Vol 9, No 2
THE BBC EYELESS IN GAZA By Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
n 29 February last year the BBc’s website reported deputy defense minister MatanVilnai threatening a “holocaust” on Gaza. Headlined “Israel warns of Gaza ‘holocaust’” the story would undergo nine revisions in the next twelve hours. Before the day was over the headline would read “Gaza militants ‘risking disaster.’” (The story has since been revised again with an exculpatory note added soft-pedaling Vilnai’s comments). An Israeli official threatening “holocaust” may be unpalatable to those who routinely invoke its specter to deflect criticism from the state’s criminal behavior. With the “holocaust” reference redacted, the new headline shifted culpability neatly into the hands of “Gaza militants” instead. One could argue that the BBC’s radical alteration of the story reflects its susceptibility to the kind of
inordinate pressure the Israel lobby’s well-oiled flak machine is notorious for. However, as will be demonstrated in subsequent examples, this story is exceptional only insofar as it reported accurately in the first place something that could bear negatively on Israel’s image. The norm is reflexive selfcensorship. To establish evidence of the BBC’s journalistic malpractice one often has to do no more than pick a random sample of news related to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict currently on its website. In a time of conflict BBC’s coverage invariably tends to the Israeli perspective, and nowhere is this reflected more than in the semantics and framing of its reportage. More so than the quantitative bias — which was meticulously established by the Glasgow University Media Group in their study “Bad News from Israel” — it is the qualitative tilt that obscures
take immediate steps to return the US naval base at Guantanamo to the people of Cuba without preconditions............................................................P.4
..................... .......The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) would like to propose to the Malaysian Parliament when it meets on Monday 12 January 2009 that it adopts a motion urging the Malaysian government to commence discussions with other like-minded governments on the possibility of instituting joint legal proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ..................P.4 FOR
“Hamas leader killed in air strike,” reads last Thursday’s headline on the BBC website. Notwithstanding the propriety of extrajudicial murder, there are 14 paragraphs and the obligatory mention of the four dead Israelis before it is revealed that “at least nine other people,” including the assassinated leader’s family, were killed in the bombing of his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp. The actual number is 16 dead, 11 of them children; 12 more wounded, including five children; 10 houses destroyed, another 12 damaged — a veritable slaughter. Had a Hamas bombing killed or wounded 28 Israeli citizens Turn to next page
RETURN GUANTANAMO TO THE PEOPLE OF CUBA ..............President Barack Obama should
the reality of the situation. This is often achieved by engendering a false parity by stretching the notion of journalistic balance to encompass power, culpability, and legitimacy as well. The present conflict is no exception.
By Non Aligned Movement (NAM) ...............page5
By Hasan Abu Nimah ................................. page 5
THE INDIAN EXAMPLE By Radhika Sainath .................................... page 7
A CAPPED VOLCANO
By Dahr Jamail............................................. page 8
ROHINGYA REFUGEE ISSUE: A HOLISTIC APPROACH By Kavi Chongkittavorn ............................ page 9
GLOBAL F INANCIAL U NCERTAINTIES AND THE FUTURE OF MALAYSIA (PART
By Mahathir Mohamad ............................. page 10
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including 16 children you’d be sure to see endless coverage — of the kind the BBC lavished on the disconsolate illegal settlers in 2005 as they were made to relinquish stolen land in Gaza. The BBC’s Mike Sergeant, sitting in Jerusalem, would not concern himself with such sentimentality. There is no further mention of Palestinian civilian deaths. Their tragedy was no more than a sanguine message which Sergeant tells us will “be seen as an indication that the Israeli military can target key members of the Hamas leadership.” “Israel braced for Hamas response,” blared the ominous headline on next day’s front page. With all references to Hamas in its coverage prefixed with “militant” and invariably accompanied by images of blood and debris, the average viewer is very likely to assume the worst. It transpires what the world’s fourth most powerful military is bracing itself for is merely a citizen’s protest called by Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Further on we learn that Israel has been bombing such “targets” as a mosque and a sleeping family. The BBC’s next headline on the same day — “Gaza facing ‘critical emergency’” — is an improvement. It quotes Maxwell Gaylard, the UN’s chief aid coordinator for the territory, highlighting the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis. Following this is a warning from Oxfam that the situation is getting worse by the day: clean water, fuel and food in short supply, hospitals overwhelmed with casualties, raw sewage pouring into the streets. And then we get “balance.” Israel, we learn, has claimed Gaza has “sufficient food and medicines.” It of course ought to be easy to verify which of the competing claims is valid, but that presumably would violate the “usual BBC standards of impartiality.” There is also a more mundane reason why the BBC won’t present its own
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findings, but it is tucked away in the very last paragraph of the article. Israel, we learn, “is refusing to let international journalists into Gaza” including no doubt those of the BBC. Ethics of reporting would require that the BBC preface each of its reports with the disclaimer that it has no way of knowing what is going on in Gaza other than through the propaganda handouts of the Israeli military. The final act of chicanery comes in the shape of a sidebar which lists the number of rockets fired by Palestinians for each day of the conflict. This is particularly odd in an article ostensibly about the consequences of the Israeli blockade and bombing, especially since no similar figures are produced for the number of bombs, missiles and artillery shells rained on Gaza. The source the BBC uses is the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center based in Israel. What it does not mention however is that the “private” think tank is a conveyor belt for Israeli military propaganda which, according to The Washington Post, “has close ties with the country’s military leadership and maintains an office at the Defense Ministry.” Any Palestinian claim on the other hand would not appear unless enclosed in quotation marks, even if independently verifiable. The quotation marks are a useful distancing device deployed to show that the characterization may not be one shared by the BBC. This would be understandable if their application were consistent. It isn’t. To take one telling example, after the Lebanon war when both Israel and Hizballah were accused by Amnesty International of war crimes only in the case of Israel did the BBC enclose the accusation in quotation marks. It is through these subtle — and not so subtle — manipulations of language that the BBC has shielded its audience from the ugly realities of occupied Palestine. In the BBC’s reportage
