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.

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.