President Chavez ordered maximum alert on Venezuela’s border with Colombia after the Uribe administration made grave accusations against Venezuela claiming the Chavez government harbors terrorists and terrorist training camps
The outgoing government of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia gave a shameful presentation before member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Thursday, reminiscent of Colin Powell’s “weapons of mass destruction” power point evidence presented in 2003 before the United Nations Security Council to justify the war in Iraq.
Colombia alleged that Venezuela is harboring “terrorists” from the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) and hosting several “terrorist training camps” near the border region that divides the two nations.
During an extraordinary session convened at OAS headquarters in Washington on Thursday, upon request of the Uribe government, Colombia’s ambassador to the OAS, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, presented television and video images allegedly taken from computers confiscated during the illegal invasion of Ecuadorian territory on March 1, 2008, which resulted in the death of FARC leader Raul Reyes and a dozen other Colombian, Ecuadorian and Mexican citizens. Hoyos also presented several computer-generated maps and photographs of alleged members of the FARC, which he said were taken inside Venezuela.
NO REAL PROOF
Yet none of the images were authenticated or verified as reliable by any source other than the Colombian government. Colombia also used satellite map images, some from Google Earth, to show alleged “coordinates” where FARC members are in Venezuela.
Furthermore, the photographs presented by Hoyos had no source identification, dates or times, and merely showed alleged members of the FARC and ELN in different jungle and coastal areas.
Venezuela and Colombia share a porous, jungle and mountainous border and both countries have Caribbean coasts. The countries have similar vegetation, climate and scenery.
Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton said the photographs looked to him as though they had been taken in Colombia. “That looks like the beach in Santa Marta to me”, responded Chaderton, after Hoyos claimed a photo of a FARC member drinking a beer on the beach was taken at Chichirivichi, a Venezuelan beach town.
“There is no evidence, not a single piece of proof, of where those photographs were taken”, said Chaderton, adding that the “evidence” presented by Colombia was “confusing, imprecise and non-convincing”.
The Venezuelan army verified and thoroughly inspected the locations and coordinates provided by the Uribe administration on Thursday and found none of the alleged “terrorist sites”, “camps” or “guerrilla presence” claimed by Colombia.
Upon arriving at the first coordinate indicated in Colombia’s report, identified as an alleged terrorist camp of alias Ruben Zamora, the Venezuelan army found a farm growing plantains, yucca and corn. The second coordinate, which was the alleged camp of FARC commander Ivan Marquez, was merely an extensive field with no structures or presence of anyone or anything.
During his two-hour long flamboyant presentation, Hoyos called for “international intervention” in Venezuela to verify the campsites and gave Venezuela a “30-day ultimatum”.
“Colombia requests a commission of international members, including all those of the OAS, go to Venezuela and verify each of the terrorist camp sites and coordinates to see the truth”, said Hoyos, adding, “we give the Venezuelan government 30 days”, although he didn’t specify what could happen afterward.
Hoyos also accused the Venezuelan government of facilitating drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal arms trade, attacks against Colombian armed forces and even went so far as to allege the Chavez government “squashes its opposition”, “represses freedom of expression”, “insults other governments” and “violates principles of democracy”.
At the same time, Hoyos said his government would be unwilling to listen to or respond to any accusations, insults or offenses made by the Venezuelan government.
Colombia’s position is an echo of Washington’s, which has accused Venezuela of harboring and providing refuge to members of the FARC during the past seven years. But, the US government has also failed to present any evidence to back such claims, and often makes contradictory statements, which appear to confirm the lack of solid proof.
In March 2010, US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) chief General Douglas Fraser said that he had seen no evidence of any links between Venezuela and the FARC. “We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify where there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection”, declared Fraser during a hearing before the US Senate Armed Forces Committee.
However, the following day, General Fraser contradicted himself before the press, stating, “There is indeed clear and documented historical and ongoing evidence of the linkages between the Government of Venezuela and the FARC”.
Possibly, Fraser was referring to previous governments in Venezuela, such as those of Carlos Andres Perez (1989-1993) or Rafael Caldera (1994-1998), which actually housed an office of the FARC in the presidential palace. President Chavez shut down that office when he entered the presidency in early 1999.
Or maybe General Fraser was referring to the specific requests made by two Colombian presidents, Andres Pastrana and Alvaro Uribe, for Chavez to mediate the release of hostages held by the FARC.
With full disclosure and complete authority from President Alvaro Uribe, and based on his own personal request, in September 2007, President Chavez accepted the role as mediator in order to secure the release of several hostages held by the FARC inside Colombian territory. For that reason only, Chavez met with FARC commander Ivan Marquez and assured the release of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez in January 2008.
But otherwise, the Venezuelan government has consistently and repeatedly denied any links or support given to the FARC or any other armed, irregular group from Colombia or elsewhere.
After Colombia’s presentation before the OAS, President Chavez announced a complete rupture in relations.
“It is with tears in my heart that I announce that we will break all relations with Colombia. We have no other choice, for our dignity and our sovereignty”.
