Archive | May 31st, 2011



Do members of the U.S. Congress know any shame? Is it possible for them to even feel such?

On Tuesday, as the people of Joplin, Missouri were digging out of the rubble and searching for the dead and missing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was received with flattering, abject deference by members of the U.S. Congress. In a speech which offered virtually nothing new, the leader of Israel was given a total of 30 standing ovations—or 31 if you want to count the fawning introduction offered up by House Speaker John Boehner, in which the Ohio Republican adoringly referred to Netanyahu as “His Excellency.”

Do members of Congress feel any shame? I do not know the answer to that, but their kowtowing to a foreign head of state has, in a very real sense, brought shame upon America. Forget Barack Obama. The real power in Washington now is AIPAC. Describing the spectacle, Lamis Andoni, a columnist for Aljazeera, referred to Netanyahu as “the unchallenged king of Capitol Hill”, and then added the following:

It was shocking, almost surreal, watching the smiling faces of Congressmen and Senators enthralled at Netanyahu’s glorification of the subjugation of another people under the yoke of military oppression. It was the equivalent of celebrating the war of extermination of Native Americans, slavery and racial segregation all at once.

On Friday, authorities in Joplin raised the death toll to 132. It is clear that our “leaders” in Washington have misplaced their priorities. Their love for a foreign head of state and their attachment to a nation which violates international law and practices apartheid seems genuinely to outweigh their concern for Americans coping with a major disaster. Below, listed in order, are the passages from Netanyahu’s speech which prompted their rising to their feet in homage.

House Speaker John Boehner:

“I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you His Excellency, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel.””


1. “I’m deeply moved by this warm welcome…I see a lot of new friends of Israel here as well—Democrats  and Republicans alike!” (standing ovation)

2. “Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel.” (standing ovation)

3. “Congratulations America. Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!” (standing ovation)

4. “You don’t need to send American troops to Israel, we defend ourselves.” (standing ovation)

5. (Netanyahu gets heckled by protestor Rae Abileah. Abileah is booed, but Netanyahu gets another standing ovation—for saying nothing)

6. “You know, I take it as a badge of honor and so should you—that in our free societies you can have these protests. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy!” (standing ovation)

7. “In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out! It is different!” (standing ovation)

8. “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East!” (standing ovation)

9. “Leaders who spew such venom should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet!” (standing ovation)

10. “There are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies. Not you. Not America!” (standing ovation)

11. “The more that Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation.”(standing ovation)

12. “And this is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message—that America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons!” (standing ovation)

13. “We’re a nation that rose from the ashes of the holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again!” (standing ovation)

14. “The peace agreements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan are vital, but they’re not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians.” (standing ovation)

15. “You have to understand this. In Judea and Samaria the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers!” (standing ovation)

16. “No distortion of history could deny the 4,000 year old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land!” (standing ovation)

17. “The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state!” (standing ovation)

18. “You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It’s always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about!” (standing ovation)

19. “And worst of all, they (Palestinians) continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees. My friends, this must come to an end!” (standing ovation)

20. “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state!’” (standing ovation)

21. “I will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise.” (standing ovation)

22. “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967!” (standing ovation)

23. “It means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel!” (standing ovation)

24. “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel!” (standing ovation)

25. “Could you live that way? Well we’re not going to live that way either!” (standing ovation)

26. “So it’s therefore vital, absolutely vital, that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it’s vital, absolutely vital, that Israel maintain a long term military presence along the Jordan River!” (standing ovation)

27. “Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated!” (standing ovation)

28. “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaida! That we will not do!” (standing ovation)

29. “And if you do, I promise you this, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so!” (standing ovation)

30. May God bless all of you, and may God forever bless the United States of America! (standing ovation)

View the four-part video presentation of Netanyahu’s speech, courtesy of

Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

And finally, a refutation of some of Netanyahu’s assertions courtesy of Aadel M Al-Mahdy at Uprooted Palestinians:

You don’t need to send American troops to Israel, we defend ourselves.

Not trueIsrael does not defend itself. Israel is historically the number one recipient of US foreign aid. The US gives Israel a whopping $3 billion a year in aid and military equipment, most of which is used to defend Israel’s illegal occupation.

In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not occupiers.” (Raucous standing ovation.)

