The Nether-World

May 26, 2007

Under The Weather

Filed under: Civil Liberties, Fruitbats, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nu Labour, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:33 am

Sorry about the lack of posts. I seem to have come down with some nasty lurgy which is making staring at a computer screen for any great length of time give me a headache (not to mention the blocked sinuses, fever, aching muscles and hacking cough), and stringing a coherent sentence together is difficult. So as a total cop-out, here are ten other stories collected over the week (in no rational order) that are worth reading:

  • Ministry of Truth on John Reid’s latest attack on our freedoms.

  • Mask of Anarchy on McDonald’s efforts to to have the word “McJob” removed from the dictionary.

  • Rachel has returned from her honeymoon only to face yet more abuse from a batshit cyber-stalker and is asking for help.

  • Grimmerupnorth on why Jon Cruddas is a dishonourable hypocrite who should not be elected to the Deputy Leadership.

  • Not Saussure on yet another attack on our civil liberties by our wonderful government.

  • Blood & Treasure on the latest ratcheting up of the hate campaign against Iran.

  • Ten Percent on America’s renewed sabre rattling against Iran and on just who is really supporting Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon.

  • Lenin’s Tomb on the secret air war in Iraq.

  • Tears for Lebanon on the misery that the Lebanese people are facing.

  • Obsolete on Margaret Hodge’s latest outburst in favour of the BNP (supported by Hazel Blears no less).

Hopefully I’ll be back to ‘normal’ blogging as soon as I feel a bit better.

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February 8, 2007

Melanie Phillips And Her Vitriol Against Independent Jewish Voices

Filed under: Iran, israel, Lebanon, Media, Palestine — netherworld @ 5:23 pm

When I heard the news that a group of Jews had got together to speak out against Israeli aggression and to disassociate themselves from the right-wing Zionists claiming to speak for them, I breathed a sigh of relief at this very positive development. Finally some prominent Jewish voices are speaking out loudly enough to be heard above the surrounding din of extremism. I read the articles about Independent Jewish Voices and watched the recent Newsnight programme which featured rabbi David Goldberg and the poisonous Melanie Phillips.

It wasn’t much of a debate I’m afraid. Rabbi Goldberg is far too cultured and genteel to deal with a foaming-at-the-mouth wingnut like Melanie Phillips. Too long a pause in his considered replies would be exploited by the rabid bitch. Even so Melanie was fairly restrained on TV. I don’t know what possessed me to look, but I stumbled upon her webpage and found everything she meant to say… and it really is sickening. It just had to be fisked. So at risk of bringing on another attack by GIYUS, Israel’s little army of cyber soldiers who I’ve seen off before, here goes:

*Deep Breath*

February 8, 2007

Jews for genocide

On Monday night, I debated on BBC TV’s Newsnight with Rabbi David Goldberg, one of the signatories of a group styling itself ‘Independent Jewish Voices’, an unlovely collection of congenital Israel-bashers, many of whom are unfortunately prominent in British public life and are lionised by the rest of the intelligentsia who share the same venomous prejudice.

What does it tell you Melanie, that a number of prominent Jews are prepared to finally speak out against Israeli injustices after remaining silent for so long? They were lionised by the population long before they broke their silence and their prominence in public life is due to their talents in their different professions. When it comes to “venomous prejudice”, do you ever read any of the garbage you write? This latest offering of yours for example has more “venomous prejudice” than I’ve seen in an article for a long time.

Their main beef is that the Board of Deputies of British Jews dares to defend Israel in the name of the Jewish community. It has no right to do so, it seems, because it does not speak for them. Hello? The Board of Deputies?? Are they kidding? The Board is almost entirely silent on the subject.

No Melanie, their main beef seems to be (as Tom from Blairwatch says) that Jewish opinion in the UK and US is being efficiently corralled by PR into narrow support for the Israeli extreme right and their neo-con buddies in the UK and US. They want to speak for themselves, get it?

And since when were many of these signatories part of the British Jewish community anyway? Although some do identify themselves with it, many of them maintain either the most tangential or even no connection with the community or with Judaism whatever. It embarrasses them. The only time they ever identify themselves as Jews is in order to vilify the Jewish nation state, when — grotesquely — they use their ethnic Jewish identity to armour-plate themselves against the charge of Jew-hatred by wrapping themselves in the mantle of Jewish victimisation.

So because their views don’t coincide with yours, suddenly they are not Jews, is that right? Have you explained that to any of the rabbis who have signed up to Independent Jewish Voices. You didn’t do that on Newsnight when you ‘debated’ with rabbi David Goldberg. I’m sure he would be very surprised to learn that he doesn’t identify himself as a Jew. Are you aware that there is a difference between ‘Jew‘ and ‘Zionist‘? Apparently not.

And here they are again indeed posing as Jewish martyrs. Their complaint is that the Jewish establishment is trying to silence them in their heroic attempt to tell the truth about Israel, in which cause it is they who speak with the authentic voice of Jewish conscience. This is just surreal. These signatories are never out of the media with their revolting rants against Israel. Editors fawn respectfully over their every utterance. They dominate the discussion.

I don’t think ‘martyrs‘ is quite the right word is it? Is that what they call themselves? They speak with their own consciences. The media is not a monolith, some media outlets spout the same garbage you do (although usually with less of the “venomous prejudice” which you use). If their views seem to prevail, it might just possibly mean that they are right and you are wrong. Have you thought of that? No, of course not.

