Archive | June 25th, 2015

The Jewish Voice for Peace Attack on Alison Weir: JVP Loses Its Balance

NOVANEWS

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A guest post by Amith Gupta, NYU Law Student

Feel free to forward this widely. Contact me if you would like to publish some or all of it.

A personal note: I did not intend on sending this or discussing this any further. But, for the last three years, I have been pushed and pushed to speak about Alison Weir, not out of support for her politics, but out of alienation by those who have attacked her.

Below is a consolidated version of some of the things I have written to associates on organizing lists about the recent statement by Jewish Voices for Peace to malign Alison Weir, which was mass-mailed to various chapters and list-servs. I did not intend to write anything further, but I have had ten people contact me to tell me to spread this further in 24 hours.

These comments are NOT made out of support for If Americans Knew NOR out of opposition to Jewish Voice for Peace. These comments should NOT be read as a defense of any unnamed persons who have separately been accused of anti-Semitism, nor should they be interpreted to suggest that anti-Semitism is not a problem or that it does not exist.

These comments are ENTIRELY PERSONAL and do not constitute endorsement from ANY organization with which I have worked or currently work with, and do not necessarily imply agreement from any of the individuals mentioned or cited. They should not appear as an endorsement of any particular individual or group that shares or circulates them.

These are made for the movement, as a whole, which desperately needs internal criticism of its increasingly problematic and racist politics.

1) Disclaimer: I do not have any formal or organizational affiliation with Alison Weir or her organization, If Americans Knew.

2) My personal experience with the smear campaign against Weir.

3) JVP’s entire accusation against Weir is based on guilt by association and could easily apply to some of the most prominent voices in the movement for Palestine solidarity, including Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Dilip Hiro, Ilan Pappe, Jennifer Loewenstein, Ray McGovern, Joseph Massad, Norman Finkelstein, Glenn Greenwald, Pete McCloskey, Philip Weiss, Richard Falk, John Mearsheimer, Lenni Brenner, and Rachel Corrie’s parents.

a. Alison Weir has not endorsed nor agreed with the racist views expressed by those with whom she has been associated

b. It is unwise to expect Weir or anyone else to completely ignore the communities that are vulnerable to such racism (see below).

4) Inaccurate and hypocritical accusations of ethnic chauvinism

a. Losing Balance: While JVP alleges that IAK downplays the value of Palestinian voices, it is JVP which is constructed on seeing Jewish voices as “particularly legitimate” according to the JVP website.

b. If Americans Knew and Alison Weir have been principled and expansive in working with Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinian/Arab-Americans, including the Al-Awda Right to Return Coalition and the Beit Sahour-based International Middle East Media Center; both organizations are run and staffed by Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans. The organization has publicly and explicitly supported the full Palestinian-led call for BDS since at least 2006.

c. JVP has not been principled in working with Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinian/Arab-Americans, barring its chapters from working with groups of any ethnicity that take overtly anti-Zionist slogans and politically vetting those Middle Easterners and Muslims with whom they work. It also took JVP ten years to endorse the full BDS call.

d. JVP ‘s statement appears to suggest that Jews alone can define anti-Semitism, despite knowing that such accusations can implicate racism and violence against Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian communities. This is a form of ethnic chauvinism.

e. JVP’s statement suggests that all Jews are somehow personally or familially connected to Israel, a restatement of Zionism

f. JVP’s statement suggests that American imperialism and warfare benefits Americans as a whole, undermining the American anti-war movement and contradicting prior stances that JVP has taken

5) JVP has taken at least 4 different positions on Zionism, implying a lack of any principle regarding racism and colonialism against Palestine in particular and the Middle East as a whole.

a. Open-Ended: JVP’s guidelines state a refusal to state their beliefs in terms of the word “Zionism”

b. Restricted: JVP’s guidelines state that their chapters are banned from working with organizations that use “anti-Zionist demands or slogans”, presumably including Al-Awda and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

c. Pro-Zionist: JVP interprets Jews, as a group, to be connected to the Middle East, which is Zionism (see above).

