Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Shared Values

"[Gordon Brown] also underlined the importance of the relationship between America and the UK, saying that it was "a partnership that is founded on more than common values and common history, it is a partnership that is founded and driven forward by our shared values"."
31 July 2007

"[Gordon Brown] told the Fabian Society that some groups were "playing fast and loose" with the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. He said the UK was a country "built on shared values" which served as a "model for the rest of the world"."
13 January 2007

"One reason is that Britain has a unique history - and what has emerged from the long tidal flows of British history - from the 2,000 years of successive waves of invasion, immigration, assimilation and trading partnerships; from the uniquely rich, open and outward looking culture - is I believe a distinctive set of British values which influence British institutions."

"Indeed a multinational state, with England, Scotland, Wales and now Northern Ireland we are a country united not so much by race or ethnicity but by shared values that have shaped shared institutions."
Gordon Brown - 27 February 2007
"I believe ... that we the British people must be far more explicit about the common ground on which we stand, the shared values which bring us together, the habits of citizenship around which we can and must unite. Expect all who are in our country to play by our rules."
Gordon Brown - 25 September 2006
"On Monday, Foreign Office minister Kim Howells called for Britain and Saudi Arabia to work more closely together, despite their differences. He said the two states could unite around their "shared values"."
30 October 2007
"Overall human rights conditions remain poor in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy. "

"Saudi law does not protect many basic rights and the government places strict limits on freedom of association, assembly, and expression. Arbitrary detention, mistreatment and torture of detainees, restrictions on freedom of movement, and lack of official accountability remain serious concerns. Saudi women continue to face serious obstacles to their participation in society. Many foreign workers, especially women, face exploitative working conditions."

"A former prisoner in Mecca General Prison alleged to Human Rights Watch that prison guards regularly beat him, burned his back on a hot metal block, and kept him in solitary confinement for six months. He said such abuse was routine during his time as an inmate between 2002 and 2006. Thirty-six inmates of al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh in late 2005 issued a “Cry for Help to Global Rights Organizations” detailing their “despondence” due to beatings in prison and public lashings."
"Saudi judges routinely issue sentences of thousands of lashes as punishment, often carried out in public. The beatings lead to severe mental trauma and physical pain, and the victims do not receive medical treatment."

"Women in Saudi Arabia continue to suffer from severe discrimination in the workplace, home, and the courts, and from restrictions on their freedom of movement and their choice of partners. The religious police enforce strict gender segregation and a women’s public dress code of head-to-toe covering. Women are excluded from the weekly majlis (council), where senior members of the royal family listen to the complaints and proposals of citizens."
"Women need permission from their male guardian to work, study, or travel. In February 2006 the Transport Committee of the Shura Council declined a motion to discuss the possibility of allowing women to drive."

"Many of the estimated 8.8 million foreign workers face exploitative working conditions, including 16-hour workdays, no breaks or food and drink, and being locked in dormitories during their time off."
Human Rights Watch World Report 2007

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Principle as Propaganda

Following the Prime Minister's speech on civil liberties this week (how he values them, how he can name lots of famous thinkers who've valued them, how Britain invented them and then generously gave them to a stunned world that had never conceived of such things, etc, etc....), we find this revealing quote in today's Observer:

"......this was no dry trot round a familiar academic course: the aim was deeply political."

"'Gordon is trying to build up a systematic argument in a slow burn,' one cabinet minister said. 'If you talk about Britain's, and his, commitment to liberty, then you provide a context for further debates about issues such as 90 days [for detention without charge.] It is a new approach. Under Tony, the 90-day idea came out of nowhere.' A change on detention without charge - doubling the current limit of 28 days to 56 - is likely to be signalled in the Queen's Speech once Brown's message on liberty has been digested."

Got that? Brown needs to let you know how much he cares about liberties, so when he takes yours away, you'll know that he meant well.

So much of New Labour's strength has relied on the assumption of good intentions. Saving the NHS by privitising it in increments, destroying efficiency and service levels in the process. Saving Africa by forcing it to "open up" to Western business interests, though that is proven to impoverish it. Building peace between Israel and the Palestinians by starving the Palestinians as punishment for voting the wrong way in a free election. Making the world a safer place by launching a war of aggression that kills hundreds of thousands and destabilises one of the most volatile regions in the world. The unsophisticated observer may see here policies that simply serve power, whatever the human costs. But when the propaganda message has been "digested", you'll see its all driven by good intentions.