On the contrary, their intention is to silence others. The Board of Deputies — made of representatives who are elected by synagogues and other communal organisations and which therefore speaks for the mainstream British Jewish community — is not even to be allowed by these goons to say anything about Israel because, on the rare occasions when it does so, it dares to defend it. The voice of the Jewish mainstream is to be silenced — because they disagree with it.

You’re putting the cart before the horse again Melanie. It is not them who are trying to silence others. The stifling of debate is done by nasty bullies like GIYUS, the on-line army of cyber soldiers sponsored by the Israeli government to shut down any debate which might expose Israel’s crimes. If you are criticising Independent Jewish Voices for getting together to put forward a counter argument, how come you make no mention at all of GIYUS who behave in a manner far more in keeping with your unsubstantiated racist rants.

The essence of the signatories’ complaint, however, is even more offensive. They object to people saying rude things about them in response to what they say about Israel. They just can’t stand the criticism — and so want to silence their critics. They think freedom of speech means they are free to speak, but others are not free to speak about what they say. They think if the defenders of Israel call them names — ‘antisemites’, ‘betrayers’, ‘self-haters’ — this is stopping them from exercising their freedom of speech; but when they themselves call the defenders of Israel names — ‘the far right’, ‘sanitisers of war crimes’ or just ‘insane’ —they are merely stating demonstrable truths.

Sorry, who is it that can’t stand criticism and tries to silence their critics? Is anyone preventing you from speaking? No, I thought not. Are you denying that critics of Israel are called ‘anti-Semites’ and if they happen to be Jewish are called ‘betrayers’ or ‘self-haters’? You imply as much in your third paragraph. You really don’t read the crap you write do you? Either that or you have the memory of a goldfish. As for the labels used against the rabid rantings from your side of the ‘debate’, ‘the far right’, ‘sanitisers of war crimes’ and ‘insane’, well they seem perfectly apt to me, particularly the latter.

Enough of their ludicrous and self-serving bleating. What they say about Israel is loathsome, and fully deserves the maximum opprobrium. On Newsnight, Goldberg trotted out the usual canard that mainstream Jews object to any criticism of Israel. Not true. What his lot serve up is not criticism. It is instead a monstrous campaign of demonisation and delegitimisation based on systematic lies, libels and distortions which presents Israel, the historic victim of almost sixty years of Arab and Muslim aggression and ethnic cleansing from the Jews’ historic homeland, as the aggressors, regional bullies and oppressors of the innocent. Thus these people not only scapegoat the Israeli victims of aggression, but sanitise their killers and thus encourage them still further in their murderous project.

Can we also have an end to your ‘self-serving bleating’ please? What is loathsome is the attempt to justify mass murder of civilians, ethnic cleansing, starvation, house demolitions, assassinations, annexation of land and theft. I notice in your ravings that you fail to address those issues other than the anodyne lie that it’s all self defence. I can see the pattern now in your diatribe; you accuse your opponents of the very crimes Israel is guilty of. Hence saying that Israel is the “historic victim of almost sixty years of Arab and Muslim aggression and ethnic cleansing from the Jews“. Before 1948 there was no Israel, and the inhabitants of that land (the Palestinians) have been, and are still being driven out by people who are for the most part from eastern Europe. Melanie, it’s you who is spouting the canard, and only the people who regularly consume your drivel would believe it.

The group’s founding declaration is: ‘Those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of the occupied people.’ But the rights of the Palestinians are being infringed for one reason only: that they are intent upon destroying Israel and murdering its citizens. Israel’s legitimate self-defence in this war of annihilation being waged against it is thus represented here entirely falsely as aggression. That of course is the trick of Palestinian propaganda, which has appropriated the history of Jewish victimisation and turned it on its head, casting the Palestinians as the new Jews and the Israelis as the Nazis — a vile inversion which has been swallowed in its entirety by the signatories to this declaration and by many others on the left.

Everyone has the right to defend themselves. If Israelis have the right to defend themselves against resistance, then the Palestinians have the right to resist occupation and indiscriminate slaughter. Both sides of this conflict are guilty of atrocities, Israeli atrocities are on a much vaster scale however. They might not be on the same scale as those of the Nazis but there certainly seems to be a strong whiff of Nazism in Israel’s behaviour. What else would you call it when one of the world’s best equipped and well trained armies uses its might against a people armed with rocks, Kalashnikovs, RPGs and primitive rockets little better than fireworks, and who are so desperate that some of them are willing to blow themselves (and civilians) up. You cannot deny that Israel is the stronger force and uses that force inappropriately contrary to international law.

On Newsnight, Goldberg stunningly dismissed the hundreds of rockets that have been fired from Gaza into Israel since Israel’s disengagement from that territory as being of no consequence. Thus this self-styled champion of human rights simply refuses even to acknowledge Jewish victimisation, while professing concern only for those who are trying to wipe the Jews out. This man is supposed to be a rabbi? This is not morality, but pathology.