Not TrueIsrael’s nearly 44-year long occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal according to international law. The more than 500,000 Jewish Israelis who have been moved into the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967 are settlers who occupyPalestinian land – much of it privately owned by Palestinians and stolen by Jews the rest of it expropriated by the Israeli state – all taken for exclusive Jewish use. This is occupation.

Moreover, “Judea and Samaria” are the biblical terms for that piece of land. Is Bibi suggesting a state based not on secular law but on the Bible? A Jewish theocracy? Is this the Israel that our Congress promotes?

You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it.”

Not true. Within Israel, the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Palestinian do have the right to vote and run for office. But they are victims of systematic housingworkplaceand resource discrimination. For example, 93% of Israeli land is reserved for Jews. In the West Bank, more than 2 million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation—that is, their lives are ruled by Israeli military law, while their Jewish settler neighbors are subject to Israeli civil law. Another 1.5 million Gazans live under siege by the Israeli militaryIs this democracy?

Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.

Not true. The original UN charter that created Israel, as still recognized by the international community, identified Jerusalem as an internationalized zone that must be shared by all parties.






One of the great benefits of blogging is the opportunity to learn from those who comment on our posts.  We thought that Pirouz’s contributions regarding this post, “Parroting the Obama Administration’s Line on Iran and Syria,” added substantially to our arguments in the original version.  Therefore, we have revised the piece to take account of Pirouz’s contributions.  Please see the new version below.

Last year, we took The Washington Post’s Joby Warrick to task for stories he published that relied “almost entirely on unnamed U.S. officials and a known terrorist organization” to advance “Iraq-redux” claims that the Islamic Republic is seeking to build nuclear weapons, see here andhere.  Now, Warrick published a front-page story in The Washington Post—a story which relied entirely (no “almost”) on unnamed “U.S. officials and a diplomat from an allied nation” to report that

“Iran is dispatching increasing numbers of trainers and advisers—including members of its elite Quds Force—into Syria to help crush anti-government demonstrations that are threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the region.  The influx of Iranian manpower is adding to a steady stream of aid from Tehran that includes not only weapons and riot gear but also sophisticated surveillance equipment that is helping Syrian authorities track down opponents through their Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

We would directly challenge Warrick’s assertion that “anti-government demonstrations” in Syria “are threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the region”.  Another story, see here, in the same edition of The Washington Post as Warrick’s offers a far more accurate characterization of the Syrian protests as having “failed to muster the numbers that brought down the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year”, and further notes that “despite [protestors’] efforts, there has been no indication that the army would be willing to break ranks with the regime.”  We would add that the demonstrations in Syria, while persistent, have been concentrated in essentially peripheral areas of the country.

But to explore such issues would constitute serious journalism, and that is not what Warrick is doing here.  What he is doing is helping to disseminate what amounts to the Obama Administration’s chosen propaganda line:  popular unrest is making President Assad as “illegitimate” as Qaddafi in Libya, and the Islamic Republic of Iran—unlike the United States, which is valiantly standing by the “people” of Libya in their efforts to overthrow a dictator—is propping up a dictator in Syria.

We would argue that reality is quite different from this propaganda line:  the United States, without having done its homework, intervened on behalf of one side in a civil war in Libya, and still has not managed to oust Qaddafi.  Conversely, the unrest in Syria does not come anywhere close to a “civil war” threshold.  In our view, President Assad continues to command the support of at least half of Syria’s population.  But the Administration is worried about Iran’s rising standing and influence across the region—and is turning to every propaganda tool it can think of to “push back” against the Islamic Republic’s popularity in the Middle East—something attested to over several years by multiple public opinion polls.

In his story, apart from the very obvious limitations on his sourcing, Warrick makes no effort to offer an alternative perspective on the line he was fed by the Obama Administration.  Warrick cites one outside commentator—Michael Singh, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.  We know, like, and respect Michael Singh.  But, before Warrick’s story was published byThe Washington Post, Michael had already published his own Op Ed, see here, in The Wall Street Journal subscribing to the Obama Administration’s narrative about Iranian involvement in Syria.  Moreover, the Washington Institute is an AIPAC-created entity with its own agenda regarding both the Islamic Republic and Syria.  By going to Michael Singh as his sole outside commentator, Warrick assured that the Obama Administration’s preferred propaganda line would not be challenged in his “news story”.

Warrick’s story notes that

“many previous reports, mostly provided by Western officials, have described Iranian technical help in supplying Syria with riot helmets, batons and other implements of crowd control during 10 weeks of demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad”.

