Breaking the Silence and its detractors

Nakba Day 2015 (Mohamad Torokkman:Reuters) May 19th 2015

Breaking the Silence (BtS) is an Israeli group of veterans & soldiers who since 2004 have collected hundreds of testimonies from soldiers in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, & East Jerusalem documenting abuse of Palestinians, vandalism & destruction of their property, & Israeli war crimes.

BtS comes under harsh criticism, of course, from Zionists but they are also frequently criticized by anti-Zionists as soldiers who have committed war crimes or who cover up war crimes because their testimonials are anonymous.

Earlier this month BtS released a report titled “This is How We Fought in Gaza 2014- Soldiers’ Testimonies from Operation “Protective Edge”.” The report includes testimony from sixty IDF officers & soldiers which document Palestinian claims of ethnic cleansing & massive Israeli human rights crimes as a matter of military policy.

It’s quite likely that most BtS activists & testifiers are patriotic Israelis committed to Zionism who sustained the PTSD of soldiers carrying out war crimes under orders. They are psychologically & politically rattled. It’s one thing to hate on Palestinians in cafes & bars; it’s quite another to shoot them down, including children, in cold blood.

Among those anti-Zionists who criticize BtS, there are several motivations. One wants to excoriate all soldiers & veterans for war crimes (even in Israel’s conscript army). Others object to media privileging the testimony of BtS over the voices of Palestinians. And some object to the methods & politics of BtS.

The question of soldiers & veterans is not unique to Israel in Palestine but has been a matter of dispute since WWI, particularly in the socialist movement that saw conscripted soldiers as brothers (& now sisters), not as enemies. Because the US has endless wars, this has been an issue in the antiwar movement–with conscientious objectors believing the only moral policy is to refuse to serve. But the US antiwar movement, under the influence of socialist activists, has always worked closely with veterans & active duty soldiers because their antiwar testimony is so powerful. Anyone who has watched veteran testimony from the two Winter Soldier events (available on YouTube) can see that undeniable truth.

The Pentagon works tirelessly to alienate veterans from the antiwar movement & to convince them we are hostile to them as war criminals. On the contrary. Antiwar veterans are the very backbone of the US antiwar movement, leading off every march as a symbol of the respect we give them.

If media privileges the voices of Israelis over Palestinians, that can hardly be a charge against BtS. The alternative would be they do not gather testimony. And the voices of Palestine would still not be heard.

If there are objections to the personnel, methods, & politics of BtS, how does that distinguish them from hundreds of other political organizations? They don’t pretend to be a party of revolutionists or saints. Nor do they denounce Zionism. Likely most just want Israel to be the country they were told it is with the “most moral military in the world” as it claims instead of the genocidal machine they now know it is.

Tis a shame to denounce BtS or to attempt to discredit their work–no matter what their problems. Instead, their testimony from occupation & genocide should be widely promulgated–not in place of Palestinian voices but documentation for Palestinian claims & strengthening the call for BDS & building Palestinian solidarity.

Photo is Palestinians running from tear gas & Israeli troops on Nakba Day (May 15th), near Ofer prison in the West Bank where Israel warehouses Palestinian activists, including children.

(Photo by Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)

Betty Windsor and the academic boycott of Israel

So the Guardian-UK is litigating like crazy to get public access to Chucky’s correspondence with British politicians. Because, after all, the moochocracy isn’t supposed to intervene in affairs of state. But for forty-million bucks a year the state has to get something out of this indolent crowd. Sure there’s some return from the horse track with all their trifectas but not enough to make all their vulgarities worthwhile. That’s where those honorary titles come in.

Betty Windsor will bestow the “rare honor” of honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) on Rivka Carmi, the woman president of Ben-Gurion University–ostensibly for her role “in strengthening scientific & academic cooperation between Israel & the UK” by founding the UK-Israel Science Council in 2010. The council is to promote academic collaboration between the two countries. Especially now since the economic, cultural & academic boycott (BDS) of Israel to protest apartheid is making such international inroads.

