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Antony Loewenstein Online Newsletter


Glenn Beck brings pro-settler hatred to Israel (but few turn up)

Posted: 25 Aug 2011

Almost beyond farce:

As he did at a rally he led in Washington last year, Mr. Beck gave out awards at his Jerusalem rally. One went to the settlement of Itamar and the Fogel children who survived a horrific Palestinian attack on their home in March that killed their parents and three siblings.

More incongruously, another went to the Israeli supermarket magnate Rami Levi. The commentary accompanying the award said that Mr. Levi was charitable and that his stores, built to serve West Bank settlement blocks, have become havens of Jewish-Arab shopping coexistence. To most Israelis, though, Mr. Levi’s nationwide chain is known for cut-price chickens.

A strong editorial in Haaretz warns people that Beck isn’t a friend of Israel:

Against the backdrop of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his spokesmen call the “delegitimization” of Israel, a “support event” was held in Jerusalem yesterday evening led by American preacher-broadcaster Glenn Beck. Beck was accompanied by personages identified with the Republican Party’s extreme right and a group of Christian Zionist evangelical leaders.

Beck never misses an opportunity to speak ill of U.S. President Barack Obama and to challenge his leadership. His television program fell out of favor even with rightist Fox Broadcasting, which took Beck off the air. A few weeks ago, Beck received publicity for comparing the young Norwegians who were killed by an extreme right-winger to the Hitler Youth. Hundreds of rabbis in the United States, from all streams of Judaism, have expressed disgust with Beck’s incitement on the air against Jewish financier George Soros and Jewish intellectuals “accused” of harboring liberal, leftist views.

In recent years the extreme Israeli right has developed an alliance with the heads of the evangelical movement, who define themselves as Christian Zionists. National religious rabbis and politicians connect with these preachers, including those who spread the belief in the need for another Holocaust of the Jews in order to ensure the resurrection of Jesus. These rabbis and politicians accept donations from these preachers. It is mystifying that people from Israel’s ruling party, Likud, foremost among them Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and World Likud Chairman Danny Danon, have joined the circle of Beck’s fans. So has Atzmaut MK Einat Wilf.

One might have expected the government and police to prohibit the East Jerusalem Development Corporation (a government-municipal company ) from making available the archaeological park near the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Silwan neighborhood for the fulminations of extreme rightists. These are unnecessary and harmful fulminations that testify to Netanyahu’s distorted priorities.

It was just a few weeks ago that the government denied dozens of peace activists entry into Israel; they wanted to demonstrate nonviolently their support for the Palestinians’ struggle for independence. At the time, it was claimed that this was a “provocation.” The “support event” in Jerusalem was no less provocative.

When Gaddafi danced romantically with head of “rebels”

Posted: 25 Aug 2011

Bernard Avishai reminds us:

There are reports that Qaddafi and his sons are surrounded. I confess that I feel a certain sadness for Saif-al-Islam’s tragic fate. During the early 2000s he tried to lead his father, hence, his country, into something like a liberal and globalist reform, studying classical liberal texts at LSE, and hiring well-respected strategy consultants, including the Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, to set up an economic planning commission: a kind of shadow prime minister’s office, that would slowly grow into a functioning state, and displace, or render redundant, the pervasive security apparatus. The current head of the rebel government, Mahmoud Jibril, was to be its first head.

The son failed to move things fast enough to preempt the counter-moves against reform by the security apparatus, or failed to move his father against others in the family, or was perhaps faking it from the start. If he was faking it, he was a very good actor. Actually, I suspect he was a kind of Michael Corleone character, eager to make his family “legitimate,” drawn to a kind of Western normal, but finally sucked into the regime’s violence and muck out of sheer love for his father, or at least his honorable sense of loyalty. As I write, he may well be contemplating his speech to the International Criminal Court or, indeed, his last hours on earth. To say that he deserves what he will get is true. It is also to want a prettier world than the one we have.

Concern for Tamils in Sri Lanka isn’t a new worry

Posted: 25 Aug 2011

A newly released Wikileaks cable from early 2007 shows how the US was allegedly worried about Colombo’s attitude towards Tamils from years ago and yet during its brutal civil war against the minority tacitly backed the bogus “war on terror” that saw tens of thousands of Tamils murdered. If only Sri Lanka had oil, like Libya:

In his meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Assistant Secretary Boucher emphasized that it was vital that the forthcoming devolution package reassure moderate Tamils about their future place in Sri Lankan society and guarantee that their rights are protected. Boucher warned that the U.S. government is closely monitoring the resolution of human rights cases and the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons of eastern Sri Lanka. He underlined that cases before the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights must go beyond the investigative stage and produce substantive results with culprits held accountable. Bogollogama assured Boucher that the “”code of conduct”” to prevent human rights abuses will be announced on 6 April. He acknowledged that mistakes have been made while resettling Internally Displaced Persons but pledged that the U.S. government “”can hold me personally responsible for any future imbalances.””