Even if this is true, would Warrick or his unnamed sources prefer that the Iranians send tanks and armored personnel carriers to Syria, to support a more militarized response?  We will have more on this point below.  Now,

“in the account provided by the diplomat and the U.S. officials, the Iranian military trainers were being brought to Damascus to instruct Syrians in techniques Iran used against the nation’s Green Movement in 2009.”

What “techniques” does Warrick mean?  Effective crowd control and letting the opposition show it had no credible evidence of electoral fraud in the Islamic Republic’s June 2009 presidential election, thereby losing most of its social base—which was never close to a majority anyway?

Perhaps if Warrick had been more assiduous in his reporting he would have identified some of the flaws in the story he was handed by the Obama Administration.  As one of our regular contributors on points out, the Administration’s narrative about Iranian support to Syria’s security apparatus—support allegedly coming from either the NAJA (Iranian national police) or the Revolutionary Guard, depending on the (unsubstantiated) source—is fundamentally at variance with what the Syrians are actually doing.  The Syrian response to popular unrest has become heavily militarized, with extensive deployments of army units—in particular, armored and mechanized units—to deal with demonstrations.  This is something the Islamic Republic never did.

The Iranian response to urban disturbances following the June 2009 presidential election was carried out by NAJA with basij volunteers.  Neither the regular military nor the Revolutionary Guard was deployed for this purpose.  Moreover, it is outside of the training and experience of either the NAJA or the Revolutionary Guard to use armored and mechanized units for “crowd control” purposes.  So, our contributor asks—how, exactly, is it that the NAJA and/or the Revolutionary Guard are supposedly contributing advice in support of the response that the Syrians are actually carrying out?  Warrick does not even begin to explore these discrepancies.   He uncritically parrots a narrative which accuses Iran of supporting Syria in carrying out a response to popular demonstrations which the Syrians are not actually implementing.

This is all strongly reminiscent of the sorts of journalistic malpractice committed by The Washington PostThe New York Times, and other august media organizations in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  As the Iraq precedent demonstrates, sanctioning “rogue regimes” (and the Obama Administration has now sanctioned Iranian officials and agencies for their alleged involvement in human rights abuses in Syria) on the basis of demonizing narratives that are uncritically parroted by the mainstream media can put the United States on a slippery slope to war.  Given America’s experience in Iraq, it would be truly criminal for the United States to go to war again in the Middle East under false pretenses.

Warrick adds—in a completely un-sourced editorial statement—that “the Iranians were brutally effective in crushing those protests.”  By buying into the Washington political establishment’s contrived line about Iranian political life—again, without any effort at critically evaluating that line—Warrick does a disservice to his readers.  The competitive nature of Iranian politics—which assures that groups or factions which lose a political battle today will have other bites at the apple in the future—distinguishes the Islamic Republic from Bahrain or other places in the Middle East where huge chunks of the society (in Bahrain’s case, a clear majority) have no bite at the apple at all.  This might help to explain why protests in Iran after the June 2009 presidential election died out very quickly, leaving only a small contingent of oppositionists who put themselves outside the established political order—a trajectory very different from what happened in Egypt or Tunisia, or from what is happening now in Syria.  That kind of comparative analysis would be potentially enlightening, but Warrick makes no attempt at it.

Likewise, it would be good journalistic practice, in exploring how the Syrian government is responding to popular unrest, whether with foreign support or not, to compare the Syrian response to that of other regional regimes currently facing similar challenges (which Iran is not).  If The Washington Post or any other media outlet were to compare the Syrian response to that of the Bahraini regime, its reporters would not have to resort to exclusive reliance on unnamed official sources in Washington making unsubstantiated statements about foreign involvement.  For there is actual film footage, from Al Jazeera and other professional media organizations, of Saudi soldiers pouring en masse across the causeway from the Kingdom into Bahrain, to suppress a mass movement for political change that clearly did represent a majority of Bahrainis.

Surely, The Washington Post can do better than simply parrot Obama Administration propaganda.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett


A State of Palestine: The Case for UN Recognition and Membership




al-shabaka policy brief
27 May 2011


Is the strategy of seeking international recognition from and membership of the United Nations (UN) this September for the State of Palestine a meaningful move or just a gimmick? What benefits would UN membership bring given that Israel may still retain de facto control over the occupied Palestinian territories? What would the impact be on the growing movement for a one-state solution? In this policy brief, Al-Shabaka Policy Advisor Victor Kattan tackles these and other questions below and finds that on balance UN membership for a State of Palestine would be a strategic asset to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, although there are risks involved.

