26 December 2014



Three months after the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras and the forcible exile of Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president sneaked back into the country and took up residence at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.
The Honduran military deployed around the perimeter of the compound and busied itself preventing the entrance of potential dual-use items such as ballpoint pens, peanuts, shoelaces, tamales, and the Bible. Nighttime activities included shining lights into the embassy and blasting rock music, army songs, and recordings of pig grunts. . . .
In light of the Honduran army’s role as junior partner to a US military that has long viewed the country as its own personal launch pad, the mimicry of American tactics is not surprising. Even less so, perhaps, since they had already been showcased nearby.
Twenty-five years ago in Panama, the invading US military played Van Halen and other selections at top volume in an attempt to drive Panamanian leader (and former CIA asset) Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican embassy where he had taken refuge. It had to do with more than the songs, of course, but Noriega was out in ten days.
Although the incorporation of music into the imperial arsenal predated the war on terror, the musical torture of detainees from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo has brought the arrangement to a new, more sinister level. READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

20 December 2014

Our plan in Havana

Al Jazeera America

For an island nation of only 11 million people, Cuba has a continued knack for landing in the media spotlight. First there was last week’s Associated Press revelation about covert U.S. efforts to co-opt the Cuban hip-hop scene as a means of promoting regime change. And now Washington has surprisingly announced it’s restoring ties with the country, after more than 50 years.

As part of the sudden reversal of policy, the U.S. released three alleged Cuban spies, who were arrested in the United States while investigating Cuban exile groups accused of terrorism. U.S. intelligence has its own history in Cuba, to say the least. By 2006, the Central Intelligence Agency had mulled 638 assassination schemes against former Cuban President Fidel Castro, ranging from a simple exploding cigar to strapping a mollusk with explosives to catch him while scuba diving.

But times have apparently changed, and as part of the thaw with the United States, Cuba has released an American prisoner of five years, Alan Gross, whose preincarceration activities on the island are the subject of a recent Newsweek piece by former Washington Post deputy foreign editor Peter Eisner.

Gross, writes Eisner, was part of an intelligence operation run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that involved the “illegal transmission of funds to front companies that had spent millions of dollars to subvert Cuba, covert action in Cuba and third countries and the illegal licensing and export of sensitive telecommunications material.”

USAID was incidentally also the force behind the United States’ attempted hip-hop revolution. So when the White House says, as it did in its official press release on Wednesday, that the U.S. “is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba,” does this mean putting a stop to subversion attempts? READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

19 December 2014

The Islamic State Might Be Going Green


The Islamic State (IS) could be having a green moment — and, no, that's not a reference to all the cash flowing into the newly formed caliphate from oil sales and ransom.

According to a recent tweet from Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, IS may be dabbling in environmentalism. Lister circulated an image of two alleged IS posters. The first prohibits logging in Iraq's Nineveh province, the other dynamite fishing in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

The apparent interest in Earth-friendly policies raises the question of what IS believes it might achieve by protecting the environment, as the posters seem to indicate.

"IS clearly want to be seen like a state," Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center told VICE News, "and if the photos are genuine, this seems to confirm the same pattern — that is, of IS assuming the normal bureaucratic functions of government departments."

The show of environmental authority, Sayigh said, could also be based on a continuation of previous government policies. In jihadi-controlled areas, IS has obligated local functionaries and former government administrators to resume the activities they undertook while under Iraqi or Syrian government rule. In this way, the anti-logging and -dynamite fishing signage could be a reflection, he said, of "these people doing what they were already doing before IS took over, albeit now in IS's name." READ MORE AT VICE NEWS.

16 December 2014

Twisted morals in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

Earlier this year, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) - the country’s primary police force - were the subject of a public relations campaign that inundated Lebanon’s thoroughfares with billboards depicting male and female uniformed ISF officers cradling babies. The images were accompanied by a pledge of devotion to the Lebanese populace.
Driving down the highway, one could not help but feel that there was something very wrong with this picture.
And indeed, a very different picture of the ISF emerges from a 2013 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report entitled “‘It’s part of the job’: Ill-treatment and torture of vulnerable groups in Lebanese police stations.”
The “it’s part of the job” bit is a direct quote from the head of a police station in Beirut, referring to the idea that “it’s normal for a police officer to slap a detainee around”. This analysis was incidentally issued in response to a complaint filed by an HRW researcher regarding harassment and intimidation that she had been subjected to by the ISF.
The report focuses on the particularly abhorrent treatment of persons detained for suspected “immoral” criminal activity such as drug use, sex work, or homosexual behaviour - for whom it appears torture, rape, and humiliation are simply par for the course. Detainees variously describe being beaten, doused with cold water, suspended from the ceiling in painful positions, chained to desks and other items, and having body parts broken. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