d. Anti-Zionist when condemning anti-Semitism: JVP has recirculated letters that explicitly argue that Zionism is a form of racism in the context of disavowing a British-Israeli author for his apparently anti-Jewish statements. The statement against this man is included in their statement against Weir. The implication is that condemning Zionism as a form of racism is acceptable, provided the condemnation is made while disavowing someone for anti-Semitism.

e. JVP’s statements imply a lack of principled positions regarding racism against Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims, while taking a staunch position against perceived racism toward the Jewish community. This is a racist double-standard.

6) Racism, Colonialism, and Identity Politics

a. Optics & the White Gaze: JVP and IAK are both “identitarian” groups that have sought to navigate the maze of racism in the United States.

b. The racist and colonial roots of anti-Semitism allegations against Palestine solidarity organizers per se.

c. While neither group has navigated perfectly, JVP’s position in particular is highly problematic and warrants serious criticism.

7) JVP has taken an inconsistent position on engagement with “the Right” and those who are in danger of being misled and exploited by xenophobic, right-wing racism.

a. My personal experiences with right-wing racism as a person of color and the son of immigrants.

b. The roots of “the right” and the dangers of ignoring their misguided flock.

c. JVP has not opposed engagement with right-wing elements of the Jewish or Israeli communities.

8) Other Resources that I consider informative.

a. Noam Chomsky on accusations of anti-Semitism within left-wing and anti-racist movements.

b. Joseph Massad: “Sartre, European Intellectuals, and Zionism”

c. Philip Weiss: “Conservatives for Palestine”

d. Norman Finkelstein on ADL anti-Semitism survey and what qualifies as anti-Semitism

e. Louis Proyect: “The Anti-Semitism Canard”

f. Lenni Brenner, “The Demographics of American Jews”

g. Jacobin Magazine: Checkered History of Palestine and the Left

9) Addendum: Spencer Sunshine’s PRA attack on Alison Weir and “Campus Anti-Semitism”

a. The original report

b. The attack on Weir

I) Disclaimer

I have no association with Alison Weir outside of meeting her a few times at activist summits/conferences. I recommended her website to others in the early 2000s when If Americans Knew and electronicintifada were the only pro-Palestinian news sources I knew of, and when I was in college I constructed a banner with the website on it. The last time I saw her, I believe it was when she was the keynote speaker at the convention for Al-Awda, the Right of Return Coalitionwhich is a large-scale, broad-based Palestinian anti-Zionist organization.

Nonetheless, I find JVP’s statement highly, highly problematic.

II) The Smear Campaign

I’ve never seen someone’s name dragged through the mud as with her. In the past, I worked with an organization at the national level. At the time, I did not know that there was any real controversy regarding how she was perceived; I had only ever heard one person suggest she was an anti-Semite, and I assumed it was just a personal difference. I had seen Alison Weir give a short workshop at the 2012 “Occupy AIPAC!” summit that was organized by Code Pink, so I contacted Weir’s organization about either giving a workshop or tabling at a conference with the organization I was working with. I let the other organizers know, some of them flipped out, claiming she was an anti-Semite. I asked why they believed so, and they responded by accusing me of lacking trust (even though I didn’t know any of these people except via internet), and it was a long, drawn out, angry battle from there.

I was never given any actual reason why they believed she was anti-Semitic. It honestly intimidated me that a people whom I barely knew were willing to label someone else I barely knew an anti-Semite, without being able to at least explain why they felt this way. It scared me, because it made me think that these organizers could have easily made the same accusations against me, no reasoning necessary. It reminded me of COINTELPRO.

After the episode was resolved, one of the organizers posted a link to the letter referenced in the JVP statement in which several Palestinians disavow racism, as if to suggest that those of us who did not agree with the accusations against Weir were ourselves guilty of racism.