lexicon, Palestinians “die” but Israelis are “killed” (the latter implies agency, the former could have happened of natural causes); Palestinians “provoke,” and Israelis “retaliate;” Palestinians make “claims,” and Israelis “declare.” Moreover, schools, mosques, universities and police stations are part of the “Hamas infrastructure;” militants “clash” with F-16s and Apache helicopters. “Terrorism” is inextricably linked to Palestinians but Israelis merely “defend” themselves — invariably outside their borders. All debates, irrespective of fact or circumstance, are framed around Israel’s “security” — Palestinian security is irrelevant. If Israel’s wall annexing land in the West Bank is mentioned, it is in terms of its “effectiveness.” In the odd event that an articulate Palestinian voice represented, the debate is rigged with a set-up video that is meant to put them on the defensive. When all else fails, there is the reliable “both sides” argument — if reality won’t accommodate the image of an even conflict, the BBC figures, language will. Then there’s the framing: Israel’s violence is always analyzed in terms of its “objectives;” and Palestinian violence is of necessity “senseless.” This is no doubt how it must appear to the average reader since the word “occupation” rarely appears in the BBC’s coverage. It hasn’t appeared once in the last 20 stories on Gaza on its website. And if occupation is mentioned rarely, then the UN resolutions almost never. The picture continued next page
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is even worse on television, where the Israeli point of view predominates. While Matan Vilnai’s threat of a holocaust is consigned to the memory hole, the statement invented and attributed to the Iranian president about wiping Israel off the map is still in play. It is this double standard which also allowed the BBC to cover the story of a British Jew joining the Israeli military as a human interest story — which may not be entirely surprising considering the BBC’s man in Jerusalem, Tim Franks, is himself a graduate of Habonim Dror, a Zionist youth movement. It is this inhuman devaluation of Palestinian life that allowed the BBC at the peak of the criminal blockade in July 2007 to have two stories up on its website related to the occupied territories, both about animals — “Israeli paratroopers swoop on pet shop to rescue rare eagles” and “Kidnapped lioness is reunited with her brother in Gaza Zoo.” While the BBC’s refusal to by-line its online reports makes it hard to trace stories back to individual journalists, a revealing glimpse of the editorial context in which they work was offered by an article in The Observer by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen — a man whose modest analytical skills are matched only by his historical illiteracy. With the BBC workhorse — “both sides” — weaved into the very headline, Bowen piles inanity upon cliche. Throughout there is no mention of an occupation. Bowen has been conveniently transported to Sderot — an Israeli public relations ploy to “embed” journalists within range of Hamas rockets in order to make them report with empathy — and he is happy to oblige. On the other hand there is no mention of those at the receiving end of Israel’s lethal ordinance. He mentions civilian casualties only in the context of the “lot of bad publicity” they get for Israel. On the basis of this evidence, he then concludes “it is probably fair to say that [Israel] does not hit every
target it wants, otherwise many more would have died.” We then end with speculation on Israel’s possible objectives. Despite “both sides,” there is no similar scrutiny of Hamas’s objectives.
“For every BBC voice that strains to equate occupier with occupied, thief with victim, for every swarm of emails from the fanatics of Zion to those who invert the lies and describe the Israeli state’s commitment to the destruction of Palestine, the truth is more powerful now than ever.” At a conference in London in 2004, a BBC journalist based in the Occupied Palestinian Territories told me that when it comes to Israel the editorial parameters are so narrow that journalists soon learn to adapt their stories in order not to upset the editors. Similarly, editors likewise know not to upset their government-appointed managers. Since the days of Lord Reith, the BBC-founder who assured the establishment to “trust [the BBC] not to be really impartial,” on foreign policy the corporation has acted as little more than the propaganda arm of the state (whatever independence it had once enjoyed evaporated with the purge carried out by Tony Blair in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry). Contrary to the prevailing view in the US, where progressives don’t tire of comparing it favorably against US media, the BBC’s record of coverage in the Middle East is dismal. As media scholar David Miller revealed, during the Iraq war the representation of antiwar voices on the BBC was even lower than on its US counterparts. A Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung study found the corporation to have the lowest tolerance for dissent of the media in the five countries it analyzed. Just as its correspondents in Iraq celebrated the fall of Baghdad as a “vindication” of Blair, its man in
S T A T E M E N T S Washington Matt Frei threw all caution to the wind to exult: “There is no doubt that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now in the Middle East, is especially tied up with American military power.” The BBC’s partiality in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a mere reflection of the close affinity of successive British governments with Israel. Both Blair and his successor Gordon Brown have been members of the Israel Lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. The Foreign Minister David Miliband has kin who are settlers in the West Bank. All three major influence-peddling scandals in the past five years that engulfed the leadership of the ruling New Labour party involved money from wealthy Zionist Jews (all linked to the Labour Friends of Israel). If the BBC is not impartial, then the UK government most certainly is not. The BBC, as is its wont, merely reflects the latter’s tilt. This is blatant enough that despite pressure from the Israel lobby, the BBC’s own Independent Panel concluded that its coverage of the Palestinian struggle was not “full and fair” and that it presented an “incomplete and in that sense misleading picture.” But the gap between the alternate reality that the BBC inhabits and the reality on the ground witnessed and relayed by independent media is so great today that it has compelled John Pilger to write: “For every BBC voice that strains to equate occupier with occupied, thief with victim, for every swarm of emails from the fanatics of Zion to those who invert the lies and describe the Israeli state’s commitment to the destruction of Palestine, the truth is more powerful now than ever.” 6 January 2009 Muhammad Idrees Ahmad is a member of Spinwatch.org. He blogs at Fanonite.org. Source: The Electonic Intifada
4 I N T E R N AT I O N A L
S T A T E M E N T S
STATEMENTS RETURN GUANTANAMO TO THE PEOPLE OF CUBA President Barack Obama should take immediate steps to return the US naval base at Guantanamo to the people of Cuba without pre-conditions. Cubans have on numerous occasions demanded that the US dismantle its military base on their homeland which has been there for 106 years. It was established following the Spanish-American War of 1898 and is a direct consequence of colonialism. The terms of the treaty governing the base and its usage are so lopsided that the Cuban people have no choice but to put up with the base ad infinitum — unless the US government decides to relinquish its control over Guantanamo. If Obama is sincere about dealing with other states on the basis of mutual respect, he should begin by changing US
attitude towards its little neighbor which since the Cuban Revolution of 1959 has been characterized by insufferable arrogance and insolence that has no parallel in the modern world. Apart from perpetuating an edifice of colonial occupation in Guantanamo, successive US Presidents in the last 50 years have subjected Cuba to every conceivable injustice. A suffocating trade embargo against the island has been in place for 46 years. Cuba has been invaded with the active collaboration of the US; terrorist attacks have been conducted on Cuban soil by groups and individuals affiliated to the CIA; a Cuban civilian aircraft carrying children among other passengers was destroyed with the connivance of the US; Cubans languish in US jails on trumped up charges; and numerous attempts have been made by