Kazakhstan’s illusion of progress

Al Jazeera America

Three years ago today — Kazakhstan’s independence day — at least 15 striking oil workers in the western Kazakh city of Zhanaozen were killed by state security forces while they peacefully protested low wages and dangerous working conditions. More than 100 others were left seriously injured, with many more detained and tortured.
One of the strike’s leaders described being suspended by her hair, sexually humiliated and having plastic bags placed over her head. At least one other died in police custody.
More than a year and a half later, Amnesty International lambasted the Kazakh government for the relative impunity still enjoyed by the perpetrators of the Zhanaozen massacre and related crimes as well as for Kazakhstan’s use of torture and other forms of prisoner abuse.
The United States has also voiced repeated criticisms of widespread human rights violations in the Central Asian nation — tempered, of course, with praise from the State Department for Kazakh “progress in creating a favorable investment climate.” A 2014 State Department fact sheet even claims that the dictatorship of Nursultan Nazarbayev is developing as a “democratic … partner,” while specifying that the bulk of U.S. aid to Kazakhstan (more than $14 million in 2013) goes to furthering “peace and security.”
Apparently, this entails such activities as providing “training to Kazakhstan’s security forces in peacekeeping operations” and developing “maintenance and sustainment programs for U.S. equipment.” Reportedly on the sceneat the Zhanaozen massacre were American-supplied Humvees. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

07 December 2014

The 'anti-terror' law: Israel outdoes itself… again

Middle East Eye

There is approximately one bright side to the current Israeli approach to the Palestinians - and it is that satirists will never want for inspiration.
Israel’s latest contribution to global absurdity is an “anti-terror” law proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of the West Bank and Jerusalem. If passed, it will criminalise holding a Palestinian flag at demonstrations.
A host of other measures are also prescribed. According to the summary of the bill on Israel’s Ynetnews website, these include the following:
  • “Those killed during their attempt to conduct a terror attack will not receive a funeral” (their bodies will instead “be buried in an unknown location;”)
  • “Terrorists’ houses will be destroyed within 24-hours [sic] of the attack;”
  • “Families of terrorists will lose their citizenship and will be deported to Gaza should they express support for their relative's deed.”
Ynetnews goes on to note that, in view of the bill’s drafters, terroristic “[s]upport… can be expressed through public or social media.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

06 December 2014

'Concerning Violence': Fanon lives on

Al Jazeera

In one of the more haunting scenes from Swedish documentary director Goran Hugo Olsson'Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes From the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defense, a young Mozambican woman with a stump of a right arm breastfeeds a baby with a stump of a right leg.

Like the rest of the footage in the film, the scene was unearthed from Swedish television archives dating from the era of African anti-colonial struggles. The woman and child were recorded in the immediate aftermath of an aerial bombing raid in 1972, one of Portugal's many responses to the Mozambican desire for liberation.

In typical fashion, the Portuguese and their imperial colleagues instead portrayed the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) as violent terrorists, despite the merely reactive nature of anti-colonial violence to centuries of oppression.

After all, violence is the prerogative of empire. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

01 December 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Curse of the Achille Lauro: A Tribute to Lost Souls

Middle East Eye

For many people, the words “Achille Lauro” - the name of the Italian cruise ship hijacked in 1985 by members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) - connote a wickedness so pure that the suggestion of possible rational motivations for the affair is itself seen as a criminal offence.
According to the US - and Israeli-backed narrative, the hijacking incident - in which a 69-year-old disabled American Jew was killed and thrown overboard - was simply the latest manifestation of the Palestinians’ firm commitment to bloodthirsty terrorism.
While undeniably terrible, the murder of Leon Klinghoffer did not occur in a vacuum nor was it the intended goal of the botched PLF operation, which had been to engage Israeli troops when the ship reached Israel and to thus draw attention to the Palestinian cause.
It is in many ways, thanks to the fanatically pro-Israel bent of the western media, that events like these provoke a level of horror never elicited by Israeli behaviour, despite Israel’s far superior qualifications in the business of terrorism. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

