29 January 2015

A tale of two retaliations

Middle East Eye

Following yesterday’s missile strike by Hezbollah on an Israeli military convoy in the occupied Shebaa Farms, which killed two Israeli soldiers, the US State Department issued a press statement “strongly condemn[ing]” the attack as a “blatant violation of the ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel and UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks.”
Never mind that the resolution - passed at the end of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon that killed approximately 1200 persons, mainly civilians - naturally requested that both sides cease hostilities and respect the Blue Line, the UN-christened border between Lebanon and Israel.
Of course, the US never gets its panties in a bunch over what amounts to one big ongoing violation of said border by Israel, which amuses itself by dispatching drones and supersonic jets into Lebanese airspace to terrorise people and eardrums. This is not to mention episodes of cross-border shelling and fatal shootings.
Regurgitating its usual mantra of “support [for] Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense”, the State Department pronouncement concludes with a condemnation of Hezbollah for “continu[ing] to incite violence and instability inside Lebanon by attacking Israel and by its presence and fighting inside Syria”.
Yeah, right. Because this attack by Hezbollah happened out of the blue, and wasn’t in retaliation for, you know, an Israeli airstrike that recently obliterated six of the organisation’s militants in Syria - a country that Israel is apparently allowed to penetrate but Hezbollah is not. An Iranian general also was killed. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

28 January 2015

The mysterious 'martyrdom' of Alberto Nisman

Al Jazeera

Last week, Argentina had its very own #JeSuisCharlie moment, with the hashtag#YoSoyNisman ("I am Nisman") proliferating across city squares and social media.
The subject of digitised solidarity in this case was Alberto Nisman, an Argentinean special prosecutor found dead in his home on January 18 in what was either a suicide or a cover-up made to look like one.
Nisman had been set to speak to Congress the following day to outline his latest complaints regarding the alleged complicity of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and other officials in covering up the also alleged complicity of Iran in the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires. The attack killed 85 people.
The case against Iran - which has been repeated so unceasingly that the allegations are often passed off as fact - goes something like this: As part of its ongoing hobby as a US-designated "state sponsor of terrorism", the Islamic republic conspired with Lebanon's Hezbollah to deal a blow to the Argentine Jewish community.
The plot was hatched in the Tri-Border Area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, whose sizable Arab/Muslim population has served as a convenient scapegoat for both the AMIA bombing and the 1992 attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires.
Iran was angry, so the story goes, over suspended nuclear technology contracts with Argentina and other matters, and Hezbollah - always eager to do the bidding of its Iranian sponsor - was also in retaliatory mode due to the killing and kidnapping programme then under way as part of Israel's occupation of south Lebanon. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

23 January 2015

The raid on Roumieh, Lebanon’s prison-state

Middle East Eye

The state of Lebanon is uniquely configured - or perhaps more appropriately, misconfigured - in such a way that its authority is easily eclipsed by that of more cohesive non-state entities.
Among the reasons for this is that the political sectarianism upon which the state is founded inevitably renders it schizophrenic in nature. The allocation of political and administrative posts on the basis of religion and the forced division of the population along sectarian lines naturally fosters an “us versus them” mentality and defies the formulation of policies on behalf of the general public good.
The situation is exacerbated by corrupt officials who encourage their constituencies to view politics and life as a zero-sum sectarian game, so as to maintain their own positions of privileged dominance.
As a result, the state finds itself incapable of performing simple tasks like electing a president - a post that has been vacant in Lebanon since last May. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

19 January 2015

Time for another Israeli war on Lebanon?

