Capitalist rulers continue to pose as the progenitors of democracy even as they subvert it, not only at home but throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Any nation that is not "investor friendly," that attempts to use its land, labor, capital, natural resources, and markets in a self-developing manner, outside the dominion of transnational corporate hegemony, runs the risk of being demonized and targeted as "a threat to U.S. national security."

Democracy becomes a problem for corporate America not when it fails to work but when it works too well, helping the populace move toward a more equitable and livable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly, between the superrich and the rest of us. So democracy must be diluted and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically safe major-party candidates.

Capitalism vs. Prosperity

The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only think of capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand, capitalist Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist South Africa, capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free World--more accurately, the Free Market World.

A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy's notion of an ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work-for less. The poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against the abuses of wealth.

In the corporate world of "free-trade," the number of billionaires is increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world's population. Poverty spreads as wealth accumulates.

Consider the United States. In the last eight years alone, while vast fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels.

It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some degree by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a measure of prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies popular gains are always at risk of being rolled back.

It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity when most attempts at material betterment have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor struggle provides endless illustration of this.

To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic order, it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing some measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order.

A Self-devouring Beast

The capitalist state has two roles long recognized by political thinkers. First, like any state it must provide services that cannot be reliably developed through private means, such as public safety and orderly traffic. Second, the capitalist state protects the haves from the have-nots, securing the process of capital accumulation to benefit the moneyed interests, while heavily circumscribing the demands of the working populace, as Debs observed from his jail cell.

There is a third function of the capitalist state seldom mentioned. It consists of preventing the capitalist system from devouring itself. Consider the core contradiction Karl Marx pointed to: the tendency toward overproduction and market crisis. An economy dedicated to speedups and wage cuts, to making workers produce more and more for less and less, is always in danger of a crash. To maximize profits, wages must be kept down. But someone has to buy the goods and services being produced. For that, wages must be kept up. There is a chronic tendency-as we are seeing today-toward overproduction of private sector goods and services and underconsumption of necessities by the working populace.

In addition, there is the frequently overlooked self-destruction created by the moneyed players themselves. If left completely unsupervised, the more active command component of the financial system begins to devour less organized sources of wealth.

Instead of trying to make money by the arduous task of producing and marketing goods and services, the marauders tap directly into the money streams of the economy itself. During the 1990s we witnessed the collapse of an entire economy in Argentina when unchecked free marketeers stripped enterprises, pocketed vast sums, and left the country's productive capacity in shambles. The Argentine state, gorged on a heavy diet of free-market ideology, faltered in its function of saving capitalism from the capitalists.

Some years later, in the United States, came the multi-billion-dollar plunder perpetrated by corporate conspirators at Enron, WorldCom, Harkin, Adelphia, and a dozen other major companies. Inside players like Ken Lay turned successful corporate enterprises into sheer wreckage, wiping out the jobs and life savings of thousands of employees in order to pocket billions.

These thieves were caught and convicted. Does that not show capitalism's self-correcting capacity? Not really. The prosecution of such malfeasance- in any case coming too late-was a product of democracy's accountability and transparency, not capitalism's. Of itself the free market is an amoral system, with no strictures save "caveat emptor."

In the meltdown of 2008-09 the mounting financial surplus created a problem for the moneyed class: there were not enough opportunities to invest. With more money than they knew what to do with, big investors poured immense sums into nonexistent housing markets and other dodgy ventures, a legerdemain of hedge funds, derivatives, high leveraging, credit default swaps, predatory lending, and whatever else.

Among the victims were other capitalists, small investors, and the many workers who lost billions of dollars in savings and pensions. Perhaps the premiere brigand was Bernard Madoff. Described as "a longstanding leader in the financial services industry," Madoff ran a fraudulent fund that raked in $50 billion from wealthy investors, paying them back "with money that wasn't there," as he himself put it. The plutocracy devours its own children.

In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing, former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests--groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be invested somewhere--to suddenly exercise self-restraint.

The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it. In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint. This unbridled competition supposedly will produce maximum benefits for all because the free market is governed by a miraculously benign "invisible hand" that optimizes collective outputs. ("Greed is good.")

Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff? In other words, is the problem systemic or individual? In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and rewards the most unscrupulous among them. The crimes and crises are not irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.

Worse still, the ensuing multi-billion dollar government bailouts are themselves being turned into an opportunity for pillage. Not only does the state fail to regulate, it becomes itself a source of plunder, pulling vast sums from the federal money machine, leaving the taxpayers to bleed.

Those who scold us for "running to the government for a handout" are themselves running to the government for a handout. Corporate America has always enjoyed grants-in-aid, loan guarantees, and other state and federal subventions. But the 2008-09 "rescue operation" offered a record feed at the public trough. More than $350 billion was dished out by a right-wing lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury to the biggest banks and financial houses without oversight--not to mention the more than $4 trillion that has come from the Federal Reserve. Most of the banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon, stated that they had no intention of letting anyone know where the money was going.

The big bankers used some of the bailout, we do know, to buy up smaller banks and prop up banks overseas. CEOs and other top banking executives are spending bailout funds on fabulous bonuses and lavish corporate spa retreats. Meanwhile, big bailout beneficiaries like Citigroup and Bank of America laid off tens of thousands of employees, inviting the question: why were they given all that money in the first place?

While hundreds of billions were being doled out to the very people who had caused the catastrophe, the housing market continued to wilt, credit remained paralyzed, unemployment worsened, and consumer spending sank to record lows.

In sum, free-market corporate capitalism is by its nature a disaster waiting to happen. Its essence is the transformation of living nature into mountains of commodities and commodities into heaps of dead capital. When left entirely to its own devices, capitalism foists its diseconomies and toxicity upon the general public and upon the natural environment--and eventually begins to devour itself.

The immense inequality in economic power that exists in our capitalist society translates into a formidable inequality of political power, which makes it all the more difficult to impose democratic regulations.

If the paladins of Corporate America want to know what really threatens "our way of life," it is their way of life, their boundless way of pilfering their own system, destroying the very foundation on which they stand, the very community on which they so lavishly feed.

Michael Parenti is author of Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (City Lights); Democracy for the Few, 8th ed. (Wadsworth); The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), Superpatriotism (City Lights), The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press), and God and His Demons (forthcoming). For further information, visit his website:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Then They Came For Me

And Then They Came For Me
by Lasantha Wickrematunge / January 24th, 2009

[The last editorial Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge wrote for The Sunday Leader. He was murdered on 08 Jan 2009 in Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Ed.]

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader’s 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.

Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.

But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.

The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence thanks to the public-spiritedness of citizens who at great risk to themselves pass on this material to us. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us.

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.

Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy. Think about those words, for they each has profound meaning. Transparent because government must be openly accountable to the people and never abuse their trust. Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united. Liberal because we recognise that all human beings are created different, and we need to accept others for what they are and not what we would like them to be. And democratic… well, if you need me to explain why that is important, you’d best stop buying this paper.

The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let’s face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For example, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka’s ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labelled traitors, and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly.

