Categorized | Middle East


Heroes incorporated

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 03:15 PM PST


Both sides of politics see asylum seekers as non-people

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 06:14 AM PST

Australia’s depravity over asylum seekers is revealed even by the US, a nation fond of demonising refugees:

Secret United States embassy cables have sharply criticised the handling of asylum seekers by the former prime minister Kevin Rudd and accused both Labor and the Coalition of playing partisan politics with the issue.

The cables reveal that a close adviser to Mr Rudd failed to persuade him to use the government’s powers ”to calmly and rationally put the issue in perspective” by acknowledging that only a small number of asylum seekers were arriving by boat compared with tens of thousands overstaying their visas each year.

A cable obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald says an unnamed “key Liberal Party strategist” told US diplomats in November last year that the issue of asylum seekers was ”fantastic” for the Coalition and ”the more boats that come the better”.


Assange as a curious and important British house guest

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 06:07 AM PST

This is a fascinating tale reported in the UK Independent:

For the past fortnight, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has been at the centre of a global firestorm. Wanted by Interpol, by the Swedish police, even, briefly, by Scotland Yard, he has been called a terrorist and a revolutionary. Several leading American politicians and commentators have called for him to be killed, while Russia and China have also been loud in their condemnation. Yesterday, Assange appeared at City of Westminster magistrates’ court to fight extradition to Sweden on sex charges that he says are politically motivated. He was granted bail – subject to an appeal by Swedish prosecutors that could see him spend a further 48 hours in custody – on condition that he provides a security of £200,000 to the court, with a further £40,000 guaranteed in two sureties of £20,000 each – and that he spends between now and 11 January as the house guest of Captain Vaughan Smith, a former Grenadier Guard and founder of the journalists’ Frontline Club.

He will be under curfew every day from 10pm to 2am and from 10am to 2pm and will be required to report daily to the police from 6pm to 8pm. He must spend every night at Cpt Smith’s home and will be electronically tagged.

Mr Assange has for several months been staying as a guest of Cpt Smith and other members at the Frontline Club in London, which he founded seven years ago to stand for independence and transparency, and he has also stayed at Cpt Smith’s home in Suffolk. Below is Cpt Smith’s account of the past weeks…

Having watched Julian Assange give himself up last week to the British justice system, I took the decision that I would do whatever else it took to ensure that he is not denied his basic rights as a result of the anger of the powerful forces he has enraged.

This decision – which will result in one of the most unusual Christmases I have ever experienced – began to take shape last Monday night, as we gathered round a computer in my home, talking via Skype to Mark Stephens, Julian’s solicitor, in London.

This is how I remember the scene…

It is late in the evening. The screen periodically goes to sleep and Sue, a friend, keeps tapping the keyboard to keep it awake, relighting their faces.

Julian is completely still except his foot, which he rocks from side to side. I remember being told that he always did this when he was concentrating.

I feel that I am intruding, but Julian smiles at me. He does that: brings you in and makes you feel you are important to him when most of us would feel too preoccupied to do such a thing.

Julian is in front of a computer all the time. Immersed and uninterruptable; you feel you could arrive in a clown suit and he wouldn’t notice you.

But often you can gently greet him while he is typing furiously and he will immediately stop what he is doing and report developments for half an hour, well beyond the time you feel he should get back to his work.

The call is finished, and Julian is standing by the fireplace. Miles away. We start discussing the call. A couple of other friends and supporters are there too. Julian is still quiet but he is listening to us. The conversation dries up because the call to Mark has brought it all home.

There seemed to be other options, but they are all of straw. Julian dismisses each as it is suggested. He doesn’t want to look as if he has something to hide. The British police have said they want him and he is going in.

Sue and the other friends start discussing his statement. I get my camera set to film it for them and start working on the logistics. I don’t work for WikiLeaks, but I get drawn in. The police have given less time than expected and he cannot be late.

Julian sits on the sofa. Then he lies down. Then he sleeps. He’s been up for 48 hours. We don’t film any statement.


How many reporters are keeping secrets with secret meetings in Israel?

