22 April 2017

The Earth versus capitalism

Al Jazeera English

During one of numerous failed attempts to establish himself as an environmentalist, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman enthusiastically reported in 2010 that - in honour of Earth Day on April 22 - the United States Navy had test-flown a fighter jet "powered by a 50-50 blend of conventional jet fuel and camelina aviation biofuel made from pressed mustard seeds".
Armed with this and other bits of trivia, Friedman concluded that the US military was thus in fact on the front line of the battle for a clean Earth.
Never mind that, mustard seeds or not, the US Defense Department remains one of the top polluters on the planet.
To be sure, the neoliberal media's toxic alignment with military and corporate agendas produces lucrative returns for those involved.
And as long as the arms industry and other pillars of the international capitalist order remain healthy, the long-term health of Earth and its inhabitants matters little. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

14 April 2017

Non-crime and punishment at the American University of Beirut

Middle East Eye

On 24 March, Reuters reported an announcement by US federal prosecutors that the American University of Beirut (AUB) had agreed to pay $700,000 to the US government for allegedly assisting three entities linked to Hezbollah.
The photograph of the AUB entrance that accompanies the article on the Reuters website initially came equipped with a caption explaining that this was “where Dean Kevlin, an American senior member of staff, went missing on Thursday”.
In short, all sorts of alarming news - until the powers that be at Reuters realised that the Kevlin in question had in fact disappeared (briefly) in 2001, after which the caption was amended accordingly.
Notorious Islamophobe Daniel Pipes meanwhile chimed in with a nanny-nanny-boo-boo on Twitter: “[AUB] has long coddled extremists. Now, this cost it a pretty $700K fine.”
What, then, was this Very Important Crime committed by the university? READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

05 April 2017

A different kind of war in America's 'backyard'

Al Jazeera English

Back in 1954, the United States orchestrated a coup d'etat against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz, whose transgressions had included a less than totally obsequious approach to the American banana company United Fruit, predecessor of Chiquita Brands International.
As usual, the US knew what was best for the nations located in its self-proclaimed "backyard".
Civil war descended on Guatemala six years after the coup, and ensuing decades played host to acts of genocide (pdf) committed by US-backed forces, with more than 200,000 people ultimately killed or disappeared.
Elsewhere in Latin America, the US nobly pursued its mission to make the world safe for capitalism by extending support to right-wing death squads and dictators.
Nowadays, of course, the communist bogeyman can no longer be hyped as an existential hemispheric threat, and friendly Latin American regimes have ceased dropping suspected leftists from airplanes.
Nevertheless, the US has continued to preside over punitive manoeuvres - some subtler than others - to ensure that it remains in business in the "backyard".
These range from endorsing right-wing coups to funding murderous police forces and other security outfits to agitating on behalf of US agribusiness agendas - thereby obliterating any notion of a separation of corporation and state.
Have we really come that far since 1954? READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

03 April 2017

‘Maps of Exile’: Europe's ongoing denial over cause of refugees' flight

Middle East Eye

During a brief visit last year to the Italian city of Naples, I witnessed a sidewalk scene involving three African men selling purses and three conspicuously armed Italian law enforcement officials.
The latter trio was in the midst of guaranteeing public safety by confiscating bundles of purses and taunting the visibly distressed Africans with them, as a crowd of tourists looked on.
Indeed, across Europe these days, the forcible denial of migrant dignity appears to have been subsumed into the list of on-the-job duties for security personnel.
Dehumanising treatment is facilitated by the pejorative rhetoric of Europe’s ruling classes; eternal Italian political fixture Silvio Berlusconi, for example, once complained that parts of Milan were looking too much like Africa. A dutifully xenophobic media furthermore labours to encourage existential fears in the minds of European audiences. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

20 March 2017

Special offer for Lebanon: Time travel with the Israeli military

Middle East Eye

As Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett sees it, another war between Israel and its Lebanese neighbour “will mean sending Lebanon back to the Middle Ages”.
This endearing soundbite was reported on 13 March by Haaretz correspondent Amos Harel following a conversation with Bennett. According to the article, the minister invoked Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s remarks regarding Hezbollah’s integral role in Lebanon’s defence apparatus to justify the medieval approach.
To be sure, Hezbollah’s defensive functions proved particularly irritating to the Israelis when, in 2000, the organisation spearheaded the eviction of Israel from Lebanese territory after more than two decades of occupation.
The Middle Ages treatment meanwhile appears to boil down to a total eradication of any distinction between the Lebanese state and Hezbollah and between military and civilian elements in the country.
Bennett rues an alleged Israeli promise to the United States government in 2006 “not to hit Lebanon’s infrastructure” during that summer’s 34-day war - a promise the education minister contends thwarted an Israeli victory. He proposes the following formula for future conflicts:
“The Lebanese institutions, its infrastructure, airport, power stations, traffic junctions, Lebanese Army bases – they should all be legitimate targets if a war breaks out.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