Many people suspect that The Sunday Leader has a political agenda: it does not. If we appear more critical of the government than of the opposition it is only because we believe that — pray excuse cricketing argot — there is no point in bowling to the fielding side. Remember that for the few years of our existence in which the UNP was in office, we proved to be the biggest thorn in its flesh, exposing excess and corruption wherever it occurred. Indeed, the steady stream of embarrassing exposes we published may well have served to precipitate the downfall of that government.

Neither should our distaste for the war be interpreted to mean that we support the Tigers. The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship.

What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering “development” and “reconstruction” on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen — and all of the government — cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.

It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.

The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, Mahinda and I have been friends for more than a quarter century. Indeed, I suspect that I am one of the few people remaining who routinely addresses him by his first name and uses the familiar Sinhala address oya when talking to him. Although I do not attend the meetings he periodically holds for newspaper editors, hardly a month passes when we do not meet, privately or with a few close friends present, late at night at President’s House. There we swap yarns, discuss politics and joke about the good old days. A few remarks to him would therefore be in order here.

Mahinda, when you finally fought your way to the SLFP presidential nomination in 2005, nowhere were you welcomed more warmly than in this column. Indeed, we broke with a decade of tradition by referring to you throughout by your first name. So well known were your commitments to human rights and liberal values that we ushered you in like a breath of fresh air. Then, through an act of folly, you got yourself involved in the Helping Hambantota scandal. It was after a lot of soul-searching that we broke the story, at the same time urging you to return the money. By the time you did so several weeks later, a great blow had been struck to your reputation. It is one you are still trying to live down.

You have told me yourself that you were not greedy for the presidency. You did not have to hanker after it: it fell into your lap. You have told me that your sons are your greatest joy, and that you love spending time with them, leaving your brothers to operate the machinery of state. Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well that my sons and daughter do not themselves have a father.

In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.

Sadly, for all the dreams you had for our country in your younger days, in just three years you have reduced it to rubble. In the name of patriotism you have trampled on human rights, nurtured unbridled corruption and squandered public money like no other President before you. Indeed, your conduct has been like a small child suddenly let loose in a toyshop. That analogy is perhaps inapt because no child could have caused so much blood to be spilled on this land as you have, or trampled on the rights of its citizens as you do. Although you are now so drunk with power that you cannot see it, you will come to regret your sons having so rich an inheritance of blood. It can only bring tragedy. As for me, it is with a clear conscience that I go to meet my Maker. I wish, when your time finally comes, you could do the same. I wish.

As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most of them are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your Presidency has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice. I feel sorry for you, and Shiranthi will have a long time to spend on her knees when next she goes for Confession for it is not just her owns sins which she must confess, but those of her extended family that keeps you in office.

As for the readers of The Sunday Leader, what can I say but Thank You for supporting our mission. We have espoused unpopular causes, stood up for those too feeble to stand up for themselves, locked horns with the high and mighty so swollen with power that they have forgotten their roots, exposed corruption and the waste of your hard-earned tax rupees, and made sure that whatever the propaganda of the day, you were allowed to hear a contrary view. For this I — and my family — have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am — and have always been — ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when.

That The Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be — and will be — killed before The Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your President to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish. Not all the Rajapakses combined can kill that.

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niemöller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niemöller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niemöller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.

Lasantha Wickrematunge
was editor and writer for The Sunday leader in Sri Lanka. Read other articles by Lasantha.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everything but the Will to Resist

Israel Killed Everything but the Will to Resist
by Stephen Lendman

" 'Freedom or death', is the popular Palestinian mantra," wrote Palestine Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Ramzy Baroud in his January 22 article titled "Breaking Gaza's Will: Israel's Enduring Fantasy."

Three weeks of Israeli terror caused about 1400 deaths, over 5500 injured (many seriously), vast destruction throughout Gaza, and Physicians for Human Rights warning that large numbers of wounded may die because hospitals are overloaded and lack basic supplies. Yet Palestinians endure. Their spirit is unbowed and unbroken. Hamas is more popular than ever, and world outrage sustains them.

Middle East analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes Israel blundered badly. On January 9, he asked:

"The War in Gaza - Tactical Gains, Strategic Defeat?" In spite of all the IDF's might "The fact remains that the growing human tragedy in Gaza is steadily raising more serious questions as to whether the kind of tactical gains that Israel now reports are worth the suffering involved."

Cordesman reviewed the death, injury and destruction toll after 14 days of fighting, then added: "These direct costs are only part of the story." He cited the siege's crippling economic and humanitarian effects and wrote: "The current war has consequences more far-reaching than casualties. It involves a legacy of greatly increased suffering for the 1.5 million people who will survive this current conflict."

"It is also far from clear that the tactical gains are worth the political and strategic cost to Israel. At least to date, (the war) increased popular support for Hamas and anger against Israel in Gaza. The same is true in the West Bank and the Islamic world....The US is seen as having done virtually nothing....and the President elect is getting as much blame as" George Bush.

He quotes former Saudi ambassador to Washington and London, Prince Turki al-Faisal saying: "The Bush administration has left you (with) a disgusting legacy and a reckless position towards the massacres and bloodshed of innocents in Gaza. Enough is enough, today we are all Palestinians...."

According to Cordesman, Israel appears to be repeating "the same massive failures" as in the 2006 Lebanon war. "Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering (Hamas) in political terms....? Will Israel's actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope for peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer (appears) to be yes....If this is all that Olmert, Livni, and Barak have (to show for their efforts) then they have disgraced themselves and damaged their country and their friends."

Three Weeks of Israeli Terror Took Its Toll

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights compiles it daily and presents it in weekly reports. Its latest January 15 - 22 one includes whole families killed. More than 43% of deaths and injuries were women and children. The vast majority of casualties were civilians. "Entire features of many areas have disappeared, and civilian infrastructure services have completely collapsed." Other destruction included:

-- hospitals, ambulances, civil defense and private vehicles, and relief services damaged or destroyed;

-- thousands of homes and whole neighborhoods damaged or destroyed as well as -

-- roads, bridges, power installations, sewage facilities, water wells, and other infrastructure;

-- 28 public civilian facilities;

-- ministry, municipality and other government buildings; the parliament building;

-- UN sanctuaries;

-- commercial buildings;

-- 121 industrial and commercial workshops destroyed; at least 200 others damaged;

-- fishing boats and harbors;

-- 21 private projects, including cafeterias, wedding halls, tourist resorts and hotels;

-- 30 mosques completely destroyed; 15 others damaged;

-- five concrete factories;

-- 60 police stations;

-- five media buildings and two health ones completely destroyed;

-- 29 educational institutions completely or partly destroyed; and

-- thousands of dunams of agricultural land razed.

After Israel declared a January 17 "ceasefire," homes were bulldozed, agricultural land razed, civilians attacked and killed, homes invaded and searched, and arrests made. The war cost the al-Sammouni clan 36 of its men, women and children.