Boucher declared that the U.S. government was seriously concerned about ongoing reports of human rights abuses, continued attacks on Tamils in the east by the Karuna faction, and the forced resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons. He emphasized that the Tamils in eastern Sri Lanka must receive the benefits of good governance and cautioned Bogollagama that Washington was watching the situation…

Lesson from London riots; don’t trust governments to react rationally online

Posted: 25 Aug 2011

Evidence for the prosecution:

Analysis of more than 2.5m Twitter messages relating to the riots in England has cast doubt on the rationale behind government proposals to ban people from social networks or shut down their websites in times of civil unrest.

A preliminary study of a database of riot-related tweets, compiled by the Guardian, appears to show Twitter was mainly used to react to riots and looting.

Timing trends drawn from the data question the assumption that Twitter played a widespread role in inciting the violence in advance, an accusation also levelled at the rival social networks Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger.

The unique database contains tweets about the riots sent throughout the disorder, which began in Tottenham, north London, on 6 August. It also reveals how extensively Twitter was used to co-ordinate a movement by citizens to clean the streets after the disorder. More than 206,000 tweets – 8% of the total – related to attempts to clean up the debris left by four nights of rioting and looting.

This news is therefore encouraging, if true, but Western societies still need to find ways to manage and regulate the unhealthy power of social media companies:

Facebook and Twitter are preparing to stand firm against government ministers’ calls to ban people from social networks or shut their websites down in times of civil unrest.

The major social networks are expected to offer no concessions when they meet the home secretary, Theresa May, at a Home Office summit on Thursday lunchtime.

Ministers are expected to row back on David Cameron’s call for suspected rioters to be banned from social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, following the riots and looting across England a fortnight ago.

The home secretary will explore what measures the major social networks could take to help contain disorder – including how law enforcement can more effectively use the sites – rather than discuss powers to shut them down. The acting Metropolitan police commissioner, Tim Godwin, and the Tory MP Louise Mensch have separately explored the idea of shutting down websites during emergencies.

The technology companies will strongly warn the government against introducing emergency measures that could usher in a new form of online censorship. Attacks on London landmarks, including the Olympics site and Westfield shopping centres, were thwarted earlier this month after police managed to intercept private BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) posts – suggesting that leaving networks running can provide a valuable source of intelligence and information.

If Israel was a mature country, it would welcome Arab revolutions

Posted: 25 Aug 2011

But, as Robert Fisk writes, Zionism only wants “democracy” for itself, screw the Arab masses:

Israel, which has been so skewed and immature in its response to the Arab awakening – why on earth did its leaders not welcome the Egyptian revolution, opening their arms to a people who showed they wanted the democracy which Israel always boasts of, instead of shooting dead five Egyptian soldiers in the latest Gaza shoot-out? – has much to ponder.

Ben Ali gone, Mubarak gone, Saleh more or less gone, Gaddafi overthrown, Assad in danger, Abdullah of Jordan still facing opposition, Bahrain’s minority Sunni monarchy still suicidally hoping to rule for eternity. These are massive historical events to which the Israelis have responded with a kind of appalled, hostile apathy. At the very moment when Israel might be able to claim that its Arab neighbours are only seeking the freedoms that Israelis already possess – that there is a brotherhood of democracy that might go beyond frontiers – it sulks and builds more colonies on Arab land and continues to delegitimise itself while accusing the world of trying to destroy it.

With Serco in charge, abuses are guaranteed

Posted: 25 Aug 2011

Another day and another serious allegation:

A former Serco employee at Curtin Detention Centre says treatment of detainees by some staff members was “outrageously brutal” and they were bullied constantly.

Seven asylum seekers were flown from Curtin and put in isolation on Christmas Island on Tuesday night because of increased tensions at the remote centre, 40km from Derby.

The Immigration Department confirmed two men tried to escape on Friday. They climbed an internal fence but did not get past the electric perimeter fence.

A spokeswoman denied the men were injured in the incident and said they were not among three detainees denied treatment at Broome Hospital on Tuesday for speaking to a member of the public in a waiting room.

The former employee, who recently resigned and asked not to be named, spoke of growing tensions at Curtin where there were three staff who had “no training, no idea and no perceived intention to provide any welfare” to detainees.

“The fact two Serco guards have committed suicided since April is evidence that not everyone can live with this on their conscience,” they said.

BDS isn’t akin to Nazi Germany and damn those who say so

Posted: 24 Aug 2011

My following essay appears in New Matilda today:

Equating the BDS movement with Nazism is both offensive and outrageous. So why aren’t members of the Jewish community speaking out on this, asks Antony Loewenstein

Joseph Stalin changed his name and so did New South Wales Federal Greens MP Lee Rhiannon.

Stalin, writes Alan Howe, executive editor and columnist with Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun, was “perhaps the 20th century’s greatest murderer”.

