13 February 2017

A gazillion reasons to look at BuzzFeed and say: 'This Israeli wrong'

Middle East Eye

recent tweet from the state of Israel’s official Twitter channel - managed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s “Digital Diplomacy Team” - announces: “If you THINK you know everything there is to know about Israel, you should have a look at this list.”
The list in question is a 2014 BuzzFeed dispatch titled “51 Facts About Israel That Will Surprise You”. The photograph accompanying the tweet is of a bikinied blond woman floating in the Dead Sea.
As for why the list is being resurrected three years after the fact, there’s presumably nothing like a bit of digital diplomacy to distract international audiences from land grabs, home demolitions, the gradual pulverisation of the Gaza Strip, and other contemporary Israeli activities.
BuzzFeed, which advertises itself as “a cross-platform, global network for news and entertainment that generates seven billion views each month,” is known especially for its production of items along the lines of “21 Animals Who Were Born With Swag” or “22 Stunning Photos That Will Make You Want A Septum Ring”.
BuzzFeed’s list of 51 alleged “facts” about Israel - which could just as easily have been titled “51 Ways Apartheid Is Awesome” - is a typical compendium of Israeli state propaganda marketing the country as a paradise for, among others, entrepreneurs, women, blind people, sushi eaters, gay and transgender folks, birdwatchers, beach lovers, rollerbladers, Eurovision fans, and even chess grandmasters.
Other endearing trivia is also thrown in, such as that “an Israeli company has developed the world’s first jellyfish repellent” and that Israel “was the first country to ban underweight models".
Never mind that Israel has had no problem putting Palestinians on blockade diets - or killing them outright, for that matter.
Indeed, BuzzFeed’s publication of the 51 “surprising facts” coincidentally took place the very same year that the Israeli military managed to eliminate 2,251 Palestinians in Gaza - including 299 women and 551 children - in a matter of 51 days. Unfortunately, mass slaughter by said military has become somewhat less than surprising. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

08 February 2017

What's behind the Great Wall of America?

Al Jazeera English

On the Tuesday after Donald Trump's January inauguration as president of the United States, journalist Jonathan Katz tweeted in reference to the unfolding spectacle: "First they came for the Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, poor people, intellectuals and scientists, and then it was Wednesday."
The days continue to progress in similar fashion. On the one hand, there's been the rapidly evolving horror of the Muslim ban. And on the Latino front, it seems that not even Mexicans in Mexico proper may be safe from Trump's reach.
According to the Associated Press, Trump recently informed Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that "you have a bunch of bad hombres down there" whose bad behaviour is not being properly addressed: "I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it."
Nothing like a casual threat of invasion to keep folks on their toes.
One finds oneself wondering whether a new and improved border wall might not be a fine idea indeed - but as a defensive measure against US incursions. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

30 January 2017

On trial: Lebanon’s corrupt justice system

Middle East Eye

In front of Beirut’s military tribunal, located just down the street from the Lebanese capital’s National Museum, is a statue of a helmeted soldier holding the scales of justice.
Globally speaking, the military is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when contemplating matters of fairness and truth. Think Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes, or pretty much any other aspect of the US war on terror, and the verdict quickly presents itself: soldiers aren’t exactly arbiters of justice.
But in Lebanon, the obstacles to military justice have become ever clearer with the release of a new report by Human Rights Watch on an ongoing Lebanese tradition of trying civilians in military courts.
Among the focuses of the report are Lebanese protesters facing up to three years in prison via military court trial, as well as children reportedly tortured during pre-trial interrogations.
Not that there is a surplus of justice to be had outside the confines of Lebanese military tribunals. Indeed, “Lebanese law” is often a contradiction in terms: the justice system is haphazardly wielded primarily against the country’s have-nots, while those with the proper elite credentials and sectarian political connections remain largely immune to prosecution. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