The West Bank wasn't spared. The pattern repeats weekly, but from January 15 - 22 alone:

-- Hebron and Beit 'Awa village (southwest of the city) homes were raided and searched; four civilians were arrested;

-- Jenin town and refugee camp homes were invaded, searched, and one civilian arrested;

-- Bourqin village homes, west of Jenin, were raided, searched, and one civilian arrested;

-- Qabtatya village homes, southwest of Jenin, were invaded and searched; no arrests were reported;

-- Roujib village homes, east of Nablus, were raided, searched, and one arrest made;

-- Dura village, southwest of Hebron, homes were invaded, searched, and four arrests made;

-- Beit Sahour homes were raided and searched; one resident was arrested earlier;

-- al-Lubban village, near Nablus, homes were invaded, searched, and three arrests made, including a child;

-- at a January 16 Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, anti-war demonstration, the IDF fired live rounds at civilians wounding at least three;

-- at another January 16 southern Hebron demonstration, the IDF shot and killed one man and wounded four others, including a child;

-- at a same day East Jerusalem demonstration, the IDF fired sound bombs, tear gas, and violently beat protesters; journalists were also attacked and forced to leave;

-- at another demonstration near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the IDF attacked and violently beat at least 10 women;

-- at an al-'Eissawiya village, east of Jerusalem, demonstration, the IDF fired on and wounded four children, and arrested two others;

-- homes were also raided and searched in Beita village, south of Nablus; Zabbouba village, west of Jenin; 'Anza village, southeast of Jenin; Hawara village, south of Nablus; Taqqou' village, southeast of Bethlehem; Bani Na'im, east of Hebron; 'Arraba village, southwest of Jenin; Fahma village, southeast of Jenin; Sa'ir village, northeast of Hebron; Western Toura village, southwest of Jenin; 'Assira village, north of Nablus; Beit Emrin village, northwest of Nablus; al-Zahiriya village, south of Hebron; Ya'bad village, southwest of Jenin; Bethlehem city; al-Duhaisha refugee camp, southwest of Bethlehem; 'Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem; and Qaryout village, southeast of Nablus -- homes in all areas were raided and searched; numerous arrests were made;

-- at a Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron, demonstration, the IDF fired live rounds on protesters wounding at least one child and arresting another;

-- two undercover IDF operations made arrests in Qabatya village, southeast of Jenin, and Qiffin village, north of Tulkarm.

PCHR reports that the Gaza siege continues. Border crossings remain closed. Collective punishment is enforced. Basic food, medicine and other essentials are unavailable or in scarce supply to the great majority of Gazans. Impoverishment now exceeds 80%. Mass human suffering affects everyone. The world community is complicit by its silence.

The IDF has also "imposed a tightened siege on the West Bank" adding new movement restrictions. Access to Jerusalem is denied, to the al-Aqsa mosque as well. Civilians are beaten, often violently. Vehicles are stopped and searched. Curfews are imposed. Arrests are made. Protests against the Separation Wall construction were attacked violently. Civilians were beaten and shot. Home demolitions continued. Two others were burned down. More land was seized. Settler attacks on Palestinians were reported. It happens all the time. Nothing is done to stop them. They're free to harass, intimidate, beat, and kill Palestinians.

This is Occupied Palestine. Like Gaza, Israel terrorizes the West Bank daily. Fatah under Abbas is complicit. Human rights violations persist. An international conspiracy of silence permits it. No end of this is in sight. World outrage has taken notice. Israel now worries but not enough to matter.

"Dahiya Doctrine" Devastation

Named after the Beirut suburb IDF destroyed in the 2006 Lebanon war, it's how future ones will be fought. IDF Northern Command chief Gabi Eisenkot explained:

"What happened in the Dayiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force at the heart of the enemy's weak spot (civilians) and cause great damage and destruction. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages (towns or cities), they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved."

According to Col. Gabriel Siboni (in October 2008), the idea is to use enough "disproportionate force (to inflict) damage and met(e) out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes....With the outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy's actions and threat it poses....The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging aimed at decision makers and the power Hezbollah....(at) economic interests and the centers of civilian power."

Disproportionality will "make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt (a state of) calm. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full scale confrontation....This approach" applies to Gaza as well....(It) will increase Israel's long term deterrence (and) leave the enemy floundering in expensive, long term processes of reconstruction."

For General Yoav Galant, it was to "send Gaza decades into the past." Disturbing reports indicate that Lebanon may be next to complete the unfinished business of the 2006 war.

On October 6, 2008, prominent award-winning Israeli media figure Yaron London wrote about "The Dahiya strategy" for the Israeli English language His tone was belligerent and provocative in saying:

"Israel finally realizes that Arabs should be accountable for their leaders' acts." In the next Lebanon war, "we won't bother to hunt for rocket launchers....Rather, we shall destroy (all of) Lebanon and won't be deterred by the protests of the world."

We'll "pulverize the 160 Shiite villages that have turned into Shiite army bases, and we shall not show mercy when it comes to hitting the national infrastructure of a" Hezbollah-controlled state. "This strategy is not a threat. (It's) an approved plan (because) the whole of Lebanon is an Iranian outpost. (It's) entirely malicious. (It's) an enemy....Everyone is Nasrallah....nations are responsible for their leaders' acts....(Gazans) are all Khaled Mashal....Lebanese are all Nasrallah....Iranians are all Ahmadinejad....We need to make the fear we sow among them greater."

Most Israelis share these views. So do Kadima, Likud, Labor, and IDF officials. Past leaders as well, including David Ben-Gurion in saying:

"It's not important what the world says about Israel....if we don't show the Arabs that they have to pay a high price for killing Jews, we won't continue living.... (we must) aggressive defense; with every Arab attack we must respond with a decisive blow: the destruction of the place or the expulsion of the residents along with the seizure of the place....

The wisdom of Israel is the wisdom of war, nothing else....We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services....we (must go on) the offensive....smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria."

Ben-Gurion and later Israeli leaders invoked scripture and self-defense to justify disproportionate force, war crimes, genocide, and occupation. "Dahiya" has a long history. Its current form is the latest version.

US - Israeli Complicity in Committing Genocide Against Palestinians

Francis Boyle is a law professor, human rights expert, and former legal advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations leading to the 1993 Oslo Accords. He elaborates on "different degrees of heinousness for war crimes." More serious are "grave breaches" of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Since the First Intifada (1987), "the world has seen those heinous war crimes inflicted every day by Israel against the Palestinian people living in occupied Palestine" - by Israeli forces and illegal settlers. Fourth Geneva mandates their prosecution, "including and especially Israel's political leaders."

"Crimes against humanity" are also committed "as determined by the UN Human Rights Commission....The concept" is from the 1945 Nuremberg Charter, drafted by America to try Nazi war criminals. These crimes include:

"murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against a civilian population, before or during the war, or prosecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated." Israel is criminally liable for committing them. So is America as a co-conspirator.

Nuremberg is the "historical and legal precursor to the international crime of genocide as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention." It's very specific and includes killing; causing serious bodily or mental harm; and destroying a group "in whole or in part."

Since late 1947, Israel's "final solution" has been the total annihilation and/or displacement of the Palestinian people:

"For at least the past six decades, the Israeli government and its predecessors-in-law - the Zionist agencies, forces, and terrorist gangs - have ruthlessly implemented a systematic and comprehensive military, political, and economic campaign with the intent to destroy in substantial part the national, ethnical, racial, and different religious (mix of Muslims and Christians) constituting the Palestinian people....(This US - Israeli) campaign (is designed to destroy them) in violation of Article II(c) of the Genocide Convention."