The Strategy in Question

Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PA), affirmed in the New York Times on 17 May 2011 that “this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.”1

Although this announcement has provoked a storm of indignation amongst certain constituencies in the United States, it will not come as a complete surprise to those who have been following developments closely. In the past six months several Latin American countries have recognized the state of Palestine, bringing the total number of countries to have done so since 1988 to over 100.2 In addition, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom have upgraded the Palestine General Delegations in their capitals to diplomatic missions and embassies—a status normally reserved for states.

From Abbas’s op-ed it would appear that there are two prongs to this strategy: international recognition of Palestine as a state, and membership of the UN.3


Although the Palestinian strategy has not been fully articulated, it appears that the PLO hopes to use the opening plenary of the UN General Assembly in September as a forum to call upon other states to recognize it. In other words it will seek collective recognition.

According to Riyad al-Maliki, the PA Foreign Minister, some 150 countries have said that they will recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in September.4 If this number is achieved it could be significant, especially if it includes recognition from some of the countries in the European Union (EU.) This is because if recognition of a Palestinian state is viewed as constitutive (the argument that statehood is a matter of recognition only) then the number and quality of states that recognize Palestine is important. If, however, recognition of a Palestinian state is viewed as declaratory (the argument that recognition alone cannot confer statehood but must be accompanied by other factors, independence being particularly important) then there is of course a problem if Israel retains control over the occupied territories.

Source: Al Shabaka

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Saudi Arabia: Will the Saudi Women Drive on 17 June?


nb:  Manal Al-Sherif has been released about 6 hours ago!  I have chosen not to change the post below which was written before Al-Sherif’s release although I (happily) did not predict her fate accurately.  Al-Sherif did issue a public apology and stated she would not attempt to drive again.   Issuing such words was likely a condition for her release (in my personal view).

The blog of Saudiwoman gives an excellent account and understanding on the plight of Saudi national Manal Al-Sherif and the impact resulting from her orchestrated plan that 17 June will be the day Saudi women go behind the wheel.  The initial campaign, initiated on a now defunct Facebook page, encouraged Saudi women who were in favor of gaining the right for women to drive in the Kingdom to peacefully start driving on 17 June.  These women were not planning a driving convoy by any means across the Kingdom but rather women would start driving themselves to conduct common errands such as transporting children to school or going grocery shopping.  As the campaign gained momentum some Saudi women, including Manal Al-Sherif, began driving ahead of the official date of 17 June.  Some of these women, including Manal Al-Sherif, posted videos on youtube of their epic journey on the public roadways.  Since her incarceration in a Saudi prison, the Saudi government applied leverage and Manal Al-Sherif’s video was removed from youtube.  However more videos of women driving in Saudi Arabia continue to appear on youtube in support of Manal Al-Sherif and for women to gain the right to drive.

The following video is of a woman driving in Jeddah during the daytime hours. She goes about her business without incident.


The next video is a young woman in Qatif.  She chose to take to the roadways under the cover of darkness. She drives for a longer duration than the first video but seems to carefully avoid well lit intersections and traffic lights.


However as Saudiwoman illustrates and explains so well on her blog Manal Al-Sherif’s initiative and the video which was taken while she drove has resounded with ripples just  like a stone being skipped across the water.  Some Sheiks and Imams are now speaking out in mosques and to newspapers about women driving and using their positions to influence men that women behind the wheel is evil and against Islam.

Will 17 June still be the day when Saudi women demonstrate their desire to have the right to drive?  Or will it be like the “Day of Rage” that never happened?  It seems to me that the strategy of the Saudi government is to keep Manal Al-Sherif imprisoned until 17 June has passed.  In the meantime the religious clerics have free rein to speak on the evils of Manal Al-Sherif and any women who would attempt to drive in the Kingdom.  They also address the honor and respect a family loses within the tribe and the society to consider or allow a female relative to drive.  Not all clerics oppose the right of women to drive and publicly voice support for Manal Al-Sherif.  However in my view the Saudi government is not going to allow or tolerate any attempts of women driving in the Kingdom.  On 17 June policeman and religious police will likely be out in large numbers prepared to apprehend any female seen behind the wheel of a vehicle.

