South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has pulled the plug on the Israeli deputy ambassador to South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein. This is yet another blow to Israel-South Africa relations that have recently become tense.
Finkelstein was due to speak at UKZN later on today, Monday (21 May 2012), but yesterday afternoon, UKZN’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ayee, sent an email informing his staff that he has cancelled the lecture:
“I have re-considered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli Deputy Ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture by the Israeli Deputy Ambassador scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, 21 May 2012….[the Israeli ambassador will bring] likely reputational damage for the institution [which] is not in the interest of all of us.”
Professor Ayee’s announcement came after the university was called on by students and staff to cancel the hosting of Finkelstein as it would have violated the “academic boycott” of Israel. Palestinians issued a call to the international community in 2005 for a program of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until Israel abides by international law and basic human rights.
Early last year, another SA University, the University of Johannesburg, became the world’s first university to impose an academic boycott on Israel by ending its institutional relation with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. In addition several student movements, including the South African Students Congress (SA’s largest and oldest studdent body), have publicly backed the academic boycott and BDS call.
UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi commented:
“This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like Apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with – including academics and students. It can be safe to assume that UKZN’s cancellation represents the general sentiment among students and staff”.
- South African Artists Against Apartheid a Declaration (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)
Over the weekend, Venezuela’s anti-Chavez minority conﬁrmed reports that one of their own recently met with right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and promised to re-establish ties with Israel if the opposition is somehow successful in this year’s presidential election. Speaking on behalf of the opposition’s so called Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma is said to have promised both economic and political rewards in exchange for Israeli support of MUD presidential hopeful, Henrique Capriles Radonski.
Though the MUD have been totally unable to improve their standing in polls which predict a sweeping electoral victory for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez this October 7, Ledezma’s comments in Israel provide a troubling glimpse at wishful opposition thinking in a post-Chavez period.
“SOLIDARITY” WITH ISRAEL?
Though he was in Jerusalem last week for the 28th International Mayors Conference, opposition lawyer and politician Antonio Ledezma took advantage of his publicly-ﬁnanced trip to meet privately with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the country’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Asked about the closed-door meetings, Ledezma said he had used his time in Israel to spread “the message that the Venezuelan nation has respect for Israel”.
Ledezma told reporters he spoke with Netanyahu and Lieberman about “the Venezuelan people’s solidarity with the Jewish community” and, “in addition, our (opposition) disposition to reestablish relations with the State of Israel under a new government presided by Henrique Capriles Radonski”.
“In contrast to the current political policy in Venezuela”, he said, “Capriles will re-establish our historical ties”.
Not needing to say so openly, Ledezma’s reference to “historical ties” includes both the United States and Israel, in contrast to Chavez administration policies favoring relations with the entirety of the Global South, including China, Russia, Iran and Cuba, to name just a few.
Pleased with the opposition spokesman, and in direct reference to the Chavez administration, Israel’s Foreign Minister responded to Ledezma’s comments by stating, “nations in the global village of today need reasonable governments that help encourage cooperation among peoples”.
Guaranteeing an opposition victory, Ledezma added that “our people, who don’t know how to mistreat, who value peace and love for one’s neighbor, mustn’t be confused with the decisions of an intemperate administration which has broken our historical relations and is on its way out”.
The right-wing mayor, who withdrew from opposition primaries for lack of electoral potential, told Israeli media he believed “the opposition’s chances are equal (to Chavez’s) and even greater, mostly because it is bringing a message of renewal to all of Venezuela”. Ledezma added that he hopes “the current government will allow for democratic elections”.
President Chavez, who holds a double-digit lead against Capriles Radonski in every poll taken to date, instructed his government to break relations with Israel after the Israeli military killed some 1,500 Palestinians and wounded another 5,000 during its 2009 siege on Gaza.
At that time, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release stating that “Israel has repeatedly ignored the calls of the United Nations, consistently and shamelessly violating the resolutions approved by overwhelming majorities of member countries, increasingly placing itself on the margin of international law” and added that “Israel’s state terrorism has cost the lives of the most vulnerable and innocent: children, women, and the elderly”.
During his 3-day trip to Israel, the opposition’s Ledezma made no mention of Israel’s segregationist policies towards the Palestinians, the widely-condemned but ongoing blockade against those in Gaza, nor did he question the inhuman prison conditions currently under international scrutiny as several Palestinian hunger strikers near death.
Late last week, Venezuelan philosopher and TV journalist Miguel Angel Perez Pirela denounced the meeting between Ledezma and the Israeli Prime Minister, calling it “further evidence” of opposition plans to “destabilize” the country. Pirela reminded viewers that MUD spokesmen have now met with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, with right-wing members of the anti-Chavez community in Southern Florida, and, now, with Israel’s Netanyahu.
Pirela explained that Ledezma spent tax-payer funds to ﬁnance his trip to Israel, and used his time in the Middle East to request Israeli support for MUD presidential hopeful Capriles Radonski. In exchange for support, he said, Israel was promised “access to the country’s resources” if the opposition were to somehow take this year’s presidential election.
“He who doesn’t want to see has the right not to; he can joke things off and accuse us of paranoia”, said Pirela, “but this smells rotten”.
“There are strong signs that they [opposition ﬁgures] are showing us the exact location from which the bullets will be ﬁred”, he said, suggesting recent opposition meetings in Colombia, Miami, Florida, and Israel are evidence of a larger opposition strategy to destabilize Venezuela with international support.