Goldberg didn’t dismiss the hundreds of rockets fired fired from Gaza into Israel, he merely pointed out (or tried to) that the rockets fired pale in comparison to the thousands of shells fired into Gaza. The rockets do occasionally kill and maim. Israeli shells and missiles create a much, much higher death toll. I challenge you to deny that. It is you Melanie, who dismisses the obvious imbalance and disproportionality here. By drawing attention to this fact, rabbi Goldberg was fulfilling his duty as a religious leader and human rights activist.

What has been the Palestinian response to Israel’s disengagement from Gaza? An unending barrage of rockets on Israeli towns and the building of tunnels and import of weaponry in order to unleash even greater death and destruction upon Israel. What has been Israel’s response to Palestinian aggression? Israeli hospitals are currently treating more and more Palestinians injured in the clashes between Fatah and Hamas — people who have been trying to kill Israelis and are now being given medical care in Israeli hospitals on equal terms with Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. Just who is upholding human rights here, and who is trying to extinguish them?

Israel never really left Gaza. Oh, yes the settlers were removed (and some of them relocated to the West Bank thus exacerbating that situation) but the borders were sealed with no easy way for Palestinians to travel, or trade. They have no access to the sea or air. They are in effect, imprisoned in a giant overcrowded concentration camp and subject to regular Israeli bombardment which for the IDF must be like shooting fish in a barrel. If poor defenceless Israel wasn’t maiming Palestinians, they wouldn’t need to be treated in Israeli hospitals. It should go without saying that if Palestinians had their own well equipped and properly staffed hospitals, they wouldn’t need Israeli ones either, but Israel wouldn’t allow that. That would be too much like independence wouldn’t it? No, far better to show how humane and upholding of human rights Israel is by treating the Palestinians that have been blown to pieces by Israel in Israeli hospitals.

The phenomenon of this Jewish fifth column for Arab and Muslim terror is now doing serious damage to the struggle for survival not just by Israel but by the west in general. Two writers have recently produced withering critiques of these people and the harm they are doing: Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept, and Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, whose article has horrified American liberal Jews who refuse to acknowledge their own faces in Caliban’s mirror.

I find it incredible that you would accuse Jews who object to the wanton violence of Israel as a fifth column. Have you looked up the meaning of that term Melanie? Here it is:

A clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy’s military and political aims.

Now, does that term fit for a group of Jews concerned with Israeli atrocities? I would argue not. In fact if you drop the ‘clandestine’ the term would be fit much better to organisations like AIPAC in the USA or Labour Friends of Israel, Conservative Friends of Israel or Lib Dem Friends of Israel. The clue (seeing as you don’t have one) is “invading enemy’s military and political aims“. Who is doing the invading Melanie? And under the pretense of it being self defence… hmmm what does that remind me of?

One of the most painful aspects of all of the Jewish tragedy is that, throughout the unending history of Jewish persecution — from the medieval Christian converts to Marx and beyond —Jews have figured, for a variety of reasons, as prominent accomplices of those who wished to destroy the Jewish people. These signatories are firmly in that lamentable tradition. And since today’s principal battleground is — as the Islamists well understand but we in the west do not — the battleground of ideas, the contribution of these Israel-bashing Jewish intellectuals to the cause of those who hate Jews, the west and human rights is immense.

No one is denying that Jews have suffered terribly in the past because of European barbarism throughout the ages. It’s a series of shameful episodes in our History. But speaking of History, look at how well Jews and the Muslims you so obviously hate got on in the past. Why should Muslims have to pay for European crimes. If you need a direction to point that huge chip on your shoulder, European Christians would be a more logical target. The current problems between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East stem largely from the theft of Muslim land, aided and abetted once again by European colonial powers. The suffering of Jews in the past does not give some of them the right to commit similar crimes now.

When Daniel Pipes was recently drowned out by Islamists at the University of California-Irvine, this (via LGF) was what they were saying:

They have no future. And it’s just a matter of time before the state of Israel will be wiped off the face of the earth.[Crowd: Takbir! Allahu akbar!] Justice will be restored then. Those people who are there legitimately … the people there will, will rule. There will be no injustice any more there. So just keep on doing what we’re doing. Our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling in this country is with our tongues. We speak out, and we deflate their morale, and this is the best we can do right now….[Crowd: Takbir! Allahu akbar!]

Fine, go ahead and quote some angry nutcases in a crowd and try to imply that this is the view of all Muslims if you must. As I said earlier, the only people you’ll convince are the idiots who devour your trashy vitriol with such gusto. Even in the passage you quote are words which defeat your ‘argument’. “Our weapon, our jihad, our way of struggling in this country is with our tongues. We speak out…” Wow, Melanie, who’s afraid of free speech now?

At a time when Iran is threatening to nuke Israel into kingdom come, the words of the prophet come to mind: your destroyers are among you.

So Iran is threatening to nuke Israel is it? Are you sure? Would you be so kind as to find me the relevant quote which shows that intention? It wouldn’t be this would it? Oh you really are gullible aren’t you Melanie? Whilst on the subject of nuking people, perhaps you would like to explain this:

A recent strike by nuclear-armed Israeli Air Force fighter-bombers bound for targets in Iran was turned back after being intercepted by U.S. fighters over Iraq, this reporter has learned.

Two sources have independently confirmed the encounter, which took place on January 7, 2007. Though the first informant offered few details beyond an initial tip, a second source long-known by this reporter to have well-placed U.S. and “non-U.S.” military and government contacts provided specific information regarding the raid, which was aimed at the radical religious ayatollahs holding ultimate power in Iran.