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A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter


CNN’s Fareed Zakaria says Netanyahu likes indefinite apartheid

Posted: 30 May 2011


Gaza flotilla 2 set to sail and Australians are involved

Posted: 30 May 2011


The following statement was released yesterday:

On the eve of first anniversary of the deadly Israeli attack on the 2010 international Flotilla to break the siege of Gaza, Australian participants reiterated their determination to join the second Flotilla, which will set sail for Gaza at the end of June.

“We welcome Egyptian moves to partially lift the siege by opening the Raffah crossing,” said former Greens MLC Sylvia Hale, “but in itself this will not substantially alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza.

“Despite the easing of the siege, men under 40 are not permitted to cross, making it impossible for them to find jobs outside Gaza. The refusal to permit raw materials to enter Gaza or exports to leave it, means widespread unemployment will continue.

“Gaza will not be free  so long as the Israeli siege destroys the territory’s economy,” said Ms Hale.

“The Australian delegation is determined to join the second international Flotilla to break the siege,” said Vivienne Porzsolt of Jews Against the Occupation.

“The world witnessed the brutality of the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara 12 months ago, when nine activists were killed and many others injured and illegally detained,” Ms Porzsolt said.

“Such aggression must not go unchallenged. By participating in the Flotilla, we are opposing Israel’s acts of piracy in international waters and its illegal blockade of Gaza..

“We are committed to peace and non-violence and will offer no provocation or resistance to any action by the Israeli forces. Should any of us be injured, it will be the responsibility of the Israeli Government,” said Ms Porzsolt.

Don’t allow any country to sever web connections to our planet

Posted: 30 May 2011


The Arab Spring hasn’t been kind to countless Middle East dictatorships. Internet censorship has been a key plank of trying to maintain order in the face of a massive popular uprising. At least in Egypt we’ve now seen former Mubarak ministers and the former President himself being fined for daring to cut internet connections and mobile phone services during the revolution.

But a new kind of war is underway:

For weeks, Syrian democracy activists have used Facebook and Twitter to promote a wave of bold demonstrations. Now, the Syrian government and its supporters are striking back — not just with bullets, but with their own social-media offensive.

Mysterious intruders have scrawled pro-government messages on dissidents’ Facebook pages. Facebook pages have popped up offering cyber tools to attack the opposition. The Twitter #Syria hashtag — which had carried accounts of the protests — has been deluged with automated messages bearing scenes of nature and old sports scores.

“There is a war itself going on in cyberspace,” said Wissam Tarif, head of the Middle East human rights organization Insan, whose Web site has been attacked.

Syria offers just one example of the online backlash in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes. Although social media sites have been lionized for their role in the Arab Spring protests, governments are increasingly turning the technology against the activists.

One of the most ominous signs is in Iran, where the brutish government seemingly wants to cut itself off from the world. This could be the response of many autocratic states aiming to hold onto power, no matter what. It must be resisted:

Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship: a so-called national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world.

The leadership in Iran sees the project as a way to end the fight for control of the Internet, according to observers of Iranian policy inside and outside the country. Iran, already among the most sophisticated nations in online censoring, also promotes its national Internet as a cost-saving measure for consumers and as a way to uphold Islamic moral codes.

In February, as pro-democracy protests spread rapidly across the Middle East and North Africa, Reza Bagheri Asl, director of the telecommunication ministry’s research institute, told an Iranian news agency that soon 60% of the nation’s homes and businesses would be on the new, internal network. Within two years it would extend to the entire country, he said.

The unusual initiative appears part of a broader effort to confront what the regime now considers a major threat: an online invasion of Western ideas, culture and influence, primarily originating from the U.S. In recent speeches, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials have called this emerging conflict the “soft war.”

On Friday, new reports emerged in the local press that Iran also intends to roll out its own computer operating system in coming months to replace Microsoft Corp.’s Windows. The development, which couldn’t be independently confirmed, was attributed to Reza Taghipour, Iran’s communication minister.

Iran’s national Internet will be “a genuinely halal network, aimed at Muslims on an ethical and moral level,” Ali Aghamohammadi, Iran’s head of economic affairs, said recently according to a state-run news service. Halal means compliant with Islamic law.

Feeling hatred in Israel and the world looks away

Posted: 30 May 2011


One month ago, David Sheen, an Israeli journalist with Haaretzfilmed an anti-immigrant rally in Tel Aviv and found widespread hatred against anybody who didn’t look white. Racism, pure and simple.