With respect to Israel, in December 2011 and with no evidence to back his assertions, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya´alon accused Venezuela of working with Iran to create a “terrorist infrastructure” across the Americas that could be used to “attack the interests of the United States”.
In response to his statements, Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry afﬁrmed, “such abusive and tendentious statements, which come from the representative of a government that itself participates in terrorist attacks against the Arab peoples, are part of a continuous campaign of aggression against our people”.
Speaking at a pro-Chavez rally on Friday, Mayor of the Caracas Libertador Municipality and head of the Chavez re-election campaign Jorge Rodriguez denounced the opposition’s international positioning. In the border state of Tachira backing grassroots efforts to re-elect Venezuela’s socialist President, Rodriguez accused Capriles Radonski of traveling to Colombia “to seek advice from known drug trafﬁcker and confessed paramilitary ﬁgure, (former President) Alvaro Uribe”.
Rodriguez told those gathered, “the lazy Mayor of Caracas, Mayor Ledezma, recently made his way to Israel and is also meeting with representatives of the extreme right”.
“They’ve already lost hope in winning the election”, Rodriguez afﬁrmed, “but if they try taking the path of destabilization they’ll face the people and homeland, ready to defend the Revolution”.
- Germany Asks European Union to Step Up Support for Venezuela’s Opposition (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Capriles and Chavez Neck and Neck, and Pigs Might Fly, or Conduct a Poll (alethonews.wordpress.com)
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff commander General Martin Dempsey visited Colombia on March 29 to announce that within weeks U.S. military personnel will operate from a military base there with the newly formed Vulcan Task Force.
The Vulcan Task Force, which was established in December 2011, has 10,000 soldiers, three mobile brigades and one fixed brigade, operating from a base in Tibú, in the Catatumbo region (North Santander), just two miles from the Venezuela border.
On April 15, presidents Obama and Santos met during the Americas Summit and agreed on a new military regional action plan that will include training police forces in Central America and beyond. The announcement cited Operation Martillo, by which U.S. and Colombian forces have participated in operations this year against criminal elements on the coasts and interior of Central America.
The presence of U.S. soldiers on the military base in Tibú was presented by General Dempsey as an effort by the United States to support Colombia in its fight against drug trafficking and the insurgency. According to Dempsey, the Pentagon plans by June to send U.S. brigade commanders with practical experience in Afghanistan and Iraq to work with police and army combat units that will be deployed in areas controlled by the rebels. Dempsey said that U.S. military personnel will not participate in combat operations in Colombia.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Colombia has established its own version of U.S. joint special operations commands that carry out hunt-and-kill missions – operations for selective killings that have included U.S. citizens accused of having ties to Al Qaeda. With these special commandos, Colombia hopes to reach its goal of reducing the FARC guerrillas by 50% in two years.
U.S. participation in such an aggressive military campaign would undercut prospective attempts to negotiate a settlement of the armed conflict, which has increasing support in Colombia. The campaign, which apparently does not target successor paramilitary groups, is also likely to benefit those groups, which continue to commit human rights abuses, engage in drug trafficking, and operate in more than 400 municipalities in 31 Colombian states, according to a report by the Institute for Study of Development and Peace, INDEPAZ.
The Journal also cited statements by Southern Command chief General Douglas Fraser at a March 12 hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressing concern about the strengthening of diplomatic relations between Iran and the governments of Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
The expansion of counterinsurgency forces in Africa and Latin America is also part of a new national security strategy released by the White House in February. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the new strategy introduces “innovative methods” for supporting counter-terrorist forces and expanding the United States’ influence on the two continents.
Joint Task Force Vulcan is led by Brigadier General Marcolino Tamayo Tamayo, who in 1985, when he was a lieutenant, participated in the operation to retake the Palace of Justice in Colombia. Similar joint task forces have been created in Tumaco, Nariño; Miranda, Cauca; and Tame, Arauca.
- U.S.’s Post-Afghanistan Counterinsurgency War: Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- DOD pushing more forces into South America (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Dictator-A Film Review
On the face of it, Baron Cohen’s The Dictator is a horrid film. It is vulgar, it isn’t funny and if it has five good jokes in it, they appear in the two minute official trailer. In short, save your time and money – unless of course, you are interested in Jewish identity politics and neurosis.
Similar to Cohen’s previous work, The Dictator is, once again, a glimpse into Cohen’s own tribal morbidity. After all, the person and the spirit behind this embarrassing comedy is a proud self-loving character who never misses an opportunity to express his intimate affinity to his people, their unique comic talent and their beloved Jewish state. But let’s face it, Cohen isn’t alone, after all, he has created The Dictator together with a Hollywood studio. So, it’s reasonable to say that what we see here is just one more Hollywood-orchestrated effort to vilify the Arab, the Muslim and the Orient.
I guess that Arab rulers, regimes and politics are an ideal subject for a satirical take, still, one may wonder what exactly does Sacha Baron Cohen know about the Arab World? As far as the film can tell, not much. Instead, Cohen projects his own Zionist and tribal symptoms onto the people of Arabia and their leaders.
In the film, Cohen plays General Hafez Aladeen, the Arab ruler of the oil-rich North African rogue state Wadiya. On the face of it, he is the satirical version of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, but in reality, Aladeen’s actions are no less than a vast amplification of the crimes committed by Israel and its war criminals such as Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni.