Its Article I "requires all contracting parties....'to prevent and to punish' genocide. Yet to the contrary," Israel's genocidal wars on Palestine have "been financed, armed, equipped, supplied and politically supported by the (Judeo - Christian) United States" - even though America is a contracting party to Nuremberg, Geneva, and the UN Charter that prohibit such practices.

Nor did Washington and the international community demand "humanitarian intervention" to stop Israeli aggression and protect a defenseless people. America funds the Israeli killing machine. It can as easily de-fund it and halt the violence. Boyle calls failure to do it "dishumanitarian intervention (or) humanitarian extermination" by the US and Israel "against the Palestinians and Palestine."

Through his efforts, on January 13, the Malaysia Star reported a "special (Malaysian) Parliament session" voted for Israel to be brought before a UN-sanctioned international war crimes tribunal "for its atrocities and violence on the Palestinian people."

It also expressed "disappointment" that the international community and Security Council failed to halt the attacks. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said "resolutions would be presented to the relevant parliaments, the United States Congress and the European Parliament."

Abdullah called for Malaysians to unite "against the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime. The attacks by Israel have contravened international laws and such actions are deemed war crimes...."

Abdullah said his call for a special UN session to condemn Israel was boosted when the General Assembly agreed to hold one to urge the Security Council to act. It did not because "Israel didn't want it," and America supports Israel. It also rejects the legitimately elected Hamas government, and it lets Israel "kill children, the elderly, women, and other innocent ordinary people..."

President Obama's first diplomatic call was to Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas. He rules by coup d'etat. He has no legitimacy. His presidential term expired on January 9. He claims the right to retain it until 2010 legislative elections are held and does so with Western support. Like this writer and others, Boyle expects "no fundamental change (under Obama) in America's support for" Israel and its policy of Palestinian extermination and displacement.

On January 22, the new president was firm in introducing Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell at the State Department:

"Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel's security. And we will always support Israel's right to defend itself against legitimate threats." He denounced Hamas and said "No democracy can tolerate (its) acts of terror." In lying to a national audience, he vilified the victims in support of Israeli aggression against a defenseless population. It's why James Petras calls him "America's first Jewish president." Palestinians and all Muslims have no friend in Washington. They're on their own. The "war on terror" targets them in George Bush's third term.

It gets worse. No Israeli policy change is planned. The "peace process" is a dead letter. Gaza's borders will stay closed, except for some (way inadequate) allowed in humanitarian aid under "an appropriate monitoring regime, with the international (read Israel, Egypt and NATO) and Palestinian Authority participating," according to Obama. Hamas will stay isolated until it unconditionally surrenders, relinquishes its right to self-defense, hands over authority to Fatah, Israel and/or an international occupying force, and resigns as the legitimate Palestinian government.

Under these conditions, Obama promises "to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians...." Longtime insider George Mitchell will spearhead it as the new Middle East envoy. He's a former Senate majority leader and member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations and Bilderberg Group. He's no friend of Palestine.

Tel Aviv welcomed the appointment. Its US ambassador, Sallai Meridor, said Israel holds him "in high regard and looks forward to working with him on taking the next steps towards realizing a future of peace and security for Israel and her neighbors."

Human Rights Groups Accuse Israel of War Crimes

B'Tselem, Amnesty International (AI), and other human rights groups want Israel investigated for war crimes. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for "credible, independent and transparent" investigations" in telling the BBC that Israel "appears to have (committed) war crimes."

Special Rapporteur Richard Falk said there's little doubt about the "inhuman character of (Israel's) large scale military operation against an essentially defenseless population. (This) raises the specter of systematic war crimes. (The evidence is compelling that Israel broke) fundamental rules of international humanitarian law (in attacking) unlawful targets."

UNRWA's Gaza chief, John Ging, cited attacks on five UN schools killing dozens of civilians. AI and Human Rights Watch accused Israel of using white phosphorous shells and attacking civilian neighborhoods.

On January 12, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council voted 33 aye (including Russia, China, India and Brazil), 1 nay (Canada) with 13 abstentions (including Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, S. Korea, Switzerland and Ukraine) to investigate "grave" human rights violations by Israel in Gaza. America isn't a member of the body.

On January 13, the (Geneva-based) International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) "condemned Israel's military attacks on Gaza that have been indiscriminate or disproportionate (and called for) an immediate end" to the operation. ICJ also wants a "Commission of Inquiry to conduct a fact-finding investigation on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties."

The web site lists high Israeli officials "WANTED for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity." Among the accused - Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni along with 12 others the site includes. Besides the 2006 Lebanon war, Gaza siege, and other offenses, the site wants arrest warrants issued for their involvement in terror attacks on Gaza.

It also mentions that on December 10, 2008, Lebanese lawyers submitted a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague against Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, former General Matan Vilnai, General Security Services director Avi Dichter, and IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi "on suspicion that they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity by ordering and maintaining" the Gaza siege. Israel isn't a signatory to the Court so prosecution there isn't likely.

However, other ways are possible. If courageous judges are willing, it could happen in countries like Spain, Germany, the UK or even America (see below). Law Professor Francis Boyle's proposal is also laudable, namely for the General Assembly to establish an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI) under the UN Charter's Article 22. It would be "to investigate and Prosecute suspected Israeli war criminals for offenses against the Palestinian people."

Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), agrees in stating: "There certainly should be a tribunal" on this matter. "The continued impunity of Israel for crimes it has committed encourages it in perpetrating gross violations of humanitarian law. A tribunal is essential" but impossible through the Security Council given the certainty of a US veto.

CCR "advanc(es) and protect(s) the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights." It's been pursuing a case in US courts against Israeli General Security Services director Avi Dichter. On January 16, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case against him.

CCR charged him "with planning and directing the bombing of a residential apartment building in Gaza City" in July 2002, "knowing it would result in a significant number of civilian deaths and injuries." Senior CCR Attorney Maria LaHood said: "Avi Dichter's decision to bomb our clients and their families as they lay sleeping at home was a war crime." The international community can't tolerate these "indiscriminate attacks."

In May 2007, a lower court dismissed the charges ruling that Dichter acted in the course of his official duties and has immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. It may be months before the Appeals Court decision. There's little doubt where it stands, yet these lawsuits (in America and around the world) may have impact enough one day to send Israeli war criminals to prison. Perhaps American ones as well. It's why CCR, Francis Boyle, and others pursue them.

For its part, Israel expects a wave of war crimes lawsuits and is reacting. Haaretz reported that the cabinet approved legal aid for IDF officers likely to face charges. Olmert announced: "Israel will give full support to everyone who operated for it and on behalf of it. The commanders and soldiers who were sent to Gaza need to know that they are safe from various tribunals."

Israel claims "unsurpassed high moral values and traditions," adherence to international law, and efforts made to avoid harming civilians in fighting. Ehud Barak calls the IDF "the most moral army in the world. (It tries) to prevent tragedies from happening" despite clear evidence it's done willfully, maliciously, and strategically.

On January 22, Ehud Olmert appointed justice minister Daniel Friedman "to head a team that will examine methods to avoid war crimes charges for those involved in IDF operations in Gaza." At the same time, IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and an army censor forbade the names and photos of officers involved in "Operation Cast Lead" from being published as well as information on their role in ordering or carrying out attacks.