III) Guilt By Association

So it is worth giving JVP credit for at least explaining why they feel that Alison Weir is bigoted. But I think the reasons they have given are problematic. JVP points out that Weir gave interviews to a right-wing extremist, and, in their view, failed to properly challenge racist and bigoted statements made by the host.

But appearing on someone’s radio show, including a bigot’s, doesn’t exactly imply an endorsement. Weir also claims that she did express disagreement when those bigoted ideas were voiced, but in either case, it seems like JVP is quite openly admitting that the entire claim is based on guilt by association.

Reading the transcript of her interview with the right-wing extremist, Weir sounds like she is doing her best answering questions from a person who does not sound as though he is “all there”. Interrupting this individual any time he made racist comments would require interrupting him virtually every other sentence. But that is not a reason to completely avoid this individual’s listener base, especially as that base is particularly vulnerable to the sort of racist and violent propaganda that is regularly pushed by both anti- and pro-Israel segments of the far-right against Arabs, Muslims, immigrants, and others (see section VII below).

The rest of the accusations are similarly based on association, pointing to writing and publications rather than radio interviews. With regard to publications, is it even Weir’s obligation to go around checking what seedy groups might have exploited her work and then disavow them?

Would JVP suggest that Norman Finkelstein is an anti-Semite, because many of his earlier works criticizing the exploitation of the Holocaust have appeared in genocide denial publications?

Would they suggest that Chomsky is some sort of anti-Semite because he has appeared on all sorts of right-wing media for odd reasons? Would they claim Noam Chomsky is a racist for “failing to disavow” people who have used his writing for nefarious purposes?

How about Joseph Massad, whose Al Jazeera piece “The Last of the Semites” has shown up in nasty places?

Weir has separately – and correctly — pointed out that JVP’s attacks would also implicate prominent American peace activist Ray McGovern; Palestine solidarity activist and journalist Jennifer Loewenstein; Israeli professor and author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Ilan Pappe; journalist Dilip Hiro; Edward Said; Noam Chomsky; and parents of slain ISM activist Cindy and Craig Corrie.

JVP’s statements also appear to implicate award-winning journalist and publisher of the Snowden leaks Glenn Greenwald, Jewish historian Lenni Brenner, MondoWeiss blogger Phil Weiss; anti-war Congressman Pete McCloskey; and a slew of others.

IV) “Ethnic Chauvinism”

A) JVP alleges that IAK and Alison Weir have expressed the nationalistic and chauvinistic view that only “Americans” who aren’t ethnically associated with Israel/Palestine can make meaningful or “objective” conclusions. It is a strange criticism to hear from a group calling itself “Jewish Voice for Peace”. But compare the positions the groups have taken: IAK has been expansive and principled in engaging and working with Palestinian and Palestinian-American communities — more so than JVP.

Here is what JVP said in their message about Weir:

“For example, in IAK’s “Our Story” on their website it reads:

[Alison Weir] founded an organization to be directed by Americans without personal or family ties to the region who would research and actively disseminate accurate information to the American public.

In other words, according to Weir and If Americans Knew, only non-Arab, non-Muslim, non-Palestinian, and non-Jewish voices can be trusted to speak the truth, based solely on their ethnic or religious identity.

Notions of objectivity are routinely used to discredit the experiences of those most directly affected by oppression. But no one is objective, least of all Americans who benefit from the U.S. government’s destructive interventionist and white supremacist policies around the world [emphasis added]”

Compare this with what JVP says on its own FAQ page:

“Q: Why are you a Jewish group? Can’t you just be a peace group?

“A: …

“Because we are Jews, we have a particular legitimacy in voicing an alternative view of American and Israeli actions and policies. As Jews, we can make the distinction between real anti-Semitism and the cynical manipulation of that issue to shield Israel from legitimate criticism. [emphasis added].