Posted: 15 Dec 2010 05:44 AM PST

There is currently in Israel the largest Australian delegation ever to visit the Zionist state. Leading politicians and journalists are enjoying the pleasures of Israeli hospitality. The fact that so many people are visiting while Israel faces intense criticism over its racist policies proves the blindness of the Western elites when it comes to the country. Witness the chummy press conferencebetween Foreign Ministers Kevin Rudd and Avigdor Lieberman.

We have to read the Jerusalem Post to learn some of the real agenda of this largely off the record experience:

On Monday, after arriving in Israel for the third time, Rudd warmly embraced President Shimon Peres who asked him what it was like to be a foreign minister after having been a prime minister.

To take the barb out of the question, he added that he had his own experience in this respect.

“I was going to ask you for guidance,” said Rudd without missing a beat.

But treating the question more seriously, he said that he was now able to give 100 percent of his time to foreign affairs instead of 20% as he had done as prime minister.

Following their private discussion, Peres and Rudd held a Q&A session with the members of Rudd’s delegation, who participated in the third annual Australia-Israel Leadership Forum.


Sydney police see their job as stopping pro-Wikileaks rally

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 09:33 PM PST

This report from ZDNet today is an accurate representation of last night’s Wikileaks protest in Sydney. Thuggish police interrupting a legitimate and democratic rally to defend Julian Assange:

Four men were arrested last night at a Sydney rally in aid of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

The NSW Police yesterday issued a letter (PDF) to the organisers of the rally voicing its opposition to the action after the Support Wikileaks Coalition aired plans to march on the US Consulate at Martin Place.

According to the NSW Police Service, the group was given permission to march along the footpath towards the consulate at 7:30pm (AEDST) last night.

When the protest march arrived at the intersection of King Street, police allege that three protesters blocked the flow of traffic, which resulted in their arrest.

A fourth man then allegedly punched an officer and was subsequently charged with assault. He is set to appear in Downing Centre Local Court on 11 January 2011.

Rally chairperson and key speaker Antony Loewenstein told ZDNet Australia today that around 800 people attended the static protest at Sydney’s Town Hall, with roughly 400 embarking on the march.

Pirate Party member Rodney Serkowski said that the presence of mounted police, dog units and riot police was antagonistic.

“We worked with the police to make sure everything was fine, but the use of mounted police and bringing dogs was a little bit unnecessary,” Serkowski said.

“It seemed a bit antagonistic,” he added.

Loewenstein agreed, saying that police were inflexible about the rally from the outset.

“The police were very inflexible about allowing [the march] to happen. There was a sense that they were trying to avoid any embarrassment while Oprah is in town,” Loewenstein said.

Loewenstein and Serkowski both maintain that the scuffles have not tarnished the message of support.

“I don’t know who the fault lies with here but generally you always get a few people who do, you know, make a bit of trouble. But the issue of Wikileaks transcends left and right divides,” said Serkowski.

Greens MP David Shoebridge told the ABC this morning that police handled the situation poorly.

“The police refused to give permission to the organisers and instead there was a confrontation on the streets caused by that police intransigence,” he told ABC News this morning.

Organisers are planning an even bigger group action on 15 January 2011. And public events before that time will depend on the results of Assange’s legal battle in London.

Political activist group GetUp! today took out a full page advertisement in The Australian urging Prime Minister Gillard to stand up for the rights of Julian Assange and to support Wikileaks’ actions.

GetUp! is set to publish a similar open letter in The Washington Times and The New York Times to US President Barack Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder to do the same.

GetUp! told ZDNet Australia in a statement that it chose The Washington Times after it called for “the death of Julian Assange” and selected The New York Times due to the prestige of the masthead itself.

The US advertisements are slated for print in tomorrow’s editions.

So far, 91,429 people have signed the GetUp! petition, with 9187 people donating a grand total of $363,564 to take out the print ads.

“It works out at an average donation of $39.50 per person,” GetUp! said.

GetUp! was unsure of the cost of the advertisements, saying that the deals were worked out between the publication using ad buyers.