Chavez also ordered troops to secure all border areas. “I have ordered a maximum alert on our borders. Uribe is a mafioso and a liar, and is capable of anything”, he said, recalling how Uribe ordered the invasion of Ecuador’s territory in 2008 and then lied to President Rafael Correa about what had happened.
Venezuela accused Colombia of failing to resolve its own internal conflicts, including a 60-year old civil war that has negatively impacted its neighbors with violence and drug trafficking spilling over the borders. More than 4 million Colombians, fleeing the violence in their country, live in Venezuela today.
The Colombian “show” appears to be an effort to justify preemptive war against Venezuela. Last year Colombia opened its territory to seven US military bases in an agreement that the US Air Force claimed was necessary in order to conduct “full spectrum military operations” throughout South America to “combat the constant threat of anti-American governments in the region”.
An investigation has been launched in response to allegations by two Muslim students that they were banned from boarding a London bus because of their veils.
The two Muslim students claim that the driver of a Metroline bus refused them entry onto the bus, claiming they posed “a threat,” The Independent reported on Saturday.
One of the women was wearing a hijab while her friend, Atoofa, was wearing a niqab which covers the face.
One woman, Yasmin, told the BBC, “When I went forward to show my ticket, he said, ‘Get off the bus.’ I presumed he was still angry because I got on the bus before.
“He said, ‘I am not going to take you on the bus because you two are a threat.’ I realized… this may be a racist attack.”
Yasmin then began to film the driver with her mobile phone and said he covered his face with a magazine. “I said, ‘It’s OK for you to cover your face on my recording, but it’s not OK for my friend to cover her face out of choice,’” the London Evening Standard quoted her as saying.
The Muslim Council of Britain stated it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.
Metroline has now launched an “urgent” investigation into the incident.
Atoofa, who wears the niqab, said she hoped the driver would be educated about her religion rather than fired, the BBC reported.
“I would like him to understand why we wear it and I think I would like an apology,” she said.
“I want him to sit there and talk to me about why he felt the way he felt and maybe to understand where we are coming from.”
Shocking rates of infant mortality and cancer
Dramatic increases in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombarded by US Marines in 2004, exceed those reported by survivors of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, according to a new study.
Iraqi doctors in Fallujah have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the number of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of the lower limbs. They said they were also seeing far more cancers than they did before the battle for Fallujah between US troops and insurgents.
Their claims have been supported by a survey showing a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14s. Infant mortality in the city is more than four times higher than in neighbouring Jordan and eight times higher than in Kuwait.
Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster and one of the authors of the survey of 4,800 individuals in Fallujah, said it is difficult to pin down the exact cause of the cancers and birth defects. He added that “to produce an effect like this, some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened”.
US Marines first besieged and bombarded Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, in April 2004 after four employees of the American security company Blackwater were killed and their bodies burned. After an eight-month stand-off, the Marines stormed the city in November using artillery and aerial bombing against rebel positions. US forces later admitted that they had employed white phosphorus as well as other munitions.
In the assault US commanders largely treated Fallujah as a free-fire zone to try to reduce casualties among their own troops. British officers were appalled by the lack of concern for civilian casualties. “During preparatory operations in the November 2004 Fallujah clearance operation, on one night over 40 155mm artillery rounds were fired into a small sector of the city,” recalled Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, a British commander serving with the American forces in Baghdad.
He added that the US commander who ordered this devastating use of firepower did not consider it significant enough to mention it in his daily report to the US general in command. Dr Busby says that while he cannot identify the type of armaments used by the Marines, the extent of genetic damage suffered by inhabitants suggests the use of uranium in some form. He said: “My guess is that they used a new weapon against buildings to break through walls and kill those inside.”
The survey was carried out by a team of 11 researchers in January and February this year who visited 711 houses in Fallujah. A questionnaire was filled in by householders giving details of cancers, birth outcomes and infant mortality. Hitherto the Iraqi government has been loath to respond to complaints from civilians about damage to their health during military operations.
Researchers were initially regarded with some suspicion by locals, particularly after a Baghdad television station broadcast a report saying a survey was being carried out by terrorists and anybody conducting it or answering questions would be arrested. Those organising the survey subsequently arranged to be accompanied by a person of standing in the community to allay suspicions.
The study, entitled “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009”, is by Dr Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, and concludes that anecdotal evidence of a sharp rise in cancer and congenital birth defects is correct. Infant mortality was found to be 80 per 1,000 births compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and 9.7 in Kuwait. The report says that the types of cancer are “similar to that in the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to ionising radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout”.
Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukaemia, a ten-fold increase in female breast cancer and significant increases in lymphoma and brain tumours in adults. At Hiroshima survivors showed a 17-fold increase in leukaemia, but in Fallujah Dr Busby says what is striking is not only the greater prevalence of cancer but the speed with which it was affecting people.