When Baron Cohen ridicules the Arab Dictators who obsessively seek WMD and nuclear weapons he should bear in mind that it is actually his beloved Jewish state that has, since the 1950s, been pushing the entire region into a nuclear race. It is his Israeli brothers and sisters who express every too often their lethal enthusiasm to destroy Iran and other regional entities. When Baron Cohen mocks the Arab rulers who murder their opponents and kill kids, women and elders, he once again projects Israeli symptoms because it is actually the Jewish state that so often engages in systematic mass murder and war crimes on a colossal scale. Someone should remind Cohen that the pictures of white phosphorus pouring over UN shelters were taken in Gaza, not in Saddam’s Baghdad, Homs (Sirya) or imaginary Wadiya. When Sacha Baron Cohen presents the Arab leader as a savage rapist he may want to remind himself that Moshe Katzav, who was, until recently, the President of the Jewish State is now locked behind bars after being sentenced for rape. It is therefore far from coincidence that when Cohen attempts to bond with his protagonist Dictator Aladeen, he actually speaks in his mother tongue, Hebrew. Cohen speaks Hebrew because Aladeen is not an Arab dictator, he is actually an Israeli patriot like Cohen himself.
But let’s try to transcend ourselves beyond Baron Cohen’s projections and confess: as much as Cohen’s new film is lame, Cohen, himself is far from being a fool. In fact, he has managed to bring to light a few interesting and astute political insights. For example, towards the end of the film Dictator Aladeen produces a remarkable speech at the UN in favour of dictatorship. In front of the delegations, Aladeen draws a pretty profound list of unintended parallels between the USA and dictatorship. Delivering a sharp political criticism by means of comedy deserves respect.
Another provocative insight is delivered through the character of Zoey (Anna Farris), a devout feminist and a human right activist. Zoey runs a multi-ethnic eco-friendly grocery store in Brooklyn. She is the ultimate solidarity campaigner and this time she rallies against Aladeen and his regime. While Zoey invades the street demonstrating against Aladeen’s brutality, Aladeen’s Chief of Staff Tamir (Ben Kingsley) plots against his ruler inside the UN building. He sells out his country’s assets to oil tycoons and world leaders. The cinematic meaning of it all is clear- the bond between the so-called Left and the imperial powers has been established. Zoey, the lefty progressive seems to work towards the exact same goal as the leading corrupted capitalist expansionist forces. They all want to bring the Aladeen regime to an end. I guess that many of those who monitor solidarity activism and discourse would agree with Cohen’s readings. After all, it was feminists and women’s rights groups that, in the 1990s, prepared the ground for the War against Terror and the invasion of Afghanistan. The Left was also very reluctant to support the democratically elected Hamas. I guess that a Leftist, thrown into a room together with Dershowitz and Bin Laden, would probably attempt to bond first with Dershowitz.
But Zoey isn’t just a progressive solidarity and human rights activist. As the plot progresses, Aladeen and Zoey fall for each other. Towards the end of the film ‘solidarity activist’ Zoey and Dictator Aladeen get married. This is when Dictator Aladeen and the rest of us find out that Zoey is actually a Jew. From a cinematic perspective, the Jew, the human rights campaigner and the solidarity activist leader are all one. This amusing reading is unfortunately consistent with the reality of the solidarity movement. Those who monitor Jewish Left activism detect a relentless effort among some Jewish campaigners to tribally hijack and even Zionize the discourse of solidarity, human rights and marginal politics. However, from a Judaic perspective, Zoey, the new wife of Dictator Aladeen is nothing short of an incarnation of Biblical Queen Esther. Like Esther, Zoey has managed to infiltrate into the corridors of a lucrative foreign power.
I guess that with AIPAC controlling American foreign policy and 80% of Tory MPs being CFI (Conservative Friends of Israel) members, a Jewish queen of a fictional Wadiya is almost exotic.
On Friday (5/18/12) we noted that the New York Times and Washington Post had long pieces about a drug war shooting in Honduras that reportedly killed four innocent bystanders, including two pregnant women. The story got increased attention here in the U.S. because of the apparent involvement of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Honduran officials and sources claimed the dead were civilians. The Times and Post, though, granted anonymity to U.S. officials to claim that the dead were maybe not civilians at all; in fact, according to some of these unnamed officials, the whole town where the shooting occurred was involved in the illegal drug trade, and it was downright suspicious that a boat would be out on the water at that time of night.
On Saturday (5/19/12), Times reporter Damien Cave, the author of one of the pieces we criticized, offered another take, which included a hospital interview with one of the shooting victims. He also reported that, contrary to the story peddled by anonymous U.S. officials, it would not have been all that unusual for boats to be out in the early morning hours.
It’s a strong piece that sheds considerable light on a story that is obviously still unfolding. The headline is unfortunate–”From a Honduras Hospital, Conflicting Tales of a Riverside Shootout”–in the sense that it suggests equal weight be given to the version of events as presented by U.S. officials.
Cave, it should be noted, appeared in the comments section of the FAIR Blog to argue this: “Instead of judging me and one story, try to keep paying attention to the story as it unfolds.” Fair enough. But the problem with the first story still stands. Why grant U.S. officials anonymity to spin their side of the story? Times readers who are following this story might have a hard time figuring out who to believe: Officials from their own government or the eyewitnesses and survivors. The main reason for that confusion is the fact that news outlets gave those officials space to tell their story without any accountability.
