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Because we’re the good guys

Posted by Charles II on September 17, 2014

James Bamford, NYT (via Atrios):

IN Moscow this summer, while reporting a story for Wired magazine, I had the rare opportunity to hang out for three days with Edward J. Snowden. …

Among his most shocking discoveries, he told me, was the fact that the N.S.A. was routinely passing along the private communications of Americans to a large and very secretive Israeli military organization known as Unit 8200. This transfer of intercepts, he said, included the contents of the communications….

Mr. Snowden stressed that the transfer of intercepts to Israel contained the communications — email as well as phone calls — of countless Arab- and Palestinian-Americans whose relatives in Israel and the Palestinian territories could become targets based on the communications.
It appears that Mr. Snowden’s fears were warranted. Last week, 43 veterans of Unit 8200 — many still serving in the reserves — accused the organization of startling abuses. In a letter to their commanders, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the head of the Israeli army, they charged that Israel used information collected against innocent Palestinians for “political persecution.” In testimonies and interviews given to the media, they specified that data were gathered on Palestinians’ sexual orientations, infidelities, money problems, family medical conditions and other private matters that could be used to coerce Palestinians into becoming collaborators or create divisions in their society.

The veterans of Unit 8200 declared that they had a “moral duty” to no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians.” An Israeli military spokesman disputed the letter’s overall drift but said the charges would be examined.

But of course it’s ok, because we’re the good guys. Jodi Rudoren, NYT:

For a 29-year-old captain whose eight years in the unit ended in 2011, the transformational moment came in watching “The Lives of Others,” a 2006 film about the operations of the East German secret police.

“I felt a lot of sympathy for the victims in the film of the intelligence,” the captain said. “But I did feel a weird, confusing sense of similarity, I identified myself with the intelligence workers. That we were similar to the kind of oppressive intelligence in oppressive regimes really was a deep realization that makes us all feel that we have to take responsibility.”

Posted in abuse of power, israel, NSA eavesdropping | Comments Off on Because we’re the good guys

The Gatekeepers: interviews of six heads of Shin Bet on the future of Israel

Posted by Charles II on January 29, 2013

The director of the recent film The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, was interviewed by DemocracyNow. The film includes some astonishing quotes from the directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police.

Moreh complained that DemocracyNow had decontextualized the quotes to portray the Palestinians as innocent victims of Israeli aggression. But even understood in context, namely that Shin Bet’s efforts are aimed not at civilians but at terrorists, the film is both powerful and relevant to the US so-called “Global War on Terror.”

Civil wars and sectarian conflicts such as Afghanistan and the intifada of Palestine cannot be understood as isolated acts of violence. Both sides have grievances. No side is innocent. Our own Revolutionary War was presaged, in part, by what would be called acts of terror today. Think Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty. The Gatekeepers, appropriately, focuses on what the suppression of the Palestinians is doing to Israelis. In this context, there is this exchange:

AARON MATÉ: Well, we certainly aren’t here to debate the history with you, but we are trying to portray your film, and your movie has some very powerful statements that should be highlighted. You know, you have Avraham Shalom saying something like—a line like: “[We’ve become] a brutal occupation force similar to the Germans in World War II.”


AARON MATÉ: “We have become cruel, to ourselves as well, but mainly to the occupied population, using the excuse of the war against terror.”

Moreh goes on to draw the parallel between an Israeli attack that killed one terrorist (who was supposedly organizing a truce) and over a dozen innocent people and American drone attacks.

The heads of Shin Bet are unanimous in their view that the occupation is dangerous and destabilizing to Israel. Even when the attacks are targeted against terrorists, they inevitably raise questions about proportionality, about the deaths of innocents, and about the brutalization of the occupier.

By increasing the settlements, Israel is coming dangerously close to forced removal of the Palestinians, i.e. what’s called ethnic cleansing. Moreh is right:

Dror Moreh: … I think that those people who came to speak in the movie, the six heads of the security defense establishment, the Shin Bet, came because they feel that the occupation of the Palestinians in the last 45 years is something that is not good for the state of Israel and should be stopped.