How is founding an organization directed by Americans who aren’t tied to the region any less chauvinistic than suggesting — and then exploiting — that Jews have a “particular legitimacy” in speaking out? Contrast that with JVP Director Rebecca Vilkomerson’s own statements on the matter:

“…So we have to be aware of the privileging of Jewish voices, and the racism and Islamophobia that underlay that privilege. It’s a balancing act and not an easy one. Its about an awareness of playing into notions of who is entitled to speak out about Israel and Palestine and making sure we are not replicating the very systems of privilege there that we are working so hard to break down, while also being willing to use our voices as Jews to change and challenge some very deep preconceptions.

In practice, both JVP and IAK are constructed on forms of identity politics, knowing full well that a thoroughly racist society would view their organizations with greater “legitimacy” due to their ethnic identifiers (“Jewish” and “American” respectively). Both groups have used such identifiers while also attempting to open spaces of dialog and speech for Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian organizations. How can JVP condemn IAK for pursuing the same “balancing act” that JVP works to navigate? There’s one easy answer: JVP has lost its balance.

B) In reality, If Americans Knew has gone even further than JVP in promoting Palestinian voices and organizations. If Americans Knew has embraced the Palestinian-led call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as one of its strategies of “resistance” since at least 2006:

http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/boycott.html

“By Mazin Qumsiyeh

“…In July 2005, more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations issued a historic document. It articulated Israel’s persistent violations of international and humanitarian laws and conventions and called upon “international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”

The call stated that “these non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194”[emphasis added].

IAK’s Executive Director was also keynote speaker at the convention for Al-Awda, the Right of Return Coalitionwhich is a large-scale, broad-based Palestinian anti-Zionist organization. Finally, IAK’s primary source of news promotion is the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian media collective, the IMEMC. Even a brief perusal of the If Americans Knew website makes it clear that IAK’s media campaign relies heavily on promoting Palestinian and Arab voices, including the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, Qatar-based Al Jazeera, and various podcasts and live broadcasting from Palestine.

C) In contrast, JVP took over ten years to endorse the Palestinian BDS call. Here is what their “Guidelines” page currently states:

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) endorses the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real [emphasis added].

We join with communities of conscience around the world in supporting Palestinians, who call for BDS until the Israeli government…By endorsing the call, we make our hope real and our love visible and we claim our own liberation as bound with the liberation of all [emphasis added].

But here is the position JVP took prior to March 25th, 2015:

The boycott/divestment/sanctions movement (BDS) encompasses a variety of tactics and targets.  JVP rejects the assertion that BDS is inherently anti-semitic, and we encourage discussion both within our own community and outside of it of the growing BDS movement. JVP defends activists’ right to use the full range of BDS tactics without being persecuted or demonized. We support divestment from and boycotts of companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. This includes companies operating in or from occupied Palestinian territory, exploiting Palestinian labor and scarce environmental resources, providing materials or labor for settlements, or producing military or other equipment or materials used to violate human rights or to profit from the Occupation [emphasis added].

In other words, until a few months ago, JVP was willing to defend other people’s right to promote “freedom, justice, and equality of all peoples,” but they themselves were only willing to mobilize their resources toward the freedom, justice, and equality of some. JVP is invoking concepts like “freedom for all” but only when convenient. It is like sayingI promote equality all of the time, 60% of the time.

Furthermore, JVP appears to work almost entirely with left and liberal segments of the Palestinian-American community that are politically acceptable to them — for example, JVP bans its chapters from joining in coalitions with groups that use “anti-Zionist slogans,” which would presumably bar their leadership from working closely with Al-Awda.

JVP has also taken inconsistent positions on the subject of Zionism (see Section V).