What’s it to be Melanie, blanket denial or a claim of “self defence”? We’ve heard plenty of Israeli denials before, followed by admissions of “mistakes”.

Having struggled though all that appalling crap I now need to lie down in a darkened room for a while.

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November 28, 2006

Bush and Blair’s Stable Middle East: Progress or More Despair?

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar, Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria — netherworld @ 7:57 am

The news coming from the Middle East this week, as well as providing us with the usual overdose of despair, is also showing some faint glimmers of change if not exactly hope in some of the hotspots.

In Palestine the tenuous cease fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems to be holding… just, and we are finally hearing some more positive language coming from Olmert which may just be the beginnings of a peace initiative, although it is far too early to say for sure and everyone has seen positive developments quickly collapse into renewed violence. However the cease fire, prisoner exchange and possible talks about a viable Palestinian state are developments which are to be welcomed and encouraged. One has to wonder what initiated this change of heart. Is it a realisation that Israel cannot simply murder its way to a peaceful solution (after several months of relentless attacks, massacres, demolitions and assassinations resulting in over 400 Palestinian deaths, most of them civilian, the rocket attacks continued unabated)? Is it pressure from Washington as Bush prepares to visit the region and needs at least something that will play well with the folks back home (it certainly won’t be from Iraq)? Perhaps both sides are exhausted and need a pause in order to re arm and prepare for another cycle of violence. Possibly it is a mixture of all these things.

In Iraq of course, it is very difficult to see anything positive as the country crumbles further into anarchy. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be amusing watching the US and British governments try to use any wording they can to describe the situation without uttering those fateful words ‘civil war‘. However, civil war is exactly what is happening, or to be more precise, civil wars may be a better term because the country is so fractured now. It’s now obvious to everyone that the Bush/Blair axis does not have the faintest clue what to do about the catastrophe it has created. Talking to Iran and Syria, previously unthinkable, is now very much on the agenda. While Bush and Blair contemplate this very obvious climb down, the Iraqi leader has gone to Iran to plead for help and has received a promise of assistance. Just what form that assistance will take and how effective it will be remains to be seen, however, it is a change and the closest thing to a positive development happening.

In Britain there has been more talk of troop withdrawals, but again the rhetoric displays the bankruptcy of ideas. It has been more or less acknowledged that troops in the region are contributing to the violence, and also acknowledged that withdrawing them is likely to increase the violence in the short term. The decision seems to be to announce a withdrawal of some (possibly most) British troops by the end of next year while admitting that some troops will be in Iraq for many years to come (probably confined to bases and under siege). Hardly a clear strategy. Of course, the remainder of the so-called coalition of the willing will be out of Iraq much sooner. America is not making any such announcement. The USA is still deliberating on whether to send even more troops into the quagmire as if that would improve matters.

Another hotspot in the news again is Lebanon which also looks close to descending into chaos again. Hizbollah’s threat to leave the government unless it was given greater representation could be a body blow to the pro Western administration. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s anti-Syrian industry minister has obviously added to the pressure on Lebanon and also Syria, which has been accused of the murder without a shred of evidence. It is interesting that the killing took place just as Syria was making positive noises about coming in from the cold and helping ease the tension in Iraq. For Syria to murder a Lebanese Cabinet Minister at this time is hardly in its best interests, so we have to ask ourselves who would benefit most from the renewed chaos in Lebanon and and more pressure on Syria as well as who is best placed to carry out such an assassination. Hopefully the tension in the Levant will be allowed to calm down in order for all parties to focus on the far more dangerous situation in Iraq.

Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon are the three civil wars (potential or already started) that Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that we could be facing next year. Not exactly the advance of freedom and hope in the greater Middle East promised by Bush and Blair when they lied their way into the Iraq war and now try to lie their way out of it. But there is also the quagmire in Afghanistan to consider. That conflict is not going well either and America and Britain are having trouble finding other NATO allies to join them in their mission. Far from rushing to join in the fun, NATO countries are looking for a way out of that mess.

While there is very little to get exited about in terms of stability in the region, there is a noticeable change in the air. America’s stranglehold on the Middle East might well be coming to an end. An attack on Iran now looks less likely as the US realises that it needs Iranian cooperation and that Iran seems to be holding the best cards and knows how to play them. Also it will be much harder to attack Iran now that the CIA has said that it has found no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. This with the possibility of a peace initiative in Palestine and Iranian and Syrian cooperation in Iraq does give us some reason to hope, however small that hope is.

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November 12, 2006

Ten Tips For Dealing With GIYUS

Filed under: Blogging, israel, Lebanon, Palestine — netherworld @ 5:30 am

If, like many people, you are disgusted by the behaviour of Israel and happen to blog about, say, the latest massacre in Gaza; the desperate situation the Palestinians are in; the carnage in Lebanon or the provocation of UNIFIL peacekeepers; the threat of attacking Iran or any of the other nefarious deeds that Israel is allowed to get away with, then there is a reasonable chance that you may attract the attention of GIYUS. You’ll know when that has happened when you find your post bombarded by comments (usually anonymous and looking remarkably similar) attempting to justify those actions and attacking you for daring to mention them. A quick look at your stats will confirm that you’ve been GIYUSed. If this bothers you, here are some tips which may put a stop to the attack, or at least lessen the flow of moronic comments. Of course I can’t guarantee that they will work, all I can say is that they seemed to work for me when I became their target. First of all don’t be intimidated, that’s what this little army of cyber soldiers want you to be. Instead you could try the following:

  1. Update your post straight away explaining what has happened and adding a little bit about GIYUS for those unfamiliar with this annoying pressure group. This also lets the GIYUS bots know that you’re on to them.

