The Constitutional Court of France has repealed a law criminalizing denial of the so-called “Armenian genocide”, which was adopted by the country’s Senate.
However the Constitutional Council of France has not yet taken a final decision.
On January 23 the French Senate passed a bill making it a crime to publicly deny that the Ottoman Empire’s 1915 killings of Armenians was a genocide.
Denying the Holocaust in France is already a crime punishable by a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros. Legislators suggested the same punishment for denying the Armenian genocide.
The upper house of parliament voted 127-86 in favor of the legislation.
The vote in favor of the bill was greeted with indignation by the Turkish government, which denies the massacre that claimed an estimated 1.5 million lives during World War I.
Moreover, public affirmation of the Armenian genocide is treated as a crime in Turkey , and is considered an insult to national identity.
After the lower house of parliament adopted the draft bill in December 2011, Turkey recalled its ambassador from France.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose party originally proposed the bill, previously announced that the ruling majority would introduce a new text in case of the Constitutional Court’s disagreement.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé called the bill unnecessary and counterproductive, saying the law would have serious consequences for Franco-Turkish relations.
Armenia, on the other hand, praised the move as historic event in the field of human rights.
Armenia estimates that as many as a million and a half ethnic Armenians died or were killed during mass deportations from eastern Anatolia.
However, Ankara insists that the number is closer to 300,000. Turkey insists they all were victims of World War I and rejects the term “genocide.”
Official recognition of the genocide is the key issue for the Armenian advocacy groups around the globe. So far, nineteen nations, including France, have granted that recognition, as has the European Union. Slovenia and Switzerland treat denial of the genocide as a crime.
The University of Paris 8 is traditionally one of the more left-wing third-level institutions in France. Alas, its current president Pascal Binczak is seeking to negate this legacy. Under pressure from the pro-Israel lobby, he recently banned a conference titled “Is Israel an apartheid state?” When students and academics organising the event defied him and vowed to proceed with the event on the university’s premises, he ordered the campus closed for two days this week, citing a risk to public safety.
His “fears” were unfounded. Moved to another venue at the last minute, the event passed off peacefully. The only discernible risk it posed was that attendees would increase their knowledge about Israel’s crimes against humanity, which explains why hawkish groups like CRIF (the self-declared “representative council” for French Jews) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center could not tolerate it.
CRIF was particularly exercised by the intended participation of Omar Barghouti, a coordinator of the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. As it happened, Barghouti had to pre-record his contribution for delivery by video because of a scheduling issue (although he is hoping to be physically present for a public meeting against Zionist bullying in Paris tomorrow).
“Weapon of intellectual terror”
In his message, Barghouti argued that Zionist groups “recklessly and maliciously” accuse the BDS campaign of anti-Semitism. “This is a weapon of intellectual terror deployed by Israel and its lobby groups, especially in France and the US, to silence dissent and muzzle debate,” he said.
In an apparent rebuttal of comments made a few weeks ago by Norman Finkelstein, Barghouti took issue with claims that the BDS movement has a hidden agenda of seeking to destroy Israel. Stressing that the core aims of the movement include both an end to the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and equal rights for Jews and Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship, he said: “If equality and justice would destroy Israel, then what does that say about Israel? Did equality and justice destroy South Africa? Did they destroy Alabama? Of course, not.”
“Most important right”
Barghouti added that the “most important right” asserted by BDS activists is the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. About 50% of the 11 million Palestinians throughout the world live outside historic Palestine (which includes the present-day state of Israel).
Several hundred Francophone academics signed a letter over the past fortnight urging Binczak to lift the ban he imposed on the conference.
Julien Salingue, a graduate of Paris 8 who now teaches at Auvergne University, told me that while Binczak had the power to cancel the conference on public safety grounds he had acted in a “disputable manner” by trying to gain approval from his academic colleagues. Binczak had called a meeting of the Paris 8 administrative council to discuss the ban. The meeting was held without following the usual procedures such as inviting student representatives to attend.
In my own presentation to the conference, I lamented how the European Union’s Monitoring Center for Racism and Xenophobia had drawn up a “working definition” of anti-Semitism in 2005, with the aid of the Anti-Defamation League (a right-wing Zionist group) in New York. The definition stated that describing Israel as a “racist endeavor” amounted to anti-Semitism.
While this definition has never been formally approved by the EU’s governments, it has been invoked by Zionists in a bid to prevent a robust critique of Israel on campuses in several countries. Visiting Birmingham in England last year, I learned that the student’s union in the city’s university had decided that all speakers invited onto the campus must not say anything that contravenes the EU’s “working definition.” The decision was taken in response to one Palestine solidarity activist who likened Gaza to a concentration camp.