Another Times reporter, Michael Powell, also weighed in on the original blog post to say that Cave “wrote a riveting piece, first-hand, that directly challenges the U.S. government’s account.” That is true, but the first piece did almost exactly the opposite–which was, of course, the point of FAIR’s critique.
Powell dismissed the importance of the piece’s reliance on anonymous U.S. sources:
I am all for being as explicit as possible about sourcing, but would you have slept better if it had said because of government policy on talking to reporters or whatever?
A report that is heavily based on spin coming from anonymous U.S. officials is not a detour on the road to getting at the truth. That is why outlets like the Times, at least in principle, say they try to avoid using anonymous sources–out of concern over being used to transmit official deceptions. If these papers would follow their own rules on anonymity, their readers would be lied to less often.
There’s that thing everyone says about journalism being the first draft of history. But the first draft of journalism is just as important. The Times deserves credit for publishing a more thorough report that challenges the official story coming from the U.S. government. But that doesn’t undermine the critique of the first story; it bolsters it.
- Embedded NYT Reporter Boosts US War in Honduras (and Why We Shouldn’t Listen) (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Uniformed US soldiers involved in killing of six Honduran civilians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Honduras and the Obama Administration (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have become the centrepiece of the allied military strategy in the “war on terror.”
In 2011 they were deployed in Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine and Turkey.
According to the Economist, drone strikes have increased by 1,200 per cent since 2005. This is equivalent to one strike every four days.
Modern warfare is transforming and could lead to the deployment of military robots that make attack decisions independently.
Termed as “automatic deletion,” human operators would be taken out of the loop and preprogrammed robots would carry out missions guided by artificial intelligence.
According to Teal Group, a US aerospace and defence analysis firm, investment in the industry is projected to rise to $89 billion over the next 10 years.
Author of the study and director of Teal’s corporate analysis Philip Finnegan predicted that “the UAV market will continue to be strong despite cuts in defence spending.
“UAVs have proved their value in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and will continue to be a high priority for militaries in the US and worldwide.”
Israel is the leading global exporter of UAVs, while other key players in the industry include Canada, France, Italy and South Africa. There are currently 40 companies selling and manufacturing drones, and 50 countries have acquired the technology.
In recent years Britain has been using Israeli drones in Afghanistan which it has rented on a pay by the hour basis from the company Elbit Systems.
British soldiers have also received training in Israel on how to operate the weapons.
Proponents of drone warfare claim that UAVs bring down the costs of war. They argue that civilian casualties are reduced due to higher-precision strikes.
Furthermore, they highlight that robots could make war more ethical, as they cannot act out of malice or hatred which can lead to war crimes or other abuses of human rights.
While the Economist asserts that “claims that drones are constantly blowing up Afghan weddings is wrong,” the fact remains that civilian casualties are rising and protests against their use are intensifying worldwide. In response, savvy industry leaders have mobilised to discuss “how to stop the public hysteria surrounding UAV operations in the 21st century?” and the MoD has committed to implementing a communications strategy to counter negative publicity.
The Bureau for Investigative Journalism has reported that between 2004 and August 2011, 2,347 people were killed by US drones. Between 392 and 781 were civilians, and of these 175 were children.
Other sources state that at least one of these victims was disabled and confined to a wheelchair.
Additionally, six of these victims were British nationals, but the British government has not investigated their deaths.
Meanwhile, of the two US citizens killed in strikes, one was alleged by the CIA to have been al-Qaida’s leader in the Arabian Peninsula.
In September 2011 Anwar al-Awlaki was assassinated in Yemen by a US drone. Two weeks later, in a separate attack, his 16-year-old son was one of nine people killed.
Concerns have been raised by lawyers about the legality of Awlaki’s assassination as a US citizen with no criminal charge.
Against this background the American Civil Liberties Union said: “If the constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have the unreviewable authority to summarily execute any citizen who it concludes is an enemy of the state.”
In November 2011, 16-year-old Tariq Aziz and his 12-year-old cousin Waheed Khan were both killed by US drone strikes in Northern Waziristan. Just days before his death, Tariq had attended a meeting organised by the British charity Reprieve.
Tariq had agreed to assist the organisation by taking pictures of the aftermath of Allied strikes.
Mounting civilian casualties and the lack of accountability for these deaths is fuelling anger globally. In November 2011, 2,000 people staged an anti-drone demonstration outside the parliament building in Islamabad, and for the first time Yemeni citizens came together to voice their outrage in Sana’a.
Human rights lawyer Shazad Akbar is suing the CIA for the killing of Pakistani civilians.
Furthermore, legal action taken by human rights groups against Foreign Secretary William Hague could lead to his prosecution for war crimes. He is accused of providing intelligence that assisted CIA-targeted killings in Pakistan.
In April last year a civil disobedience action was staged at Hancock Air National Guard Base in the US. Thirty-eight anti-drone protesters were arrested and some have been put on trial.
Meanwhile at RMT University in Melbourne, protesters disrupted a meeting organised by UAV manufacturers. They urged attendees to reject technological innovations which enable killing from great distance and condemned the use of the weapons as immoral.
Drone Wars UK has demanded the classification of drones as “too cruel to use, like cluster munitions and landmines.” This has been backed by critics who warn that the use of robots to achieve military objectives could amount to a disproportionate use of force.