Of particular significance was the finding that the sex ratio between newborn boys and girls had changed. In a normal population this is 1,050 boys born to 1,000 girls, but for those born from 2005 there was an 18 per cent drop in male births, so the ratio was 850 males to 1,000 females. The sex-ratio is an indicator of genetic damage that affects boys more than girls. A similar change in the sex-ratio was discovered after Hiroshima.
The US cut back on its use of firepower in Iraq from 2007 because of the anger it provoked among civilians. But at the same time there has been a decline in healthcare and sanitary conditions in Iraq since 2003. The impact of war on civilians was more severe in Fallujah than anywhere else in Iraq because the city continued to be blockaded and cut off from the rest of the country long after 2004. War damage was only slowly repaired and people from the city were frightened to go to hospitals in Baghdad because of military checkpoints on the road into the capital.
In a recent interview renowned linguist Noam Chomsky called the BDS campaign ‘hypocritical’. Jeffrey Blankfort, who is the author of an earlier important critique of Chomsky’s position on Palestine, responds:
When Noam Chomsky was stopped at Jordan’s Allenby Bridge and prevented from entering the Palestinian West Bank by Israeli occupation forces in May, the widespread condemnation of that action extended even into the mainstream media which in the past has paid little attention to his comings and goings and even less to what he has had to say.
Chomsky, who has visited Israel on a number of occasions and lived on a kibbutz in the 50s, had been invited to give a lecture at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah and had also arranged to meet with Salam Fayyad, the unelected prime minister of the Palestine Authority and a favorite of both Washington and Israel and, it would appear, of Chomsky.
The negative publicity arising from the incident caused the Israeli government to reverse its position, blaming its refusal to admit Chomsky on an administrative error. Chomsky was not mollified and decided to forego the trip to the West Bank and present his talk to the Bir Zeit students by video from Amman.
When interviewed by phone the following day from New York by Democracy Now! on which he is a familiar presence, Chomsky noted that “I was going to meet with the Prime Minister. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. But his office called me here in Amman this morning, and we had a long discussion. He is pursuing policies, which, in my view, are quite sensible, policies of essentially developing facts on the ground. It’s almost – I think it’s probably a conscious imitation of the early Zionist policies, establishing facts on the ground and hoping that the political forms that follow will be determined by them. And the policies sound to me like sensible and sound ones.”
Unfortunately, Chomsky was not questioned about his support for the nation building priorities of the earlier Zionists nor if he considered the Palestine Authority’s endorsement of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, of its attempts to suppress a UN investigation of the Goldstone Report, and of the role played by its US-trained militia in protecting Israel, to be also “sensible and sound.”
Missing from the discussion about what was made to appear a blunder on Israel’s part was a much more important issue: Why had Chomsky been invited to speak at Bir Zeit in the first place? For those puzzled by that question, be assured that it is meant to be taken quite seriously.
Once upon a time Prof. Chomsky was considered by many to be the most important spokesperson for the Palestinian cause. It was a position he attained largely on the basis of his writings and activism in opposing the Vietnam War and US intervention in Central America in which, unlike the case with Israel, he had no personal vested interest. That Chomsky has maintained that position despite the presence in the US of a number of distinguished Palestinian professors, among them the late Edward Said, who were and are more knowledgeable about the subject and could speak from personal experience that does not include prior service as “a Zionist youth leader”—Chomsky’s background– is a reflection of the political culture of the American Left which was and remains substantially if not predominantly Jewish, particularly in its leadership positions.
Support for Israel had become so ingrained and fear of anti-Semitism so deeply embedded in the psyche of American Jewish Leftists in the aftermath of World War 2, that if the Jewish state was to be criticized it had to be by someone from within the tribe who unequivocally supported its existence. Unfortunately, to the detriment of the Palestinians and the building of a viable Palestinian solidarity movement within the United States, that mindset persists to this day and largely explains why Chomsky maintains his reputation despite public utterances over the past half dozen years that have done more to undermine the Palestinian cause than to help it.
I examined Chomsky’s history in some detail in an article that I wrote for Left Curve in 2005 that called attention to the destructive role he has played regarding the Palestinian-based boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel and the equally destructive impact of his dismissal of the pro-Israel lobby as an influential force in shaping US Middle East policy.
That he is still at it, and that his influence among what are considered “progressives” has lessened only imperceptibly, requires another look at the professor’s fierce and unyielding opposition to the BDS campaign launched by the leading organizations of Palestinian civil society. This movement has been gaining support in the world that exists outside of the United States, particularly among trade unions, a fact that is causing considerable concern within Israel and among its lobbyists/agents around the world who claim it is a campaign to “delegitimize” the Jewish state.
Within the United States, however, this campaign challenging Israel has frequently and in certain instances, intentionally, been confused with a vastly different, US-centered, campaign that avoids penalizing Israel while targeting US companies that provide goods and services that assist Israel in maintaining the occupation.