SUE ISRAEL The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) would like to propose to the Malaysian Parliament when it meets on Monday 12 January 2009 that it adopts a motion urging the Malaysian government to commence discussions with other like-minded governments on the possibility of instituting joint legal proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague for violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The vast majority of the governments and peoples of the world would agree that Israel has committed the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people. The Gaza carnage is but the latest episode in this ongoing annihilation of an entire
agents linked to US buttressed networks to assassinate Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution. In a nutshell, US Administrations in the past have not shown an iota of respect for the independence and sovereignty of the 11.4 million Cuban people. It is the Cuban people’s desire to be independent and their refusal to submit to US hegemony that has provoked the wrath of US Administrations. Obama should demonstrate through deeds that he respects those who seek to protect their independence and integrity. That is the change that we would like to see in US foreign policy under his presidency. Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST). 2 February 2009.
community that began in 1948. There are various steps that have to be taken in commencing proceedings against Israel in the ICJ. A number of local and international lawyers would be more than willing to advise and assist the Malaysian government in this. The most outstanding of them is the internationally renowned academic-cum-lawyer, Professor Francis Boyle of the United States, who has been an unwavering advocate of a suit against Israel for genocide against the Palestinians for a few years now. It was Boyle who filed the first lawsuit ever on genocide with the ICJ on behalf of Bosnia against the rump Yugoslavia in 1993. He won two court orders that demanded that Yugoslavia cease and
desist from committing genocide against the Bosnians. In a note to me recently, Boyle, who is a member of JUST’s International Advisory Panel (IAP) had opined that Malaysia should consider suing Israel “to save the Palestinians”. However, the first step would be for the Malaysian government and the opposition, speaking as one voice through the Malaysian parliament to endorse a motion to institute legal proceedings against Israel. It would be more effective if other nations from different religious and cultural backgrounds also joined hands with Malaysia. Chandra Muzaffar. 10 January 2009.
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5 I N T E R N AT I O N A L
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NAM ON GAZA The Coordinating Bureau of the NonAligned Movement (NAM) strongly condemns the escalation of the military aggression being carried out by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Gaza Strip. NAM is gravely concerned by and condemns in particular the launching of the Israeli ground invasion in Gaza in flagrant defiance of the calls by the international community for a cessation of military activities and of the regional and international diplomatic efforts underway to resolve the current crisis. NAM expresses its deep regret at the loss of innocent life as a result of the ongoing Israeli military attacks against the Strip, including the killing of more than 460 Palestinian civilians, among them several children, and the injuring of nearly more than 2,500 other civilians, as well as the massive destruction of property and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. NAM reiterates that this unacceptable Israeli military aggression against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip constitutes a grave breach of international law, including humanitarian and human rights law, fuels the cycle of violence and threatens international peace and security as well as the fragile peace process between the two sides. NAM calls for an immediate cessation of all military activities and violence and for the implementation of an immediate general ceasefire. Israel should immediately cease all its military attacks and scrupulously abide by all of its obligations, as the occupying Power, under international law and relevant United Nations resolutions. In this regard, the Movement urges Israel to unconditionally comply with its
obligations under international law, including the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949. In view of the indiscriminate bombings affecting the civilian population, including women and children, as well as the severe humanitarian crisis prevailing in Gaza, NAM also calls for the immediate provision of protection for the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip in accordance with the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law. The Movement expresses grave concern about the deepening humanitarian crisis being faced by the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza as a result of the current military actions, the continued closure of all border crossings and the obstruction of access of humanitarian aid, including food and medicines, and the reduction of fuel and electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip by Israel. In this context, NAM calls upon Israel to end the collective punishment of the Palestinian people and to allow for the immediate and sustained opening of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings to ensure the free access of humanitarian aid and other essential supplies and goods as well as to facilitate the passage of persons to and from the Gaza Strip. In light of the gravity of this crisis, NAM expresses its deep disappointment at the inability of the Security Council to uphold its responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security. Despite more than a week of sustained military attacks that have gravely affected the civilian population and heightened
instability and tensions in the region, the Council has regrettably been unable to take any concrete measure to end the aggression. Once again, the Movement requests the Security Council to act urgently to address this grave situation. NAM stresses the need for intensified and coordinated efforts by the international community to bring an end to this crisis and to exert all necessary efforts to support and promote the peace process as well as to ensure respect for international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, the key to a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the ArabIsraeli conflict as a whole, as the sole means to guarantee a lasting peace in the region. The Movement is convinced that there is no military solution to the conflict. In this context, NAM reaffirms its commitment to a peaceful solution of the IsraeliPalestinian conflict and to the right of the Palestinian people to exercise selfdetermination and sovereignty in their independent State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. 5 January 2009 New York
TO PEACE By Hasan Abu Nimah
Because it is generally accepted by the so-called “international community” that Hamas is a major threat to Israel, and therefore to world peace and security, France has dispatched a frigate to participate in a new blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Sunday Times reported that United States naval ships hunting pirates in the Gulf of Aden have been instructed to track down Iranian arms shipments (25
January). Many other European states offered their navies to assist. Indeed, United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 emphasized the need to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.