D) JVP’s FAQ page also reads, “…As Jews, we can make the distinction between real anti-Semitism and the cynical manipulation of that issue to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.” What does this statement mean to imply, if not that Jews and only Jews are entitled to define what is anti-Jewish? JVP appears in its own statement to be fully aware that accusations of anti-Semitism can be used to “shield Israel from legitimate criticism”. Considering much of the “legitimate criticism” in question is about Israel’s racism against Arabs and others, this statement amounts to little more than ethnic chauvinism. Despite knowing that accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry can be used to shield racism against Arabs, JVP believes that Jews alone are entitled to draw the line with what amounts to legitimate criticism, as opposed to “anti-Semitism”. In the process, Arabs, and others who identify with the Palestinian cause can be muzzled if they disagree with the limits set by a Jewish group — which is what has happened here.

E) Note also that the JVP statement against Weir interprets the phrase “without personal or familial ties to the region” to imply the exclusion of Jewish voices. Is JVP suggesting that every Jew has personal or familial ties to Israel? This is Zionism.

F) JVP’s statement also alleges that “Americans” have benefited from the US’ interventionist and white supremacist policies. This is a very strange position for a peace group to take. While there is no comparison between the situation of American victims of imperialism and those of its citizens, American warfare abroad has resulted in thousands of Americans being maimed and killed; a massive increase in international threats to the American public; and the waste of billions of dollars that could have been spent on social resources. Indeed, JVP appears to be very committed to the notion that Israeli policies of aggression against Palestinians harm Israelis; so why does JVP feel differently about US policies, of which support for Israel is one?

It is also difficult to imagine that JVP can make any in-roads within the United States if they are opposed to policies which they mistakenly believe to benefit Americans.

V) JVP on Zionism.

JVP has taken at least four different positions on Zionism.

A) First, JVP refuses to condemn Zionism as a form of racism in order to pander to racist people within the Jewish community to form a “big tent”. While admitting that Zionism is a form of racism in other releases and admitting anti-Zionists as individuals, the group says the following about Zionism:

The terms, “Zionism” and “Jewish state,” are emotionally loaded and defined differently by different people. [JVP] do not articulate our positions in these terms, but instead in terms that affirm the values we endorse: equality, human rights, democracy, and respect for international law.” [emphasis added].

Despite condemning Weir for reaching out to groups with problematic and racist ideas, JVP’s own views on Zionism — the most obvious form of racism relevant to the Palestinian struggle — are explicitly based on pandering to racist people in order to form a united front. It is difficult to imagine that JVP can effectively promote “equality, human rights, democracy,” etc. while explicitly seeking to pander to those who identify so closely with the colonial enterprise of Zionism that they would refuse to work with JVP if it condemned Zionism as racism.

B) JVP even goes further to bar its chapters from working with groups that use “anti-Zionist slogans or demands”:

A JVP group may join in coalition with pro-Zionist or anti-Zionist groups.  JVP groups may not participate in a coalition whose demands or slogans are pro- or anti-Zionist.

That would presumably include principled organizations like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Al-Awda, which condemns Zionism as a form of racism in its points of unity.

It is also difficult to imagine that JVP could ever work with any Palestinian organization that is remotely representative of the Palestinian struggle if it demands that its coalition partners effectively sanitize Zionism in their sloganeering or in any political demands that they make. The effect of this is that organizations cannot critically oppose the colonial ideology that underpins the ethnic cleansing of Palestine or stigmatize this enterprise in public fora. If JVP was around prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, JVP would not have been able to rally support behind the infamous and powerful UN resolution defining Zionism as a form of racism.

C) As noted above, JVP’s statement on IAK  also interprets Jews, as a group, to be personally and familially connected to the Middle East. This is a frank admission that JVP believes in and endorses Zionism.

D)  Ironically, while JVP refuses to use the term “Zionism” to articulate its message and bans its chapters from joining in coalitions with groups that use anti-Zionist slogans, it did not mind circulating a letter by Palestinians disavowing controversial British-Israeli writer and alleged anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon, which explicitly rejects Zionism as a form of racism. In other words, when disavowing people like Weir (or Atzmon), it is apparently okay to stretch these arbitrary rules.