Don't worry about the details or the actual effects of policy, says the statesman. Just trust me and my good intentions.

To what extent is this cynicism at work, and to what extent do politicians believe this stuff, no matter the contradictions? We can at least say, judging by the above quote, that cynicism plays some part.

One more thing. Look at Brown's increasingly sinister references to "Britishness" in the context of the above remarks. If you can get people to "digest" the notion of Britain as intrisically a force for good (which for instance, according to Brown, has no need to apologise for its imperial past) what sort of things can the British state get away with doing on the international stage?

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

McCarthyism comes to the UK

A very important article here by Ghada Karmi, a research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

"This week, two Israeli colleagues and I were due to appear at the union to participate in an important debate on the one-state solution in Israel-Palestine. Also invited was the American Jewish scholar and outspoken critic of Israel, Norman Finkelstein. At the last minute, however, the union withdrew its invitation to him, apparently intimidated by threats from various pro-Israel groups."

"The Harvard Jewish lawyer and indefatigable defender of Israel, Alan Dershowitz, attacked the topic of the debate as well as the Oxford Union itself. In an article headlined "Oxford Union is dead", he accused it of having become "a propaganda platform for extremist views", and castigated its choice of what he termed anti-Israel and anti-semitic speakers."

Karmi then goes on to discuss the power of the 'Israel Lobby' on the other side of the Atlantic in disciplning political debate through threats and intimidation, giving examples of how such practises are making their way over to Britain. She ends by saying:

"Appeasing bullies like Dershowitz will not stop them. It will rather encourage them to go further. The question is, do we in this country want a McCarthyite witch hunt? If not, then we must confront the bullies and expose them for the intellectual terrorists they are, bent on destroying the values of a free society. To do otherwise will invite the fate of all repressed people, cowed and intimidated, hating their tormentors, but too afraid to say so."

Read the rest here.


Update - 28/10/07

Israeli soldier writes President of Oxford Union

Ronen Berelovich

Luke Tryl
President of Oxford Union
Oxford University, UK

Dear Luke,

In spite of our differences, it was a pleasure to talk to you on the phone today, 23-10-07. Thank you for your openness and honesty. I am now following up with a letter to register my official complaint about the decision you took to remove Professor Norman Finkelstein from the "One state is the only solution for Israel" debate that was to be hold in 23\10\07 at Oxford Union. I am registering my complaint as a private individual living in Israel i am a film-maker and a reserve soldier in the Israeli Army. There are a few points that arose in our conversation, which I believe would be of wider interest than just to the two of us, so I'd like to highlight them and to share this letter with Professor Finkelstein and anyone else interested.

To reiterate our conversation, you told me that the reason for the removal of Professor Finkelstein from the debate was the intervention of certain interest parties and people pressuring Oxford Union. You identified Alan Dershowitz as one of those people and you said that he had personally demanded that Professor Finkelstein should be removed from the debate. The reason being that with Finkelstein on the "two-state" side, the debate would be too "anti Israel" and "not balanced".

I replied that this debate was about a one-state solution versus a two-state solution; the two parties were to argue which of the two solutions might be best for Israel and the Palestinians. It was NOT to be a debate about being "pro" or "anti" Israel; therefore, whether Finkelstein was "pro" or "against" Israel was irrelevant. Finkelstein, like everyone else, has a right to be pro or against Israel and it should NOT be enough to exclude him from a debate at a place like Oxford Union. You agreed with me and you stated that this was what you thought as well. However, you were forced to drop Finkelstein due to the pressure exerted on you.

Unfortunately, with that decision you have demonstrated that "freedom of speech" in Oxford debating society is liable to be censored. You have also revealed a sad fact that even such an established and prestigious institution as Oxford, which is supposed to represent the highest ideals of the western culture, such as freedom of expression, bows down to demands of interest groups i.e. the Israeli lobby and Alan Dershowitz. I suggest that the only honorable way for you to restore your academic integrity is to officially apologize to Professor Finkelstein on his website, explaining what really happened.