of injured, hungry, cold and homeless people in Gaza rendered so as a result of Israel’s attack. Perhaps helping children dying from white phosphorus burns, or just lack of clean water, would be seen as supporting “terrorism.”
Unfortunately not one European country offered to send its navy to render humanitarian assistance to the thousands
The perverse assumption behind all the offers of help to Israel seems to be that continued next page
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continued from page 5 Hamas and other resistance groups in Gaza fired rockets at Israel merely because rockets were available. Therefore, the logic goes, peace would prevail if the supply of rockets were curtailed. Another strange assumption is that Hamas was freely importing rockets from Iran or elsewhere because Gaza’s borders were open and free of any control. This ignores the fact that since Israel “disengaged” from Gaza in the summer of 2005, the coastal territory was never allowed any free access to the outside world. Gaza has been under varied forms of siege and blockade by land, sea and air. Fishermen were not even free to fish without constant attacks by the Israeli navy. The Rafah crossing linking Gaza to Egypt was kept closed on Israeli insistence until a regime for strict Israeli proxy surveillance, with European monitors acting on Israel’s behalf, was established for it. If Hamas, despite the blockade and total financial and diplomatic boycott managed to import so many rockets or the materials to make them, what level of further siege would guarantee an end to arms importation now? But the glaring moral and legal question is why the “international community” is mobilizing its navies and political efforts to protect the aggressor, preserve the occupation, and deny the victims any means to defend themselves? If they do not want Palestinians to resist, why do they not themselves confront the aggressor and force an end to the occupation, the siege and dispossession? In the better past when war broke out in a region the immediate response was often to impose an arms embargo on all sides. But when the defenseless population in Gaza were under attack from the region’s strongest army all calls were to prevent the victims from defending themselves. Meanwhile, endless supplies of sophisticated weaponry were sent to the occupier despite its already massive dominance and indiscriminate and criminal attacks on civilians. Without objective and daring diagnosis of the conflict’s root causes there is no
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chance of any effective treatment. Sadly this lesson has never been learned, although it has been written repeatedly with much innocent blood. When Palestinians started their first unarmed uprising in 1987, 40 years after their expulsion from their homes and 20 years after the brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began, they had no rockets; they had only stones to confront heavily armed occupation forces. Israel used its guns and deliberate, sadistic bone-breaking against unarmed demonstrators killing almost 1,500 and injuring tens of thousands in its failed efforts to crush that uprising. Only with the 1993 Oslo accords was it possible to put an end to the uprising. Hamas, as a resistance movement, was born in 1988. Israel, desperate to break the political monopoly of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, tacitly allowed Hamas to flourish. Before any Palestinian fired a single shot at the start of the second uprising, in September 2000, Israel had already gunned down dozens of unarmed demonstrators. Palestinians learned these lessons well: Israel will meet any peaceful challenge with lethal force so one had better be prepared to fight back. We need to recall these facts to understand the pure folly and detachment from reality of international politics today. The tendency has been to choose as the “cause” of the conflict to be addressed only what is politically expedient and easy, whether it is wrong or right, just or unjust, legal or illegal. The starting point of history is chosen not from the origins of the problem, but from whatever point suits the narrative of the strong. It is utterly misleading and dishonest to pretend — as so many now do — that the sum total of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a confrontation over what expired Palestinian Authority President and Israeli puppet Mahmoud Abbas himself referred to as “silly rockets.” To pretend that stopping the supply of rockets will make any difference to the course of a conflict that results from the historic dispossession — the Nakba — of an entire nation, and its replacement with a racist rogue state that has exiled, occupied and massacred the survivors
for 61 years is the height of delusion. It is convenient for the occupier and aggressor to forget all these things and talk only of rockets. And it is convenient for the cowards who dress themselves in diplomats’ suits and don’t dare utter the truth. Should we not acknowledge — if there is any real desire to resolve this conflict — that the resistance did not fire rockets just because they had them, and Israel did not carry out its barbarous massacres in Gaza just because it wanted to stop them? Should we not acknowledge the indisputable truth that Hamas did not break the truce, but Israel did when it attacked across the border on 4 November killing six Palestinians? Hamas did not refuse to renew the truce — as Abbas and Egyptian officials confirmed. All they asked was that the halt to killing be extended to the West Bank (which Israel refused) and that the starvation siege that was quietly killing Palestinians in Gaza be lifted. Have we not been all along taught that blockade is an act of aggression and that occupation legitimizes resistance? The gunboats that Europe is sending to police the inmates of the Gaza Ghetto are not manifestations of strength, neither are they — or the recent shocking statements of European Union Humanitarian chief Louis Michel in Gaza blaming Hamas for Israel’s crimes on 26 January — acts of responsible diplomacy in pursuit of peace and stability; they are a new prescription, if not a clear endorsement, for further bloodshed and war crimes. They are signs of a moral weakness and corruption unparalleled since Europeans stood by silently at stations and watched as their compatriots were loaded onto Nazi trains. continued next page