  2. If possible, add some links to previous posts you might have written on the issues to show that you are not going to be intimidated by their antics.

  3. Refute their ‘arguments’ in the comments. This is easy as they really don’t have any. Their comments go along the lines of “it is about time that Israel completely ignore any condemnation of our effort to stay alive and have a simple life in a and keep pounding at the Palestinians…”. Also they don’t stick around to argue, debate is the last thing they want and its what they are trying to stifle. They just do as they are directed by GIYUS.

  4. On no account say anything which they could construe as being anti-Semitic. That is exactly what they want. Not only is anti-Semitism so obviously wrong but you’ll be lowering yourself to their level. Their main objective is to ‘prove’ that anyone who disagrees with Israeli policies is a) anti-Semitic, b) a Holocaust denier, and c) an ‘Islamo-fascist’. To do this they try to blur the distinctions between ‘Zionist’, ‘Israeli’ and ‘Jewish’.

  5. Use reliable news sources to back up your points. If you can find items from Israeli sources, so much the better. Haaretz and B’TSalem are useful.

  6. Invite others to join in the fun, it makes the thread more balanced and much more interesting. It also saves you from having to repeat yourself or respond to every comment.

  7. Don’t delete their comments unless they really are particularly offensive. That just makes it look like you haven’t got an answer to them. Leave their comments up so we can all have a good laugh at them.

  8. Use humour. Believe me, these commenters have as much sense of humour as Ian Paisley on a bad day, and they don’t like having the piss taken out of them (who does?). The issues are deadly serious for both sides of the argument but the point here is to stop GIYUS bullying you into remaining silent about them.

  9. If other bloggers link to your post then even more people will see it thus rendering their efforts to silence you completely counter-productive. I’ll take this opportunity to thank the Curious Hamster, Obsolete and D-Notice for linking to my post which helped GIYUS’s attack on me backfire.

  10. GIYUS has been particularly effective in distorting or wrecking on-line polls. If you are conducting a poll about Israel and you find that GIYUS members turn up in great numbers to distort the result, my advice would be to shut it down immediately and post a message explaining why. I haven’t conducted a poll about Israel but it’s what I’d do if I found my poll being distorted by GIYUS.

When I was targeted by GIYUS I did most of the things on this list and the comments slowed down and then stopped very quickly. And it wasn’t because the GIYUS bots stopped visiting. As I write this they are still coming, they’re just not bombarding me with their silly justifications for what is by any standard criminal behaviour. Groups like this don’t like to be exposed in this way, so when a light is shined on them they tend to scuttle back to whatever dark recesses they emerged from. Mind you, having posted this I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried again.

If you have been GIYUSed and your post is genuine comment on Middle East news and not anti-Semitic or conspiracy theory garbage, feel free to drop me a comment and I’ll link to it. Freedom of speech is important and we have enough curtailment of it from our leaders, so we don’t need these idiots to bully us into silence. If all this sounds like behaving little better than GIYUS, it isn’t. I’m not advocating bombarding peoples web sites with comments or hurling abuse at anyone. This is just a defence tactic which may or may not work if you find yourself under a coordinated virtual attack from a state sponsored pressure group. No state is above criticism and when a state behaves the way Israel does it should expect to be criticised for its crimes. Unfortunately many governments, particularly the American and British governments refuse to criticise these atrocities and are complicit in them, so it’s up to us to do it.

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November 10, 2006

Israeli Jets Nearly Shot Down by French Troops

Filed under: israel, Lebanon — netherworld @ 2:10 pm

French peacekeepers in southern Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL force came close to shooting down Israeli F-15 fighters which nose-dived repeatedly over their positions. The incident took place on October 31 but has only now come to light.

The French government has demanded that Israel stop mock raids over Lebanon after French peacekeepers came within seconds of shooting down Israeli warplanes.

Israeli officials said the flights were needed to monitor Lebanese compliance with UN demands, but the French Defence Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, said the attitude of the Israeli planes was “absolutely inadmissible” after Israeli F-15 fighters nose-dived repeatedly over French peacekeepers’ positions in southern Lebanon on 31 October.

“Our troops barely avoided a catastrophe,” Alliot-Marie told the French parliament. “Our troops find themselves in a position where they have to fire in legitimate self defence.”
Source

France has now summoned the Israeli ambassador over the incident and launched a complaint. The Israeli military has so far denied any knowledge of the incident. This is not the first time France has warned Israel about violations of Lebanese airspace in defiance of Security Council Resolution 1701, but this seems to be the closest the French have come to being forced to defend themselves. Israeli jets were also involved in an incident with German warships patrolling off the Lebanese coast last month. Two F-16s allegedly fired shots and anti missile flares as they buzzed the vessel.