The same can be said of many American occupations and interventions. Unless they resolve grievances, establish a superior living standard, and especially respect the whole community and their traditions, they will backfire–even if they are tactically brilliant and otherwise morally justifiable. This film looks to go a long way toward showing why this is so.

Posted in israel, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Iran-Contra figure firebombed after exposing Canadian intel corruption

Posted by Charles II on December 6, 2012

The home of Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence officer, was firebombed with an accelerant that may not be widely available. The Canadian press (from a quick reading of the Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, and National Post) is intensely hostile to him, painting his role in various controversies as being on the dark side (like, for example, saying that he led a sting against an opponent of Robert Mugabe in 2002 without providing any context; in 2002, Mugabe was Sir Mugabe, knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1994. The honor was revoked in 2008). So, it was of interest that Robert Parry, Consortium wrote:

In more recent years, as an international consultant often working in global hotspots, Ben-Menashe has been involved in other controversies, including a role blowing the whistle on a questionable 2010 business deal by Arthur Porter, who was then in charge of overseeing Canadian intelligence services and who ran the McGill University Health Centre.

Porter resigned both posts, and the scandal has tarnished the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who let Porter serve in a highly sensitive position as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee from Sept. 3, 2008, until his resignation on Nov. 10, 2011. That position gave Porter access to not only sensitive secrets of Canadian intelligence but of American intelligence as well.

Ben-Menashe’s knowledge of the Porter’s ethically questionable conduct began in June 2010 when Porter paid Ben-Menashe’s consulting firm $200,000 to help broker a $120 million development grant for Porter’s homeland of Sierra Leone. However, Ben-Menashe learned that the grant was to be funneled through an outfit known as the Africa Infrastructure Group, which Porter owned, and the deal was using a questionable Swiss bank.

After discovering these irregularities, Ben-Menashe said he returned the $200,000 fee and terminated the grant proposal. According to Ben-Menashe, Porter blamed him for sinking the scheme, which was later exposed by Canada’s National Post precipitating Porter’s fall from grace. Last month, McGill University also sued Porter for $317,154.

So, the nasty dispute with Porter is one of the avenues of inquiry being followed by Montreal police. But Ben-Menashe also has been the target of the Israeli government for divulging state secrets in the early 1990s and he remains a bête noire in some Israeli circles to this day.

The man has a lot of enemies. But not all of them have access to military-grade accelerants.

Posted in international, israel | 1 Comment »

Hint: when they’re laughing at you, you’re probably not convincing them

Posted by Charles II on September 28, 2012

So, here’s the original:

(Image from Jethro Mullen, CNN)

Here’s how they see you:

(Images from Umberto Bacchi, IBT)

(Image from DeSwiss)

Posted in Iran, israel, Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Thanks for all the help, Israel. You’re a great ally. /updated

Posted by Charles II on September 12, 2012

[9/13: blockquote location corrected. The question of the identity of the film maker is coming into question. Via Juan Cole, a Coptic Christian by the name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has been identified as involved in the film. Basseley-Bacile… could be the guy. Steve Klein, a Christian activist involved in the film is a Marine, not on active duty, who is anti-abortion protester. Therefore, my suggestion that there’s involvement by any Israeli is premature and possibly wrong–though based on the same organization which identified the film maker as an Israeli yesterday. But the outrageous OpEd in the Jerusalem Post–that is, unfortunately, all too representative of what passes for thought on the Israeli right.]
It’s not fair to blame an entire nation for one man. But Sam Bacile, in the film he made with Terry Jones, the “pastor” who planned to burn Korans purely to inflame Muslim opinion, is sadly representative of a strain of thinking in the Israeli right.

Amy Goodman, quoting the AP:

“Speaking by phone … from an undisclosed location, writer and director Sam Bacile” — if that’s how it’s pronounced, B-A-C-I-L-E — ‘remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.’

It goes on to say, ‘The two-hour movie, Innocence of Muslims, cost $5 million to make… The film claims Muhammad was a fraud. An English-language 13-minute trailer on YouTube shows an amateur cast performing a wooden dialogue of insults disguised as revelations about Muhammad, whose obedient followers are presented as a cadre of goons.