Gaza War A Failure for Israel - Morally and Strategically

On January 22, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy said so in all its objectives. It failed:

-- to stop Hamas rockets for self-defense;

-- to prevent Hamas from rearming; and

-- to assert Israel's deterrence capacity and "restore its capability" as a formidable military foe, given that it attacks civilians and not a powerful adversary.

In Israel's, writer B. Michael asked "Was the army's morality proven again? Oy vey. A moral army is not one that kills civilians and then rushes to boast how moral it is." He also asked "Was our deterrence restored? No....Israel has been pulverizing the Palestinians for dozens of years now, yet....they continue not to be deterred." This time is no different.

Hamas emerged strengthened, not defeated, and more popular than ever. In contrast, Israel is discredited, vilified, and shamed. For its part, Fatah is weakened and the Abbas - Fayyad PA disgraced for blaming the violence on Hamas, saying little to denounce IDF war crimes, and for cracking down on West Bank anti-war protests and against Hamas supporters.

Reports are that hundreds of them (including journalists, students and Muslim leaders) have been harassed, beaten, arrested, and tortured across the West Bank in service to Israel and Washington. Palestine Information Center journalist, Khalid Amayreh, said he spent nearly two and a half days in a rancid, dark, windowless cell in Hebron's Preventive Security Force headquarters after a local security chief invited him there for coffee.

Though not abused, he heard screams from another cell and saw 10 men led away with hoods over their heads. Amayreh estimates from 500 - 600 arrests were made. Hamas said Islambodi Badir needed medical treatment from electric shock torture by Palestinian General Intelligence.

As for Israel, world outrage demands international tribunal prosecutions of its political and military leaders. "Israel is a violent and dangerous country," concludes Levy. It's "devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignor(es) the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law. The investigations are on their way" maybe this time with teeth enough to bite. If not now, eventually. Nations that live by the sword, die by it. Israel and America are no exceptions.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday through Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.


Illegal Tree Cutting in Central Saanich ~ Appeal for HELP

Illegal Tree Cutting in Central Saanich ~ Appeal for HELP
by Sue Stroud:

We need help from everyone before we lose all the urban trees in Central Saanich. Yesterday a swathe of lovely large cedars was clearcut near Keating and Kirkpatrick in Central Saanich by a local businessman who lost his bid to expand the industrial zone during the recent OCP review. He is now cutting trees to see how far he can push the Council.

These were large healthy trees under which the local deer population sheltered and gave birth. The cutting was done in violation of our newly updated, but very weak tree bylaw and a Stop Work order was posted too late.

We need everyone in the region to protest this cut, to go see this cut and to demand that Central Saanich guarantee that no one can profit from illegal tree cutting, bylaw infractions etc. There can be no more "whoops, I'm sorry" excuses.

Please write to Mayor and Council at asap!

More information will follow shortly including pictures. It was heartbreaking looking at the bewildered deer who stood across the road staring at what had been their safe habitat.

Sue Stroud


Meet at JJ's Friday's at 7pm
Illegal Tree Cutting in Central Saanich ~ Appeal for HELP by Sue Stroud:

We need help from everyone before we lose all the urban trees in Central Saanich. Yesterday a swathe of lovely large cedars was clearcut near Keating and Kirkpatrick in Central Saanich by a local businessman who lost his bid to expand the industrial zone during the recent OCP review. He is now cutting trees to see how far he can push the Council.

These were large healthy trees under which the local deer population sheltered and gave birth. The cutting was done in violation of our newly updated, but very weak tree bylaw and a Stop Work order was posted too late.

We need everyone in the region to protest this cut, to go see this cut and to demand that Central Saanich guarantee that no one can profit from illegal tree cutting, bylaw infractions etc. There can be no more "whoops, I'm sorry" excuses.

Please write to Mayor and Council at asap!

More information will follow shortly including pictures. It was heartbreaking looking at the bewildered deer who stood across the road staring at what had been their safe habitat.

Sue Stroud


Meet at JJ's Friday's at 7pm


MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

January 23, 2009


Numerous members of the public have written to us expressing their bewilderment at the violence of Israel's 22-day attack on Gaza killing upwards of 1,300 people and wounding 4,200. To many witnessing the onslaught on their TV screens (especially Al Jazeera) this appeared to be an act of state sadism.

Israeli forces repeatedly bombed schools (including UN schools), medical centres, hospitals, ambulances, UN buildings, power plants, sewage plants, roads, bridges and civilian homes.

On January 15, reported that Al Quds hospital had been "again the target of bombing". Some 50 patients, 30 in wheelchairs, fled as the burning hospital was "totally destroyed". (

The hospital's medical director said, "My heart is crying," as he described how intensive care patients and premature babies in incubators were wheeled onto the street in the middle of the night. (

On January 19, UN official John Ging said half a million people in Gaza had been without water since the conflict began - huge numbers were without power. Four thousand homes have been ruined and tens of thousands of people are homeless. (

It is now known that the Israeli army (the IDF) used white phosphorus incendiary weapons - designed to burst over a wide area and burn to the bone - against civilian targets, including hospitals and UN buildings. The use of these weapons against civilians is a war crime.

Surgeons in Gaza have reported numerous, unusual cases where bomb victims had lost both legs rather than one, raising suspicions that the Israeli military used Dense Inert Metal Explosive (Dime) bombs - experimental weapons that generate micro-shrapnel that burns and destroys everything within a four-metre radius. Dr. Erik Fosse, a Norwegian surgeon, commented:

"We suspect they used Dime weapons because we saw cases of huge amputations or flesh torn off the lower parts of the body. The pressure wave [from a Dime device] moves from the ground upwards and that's why the majority of patients have huge injuries to the lower part of the body and abdomen... The problem is that most of the patients I saw were children. If they [the Israelis] are trying to be accurate, it seems obvious these weapons were aimed at children." (Patrick O'Connor, 'Reports reveal devastation wreaked by Israeli military in Gaza,' World Socialist Web Site, January 20, 2008;

The IDF also used hideous "flachette bombs" - high-tech nail bombs that shower victims with small metal darts that penetrate flesh and bone.

The BBC - Impartial or Immoral?

Despite this carnage, despite the fact that 89% of Gaza's 1.5 million residents have received no humanitarian aid since Israel began its assault (, the Guardian notes that the BBC has refused to broadcast a national humanitarian appeal for Gaza, "leaving aid agencies with a potential shortfall of millions of pounds in donations." (Jenny Percival, 'Broadcasters refuse to air Gaza charity appeal,' The Guardian, January 23, 2008;

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 13 aid charities, launched its Gaza appeal yesterday saying the devastation was "so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act". (Ibid.)

By refusing to give free airtime to the appeal, the BBC made a rare decision to breach an agreement dating back to 1963. Other broadcasters then also rejected it. The DEC's chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said:

"We are used to our appeal getting into every household and offering a safe and necessary way for people to respond. This time we will have to work a lot harder because we won't have the free airtime or the powerful impact of appearing on every TV and radio station." (Ibid.)