Among the many articulate and courageous people I met in Paris was Jean-Guy Greilsamer from the Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP). He has written a letter to Brinczak, describing the accusations of anti-Semitism made by CRIF and similar groups as “blackmail.”
“In keeping with the Israeli strategy of conflating Zionism and Judaism, it takes hostage all Jewish citizens of every country in the world who oppose the commission of crimes in their name,” he added. “Conflating the terms ‘Jew’, ‘Zionist’ and ‘Israeli’ facilitates anti-Semitism. Doesn’t caving in to this blackmail amount to accepting the confusion and everything it implies? Is it not the policies of Israel and its defenders that constitute a threat to public order, not the conferences organized by academics who believe in law and justice?”
It is always amazing to observe the ignorance of the Canadian left when it comes to Quebec politics. The reasons for this, I believe, are similar to what blocked the English left over Ireland for decades, as well as the French left over their African empire. It is costly in the short term to oppose its “own” imperialism, because it is supported by a very wide popular colonial mentality. But in the long term, it is deadly.
In any case, here we have a NDP campaign that is going nowhere, unfortunately. More than that, the front-runner is now an ex-Liberal Minister who was known for his trade-union bashing and his love of free trade agreements, not to mention his “affair” with Israel (as it has been noted recently by rabble contributors). Mulcair was also not only a staunch anti-nationalist, but he even fought hard against Bill 101 (to protect the French language). Even if people tend to forget things, not many people will give him any credibility when he says that he speaks “for Quebec.”
On all these important issues, Mulcair has been a centre-right liberal.
Some Canadians have raised the argument that Mulcair would be able to “secure” the NDP vote in Quebec, so that his leadership would be beneficial for the party. This is very far from reality.
Mulcair had very little to do with the orange wave of last May. Mulcair represents a very strange riding which is called Outremont. It is the home of the wealthy francophones, on the West side, who have been tiring of voting for what became to be known as the party of crooks (Liberals). It is also the home of many immigrant communities and the centre of the orthodox Jewish community which numbers more than 20 per cent of the total population of Outremont. It is a unique feature in Montreal’s demographic. This community supports Mulcair for reasons that are far off from any progressive meaning, or from the anti-racist and anti-discrimination battles that abound in the city.
Outside of this perimeter, very few people would support Mulcair.
Some would say that Mulcair has the support of the majority of the Quebec NDP MPs. The fact is that these MPs are mostly politically inexperienced, and without any social base. Before May 2, and the TV appearances of Jack Layton in Quebec, the NDP would not have been able to bring more than 200 people into a room. It had local committees in fewer than five ridings (including Outremont). Currently, some of the most serious NPDers in Quebec have decided to support candidates other than Mulcair.
All in all, Mulcair as the leader of the NDP, would be a disaster in Quebec. The support the party got on May 2 is already melting like snow in the spring. Canadians who still believe in the NDP as a vehicle for change should think about these matters seriously.
The Arab Digest had previously reported on Syrian Opposition member, Mamoun Al-Homsi, and his call for ethnic cleansing of minorities in Syria. Well, new questions emerge on his politics and suspicious ties with Israel.
Mamoun Al-Homsi is pictured above at the Prague Security Conference (NeoCon) with the Israeli-Italian right wing politician and hardline Zionist, Fiamma Nirenstein. Nirenstein who is a neocon Zionist has spent much of her life in an illegal East Jerusalem Settlement called Gilo where she still maintains a home.
Nirenstein is known for translating books of Nathan Sharansky, Bernard Lewis and Ruthie Bloom; she led efforts on behalf of the Israeli government to thwart the Palestinian bid for full UN membership and Statehood.
She is also known for hardline Zionist quotes like “every Jew in the world is an Israeli even if he’s not aware of it. Anyone who doesn’t know it is making a big mistake” and “morally speaking, there mustn’t be negotiations with Hamas, which thinks that Jews are the sons of monkeys and pigs. You can’t negotiate with cannibals, who eat human beings”. Her stances drove Luisa Morgantini, the Vice President of the European Parliament to write an article in 2007, criticizing her hawkish stances, it was titled “Fiamma Nirenstein and the conspiracy of treacherous Palestinians who do not want peace.”
Nirenstein spends her year between an Italian residence and the East Jerusalem settlement with her husband, Israeli photographer Ofer Eshed.