20 January 2017

Assessing Obama: Foreign Policy

Jacobin

As the follow-up act to George W. Bush, Barack Obama was supposed to restore the United States to the fold of respectable nations whose leaders did not devise such foreign policy goals as “smokin’ ’em out.”
Particularly given Obama’s campaign pledge to engage in dialogue with traditional American enemies like Iran and Cuba — both included in the Axis of Evil-plus-three configuration marketed during the Bush era — optimistic sectors of the international community predicted the advent of a humane, benevolent superpower.
The naïveté of such thinking was rather evident from the get-go; now, at the end of Obama’s reign, it’s glaringly obvious. Consider the recent calculation by the Council on Foreign Relations that the United States “dropped 26,172 bombs in seven countries” in 2016 alone — an estimate the authors acknowledge is “undoubtedly low.”
In February 2015, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that Obama’s covert drone strikes on territories where the United States is not officially at war had already “killed almost six times more people and twice as many civilians than those ordered in the Bush years.”
Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba and his nuclear deal with Iran have been hailed by fans as landmark achievements and alleged evidence of his status as peacemonger-in-chief. Often lost in the celebrations, however, is the fact that both locales are still targeted with sanctionsthat undeniably constitute “war by other means.”
In Cuba, Obama might have bolstered his ethical credentials by fulfilling his promise to close Guantánamo, thereby terminating the US occupation of Cuban territory and ending a symbol of America’s global impunity.
In the Middle East, efforts to defuse the nuclear issue would have been less blatantly hypocritical if Obama hadn’t also approved a $38 billion military aid package to Israel, the largest in US history.
This is the same Israel that happens to maintain a nuclear arsenal and grants itself immunity from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Beyond some jabs at Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama has not allowed the Israeli military’s recurring slaughter of Palestinian civilians to get in the way of his principled commitment to Israel’s right to “self-defense.”
The full extent of the fallout of Obama’s rule, of course, remains to be seen. But for one particularly troubling hint as to his legacy-in-progress, one need look no further than Medea Benjamin’s recent remarks in the Guardian: “The twisted legal architecture the Obama administration has constructed to justify its interventions, especially extrajudicial drone killings with no geographic restrictions, will now be transferred into the erratic hands of Donald Trump.” Call it teamwork. READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

19 January 2017

Lindsay Lohan: America’s next jihadist?

Middle East Eye

The Washington, DC-based newspaper and website The Hill self-identifies as “the premier source for policy and political coverage, reporting on every aspect of the business of Washington and the campaign trail... delivering solid, non-partisan and objective reporting".

Indeed, only a very serious and objective publication would have recently opted to run an opinion piece by Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch, titled “Lindsay Lohan may have made her worst life choice yet".
Predictably, the disastrous choice involves Lohan’s alleged conversion to Islam, which Spencer argues she has undertaken with no regard for the fact that “so many converts to Islam end up as jihad terrorists” bent on committing “mass murder".
Listed examples include John Walker Lindh and Adam Gadahn - the latter killed in a US drone strike - who “discovered Islam through rap music and black grievance theater (neither were black, but both wished they were)".
In addition to the risk of turning to terrorism as compensation for black envy, it seems, conversion to Islam also entails numerous other hazards. Spencer poses the critical question of whether Lohan is “prepared to venture out in public with everything covered except her face and hands” - a requirement, as we all know, of every Muslim female in the world.
In short, it’s unclear whether The Hill’s editors were, in fact, conscious at the time Spencer’s rant was authorised for publication on 17 January. However, retroactive warning bells apparently went off, and the piece was subsequently removed, eliciting the complaint from Spencer that “the Left-fascists at The Hill have caved in to pressure from Leftist and Islamic supremacist neo-brownshirts.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

05 January 2017

Blackwater founder returns to save Europe from refugees

Middle East Eye

Starting the new year off with a bang, the Financial Times has just published a dispatch by Erik Prince, notorious founder and former CEO of the private security contracting firm Blackwater, the outfit responsible for projects such as the 2007 Nisour Square massacre of Iraqi children and other civilians.