A BBC website article defending the BBC's refusal to broadcast the Gaza appeal, asserted:

"The BBC decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story." (

Gormley rejected the BBC's claim that there were question marks about the delivery of aid, saying 100 lorries a day were entering Gaza. He also challenged the alleged problem with "impartiality":

"We are totally apolitical and are driven by the principles of the Geneva conventions in terms of impartiality and neutrality. This appeal is a response to those humanitarian principles. The BBC seems to be confusing impartiality with equal airtime." (Percival, op. cit)

ITV said: "The DEC asked all broadcasters if they could support the appeal. We (the broadcasters) assessed the DEC's requirements carefully against the agreed criteria and we were unable to reach the consensus necessary for an appeal." (Ibid.)

Sky said: "We were considering this request internally when the DEC contacted us to let us know that the BBC had decided not to broadcast the appeal at this time. As, by convention, if all broadcasters do not carry the appeal then none do, the decision was effectively made for us." (Ibid.)

This immoral and callous decision by the BBC in response to the suffering of the people of Gaza should not go unchallenged. Please complain using the phone number and email addresses below:


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

Phone the BBC from the UK on: 03700 100 222

Helen Boaden, Director of BBC news

Peter Horrocks, Head of BBC TV News

Richard Sambrook, Director of the World Service and Global News

General complaints to the BBC can be submitted via this form:

Please send a copy of your emails to us

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The Media Lens book 'Guardians of Power: The Myth Of The Liberal Media' by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto Books, London) was published in 2006. For details, including reviews, interviews and extracts, please click here:

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Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook Jeff Halper, Kerry Pither, Janind Bandcroft Jan. 26, 2008

Gorilla Radio for Monday, January 26, 2009

Welcome to GR, etc. Well thank God it's all over! Throughout the Christmas week and into the New Year, the world witnessed rogue nation, Israel bomb and murder Palestinian civilians unchecked by either global opprobrium or any sense of humanity. Men, women, children, and animals alike were slaughtered through a combination of whiz bang, high-tech weaponry, and the ruthlessness Israel and its patron the United States have rightly become world famous for.

But that was yesterday. The Bush era is now over, and a new day is dawning; a new day of hope and change, dignity and justice. As so long prayed and hoped for, change is now a promise to be fulfilled by the new Obama administration in Washington. We can all safely turn our collective energies now to better use than the study of war. Hallelujah! But, before we leave the scene of the crime, today a look at remnant Palestine and what the last days have wrought for the people there and what the new era promises them.

Jeff Halper is the coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and is the author of the book, 'An Israeli in Palestine.' Jeff is currently on a North America speaking tour, addressing the now redundant issues of peace and justice. Jeff Halper in the first half.

And; The Global War on Terror may be over, but for the thousands imprisoned, subjected to unspeakable abuses, and disappeared into the black hole global gulags created by George W. Bush and his willing accomplices the battle goes on. Kerry Pither is a long-time human rights and civil liberties champion and intervenor on a wide range of local, regional and international issues. She is also the author of the recently released book, 'Dark Days: The Story of Four Canadians Tortured in the Name of Fighting Terror.'

Kerry Pither and bearing witness for the defense in the second half.

And Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with good local goings-on, and to keep us abreast of Victoria's current housing and shelter crisis. But first, Jeff Halper and finding solutions for Ghetto Gaza and remnant Palestine.
This video shows the appalling destruction Israel has wreaked on the infrastructure of Gaza and verbally describes a massacre of civilians.

Warning: Graphic


The View from the Tower Block

Friday, 23 January 2009
Video: Israel's Shame.
After watching the above video it is clear Israel’s War on Gaza became less about destroying Hamas than punishing the Palestinian people for supporting them. IDF generals must have told PM Olmert and Tzipi Livni that like the PLO before it, Hamas has become deeply embedded at all levels within Palestinian society and its destruction was an impossibility without the IDF taking untold dead and wounded.

One only has to see in the video the massive scale of the destruction that the IDF has inflicted on the ordinary people of Gaza to understand that Israel has committed war crimes in its ‘war on the Gazan Palestinians’. Some people have condemned those of us who have compared Israel’s recent behavior with the Hitlerite nazis, claiming we are being insensitive and plain wrong to make such accusations. In reply I would say watch this video, true the killing is not on an industrial scale that the Nazis inflicted on the Jewish people, but it is comparable to the reprisals the nazis carried out against all who opposed them within occupied Europe. As with the Nazis the IDF massacred whole families in there own homes, destroyed villages, farmland and crops and fired heavy ordinance into built up areas without a shred of mercy.

The scale of the destruction, much of which apparently took place just prior to Israel’s ‘ceasefire’ and withdrawal, tells me much of it was done in rage, unable to defeat or even weaken Hamas determination to resist, the IDF turned with a Nazi like ferocity on unarmed civilians and their property and punished them for their solidarity with the combined Palestinian resistance forces.

Israel and the Empire

Israel and the Empire: Jeff Halper interview

JEFF HALPER and JON ELMER, 20 September 2003

[an excerpt of this interview appears in "Documents and Source Material", Journal of Palestine Studies vol XXXIII no. 2 (Winter 2004), p. 102-108.]

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Jon Elmer, You use the term 'matrix of control' to describe the Israeli occupation. Can you explain exactly what that is and how it functions?

Jeff Halper: The Israel-Palestine conflict is often framed in terms of territory: ending the occupation, a viable Palestinian state, and what that means in terms of territory. But two states and a complete end of the occupation, even in the best scenario, is not really the best solution. The whole Palestinian state would be on only 22% of the country, divided between the West Bank and Gaza. The State of Israel today, within the 1967 borders, represents 78% percent of the country. So even in the ideal situation, if the entire occupation ended and Israel pushed back to 1967 borders, the Palestinian state would be in only 22% of the country. Israel can't compromise on any more than that - even that is a question mark.

But Israel does want a Palestinian state because it needs to get rid of the three and a half million Palestinians currently living in the Occupied Territories. If it can't send them out of the country, it at least wants to enclose them in a little Bantustan-type state. And so, the issue is framed in terms of territory, and what gets lost is the issue of control.

The issue is this: will the Palestinians in the end have a state that has potential for economic development, that has real political sovereignty, that has control of its borders, that has control of its resources, like water? Will Palestinians have a state that is a coherent territory that people can move freely within? Is it a real state, even if it's a small one, or is it really a Bantustan controlled by Israel?

And so, the matrix of control talks about how Israel controls the Palestinians: through incorporating the West Bank into Israel-proper with roads, through connecting electrical systems, water systems, urban systems, and so on. It talks about Israel keeping military control, about Israel keeping control of parts of the country like Jerusalem and parts of West Bank, which in the end will leave the Palestinians with non-viable islands.

The matrix of control talks about the use of planning and law, and administration bureaucracy to control the movements, building, and commercial activity of the Palestinians. In other words, what the matrix of control says is that besides the issue of military control, and besides the issue of territory, Israel exerts a lot of control over Palestine. It controls the water, it controls the borders, it controls Jerusalem, it controls their army, it controls their freedom of movement. And unless we dismantle the matrix of control, we haven't really done anything. The difference between a real Palestinian state, even if it's small, and a Bantustan, is the matrix of control.