This latter campaign Chomsky does support as does the leading Jewish peace group, Jewish Voice for Peace which has recently been conducting a drive to get 10,000 signatures for its campaign to pressure Caterpillar to stop selling bulldozers to the Israel military which it has used to destroy Palestinian homes. While this is a worthy endeavor, does anyone seriously think that a refusal by Caterpillar to halt its sales to Israel would change the current situation for the Palestinians in any significant way? Or are we seeing something else here on the part of both Prof. Chomsky and JVP with their competing campaign, namely, damage control on Israel’s behalf?
One might certainly draw that conclusion from comments Chomsky has made over the past several years and most recently in interviews with Israeli television (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCtYecGbQz8) and with Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, the newly appointed president of the Council for National Interest (CNI), on Jerusalem Calling, the CNI’s online radio program. (http://www.wsradio.com/internet-talk-radio.cfm/shows/CNI:-Jerusalem-Calling.html)
In the interview with Alison Weir, Chomsky not only repeatedly attacks advocates of an Israeli boycott as being hypocritical, he accuses them of doing damage to the Palestinian cause.
“What I have opposed,” says Chomsky, “is BDS proposals that harm Palestinians. If we are serious about BDS or any other tactic, we want to ask what the consequences are for the victims. We have to distinguish always in tactical judgments between what you might call ‘feel good’ tactics and ‘do good’ tactics. There are tactics that may make people feel good in doing something, but maybe they harm the victims.”
Pushed on the subject by Weir, he repeats that a boycott of Israel is “harmful to Palestinians and the reason is harmful is very obvious.” And what is obvious about it, Chomsky tells us in the very next sentence. “It is so hypocritical that it discredits the whole effort. I mean,” he says, “why boycott Israel and not boycott the United States? The US has a much worse record.”
When reminded by Weir that “Palestinian civil society issued a call, signed by dozens of diverse organizations calling for a boycott of Israel,” Chomsky was dismissive and condescending.
“There are groups who call themselves Palestinian civil society who are calling for a boycott,” he responds, “and I think they are making a mistake and I’ve explained why. I’m not going to take, adopt positions which have already been and will continue to be quite harmful to Palestinians.”
“If you want to, then do it,” Chomsky adds, upbraiding Weir and by implication, the Palestinian people themselves, “but it’s clear why the call for a boycott [of Israel] has been harmful for Palestinians and will continue to be.”
“The reason,” he repeated, “is very simple. It’s so utterly hypocritical that it’s basically a gift to the hardliners. They can say, ‘Look, you’re calling for a boycott of Israel, but you’re not calling for a boycott of the United States which has a much worse record, in fact, it’s even responsible for most of Israel’s crimes. (My emphasis)
“So therefore, if your position,” and from his tone of voice he is clearly jabbing a verbal finger at Weir, “is that hypocritical, how can we even take you seriously? That’s like giving a gift to the hard-line elements.
One might be forgiven for thinking that when Chomsky says “we” and refers to “hard-line elements” he is speaking of himself. He seems to confirm that later when, continuing his attack, he tells Weir:
“I find your commitment to harming Palestinians surprising. It is quite obvious why a call for a boycott of Israel is a gift to AIPAC. It’s a gift because they can point out that it is utterly hypocritical” and again, like a well rehearsed mantra he repeats, “We are not boycotting the United States, for example, which has a much worse record and is responsible for a lot of Israel’s criminal behavior.”
“I can give you cases if you want [but he doesn’t offer any] where the calls like the one you’re advocating have, in fact, for good reasons, harmed Palestinians, and he repeats once again that Weir’s “support for the efforts which are basically gifts to the hardliners…”
Let’s stop a moment before going on and ask ourselves some questions about what Chomsky has been saying.
One, shifting blame for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians to the US (the Nakba?, the 1967 capture of the West Bank and Gaza?) he argues that rather than calling for a boycott of Israel, Palestinians should be calling for a boycott of the United States. Apart from the failure patently inherent in such a campaign, what does Prof. Chomsky believe would be the response of the majority of Americans to a call by Palestinians for such a boycott? Or, for that matter, a call by supporters of the Palestinians in the United States for a boycott of their own country? Beneficial for the Palestinians, Professor Chomsky, or harmful? Or just plain stupid?
Since the answer to that question is obvious, genuine supporters of the Palestinian struggle who still see Chomsky as an ally need to ask themselves why he would call for a campaign that would bring further disaster down upon the heads of the Palestinians.
Now think about his main argument that boycotting Israel as opposed to the United States is hypocritical; that the “hardliners,” in which he specifically includes AIPAC—which otherwise he dismisses– will use this against the Palestinians by pointing out that the US has committed far greater crimes than Israel. While there are some Jewish American settlers who have taken this position, referring to the Vietnam and Iraq wars, does Chomsky seriously believe that AIPAC or any major American Jewish organization would make this argument and compare America’s crimes to Israel’s? Again, the answer is obvious. But why does Chomsky insult our intelligence by asking us to believe such a fatuous claim? Why do those who know better let him get away with it?
The answer to the first question was given by Prof. Chomsky to the interviewer from Israel’ Channel Two television station who paid him a visit in Amman on May 19, two days after he was turned back at the Allenby Bridge.