E) JVP’s varying stands on Zionism, when contrasted with the group’s ideas of anti-Semitism, exhibit a racist double standard. With r

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Saudi Zio-WahhabI Pilot Commits Suicide for Massacring Yemeni Children

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Saudi Pilot Commits Suicide for Massacring Yemeni Children
Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Pilot Commits Suicide for Massacring Yemeni Children A Saudi pilot reportedly committed suicide after feeling guilty of massacring Yemeni children, Al-Alam News Network reports.

According to Arab media, a TV network called al-Mostaqella quoted reliable sources in Zio-Wahhabi king office that Mohammed Omar al-Anzi who was a fighter plane pilot committed suicide after seeing the photos of the children who were massacred in a brutal way during an air attacks he was involved in.

Before committing suicide, he sent a letter to a number of his friends in which he said that war in Yemen was a big crime against defenseless people.

He said in his letter “We have forgotten Islam, we were forced to shed the blood of Muslims the way Christian or Jewish pilots do. Muhammad Bin Salman has pushed us into a war which is already doomed to failure.”

Zio-Wahhabi Bin Salman is CIA puppet and defence minister of the Zio-Wahhabi regime.

Al-Anzi further wondered in his letter, “I don’t know why we should endanger the interests of our own country because of what America or Jews say. Muhammad Bin Salman has grabbed the power and is pushing the country towards of an engulfing crisis.”

He went on to stress that “I see no way to save myself but death. If live, they will force me to take part in the massacre of defenceless Yemeni people again.”

 

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How Cameron’s open war against Muslims feeds terrorism at home and abroad

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Seumas Milne 

The UK government’s “counter-extremism” bill takes the anti-Muslim clampdown to a new level of state surveillance and harassment.

Cameron condoning

THE ANTI-MUSLIM drumbeat has become deafening across the western world. As images of atrocities by the jihadi terror group Isis multiply online, and a steady trickle of young Europeans and North Americans head to Syria and Iraq to join them, Muslim communities are under siege.

Last week David Cameron accused British Muslims of “quietly condoning”the ideology that drives Isis sectarian brutality, normalising hatred of “British values”, and blaming the authorities for the “radicalisation” of those who go to fight for it.

It was too much for Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative party chair, who condemned the prime minister’s “misguided emphasis” on “Muslim community complicity”. He risked “further alienating” the large majority of Muslims fighting the influence of such groups, she warned.

Even Charles Farr, the hawkish counter-terrorism mandarin at the Home Office, balked. Perhaps fewer than 100 Britons were currently fighting with Isis, he said, and “we risk labelling Muslim communities as somehow intrinsically extremist”.

But Cameron and his neoconservative allies are preparing the ground for the government’s next onslaught. The target will not be terrorism, but “non-violent extremism”. Next month, from nursery schools to optometrists, health services to universities, all will be legally obliged to monitor students and patients for any sign of “extremism” or “radicalisation”.

The new powers represent a level of embedded security surveillance in public life unprecedented in peacetime. We already know from the government’s Prevent programme the chilling impact of such mass spying on schools, where Muslim pupils have been reported for speaking out in favour of Palestinian rights or against the role of British troops in Afghanistan.

But the “counter-extremism” bill announced in the Queen’s Speech is about to take the anti-Muslim clampdown a whole stage further.

The plans include banning orders for non-violent individuals and organisations whose politics are considered unacceptable; physical restriction orders for non-violent individuals deemed “harmful”; powers to close mosques; and vetting controls on broadcasters accused of airing extremist material. It’s censorship under any other name.

That was the view of Sajid Javid, then culture secretary, in a leaked letter to the prime minister earlier this year. But Cameron shows every sign of pressing ahead with what amounts to a full-blown assault on basic liberties. Most ludicrously, the new powers are defended in the name of “British values”, including “individual liberty” and “mutual respect and tolerance”.