I am not asking you lightly to stand up to what you believe in. I used to be in the Israeli elite paratroopers, but after what I saw and was forced to do, I vowed that I would never go back to the Army and act as a tool for enslaving 3.5 million people in their own land without any basic human rights. As a soldier refusing to go to the reserve duty (I am a member of the Courage to Refuse group of IDF officers), I live with the constant threat of imprisonment. You can appreciate therefore that I do understand ‘outside pressure'. I just wish you the courage to follow your own ideals and integrity, because as a president of the Oxford Union, your fellow students and intellectuals world over expect nothing less of you.

I wish you the best,

Ronen Berelovich


Friday, October 26, 2007

"Israel’s foreign minister: Iran nukes pose little threat to Israel"

Yes, you did read that right

Israel’s foreign minister: Iran nukes pose little threat to Israel

By Gidi Weitz and Na’ama Lanski, Haaretz, October 25, 2007

"Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said a few months ago in a series of closed discussions that in her opinion that Iranian nuclear weapons do not pose an existential threat to Israel, Haaretz magazine reveals in an article on Livni to be published Friday."

"Livni also criticized the exaggerated use that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making of the issue of the Iranian bomb, claiming that he is attempting to rally the public around him by playing on its most basic fears."

Of course, we don't need Livni to tell us that the idea of Iran being able to wipe Israel off the map is a ridiculous fantasy. In the article linked to in my last post on this blog, Fareed Zakaria illustrates the essential ludicrousness of that idea.

But if true, these revelations show the depths the Israeli state is prepared to sink to for its own end. For has not the spectre of Israel's nuclear annihilation been linked implicitly and explicitly to the horrors of the Nazi holocaust? And if those who raise such fears know themselves that they are unfounded, is this not the most cynical exploitation of one of the greatest tragedies in all history? Does this not expose the idea that the Israeli state is the sole defender of world Jewry as an obscene sham? Can one imagine a more eloquent expression of sheer contempt for Hitler's victims, a more brazen assault on their memory, than to make political use of their corpses?

As to the implications for political debate in the west, Paul Woodward of the excellent "War in Context" site comments:

"While George Bush warns the world that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons could lead to World War III, Israel’s foreign minister says, behind closed doors — in other words in a situation where she means what she says — that Iranian nuclear weapons would not pose an existential threat to Israel."

"This should be banner headline news. The Washington press corp should be hounding administration officials, demanding an explanation for this utterly glaring clash of perspectives. Instead, what do we get? Silence."

"This is what things have come down to: We live in a state where the dissemination of information is controlled much more efficiently than it was in the Soviet Union. At least the Russians understood they were being lied to. Most Americans, on the other hand, are completely ignorant of the incestuous relationship between the press and the government. In this system shaped by unspoken agreements, there is no need for some clumsy Ministry of Information. All the managing editors of the major outlets can be relied upon to shape their products (within an acceptable latitude) in alignment with political and commercial power — even when that means that they knowingly makes themselves instruments of an altogether avoidable disaster. They will plead that they are merely messengers, yet they are no less culpable than the lunatics in political office. They choose what to report and what to ignore."

And so, with the truth in clear view for anyone that wants to see it (or report it), we inch closer to the only catastrophe that was ever really on the cards: a US war on Iran.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The End of the World is Nigh

Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek:

"At a meeting with reporters last week, President Bush said that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." These were not the barbs of some neoconservative crank or sidelined politician looking for publicity. This was the president of the United States, invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon."

"The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence."

"Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

Read the rest here. If you're yet to be persuaded that the purpose of this increasingly hysterical rhetoric is to prepare the ground for a possible war, you may be interested in this interview in Esquire:
"Two former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush Administration say the U.S. has been gearing up for a war with Iran for years, despite claiming otherwise. It'll be Iraq all over again."

"In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm -- not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say."
Read the rest here. And see my earlier posts giving background on the Iran situation here, here, and my radio interview on the subject with Nadim Mahjoub here.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Israeli 'Defence' Force: 'the most ethical army in the world'

From a report in today's Observer:

"A study by an Israeli psychologist into the violent behaviour of the country's soldiers is provoking bitter controversy and has awakened urgent questions about the way the army conducts itself in the Gaza Strip and West Bank."