21 November 2014

UAEphoria: Friedman does Dubai

Middle East Eye

Back in 2011, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman—imperial warmonger, Orientalist, Israeli apologist, and possessor of a host of other unbecoming attributes—studiously compiled a list of “not-so-obvious forces” behind the Arab uprisings that began with the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi the previous year.
The forces consisted of Barack Obama, Google Earth, Israel, the Beijing Olympics, and then-Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. According to Friedman’s brain, each of these five entities had somehow contributed to a mass Arab realisation that life might be more edifying under less oppressive political arrangements.
In her priceless response to the selection, British-Egyptian journalist Sarah Carr suggested various additions to the list of forces, such as the website of the Home Shopping Network and Friedman’s own mustache. Commenting on the particularly ludicrous inclusion of Israel, Carr wrote: “[I]f Egyptians are in any way inspired by anything that happens in Israel, it is their ability to identify with Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

18 November 2014

Guantanamo on trial

Middle East Eye

Let’s say the government of North Korea was operating a maximum-security prison camp on South Korean territory, where it regularly detained individuals without charge and tortured them both physically and via more creative methods such as prolonged exposure to Sesame Street music.
Most of the detainees had been cleared for release - many of them for years - and the United Nations had deemed the operation in violation of international humanitarian law.
Were this the case, odds are there’d be a bit of a sustained fuss about it among the members of the political establishment in the United States.
Not so with Guantánamo Bay, despite the fact that all of the aforementioned hypotheticals, in fact, describe the reality of the infamous offshore detention facility. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

12 November 2014

Guilt in Guantanamo: Will there be a verdict?

Al Jazeera

When I recently met up in Beirut with James Connell, the defence attorney for 9/11 suspect Ammar al-Baluchi, he recalled his August 2013 visit to Guantanamo Bay's clandestine Camp Seven as follows: "In the most secret picnic of all time, Ammar was our host."

Connell is the only lawyer to have ever been permitted to meet with a client in the facility, which houses five 9/11 suspects in addition to 10 other "high-value" detainees. The "picnic" came about when the detainees learned that Connell and two colleagues were going to be without food for the duration of their 12-hour incursion.

The prisoners promptly donated their own meals, and Baluchi advised Connell on which components were more edible than others and which could be improved with lemon.

It's nothing short of remarkable, of course, that someone subjected to intensely dehumanising treatment over a long period of time hasn't had every ounce of humanity leached out of him. Abducted by the United States in 2003 in Pakistan, Baluchi was held at one or more "black sites" abroad, where he underwent torture by the CIA prior to being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

02 November 2014

25 years of Taif

Middle East Eye

On 22 October, the Taif Agreement celebrated its quarter-of-a-century birthday.
Negotiated in the Saudi Arabian city of Taif in 1989, the agreement served as the basis for ending the 15 year-long Lebanese civil war. While there’s no doubt the accord deserves credit for putting a stop to mass bloodshed, it was in many ways an exercise in wishful thinking, starting with its introductory assertion that “Lebanon is a sovereign, free, and independent country.”
It’s a bit tricky, of course, to claim sovereignty for a country condemned to play perennial battleground for foreign powers, not merely during the civil war - a reality underscored by the fact that both Israel and Syria continued to occupy the place for over a decade after Taif.
Syria was even tasked in the agreement itself with “thankfully assist[ing] the forces of the legitimate Lebanese government to spread the authority of the State of Lebanon” over all Lebanese territories. This arrangement came equipped with the blessing of the United States, as well as – obviously - the kingdom that played host to the negotiations. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

28 October 2014

Lebanon’s Marine Corps renaissance

Middle East Eye

Last week, the Marine Corps Times ran the following headline: “Beirut mission renewed: Marines take pride in returning to guard embassy.”
According to the article, the reinstatement of US Marines as full-time guards at the US embassy in Beirut after more than 30 years “is a notable milestone for those who fought to maintain stability in Lebanon, a country oft-wracked with religious and ethnic tensions.”
“Stability,” of course, is the perennially stated objective of US policy vis-à-vis Lebanon. In practice, said policy includes things like annual multibillion dollar donations and rush shipments of weapons to the state of Israel, which intermittently uses its presents to batter Lebanon and other Arab territories.
The Marines’ previous full-fledged fight to allegedly “maintain stability” over 30 years ago occurred in the context of US military intervention in the Lebanese civil war under the guise of peacekeeping—a guise that was difficult to maintain when US warships started shelling select ethno-religious groups. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