In future, drones could be developed that achieve superhuman levels of accuracy, reaching a 100 per cent rate of effectiveness. However such capability would break rules of proportionality under international humanitarian law (IHL).
Overseen by the International Red Cross, IHL bans weapons that cause more than 25 per cent mortality on the battlefield and 5 per cent mortality in hospitals.
The question of the legality of targeted killing remains unanswered. The US and British governments either refuse to disclose information about when this policy is applied or deny outright that it is happening. Lawyers state that targeted killings contravene the rule of law and argue that this amounts to state-sanctioned assassination.
Criticising the EU’s silence on targeted killing in Pakistan, analyst Nathalie Van Raemdonck contends that drone warfare could be illegal, and that the EU’s failure to put pressure on the US to explain the legal basis of its policy is due to a lack of consensus caused by vested interests among member states.
She warns: “Even though the analysis of the US’s targeted killing makes it clear that it is a legally and morally controversial practice, it is possible that the EU finds advantages of avoiding the subject to be greater than those of living up to its moral obligation of urging the US to comply with international law.”
Agreeing with Van Raemdonk’s warnings against a backlash, critics argue that robotic warfare could destabilise global security and deepen hostility towards British and US peacekeeping or military interventions overseas.
Robots, they say, would make war easier to wage, as the safety of remote operators thousands of miles away from their targets would make them less concerned about killing.
An adviser to the CIA and expert on robots has emphasised the need for continued human diplomacy to avoid fuelling resentment.
Highlighting Iraq, he said: “Sending in robot patrols into Baghdad to keep the peace would send the wrong message about our willingness to connect with residents. We still need human diplomacy for that. In war this could backfire against us, as our enemies mark us as dishonourable and cowardly for not willing to engage them man to man. This serves to make them more resolute in fighting us and leads to a new crop of determined terrorists.”
As has occurred with all war technologies in the past, the risk of UAV proliferation is high.
Noting this danger, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Killing Christof Heyns warned: “The use of such methods by some states to eliminate opponents around the world raises the question why other states should not engage in the same practices.
“The danger is one of global war without borders, in which no one is safe.”
- Evidence in British court contradicts CIA drone claims (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The cost and consequences of exposing the drone wars (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Analysis: Little Caution Used in U.S. Drone Assassinations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media
Introduction: By any historical measure, whether it involves international law, human rights conventions, United Nations protocols, socio-economic indicators, the policies and practices of the United States and European Union regimes can be characterized as extremist. By that we mean that their policies and practices result in large scale long-term systematic destruction of human lives, habitat and likelihood affecting millions of people through the direct application of force and violence. The extremist regimes abhor moderation which implies rejection of total wars in favor of peaceful negotiations. Moderation pursues conflict resolution through diplomacy and compromise and the rejection of state and paramilitary terror, mass dispossession and displacement of civilian populations and the systematic assault on popular sectors of civil society.
The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the West’s embrace of extremism in all of its manifestation both in domestic and foreign policy. Extremism is a common practice by self-styled conservatives, liberals and social-democrats. In the past, conservative implies preserving the status quo and at most tinkering with change at the margins. Today’s ‘conservatives’ demand the wholesale dismantling of entire social welfare systems, the elimination of traditional legal restraints on labor and environmental abuses. Liberals and social democrats who in the past, occasionally, questioned colonial systems have been in the forefront of prolonged multiple colonial wars which have killed and displaced millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
Extremism both in terms of methods, means and goals has obliterated the distinctions between center left, center and rightwing politicians. Moderate opponents to policies subsidizing a dozen major banks and impoverishing tens of millions of workers are called the “hard left”, “extremists” or “radicals”.
In the wake of the extremist policies of public officials, the respectable, prestigious print media have engaged in their own versions of extremism . Colonial wars that devastate civil society and materially and culturally impoverish millions in the colonized country are justified, embellished and made to appear as lawful, humane and furthering secular democratic values. Domestic wars on behalf of oligarchies and against wage and salaried workers, which concentrate wealth and deepen despair of the dispossessed are described as rational, virtuous and necessary. The distinctions between the prudent, balanced, prestigious and serious media and the sensationalist, yellow press have disappeared. The fabrication of facts, blatant omissions and distortions of context are found in one as well as the other.
To illustrate the reign of extremism in officialdom and among the prestigious press, we will examine two case studies: US policies toward and the Financial Times and New York Times reportage on Colombia and Honduras.
Colombia: The “Oldest Democracy in Latin America” versus “the Death squad Capital of the World”
Following on the heels of euphoric eulogies of Colombia’s emergence as a poster boy in an April issue of Time, and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, the Financial Times ran a series of articles including a special insert on Colombia’s political and economic “miracle”, “Investing in Colombia” . According to the FTs leading Latin American journalist, one John Paul Rathbone, Colombia is the “oldest democracy in the hemisphere” . Rathbone’s rapture for Colombia’s President Santos extends from his role as an “emerging power broker” for the South American continent, to making Colombia safe for foreign investors and “exciting the envy” of other less successful regimes in the region. Rathbone gives prominence to one Colombia business leader who claims that Colombia’s second biggest city “Medellín is living through its best of times” . In line with the opinion of the foreign and business elite, the respectable print media describe Colombia as prosperous, peaceful, business friendly-charging the lowest mining royalty payments in the hemisphere – a model of a stable democracy to be emulated by all forward-looking leaders. Colombia under President Santos, has signed a free trade agreement with President Obama, his closest ally in the hemisphere . Under Bush the trade unions, human rights and church groups and the majority of Congressional Democrats were successful in blocking the agreement on the basis of Colombia’s sustained human rights violations. When Obama embraced the free trade agreement, the AFL-CIO and Democratic opposition evaporated, as President Obama claimed a vast improvement in human rights and the commitment of Santos to ending the murder of trade union leaders and activists .