Hicks: Assange will never receive free trial in US

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 09:22 PM PST

From a man who knows a few things about Australia abandoning its own citizens:

Former  Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will never receive a fair trial if he is handed over to US authorities.

Mr Hicks says he hopes the Australian government won’t abandon Mr Assange, as they did with him.

He also says it’s clear Mr Assange is the victim of a politically motivated campaign.

The WikiLeaks editor-in-chief is facing allegations of sexual assault and rape made against him in Sweden.

He has been granted conditional bail by a British court but remains in prison while Swedish authorities appeal the decision.

Mr Assange’s British lawyer Mark Stephens has claimed a secret US grand jury has been set up in Virginia to work on charges that could be filed against the Australian.

He fears Sweden might hand Mr Assange over the US, which has been embarrassed by WikiLeaks’ publication of US diplomatic cables.

Mr Hicks, who claims he was tortured at the US-run prison camp in Cuba, has told Fairfax Radio he’s worried about what might happen to the WikiLeaks boss if he’s sent to the US.

“He will never receive a fair trial,” he said.

“We have already established that it’s a political decision rather than a legal one. It’s important that our governments are held to account for any war crimes they may be involved in and that is why the work of WikiLeaks is so important.”

Mr Hicks said he was hopeful some of the documents being leaked might expose the political interference that tainted his case.

“I will watch with interest in more leaks released because I have heard that they might contain information about my treatment in Guantanamo and the political interference in my case,” he said.

“I just hope the Australian government doesn’t abandon him like they did to me.”

Mr Hicks, who pleaded guilty to a charge of supporting terrorism, was held at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years after being captured in Afghanistan in December 2001.

In March 2007, under a plea bargain, he was sentenced to seven years’ jail but ordered to serve only nine months with the rest of his sentence suspended.

He returned to Australia and was released from Adelaide’s Yatala Jail in December, 2007.

Michael Moore on Wikileaks and real patriotism

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 08:45 PM PST


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Guess which state wants to copy dictatorships?

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 08:30 PM PST

Looks like North Korea wants to bring in some legal reforms. Oh wait:

The [Israeli] Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill yesterday that would allow the state to prevent detainees suspected of security offenses from meeting with an attorney for up to one year.

The bill, introduced by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, aims to keep lawyers from helping their clients “carry out offenses that endanger the security of the public or the state from within jail.”

If passed, the bill would authorize the prison director to prevent a detainee from meeting with an attorney for up to seven days, instead of the current maximum period of 24 hours. The commissioner of the Israel Prison Service would be able to extend the prohibition for up to 90 additional days, with the approval of the state prosecutor or deputy prosecutor, instead of the current maximum of five days.

The district court could order additional extensions of the prohibition of up to six months at a time, for a total period of up to one year. The current limit is 21 days.

The Public Committee against Torture in Israel called the prohibition of client-attorney meetings a “mortal blow to the basic rights of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.”

According to the organization’s executive director, Ishai Menuchin, “The ministerial committee is trying to carry out a ‘surgical strike’ against human rights in a democratic society. We must not forget that even ‘security suspects’ have human rights.”


BDS hits the Sydney suburbs

Posted: 14 Dec 2010 08:20 PM PST

At Marrickville Council’s meeting last night [in inner Sydney], Greens, ALP and an independent councillor united to adopt the following resolution moved by Greens Councillor Cathy Peters:


  1. In particular recognition of its sister city relationship with Bethlehem and the strong support for this relationship from local progressive faith communities and other community members, Marrickville Council support the principles of the BDS global campaign and report back on any links the Council has with organisations or companies that support or profit from the Israeli military occupation of Palestine with a view to the Council divesting from such links and imposing a boycott on any future such links or goods purchases.

  2. Marrickville Council boycott all goods made in Israel and any sporting, institutional academic, government or institutional cultural exchanges.

  3. Marrickville Council write to the local State and Federal ministers (Carmel Tebbutt and Anthony Albanese) informing them of Council’s position and seeking their support at the State and Federal level for the global BDS movement.”

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