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THE INDIAN EXAMPLE By Radhika Sainath In Gaza, Palestinians have once again been blamed for their own deaths. The British made a similar argument 151 years ago when they killed thousands of Indian civilians — 1,200 in a single village — in response to the largest anti-colonial uprising of the 19th century. If Israel truly desires peace with the Palestinians and safety for its citizens, it should look back to one of the greatest, and misunderstood, independence movements in history. Most people believe India won its independence from the British exclusively through Gandhi’s famous strategy of nonviolence. They’re wrong; armed resistance has deep roots in India. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, also known as the First War of Independence, Hindus and Muslims serving in the infantry for the British East Indian Company revolted against the British Empire, killing British officers and civilians alike. While the majority of these cavalrymen were Hindu, Muslims also partook in the rebellion. These Muslim fighters called themselves “jihadis” and even “suicide ghazis.” The British quashed the revolt, but for the next 90 years Indian violence, even terrorism, in response continued. In the early 20th century, Indian militants, frustrated with the Congress party — the party of Gandhi and Nehru — regularly resorted to acts of violence to overthrow the British. Official government reports note 210 “revolutionary outrages” and at least 1,000 “terrorists” involved in more than 101 attempted attacks between 1906 and 1917 in the state of Bengal alone (see Peter Heehs, “Terrorism in India During the Freedom Struggle,” The Historian, 22 March 1993). One young revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, later referred to as “Shaheed” Bhagat Singh, bombed the Legislative Assembly in 1929.
On the other hand, Palestinians are usually portrayed in Israel and the West as exclusively militants or terrorists. Yet Palestinians have a vibrant, albeit unsuccessful, history of nonviolent resistance. In 1936, the Palestinians maintained a six-month general strike, the beginning of what became known as the Great Arab Revolt. The British retaliated by declaring martial law, jailing and killing large numbers of Palestinians, and destroying numerous Palestinian homes. The revolt lasted for three years and was the largest and longest anti-colonial uprising in the British Empire. Fifty years later, the first Palestinian intifada was largely nonviolent and included acts of mass civil disobedience like flying the Palestinian flag, organizing strikes and boycotting Israeli products. In 1985, Mubarak Awad, a PalestinianAmerican psychologist from Jerusalem established a center for nonviolent resistance on the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was deported by Israel in 1988 (see Mubarak Awad, “Non-Violent Resistance: A Strategy for the Occupied Territories.” Journal of Palestine Studies. Summer 1984). A year later, Beit Sahour, a town near Bethlehem, engaged in a tax revolt against Israel, under the famous American slogan “No taxation without representation.” The Israeli army responded by arresting over 80 Palestinians, cutting telephone lines, blocking food shipments into the town and confiscating millions of dollars in Palestinian goods.
fishermen had been disobeying Israeli orders by fishing in their waters — not unlike Gandhi when he urged Indians to march to the sea to collect their own salt against British orders. In response, the British beat and imprisoned Gandhi’s marchers. Likewise, the Israeli navy repeatedly forced Palestinian fisherman to strip to their underwear and swim to Israeli navy ships, where they are detained and their boats confiscated. Since 2002, Palestinian men, women and children have been sitting in front of Israeli bulldozers flattening their olive groves to construct a wall deep into the West Bank. The Israeli army has responded to these peaceful protestors with tear gas, beatings, arrests and even death. The pattern occurred time and again: nonviolent Palestinian resistance would be crushed by Israeli force and ignored by the West. With nothing to show for their efforts, is it any surprise that the Palestinian peaceful protest movement founders? Violence has always been a historical response to colonialism and repression, in conflicts from India to Algeria to South Africa. That doesn’t make attacks on civilians right — or strategically effective, for that matter. In fact, as we all know, the Indian revolt against the British Empire only finally succeeded when Gandhi convinced his countrymen to resist peacefully. Extremist factions, like those during the Indian independence movement, only gain strength and popularity when Israel flattens even the most harmless dissent. 26 January 2009
What about the current conflict? All the public hears about are the small, makeshift rockets Palestinians fire into southern Israel. But farmers, fisherman and children had been nonviolently resisting the Israeli occupation for years.
Radhika Sainath is a civil rights attorney and an editor of Peace Under Fire: Israel/ Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. She lived in the West Bank from October 2002-December 2003.
Up until the Israeli invasion, Gaza
Source: Electronic Intifada
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continued from page 6 Who could have thought that in the 21st century such things would need to be said — and to those we thought had overcome their terrible history? But silence is not, and should not be an option any more. For years we have been told we should learn from the darkest episode in Europe’s history, but never make comparisons to it
lest we diminish its enormity. But the horrifying atrocities in Gaza which an Israeli official proudly predicted last March would be a “bigger holocaust” compel us to cast our reservations aside. There is a shortcut to calm, the elimination of violence and eventually peace. It is a
lesson that should have been learned many years, and countless thousands of lives ago: justice. 28 January 2009 Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations. This essay first appeared in The Jordan Times Source: Electonic Intifada
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A R T I C L E S CAPPED VOLCANO OF SUFFERING By Dahr Jamail Blackwater USA sign, to be met by four rough looking middle-aged men. The next day, whilst flying into Baghdad, the commercial jet did a “soft-spiral” descent into Baghdad airport, unlike the hard corkscrew descent that they all did when I was last in Iraq, so as not to be shot at by resistance fighters just outside of the airport perimeter.