The peace, security and prosperity eulogized by the oil, mining, banking, and agro-business elite are based on the worst human rights record in Latin America. With regard to the murder of trade unionists Colombia exceeds the entire rest of the world. Between 1986-2011 over 60% of the trade unionists assassinated in the world took place in Colombia, by the combined military-police-paramilitary forces, largely at the behest of foreign and domestic corporate leaders . The “peace” that Rathbone and his cohort at the Financial Times praise is at the cost of over 12,000 assassinations and arrests, injuries, disappearances of trade unionists between January 1, 1986 and October 1, 2010 . In that time span nearly 3,000 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, hundreds were kidnapped or disappeared. President Santos was the Defense Minister under previous President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010). In those eight years, 762 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, over 95% by the state or allied paramilitary forces .
Under Presidents Uribe Santos 2002 – 2012 over 4 million peasants and rural householders were displaced and dispossessed of their homes and their lands were confiscated and taken over by landlords and narco- traffickers . The terror tactics employed by the regimes counter-insurgency strategy served a dual purpose of repressing dissent and accumulating wealth. The Financial Times journalists ignore this chapter in Colombia’s “resurgent growth”. They are especially enthused by the “security” that ensued because large scale foreign investment, over $6 billion dollars, in 2012 flowed into mining and oil regions that were formerly “troubled” by unrest .
Leading drug lords, who were closely linked to the Uribe-Santos regime, and were subsequently jailed and extradited to the US have testified that they financed and elected one-third of the Congress people affiliated with Uribe-Santos party in what Rathbone refers to as Latin America’s “oldest democracy”. According to Salvatore Mancuso, ex-chief of the former 30,000 member United Self-Defense of Colombia paramilitary death squad, he met with then, President Uribe, in different regions of the country and gave him money and logistical support in his re-election campaign of 2006. He also affirmed that many national and multi-national corporations (MNC) financed the growth and expansion of the paramilitary death squads. What Rathbone and his fellow journalists at the FT celebrate as Colombia’s emergence as an investor’s paradise is writ large with the blood and gore of thousands of Colombian peasants, trade unionists and human rights activists. The gory history of the Uribe/Santos reign of terror has been completely omitted from the current account of Colombia’s “success story”. Detailed records of the brutality of the killings and torture by Uribe/Santos sponsored death squads, which describe the use of chain saws to cut limbs from peasants suspected of leftist sympathies, are available to any journalist willing to consult Colombia’s leading human rights organizations .
The death squads and military act in concert. The military is trained by by over one thousand US Special Forces advisers. They arrive in a village in a wave of US supplied helicopters, secure the region from guerillas and then allow the AUC terrorists to savage the villages, killing, raping and disemboweling men, women and children suspected of being guerilla sympathizers. The terror tactics have driven millions of peasants out of the countryside.
Allowing the generals and drug lords to seize their land
Human rights advocates (HRA) are frequently targeted by the military and death squads. President Uribe and Santos first accuse them of being active collaborators of the guerillas for exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity. Once they are labeled, the HRA became “legitimate targets” for armed assaults by the death squads and the military who act with complete impunity. Between 2002-2011, 1,470 acts of violence were perpetrated against HRA, with a record number of 239 in 2011, including 49 assassinations during the Presidency of Santos.  Over half of the murdered HRA are Indians and Afro-Colombians.
State terrorism was and continues to be the main instrument of rule under Presidents Uribe and Santos. The Colombian “killing fields” according to the Fiscalia General include tens of thousands of homicides , 1,597 massacres and thousands of forced disappearances between 2005 – 2010 .
The practice, revealed in the Colombian press, of “false positives” in which the military kidnaps poor young men, dresses them as guerrillas and then assassinates them, comes across in the respectable US print media as evidence of Santos/Uribe’s military successes against the guerrillas. There are 2,472 documented cases of military false positive murders .
Honduras: New York Times and State Terrorism
The New York Times featured an article on Honduras, emphasizing the the regime’s “co-operation” with the US drug war.  The Times writer Thom Shanker speaks of a “partnership” based on the expansion of three new US military bases and the stationing of US Special Forces in the country. 
Shanker describes the successful operation of the Honduras Special Operations forces guided and directed by trainers from the US Special Forces. Shanker mentions a visit by a delegation of Congressional staff members who favorably assessed the local forces respect of human rights, and cites the US ambassador in Honduras as praising the regime as an “eager and capable partners in this joint effort”. 
There are insidious parallels between the NY Times white wash of the criminal extremist regime in Honduras and the Financial Times’ crude promotion of Colombia’s death squad democracy.
The current regime headed by “President” Lobos- which invites the Pentagon to expand its military control over swathes of Honduran territory- is a product of a US backed military coup which overthrew an elected liberal President on June 28, 2009, a point Shanker forgets to mention. Lobos, the predator president, retains control by killing, jailing and torturing critics, journalists, human rights defenders and landless rural laborers seeking to reclaim their lands which were violently seized by Lobos’ landlord backers.