When challenged about statements he had made strongly criticizing Israel, Chomsky responded, “I don’t regard myself as a critic of Israel. I regard myself as a supporter of Israel.”
Chomsky, who, in certain circles likes to boast of his early Zionist activities did so for both his Israeli interviewer and for Alison Weir. Noting that he had opposed the notion of a Jewish state in favor of a bi-national state, “once Israel was formed in 1948, my position has consistently been that Israel should have all the rights of every state in the international system, no more and no less. “ He would repeat exactly the same words when speaking with Weir six weeks later.
Chomsky volunteered to his Israeli interviewer that up to five or six years ago, he had considered living there as an alternative to the United States and in the 50s, “we had considered staying there, in fact.” In other words, he seems to have no problem with the Jewish “right of return” to what, until 1948, was Palestine, but considers a similar demand by the Palestinians who were actually born there to be not only unrealistic but potentially dangerous.
Although presented with an opportunity in both interviews to do so, Chomsky made no mention of the plight of the 750,000 Palestinians made refugees in the period of Israel’s founding nor of the more than 400 Palestinian villages that Israel purposely destroyed to wipe out their traces. In fact, that history and the situation of the now millions of Palestinian refugees today, is something he rarely, if ever mentions, unless asked about it.
On one such occasion, when he was asked if the refugees would be obligated to give up their “right of return” under a “two-state solution,” Chomsky’s preferred outcome, he replied: “Palestinian refugees should certainly not be willing to renounce the right of return, but in this world — not some imaginary world we can discuss in seminars — that right will not be exercised, in more than a limited way, within Israel. Again, there is no detectable international support for it, and under the (virtually unimaginable) circumstances that such support would develop, Israel would very likely resort to its ultimate weapon, defying even the boss-man, to prevent it. In that case there would be nothing to discuss. The facts are ugly, but facts do not go out of existence for that reason. In my opinion, it is improper to dangle hopes that will not be realized before the eyes of people suffering in misery and oppression. (Emphasis added) Rather, constructive efforts should be pursued to mitigate their suffering and deal with their problems in the real world.” (Znet,3/30.2004)
What Chomsky is saying to the refugees is that if they persist with their demand to return to Palestine, and should that demand, support for which is currently undetectable in Chomsky’s eyes, actually grow to the point where Israel feels threatened with an avalanche of returnees, it is likely to use its nuclear weapons and blow up the planet. So, for the sake of the “real world” that has ignored them and to keep Israel, a country that he unhesitatingly supports, from exercising the “Sampson Option,” the refugees should forget about going home and await some nebulous “constructive efforts….to mitigate their suffering.”
I can imagine what most Palestinians would say to that but it is unprintable.
When Weir asked if he had been aware of the Nakba in the days when he had been a Zionist youth leader, Chomsky acknowledged that he had been “well aware of that,” but rather than offer any opinion on it, he referred to his membership in Hashomir Hatzair which had supported a bi-national state and that he lived on a kibbutz which, prior to 1948, called for “Arab-Jewish cooperation in a socialist state.” He did not come to live on that kibbutz, however, until 1953, five years after the Nakba.
In speaking with Weir, Chomsky did not hesitate to defend Israel’s legitimacy.. “Within Israel,” he said, “within the so-called Green Line, the internationally recognized borders, it’s a democratic state in the sense of Western democracies. There are laws and more than laws, practices that assign second class citizenship to Palestinians. In that respect it is not different from the US and other Western democracies.”
While there are few who will deny that racism exists in every Western (and non-Western) society and that it has often taken violent forms, Chomsky’s attempt to rationalize Israel’s ongoing discrimination of those Palestinians who remained after the Nakba, by lumping it together with the forms of racism practiced in the US and elsewhere, is too riddled with holes to analyze here but raises additional questions about on which side of the barricades he stands. The fact that he says “the occupation is simply criminal” as if Israel is not should not deceive us.
It should also be pointed out that Chomsky’s accusing Weir of harming the Palestinian cause is in keeping with the modus operandi he has employed when challenged from the Left regarding his stands on the Israel-Palestinian issue. With Alison Weir, it was the boycott of Israel, with Noah Cohen, in 2004, it was the latter’s advocacy of a single state and the Palestinian right of return. Chomsky accused Cohen of “”serving the cause of the extreme hawks in Israel and the US, and bringing even more harm to the suffering Palestinians.”( Znet, 7/26/04))
I have also been not immune from such an attack. On November 12, 2004, before writing my article for Left Curve and after I had written the professor, asking him a number of questions that I hoped would clarify his positions he responded in a letter thusly:
“I have never really understood why you consistently take positions that so severely undermine any hope of justice for the Palestinians, find truth so offensive, and work so hard to evade our own responsibilities in favor of the much more convenient stance of blaming others [Israel]. But that’s your business. I don’t write or speak about it.”
What we are dealing with in the case of Prof. Chomsky is nothing less than intellectual dishonesty parading as its opposite and the boycott issue has brought it to the fore.