Baghdad today, on the eve of provincial elections, feels like it has emerged from several years of horrendous violence, but do not be misled. Every Iraqi I’ve spoken with feels it is tenuous, the still-fragile lull too young to trust. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides recent statistics showing that more Iraqis continue to flee their country than are returning. Two studies show the number of dead Iraqis to be between 1.2-1.4 million, and the number of those displaced to be nearly five million, or one in six Iraqis. During 2006 and 2008, scores of bodies were found on the streets of Baghdad and fished from the Tigris River as death squads and sectarian militias raged. All but one of my Iraqi friends and translators have either fled the country, or been killed. It is nearly impossible to meet a family that has not had a family member killed or wounded. Only within the last half-year has violence lessened, and street life returned to something akin to “normal,” which means that as opposed to 50-250 Iraqi being slaughtered each day, now it is an average of one, sometimes two dozen per day. The relative lull has allowed me to travel around Baghdad with relative ease, eat at restaurants, and even conduct interviews on the street; all of which was unheard of during my last visits to Iraq. I’ve been taking stock of what has changed, and what hasn’t. One of the first things I noted that has not changed did not occur in Iraq. Rather, when arriving in Amman, Jordan and exiting the airplane, I strode into customs to find a Jordanian man holding up a
The infrastructure remains in shambles. The generator at my hotel is running more than it is shut off. Throughout Baghdad, there an average of four hours of electricity per 24 hours, and people left with no choice but to drink tap water, when it runs - water heavily contaminated by waterborne diseases, fuel, sewage and sediment. Jobs are scarce, and people are suffering greatly. The anger about this seethes just beneath the surface everywhere I turn. Previously, while these conditions were similar, there was still some hope that things might improve. That hope has shifted into a resignation of what is. A surrender into a daily life of trying to find enough money to buy food. “In 2004 it cost me $1 to fill my car,” my interpreter Ali told me yesterday as we drove to Fallujah. “Today it now costs $35. It used to be in Iraq a family could easily live off $500 for two months. Today we are lucky if that lasts a week, because the prices of everything have gone so high.” Beggars are present at most intersections. Where they are not, Iraqi children walk between the rows of cars carrying cigarettes, fruit, or sweets to sell to drivers stuck in the ever-present traffic. Salah Salman, a day laborer in Sadr City I spoke with the other day, raged against the upcoming elections which are set for January 31. He spoke with me while we stood near a street strewn with garbage near a busy traffic circle. “I’ll not be voting for anyone. We cannot trust any of the candidates, just like during the elections of 2005. What have they done for us? What services have they provided our country? They have achieved nothing for us!”
Like the 2005 elections (and most elections across the globe, for that matter), there are thousands of politicians running on various platforms, from unifying Iraq, to bringing electricity, to improving security, to promoting reconciliation. Most Iraqis I have spoken with about the elections are not holding out much hope. “New thieves will replace the current thieves,” an Iraqi refugee in Amman told me before I flew into Baghdad. Obvious differences are present. The most evident reason for the decline in US military casualties in Iraq over the last year is that there are clearly far fewer patrols being carried out by US forces, whereas before patrols roamed the streets incessantly. The patrols I do see are carried out in the new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which are mine-resistant beasts that slowly crawl through the congested streets of Baghdad. Instead, Iraqi security forces abound. Speeding through the streets with blaring sirens are Iraqi Police in huge, brand new Ford and Chevrolet trucks, which have clearly found their new market since the US has tired of the gas-guzzling behemoths. Further, Iraqi military abound, roaming around in brand new Humvees of the ilk traded in by the US military’s upgrade to MRAPs. So much security is deployed on the streets of Baghdad it is impossible to travel more than 15 minutes without finding another checkpoint. To live in Baghdad, like it is to live in many other Iraqi cities, is to live in a police state. Contractors are visible flying overhead, often in their two-person Kiowa helicopters. They are running the security at the airport and in the Green Zone, which has been called the International Zone for some time now. The mercenary company Triple Canopy employs former Central American death squad members and various nationals from Uganda, a now mostly de-colonized country, to check ID badges at the countless checkpoints I walked through to obtain my mandatory press card inside the heavily fortified continued next page
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continued from page 8 compound. Thus, the changing of the face is complete - Iraqi security forces and private contractor mercenaries are now the face of the US occupation of Iraq. The political divides across the country run deep, and this thin, fresh, external skin of the lull in overall violence camouflages the plight of the average Iraqi. Prices of everything from bottled water to tomatoes have skyrocketed, while jobs have
become increasingly scarce. While the major US news outlets have downgraded their staff in Iraq, or pulled out entirely because they feel Iraq is no longer an important story, for most Iraqis who remain here, there is no other option. Flee with no money and become a refugee, or remain and try to survive. Will the elections bring a lasting stability? Or will groups who feel entitled to power that don’t obtain it democratically resort
A R T I C L E S again to violence that will shred what is left of this shattered country? We shall soon find out. 29 January 2009 Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq”, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Source: Truthout/Perspective