Now, I don't think we can dismantle the matrix of control. I think it has gone too far, and that the occupation is permanent. We are in a state of apartheid. But not everybody agrees with me - Uri Avnery doesn't agree with me, the people who are in favour of a two-state solution still think that we can end the occupation, or that we can roll it back enough that a Palestinian state will emerge. But the danger in being for a Palestinian state is that if you don't understand the control dimensions, then you are actually agitating for a Bantustan. I mean, Sharon also wants a Palestinian state; he wants a state that is completely controlled by Israel. So if you only look at territory and you don't look at the issue of control, you end up advocating a Bantustan.

Elmer: Do you see a long-term political plan within Israel? Or is it just reacting?

Halper: Well, Sharon is accused of not having a political plan, and just blindly hitting out against the 'infrastructure of terror,' as they call it. But I think there is a very definite political plan - apartheid. Sharon calls this plan cantonization: a Palestinian state on about 42% of the West Bank in three or four islands, all controlled and surrounded by Israel.

The plan involves making the Palestinians submit by getting a weak Palestinian leadership that will sign off on this Bantustan, this cantonization. It involves getting rid of the Palestinian middle class that would oppose it by what we call 'quiet transfer' - forcing them out of the country with bad housing, bad education and no economic life, in order to create a very malleable Palestinian mass that would then simply passively accept a Bantustan. Sharon is not saying that explicitly, he is leaving things deliberately vague, but that is where he is going.

Elmer: Would a move toward a one-state solution, as you'e suggested, increase the likelihood of traditional ethnic cleaning? As Sharon has said, there is already a Palestinian state: Jordan.

Halper: It depends on how threatened Israel becomes. It doesn't need ethnic cleansing at this stage, because Israel is in a situation where it controls the whole country. A Palestinian state is necessary for Israel, because unless you can place the Palestinians into a state of their own, then Israel really does have existential dangers.

There are three and a half million Palestinians in the Territories, and almost a million in Israel, that threaten the Jewish majority. So the only way to keep a Jewish majority is to control the whole country. It is to take the Palestinians, put them into these little islands, and call it a state. That's what Israel will try to do.

Now, to the degree that this does not work, because, for example, the international community doesn't accept the Bantustan - as in the case of South Africa - or because of continued Palestinian resistance, or a movement towards one state develops, or the refugees show signs of wanting to return - namely, in a situation where Israel feels demographically threatened, and therefore existentially threatened, it could resort to transfer as a last resort.

Elmer: Commenting on the expulsion option, David Ben-Gurion wrote in the 1930s, "What is inconceivable in normal times is possible in revolutionary times; and if at this time the opportunity is missed and what is possible in such great hours is not carried out - a whole world is lost."

Are the assassinations that Israel is conducting right now an attempt to create the pretext for 'revolutionary times,' in much the same way that they used the bombing raids on Southern Lebanon in 1981 and early 1982 to provoke the inevitable retaliation that provided the pretext for the war on Lebanon in 1982?

Halper: The assassinations are partly an attempt to destroy a real Palestinian leadership. Israel needs a quisling, a collaborator-type leader - like in South Africa in the Bantustans - in order to make its apartheid plan work. I asked a Palestinian fellow the other day, "look, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] didn't work, Abu Ala [Ahmed Qureia] doesn't seem to be working, aren't there any strong Palestinian leaders?" He said, "Israel killed them all." Like Abu Jihad [Khalil al-Wasir, head of the military wing of the PLO killed in Tunis in 1988], the strong Palestinian leaders were killed by Israel. And now they are threatening Arafat. You eliminate the leaders that could really stand up to you, and you only allow leaders who will sign off on this Bantustan to emerge. I think it's a part of Israel's strategy. Israel thinks that if it can defeat the Palestinians militarily, it can make them submit. It has to break the Palestinians militarily.

Elmer: Is there a military solution?

Halper: Sharon believes very much that there is a military solution. The Israeli government and the army are working on the assumption that this is a win-lose situation: we can win and they can lose. As a matter of fact IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon told Yedioth Ahronoth a couple months ago that we won, and now we're just mopping up. Assassination is part of the war to defeat the Palestinians, and it is also part of the political process of eliminating leaders who won't agree to the Bantustan option.

Elmer: Can you describe what you have called the 'paradigm panic' within Israeli society - how Rabin shaking hands with Arafat in Oslo disturbed the 'Arabs are our enemy' paradigm?

Halper: From the 1920s until 1993, every generation of Israelis were educated into the notion that 'Arabs are our enemy. We're the good guys; they are the bad guys, they are terrorists, they just want to kill us, they just want us to 'throw us in the sea' - there is no political solution.' After Oslo there starts to be a little bit of a change.

In Oslo the whole world turned around. On every Israeli television, there it was, Yitzhak Rabin, a soldier, shaking hands with Yasser Arafat. Maybe there will be a Palestinian state, maybe no occupation, maybe no refugee problem... And you have a paradigm panic. For example, there was a popular bumper sticker in Israel after Oslo saying, 'This is a nightmare peace.' But in 1994 and 1995, there was a small window where it looked like the old paradigm might be changing, but it was closed down again with the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.

The Hamas bus bombings in 1996 did enough to give Netanyahu that fraction of a percentage point electoral advantage in which he beat Peres in the election - and that of course led to the collapse of the whole Oslo process. With Netanyahu, you have a return to the old paradigm, and Israelis are even further into that mindset today.

Elmer: Norman Finkelstein has commented that the Israelis have always bided their time, waiting for a 'miracle.' He cites several examples: i) The Balfour Declaration of 1917, which nobody could have predicted, ii) The USSR and USA agreeing in the United Nations in 1947 on the founding of a Jewish State, iii) during a serious economic crisis in the 1960s came the 'miracle' of the June '67 war, and iv) the 'miracle' of the immigration of one million Soviet Jews, right at the time that the 'demographic bomb' as at its most threatening. Can you comment on this?

Halper: It's true, we're waiting, but waiting from a position of power. In all these instances, even though we had problems, we were still the strong party. Today we are also waiting, because Israelis don't believe there is any solution. And Israelis are also very disenfranchised; we have a system of government here that is really a rule by political parties. You vote for parties, you don't vote for candidates in Israel, so there is a huge distance between the parties and the people. No political party in the history of Israel has ever gotten a majority in the Knesset, so there has always had to be coalition governments, with partners that your own voters wouldn't necessarily agree to.

As Avi Shlaim [pointed out] in the Iron Wall, when Nasser approached Ben-Gurion in 1954 with a famous negotiation, Ben-Gurion turned him down. He said that the Arabs will always make peace with us, because we are strong. The Arabs will always sue for peace, so we can't do it too early. First, lets get everything we want. So it is not a passive waiting. You create a situation where you pick your opportunities, and you are ready to spring.

The June '67 war was a miracle in a sense - it was unpredictable. On the other hand, when it happened, Israel was right there ready and knew exactly what to do. Within two weeks you had the Dayan Plan [settling Jews in densely populated Arab areas, ie Hebron], Alon Plan [establishing settlements as territorial buffers in strategic areas] and Israel had already taken half of the West Bank.

Israelis today say that there is no solution, but we have American support, European support, we're strong militarily, so something is going to give, at some point, in someway. And when it does, we are primed to take advantage of it. For now, we can wait.