The company has undergone a series of rebranding efforts over the years as an apparent means of distancing itself from overtly toxic connotations.
Prince’s Financial Times bio discreetly identifies him as simply “a former US Navy SEAL [and] executive chairman of Frontier Services Group,” a Hong Kong-headquartered entity.
According to its website, FSG offers “security and logistics services in frontier markets”.
In an investigation by The Intercept, Prince’s activities at FSG were reported to include endeavouring to sell weaponised crop dusters in Africa as part of “what one colleague called his ‘obsession’ with building his own private air force”. As with many of Prince’s operations, a facade of legality has often proved elusive.
Suffice it to say that the Financial Times isn’t racking up huge points on the ethical front by promoting a man whose modus operandi has essentially been to make a killing off of killing. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

29 December 2016

2016 and the truth behind fake news

Al Jazeera English

The legacies of the year 2016 include the introduction into the popular lexicon of the term "fake news".
To be sure, "fake" is a more than apt description for media content fabricated by Macedonian teenagers looking to exploit the United States market for sensational nonsense.
Ditto for "news" items such as the alleged campaign by Democratic congresspersons in Florida to implement Islamic law - a fiction regurgitated by president-elect Donald Trump's nominee for national security adviser.
But as The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald recently pointed out, "The most important fact to realise about this new term" is that "those who most loudly denounce Fake News are typically those most aggressively disseminating it".
Indeed, the ongoing hullabaloo in US mainstream media over the notion that the Russians hacked the election in Trump's favour via a sinister campaign of mass disinformation would itself appear to be a strong contender for the "fake news" category. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

21 December 2016

Presidential Pardons and the United States’ Unpardonable Crimes

TeleSUR English

Over recent decades, the United States has strived to perfect the art of the double standard in the international arena, with impressive results. For example, it is now known that when other countries allegedly meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign nations it’s called meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, but when the U.S. does it it’s called freedom and democracy promotion.

When other people commit terrorism it’s called terrorism; when the U.S. commits terrorism, on the other hand, it’s called collateral damage, an accident, unfortunate — or freedom and democracy promotion.
It should come as no surprise, then, that a surplus of hypocrisy is also on display in jailing patterns in the U.S., where the highest incarceration rate in the world continues to disproportionately punish Black people and where crimes resulting in life sentences have include shoplifting three belts.
Despite regularly lambasting Cuba and other locales on the issue of political prisoners, the U.S. has its own fair share of prisoners of conscience — some of whom are now occupying a bit more media space than usual on account of the denouement of Barack Obama’s term and the countdown on opportunities for presidential pardons.
Among the most visible prisoners is, of course, Chelsea Manning, sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison for transferring classified government documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
So much for freedom. READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

06 December 2016

Article 522: Letting rapists off the hook in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

The Turkish government, in keeping with its established reputation as a shameless violator of human rights and decency, recently made unfavourable headlines yet again with what international media have termed a “child rape bill” that would have pardoned men convicted of statutory rape provided they marry their victims.

Following protests in Turkey, the measure has been withdrawn but not eliminated. The BBC quotes a female Turkish parliamentarian as defending the bill on these grounds:
“It is about giving normality to young women who have been married underage due to cultural norms, other norms, and now find themselves with their children suffering because their husbands are in prison… One of the examples is when the woman is 15 and the man is 17 [when they marry].”
But while such cases can’t be written off as irrelevant, they certainly don’t justify the institutionalisation of impunity - particularly when a get-out-of-jail-free card is apparently already available in many cases of rape. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

02 December 2016

Lebanon’s very own apartheid wall?

Middle East Eye

News recently emerged in Lebanon that the army had begun constructing a “security” wall - complete with watchtowers - around the perimeter of Ain al-Hilweh, the country’s largest Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of the city of Sidon.
Although the Lebanese government is, for sectarian reasons, not extremely into counting the residents of its country - the last national census was conducted in 1932 during the French mandate - more than half a million Palestinian refugees are estimated to be present, many of them in Lebanon’s 12 official refugee camps.
Over recent years, the Palestinian population of Lebanon has expanded on account of the civil war in neighbouring Syria and the absorption of Palestinian refugees from that country, who have thus been rendered refugees twice over.Although the Lebanese government is, for sectarian reasons, not extremely into counting the residents of its country - the last national census was conducted in 1932 during the French mandate - more than half a million Palestinian refugees are estimated to be present, many of them in Lebanon’s 12 official refugee camps. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.