23 October 2014

Fearmongers are us: The Worldwide Caution

Middle East Eye

Earlier this month, the US State Department announced that it was “updating the Worldwide Caution to provide information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests throughout the world.”
The update appeared in the “Travel Alerts & Warnings” section of the department’s website, which regularly advises Americans of possible international existential perils ranging from jihadist militants to pernicious diseases to severe weather patterns.
The website specifies that the new warning has been issued in replacement of the Worldwide Caution of April 2014 - after all, God forbid US citizens be permitted to go for more than six months without being reminded that the whole world is out to get them.
The threats are arranged geographically (Europe, Africa, Central Asia, and so on), and - as you might expect - consist primarily of Islamic extremist groups, with some non-extremist ones and pirates thrown in, as well. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

20 October 2014

Cuba's war on Ebola

Al Jazeera

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported: "In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above its weight."

While the world stood accused of "dragging its feet" following the onset of the epidemic, the Post noted, the diminutive island had "emerged as a crucial provider of medical expertise in the West African nations hit by Ebola".

One hundred and sixty five health care professionals had already been dispatched to Sierra Leone - the largest team thus far sent by a foreign nation - and nearly 300 additional doctors and nurses were being trained for deployment to Liberia and Guinea.

Cuba's response to the Ebola crisis is in keeping with its tradition of accruing international brownie points via contributions to global health. Back in 2009, the New York Times mentioned that, over the past 50 years, Cuba had "sent more than 185,000 health professionals on medical missions to at least 103 countries".

Obviously, this has created many opportunities for pointed comparisons between the Cuban system and that of its imperial neighbour to the north, which prefers a destruction-based foreign policy. A female Cuban doctor based in Venezuela once commented to me on the discrepancy: "We also fight in war zones, but to save lives." READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

19 October 2014

Fanning the anti-Syrian flames in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

On 14 October, a dispatch appeared on the website of Lebanon’s prominent MTV television channel: “Dear HRW, I Don’t Want to Be Assaulted!!”
It has since been removed but is still accessible via the Google cache option.
Written by Maria Fellas, the piece takes issue with a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report criticising the curfews for Syrian refugees that have been implemented in at least 45 municipalities across Lebanon. The nation officially hosts about 1.2 million refugees from Syria, a figure that doesn’t take into account unregistered people.
According to HRW, the curfews “violate international human rights law and appear to be illegal under Lebanese law” - with the uncertainty perhaps stemming from the fact that Lebanese “law” can often be ambiguous at best. The report notes that such measures restrict human movement on the basis of nationality and “contribute to a climate of discriminatory and retaliatory practices” against refugees. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

14 October 2014

Fighting for the right to be elite in Beirut

Middle East Eye

A recent Vice headline, “Fighting for the Right to Party in Beirut,” puts the reader in an interesting position: you can’t tell if you’ve read it before or simply always knew it was destined to one day materialise on the Vice website.
Mary von Aue, the author of the piece, introduces the “juxtaposition of political tension and flagrant partying” as seen in “bars [that] offer coke-fueled benders down the street from Hezbollah headquarters.”
A party scene plus Hezbollah, all in one city - what better fodder for sensational non-insight into the region could we possibly want?
According to von Aue’s version of Lebanese history, “nothing has survived civil war, foreign invasion, 800,000 refugees [a substantial underestimate], and a regular stream of targeted bombings like Beirut’s club scene.” Lest her audience accuse the partiers of political apathy, von Aue contends that nightlife has simply “become yet another medium in the culture of dissent.”
To be sure, one is hard-pressed to think of a nobler example of “dissent” and resistance to the status quo than frequenting opulent establishments known for rejecting customers based on physical appearance. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

08 October 2014

Dismantling public space in Beirut

Middle East Eye

On the final Saturday in August, Horsh Beirut - the Lebanese capital’s largest park and pine forest - was open to the public for three hours.
This should have been anti-climactic news; after all, what is public space if not space intended for public use? But the park, which is practically the only green spot that catches one’s eye when looking at maps of Beirut, has in fact been closed to the majority of the city’s residents for over 15 years.
The park was devastated during the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990, with much of the damage inflicted by the invading Israeli army in 1982. It was subsequently rebuilt in collaboration with the Île-de-France region, which comprises Paris and surrounding areas, and remained closed to allow replanted trees to grow.
Nagi El Husseini, previously a coordinator for the French municipality’s urban planning and development activities in Beirut, described to me the scenario that followed the completion of the park in the 1990s. At first, he said, only French citizens were permitted entry - a fitting tribute, no doubt, to Lebanon’s former colonial masters.
The list of permitted park patrons gradually expanded to include all foreigners, or at least all foreigners meeting the definition of human being as conceived of in Lebanese society. Ethiopian housemaids and Bangladeshi sanitation employees, for example, need not apply. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