A glaring but little known example of that came in a speech that Chomsky made to the Harvard Anthropology Dept. in 2003 shortly after the MIT and Harvard faculties issued a joint statement on divestment. It was gleefully reported in the Harvard Crimson by pro-Israel activist, David Weinfeld, under the headline “Chomsky’s Gift”:
MIT Institute Professor of Linguistics Noam Chomsky recently gave the greatest Hanukkah gift of all to opponents of the divestment campaign against Israel. By signing the Harvard-MIT divestment petition several months ago—and then denouncing divestment on Nov. 25 at Harvard—Chomsky has completely undercut the petition.
At his recent talk for the Harvard anthropology department, Chomsky stated: “I am opposed and have been opposed for many years, in fact, I’ve probably been the leading opponent for years of the campaign for divestment from Israel and of the campaign about academic boycotts.”
He argued that a call for divestment is “a very welcome gift to the most extreme supporters of US-Israeli violence… It removes from the agenda the primary issues and it allows them to turn the discussion to irrelevant issues, which are here irrelevant, anti-Semitism and academic freedom and so on and so forth.” [Harvard Crimson, 12/2/2003] (Emphasis added.)
The following year, Chomsky clearly stunned Safundi, an interviewer for the Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies [5/10 2004] when in an exchange comparing Israel with the former apartheid regime, he again came to Israel’s defense and cast opposition to sanctions on Israel as a moral issue.
“One of the important tactics against the apartheid government was the eventual use of sanctions. Do you see that as a possibility?” asked Safundi.
“No,” Chomsky replied. “In fact I’ve been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.
“Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. That’s the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israelis that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.
“So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn’t understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don’t think it is. The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.”
To which the bewildered Safundi understandably asked, “Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?”
“Well,” Chomsky responded, as if he had been asked a stupid question, “the sanctions wouldn’t be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel.”
“Furthermore,” added, “there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the U.S. were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel.”
It would seem from that exchange that Chomsky has more respect for the opinions of Israel’s Jews than those of his fellow Americans.
In applying double standards to Israel and the United States, Chomsky has been consistent.
After telling the Israeli interviewer that, speaking as an American citizen, “we are responsible for our own actions and their consequences,” in the very next breath he declares that “every crime that Israel commits is with US participation and authorization,” which, even if true, which it is not, presumably would make Israel culpable, but not apparently enough, in Chomsky’s eyes, to warrant a boycott.
At the end of the day, it is evident that Chomsky’s affection for Israel, his sojourn on a kibbutz, his Jewish identity, and his early experiences with anti-Semitism to which he occasionally refers have colored his approach to every aspect of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and explain his defense of Israel. That is his right, of course, but not to pretend at the same that he is an advocate for justice in Palestine.
That same background may also explain his resistance to acknowledging the very obvious power of the pro-Israel lobby over US Middle East policy which he, like many others who share a similar history, interpret as “blaming the Jews,” a most taboo subject. It is, without a doubt, far more comfortable for him and his followers to continue insisting that US support for Israel is based on it being a “strategic asset” for the United States even when an increasing number of mainstream observers who are not linked to AIPAC or the Zionist establishment have judged it to be a liability. Should not Chomsky himself, on the basis of his own statements, be judged as to whether he is an asset or a liability for the Palestinian cause? If they have not already done so, serious supporters of that cause, including Palestinians, need to ask themselves that question.
NABI SALAH, Occupied West Bank: Palestinian activists are being jailed, Israeli activists are under surveillance, and the Israeli military is increasingly targeting journalists who cover West Bank protests.
The Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel issued a statement recently condemning what it sees as a change in Israel Defence Forces (IDF) policy in their treatment of journalists covering the growing number of West Bank protests against Israel’s separation barrier, illegal settlements and land expropriation.
“We would appreciate it were the authorities to remind the various forces involved, that open, unhindered coverage of news events is a widely acknowledged part of the essence of democracy.
“Generally speaking this would not include smashing the face of a clearly marked photographer working for a known and accredited news organisation with a stick, or for that matter aiming a stun grenade at the head of a clearly marked news photographer or summarily arresting cameramen, photographers and/or journalists,” said the FPA.
The release of the statement followed an attack on three journalists as they covered a protest march near an Israeli settlement built illegally on land belonging to the Palestinian village Beir Ummar in the southern West Bank.
Several weeks ago in the village Nabi Salah, north of Ramallah, two Israeli activists were roughed up and arrested after criticising Israeli soldiers for shooting at Palestinian boys throwing stones.
One of the Israelis, Yonatan Shapira, 38, an ex-Israeli Air Force (AIF) pilot and member of Combatants for Peace, (a group comprising former Palestinian and Israeli fighters) earned the wrath of the Israeli authorities when he authored a “pilot’s letter” in 2003 signed by 27 AIF pilots.
The pilots refused to fly over the Palestinian occupied territories and take part in the deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians, particularly in Gaza.
Shapira was recently interrogated by Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet over his participation in anti-occupation protests and his support for the BDS movement.