‘It depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage.'”

A lot of Christians got p–sed by The Last Temptation of Christ, which doesn’t come anywhere to delivering the sort of deliberate offense that Innocence of Muslims apparently conveys. So it’s not hard to see how Muslims could get whipped up over this much more egregious insult.

It is, of course, outrageous that they would then murder the American ambassador at Benghazi and three other people who are completely innocent of having created or promoted the film. This is what one Libyan journalist said about the late ambassador (from DemocracyNow):

NIZAR SARIELDIN: Well, yes, I did meet him once in a demonstration in Tahrir Square, and he was alone talking to the people without guards. He trusted the people. He loved the people, and the people loved him so much. And I think that he respected. And he was going around with no high security in the beginning. And then he disappeared, of course, after the frequent incident happened in Benghazi. They start to have higher security. And after the attack on the embassy by the RPG like months ago, he disappeared. We didn’t know if he’s in Benghazi or in Tripoli.

So, the protestors killed a good, decent man, a career civil servant and not a political appointee, a man who empathized with Libya.

One feels deep sympathy for the innocents who were killed. One can feel some understanding of the people who got riled up over the film, though never with murder. But what about people like Sam Bacile and Terry Jones, who exist only to stir hatred?

And what about the Israeli right, from whose members I keep hearing anti-Muslim rhetoric like Bacile’s? And crap like this piece from Seth Frantzman of the JPost:

WHAT IS fascinating is that, as if in lock-step with the religious fanatics and hooligans, the US Embassy condemned not the violation of its diplomatic post or the incitement, but rather America. Yes, the US Embassy condemned America by blaming freedom of speech that “hurt religious feelings.”

Let’s understand the full implication of this. The US Embassy was aware that a riot would take place on 9/11. In order to be aware of the riot, it had to have been aware of its cause, namely a home-made movie. Yet the embassy staff saw fit to condemn the “continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”

It’s a perfect echo of Mitt Romney:

“…I think it’s a — a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. That instead, when our grounds are being attacked, and being breached, that the first response to the United States must be outrage at the breach of the sovereignty of our nation. And apology for America’s values is never the right course.”

The embassy’s statement, however, came before the protests — not after, as Romney claimed.

This is the kind of knotheaded defense of the indefensible and attack on the unassailable that increasingly makes Americans wonder whether our national interests–as opposed to the interests of the Republican Party– are really served by the alliance with Israel.

Posted in israel | 2 Comments »

Is Tanya Rosenblit a new “Rosa Parks?”

Posted by Charles II on December 27, 2011

I had an interesting back-and-forth with Echidne on the case of Tanya Rosenblit, who was hassled on an Israeli bus because she refused a demand by an ultra-Orthodox Jew that she sit in the back. Revital Blumenfeld, Haaretz:

A woman passenger on a public bus from Ashdod to Jerusalem Friday was told by an ultra-Orthodox male passenger to move to the back of the bus. The man held the door of the bus open and would not allow it to move for approximately 30 minutes.

When other passengers began to complain about the delay, the driver called the police. The policeman who arrived on the scene spoke with the man and then also asked the woman, Tanya Rosenblit, to move to the back of the bus. When she refused, the man who had been holding the door alighted and the bus continued on its way.

This has caused an explosion of comparisons to Rosa Parks, which I said I thought was an overblown comparison. Parks’ action occurred in 1955, before the Civil Rights movement had gained substantial white support. Parks was arrested and booked. She lost her job and was forced to move. But in that era and that place, she could just as easily have been lynched. And, perhaps central to understanding the issue, Parks placed herself in resistance against an established system; Jim Crow was the law. Rosenblit was behaving lawfully, and the man who harassed her was acting as a radical disruptor of the established order.