04 October 2014

The mental costs of cost cutting in Spain

Al Jazeera

This summer, various Madrid residents met their demise in a rather unusual fashion: They were killed when rotten tree branches fell on top of them.

In June, a 38-year-old man was wiped out while visiting Retiro park with his two young children. A 72-year-old man was the victim of a falling branch in September. As Spain's English-language publication The Localnotes, the period in between these two incidents played host to "20 other tree-related accidents that have injured Madrid residents in central city streets - including a seven-year-old girl … and [have] smashed cars, terraces and other property".

The article mentions that Madrid's right-wing mayor Ana Botella had come under fire from opponents "for slashing public spending on street and park maintenance", although the fatalities have prompted a different kind of cuts: Botella has now dispatched "a team of specialists and foresters to chop down 'suspicious' trees in Madrid's emblematic [Retiro] park".

Of course, tree branches are far from the only existential hazard facing the inhabitants of austerity-afflicted Spain. Pervasive public spending cuts have spelt acute insecurity for the non-elite - a typical byproduct of the process of securing countries for foreign capital. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

03 October 2014

3 Questions About the Malta Shipwreck

TeleSUR English

Last month, a shipwreck off the coast of the island nation of Malta dispensed with a large quantity of asylum seekers from various nations who were attempting to migrate to Europe. The media put fatality estimates as high as 500.
According to reports from survivors, the vessel was deliberately rammed and sunk by the traffickers in charge of the operation — who, having already collected the requisite fees for passage from the migrants, apparently saw no further need for their human cargo.
Numerous Palestinians were on board, having made the near-seamless transition from existing under Israeli bombs this summer to existing at the mercy of seawater. An NBC News article tells the post-shipwreck story of a 27-year-old man named Khamis from the Gaza Strip, who managed to survive both events:
Khamis was able to cling to a life-ring along with six others. "But one after the other, over the next day and a half, the group began to slip beneath the waves," according to IOM [International Organization for Migration] cultural mediator Ahmed Mahmoud…
Soon it was just Khamis and a 14-year-old boy clinging to the life-ring, and the pair told each other their life stories in a desperate bid to keep awake. The teenager was trying to get to Europe to meet his mother who suffered from a severe heart problem. But eventually he also slipped under the water.
I recently wrote to Neil Falzon, director of the Malta-based human rights NGO aditus, with some brief questions related to the shipwreck. As Falzon makes clear, the inhumanity of human smugglers is merely one by-product of a fundamentally inhumane system. READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

02 October 2014

Maryam al-Mansouri in imperial context

Middle East Eye

Last week, Maryam al-Mansouri became - at least temporarily - the face of the international coalition that is bombing sections of the Middle East in accordance with Barack Obama’s alliterative pledge to “degrade and… destroy” the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The 35-year-old native of Abu Dhabi and the first female pilot in the United Arab Emirates air force, Mansouri was reported to have led F-16 airstrikes against IS targets in Syria.
Following this revelation, social media entered into a fit of ecstasy; the Associated Press noted “many users taking delight in the rebuke [Mansouri’s leading role] implied toward the militants’ ultraconservative ideology.”
On 24 September, Oula Abdulhamid, a research assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), tweeted: “Take that #ISIS!” The attendant image was a meme featuring the text: “Hey ISIS. You were bombed by a woman. Have a nice day.”
A formidable Zionist think tank that cooks up such thoughts as that of“using covert means” to provoke a war with Iran, WINEP’s concern for women’s rights is, you might say, strategically limited. For example, thewanton Israeli slaughter of women in the Gaza Strip is not a form of female oppression that is generally recognised by the organisation. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