"The report, although dealing with the experience of soldiers in the 1990s, has triggered an impassioned debate in Israel, where it was published in an abbreviated form in the newspaper Haaretz last month. According to Yishai Karin: 'At one point or another of their service, the majority of the interviewees enjoyed violence. They enjoyed the violence because it broke the routine and they liked the destruction and the chaos. They also enjoyed the feeling of power in the violence and the sense of danger.'"

"[One soldier] explained: 'The most important thing is that it removes the burden of the law from you. You feel that you are the law. You are the law. You are the one who decides... As though from the moment you leave the place that is called Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel] and go through the Erez checkpoint into the Gaza Strip, you are the law. You are God."

"The soldiers described dozens of incidents of extreme violence. One recalled an incident when a Palestinian was shot for no reason and left on the street. 'We were in a weapons carrier when this guy, around 25, passed by in the street and, just like that, for no reason - he didn't throw a stone, did nothing - bang, a bullet in the stomach, he shot him in the stomach and the guy is dying on the pavement and we keep going, apathetic. No one gave him a second look,' he said."

"The soldiers developed a mentality in which they would use physical violence to deter Palestinians from abusing them. One described beating women. 'With women I have no problem. With women, one threw a clog at me and I kicked her here [pointing to the crotch], I broke everything there. She can't have children. Next time she won't throw clogs at me. When one of them [a woman] spat at me, I gave her the rifle butt in the face. She doesn't have what to spit with any more.'"

"Yishai-Karin, in an interview with Haaretz, described how her research came out of her own experience as a soldier at an army base in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. She interviewed 18 ordinary soldiers and three officers whom she had served with in Gaza. The soldiers described how the violence was encouraged by some commanders. One soldier recalled: 'After two months in Rafah, a [new] commanding officer arrived... So we do a first patrol with him. It's 6am, Rafah is under curfew, there isn't so much as a dog in the streets. Only a little boy of four playing in the sand. He is building a castle in his yard. He [the officer] suddenly starts running and we all run with him. He was from the combat engineers."

"'He grabbed the boy. I am a degenerate if I am not telling you the truth. He broke his hand here at the wrist, broke his leg here. And started to stomp on his stomach, three times, and left. We are all there, jaws dropping, looking at him in shock..."

"The next day I go out with him on another patrol, and the soldiers are already starting to do the same thing.""

"The debate has contrasted sharply with an Israeli army where new recruits are taught that they are joining 'the most ethical army in the world' - a refrain that is echoed throughout Israeli society. In its doctrine, published on its website, the Israeli army emphasises human dignity. 'The Israeli army and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every human being is of value regardless of his or her origin, religion, nationality, gender, status or position.'"

There's a lengthier discussion of the report's findings in this Ha'aretz article.

btw I look forward to receiving the usual emails telling me how the Arabs do far worse things, how Israel needs to defend itself from annihilation at the hands of four year olds building sandcastles, and wondering why I'm so keen to focus on Jews kicking women in the crotch and breaking the bones of four year old children.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Morality of Power

The New York Review of Books has published a translation of a leaked transcript - originally published in El Pais - of a meeting held in Crawford, Texas on 22 February 2003 between US President George Bush and the then Spanish Prime Minister José Marìa Aznar. This would probably be the most authoritative translation of that document available so far.The transcript reveals a number of notable aspects of internal planning for the Iraq War and the mentality of George Bush himself at that fateful time.

Firstly, it is explicitly stated that the war will go ahead whichever way the UN Security Council votes on any resolution. UN approval is seen only as a rubber stamp, desirable up to a point since it could dampen public opposition in the European states allied with Washington. Thus the system of international order - set up after World War II with intention of avoiding the horrors of future wars of aggression - is contemptuously relegated to the status of a PR exercise by the new imperialists.

Secondly, though the PR value of a resolution is not sufficient to stop the war, its value is sufficient for the US to bully and blackmail other nations in order to secure it. Bush says:

"[Chilean President Ricardo] Lagos has to know that the Free Trade Agreement with Chile is pending Senate confirmation, and that a negative attitude on this issue could jeopardize that ratification. Angola is receiving funds from the Millennium Account that could also be compromised if they don't show a positive attitude. And Putin must know that his attitude is jeopardizing the relations of Russia and the United States"

Russia of course can look after itself. But the remarks about Angola give you the measure of a President, and indeed a government, that threatens one of the poorest countries on the planet - where most people live on less than 50p a day - with a cut or cessation of development aid if it fails to obey orders from Washington.

