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Hey look, over there, US politicians love weapons over health care

Posted: 21 Sep 2011

Why Obama and America have lost the Arab world, and rightfully so

Posted: 21 Sep 2011

Barack Obama’s speech to the UN overnight was farcical in its ineptitude, showing once again how beholden America remains to a vision of apartheid Israel. Some “highlights”:

We seek a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve. There is no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. And it is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state.

But understand this is well America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. S we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, and persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are.

Those are facts. They cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

Obama has been one of Israel’s “best” friends, offering weapons, support for illegal colonies and diplomatic backing. In other words, indulging Israel’s self-destructive instinct.

But for some (mostly old Jews), Obama isn’t loving enough:

Fancy a Christian and Zionist fanatic for US President? Rick Perry is your man

Posted: 21 Sep 2011

What is happening with Al-Jazeera?

Posted: 21 Sep 2011

The former head of the media company is stepping down, amidst allegations he was too close to the US as revealed by Wikileaks, but he denies this:

The wider question, asked in Foreign Policy, is will the station retain its (mostly) aggressive style of insightful journalism?”

In recent weeks, the details of conversations between U.S. officials and Al Jazeera executives, including Khanfar, had been the subject of much chatter in the Arab world (Omar Chatriwala details that story for FP here). One October 2005 cable describes U.S. officials presenting Khanfar with the findings of a Defense Intelligence Agency report complaining about the network’s coverage, and him agreeing to remove a particularly inflammatory slideshow from Al Jazeera’s website. The cable was taken out of context and seized upon by the network’s critics as evidence of a CIA-Qatari conspiracy to manipulate Arabs in the service of U.S. foreign-policy goals.

Middle East Online is running with the headline “WikiLeaks topples Al Jazeera director.” But if Khanfar somehow had to resign because of the cable controversy, which has hurt Al Jazeera’s credibility in certain quarters, it doesn’t wash that his replacement would be a member of the Qatari royal family. Middle East Online also reports that unnamed Qatari officials were already looking to cashier Khanfar over a supposed dispute with Azmi Bishara, a Palestinian intellectual and former Knesset member who lives in Doha (and appears frequently on Al Jazeera).

So perhaps something else is going on. My sense from watching the Arabic network’s coverage over the past few months is that it had more or less dropped the pretense of independence, and at times seemed like the official network of the Qatari Foreign Ministry. For instance, its Libya coverage was utterly over-the-top, enthusiastic cheerleading for the rebels — and it just so happened that Qatar was heavily engaged in overthrowing Muammar al-Qaddafi. When Qatar brokered a peace agreement between warring factions in Darfur, Al Jazeera broke away from its normal coverage for two hours to show the final announcement. And, as many have noted, the Arabic channel’s usual aggression has been noticeably lacking when it comes to Bahrain.

Getting all flexible with yoga in Afghanistan

Posted: 20 Sep 2011

Worry not, energy seekers, exploitation is never far away

Posted: 20 Sep 2011

This week’s New York Times featured an investigation about sourcing future energy needs. The world is open, so we’re told, and human beings, indigenous groups or the environment are ignored. That’s “business journalism” in a nut shell:

Brazil has begun building its first nuclear submarine to protect its vast, new offshore oil discoveries. Colombia’s oil production is climbing so fast that it is closing in on Algeria’s and could hit Libya’s prewar levels in a few years.ExxonMobil is striking new dealsin Argentina, which recently heralded its biggest oil discovery since the 1980s.

Up and down the Americas, it is a similar story: a Chinese-built rig is preparing to drill in Cuban waters; a Canadian official has suggested that unemployed Americans could move north to help fill tens of thousands of new jobs in Canada’s expanding oil sands; and one of the hemisphere’s hottest new oil pursuits is actually in the United States, at a shale formation in North Dakota’s prairie that is producing 400,000 barrels of oil a day and is part of a broader shift that could ease American dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

For the first time in decades, the emerging prize of global energy may be the Americas, where Western oil companies are refocusing their gaze in a rush to explore clusters of coveted oil fields.