Now Sheen has returned to the same place to see what’s changed, if anything:


Of course Palestine needs to be part of the Arab revolutions

Posted: 29 May 2011 10:48 PM PDT


Robert Fisk writes:


I went to see Munib Masri in his Beirut hospital bed yesterday morning.

He is part of the Arab revolution, although he doesn’t see it that way. He looked in pain – he was in pain – with a drip in his right arm, a fever, and the fearful wounds caused by an Israeli 5.56mm bullet that hit his arm. Yes, an Israeli bullet – because Munib was one of thousands of young and unarmed Palestinians and Lebanese who stood in their thousands in front of the Israeli army’s live fire two weeks ago on the very border of the land they call “Palestine”.

“I was angry, mad – I’d just seen a small child hit by the Israelis,” Munib said to me. “I walked nearer the border fence. The Israelis were shooting so many people. When I got hit, I was paralysed. My legs gave way. Then I realised what had happened. My friends carried me away.” I asked Munib if he thought he was part of the Arab Spring. No, he said, he was just protesting at the loss of his land. “I liked what happened to Egypt and Tunisia. I am glad I went to the Lebanese border, but I also regret it.”

Which is not surprising. More than 100 unarmed protesters were wounded in the Palestinian-Lebanese demonstration to mark the 1948 expulsion and exodus of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in Mandate Palestine – six were killed – and among the youngest of those hit by bullets were two little girls. One was six, the other eight. More targets of Israel’s “war on terror”, I suppose, although the bullet that hit Munib, a 22-year old geology student at the American University of Beirut, did awful damage. It penetrated his side, cut through his kidney, hit his spleen and then broke up in his spine. I held the bullet in my hand yesterday, three sparkling pieces of brown metal that had shattered inside Munib’s body. He is, of course, lucky to be alive.

And I guess lucky to be an American citizen, much good did it do him. The US embassy sent a female diplomat to see his parents at the hospital, Munib’s mother Mouna told me. “I am devastated, sad, angry – and I don’t wish this to happen to any Israeli mother. The American diplomats came here to the hospital and I explained the situation of Munib. I said: ‘I would like you to give a message to your government – to put pressure on them to change their policies here. If this had happened to an Israeli mother, the world would have gone upside down.’ But she said to me: ‘I’m not here to discuss politics. We’re here for social support, to evacuate you if you want, to help with payments.’ I said that I don’t need any of these things – I need you to explain the situation.”

Any US diplomat is free to pass on a citizen’s views to the American government but this woman’s response was all too familiar. Munib, though an American, had been hit by the wrong sort of bullet. Not a Syrian bullet or an Egyptian bullet but an Israeli bullet, a bad kind to discuss, certainly the wrong kind to persuade an American diplomat to do anything about it. After all, when Benjamin Netanyahu gets 55 ovations in Congress – more than the average Baath party congress in Damascus – why should Munib’s government care about him?

Britain happy to train Saudi thugs for crowd control

Posted: 29 May 2011 10:22 PM PDT


The real face of London’s foreign policy posture:


Britain is training Saudi Arabia‘s national guard – the elite security force deployed during the recent protests in Bahrain– in public order enforcement measures and the use of sniper rifles. The revelation has outraged human rights groups, which point out that the Foreign Office recognises that the kingdom’s human rights record is “a major concern”.

In response to questions made under the Freedom of Information Act, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that British personnel regularly run courses for the national guard in “weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training”. The courses are organised through the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an obscure unit that consists of 11 British army personnel under the command of a brigadier.

The MoD response, obtained yesterday by the Observer, reveals that Britain sends up to 20 training teams to the kingdom a year. Saudi Arabia pays for “all BMM personnel, as well as support costs such as accommodation and transport”.

Bahrain’s royal family used 1,200 Saudi troops to help put down demonstrations in March. At the time the British government said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of human rights abuses being perpetrated by the troops.

“Britain’s important role in training the Saudi Arabian national guard in internal security over many years has enabled them to develop tactics to help suppress the popular uprising in Bahrain,” said Nicholas Gilby of the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

Analysts believe the Saudi royal family is desperate to shore up its position in the region by preserving existing regimes in the Gulf that will help check the increasing power of Iran.

Dancing in the US is illegal

Posted: 29 May 2011


Sorry what?

A flashmob in Washington has felt the full force of the law, by being forcibly arrested by police – for dancing in public. They’d gathered at the Jefferson Memorial in defiance of a ban on dancing at the monument.

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