In what appeared to be a veiled threat the Israeli activist was warned that his presence at anti-wall demonstrations was in defiance of the areas being declared closed military-zones on Fridays.
Shapira believes his phone has been tapped. “Nothing we are doing is illegal and I’m not afraid, but I’m uncomfortable about my country turning into a fascist state,” said Shapira.
“The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate Israelis who engage in political dissent. We present no security threat. But the line between political activism and security is becoming increasingly blurred by the authorities who are trying to criminalise dissent,” Shapira told IPS.
“Sometimes when we come to demonstrations we have been stopped en route by the IDF who have taken down our details and appear to have prior knowledge of our movements,” Israeli activist Shy Halatzi, 23, a physics and astronomy student at Tel Aviv University who served in the Israeli military told IPS.
Israel has become alarmed at growing international support for a boycott campaign against the country as its right-wing government increasingly tramples on civil liberties. Hundreds of Israeli college professors signed a petition recently denouncing the threat by Israeli education minister Gideon Saar (a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party) to punish any lecturer or institution which supports a boycott of Israel.
Saar supports Im Tirtzu, a right-wing nationalist movement, which demands that Israeli education professionals be required to prove their commitment to Zionism.
Neve Gordon, professor of politics at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, received death threats after he wrote an editorial last year in the Los Angeles Times explaining why he supported a boycott on Israel.
Meanwhile, Palestinian grassroots activists involved in non-military popular committees, which organise non-violent activity against the occupation, continue to be arrested and jailed on what they say are trumped-up charges involving forced confessions under duress.
The IDF carries out nightly raids in West Bank villages where demonstrations take place regularly on a Friday and where villagers have been particularly active.
Wael Al-Faqia from Nablus in the northern West Bank was recently sentenced to a year’s prison for “belonging to an illegal organization.” Al-Faqia was arrested with eight other activists in December last year.
Musa Salama, an activist with the Labour Committee of Medical Relief Workers and associate of Al-Faqia, was sentenced last December to a year’s imprisonment on identical charges.
Abdullah Abu Rahme from the head of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in Bili’in village near Ramallah continues to languish in detention following his arrest in December last year.
Some of the allegations against him include incitement for planning the peaceful protests and “being in possession of arms.” The latter referred to his collection of used teargas canisters and spent bullet cartridges, fired by Israeli troops at unarmed protestors, [which had been arranged] into a peace sign.
“What we as Israeli activists endure is a fraction of what Palestinians are subjected to. They are subjected to harsher and much more brutal treatment than we are,” Shapira told IPS.
One wonders how much longer the Palestinian leadership can sustain this act
Each time Israel fails to keep its ‘side of the bargain’, the Palestinian Authority responds with the same redundant language. The cycle has become so utterly predictable that one wonders why the Palestinian Authority officials even bothers protesting Israeli action. They must be well aware that their cries, genuine or otherwise, will only fall on deaf ears. They know that their complaints could not possible contribute to a paradigm shift in Israel’s behavior, or the US position on it.
Let’s take a look at the context for the language of the Palestinian Authority’s complaints. In a speech made in early July, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas referred to any direct talks with Israel as ‘futile.’ Thousands of newspapers and news sites beamed this ‘headline’, highlighting the word ‘futile’ between inverted commas – as if it constituted some kind of earth-shattering revelation. But anyone following the Middle East, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular already knows that such talks will be ‘futile’. More, Israel has hardly made secret its lack of desire for a peaceful and just settlement.
Mr. Abbas, however, has managed to insert his relevance as a ‘player’ in the conflict, using one cleverly coined word. This word has had as much of an impact in Arabic as has in English.
Of course, none of this means that Abbas has actually adopted a serious shift in course. One need not dig up old archives to remember that the PA president felt the same way about the so-called ‘proximity talks’ with Israel last May. Before they began, he also expressed his opinion that the talks would be futile. He further insisted that no talks, direct or otherwise, would resume without a complete Israeli halt in settlement constructions in occupied East Jerusalem. After this grand declaration, Abbas went along with the proximity talks charade, while Palestinian families continued to be uprooted from their homes in their historic city. Only one barrier was removed before embarking on the proximity talks: Abbas and his men quit complaining.
Nearly two months later, when it is evident to all that the proximity talks were indeed ‘futile’ – especially as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has triumphed over US President Barack Obama in his most recent visit to Washington – Mr. Abbas finds himself in desperate need for another line of defense. Thus, the new campaign attacking predictably ‘futile’ direct talks with Israel.
Mr. Abbas is not the only actor in this drama. Others have also been doing their job, as efficiently and as true to form as ever. Yasser Abed Rabbo, who has worn several hats in the past and is now one of Mr. Abbas’s aides, stated that the PA “will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years.” This promise – that the Palestinian leadership will not be fooled into talks for the sake of talking and with no timeframe – is not the first of its kind to come from Abed Rabbo, and it’s unlikely to be the last. Abbas’ aide will most likely continue sharing the same tired insight over and over again, because it’s the scripted part that any ‘moderate’ – as in self-seeking – Palestinian official must reiterate to remain relevant. How else could they give the impression that the PA still serves the role of the bulwark against Israeli illegal territorial encroachment and military occupation?