Rhiannon backs the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and, argues Howe, people should know about “the 1930s where violent protests against Jewish traders may end. It was a colourful time of brownshirts, blackshirts and yellow Stars of David”.

In this fashion, Rhiannon is likened to a supporter of fascism and remains “against the only democracy in the Middle East and the one country in which the region’s Arabs are guaranteed safety”.

Welcome to the level of debate in Australia over the Israel/Palestine conflict. The last months have seen a litany of public figures that should know better accusing anybody associated with the BDS movement of embracing Nazism, anti-Semitism and outright Jew-hatred.

It shames the Australian Jewish establishment that no leading voices have challenged this odious and absurd comparison. Instead, they’ve cheered it on, coordinating nationally, with the support of an Israeli government desperate to distract from its own anti-democratic practices.

The Australian Jewish News has editorialised that boycotting Jewish businesses here will remind Jews of similar Nazi tactics in Germany and Austria in the 1930s. How on earth will the paper cover real anti-Semitism when they so casually compare today’s behaviour to Hitler’s Third Reich?

Back in early July, 19 pro-Palestinian activists were arrested and charged for protesting in front of a Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne. Max Brenner was targeted because its parent company Strauss Group supports elements of the IDF accused of war crimes in both the West Bank and Gaza.

This campaign has continued globally for years. For example, a reader of my website in 2009 sent me a copy of a letter they sent to Max Brenner outlining the reasons the company was a legitimate target for boycott.

The Victorian Government recently continued to threaten the activists with further legal punishment, imprisonment and fines.

Max Brenner’s parent company Strauss Group is an openly political business that proudly states on its Hebrew website that “We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments”. Some of these soldiers were directly implicated in war crimes allegations during incursions into the West Bank and the invasion of Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.

In late July, The Australian reported the campaign against the BDS movement in Australia with a story called, “Anti-Jew protest condemned”. Federal Labor MP Michael Danby, journalist Jana Wendt and union head Paul Howes met for a hot chocolate inside a Max Brenner shop in Melbourne, condemned the “violent” protest against the shop and again talked about Nazi Germany. Former Labor Party president Warren Mundine was quoted by journalist Leo Shanahan as saying BDS was not “not anti-Israel but anti-Jewish”.

Howes said the protesters were “mimicking the behaviour of the Nazi thugs” and it was necessary to “nip this in the bud”. Howes said most people who voted for the Greens had no idea how “xenophobic” its policies were. Not one journalist asked him whether he truly believed waving placards outside a shop in Melbourne is akin to the Gestapo arresting and murdering millions of Jews in the gas chambers. And no Jewish leaders took him to task for the comparison.

Last weekend’s article by The Australian’s Cameron Stewart allowed this misperception to perpetuate. Like Shanahan, Stewart quoted Wendt as saying that, “As the daughter of refugees whose lives were critically affected by both fascism and communism, I’m grateful for what Australia has to offer”.

A week later, the Victorian Government announced that it was investigating “anti-Israel activists” — by asking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) if the BDS-ers were breaking federal law by “threatening” Israeli stores.

The state’s Consumer Affairs Minister Michael O’Brien raised the spectre of 20th century attacks on Jewish businesses and claimed BDS was a threat to democratic order. Bizarrely, he singled out the Maritime Union Of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, the Green Left Weekly magazine, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. For the record, Australians for Palestine had nothing to do with the BDS protest against Max Brenner, though they do back BDS.

The Australian followed up with a story recently headlined, “Targeted chocolatier ‘a man of peace’”. “Max Brenner says he is a man of peace who hates all forms of violence,” the article says. Reporter Cameron Stewart doesn’t mention the serious allegations against the IDF soldiers supported by Max Brenner. (And besides, Max Brenner is the name of the business — not of the company owner. Actually, it’s an amalgam of two names.)

One of the activists interviewed by Stewart, Kim Bullimore, spokesperson for Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, told me that little of what she said to the journalist ended up in the article.

The Australian editorialised further on the matter last week by arguing “for any student of 20th-century history there is something deeply offensive about targeting a Jewish-owned business”.

And the Jewish establishment said nothing.

BDS is a peaceful, non-violent movement, like that which campaigned against apartheid South Africa. It aims to put pressure on a state that refuses to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

What Australian politicians will not acknowledge is the real face of modern Israel. Calling for BDS inside Israel is now illegal. As an Arab member of parliament recently told the New York Times, a member of the Knesset wanted to sue him for simply calling for a boycott against the illegal settlement of Ariel. This is in “democratic” Israel.

With Israel announcing yet more illegal colonies in the West Bank, the international community has a clear choice: engage in empty rhetoric about “democratic” Israel or find alternative ways to target a state with one of the most unequal class systems in the developed world.

Australian politicians and all public figures should be strongly challenged on comparing BDS to fascist hoodlums, and rejected.

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