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Irish artists take a stand for Palestine

14 Aug 2010

Bravo. No more excuses or reasons to avoid dealing with Zionist intransigence. Action, and more is coming:

More than 150 Irish artists and intellectuals have declared Saturday a boycott of Israel, saying they would not perform or exhibit in Israel until Israel ceases what they call its abuse of Palestinian human rights. The artists signed a statement, pledging that they refrain from engaging in cultural activity with Israel “until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights”.

Speaking to the Irish Times, the head of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), Raymond Dean, said that artists that perform in Israel are backing it whether they like it or not.”

“You can’t really pin this down…at least an end of the occupation of Palestine; dismantling or at least stopping the settlements; and Israel negotiating in good faith with the Palestinians,” Dean said.

The statement comes as more and more artists scheduled to perform in Israel, such Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Jill Scott Heron, Santana, The Klaxons and the Gorillaz Sound System, have canceled their shows, in what appeared to be a response to Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last May, which resulted in the death of 9 flotilla activists.

Only last month, British electronica duo Leftfield announced that they would be canceling their scheduled performance in Israel on August 31st due what they referred to as production problems.

“Unfortunately Leftfield will not be able to perform at the Heineken Music Conference on the 31st August due to unforeseen production problems,” the duo wrote on the Facebook fan page dedicated to their current tour.

Meanwhile, on the duo’s official Facebook page they published a letter sent to them by the organization Boycott Israel calling for them to “postpone your planned concert in Israel this summer, indefinitely.”

The letter, scanned and posted on their page, stated that in light of Israel’s deadly raid on the Gaza flotilla in May, they urged the musicians to take a stand and protest Israel’s actions by canceling the show.

“Performing in Israel today means crossing an international picket line,” the letter said, adding that, “your visit here will be construed as a vote of confidence in Israel’s oppressive policies.”

In their cancellation statement the group made no reference to the letter, despite the fact that they had made it public by posting it on their Facebook page.

Leftfiled joined a growing list of artists and musicians who have recently canceled their shows in Israel due to political reasons, among others.

 

Will the please Hoder please stand up?

14 Aug 2010

I’ve long followed the case of famous Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan – even meeting him at a conference in Budapest in 2008 – but this latest news adds yet more layers of mystery to a man with a confused past, tough present and uncertain future:

Hossein Derakhshan, the Iranian Canadian who helped launch a blogging revolution in Iran, is on trial in Tehran, almost two years after he was arrested. According to the government-linked Fars News Agency, charges against him include working with hostile governments, spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime, and launching and managing obscene websites. The trial opened on June 23 and is expected to end shortly.

Derakhshan moved to Canada in 2001 and soon created a blog that was widely read in Iran, and among Iranian exiles. The tech-savvy Derakhshan also posted an online guide that allowed other Iranians to start their own Persian-language blogs. Thousands did. “Hoder changed everything,” says Arash Azizi, an Iranian journalist who knew Derakhshan in Tehran and recently moved to Toronto, referring to him by his nickname. 

Derakhshan returned to Iran in 2004 to work for a reformist candidate, but left again and spent the next four years out of the country. He broke the Islamic Republic’s greatest taboo by visiting Israel in 2006. “I don’t care,” he wrote. “I am a citizen of Canada and have the right to visit any country I want.” But Derakhshan’s writings and public statements diverged sharply from this apparent irreverence. He became increasingly supportive of the regime, criticizing dissidents and others who suffered the Islamic Republic’s repression. In 2006, he described as genuine a confession to fuelling unrest in Iran that Iranian Canadian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo made after four months in jail. In the same column he declared that Iran had “passed the stage of state terror.”

By the time Derakhshan gave an interview to Iran’s state-run propaganda network, Press TV, in 2008, shortly before moving back to Iran, his words were virtually indistinguishable from those of a hired government spokesman. He praised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s international diplomacy and condemned Israel and the Israeli lobby in America. Many Iranian democrats were contemptuous. “What is Hoder’s role?” the London-based Iranian blogger Potkin Azarmehr asked. “Simply put, to present an acceptable face of the Islamic Republic to Western intellectuals.”