Middle East Eye

Yesterday, an Israeli helicopter air strike on the Syrian province of Quneitra reportedly killed six militants from Lebanon’s Hezbollah as well as six Iranian soldiers, including senior commanders. Hezbollah and Iran have joined forces with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in what has degenerated into a war against Sunni jihadists.
Among the casualties was Jihad Mughniyeh, a Hezbollah commander and the son of late Hezbollah icon Imad Mughniyeh, himself assassinated by the Mossad in Damascus in 2008. The accused mastermind of various plots against Israeli and other targets, Imad was not the first Mughniyeh to meet his end at the hands of Israeli intelligence. As Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman document in their bookSpies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret Wars, his brother Fuad was blown up in southern Beirut in 1994 in a Mossad-concocted “dead bait” scheme to lure Imad back from hiding abroad: “It was hoped that Imad could not resist the Shi’ite fraternal duty of attending Fuad’s funeral.”
The elimination of a third Mughniyeh, the offspring of Israel’s former most wanted, is thus heavily charged with symbolism and essentially forces some sort of retaliation from Hezbollah. Adding to the powder keg situation is the fact that the air assault occurred a mere three days after Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah warned the Jewish state of imminent reprisal attacks for continuing Israeli military strikes in Syria.
Given the proximity of Hezbollah’s headquarters to Israel and the Party of God’s relative freedom of movement as a non-state actor that receives sponsorship from Iran, it’s only natural that retaliatory duties might fall to it rather than to the Islamic Republic. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

18 January 2015

The Marshall Islands' latest nuclear test

Al Jazeera

The Marshall Islands - a country of about 70,000 people located in the Pacific Ocean - is taking the world's nine nuclear powers to court for allegedly violating international obligations to work towards nuclear disarmament.

The list of accused is as follows: the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, North Korea, Pakistan, and Israel. Israel has made the cut despite fervently denying possession of a nuclear arsenal.

The spectacle is unfolding at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the main judicial organ of the United Nations. A recent New York Times article on the Marshall Islands' "near-Quixotic venture" quotes Phon van den Biesen, head of the country's legal team, on the ultimate aim of the effort: "All the nuclear weapons states are modernising their arsenals instead of negotiating [to disarm], and we want the court to rule on this." READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

12 January 2015

The Muslim’s guide to self-condemnation

Middle East Eye

In a post-9/11 dispatch ever so slightly sensationally titled “World War III,” New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman launched what would become a career-long tradition of lambasting the Muslim world for a perceived failure to adequately condemn terrorism:
“Surely Islam, a grand religion that never perpetrated the sort of Holocaust against the Jews in its midst that Europe did, is being distorted when it is treated as a guidebook for suicide bombing. How is it that not a single Muslim leader will say that?”
Never mind that the 9/11 attacks were condemned as “barbaric and criminal” by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, representing 57 countries, and that even George W Bush acknowledged that “the terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics.”
In ensuing years, Friedman’s Muslim lectures became progressively more apocalyptic in nature, as he discovered that “a death cult has taken root in the bosom” of Islam and that “this cancer is erasing basic norms of civilisation.” The first bit of evidence presented in support of the alleged erasure was that, “[i]n Iraq, we’ve seen suicide bombers blow up funerals and schools.”
Apparently, civilisational norms remain intact when the United States and its Israeli adjunct blow up the same events. Nor are all Americans and/or all Christians ever required to collectively denounce it when, for example, the US president goes on bloody rampages abroad underimagined instructions from god. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

08 January 2015

Human Rights for a Neoliberal Era?


Back in 2004, George W. Bush voiced his conviction that “[n]o President has ever done more for human rights than I have.”
This is the same president, of course, who unleashed untold carnage on Iraq, endorsed torture techniques with the phrase “Damn right,” and defended illegal CIA kidnapping programs—among countless other projects.
But given the extent to which the concept of human rights has been perverted beyond recognition, Bush might be forgiven for hallucinating himself into a champion of the cause.
It is for this reason and many others that author and activist Julie Wark deserves such thanks for endeavoring to set the discourse straight in her book The Human Rights Manifesto.
As Wark explains: “[T]he term ‘human rights’ has been so traduced by the powerful”— who see the very idea as an “obstacle to [their] material interests”—that it must be reclaimed if there is to be any hope of advancement in the direction of justice on this planet. As it stands, the planetary arrangement constitutes an unprecedented violation of the freedom and dignity that are the founding principles of human rights. READ MORE AT WARSCAPES.