Betty knows horses. She wouldn’t know from science if it came up & bit her in the ass. If she’s dishing out awards for science it’s at the behest of Israel or British politicians to contravene BDS & that means Betty is intervening in affairs of state. She should be placed under immediate arrest.

Wikipedia and Zionism

Here’s another one of those things you learn from snooping around Zionist websites: Israel welcomed Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, for his tenth visit to the country to give him the $1 million Dan David Foundation Prize–which we learn from Wikipedia has been given every year since 2000. Dan David is a Romanian-born businessman in Israel whose foundation partners with Tel Aviv University in the prize.

Our man Wales was chosen for “spearheading” the “information revolution.” If anyone ever uses Wikipedia for research on Palestine & Israel you will know that spearheading is less the appropriate term than inventing history wholesale. What an imagination his hasbara team employs! With his new connections to Tel Aviv University, he will render that encyclopedia absolutely worthless. That’s why there’s an academic boycott of Israel as part of BDS.

Massive protests in Brazil demand impeachment of Dilma Rousseff

Sao Paulo, Brazil vs. police violence ( Nacho Doce:Reuters) May 18 2015

There’s just a mountain of lies (of the omission kind) in the Guardian-UK caption to this photo: “São Paulo, Brazil: A boy takes part in a protest against police violence.”

It’s a charming photo of this little fellow & if it was part of an album of photos from the tens of thousands protesting in São Paulo, it would be a real crowd pleaser. But it’s not just one of the only photos; it is the only report allowed to break the media blackout on protests in Brazil for the past several months that (by police estimates) number in the millions.

Massive protests have gone on all over Brazil since 2013 opposing exorbitant government expenditures on stadia & infrastructure for the 2014 World Cups & 2016 Olympics. Protesters marched against austerity & growing impoverishment, land dispossessions of Indigenous tribes, military occupation of the favelas, police & military violence against Indigenous people & against the protesters. And for the past several months, millions have marched against corruption scandals in the Workers’ Party of President Dilma Rousseff & demanding her impeachment.

All those millions of protesters for months on end & all media can produce is this charming little picture of a child? A panoramic view of the March protest would have been quite a shot. Estimates by police went up to 3 million people. You don’t see that very often. The estimates of the April march went up to 1.5 million people. And these events weren’t front page news? Is it because such news would unsettle the plans for the 2016 Olympics & deter attendance?

The political PR about Dilma Rousseff being a radical visionary is running out of steam. Her brief youthful flirtation with socialism isn’t holding water when she’s nothing but a two-bit neoliberal operator. Politicians play populist all the time. We’re watching that spectacle unfold with Hillary Clinton in the US. But PR isn’t keeping up with plunder on the ground.

As for this photo: protesters don’t usually bring children to small protests likely to be assaulted. So we might speculate that around this boy there are tens of thousands of protesters demanding the end of neoliberal austerity, the end of police violence, & the removal of Dilma Rousseff.

Our fullest solidarity with the protesters.

(Photo by Nacho Doce/Reuters)

The Shah of Iran and the CIA

Shah of Iran (Bruce Davidson:Magnum Photos) May 18 2015

This is the Shah of Iran. He thought he was a blue-blood royal like some people believe in fairies & unicorns. He’s in that loathsome panoply that includes Pinochet, Omar Suleiman (the torturer), Henry Kissinger, Generals Sisi & Mubarak, Ferdinand Marcos, Netanyahu, Felipe Calderón, & several others. This is how you live & dress if you play ball with the US & its torture agency, the CIA.

His power rested on SAVAK, the secret police trained in torture by the CIA, using methods so extreme & barbaric they couldn’t be described in detail lest readers be overwhelmed with not grief but terror before power.