Bush's talk of snatching food from the mouths of the starving "if they don't show a positive attitude" doesn't prevent him, mere moments later, from pontificating about his dreams of spreading freedom to the suffering peoples of the world.

Another revealing passage comes when Aznar says that "the biggest success would be to win the game without firing a single shot while going into Baghdad." Bush replies:

"For me it would be the perfect solution. I don't want the war. I know what wars are like. I know the destruction and the death that comes with them. I am the one who has to comfort the mothers and the widows of the dead. Of course, for us that would be the best solution. Besides, it would save us $50 billion."

What is it about that last remark that exposes the preceding lamentation of the horrors of war as just so many empty words; words that Bush somehow thinks he ought to be saying, while never fully understanding why?

One of the more notable revelations from the transcript is that Saddam had by this stage apparently offered to go into exile*; an offer which if accepted would probably have given Bush exactly what he claimed was "the perfect solution" - "to win the game without firing a single shot while going into Baghdad". Yet Bush of course spurned Saddam's offer in favour of launching a war that by now has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, with no end currently in sight.

In the accompanying comment article in the NYRB, Mark Danner discusses Bush's preference for faith over knowledge: faith in the righteousness of his personal mission over knowledge of what it is that he is doing. Add to that the contradictions I've highlighted above and you get an interesting insight into the workings of human psychology in the context of power.

Faced with so much propaganda and misinformation from governments, those who challenge power often ask, do these people believe what they're saying or are they just barefaced liars? The Crawford transcript indicates that the former is closest to the truth. Bush emerges as a moral bankrupt who is simultaneously able to maintain a passionate sense of his own moral righteousness. No matter how obviously his moral rhetoric is contradicted by his deeply and clearly immoral actions, Bush's belief in the rightness of what he is doing is total. Quite possibly, he would be unable to do his job if he thought otherwise.

*Bush says of this: "[Egyptian President] Mubarak tells us that in those circumstances there are many possibilities that he'll be assassinated". Later Aznar returns to this point. "Is it true that there's a possibility of Saddam Hussein going into exile?", he asks. Bush replies: "Yes, that possibility exists. Even that he gets assassinated."

Does this not read, more than a little, as though assassination is being discussed as an option rather than a possibility, perhaps to be organised by Egypt?

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The "security" wall, and more on Israel/Palestine

I've failed to mention previously, though I should have, the excellent blog Lawrence of Cyberia, run by a former GCHQ analyst. From that blog comes this important post on Israel's so-called "Security Wall". An excerpt:

"The next time Israeli apologists tell you that the Wall is a security measure that keeps suicide bombers out of Israel, just remember the number 1,276. One thousand, two hundred and seventy six is – at a minimum - the average number of permit-less Palestinians who bypass the Wall on a weekly basis to work in Israel. They are asking you to believe that the destitution Israel’s West Bank land grab inflicts on some of the poorest people on earth is justified because a wall which is breached at least 1,276 times a week by undocumented workers is nevertheless impermeable to suicide bombers. That’s what they’re asking you to believe.

That’s how stupid they think you are."

Read the rest here.

A couple of other things worth mentioning while I'm on the subject. First, the Israeli theft of Palestinian land continues, as the Guardian reports this week. The theft of land in and around East Jerusalem is a particularly vicious act. Israeli planners know very well that East Jerusalem is the economic and cultural heart of Palestine. Emaciating it and severing it from any future Palestinian state is to render any such state effectively stillborn. It is hard not to share the view of Baruch Kimmerling that the aim of the continued cantonisation of the occupied territories is the "politicide" of the Palestinians. That is to say, "the dissolution of the Palestinian people's existence as a legitimate social, political, and economic entity".