21 September 2014

Gaza's children paint a grim future

Middle East Eye

In the wake of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s latest onslaught on the Gaza Strip, I acquired a series of photographs of drawings by children in the town of Khuza’a in southern Gaza.
Khuza’a had played unwilling host to one of the Israeli army’s many attempts to outdo itself in terms of brutality, with success measurable, perhaps, in the amount of rubble and massacred bodies left behind. The photographs were passed along to me by the Barcelona-based psychoanalyst Lluis Isern, whose colleague in Gaza had sent them to him.
The drawings share many of the features of typical children’s artwork: house, sun, clouds, grass. The scenic similarities come to an abrupt end, however, when one’s eye starts to register additional elements of the landscape -  tanks, missiles, fighter jets, and bulldozers.
In a drawing titled Aggression against Palestine,  a child has drawn an orange, red, blue, and brown house with five similarly multicoloured people standing outside smiling. Two are holding hands. Above them, four projectiles from a green aircraft descend toward the group, while three from a different aircraft head for the house.
Another depicts a variety of tanks, planes, and guns, interspersed with lines of text such as “Gaza will be victorious”, “Palestine resists”, and a tribute to the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
Obviously, the prominence of the house in children’s pictures across the globe reflects the centrality of the home to a child’s universe. So imagine the mental upheaval that ensues when one’s universe comes under regular attack by the Israeli military - or is destroyed altogether. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

Neoliberal rape in Spain

Al Jazeera

While being interviewed on Spanish radio last month, Francisco Javier Leon de la Riva - the mayor of Valladolid, northwest Spain's largest city - announced that he was wary of getting into elevators with women because you never know when they might "tear off their bras or skirts" and then run out of the elevator claiming sexual assault.

In response, Twitter exploded with creativity (see, for example, memes featuring images of women in elevators and the words "Waiting for the mayor of Valladolid"), and Leon de la Riva protested that his statement had been taken "out of context". One is hard-pressed, of course, to think of a context in which such an utterance would not be terribly inappropriate.

As it turned out, the "context" was just as absurdly offensive, and had to do with a list of guidelines for females that had just been issued by the Spanish interior ministry. The subject? How to avoid being raped.

The document reads a bit more like a list of instructions for creating a nation of paranoid recluses. Suggestions include acquiring a whistle, "leav[ing] the lights in two or more rooms on [at night] to make it look like two or more people are at home", and conducting a thorough inspection of the interior of the car before getting in: "An intruder might be crouching in the back." READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

11 September 2014

Islamic State in the US

Middle East Eye

No sooner had the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) become the latest global obsession than it turned up - where else? - in the United States.
particularly brutal jihadist organisation and the keepers of a new caliphate in the Middle East, IS apparently already maintains sleeper cells in the US. At least, this is what former CIA operative Bob Baer says current intelligence-gatherers have told him.
Now a national security analyst for CNN, Baer remarked in a recent interview: “The people who do this for a living are very alarmed.”
The threat is thus far a bit nebulous, and Baer explains that IS designs for the homeland are unknown. But intelligence professionals “think [the jihadists have] come across the Mexican border in some cases. Some are American citizens that have come back from [fighting in] Syria.”
While making notes for this article a few days ago, I wrote: “Wouldn’t be surprised if we soon learn that IS is in cahoots with Mexican drug cartels.” Sure enough, Fox News produced the following headline on 8 September: “Security Expert: ISIS Could Pay Drug Cartel to Attack U.S. Power Grid.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

06 September 2014

Israel’s New Favorite Christians

TeleSUR English

On 3 September, a Haaretz headline proclaimed: “Israeli Christian community, neither Arab nor Palestinian, are fighting to save identity.”
Datelined Baram National Park, Israel, the article is structured around the Aramean Heritage Camp, a late-summer camp in the Upper Galilee for kids from Israel’s Aramean community.
All you need to know about this community, apparently, can be boiled down to two points:
1. They are neither Arab nor Palestinian, although they speak Arabic.
2. They all want to join the IDF.
The article begins: “One camper here says she plans to join the Israel Defense Forces and become a ‘fighter’ after she graduates high school. The boys relaxing in the grass nearby nod their heads to indicate that they plan to do the same.” READ MORE AT TeleSUR ENGLISH.

03 September 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge for a frigid society

Al Jazeera

A recent Forbes article poses the question-and-answer: "Think The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Is Stupid? You're Wrong".

The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the modern era's greater marketing coups: a social media-based campaign to raise awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease. The premise is that you either donate money to ALS charities or have a bucket of ice water dumped over your head; some people do both. The dumping is filmed and videos are posted on the internet, while their soaked protagonists nominate others to accept the challenge.