Following the military coup, thousands of Honduran pro-democracy demonstrators were killed, beaten and arrested. According to conservative estimates by Human Rights Watch 20 pro-democracy dissidents were murdered by the military and police.  Between January 2010 and November 2011 at least 12 journalists critical of the Lobos regime were murdered.
In the countryside, where NY Times reporter Shanker describes a love fest between the US Special Forces and their Honduran counterparts, between January and August 2011, 30 farm workers in northern Honduras Bajo Aguan valley were killed by death squads hired by Lobos backed oligarchs .  Nary a single military, police or death squad assassin has been judged and jailed. Coup leader Roberto Micheletti and President Lobos, his successor, have repeatedly assaulted pro-democracy demonstrations, especially those led by school teachers, students and trade unionists and have tortured hundreds of jailed political dissidents. Precisely in the same time span as the NY Times publishes its most euphoric article on the friendly relations between the US and Honduras, the death toll among pro-democracy dissidents rose precipitously: eight journalists and a TV commentator have been killed over the first 4 months of 2012.  In late March and early April of 2012 nine farm workers and employees were murdered by pro-Lobos landlords.  No arrests, no suspects, impunity reigns in the land of US military bases. The Times follows the Mafia rule of omega-silence and complicity.
Syria: How the FT Absolves Al Qaeda Terrorists
As western backed terrorists savage Syria, the Western press, especially the Financial Times, continues to absolve the terrorists of setting of car bombs killing and maiming hundreds.of civilians. With crude cynicism their reporters shrug their shoulders and give credence to the claims of the London based terrorists propaganda mongers, that the Assad regime was engaged in destroying its own cities and security forces.
As the Obama regime and its European backers publicly embrace extremism, including state terror, targeted assassinations and the car bombing of crowded cities, the respectable press has followed suit. Extremism takes many forms –from the omission of reports on the use of force and violence in overthrowing adversary regimes to the cover-up of the wholesale murder of tens of thousands of civilians and the dispossession of millions of peasants and farmers. The “educated classes”, the affluent reading public are being indoctrinated by the respectable media to believe that a smiling and pragmatic President Santos and elected President Lobos have succeeded in establishing peace, market based prosperity and securing mutually beneficial free trade and military base concessions with the US—even as the two regimes lead the world in the murder of trade unionists and journalists. Even as I read, on May 15, 2012 that the US Hispanic Congressional caucus has awarded Lobos a leadership in democracy award, the Honduran press reports the murder of the news director of station HMT Alfredo Villatoro, the 25th critical journalist killed between January 27, 2010 and May 15, 2012. 
The respectable press’s embrace of extremism, its use of demonological terminology and vitriolic language to describe imperial adversaries is matched by its euphoric and effusive praise of state and pro-western mercenary terrorists. The systematic cover-up practiced by extremist journalism goes far beyond the cases of Colombia and Honduras. The reportage of the Financial Times Michael Peel on the NATO led destruction of Libya, Africa’s most advanced welfare state, and the rise to power of armed gangs of fanatical tribal and Islamic terrorists, is presented as a victory for a democracy over a “brutal dictatorship” . Peel’s mendacity and cant is evident in his outrageous claims that the destruction of the Libyan economy and the mass torture and racial murders which ensued NATOs war, is a victory for the Libyan people.
The totalitarian twist in the respectable press is a direct consequence of its toadying to the extremist policies pursued by the western regimes. Since extremist measures, like the use of force, violence, assassination and torture, have become routine under the incumbent presidents and prime ministers, the reporters have no choice but to fabricate lies to rationalize these crimes, to spit out a constant flow of highly charged adjectives in order to convert victims into executioners and executioners into victims. Extremism in defense of pro-US regimes has led to the most grotesque accounts imaginable: Colombia and Mexico’s Presidents are the leaders of the most thoroughly narcotized economies in the hemisphere yet they are praised for their war on drugs, while Venezuela the most marginal producer is stigmatized as a major narco-pipeline. 
Articles with no factual bases, which are worthless as sources of objective information, direct us to seek for an underlying rationale. Colombia has signed a free trade agreement which will benefit US exports over Colombian by over a two to one ratio . Mexico’s free trade policy has benefited US agribusiness and giant retailers by a similar ratio.
Extremism in all of its forms permeates Western regimes and finds its justification and rationalization in the respectable media whose job is to indoctrinate civil society and turn citizens into voluntary accomplices to extremism. By endlessly prefacing “reports” on Russia’s Putin as an authoritarian Soviet era tyrant, the respectable media obviate any discussion of his doubling of living standards and the 60% plus electoral triumph. By magnifying an authoritarian past, Gadhafi’s vast public works, social welfare programs and generous immigration and foreign aid programs to sub-Sahara Africa can be relegated to the memory hole. The respectable press’s praise of death squad Presidents Santos and Lobos is part of a large scale long term systematic shift from the hypocritical pretense of pursuing the virtues of a democratic republic to the open embrace of a virulent, murderous empire. The new journalists’ code reads “extremism in defense of empire is no vice”.