Elmer: Noam Chomsky has said that Israel is essentially an offshore American base. What strategic role does Israel play in the American empire, and what does that mean for activism within the United States, in terms of ending the occupation? Does it make activism in the United States just as important, or more important than in Israel, or in even in Palestine?

Halper: I don't completely agree with Chomsky - I think he underestimates the proactiveness of Israel, and how Israel manipulates the United States. In a way, if you did a rational analysis, you would say that [America's support of Israel] is counter-productive for the United States. It is messing up the whole Muslim world, it is messing up oil, and now there is occupation of Iraq and its comparison to here. The alliance of America and Israel made sense in the Cold War - we used to have a joke within Israel that we were America's largest aircraft carrier. Maybe then it made sense, but today?

The key that everyone is missing, though Chomsky has picked up on it because this is what he studies, is that Israel has located itself very strategically right in the centre of the global arms industry. Israel's sophisticated military hardware and military software are very important to weapons development in the United States. Israel has also become the main subcontractor of American arms. Just last year, Israel signed a contract to train and equip the Chinese army. It signed another multi-billion dollar contract to train and equip the Indian army. What is it equipping them with? It is equipping them with American weapons.

Israel is very important, because on the one hand it is a very sophisticated, high-tech, arms developer and dealer. But on the other hand, there are no ethical or moral constraints: there is no Congress, there are no human rights concerns, there are no laws against taking bribes - the Israeli government can do anything it wants to. So you have very sophisticated rogue state - not a Libyan rogue state, but a high tech, military-expert rogue state. Now that is tremendously useful, both for Europe and for the United States.

For example, there are American Congressional constraints on selling arms to China because of China's human rights problems. So what Israel does is it tinkers with American arms just enough that they can be considered Israeli arms, and in that way bypasses Congress.

For the most part, Israel is the subcontractor for American arms to the 'Third World.' There is no terrible regime - Colombia, Guatemala, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile during the time of the colonels, Burma, Taiwan, Zaire, Liberia, Congo, Sierra Leone - there is not one that does not have a major military connection to Israel. Israeli arms dealers are there [acting as] mercenaries - the guy behind Noriega was Michael Harari, an Israeli, who got out of Panama. Israeli mercenaries in Sierra Leone go around the UN boycotts of what are called blood diamonds, same in Angola. Israel was very involved in South Africa, of course, during the apartheid regime. Now Israel is developing missile systems with England, developing a new jet aircraft for Holland, and it just bought three sophisticated submarines from Germany. So Israel is playing with the big boys.

Israeli arms dealers are at home, they're like fish in water in the rough and tumble countries that eat Americans alive: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, China, Indonesia, these countries where Americans just cannot operate, partly because of business practices, and partly because they have [Congressional] constraints and laws.

So this is the missing piece. If you read the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) website, the main pro-Israel lobby in the US, there's one piece called 'Strategic Cooperation.' The United States and Israel have a formal treaty, a formal alliance, which gives Israel access to almost all of American military technology.

When AIPAC sells Israel to Congress, it doesn't go to Congressmen and ask them to support Israel because it is Judea Christian, or because it is the 'only democracy in the Middle East,' which it also does. It sells it on this basis: 'You are a member of Congress and it is your responsibility to support Israel, because this is how many industries in your state have business links to Israel, this is how many military research people are sitting in universities in your district, this is how many jobs in your district are dependent on the military and the defence industry,' and they translate it down to the extent to which your district is dependent on Israel. Therefore, if you are voting against Israel, you are voting against the goose that lays the golden egg.

In most of the districts in the United States, members of Congress have a great dependence on the military. More than half of industrial employment in California is in one way or another connected to defence. Israel is right there, right in the middle of it all. And that is part of its strength.

And then we (the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, for example) come to a member of Congress, we talk about human rights, about occupation, about Palestinians, and he says: 'Look I know, I read the papers, I'm not dumb, but that is not the basis on which I vote. The basis on which I vote is what is good for my constituents.'

So in terms of activism, when you are thinking of an international campaign, an important part of it must be to expose Israel's links to the defence industry, the arms industry, Israel's support of terrible regimes and their violations of human rights, and what that is doing to the world.

If you want to talk about Empire, although it is a tiny country, Israel is a key member of the Empire. If you look at the AIPAC website they'll say in black and white that the job of Israel is to protect American economic interests in the Middle East. They say we are developing laser weapons from outer space to protect American interests. It's all upfront. Israel sees itself, and is proud of being a part of the American Empire. Where Israel has a great PR advantage is that it presents itself as a victim. It a country surrounded by a sea of Arabs, and Arabs are all terrorists, and Muslims are fanatics.

Elmer: And playing the victim becomes a political tool, much like anti-Semitism.

Halper: Yes. Anti-Semitism feeds on the idea that Israel is a victim. The Foreign Ministry of Israel invented a new form of anti-Semitism in the last few years called the 'New anti-Semitism,' and they then found some professors willing to give it some academic credibility. The New anti-Semitism that is now being spread all over says that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism, period. And it has been very effective.

A member of Congress will say, 'besides voting for my constituents, I also have to get re-elected, and the last thing I need is someone saying I'm an anti-Semite.' This complex is very powerful, it allows Israel to avoid accountability - you can't apply international law to Israel, you can't apply human rights obligations, you can't hold it responsible for its actions, because we are the victims, we are the weak party, we are just defending ourselves. You can't criticize us, we are Jews, and you persecuted us. This complex is impenetrable, and this is why Israel can thumb its nose at everybody.

For example, [19 September 2003] the United Nations General Assembly voted 133 to four against Israel's threat to remove Arafat. The four are Israel, the United States, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. That's happened for years. It happened back in the '70s and Israelis said 'Micronesia? Where is Micronesia?.'

And so they sent a journalist from Yediot Ahronoth to get out a map and go to Micronesia. And he went and he found this little country that doesn't even have a newspaper, and he said, 'Why do you support Israel?' And he was told, '100% of our national budget comes from the United States, so we do what the US tells us - there is no issue here.' So that's Israel's great Pacific ally, Micronesia. That's the point. The entire world can be against the United States on these issues, and it doesn't care, because that one United States vote more than equals the other 133.

So we need to change the image that Israel is the victim. In other words, we have to reframe things. Israel presents the conflict in a certain way, and if we are just left to rebut them all the time, we will never win. Whoever frames the conflict wins, whoever frames the discussion wins, because conclusions follow from the way you frame things. We need to expose Israel as the regional superpower and [necessary component in the American Empire] that it really is. Its economy is three times larger than Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon put together. Israel is not the little David of the area, but actually the Goliath.

Jeff Halper is an anthropologist and the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, ICAHD.

Jon Elmer is currently reporting from Israel-Palestine and is the editor of

This interview was conducted in Jerusalem, 20 September 2003. Thanks to Valerie Zink for help in editing and transcription.

This interview appears elsewhere:
> Journal of Palestine Studies, "From the Hebrew Press, XXXIII, no. 2 (Winter 2004), p. 102-108 [excerpt]
> Znet, "Israel and the Empire", 23 September 2003
> The Dominion, "Israelis criticizing Israel", 1 December 2003
> Znet en Espanol, "Israel y el Imperio", Traducido por Felisa Sastre y revisado por Maite Padilla
> Asociaci