In light of this latest Israeli land-grab, the "offer" from the vice-prime minister Haim Ramon to divide Jerusalem with the Palestinians in any future peace deal cannot be mistaken for anything other than the odiously cynical act that it is. We will take what we please from you, says the minister effectively, and you can keep the bits we don't want. Another "generous offer" which the Palestinians will no doubt be condemned for failing to accept.
Elsewhere, the famed "Israel lobby" in the US has suffered an immensely gratifying defeat. Juan Cole writes that:
"Father Dease, the president of the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, has reversed himself and invited Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at UST. Dease had been misled by a smear campaign against Tutu launched by the Zionist Organization of America, which was angered by the archbishop's criticism of Israel for its mistreatment of the Palestinians. ZOA falsely charged that Tutu had compared Israel to Hitler and the Nazis, which was a bald-faced lie. Some Israeli newspapers were taken in by the propaganda and some Jewish community leaders in Minneapolis are continuing to spread the falsehood."
That the campaign against Tutu failed strikes me as the lobby's equivalent of imperial overstretch. The problem with the kind of hysterical groupthink exhibited by the lobby (by which I mean the problem for them) is that they lose all touch with how people think in the outside world. And any political campaign that fails to understand how others think is doomed at some level.

You'd have to be completely detached from reality to think you could accuse Desmond Tutu of anti-semitism and come out the better for it. Even the poverty of Western political culture has some limits.

Its by getting overexcited, and thereby exposing their true colours, that political hysterics and headbangers find themselves suffering severe reversals.

In the case of the Israel Lobby, Tony Karon makes a good case for the idea that they may recently have been going too far for their own good, and that an potentially effective backlash is now well underway.

When establishment thinkers like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt turn against an official policy or an orthodoxy you know a real change may well be coming. Maybe not change to the extent you wish for, but change nonetheless. It will be interesting to observe the fortunes of the Israel lobby in the coming years.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Iraq Casualty Data

Antiwar.com is currently updating its pages giving data on casualties from the Iraq war. The presentation of data, particularly in respect of Iraqi casualties, was unsatisfactory in a number of respects. The site's staff have been conducting a review and are now in the process of making changes.

The pages in question are this one and this one.

I got into conversation with the site's editor, Eric Gariss, and we started talking about the changes he was making. Gariss has asked me, and others, for input on this redesign. He says:

"I want to further improve these pages, so PLEASE tell people to send me any specific suggestions (as opposed to insults and complaints) and I will try to address them."

Gariss' email address is on the site so by all means get in touch if you can suggest anything on the redesign of these pages.

My suggestion was that the info about Iraqi casualties, as opposed to US troop casualties, could be better displayed; something I know others have mentioned as well. I said:

"I would certainly question the prominence of these figures. They appear at the very bottom of the page. US casualties appear at the top, and much more strongly displayed.

This seems quite wrong to me. I realise that the public is seen as focusing more on US casualties, so I understand why you choose to run with those first. But surely this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy? If even those of us who are against the war choose this focus then doesn't that reinforce its validity? I'm sure many wars could be stopped if people in the aggressor nations were reminded of the humanity- the equal humanity - of the victims as often as possible."

If you can think of anything else, email Antiwar.com and let them know.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Desmond Tutu is an anti-semite

Yes, that Desmond Tutu, for criticizing the policies of the state of Israel, is now branded an anti-semite.

I can think of few acts more disrespectful to the millions of victims of anti-semitism throughout history than this cheap, tawdry hijacking of their memory. Who looks at these people and asks, 'how could their suffering be of use to me?'.


Israel boycott: in defence of academic freedom

From today's Guardian:

"We find it deeply ironic, given the recent heated debate on the proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities by the UCU (Report, September 29), that the Israeli supreme court on October 2 ruled that Kahled al-Mudallal, a Bradford University student, cannot leave Gaza and return to his studies in the UK. We hope the voices that criticised the boycott and called so vociferously for preserving academic freedom and promoting dialogue will lend their support to those of us calling on the Israeli government to reverse the supreme court decision, and on the UK government to do all in its power to support the human rights of students like Kahled.
This is not just an issue of academic freedom, important though that is, but is a flagrant breach of a fundamental human right to education. This judgment undermines both academic freedom and the very possibility of constructive dialogue across communities.

Sarah Perrigo, Dr Mandy Turner, Prof Jenny Pearce, Prof Mike Pugh, Prof Donna Pankhurst, Prof Nana Poku, Valentina Bartolucci and 10 others
Department of peace studies, University of Bradford"

Also, see this excellent analysis from the formiddable Priya Gopal.