18 March 2017

Fear and loathing on the border

Al Jazeera English

As Donald Trump's sordid vision of a "big, beautiful wall" on the United States-Mexico border begins to take shape, The Guardian has revealed that - of the more than 600 companies currently vying to get in on the wall-building action - 10 percent are identified as "Hispanic-American-owned" businesses.
Posing a greater ethical dilemma, perhaps, is the potential opportunity for Mexican cement manufacturing giant Cemex to profit handsomely from manic border fortification efforts. The firm has seen its shares leap in value since Trump's election in November.
Of course, there's little room for ethics when gobs of money are at stake. According to Reuters, an internal US Department of Homeland Security report puts the price-tag of the wall at up to $21.6bn.
Indeed, in a world ever more committed to walls, barriers, and the profitability of exclusion, it seems ethical boundaries are the easiest to knock down. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA ENGLISH.

03 March 2017

Israel’s surrogate war in Mexico

Middle East Eye

MERIDA, Mexico - The Israeli “Law of Return” grants any Jewish person of non-subversive inclination the right to immigrate to Israel - thereby magically endowing an untold number of global inhabitants with a so-called “birthright” that is unavailable to Palestinian victims of that protracted exercise in ethnic cleansing and land theft known as Israeli statehood.

As I’ve noted before, the whole “right of return” myth has been exploited to justify diverse initiatives such as the immigration of a flock of Canadian sheep to Israel, while Palestinians physically born in the territory in question are denied even the hope of eventual homecoming.
Yet another unique twist to the concept of return has now arisen in Mexico, where the Mexican government has apparently decided to thwart the Israeli birthright of three infants born to Mexican surrogate mothers labouring on behalf of “three single Israeli fathers,” according to a recent article on the Haaretz website.
Mexican authorities have refused to issue birth certificates for the babies, which means the fathers can’t transport them to Israel as planned. The scenario will likely be replayed for the other eight Israelis reportedly in Mexico awaiting the arrival of their own offspring.
The article goes on to explain that homosexual citizens of Israel are prohibited from contracting the services of surrogates in the Jewish homeland itself and must thus attempt to fulfill any reproductive aims elsewhere. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

26 February 2017

New US Deportation Scheme: The Icing on the Cake of Alienation

TeleSUR English

While sojourning in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato back in 2005, I became friends with a young Venezuelan man who was subsequently detained by immigration officials on account of an expired Mexican visa.

As I had little else to do, I was tasked with frequenting the local immigration office in short skirts in order to plead for his release — which eventually saw him deported to Venezuela. From my visits to the office I learned about various other activities overseen by Mexico’s immigration outfit, including the regular transport to the Mexican-Guatemalan border of busloads of Guatemalan migrants apprehended en route to the U.S.
One official informed me that many of the deportees were victims of rape and other crimes that continue to be par for the migrant course.
This, incidentally, was more than a decade prior to the dawn of the Donald Trump era, lest anyone assume that forcing Mexico to do the United States’ dirty work is somehow a novel policy.
Barack Obama’s singlehanded deportation of 2.5 million people from the U.S. further underscores the fact that pathological xenophobia and counter-empathy are national traditions long predating Trump.
On the current dirty work front, Trump’s unilateral proposals have ranged from making the Mexicans pay for his monstrous wall-fantasy on the U.S-Mexico border to a new brainchild that would entail re-depositing in Mexico undocumented migrants who enter the U.S. from Mexican territory — regardless of their nationality.
According to a fact sheet emitted on Feb. 21 by the Department of Homeland Security, the “returning (of) aliens to contiguous countries” means that “DHS detention and adjudication resources” can be saved “for other priority aliens.” Never mind that the Mexican government might also have resources it would rather use for its own projects.
The non-priority aliens, meanwhile, get to hang out in Mexico “pending the outcome of removal proceedings” in the U.S. In other words, the game plan is essentially for Mexico to serve as a holding pen for extremely vulnerable migrants who are in many cases criminalized for the mere act of fleeing economic oppression and violence — two interrelated phenomena that have been greatly exacerbated in Central America and elsewhere by none other than the United States. READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

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.