ROHINGYA REFUGEE ISSUE: A HOLISTIC APPROACH By Kavi Chongkittavorn Thailand’s call for a conference in Bangkok of a focus-group on the Rohingya issue is a good initiative. All the stakeholders could meet and work out practicable and durable solutions on a transnational issue that increasingly needs a comprehensive and multilateral approach. In responding to the outcry of the international community on the Rohinya saga in the past weeks, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya acted quickly by consulting all concerned countries, including Burma, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and India to find solutions. Last week the Foreign Ministry met and discussed with the ambassadors from these five countries and stressed that this is a regional issue that would need joint common efforts. The plight of the rohingya refugees has suddenly become a hot topic after nearly 650 of them were rescued in the territorial waters of India and Indonesia. The Royal Thai Navy was alleged by international human rights organisations of pushing back these refugees out to the Andaman Sea where they had come from. Several hundreds of people, it has been contended, might have died at sea. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded a thorough investigation and pledged to punish whoever was behind such inhuman actions. The rohingya refugees and asylum seekers are a minority in Burma’s northern Arakan state. During 1991-92, around 270,000 refugees fled to Bangladesh to escape persecution by the Burmese
military junta. Over the years, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has successfully repatriated at least 230,000 Rohingyas back to Burma. The rest are staying in the two main camps Nayapara and Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazar - without any real prospects of going home. Due to the short distance between these camps and Thailand’s western coastal areas, they began to come by boats in the mid-1990s, before it became headline news. Gradually the numbers became bigger and the influx more frequent, especially during this time of the year when the sea is usually calmer. They would arrive in Ranong and other coastal provinces through vast transnational human smuggling rings, either on transit to Malaysia or Indonesia, or in search for a better life in Thailand. Most of them being Muslims would like to find jobs or be settled in the same religious environment. But quite often, at the first transit point, they usually ended up being exploited in Thailand. During the Surayud Chulanont government, Thai authorities were instructed not to push them back out into the sea as it could endanger their lives. Instead, the visitors would be detained and given food and transported to the Thai-Burma border either in Kanchanaburi or Tha Songyang. They were sent across the border safely. However, the soft Thai response has encouraged human smuggling rings to increase their operations as no risks were involved for them. If they failed, these asylum seekers would eventually end up in the refugee camps along the BurmaBangladesh border. Out of desperation, some of these refugees attempted to
come to Thailand again. According to the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), more than 14 million people around the world fled their homes either due to war or persecution in 2007. Thailand is one of top destinations with over 400,000 refugees and asylum seekers. USCRI pointed out that within Asia, Thailand along with Malaysia, China, Bangladesh and India are among the worst violators of the international principles as outlined by the UN Convention on Refugees 1951. At the moment, according to unofficial statistics, Thailand is home to more than 5 million refugees, asylum seekers and illegal migrant workers and visa over-stayers in one form or another from over a dozen countries, including all bordering countries except Malaysia, and countries as far as Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Russia, North Korea, China, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan as well as a few thousands of illegal immigrants from Western countries. Despite several improved measures to increase continued next page
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continued from page 9 coordination among intra-agencies in the past, on the whole the Thai treatment of these unfortunate people still comes under fire due to the lack of consistency, compassion and cooperation with international organisations, including UNHCR and numerous humanitarian organisations. One hindrance is Thailand’s continuous refusal to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention. Fear and a lack of understanding of the convention has prevented the country from joining 147 other nations that have done so. Strange as it may seem, when it comes to accession or ratification of international treaties and protocols, the concerned Thai officials are overly cautious in interpreting Thailand’s commitments. They tend to overdo it. Thailand took a
long time to sign on to the UN against Torture Treaty in 2007. The efforts to ratify the International Criminal Court of Justice, which Thailand proudly signed in 2000, have fallen flat in the past eight years as some conservative lawyers thought that doing so would subject the Thai royal family to the ICC court of justice. Like a lot else in this country, whenever events and issues are related to the monarchy, the responsible authorities tend to play safe and exaggerate the impacts - real or imagined - without scrutinising the ever changing domestic and international environments. A more level-headed rationalisation is urgently needed. Upon closer scrutiny, it is a real blessing in disguise that the Rohinya problem blew up in the face of the Abhisit-led government. First of all, given his
A R T I C L E S professed high moral ground, Abhisit will definitely act on issues related to human rights and freedom of expression sooner than later. Secondly, the rohingya refugees also exposed the Thai government’s limit, or for that matter what the countries at the receiving end can do on a human tragedy of this scale that they have not created. Thirdly, their plight will enable the public and global communities to understand the problem’s root cause and solve it at the source. Finally, it’s hoped this travesty would prompt all stakeholders to cooperate and provide more assistance, especially the UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations. 26 January, 2009 Kavi Chongkittavornohingya is a leading Thai journalist. Source: The Nation
GLOBAL FINANCIAL UNCERTAINTIES AND THE FUTURE OF MALAYSIA By Mahathir Mohamad (Part 1) For some time now the world has been facing a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions. The crisis has become truly global and is clearly leading to a worldwide recession far worse than that experienced in the late 1920’s or before that. Huge banks and financial institutions have collapsed and are dragging down with them other major businesses. Even the small businesses have not been spared. The enormity of the situation can be gauged by the total sum of money which the Federal Reserve Bank and the American Government have allocated to rescue banks, insurance companies, mortgage companies and hedge funds. The sum is US 8.5 trillion dollars i.e. Eight Thousand Five Hundred billion. We cannot really imagine the existence of this amount of money; certainly not all of it in one place. How come such an enormous amount of money could be lost by the banks and other financial institutions without us knowing anything about it until it is clearly upon us. The answer is really very simple. There have been massive cover-ups by the institutions and the United State Government of the losses until they became too big to hide under anything.