Echidne pointed to a passage in what I think was an excerpt from DemocracyNow:

The act of defiance has sparked a national discussion in Israel on the issue of gender segregation. On Monday, the disagreement turned violent when ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh clashed with police. Hundreds of men in the ultra-Orthodox community took part in the unrest. Members of local news crews were reportedly hurt in the clashes, and at least six Beit Shemesh residents were arrested. An estimated 10,000 people are expected to turn out in the community today to protest the exclusion of women, as well as violence against girls and women by Haredi extremists.

and Echidne asked whether violence against women might not be a factor in Rosenblit’s resistance. I was not sure, so I said that if it were, it might make the comparison to Parks a little bit closer, but still: Parks couldn’t choose to become white, while ultra-Orthodox women can leave their communities, and it’s highly unlikely that an ultra-Orthodox woman could be assassinated for defiance. Echidne countered by asking whether it’s not true that women in ultra-Orthodox families are deliberately not educated in skills that would make it possible for them to leave. Good point. It’s obviously something to read up on.

And I found some fascinating things. Here’s the description by Oz Rosenberg, Nir Hasson, Revital Blumenfeld, Barak Ravid and Talila Nesher of Haaretz of the Beit Shemesh clashes:

About 10,000 people came to Beit Shemesh last night to protest against religious extremism in Israel in general and this Jerusalem-area city in particular. The issue came to a head publicly after television coverage last week showing ultra-Orthodox extremists harassing Na’ama Margolese, 8, the daughter of immigrants from North America. The rally took place next to her school, Orot Banot.

Margolese became a focus of attention after Channel 2 news broadcast a story Friday night showing her facing a gauntlet of abuse from Haredi men and boys as she walked to school.

This has forced Netanyahu to at least take verbal action. Herb Keinon, JPost:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu directed Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch Saturday to get the police to aggressively take action to combat violence by extremist haredim (ultra-Orthodox) against women.

Netanyahu phoned Aharonovitch following a Friday night Channel 2 report showing an eight-year old modern orthodox girl afraid to walk 300 meters to school because of harassment from some haredim because of her attire. The report interviewed a haredi man saying it was permissible to spit at even a school age girl if she was not dressed “properly.”

However, violence against women by the haredim is apparently a relatively recent phenomenon, one that I had been unaware of. Writing in YNET in 2009, Elana Sztokman says:

[T]his year, something has changed. There is something about trends in violence against women in Israel that make me feel truly unsafe. Violence against women has become part of the public display in parts of Israel. It has become acceptable in some areas, and legitimized. Women who are beaten, spat upon, thrown acid upon – all in public – are cast aside. The perpetrating men are heroes and the women are left to lick their wounds, in private, alone.

The reason why this is so frightening is precisely because it is so public. There is no fear – no fear of the law, no fear of retribution, and clearly no fear of women fighting back.

And it’s not clear how widespread Sztokman’s experience is. A Google News search shows only 38 results from 2008-10 for haredi violence women. There are 108 more in 2011 through December 15th. Switching to UltraOrthodox violence women increases the hits to 549 in 2011 through December 15th, but many or most have nothing to do with violence against women. This story from October, 2011, for example, talks about vandalism directed against stores, not against women (though one of the alleged motivations for the violence is “insufficiently modest” dress for women).

Finally, this blog says that the response to Rosenblit’s defiance is that the ultra-Orthodox are going to create their own, separate bus system. Like the formation of white-only private schools in the post-1964 era, this sort of solution delights me, amounting to a self-imposed fine on hatred.

In summary, I don’t think Tanya Rosenblit should be compared to Rosa Parks. Rosenblit is clearly courageous and violence is clearly a growing issue. But there the comparison ends. Israel is clearly facing a backlash against what had been progressive treatment of (Israeli) women, and the law is on Rosenblit’s side.

Still, Echidne raised important points to understanding the issue,challenging me to read up on things. That’s the value of online community: we’re able to query one another and inspire one another to actually learn a thing or two.

Posted in civil rights, israel, women's issues | 5 Comments »

Egyptian crowd sacks Israeli embassy in Cairo

Posted by Charles II on September 10, 2011

The embassy staff was not present, and has been evacuated from Egypt. One employee, presumably an Egyptian, was beaten.

Breaking into an embassy is, as I remarked during the Honduran crisis, a serious act, tantamount to war.