But as became clear in the aftermath of the murderous Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo earlier this year, we are not all Charlie when it comes to freedom of speech. Anti-extremism powers will be used overwhelmingly against Muslims, rather than, say, non-Muslim homophobes and racists who have little interest in mutual respect and tolerance.

And they will fail, as their earlier incarnations have done, to discourage the small minority drawn to terrorism at home or jihadi campaigns abroad. Government ministers claim such violence is driven by “ideology” rather than injustice, grievance or its own policies. But, given that they refuse to speak to any significant Muslim organisation they don’t agree with or fund, perhaps it’s not surprising to find them in thrall to an ideology, neoconservatism, of their own.

Any other explanation for the terror threat would in any case implicate the government and its predecessors. In reality, it shouldn’t be so hard to understand why a small section of young alienated Muslims are attracted to fight in Syria and Iraq with Isis and other such groups.

Jihadi “ideology” has been around for a long time. But there were no terror attacks in Britain before US and British forces invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, and those behind every violent attack or terror plot have cited western intervention in the Muslim world as their motivation.

Isis has a different appeal to al-Qaida. It has taken huge stretches of territory using naked terror, destroyed borders and set up a self-proclaimed caliphate. In the Middle East it presents itself as the defender of Sunnis in a convulsive sectarian war. For a few young marginalised western Muslims, such groups can offer the illusion of a fight against tyranny and a powerful sense of identity.

But add in relentless media hostility, rampant Islamophobia, state surveillance and harassment of Muslim communities, and such alienation can only spread.

In the past year, we’ve had the “Trojan Horse” Birmingham schools plot that never was, the ousting of an elected Muslim mayor of Tower Hamletsby a judge – including on grounds that he had exercised “undue spiritual influence” on Muslims – and evidence of an increasing level of anti-Muslim attacks. Islamophobia now far outstrips hostility to any other religion or ethnic group.

Ministers and their media allies downplay the role of “foreign policy” in Muslim radicalisation, against all the evidence.

By foreign policy, they mean multiple western invasions and occupations of Muslim states, torture and state kidnapping on a global scale, and support for dictatorships across the Arab and Muslim world.

That includes Saudi Arabia, of course, which shares much of Isis’s “ideology” and practices; and Egypt, whose ex-military leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, overthrew the elected president in 2013 and is soon to be welcomed to Downing Street.

Isis is itself the direct product of the US and British occupation and destruction of Iraq, and both countries back armed rebel groups fighting in Syria – as they did in Libya. So no wonder would-be jihadis get confused about who is on whose side. Western Isis volunteers are a disaster for Syria and Iraq, but so far they haven’t carried out return attacks at home.

That could of course change, not least as the government criminalises dissent, brands conservative religiosity “extremist” and, in the formulation of ministers, “quietly condones” Islamophobia.

The British government has long fed terrorism with its warmaking abroad. Now it’s also fuelling it with its scapegoating of Muslims at home.

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The Pentagon Just Legalized War Crimes and Killing Journalists

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Claire Bernish

(ANTIMEDIAJust when it seemed the government’s policy language couldn’t get any more paradoxical, self-justifying, and replete with inconsistencies, the Pentagon issued its “Law of War Manual” earlier this month. The manual is meant to dictate legal conduct for service members from all branches during military operations. Though the enormous tome is drier than stale bread, there are plenty of alarming entries—from designating journalists as potential terrorists to allowing  the use of internationally banned weapons—which more than warrant a thorough perusal.