Israel seems determined to provoke some sort of retaliation from the UNIFIL peacekeepers. If these provokations are happening with the tacit agreement of the USA (I have no idea if this is the case or not), then there is a potential conflict of interest looming because America is spending $40 million to train and equip the Lebanese army in order for it to better defend Lebanese territory so Hizbollah can withdraw.

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October 5, 2006

The “unseemly” horse trading at the UN: Jobs for the boys or a prelude to war?

Filed under: Iran, Lebanon, UK Politics, UN, US Politics — netherworld @ 5:24 am

I have to admit I was a bit surprised to hear about the extraordinary unanimity in the choice of Ban Ki Moon as the likely successor to Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the UN when he stands down at the end of this year. I needn’t have been that surprised. Behind the scenes there was, it seems, an awful lot of argument about the selection of Ban Ki Moon, mostly from the five permanent members of the security council, particularly Britain, and what the horse trading was about was getting top jobs for British officials.

BRITAIN has demanded a key United Nations policy job as the price of supporting the man likely to become the new UN Secretary-General.

Before throwing its weight behind Ban Ki Moon, the South Korean in the leading position to succeed Kofi Annan, the Government set out conditions that included the promise of top jobs for British officials.

The “unseemly” horse trading also involved other countries, according to diplomatic sources. It took place behind closed doors before Mr Ban cleared the latest hurdle — an informal straw poll of the 15-strong Security Council — earlier this week.

“It was like the European states carving up Africa in the 19th century,” one diplomat at the UN said. “The very same countries that lecture the UN on the need to reform and to make appointments based on merit were the ones pressing for their candidates to be given top jobs.”

[…]

In particular, the British want to reclaim the job of under-secretary-general for the Department of Political Affairs, responsible for all the main international crises, including the Middle East, Iran, North Korea and other flashpoints.

“The British made it clear to Ban Ki Moon that this was a condition for their support,” said another source, who added that the same negotiations took place when Mr Annan became Secretary-General.
Source

So Britain wants to have a key role in the political affairs of the Middle East, Iran and North Korea. Well that’s not so surprising. It is interesting however in the light of this:

We bring to the attention of our readers, this carefully documented review of the ongoing naval build-up and deployment of coalition forces in the Middle East.

The article examines the geopolitics behind this military deployment and its relationship to the Battle for Oil.

The structure of military alliances is crucial to an understanding of these war preparations.

The naval deployment is taking place in two distinct theaters: the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Both Israel and NATO are slated to play a major role in the US-led war.

The militarization of the Eastern Mediterranean is broadly under the jurisdiction of NATO in liaison with Israel. Directed against Syria, it is conducted under the façade of a UN peace-keeping mission pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1701. In this context, the war on Lebanon must be viewed as a stage of a the broader US sponsored military road-map.

The naval armada in the Persian Gulf is largely under US command, with the participation of Canada.

The naval buildup is coordinated with the planned air attacks. The planning of the aerial bombings of Iran started in mid-2004, pursuant to the formulation of CONPLAN 8022 in early 2004. In May 2004, National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 35 entitled Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization was issued. While its contents remains classified, the presumption is that NSPD 35 pertains to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater in compliance with CONPLAN 8022.

These war plans must be taken very seriously.

The World is at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. The US has embarked on a military adventure, a long war, which threatens the future of humanity.

In the weeks ahead, it is essential that citizens’ movements around the world act consistently to confront their respective governments and reverse and dismantle this military agenda.

What is needed is to break the conspiracy of silence, expose the media lies and distortions, confront the criminal nature of the US Administration and of those governments which support it, its war agenda as well as its so-called Homeland Security agenda which has already defined the contours of a police State.

It is essential to bring the US war project to the forefront of political debate, particularly in North America and Western Europe. Political and military leaders who are opposed to the war must take a firm stance, from within their respective institutions. Citizens must take a stance individually and collectively against war.
Source

The above quote is the editor’s note at the head of a long, detailed and well-sourced article by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya of Global Research entitled The March to War: Naval Build-Up in the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean (via Truthout which has put in other links to the relevant articles). The article and the long list of links at the end point to a very disturbing pattern which makes a bigger Middle Eastern war look all but inevitable. It’s worth reading the whole piece. There has been plenty of speculation in recent months about the possibility of an attack on Iran and/or Syria, so much so that I decided to comment further on it only when there was evidence of the necessary troop build-up. This looks like evidence of a such a build-up, much more secretive than the blatent military massing prior to the Iraq war. It might explain why Britain is so eager to muscle in on top UN positions.

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September 19, 2006

The damage to Lebanon’s cultural heritage

Filed under: Culture, Lebanon — netherworld @ 4:31 am

The recent conflict in Lebanon, as well as causing over 1,000 civilian deaths and ruination of the country’s infrastructure, has also damaged some of the world’s most important archaeological sites. The worst damage is to the ancient port city of Byblos which is badly affected by the huge oil spill caused when Israel deliberately bombed the Jieh power plant several times causing the release of 15,000 tons of oil which has created the worst environmental disaster in the Mediterranean. The ancient stone harbour is now coated in thick toxic sludge.

Byblos, which has been continuously inhabited for more than 7,000 years, is still suffering from the oilslick.

The Lebanese authorities have not been able to clear up the oil, which leaked when the power station at Jiyyeh south of Beirut was bombed by the Israelis.

As the wave reaches the shore in Byblos, more oil is brought in from the Mediterranean Sea.