“This is an historic shift that’s occurring, recalling the time before World War II when the U.S. and its neighbors in the hemisphere were the world’s main source of oil,” said Daniel Yergin, an American oil historian. “To some degree, we’re going to see a new rebalancing, with the Western Hemisphere moving back to self-sufficiency.”

The hemisphere’s oil boom is all the more remarkable given that two of its traditional energy powerhouses, Venezuela and Mexico, have largely been left out, held in check by entrenched resource nationalism. Venezuela is now consideredto have bigger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, putting it at the top of OPEC’s rankings. If it opened up more to foreign investment, it could tip the scales further in the hemisphere’s direction.

Exactly how the Americas’ growing oil clout might rebalance energy geopolitics remains an open question. The Middle East can still influence oil prices greatly, its oil fields are generally cheaper to develop, and some countries in the region are endowed with great reserves.

Handy evidence of how Washington really sees Israel and the Zionist lobby (hint; like a lover who never gives back)

Posted: 20 Sep 2011

One (via Politico):

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice briefed a dozen top American Jewish leaders on an “all out,” if likely doomed, American effort to derail the Palestinian bid for a vote on statehood at the United Nations, according to three people at the meeting.

Rice met with the leaders at her apartment at the Waldorf Astoria in New York this morning in the run-up to a Palestinian effort that could include a vote in the Security Council or in the General Assembly, or both, next week. The U.S. has pledged to veto the former, and is also — Rice told the leaders — working to convince European and African countries to abstain from the vote, denying it the nine of fifteen votes required to pass the Security Council. 

The U.S. is also whipping votes in the General Assembly in hopes of, at least, cutting into its margin of victory, Rice told attendees. Israel and the U.S. formally back Palestinian statehood, but oppose passing it through the United Nations while negotiations are stalled in the region, a measure they argue could destabilize the region and delegitimize Israel.

“She didn’t have a starry-eyed approach,” one of the Jewish leaders told POLITICO. “There’s an awareness both on her part and on our part that assuming that the Palestinians go ahead with the resolution it’s going to pass the General Assembly and it’s going to pass by a comfortable margin.”

Two of the leaders of Jewish organizations in the room described it as a warm meeting, with attendees expressing their gratitude for the Administrations work. Malcolm Hoenlein, who runs the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and has at times been an Administration critic told Rice the Administration gets less credit than it deserved, another guest said.

“Everybody recognized that it does make a difference what that ultimate vote looks like, and every negative or abstention you get is going to be helpful and is going to be valuable,” the first source said. The Europeans, in particular, are a crucial bloc: There has been discussion of their pushing for a watered down resolution and a formal statement from the “Quartet” of key international actors in exchange for their support, and failing that, the U.S. hopes it can wintheir “no” votes or abstentions.

The attendees, according to one of the people in the room, were AIPAC’s Lee Rosenberg; World Jewish Congress chief Ron Lauder; the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris; the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman; Hoenlein; Daniel Mariaschin of B’Nai B’rith; Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs; Peace Now’s Martin Bresler; J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami; Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Union for Reform Judaism;  Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Rabbinical Assembly; and Rabbi Steven Weil of the Orthodox Union.

Two (via JTA):

At the United Nations, where Israel has become the favorite target of condemnatory resolutions, committees and debates, the United States remains Israel’s most steadfast and dependable ally.

So when I sat down last week with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, there was one question on my mind: How much of your job is spent on Israel?

“This week?” she said. “A hundred percent.” She laughed, saying she was only being a little bit facetious.

Then she turned serious.

“It’s a significant part of my job. It’s not the majority of my time, because I am the U.S. permanent representative,” Rice said. “But it is never the smallest piece. It is always there.”

One week it might be the Goldstone report on the Gaza War, another week it might be the report on the Turkish flotilla to Gaza or Israel’s Operation Cast Lead or the Durban review conference, she said.

“It’s a lot.”

That’s fodder for detractors who accuse the United States of doing Israel’s bidding, or worse. But Rice says it’s nothing of the kind.

“We’re doing what we think is right,” she told me.

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