Under the man who called himself Shah, thousands were tortured using electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass & pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, beating the soles of the feet, extraction of teeth & nails using pliers, & torturing children in front of their parents. There were special torture techniques for women. Thousands were also murdered. That is why the CIA exists; that is what they are doing to thousands of prisoners in their secret prisons now.

We can’t bring this detestable criminal back from stinking up hell. (The title of Shah doesn’t hold much cachet down there.) But we can commit ourselves to demanding the abolition of CIA prisons, the dismantling of the CIA, the prosecution of all its officials & agents, & we can chase their asses off campus when they come recruiting. Rebuilding the international antiwar movement is part of the process of doing that.

(Photo by Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos)

The PR spin on ethnic cleansing of Rohingya

Rohingya boy in Indonesia (Beawiharta:Reuters) May 18 2015

What a spin they’re putting on the immigration crisis in the Andaman Sea. It’s like a psycho-tragic version of the Blame Game. The first line of attack is against “human traffickers” who abandoned the immigrant ships at sea. Of course they wouldn’t be in business in the first place if Rohingya weren’t fleeing persecution & they wouldn’t have abandoned ship if they had been allowed to berth & discharge desperate refugees seeking sanctuary.

Another line of attack is the refugees themselves. The Guardian-UK says: “Rohingya refugees have spoken of horrors at sea: of murders, of killing each other over scarce supplies of food & water, & of corpses thrown overboard.” Take a moment to recover from the ugliness & cynicism of that report. Are they suggesting Rohingya are criminals & sociopaths? Are they incapable of imagining the trauma involved in starving to death & watching others die?

When people died from illness or starvation on board, what should they have done with the bodies? What would the lard-brained Guardian editors have done? In fact, the Guardian also reported the refugees tried to save supplies for women & children on board. Because even under extreme mental & physical duress, the refugees were unable to act with the barbarism of neoliberal governments.

The UN’s approach to blame is against governments in the region unwilling to take refugees in. Nobody wants to see UN troops show up since they bring cholera & rape, but couldn’t the UN lease some ships to at least bring food, water, & medical personnel to the refugees?

Many refugees able to get into Indonesia arrived with serious health problems & there are several photos of skeletal, desperately ill people with IV drips laying in tents without even a mattress. This boy arrived in Indonesia without his family & is crying because he’s unable to reach them by phone. The need for PTSD counselors must be massive just for the 1,600 allowed to land.

There’s no question Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, & Indonesia come in for special condemnation but the UN & all those countries who belong to it don’t get to shake the naughty finger & walk away scot-free. Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa announced Saturday that the Community of Latin American & Caribbean States (CELAC) will provide assistance to the refugees. Thirty-three countries, several with great big economies, & including Cuba & Venezuela belong to CELAC.

“If the problem continues then we will provide our total support including food supplies as well as CELAC welcoming those impacted by the crisis in order to alleviate the tragedy that is taking place,” said Correa. How long does it have to continue before they send food?

Correa also said the entire international community has to end discriminatory immigration policies. And that is the heart of the issue. It’s not just a matter of ending discriminatory immigration policies but of having any restrictions on the right of human beings to live & work where they want.

Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo by Beawiharta/Reuters)

Lara Logan still embedded up the Pentagon’s ass

Lara Logan from “60 Minutes” is up to her old tricks of war mongering & Islamophobia. Tonight she did a segment on the Taliban training of hundreds of child suicide bombers. The experts were a Pakistani military guy, a masked guy who claimed he’s a trainer & is doing it for Allah, & a disguised woman. Lara should be writing for “Law & Order” or “Saturday Night Live.”