This is a town that has been invaded by many civilizations – but a man-made environmental disaster now threatens the port.
Source

Unless urgent action is taken soon the damage will become permanent. Other historic sites, although not directly bombed were damaged by the vibrations of nearby bombing. Particularly endangered are the splendid Roman ruins of Baalbek, some of the finest examples of imperial Roman architecture outside of Italy. Cracks in the lintel stones have widened and in Tyre frescoes have also been damaged on a Roman tomb.

Unesco is launching an urgent appeal for funds to restore these world heritage sites.

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September 14, 2006

Israeli violations of the ceasefire in Lebanon and Blair’s foreign policy disasters

Filed under: Bliar, Iraq, israel, Lebanon — netherworld @ 8:48 am

Israel is still trying to provoke Hezbollah into retaliating to ceasefire violations. These violations include incursions by tanks, bulldozers, troops and aircraft. There has also been gunfire to intimidate the Lebanese. Unifil spokesman Alexander Ivanko said there have been over 100 ceasefire violations by the IDF in the last month. Hezbollah patrols the hills but has not responded to the Israeli provocation.

The arrival of the enhanced Unifil force hasn’t yet inspired much confidence among the Lebanese people and it appears that apart from some limited de mining operations little is being done by the force.

Talk of the UN met with a similar lack of enthusiasm. “We don’t know them and they don’t know us – so how can their be any real trust between us? They will not stand against the Israelis; they are Europeans that are coming now,” said Kalamia. Villagers had seen UN troops roll through the village without stopping a few days earlier. “They have come and gone before, it’s the same old story. Whether they’re here or not, it doesn’t make any difference to us,” said Fatmeh Srour.[…]

Nearby Bint Jbeil, where the bloodiest battles were fought, is the first of four southern towns to benefit from a planned $300,000 reconstruction project funded by Qatar. The Lebanese army deployed to the town nearly two weeks ago, but the residents still complain of Israeli harassment. “It’s not a ceasefire yet because the Israelis have not stopped their firing,” said Ibrahim Bassi. “The big test for the Unifil is whether they can stop the violations.”
Source

A commander of the Israeli Defence Force has confirmed that cluster bombs and phosphorous shells were used on civilians during the conflict.

“In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs, what we did there was crazy and monstrous,” testifies a commander in the Israel Defense Forces’ MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) unit. Quoting his battalion commander, he said the IDF fired some 1,800 cluster rockets on Lebanon during the war and they contained over 1.2 million cluster bombs. The IDF also used cluster shells fired by 155 mm artillery cannons, so the number of cluster bombs fired on Lebanon is even higher. At the same time, soldiers in the artillery corps testified that the IDF used phosphorous shells, which many experts say is prohibited by international law. According to the claims, the overwhelming majority of the weapons mentioned were fired during the last ten days of the war.
Source

It is obvious that both sides in the conflict are guilty of war crimes. Israel is unlikely to be prosecuted however because it has the support of the USA and the Bush administration which approves of the extermination tactics used on the the Lebanese and Palestinians. Hezbollah has now also been accused of war crimes by Amnesty International. No doubt this will be seized on as justification for the far more monstrous Israeli war crimes but Hezbollah too is unlikely to be prosecuted.

Meanwhile Tony Blair’s policy of refusing to call for a ceasefire at the same time as calling for a UN resolution has come under attack from Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells. During the conflict Kim Howells called for a ceasefire and then backtracked on his statement (presumably after coming under pressure from the Government). Now that Blair is so weakened he is once again criticising the policy.

A Foreign Office minister has conceded that Tony Blair’s refusal to call for a ceasefire during 34 days of slaughter in Lebanon may have been a mistake.

The admission by Kim Howells, minister for the Middle East, reflects the growing worries of senior figures in government that Mr Blair’s defence of US foreign policy at every turn is damaging his administration at home and abroad.

Mr Howells also conceded that the decision to oppose – with the US – the international demand for an immediate ceasefire was not properly explained to the British public.
Source

Blair came under attack for his foreign policy recently when he addressed the TUC. Union members held up placards and heckled the Prime Minister and some Union members walked out when Blair started to speak. Nevertheless Blair did try to defend his policies without convincing anybody.

When heckled over British troops being in Iraq, Blair said that those troops were there because the elected Government of Iraq requested them in order to keep order in the country ignoring the obvious facts that there is no order in the country and those troops went in as part of an illegal invasion of Iraq. Blair argued that British troops are in Iraq to stop the chaos created by British troops going into Iraq. The puppet government might be requesting for the troops to remain in the country (although it wants a clear timetable for withdrawal) but that doesn’t seem to be what the Iraqi people want or what the populations of coalition member states want.

The UN is also criticising the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq again. Kofi Annan said that most Middle East leaders regard the US-led invasion of Iraq and its aftermath as a disaster for the region. No doubt Tony Blair thinks that Kofi Annan is in alliance with those mad anti-American Europeans.

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September 13, 2006

Reply from the BBC

Filed under: Lebanon, Media, Protest — netherworld @ 11:42 am

Last month I complained to the BBC about its awful coverage of the huge demonstration in London in which about 100,000 people protested against the war in Lebanon and Tony Blair’s refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire. You can read the letter I wrote here. I promised that I would publish any response they gave.