There are a couple of interesting things to notice.
– The attack on the embassy came as a follow-on to protests against Egypt’s current strongman, Tantawi.
– Security forces did not intervene until long after the building housing the embassy had been violated
– The Turkish prime minister is due to visit in two days. Turkey has sharply downgraded its relationship with Israel and appears to be prepared to provide significant funding for Egyptian development.
– Characteristically, the NYT tries to dismiss the significance of this development by saying it was led by “soccer fans”. These are streetfighters who confronted the police and military during the occupation of Tahrir Square. They may have gotten their fighting skills in soccer hooliganism, but after Tahrir, they are heroes.
– The Saudi embassy and the Interior Ministry also have come under pressure.
PBS, characteristically, sees this through the lens of 9/11, although (based on the composition of the crowd, e.g. the soccer guys) there appears to be exactly zero connection
– It’s unlikely the embassy documents seized were of any importance, since the likelihood of an attack was apparently telegraphed well ahead.

From the NYT:

The Israeli embassy, which has been the site of several previous demonstrations after the Israeli armed forces accidentally killed at least three Egyptian officers while chasing Palestinian militants near the border last month, was an early target on Friday.

From Ahram

Activists demonstrated in front of the Saudi embassy in Giza, Cairo this Sunday afternoon to express their anger over the treatment of Egyptian pilgrims at Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah airport upon their return.

The activists presented a statement to the Saudi ambassador in Cairo, Ahmed Abdel Aziz Kattan, which they also distributed to newspapers and websites.

The statement condemned the humiliation of the Egyptian pilgrims at the airport

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, israel | 2 Comments »

You can tell a man from Harvard…

Posted by Charles II on March 3, 2011

“You can tell a man from Harvard,” the old saw goes, “You just can’t tell him very much.” The right-wing government of Israel must have a lot of Harvard men.

From DemocracyNow:

Israeli Diplomat Resigns over “Wrong” Foreign Policy

A veteran Israeli diplomat has resigned in protest of what he calls Israel’s “wrong” foreign policy. The diplomat, Ilan Baruch, spent more than 30 years in the Israeli government, most recently as ambassador to South Africa. Baruch says he stepped down in opposition to the occupation of Palestinian land. He also criticized Israeli government officials for longtime efforts to label opposition to Israeli polices as “anti-Semitism.”

Sadly, even Haaretz seems to have been unwilling to publish the text of the letter. The closest they got was this mealy-mouthed presentation of the resignation.

Separately, there’s this story from Robert Parry on the Egyptian and Libyan dictatorships. It goes a long way toward explaining why the US cannot seem to just do what is right in the Middle East:

The mysterious fortune of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak got an early boost from millions of dollars in cash bribes delivered by CIA-connected arms merchants in the late 1970s, according to two participants.

The two men – former CIA officers Thomas Clines and Edwin P. Wilson – said the payments helped secure an exclusive shipping contract for their Egyptian American Transport and Services Co. (EATSCO).

Wilson also claimed that President Ronald Reagan’s White House knew of the bribery and how much Mubarak and Sadat walked away with.

In that same time frame, Wilson was arrested on charges of shipping explosives to Muammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya.

Though Wilson claimed he was sent to Libya by senior CIA official Ted Shackley to spy on Gadhafi’s terrorist operations, a CIA affidavit was submitted at Wilson’s trial denying any substantive CIA contacts with Wilson after his intelligence career officially ended in 1976.

The bribery accusations from Clines and Wilson suggest that another complexity is that some of Mubarak’s money was delivered in secret cash as part of U.S. intelligence-related operations.

Though Wilson said Reagan’s White House possessed documents relating to the sums slipped to Mubarak, those records have never been made public and — if they still exist — likely remain highly classified.

Posted in Conflict in the Middle East, israel | Comments Off on You can tell a man from Harvard…

Another IMF riot and Israel goes Dixie

Posted by Charles II on January 10, 2011

Emad Mekay, IPSNews:

Arabs across the Middle East Watched in awe as online video posts and sporadic coverage on Al-Jazeera TV station showed Tunisians, with a reputation of passivity, rise up in unprecedented street protests and sits-in against the police state of President Ben Ali.