 There’s a general consensus that the respectable print media include The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
 Financial Times (FT) 5/8/12;See also FT (5/4/12)”Colombia looks to consolidate gainsin country of complexities”
 FT 5/8/12 (p. 1)
 FT ibid
 BBC News , May 5, 2012
 Renan Vega Cantor Sindicalicidio! Uncuento poco imaginativo) de Terroismo Laboral Bogotá, Feb. 25, 2012.
 Inforrme CODHES Novembre 2010.
 FT 5/8/12 p. 4.
 See the Annual Reports of CODHES, Reiniciar and Human Rights Watch
 Claroscuro Informe Aual 2011; Programa Somos Defensores Bogota 2012; Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados. Jan. – March 2012.
 Fiscalia General. Informe 2012
 Thom Shanker “Lessons of Iraq Help US Fight a Drug War in Honduras” New York Times, May 6, 2012.6
 Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012
 Honduran Human Rights, May 12m, 2012.
 The notorious cover-up of the car bombing is the handiwork of the FT’s star middle east journalists. See Michael Peel and Abigail Fielding-Smith “At Least 55 Die in two Damascus Explosions: Responsibility for Blasts Disputed”, FT 5/11/12.
 Honduras Human Rights, April 24, 2012.
 Michael Peel, “The Colonels Last Stand” FT 5/12 – 13/12
 One of Colombia’s most notorious paramilitary narco traffickers described the close financial and political ties between the Colombian United Self Defense terrorists and the Uribe-Santos regime. Se La Jornada 5/12/12.
 BBC News, 5/15/12. According to the US International Trade Commission estimates the value of US exports to Colombia could rise by $1.1 billion while Colombia’s exports could grow by $487 million.
- Colombia: Obama’s Bloodiest Betrayal? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Progress or Promises? Free Trade and Labor Rights in Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: Mirage and Reality in Southern Bolivar (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Former Colombian minister denies paramilitary ties – Colombia news | Colombia Reports (aboriginalpress.wordpress.com)
A 24 year-old Palestinian was hit in the head from a live round of bullets Saturday in the village of Asira al-Qibliya. B’Tselem footage of the event shows the settlers shooting at the young man, and Israeli soldiers standing by them – doing nothing to prevent it.
According to B’Tselem, the incident started at around 16:30 Saturday, when a group of settlers descended from the extremist settlement Itzhar towards the Palestinian village (as seen in the first video below). According to eye witnesses the settlers – some of them masked and some armed – started fires in the fields near the village and threw stones at Palestinians who moved towards them, who also started throwing stones at the settlers.
Videos shot by residents of Asira al-Qibliya and B’Tselem show a fire in the fields, settlers and Palestinians in confrontation, and soldiers standing near the settlers, yet mostly uninvolved. Amongst the settlers are three people armed with two rifles and one hand-gun, one of them wearing what seems to be a police hat. According to B’Tselem, one of the rifles is a Tavor – commonly seen in the hands of Israeli soldiers.
At one point (between 0:40-0:55 in the video below) one of the settlers is seen aiming his rifle at something, then Palestinians start throwing stones at him, and then he and his partner open intensive fire towards the stone throwers. A soldier nearing the settlers is seen running away back to the direction he and other soldiers were coming from, not preventing the shooting in any way. After a man in a green shirt is hit the soldiers pull back, Palestinians evacuate the man, and the woman with the camera is heard saying the man was shot in the head (Arabic). It would later be found out that the man is 24 year-old Fathi Asira, who is now in a hospital in Nablus. His condition is defined as stable.
It is worth mentioning that throughout the video soldiers are not seen trying to stop the settlers, nor disperse the two crowds in any way, although their intervention could have prevented the injury. It is unclear from the videos who exactly started the fire, as one can see several settlers trying to put it out, and also a Palestinian fire truck. However, the fire is destroying Palestinian fields very close to the village, and did not appear in the first video showing the settlers’ approach – two facts that might support the Palestinians’ claim that it was started by settlers.
The settlement of Itzhar is notorious for its radical extremism, as well as for the many attacks carried by settlers against Palestinians in neighboring villages. The settlement was also attacked itself by Palestinians, including residents of Asira al-Qibilya.
Settlements: a culture of impunity to the law
Approximately 700 Israelis live in the illegal Israeli settlement adjacent to Asira al-Qibliya. This colony, like 250 others throughout the West Bank, is considered illegal under international law as a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice and the United Nations Security Council.
The recent attack was only one of many in the history of the village. In 2011, similar attacks occurred on a weekly basis. This year, the settlers have attempted attacks on Asira up to 3 times each month. The Israeli settlers participating in these aggressions are not always inhabitants of the area. Nevertheless, they show their unity by wearing similar coloured cloth, on the most recent occasion white t-shirts. This may be an indication of long-term planning behind the attack.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 90% of complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment. OCHA reports that, “ the root cause of the settler violence phenomenon is Israel’s decades-long policy of illegally facilitating the settling of its citizens inside occupied Palestinian territory. This activity has resulted in the progressive takeover of Palestinian land, resources and transportation routes and has created two separate systems of rights and privileges, favoring Israeli citizens at the expense of the over 2.5 million Palestinian residents of the West Bank.”
The residents of Asira al-Qibliya are unable to lead a secure life under the constant threat of harassment, intimidation, and attack by the Israeli Occupation Forces and illegal settlers alike.
- Israeli Army Closes Investigation Into A-Samuni Family Killings (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Yitzhar settlers attack school children in Urif (alethonews.wordpress.com)