The question remains, what was Homsi doing with her in Prague?
Homsi has also met her and U.S. based Farid Ghadri, a pro-Israeli opposition figure, in Rome where they discussed Syria. Nirenstein later wrote a post about her meeting with the two, expressing her deep worries over Hezbollah’s capabilities and Syria’s arsenal of rockets, capable of reaching Israel.
PS. The photo’s credit is for Alessandro Lattanzio who kindly translated our earlier article on al-Homsi to Italian. Here is his post in Italian along with the photo.
See also from Arab Digest:
Rhetoric in Syria’s revolution took a dangerous Sectarian shift with former Syrian MP and opposition activist Mamoun Homsi, 56, making ethnic cleansing threats against minorities. He clearly stated that in Syria, “there will be no minorities”, and called for the obliteration of the ruling Allawite community. … continue
- Friends (Enemies) of Syria Conference (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Belén Fernández Dresses Down Thomas Friedman
What’s scary about Thomas Friedman is not his journalism, with its under-inflated insights and twisted metaphors. Annoying as his second-rate thinking and third-rate writing may be, he’s not the first — or the worst — hack journalist.
What should unnerve us about Friedman is the acclaim he receives in political and professional circles. Friedman’s New York Times column appears twice a week on the most prestigious op/ed page in the United States; he has won three Pulitzer Prizes; his books are best-sellers; he’s a darling of the producers of television news shows; and he fills lecture halls for a speaking fee as high as $75,000.
Although his work is stunningly shallow and narcissistic, Friedman is celebrated as a big thinker.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was so excited after a 2005 Hardball interview with Friedman that he proclaimed: “You have a global brain, my friend. You’re amazing. You amaze me every time you write a book.”
How does a journalist with a track record of bad predictions and a penchant for superficial analysis — a person paid to reflect about the world yet who seems to lack the capacity for critical self-reflection — end up being treated as an oracle?
The answer is simple: Friedman tells the privileged, and those who aspire to privilege, what they want to hear in a way that makes them feel smart; his trumpeting of U.S. affluence and power are sprinkled with pithy-though-empty anecdotes, padded with glib turns of phrases. He’s the perfect oracle for a management-focused, advertising-saturated, dumbed-down imperial culture that doesn’t want to come to terms with the systemic and structural reasons for its decline.
In Friedman’s world, we’re always one clichéd big idea away from the grand plan that will allow us to continue to pretend to be the shining city upon the hill that we have always imagined we were/are/will be again.
As a reporter, columnist, author, or speaker, Friedman’s secret to success is in avoiding the journalistic ideals of “speaking truth to power” or “afflicting the comfortable.” Those ideals are too rarely met in mainstream journalism, but Friedman never goes very far beyond parroting the powerful and comforting the comfortable. Friedman sees the world from the point of view of the privileged, adopting in his own words the view of “a tourist with an attitude” when reporting on the rest of the world.
Here’s the problem with that mindset: Around the world, American tourists routinely are experienced as boorish and smug. Around the world, people smile at American tourists and take their money, all the while despising their arrogance and ignorance. Tourists never quite catch on, wondering why the “natives” don’t appreciate them.
In her examination of Friedman’s work, Belén Fernández explains the danger in America’s affection for its number one Tourist Journalist. Her book, The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work,1 is as much about the cultural and political crises in the United States as it is about Friedman’s flaws. This larger focus transforms what could have been a sarcastic hit-piece that took easy shots at Friedman’s most mangled prose into a thoughtful meditation from a young journalist willing to state the obvious: the emperor’s messenger has no clothes.
After graduating from Columbia University with a political science degree in 2003, Fernández traveled throughout the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe. Eventually her travel notes turned into journalism, as her accounts of people she met and interviewed became stories for web publications. Frustrated by the gap between what she knew from her education and reporting, and Friedman’s version of international affairs, she wrote a few short critiques of the Times columnist in 2009. Then she undertook the systematic review of all his columns since 1995, selections from his writing as a reporter, and his books that led to The Imperial Messenger. In an email interview, she explained how that happened and why.
Robert Jensen: What sparks a relatively unknown journalist with no establishment credentials to research a book that argues one of the country’s most well-known journalists is, to put it bluntly, a fool and a fraud? That isn’t going to put you in the fast lane for a well-paying job in mainstream journalism.