This manual is the first comprehensive change made to Department of Defense’s laws of war policy since 1956 and has been in the making for 25 years. One change in terminology directly targets journalists, stating, “in general, journalists are civilians. However, journalists may be members of the armed forces […] or unprivileged belligerents.” Apparently, reporters have joined the ranks of al-Qaeda in this new “unprivileged belligerent” designation, which replaces the Bush-era term, “unlawful combatants.” What future repercussions this categorization could bring are left to the imagination, even though the cited reasoning—the possibility terrorists might impersonate journalists—seems legitimate. This confounding label led a civilian lawyer to say it was “an odd and provocative thing for them to write.”

On a purely surface level, a manual of laws governing the details of how a country behaves in conflict intimates that certain conduct—including that which would violate human rights—is simply unacceptable. Although this is technically, ostensibly true of the Department of Defense’s 1,180 page, single-spaced de facto user guide, its contents belie the United Statesstanding as the most arrogantly bellicose government on the planet.

Use of depleted uranium by U.S. forces during the Iraq War and beyond is well-documented and categorically reprehensible—leaving thousands of Iraqi civilians to suffer the consequences well into the future. “What this has generated is, from 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II,” admonished Al-Jazeera journalist Dahr Jamail. He wasn’t exaggerating.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found cancer rates due to use of weaponized depleted uranium to be 40 times greater than before the U.S. invasion. Worldwide calls to ban such munitions have not yet been answered—though Belgium, all of Latin America, and Costa Rica have all instituted their own proscriptions in the meantime. As countless individuals reported deformities detailing babies born with missing limbs, two heads, no head, and other profoundly disturbing disfigurations, the fact that the Law of War Manual establishes depleted uranium as an acceptable tool of war puts the U.S. in a position to be rightly condemned.

It is no less than spectacularly ironic that the government touts itself as a champion of human and civil rights while simultaneously stipulating in writing that internationally-prohibited munitions are perfectly justifiable during war—as long as we’re using them, of course. And to make absolutely certain all bases are covered, the precise descriptions of the types of weapons understandably marked “Prohibited,” appear—in name—in the category immediately following: ”Lawful.”

If that weren’t egregious enough, also listed under the heading of “Lawful” are cluster munitions.

These internationally-banned bombs, however, are delineated in the manual as having “Specific Rules on Use”—notably, such weapons’ use may reflect U.S. obligations under international law” [emphasis added]. While this is technically apt, cluster bombs have been banned by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions—which was agreed to by 116 countries around the world. The U.S. stands out in joining infamous human rights violator, Saudi Arabia, in its refusal to sign. These insidious munitions leave unexploded ordnance for months, or even decades, after the originating bomb was dropped. Children are often maimed or killed when they unwittingly mistake them for toys.

The appearance of cluster munitions at all presents a telling paradox since U.S. policy ostensibly only allows forexport. Receiving countries must stipulate that the bombs “will only be used against military targets” with minimal harm to innocent civilians. After reports earlier this month that U.S.-supplied cluster bombs had been used to target Yemeni citizens, the DoD announced it would diligently investigate—and also claimed its export of the insidious weapons would cease as of 2018.

But, if we are to believe this apparent concern holds any truth whatsoever, then why list “cluster munitions” as lawful weapons for U.S. use? Yes, that is a facetiously rhetorical question.

Depleted uranium and cluster munitions are just two examples of many in the manual that actually generate a plethora of questions rather than provide the definitive answers one might expect from the Pentagon’s title. Also found among the listed “lawful” devices are mines, nuclear weapons, booby-traps, herbicides, non-blinding laser weapons, incendiary devices, and fragmentation weapons—and the weapons sections comprise a mere fraction of the voluminous, 6,169-footnoted, document.

Such deftly crafted and contrary language in the Law of War Manual would be head-scratchingly comical—were it not for the very shocking consequences for civilians around the world it ultimately justifies.

Some apologists will predictably point to the manual’s title as reason to declare that the U.S. government has admirable standards it upholds, even in times of war—but, rather fortunately, the number of people who knowbetter grows exponentially every day.

 

Posted in USAComments Off on The Pentagon Just Legalized War Crimes and Killing Journalists


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