Ahmed Qurei, former Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister and ex-Prime Minister, recently spoke at a Hebrew University Conference, entitled: “The Israeli-Palestinian Proximity Talks: Lessons from Past Negotiations.” The conference was organized by Hebrew University’s Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace. The place and occasion of this conference could not be more significant. First, much of the Hebrew University was built on ‘ethnically cleansed’ Palestinian land. Second, Qurei spoke at an Israeli University in an occupied city, at a time when activists and academics from all over the world, including several from Israel, are leading a cultural and academic boycott of Israeli universities to protest the terrible role these institutions have played in Israeli violence against Palestinians.
Worse, immediately before his speech, Qurei had met with former Israeli Foreign Minister and acting Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni. Livni had ordered and supervised the unprecedented killing and maiming of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009. The level of inhumanity she displayed during those days was met with outrage around the world, including from many in Israel itself. But all the blood was brushed under the carpet, as “Livni (and) Abu Ala exchange(d) ‘niceties’”, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Just try to imagine the fury that all Palestinians – and especially those besieged in destroyed Gaza – must have felt as Qurei and Livni shook hands and smiled for cameras. As for Qurei’s academic and political contributions, the Post reported that, “at the conference, Qurei said Netanyahu had not really frozen West Bank settlement construction, and added that Israel’s actions were preventing direct talks.”
Considering the numerous compromises that Qurei afforded in his very attendance of the conference, and his handshaking with Livni, one fails to understand the point of such statements.
These empty declarations will have no bearing on the outcome of events, nor will they force Netanyahu and his right-wing government to think twice as they carry on demolishing homes and uprooting trees. But they are more important than ever for the PA, as voices are rising in Washington, in London and elsewhere, demanding that the US and its partners acknowledge, if not ‘engage’ Hamas. Such a prospect is bad news for the West Bank Palestinian leadership, which understands that its relevance to the ‘peace process’ hinges on the constant dismissal of Hamas. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah will continue to adhere to its methodology: don’t criticize Israel too harshly, so as not to lose favor; follow the US dictates, so as to maintain a ‘moderate’ status and many privileges; and always give an impression to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims that the PA is the one and only defender of Jerusalem.
One wonders how much longer the Palestinian leadership can sustain this act, which is in fact the real exercise of futility.
Those who oppose war and militarism need to stand with Bradley Manning, the 22-year old Army private, who believed he saw war crimes being committed by the U.S. military and shared the information so the American public could know what the armed forces were doing. The most famous leak from Manning was the “Collateral Murder” video shared on the Wikileaks.org website. The video he reportedly leaked showed an Apache Helicopter attack by the U.S. military killing a dozen civilians and wounding two children.
Manning allegedly leaked hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and emails that have yet to be published. He said that the documents showed horrible “crimes” and his goal in releasing them was to “hopefully [spark] worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms, if not . . . we’re doomed as a species.” His goal was for “people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
Now Manning is being held in custody in a prison in Kuwait, without access to private legal counsel facing 52 years in prison. The video he allegedly released started a much-needed discussion about the horrible truth about the killings that U.S. wars entail. He should be a national hero similar to whistle blowers like Daniel Ellsberg who exposed the truth of the Vietnam War. He deserves the support of the American people. Indeed, people like him should be getting medals and promotions, not people like General Stanley McChrysal (Cheney’s Assassin) and James N. Mattis (“sometimes its fun to kill people”).
Thankfully, the peace movement is starting to speak up for Private Manning. We need to see a massive campaign of support for Bradley Manning. Courage to Resist, Veterans Against the War (IVAW), Veterans for Peace and Courage to Resist, along with my organization Voters for Peace, have spoken out in support of Manning. So, people can now take action to support Manning. Here are some options:
– Write President Obama, with copies to to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calling for the release of Private Manning and allowing him access to civilian legal counsel. Click here to act now.
– Sign the petition at World Can’t Wait in support of Manning. Click here now to act.
– Visit www.BradleyManning.org and sign their petition, write to Manning and let him know you appreciate his courage and doing what you can to release him.
These wars, fought with corporate mercenaries are killing civilians at very high levels and undermining U.S. security. Secrecy allows illegal actions to continue – in our name. The importance of citizens like Manning becomes more evident when the behavior of the corporate media is noted. For example, The Washington Post’s David Finkel reportedly had possession of the Apache helicopter video two years ago but never released it to the public. Wars are able to hide behind the protection of a media that is too willing to not report their crimes. This is one example of many of corporate media cover-up that show the need for others to force transparency so the public knows what is being done in its name.
Let President Obama know you want to hear the truth. What is the U.S. military doing? Are prisoners being held without charges? Is torture continuing? How many civilians is the U.S. military killing? All these actions by the U.S. military are undermining our security. They are creating enemies for all of us.
Stand with Private Bradley Manning. Help to work for his release. He is a hero, not a criminal.