The Ben Ali regime exemplifies the “moderate” pro-Western Arab regimes that boast strict control of their population while toeing the line of Western powers in the Middle East.

The spark of the unrest, now about to end its second week, came when a 26- year-old unemployed university graduate, Mohammed Buazizi, set himself ablaze in the central town Sidi Buzeid to protest the confiscation of his fruits and vegetables cart.

the police responded with overwhelming force. There were reports of use of live ammunition, house-to-house raids to chase activists, mass arrests and torture of prisoners.

The fear of similar spillover into Arab countries pushed at least one Arab ruler to rush to aid Ben Ali. Libya’s maverick leader Muammar Qaddaif said he was immediately dropping all restrictions on the entry of Tunisian labour into Libya. Tunisians were free to travel to his oil-rich country for work, he said.

Opposition says the unrest was prompted by high prices and unemployment but now has turned political with some demonstrators calling on President Ben Ali to step down.

Tunisia, like other non-oil producing Arab countries has implemented a Western-inspired privatization programme and gradual cut to state subsidies to staple goods without offering alternative sources of income.

Hoocoodanode that if you won’t let people eat, they might not feel they have much to lose?

Meanwhile in Israel (Mel Frykberg, IPSNews:

A number of recent incidents discriminating against Israel’s Palestinian minority has prompted Israeli Knesset (parliament) members to debate whether Israel is becoming increasingly racist.

Ronit Sela from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri) has no doubts. “Israel’s democracy is under threat as an increasingly large racist element raises its collective head. A number of racist occurrences have taken place in a climate conducive to racism. This wouldn’t have happened prior to the current right-wing Israeli government,” Sela told IPS.

Recently an organisation called Jews for a Jewish Bat Yam (a suburb near Tel Aviv) held a protest against “assimilation of young Jewish women with Arabs living in the city or in nearby Jaffa.”

“It’s a local organisation of Bat Yam residents, because the public is tired of so many Arabs going out with Jewish girls,” explained one of the organisers, Bentzi Gufstein. “In addition to the protest, we will hand out pamphlets explaining the situation.”

Charming. We can expect anti-miscegenation laws are on the way.

And there are a number of other examples, including discriminatory housing laws, discrimination in stripping people of citizenship, and discrimination in funding education.

How far Israel has drifted from the ideals of its Founders.

Posted in colonial wars, Conflict in the Middle East, israel, racism | 25 Comments »

This is what the breakdown of empire looks like

Posted by Charles II on December 7, 2010

DemocracyNow reports that the US hold over Latin America has reached a breaking point:

Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay Recognize Palestinian State in Occupied Territories

The Palestinian effort for statehood has received a boost with recognition from three South American countries. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have each declared their recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip based on the 1967 borders. Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman announced his government’s stance on Monday.

Héctor Timerman: “The president of the nation, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, sent a letter to the president of the National Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, saying that the Argentine government recognizes Palestine as a free and independent state in the borders as they were in 1967 and according to what the parties determined during the negotiation process.”

Israel has harshly condemned the moves as an affront to the so-called “peace process.” With U.S. support, Israel has insisted on maintaining control of large Jewish-only settlement blocs that carve up the West Bank. Aid groups meanwhile continue to denounce the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and ongoing restrictions in the West Bank. Kate Allen of Amnesty International said Palestinians are being “systematically” deprived of water.

Kate Allen: “There is a systematic and deliberate means of stopping water getting to Palestinian families, and that is having a dramatic effect upon the way in which people are able to live their lives. Water is an absolute basic necessity. It’s a human right. It is shocking to see that the Israeli government is behaving in this way.”

Here’s the Amnesty report:

The inequality in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians is striking. Palestinian
consumption in the OPT is about 70 litres a day per person – well below the 100 litres per capita daily recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) – whereas Israeli daily per capita consumption, at about 300 litres, is about four times as much. In some rural communities Palestinians survive on far less than even the average 70 litres, in some cases barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended by the WHO for emergency situations response.

Access to water resources by Palestinians in the OPT is controlled by Israel and the amount
of water available to Palestinians is restricted to a level which does not meet their needs….