Today I have finally received a reply from the BBC and, as promised, here it is.

Dear Mr Simonetti

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the 5 August edition of the BBC ‘Ten O’clock News’.

Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we are sorry you have had to wait on this occasion.

I appreciate your concerns that there was insufficient coverage of the Stop The War Coalition peace demonstration in London.

The choice of which news stories to report in our programmes is often very difficult. Editorial staff always have more news reports than can be fitted into the time available. Their choice has to be selective and no matter how carefully such decisions are made, they are always aware that some people may disagree with them. Unlike newspapers, news programmes do not have the luxury of the inside pages or specialist sections that enable newspapers to carry a wide range of reports.

I can assure you that the story was not ignored and was reported in various BBC News reports. One of these reports is still available to view at the following website:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5246790.stm

Additionally, we are very grateful for your feedback in this matter. Please be assured that I have registered your complaint and concerns on the daily log, this is an internal document which will be made available to the ‘Ten O’Clock News’ production team as well as the senior management of the BBC.

May I take this opportunity to thank you again for taking time to contact the BBC.

Regards Jonathan Dunlop BBC Information __________________________________________________ http://www.bbc.co.uk/ – World Wide Wonderland

I am grateful that the BBC took the time to reply to my letter, however, I don’t feel that the points I raised have been addressed. I wasn’t specifically criticising the BBC’s ‘Ten O’clock News’, but also news 24, which has more time explore an issue, and the other news bulletins that the BBC broadcasts (there certainly seemed to be plenty of time to cover the day’s sporting events). I was aware of the coverage on the BBC website as I mentioned in my letter and I found that also lacking in detail and analysis. My point about not showing clips of any the speeches was not addressed either, nor was the important issue of the number of people attending and the lack of aerial shots.

I shall be replying to Jonathan Dunlop shortly and I will mention these points. If anyone thinks that there are other points regarding the BBC coverage of the August 5th protest that should be raised, please get in touch via the comments.

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August 24, 2006

Blair not welcome in the Middle East

Filed under: Bliar, israel, Lebanon, Palestine — netherworld @ 1:20 am

Recently I have been questioning the wisdom of Tony Blair’s decision to go to the Middle East when he returns from his holiday. Originally I thought that Tony Blair’s international standing on the World stage is now so bad that only Israel would give him a warm welcome. After all the Palestinian’s and Lebaneseare hardly going to fall over themselves with gratitude for Blair’s failure to condemn the atrocities purpotrated against them and his efforts to prevent a ceasefire in Lebanon.

But it was even worse than that. Not even the Israelis want to talk to him. Blair’s sleazy Middle East envoy Lord Levy has been in Israel and Palestine trying to pave the way for Blair’s visit and has been soundly rebuffed by Ehud Olmert.

The Israeli rebuff was reportedly delivered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at private talks last week with Blair’s Middle East envoy, Lord Levy. In a series of meetings to test the diplomatic waters, Levy also met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Downing Street and Levy refused any comment yesterday on his meetings. But a diplomatic source familiar with the talks told The Observer that Olmert’s message was: ‘Not now. After this difficult war, Israelis are simply not ready for new talks with the Palestinians.’
Source

Blair, however, still plans to go ahead with his trip. After all, unlike any other world leader, he has to ask for the permission of the President of the United States before he can play at being a statesman. He was refused permission at the G8 summit but this time his wish has been granted so he’s not going to let a small thing like no one wanting to see him get in the way of his last shot at glory. But he’s got his work cut out. The ceasefire is holding for the moment…just. But there is still little sign of the international force arriving any time soon, and Israel is doing its level best to break the truce, while tensions with Iran are increasing. And all this time the Palestinians have been continuously under attack with much of the elected government kidnapped by the Israelis. He is unlikely to make much progress in Lebanon either. The Lebanese Prime Minister has already dismissed Condoleezza Rice once in this conflict so telling Blair to get lost shouldn’t be a problem for him, although he is expected to be diplomatic and welcome him. Hezbollah, on the other hand has not wasted any time in telling Blair to stay away and why.

TONY BLAIR’S peace mission to the Middle East appeared in jeopardy last night after Hezbollah declared that the Prime Minister would not be welcome in Lebanon because of his support for Israel during the war.

A senior member of Hezbollah’s politburo has told The Times that Mr Blair should stay away from the country because he was “up to his ears in the blood of Lebanese women and children”.
Source

So it’s very hard to see just what his Toniness can expect to achieve on this mission. I’ll reiterate that in my opinion the only reason Blair is insisting on making this ill-advised trip is because his popularity at home is only marginally better than his popularity with Hezbollah. He needs to do something to convince his mutinous party that he really is trying to do something to bring about peace in the Middle East and is capable of some independence from the “crap” Mr Bush. As always with Blair however, it’s appearance rather than substance that matters, especially just before the Labour Party conference where there will be a sizable crowd demanding to know when he is going to stand down. Blair has already been warned by the UN Deputy Secretary General to take a back seat on the Lebanon crisis. He has been snubbed by the Isaelis, humiliated by the Americans, reluctantly tolerated by Fuad Saniora and told to get lost by Hezbollah. This man just can’t take a hint. Not even when 100,000 people marched past his house telling him what they thought of him and lobbing shoes at the gates of Downing Street.

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