The operation has been celebrity-heavy, drenching the likes of US business magnate Bill Gates and Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima. According to Forbes, the Ice Bucket Challenge "is awesome" and criticisms of it are unfounded, because what ultimately matters is the monetary accumulation (over $100mwas donated in 30 days).

The article concludes that "the people trying to throw cold water on the Ice Bucket Challenge "simply need to warm the icy cockles of their own hearts" - although the predicate of the sentence has been crossed out and replaced with the tamer suggestion that critics "should stop".

An examination of various aspects of the campaign, however, reveals it doesn't exactly merit cockle-warming. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

Book review: The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising

Middle East Eye

A standard feature of imperialism is that empire-induced disasters are deemed to require imperial solutions, one effect of which is, inevitably, further disaster.
Take the case of al-Qaeda, a force whose development was encouraged by US policy and military machinations. Even the imperial apologist Thomas Friedman has admitted: “It seems likely that some of the Saudi [September 11] hijackers first came in contact with al-Qaeda and went through Terrorism 101 when they signed up for the jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets.”
The hijackers’ practical application of the lessons from their terrorism course was, obviously, 9/11. In response, the US government prescribed the War on Terror. Thanks in part to that effort, we’ve now got ourselves a caliphate in the Middle East, proclaimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq. The new territorial entity is being attended to by US  drone strikes and other schemes by the empire and its friends.
In his just-released book The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn sets the record straight with regard to the ongoing fiasco and the advance of ISIS - now called simply the Islamic State (IS) - and other jihadist groups. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

30 August 2014

Reappearing the disappeared of Operation Condor

Al Jazeera

In September 1976, ten high school students were kidnapped in the city of La Plata, Argentina, in an operation coordinated by Argentine police and military intelligence. All were between the ages of 16 and 18.

Secretly imprisoned in abominable conditions, the ten were subjected to torture and abuse. Four were eventually released - following years of torment - while the other six make up but a small fraction of the estimated 30,000 persons disappeared during the Argentine military junta's so-called "Dirty War" of 1976-1983.

What, pray tell, were the magnificent crimes that merited such punishment? It's quite simple: The leftist inclinations of these ten individuals made them a clear threat to the public order. Transgressions included agitating for reduced bus fare for students.

The apocalyptic threat was hardly confined to La Plata.Operation Condor - a collaborative effort of right-wing dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay to combat the communist menace allegedly imperilling the hemisphere - lasted from the 1970s until the early 1980s and dispensed with some 80,000 people .

Anyone with less than far-right convictions was fair game, while dissent was criminalised but made inevitable by the state's own criminal behaviour. Human disposal methods included dropping sedated victims from airplanes into the sea. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

28 August 2014

Fighting Palestinian flower-terror

Middle East Eye

In his seminal book Orientalism, published in 1979, the late Edward Said describes the portrayal of Arabs in Western films and television: “[T]he Arab is associated either with lechery or bloodthirsty dishonesty. He appears as an oversexed degenerate, capable, it is true, of cleverly devious intrigues, but essentially sadistic, treacherous, low.”
Elsewhere in the manuscript, Said documents common stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims as “hordes of hated barbarians,” “camel-riding, terroristic, hook-nosed, venal lechers,” purveyors of “licentious” and “dangerous sex,” “neurotic sexual being[s].”
Little progress, it seems, has been made since the 1970s - though the Israelis have managed to obtain honorary Western status despite the small matter of their geographical location. The formidably Orientalist website of the Israeli-American organisation Learn and Return (also known as Learn and Live) exposes the latest incarnation of the Arabs’ treacherous sexuality: “a new terrorism fought with roses instead of guns.”
According to Learn and Return’s calculations, “[m]ore than 1000 [Jewish] girls a year are trapped in Arab villages,” lured in with “gifts and flattery” by “Arab men, often pretending to be Jewish.” (For a mere $1000 donation, you can sponsor the rescue of one girl.)
As evidence of the alarming trend, the site directs us to a 2012 “Knesset Report on the Welfare of the Child” - which in addition to not being an official report also happens not to corroborate the organisation’s claims.
Anxious to find out more about flower-based terror, I did what any normal person would do: set up a fake email address and contacted Learn and Return with a concern about Jewish women being kidnapped to the Gaza Strip for use as human shields. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.