Belén Fernández: Prior to 2009, my familiarity with the work of Thomas Friedman was basically limited to his notion that France should have been removed from the U.N. Security Council for refusing to support the Iraq war. When I began reading him more extensively, I couldn’t believe that no one had debunked him in book form and took it upon myself to do so — naively assuming that it would be an enjoyable and relatively simple task. This assumption proved unfounded, as I realized that a book of any real value had to consist of something more serious than 150 pages of making fun of Friedman’s blunders and general foolishness.
What kept me going throughout the months of reading and re-reading decades worth of Friedman’s drivel was anger — at his warmongering jingoism, his blatant racism vis-à-vis large sectors of the world’s population, and the fact that someone unable to keep track of his own arguments and to refrain from continually contradicting himself had risen to a position of such prominence in the U.S. media.
RJ: What word or phrase would you use to describe Friedman’s analytical framework, his way of understanding the world?
BF: Perhaps Friedman’s own decree: “Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things.”
RJ: Good journalists inevitably have to simplify the complex events they report about. You suggest Friedman’s work is reductionist. What’s the difference between the two?
BF: It’s one thing to simplify events and phenomena so that audiences can more easily understand them; it’s quite another to brand Palestinians as “gripped by a collective madness” and to whitewash war crimes such as collective punishment.
Recall Friedman’s justification [on the Charlie Rose Show] in 2003 for the Iraq war: A “terrorism bubble” had emerged in “that part of the world” and had made itself known on 9/11. In order to burst the bubble, U.S. troops needed to go “house to house, from Basra to Baghdad,” wielding a “very big stick” and instructing Iraqis to “Suck. On. This.” No matter that Friedman himself acknowledged that there was absolutely no link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Or recall Friedman’s reductionist Tilt Theory of History, which applies to situations in which “you take a country, a culture, or a region that has been tilted in the wrong direction and tilt it in the right direction.” Again, “right” and “wrong” as conceived of by Friedman and the U.S. military are passed off as universal truths.
Then we, of course, have the Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention, which posits that no two countries that host McDonald’s establishments have gone to war with each other since each acquired its McDonald’s. This delightful discovery regarding the harmonious effects of American fast food and U.S. corporate dominance is cast into doubt when, shortly after the theory’s birth, 19 McDonald’s-possessing NATO countries go to war with McDonald’s-possessing Yugoslavia.
Around this same time, Friedman’s reductionist assessment that “America truly is the ultimate benign hegemon” is contradicted by such things as his simultaneous entreaties for “sustained,” “unreasonable,” and “less than surgical bombing” of Serbia.
His economic reductions meanwhile rarely withstand the test of reality. Friedman exulted over the Irish economic model in 2005, threatening Germany and France that they had better follow the “leprechaun way” — by, inter alia, making it easier to fire workers — in order to avert economic decadence. The leprechaun way merits no further mention following the collapse of the Irish economy.
RJ: Friedman seems to defy easy political categorization. He doesn’t fit into the categories of liberal or conservative typically used in mainstream politics in the United States. What word or phrase would you use to sum up Friedman’s politics?
BF: Schizophrenic? For example, he advertised the Iraq war as “the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched” while simultaneously defining himself as “a liberal on every issue other than this war” and the war as part of a “neocon strategy.” During an encounter with Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit in 2003, Friedman described the alleged war for democracy in Iraq as not a war that the American masses demanded but rather a war of an elite.
Friedman’s consistent championing of policies benefiting the corporate elite — most recently in his campaign to slash corporate taxes and entitlements in the aftermath of the financial recession — would locate him on the right of the ideological spectrum, though he intermittently endeavors to disguise himself as a “Social Safety Netter” or a “radical centrist.” According to Friedman, the current key to establishing a “party of the radical center” is a bizarre entity called Americans Elect, which will field a third presidential ticket in 2012 elected via “internet convention” and which Friedman acknowledges is funded with “some serious hedge-fund money” courtesy of investor Peter Ackerman. Centrism indeed.
At a presentation at a university in Istanbul in 2010, Friedman classified himself politically as neither a Democrat nor a Republican but rather a disciple of billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s theory that “everything I got in life was because I was born in this country, America, at this time, with these opportunities and these institutions.” Friedman reiterated his duty to pass on a similar situation to his children. As I say in my book, foreign audiences and non-billionaires might be forgiven for a lack of complete sympathy.
RJ: You decided to focus on three subjects in the book: “America,” “the Arab/Muslim world,” and the United States’ “special relationship” with Israel. Why did you pick those?