Why Derakhshan returned to Iran in the autumn of 2008 is unclear—and is hotly debated. “Given his recent role as apologist for President Ahmadinejad and his systematic defamation of human rights dissidents, Derakhshan may have assumed that he would be safe,” Payam Akhavan, a McGill University professor of international law and founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, wrote in a newspaper column. He wasn’t. Derakhshan was arrested and spent much of his incarceration in solitary confinement.

It appears he co-operated—or was forced to co-operate—with his jailers. During a mass show trial held last year after hundreds of thousands of Iranians protested the seemingly rigged presidential election, an official referred to evidence provided by a nameless “spy who is now in detention.” The biography described by the official makes it clear he was referring to Derakhshan, who allegedly described the demonstrations as part of a pre-planned, foreign-orchestrated “soft coup” designed to overthrow the government the way uprisings had done in places like Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine.

Little verifiable information is available about the progress of Derakhshan’s own trial. His parents were not allowed inside the courtroom. Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs will not say if a Canadian government official was there. Iran does not recognize dual nationality. Derakhshan is at the mercy of the regime he both defied and supported.

 

We left Iraq devastated

14 Aug 2010

My friend Mike Otterman, with whom I recently spoke in New York about Iraq and Palestine, has a piece in the Christian Science Monitor on Iraqi refugees, the silent victims of our devastating war:

Bombs still detonate and Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked, but American pundits and politicians have vied to take credit for US “success” in Iraq.

“I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration,” said Vice President Joe Biden earlier this year.

Days later former Vice President Dick Cheney shot back: “If they’re going to take credit for it, fair enough, for what they’ve done while they’re there. But it ought to go with a healthy dose of ‘thank you, George Bush’ up front…”

Now, as thousands of US troops withdraw to meet an August 31 deadline for a formal end to US combat operations, discussion has turned to Iraq’s uncertain future.

Lost in this new debate are the deep human costs of the 2003 US-led invasion – and what we, as Americans, owe Iraqis.

 

Iraq Body Count – an organization that combs media for reports of Iraqi violence – now puts the total civilian death count at roughly 100,000.

And there are currently 4.5 million displaced Iraqis languishing on the outskirts of Iraqi cities and scattered throughout nearby Jordan and Syria. This represents the largest urban refugee crisis in the world.

Most displaced Iraqis fled Iraq amid the height of the civil war in 2006 and 2007. At the time, as many as 30,000 Iraqis per month poured into Syria. Thousands fled to Jordan everyday. The torrent slowed by 2008, but the refugees remain.

 

Who needs gender equality in Saudi?

14 Aug 2010

A proud ally of America and Australia:

Saudi Arabia is keeping up with the times, and blogger Eman Al Nafjan tells us how.

Did you know that Saudi Arabia has a service in place where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends a text message to a male guardian every time a “dependent” leaves the country?

And the male “guardians” are the fathers and husbands, or in their absence, brothers and the “dependents” refer to the wives, daughters and sisters.

 

Scahill on the war on terror’s endless run

13 Aug 2010

One of the finest independent, American journalists, Jeremy Scahill, spoke this week at the Centre for American Progress on Barack Obama, Wikileaks, Blackwater and the “war on terror”.

 

Amnesty releases statement on Australia refugees

13 Aug 2010

Let the pressure mount:

Human rights groups say the Australian Government cannot continue to ignore a group of asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking stand-off who remain in detention limbo.

The Australian Customs boat picked up 78 Tamil asylum seekers last year who then refused to disembark the ship in Indonesia for a month until the Government told them they would be resettled within 12 weeks.

Radio National’s 360 program has found 25 still remain in detention despite being declared refugees.

Dr Graham Thom from Amnesty International says the Government cannot keep ignoring them.

“Australia does need to go back and have a look at these individuals,” he said.

“Given that they did have responsibility for them when they were on board the Oceanic Viking, Australian authorities should be looking at them in terms of their protection needs; this should not be distorting resettlement programs.”

Dr Thom says the deal to get the asylum seekers off the boat should never have been struck in the first place.

“These people should have been brought to the Australian mainland and processed here, and if they were found to be refugees in need of protection we should have been looking after them already,” he said.

“There was no reason that any deal or any special treatment should have been given in the first place.”

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