Categorized | Middle East

A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter


Jeremy Scahill on US media ignoring US-led war on terror black sites

Posted: 16 Jul 2011


Here’s Schaill’s stunning Nation story of CIA-led black sites in Somalia.

One Murdoch realises Palestinian reality

Posted: 16 Jul 2011

Fascinating historical recollection:

In 2002, [former Labour spin doctor Alastair] Campbell records in his diaries, Rupert Murdoch, James and Lachlan came to dinner at Downing Street. The conversation turned to the Middle East: “[Rupert] Murdoch said he didn’t see what the Palestinians’ problem was and James said it was that they were kicked out of their fucking homes and had nowhere to fucking live. Murdoch . . . finally said to James that he didn’t think he should talk like that in the prime minister’s house . . . TB said afterwards he was quite impressed with the way Murdoch let his sons do so much of the talking.”

Fox News does oh so serious examination into Murdoch scandal

Posted: 15 Jul 2011

Bleating of the oppressed Murdoch multinational

Posted: 15 Jul 2011

Life is tough for an organisation that constantly speaks about high morals and noble wars and yet finds itself under the spotlight as a corporation that bullies opponents and conducts illegal acts in the name of “journalism”. Hilariously, Murdoch’s Australian todaysays the glorious empire remains glorious and dedicated to holding politicians to account. Apart from the ones who give them better business opportunities, of course.

Overland editor Jeff Sparrow writes in Counterpunch on the ways in which a billionaire frames his company as a voice of the people (and yet is believed by increasingly few):

It’s been fascinating to watch from Australia as the News of the World scandal engulfs Britain.

Rupert Murdoch himself was, of course, originally one of ours, and those antipodean origins are often cited to explain his self-perception as an outsider in international media, a crass colonial pitting himself against the stuffy clubmen who once controlled London’s newspapers.

The flagship titles of the Murdoch Empire have traditionally expressed this brash populism, boldly declaring Jack just as good as his PC masters, if not a damn sight better. The late Paul Foot described how Murdoch’s Sun built its remarkable circulation around the image of a ‘cheeky chappy’, a fellow who liked a pint and a punt and a well-endowed woman, and wouldn’t be told there was anything wrong with any of them.

That last point was crucial. The Sun didn’t simply know what its readers wanted but also upheld their values (even, or perhaps especially, their prejudices) against censorious feminists and snooty academics and stuffy bureaucrats and out-of-touch judges and other condescending know-it-alls, displacing class resentment into a cultural antagonism directed against the Left.

Now, there’s a long history of conservative idealisation of the Tory workman, a fellow hailed as patriotic, royalist to the bone and genetically immune to political radicalism (unless, of course, he goes on strike, whereupon he’s knocked to the curb as lazy and pampered).

Murdoch’s populism distinguished itself not so much by the way it encouraged its readers to kick down (against immigrants, homosexuals, black people and so on) but by how it encouraged them to kick up. It drew upon the New Class concept developed by conservative intellectuals (Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Christopher Lasch, etc) in response to the sixties: a theory that posited the emergence of a white collar elite, identifiable by cosmopolitanism, multiculturalism, liberalism and all the other notions that patriotic sons of the soil were said to despise. This New Class was supposed to have ensconced itself throughout society’s top echelons, particularly within the media and universities, a position from which it thereafter busied itself belittling and mocking the traditional pursuits of ordinary folk.

By expressing his outrage against, say, housing specially allocated to immigrants or the light sentences received by muggers, the cheeky chappy of a Murdoch tabloid cocked a snoot against the smug moralisers on his TV or in the upmarket papers, even as he aligned himself with the traditional priorities of the Conservatives.

You can see an updated and Americanised version playing out every night on Fox News, where the Aryan anchors perennially incite Joe Sixpack against the forces who would patronise him, from Hollywood liberals flapping their gums about gay marriage to pusillanimous Frenchmen who treacherously refuse to go to war.

By uncoupling the tropes of class from economics (indeed, from reaility), the schema facilitates a populist demagoguery sufficiently elastic so as to embrace almost anything. John Kerry might have actually been wounded in a conflict that George Bush assiduously dodged but Fox could still paint him as a pacifist elitist who sneered at patriots like W, largely on the basis that, though Bush didn’t fight, he looked like someone who would have.

The ‘Dirty Digger’ himself might have lacked the right accent, but even when he was first challenging the newspaper establishment, he was scarcely proletarian. Murdoch inherited his first paper, the Adelaide News, from his father, Sir Keith; he did his schooling at Geelong Grammar, a quintessential finishing college for the rich and entitled that also educated a young Prince Charles.

The journalist David Marr tells of attending a lecture in which Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s son, denounced the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for drawing attention to his shenanigans in the mobile phone business: the particular program in question was, he said, a ‘disgracful and biased attack’ by ‘our media elite’. So powerful has the peculiar vocabulary of New Class anti-elitism become that a man born into the most powerful media dynasty the world has ever seen can still present himself, without any trace of irony whatsoever, as an outsider being done down by society’s rulers.

Liberal Zionists struggle with brutal Israeli realities

Posted: 15 Jul 2011

Some, like editors of the Australian Jewish News, simply don’t see themselves as liberal at all and prefer to blindly back Israeli policies because they perceive their role as Diaspora Jews to be robots without thought. That’s what Zionism has done to my people. Witness a recent editorial on BDS:

The hostile mob arrayed outside a Max Brenner shop in downtown Melbourne last Friday carried ominous historical echoes. Some 100 demonstrators shouting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” reportedly frightened shoppers and their children, and charges have been laid after police officers were injured in scuffles.