Rohingya refugees and the “calibrated” approach to letting them die

Rohingya refugees (Christophe Archambault?AFP) May 17 2015

It’s so comforting to know the UN human rights chief is “appalled” at reports Thailand, Indonesia, & Malaysia are pushing immigrants back to sea; that the White House spokesperson ‘expressed concern’ about the refugees, that the US State Department is ‘urging’ countries to work together, & that the US is working with the UN refugee agency to save lives. Because if there’s anything the massive humanitarian crisis in the Andaman Sea needs, it’s more platitudes & hand-wringing–especially of the appalled kind. The Council on Foreign Relations is really worked into a fury over the monumental human rights crimes against the Rohingya in Myanmar & the Andaman Sea. Their man says, albeit with some peeve, Myanmar should “rethink its “racist” plan for the Rohingya.” You can’t talk tougher than that.

The persecution & ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Myanmar has gone on for decades including being stripped of citizenship; religious persecution; forced labor; land confiscations; arbitrary taxation & various forms of extortion; forced eviction & house destruction; restrictions on travel for health & work; restrictions on marriage, education, & trade. Today, 130,000 to 140,000 homeless Rohingya live in refugee camps in Myanmar & thousands more in camps in Bangladesh. The camps in Myanmar are filthy & wretched & infectious diseases are rampant. Residents are not allowed to leave without police escort so they’re more like concentration camps. The NY Times called them “apartheid-like conditions” but they’re really more like Auschwitz.

When then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country in late 2011 & when Obama went there in 2012 & 2014, the ethnic cleansing & flight of Rohingya was in high gear. Media reported “there was much fanfare about the country’s political reforms & apparent road to democracy after decades of oppressive military rule.” There was fanfare, but only if you had your head stuck up your ass because the military still ruled the country without making much effort to camouflage that fact.

The US State Department claims they have a “calibrated” approach to human rights in Myanmar. They like that word; they think they’re being foxy with it. It means the US can maintain some minor sanctions on Myanmar but still do substantial financial business & work out an understanding with the junta so Myanmar can join Thailand & the US in annual military exercises. It’s called talking a good game. Obama calls it “engaging with the country.” And you wonder why so many graduates with international affairs degrees end up as Fox News commentators or driving taxi?

One US State Department official put it so subtly–what they call nuance in apologia: “I don’t think we’re going to see breakthroughs in the short term. Burma was an opening to a breakthrough, and it’s one that we always knew would take years to move from its starting point to its finishing point.” “An opening to a breakthrough.” It could be poetic if it weren’t complete horse manure.

The Australian regime also has a “calibrated” approach. That’s why prime minister Tony Abbott glibly defended turning boats away from sanctuary, as Australia does. When was he released from the criminally insane asylum? He hasn’t even the good sense to talk with “nuance,” the essential tool of diplomacy.

The US claims in the past year it’s sent $109 million in humanitarian assistance for “vulnerable Burmese people, including the Rohingya.” It’s apparent not a dime has gone for that project but given the US track record on promised humanitarian aid, it’s more likely it was actually never sent. Both Obama & Clinton met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aug San Suu Kyi who spent years under house arrest for opposing the military dictatorship. As a member of parliament now, she remains as mute today as she was in 2012 about the persecution of Rohingya even though she is considered one of the most influential women in the world. But then of course, you wouldn’t ask Obama about peace.

While the Thai navy is pushing refugees further out to sea to die, the Thai government is organizing a regional conference on May 29th to window-dress the crisis. Myanmar is threatening to boycott the meeting if the issue of Rohingya is on the agenda. They don’t have to be there to be condemned or to have sanctions leveled against them. But of course, that won’t happen.

Truth of the matter is, with close up shots like this from journalist boats, we are being offered a front row seat to slow-motion genocide. Journalists are tossing water bottles to the boats; Thai fishermen are passing supplies–but there are no UN vessels in sight. There are no US ships though they could move the 5th Fleet from Bahrain or those warships off the coast of Yemen.

The Thai, Malaysian, & Indonesian regimes are shamed. And so is every other country that could move navies into the Andaman Sea & take the refugees to safety.

Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo of Rohingya on ships by Christophe Achambault/AFP)