Water rationing is common, especially but not only in the summer months, with residents of different neighbourhoods and villages receiving piped water only one day every week or every few weeks.

The water consumption is not just personal consumption or hygiene, but agricultural consumption, industrial consumption, and so on.

The behavior of Israel toward the Palestinians in denying them water is so shocking that it demands a human response. But the realities of this world are such that when the dominant power, the hegemon says that an abuse is acceptable, other countries tend to shrug and turn away. What has happened is that US power has fallen so low that other countries are no longer doing that. An independent pole of power has emerged in South America, and it sees its future tied more closely to the non-aligned world than to the US.

And this ties together in an odd way with Wikileaks. One sine qua non of power is that consequences have to be predictable. No matter if the lottery prize is large or small, if the lottery doesn’t pay reliably or if the winners are pre-determined, no one will buy a ticket. The United States based its post-WW II world position on the condition that it would be the honest broker, that it would establish a system of international law that everyone–including the hegemon– would obey. The 1967 agreement is a conspicuous example where, for over 40 years, the United States has promised that some day it would be honored.

And the lynching of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is another gross abrogation of international law. Consider the elements of lawlessness (see Glenn Greenwald for an overview):
– Assange has not even been formally charged with a crime (although that may have changed as of December 6th). He is wanted for questioning in a case that would have no chance outside of Sweden.
– It is possible that the warrant issued by Sweden could be merely a pretext to get Assange to a country where he can be extradited–or, perhaps, kidnapped– by the US or other countries.
– No legal arrest warrant existed in the UK until December 6th, at which point Assange voluntarily surrendered.
– Notwithstanding, the US media has labeled this a “manhunt” (ABC’s Brian Williams apparently started the usage, but it has spread)
– the US media has broadcast of calls by people like Bill Kristol and Sarah Palin urging his murder.
– US officials have labeled him a terrorist which is equivalent to saying that he has no right of due process.
– a priority Interpol arrest warrant has been issued for an offense that has never rated such a step.
– lawful services, such as Internet access and access to financial transfers have been denied to Wikileaks under a variety of subterfuges.
– the head of the Department of Justice has made it clear that he has already reached judgment in the case, and he sounds to me as if he is prepared to use ex post facto laws to perform a sham prosecution.
– At least one US politician, Mike Huckabee, has called for a hanging, trial optional. Dianne Feinstein is not far distant from that stance.

At its most basic meaning, the word “law” means something that is generally applicable. The law of gravity applies not just to apples but to Newtons. The law against murder applies not just to men but to women.

So, what we see in the case of Assange (as we see in the denial of water to Palestinians and the case of Manuel Zelaya or the Bush v. Gore) are evidence of governmental lawlessness: the disproportionate, improper, or hypocritical application of the form of legal process to an individual or organization without consideration for the heart of the law: its general applicability. US officials leak documents all the time and are not prosecuted. In the Plame case, Bush Administration officials leaked extremely highly classified information which did aid America’s enemies; only one even faced prosecution, and that turned into a sham.

We do not expect human beings to be perfectly consistent. But when a great power abuses the law in so many and such flagrant ways, it loses its moral authority. It becomes like the cop on the beat who everyone knows takes bribes. The entire system of law breaks down.

Do not blame bin Laden or Al Qaida or “socialists” or “liberals” or even “Tea Partiers” or “conservatives” (per se) for the collapse of American power. What is happening is what the prophets of scripture described happening as the Davidic Kingdom fell. Where there is no justice, neither is there peace. Where the wealthy and powerful do what they please, bribing the judges, the strength of their moral authority collapses. One need not even believe in God to believe that the world is watching–and turning away in disgust– as the United States reduces itself from the noble stature it acquired after World War II to the status of a petty, vengeful despot. Nor need one believe that it is desirable for US power to decline– I certainly don’t: who will fill the vacuum? Despotic China? Russia? European countries who are equally corrupt? International criminals? Individual corporations?– to see that the United States is bringing about its own demise by failing to uphold the spirit of the law.

Posted in Brazil, Honduras, israel, Latin America, wrong way to go about it | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

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