BF: No book on Friedman would have been complete without a section on his grating patriotic obsession with the United States and his view of the country as a global role model and civilizing force. Given that the Arab/Muslim world is so often on the receiving end of the U.S. military’s civilizing endeavors, I decided it was also crucial to devote a section to Friedman’s unabashed Orientalism and his dehumanizing and patronizing contempt for Arabs and Muslims, which he naturally attempts to disguise as concern for their freedom.
The “special relationship” with Israel is more a reference to Friedman’s own function as an apologist for crimes committed by the Jewish state. He purports to be a serious critic of Israel, but his criticism is largely restricted to the issue of settlements, which he criticizes because he views them as jeopardizing the perpetuation of ethnocracy and Israel’s ability to continue denying Palestinians equal rights in a single multi-ethnic democracy. Right-wing Zionists are increasingly condemning Friedman as anti-Israeli and a pro-Palestinian militant, which raises a question — with enemies like Friedman, who needs friends?
RJ: Your own political views are clearly at odds with Friedman’s. How would you answer critics who might suggest your book is just a polemic about those issues, not about Friedman?
BF: One of the most fundamental problems I have with Friedman is that he uses his elevated position to belittle human suffering and to encourage the slaughter of civilians, as he did during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (2008-09), when he invoked Israel’s “logical” mass targeting of civilians in Lebanon in 2006 as an optimistic precedent.
I don’t think it’s possible to reduce this to a clash between political views. As I point out in the book, it is not up to Friedman to decide that the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting collective punishment and targeting of civilians in wartime is illogical. Given his influential position in foreign policy circles, I don’t classify his promotion of the notion that some human beings are inherently inferior and more expendable than others, and that corporate profit supersedes human life in importance, as merely politically misguided. I classify it as criminal, and I consider him to be personally responsible and not just a product of the system in which he flourishes.
RJ: After this rather unorthodox start to your publishing career, what comes next?
BF: For the moment my plan is to travel to Peru and Bolivia and see what happens, and hopefully to not encounter anyone who has ever heard of Thomas Friedman.
- Published by Verso in its new series Counterblasts, dedicated to “challenging the apologists of Empire and Capital.”
Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
- McJournalism: The Unbearable Lightness of Thomas Friedman (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Tom Friedman Not Sucking It on Iraq War (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On Monday, Israeli officials announced their intention to construct a train system for Israeli settlers living in violation of international law in the West Bank.
Although Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that the proposed rail lines would eventually also serve the Palestinian population, the proposed 475 kilometers of rail lines would cross any existing or negotiated territorial lines between Israel and Palestine, and would essentially impose Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank.
According to a map of the proposed rail system obtained by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, the 11 proposed train lines would include a line from Rosh Ha’ayin (northeast of Tel Aviv in Israel) through the settlement of Ariel, in the northern part of the West Bank. One proposal also includes a continuation of the line with a tunnel under the Palestinian city of Nablus, to reach Israeli settlements constructed on stolen Palestinian land east of the city.
The proposed rail lines would also include a north-south line running between Israeli settlements near Jenin, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and a parallel line running on the eastern edge of the West Bank, connecting cities inside Israel with illegal settlements constructed in violation of both international and Israeli law in the occupied Palestinian territory.
According to the Ha’aretz report, the national rail system of Israel, Israel Railways, paid engineer Gidon Yerushalmi one million Israeli shekels to create the plan. But most sections of the proposed railway would violate signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and would also violate international law.
Still, the Israeli Transportation Minister voiced his hope that the plan would move forward, and has already authorized funding for a section of railway running from the northeast of Tel Aviv to the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel.
RAMALLAH – Khader Adnan is in a stable condition after undergoing surgery on his intestine after his 66 day hunger strike, a lawyer for the Palestinian detainees’ center said Tuesday.
Raed Mahamid said after visiting Adnan in Zeev hospital in northern Israeli town Safed that his condition is good, and he is recovering from the anesthesia used during the operation.
Adnan underwent surgery after reporting severe pain in his abdomen two days ago, caused by an intestinal blockage, after he went for two months without food.
Israeli officials announced last week that they intend to release Adnan on April 17, shortly before his administrative detention term was set to end, and would not renew the order.
In return, Adnan agreed to end his hunger strike, the longest ever held by a Palestinian prisoner.
Female prisoner Hana Shalabi, who is being held under the same regulations permitting detention without charge, started a hunger strike on Feb. 16 after she was re-arrested, despite being freed in a prisoner swap deal in October.
- Raymond McCartney, former Irish hunger striker in message of support to Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Al Jazeera English Doesn’t Care About Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Valiance in the Face of Cruelty (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Adnan’s case highlights Israel’s racist legal system (nation.com.pk)