The cover-ups have been going on for a very long time - maybe more than 30 years. It began in the banks and institutions themselves. The CEOs of these institutions kept on telling their clients and the public that everything was all right, that they had the money to make good the losses, that it was all a misunderstanding, that it was temporary, that everything was secured. All the while the losses were accumulating. But the books were not showing them. There was a lot of creative accounting and losses could often appear as gains. And these fictitious gains were credited to the genius of the CEOs and CFOs. They should be rewarded. And they were rewarded with millions and millions of dollars in bonuses and stock options. These geniuses were often literally bought by other banks and institutions so they may benefit from their expertise in cooking the books. And why not? The investors were getting good; extraordinarily good returns on their investments. When you get a return of 10, 20 or 30 percent why should you scrutinize the running of the company? Just collect the dividends and invest more. And when you can get such returns from
investing in these financial instruments why should you invest in the production of goods and services where the dividends would be 5% or less. Very soon the business of producing goods and services and the trade in these represents only a fraction of the business in financial instruments. It is said that the trade in currencies for example is twenty times bigger than total world trade. And the profits are equally big. Millionaires appear by the hundreds every year, and billionaires by the dozens. Yachts and private jets became very common. And everyone thought this was going to go on forever. But we know now that it is not forever. We know now that the bubble has burst with a bang that reverberates throughout the world. The great banks are collapsing like a house of cards and rich countries are going bankrupt. And we all ask why. Why? It began with the delinking of money from gold. It began with fiat money. Basically these are paper tokens, with no intrinsic value at all. We never question how these pieces of paper can have a value. We never ask who has been printing these notes. We do not ask how the printers determine how much notes continued next page
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continued from page 10 they should print. We all merely accept them as money. In most countries Central Banks owned by the Government would print the money. We assume Government would control how much is printed so as to avoid devaluation and inflation. But in United States of America, the richest country in the world the money is printed by a private bank. The Federal Reserve Bank is owned by twelve other private banks. The Fed prints the money and actually lends the money to the Government. Yet the world accepts this basically private bank notes as the reserve currency for all countries, as the currency used for international trade. At one time banks like the HSBC and Chartered Banks actually issued their own banknotes. But today it is not really necessary because effectively cheques represent money. So can credit cards. How many cheque books or credit cards are issued the public does not know. But these are money also. In some very advanced countries no one carries cash anymore. They pay for everything with credit cards. So credit cards are a form of money. Money in the form of currency notes or cheques can be deposited with a bank and cheques can be made out to be drawn on the bank when payments are to be made. When cheques are paid in, the money appears in the accounts of the payer. He need not withdraw money to pay for anything. He merely makes out a cheque to the amount. We all believe the banks business is based on the capital invested and the deposits taken. We think that the money lent by the bank comes from its capital and the money deposited with it. But actually what the bank lends is far more than the sum total of the capital and the deposits. In a well regulated situation the amount that a bank can lend is limited by the Central Bank. But actually a bank can lend as much as 10 times the money deposited with it. Since, except with fix deposit, the
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deposited money cost the bank nothing, in fact may actually earn for the bank a service charge, the earnings of the bank on the deposits comes at no cost. If it can lend 10 times the deposited amount, than its interest earning must be on 10 times the deposited amount.
lost all their money.
The bank is therefore a money making institution even when supervised.
When one bank experiences a run, other banks may come to its rescue. But when all the biggest banks fail simultaneously, no other banks can rescue them. The Central Banks of the Government, the printers of money may be able to bail out the bankrupt banks and institutions. The problem with printing currency notes to bailout on such a scale is inflation. And inflation must lead to recession.
But then came the idea of free markets and deregulation. The market would regulate itself and Government should not interfere. Once this was accepted the crooks moved in. Since the earnings of the bank are directly related to the size of the loans, then banks should try to lend as much as possible, whatever the capital or deposits they have. What if the loans turn sour. The geniuses devised a way of securing the loans. The good loans and the bad loans are bundled together and insured. The investors in the banks, principally the hedge funds, need no longer worry about non-performing loans. If they fail to perform the insurance companies will make up the loss. Besides in the case of housing loans the houses would serve as collaterals. If the loan go bad the collaterals can be sold off and the loans recovered, if not wholly at least partially. There would not have been any problem except that the amounts of loans were enormous. The borrowers run into millions and the total sum of nonperforming loans add up to billions. When these sub-prime loans failed, the insurance companies could not pay the huge amounts due to be collected by the banks. And when the housing market failed, the collateralized properties could find no buyers. Unable to recover the loans given out the banks went bankrupt. The share prices of the banks plummeted. The hedge funds which had invested a lot of borrowed money in the banks, find themselves unable to repay the huge loans (20 times the size of the investments they had taken) which they had taken. The banks which had lent money to the hedge funds,
Added together the losses by the banks, the insurance companies, the mortgage companies, the hedge funds, the lenders to the hedge funds come up to trillions of dollars.
Recession for one country is bad enough. But when the whole world go into recession, the problem is nearly impossible to resolve. Certainly no one country can resolve it. A world recession must be resolved by the world acting in concert. What is the future for Malaysia in the face of a worldwide recession? It is very difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy, but certainly what happens to Malaysia must be determined by the degree of its involvement with the world’s economy. The greater the linkage the more serious will be the problem and the more gloomy the future of the country. We know that Singapore has felt the adverse effect of the present international financial uncertainty more than Malaysia. This is because Singapore is a financial center and is much involved with investments in hedge funds and other financial instruments. It has too much money with too few opportunities within the country to invest. The developing countries provide too few investment opportunities. So much of Singapore’s money is invested in the rich countries. And we now know that the rich countries have been really badly managed, especially financially. So Singapore has to pay a price for its confidence in the free market and in money making more money. ------- End of part one. 11 December 2008
Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a former Prime Minister of Malaysia.The above speech was delivered at the ‘Bridges — Dialogue Towards a Culture of Peace’, held at Putrajaya, Malaysia on 11 December 2008 Part two of the speech will be published in the March 2009 issue of the JUST Commentary
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