Make no mistake, this was not just a right of assembly, or even a pernicious boycott of a shop whose alleged crime, according to Australia’s encroaching Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is that its parent company stocks Israeli soldiers’ backpacks with its chocolate products.

Last week’s boycott and a similar one against a Max Brenner shop in Sydney last month were, as anyone who appreciates the significance of the chant and the underlying ethos of the global BDS movement, attacks on the very existence of the State of Israel.

As for the impact on Australian Jewry, the BDS troublemakers must surely  understand the resonance of their boycotts, so painfully similar to the Nazi boycotts of Jewish shops in Germany and Austria at the onset of the Holocaust.

Further, one must wonder whether the decision to stage both the Sydney and Melbourne protests on Shabbat was a strategic one to ensure a minimal Jewish presence on the ground.

Which brings us to the vexed question of a Jewish response. There is considerable debate within the community as to what kind of reaction is appropriate. Nobody but our foes wants to see the spectacle of two groups of warring protesters involved in heated clashes in a retail precinct. But if there is no response on-site, there surely needs to be one in another place at another time – perhaps a positive rally, explaining Israel’s case, coupled with an education campaign through the media.

While our community’s state and national roof bodies are to be applauded for their strenuous efforts behind the scenes to protect Israel’s interests, the increasing frequency of the BDS protests and the publicity they are receiving means their significance  can no longer be downplayed as far as ordinary members of the community are concerned.

There is a grassroots appetite for a grassroots response and we should seek a way to harness that in a positive and constructive manner, so all members of the community feel satisfied they are doing their bit, rather than simply watching the anti-Israel drama unfold passively and powerlessly from the sidelines.

Others, like the Jewish Forward in the US, actually use their brains and feel distinctly uncomfortable with the current direction of Israel and its anti-democratic ways. Its latest editorial:

We could get in trouble for this. Not in New York City, where this editorial is being written, because legitimate comment is protected under the First Amendment. But our editorials, along with many other stories and columns in the Forward, also appear every Sunday in the English edition of the Haaretz newspaper in Israel. And now, with a new anti-boycott law approved by the Knesset and due to take effect in less than 90 days, the boundaries of free speech and legitimate expression have grown unpredictably and suffocatingly tight.

So, for example, if we say something like: We can understand why reasonable people could advocate a boycott of products made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank because those settlements are deemed illegal under international law and because a boycott is a peaceful way of expressing a moral concern — well, if we say something like that, we could be sued and held liable in civil court. And that court could award financial recompense to the plaintiff not according to actual damage done to his income if, for instance, we suggested that people refrain from buying his oranges or his facial cream, but according to what he thinks he might lose in the future.

Unpack this for a moment. We didn’t boycott, we just expressed sympathy in a way that could be seen as advocacy without taking the leap from speech to action. We didn’t target a product manufactured in Tel Aviv or Hadera or within the undisputed borders of Israel, or in any way seek to delegitimize the state. We surely didn’t advocate violence or express a destructive opinion about Israel or its government and leaders.

We simply said that promoting a boycott of goods from the occupied West Bank could be a legitimate form of political protest by those who love Israel and therefore wish to see her survive as a democratic Jewish state with borders that allow for a viable Palestinian state next door.

But it could get us in trouble.

Which is why we have stricken the potentially offending words. Just in case.

It may be that when the Israeli Supreme Court hears the inevitable legal challenge to the anti-boycott law, it will rule it unconstitutional and prove, again, that a democratic system of checks and balances exists in the Israeli polity. It may be that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who stayed away from the impassioned Knesset debate on the bill, even though it was sponsored by a member of his own party — will signal his displeasure and work to get it repealed.

This, however, may all be wishful thinking. The Israeli government has to answer to its own people before it answers to Diaspora Jews, and the inability of a weak political opposition and a tepid public response to stop this disturbing new law could mean that it is actually what Israel wants. It may think putting limits on free speech and outlawing calls for boycott are the best way to counter its growing diplomatic isolation. After all, Israel is not the only country in its neighborhood to use drastic measures to curtail political protest, and the prospect of a civil case for damages contained in this new law is far more palatable than the punishments meted out by ruthless leaders elsewhere in the region.

Yet, comparing Israel to its struggling neighbors sets such a low standard of democratic performance that it hardly seems worth the trouble. The threat of “delegitimization” — real in some instances, overblown in many others — should be countered with forceful, positive action to solve real problems, not silence them. No attempt to threaten or censor can hide the fact that, for 44 years, Israel has ruled another people with its own legitimate, national aspirations, and it is in everyone’s interests, including those of the United States, to negotiate an end to this impasse.

The fear and frustration that prompted this new law are to be acknowledged, but they cannot justify such a dangerous move. Some boycotts are ruthless and discriminatory, true, but in other circumstances, a boycott can be a legitimate use of non-violent protest to achieve a worthy goal. A boycott of West Bank products could fall into the first category. It could also be seen as a noble attempt to effect change.

But we can’t say that.

BDS call turns six and Palestine will be free one day

Posted: 15 Jul 2011

Rupert, if he had a moment of reflection

Posted: 15 Jul 2011

How to deal with fracking when it comes knocking in town

Posted: 15 Jul 2011

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