Archive for the ‘ISRAEL AND PALESTINIANS’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH IN PARIS AND THE UGLY TRUTH OF STATE TERROR

 

FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH IN PARIS AND THE UGLY TRUTH OF STATE TERROR

John Chuckman

 

Mass murder, as that which just occurred in Paris, is always distressing, but that does not mean we should stop thinking.

Isn’t it rather remarkable that President Hollande, immediately after the event, declared ISIS responsible? How did he know that? And if he was aware of a serious threat from ISIS, why did he not take serious measures in advance?

Within days of Friday 13, French forces assaulted an apartment with literally thousands of bullets being fired, killing a so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Just how are you instantly elevated to the rank of “mastermind”? And if security people were previously aware of his exalted status, why did they wait until after a disaster to go after him?

Well, the ugly underlying truth is that, willy-nilly, France for years has been a supporter of ISIS, even while claiming to be fighting it. How do I know that? Because France’s foreign policy has virtually no independence from America’s. It could be described as a subset of American foreign policy. Hollande marches around with his head held stiffly up after getting off the phone at the Élysée Palace, having received the day’s expectations from Washington. He has been a rather pathetic figure.

So long as it is doing work the United States wishes done, ISIS remains an American protectorate, and regardless of Hollande’s past rhetoric, he has acted according to that reality. But something may just have changed now.

It is important to note the disproportionate attention in the West to events in Paris. I say disproportionate because there are equally ugly things going on in a number of places in the Middle East, but we do not see the coverage given to Paris. We have bombs in Lebanon and Iraq. We have daily bombings and shootings in Syria. We have cluster bombs and other horrors being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. And of course, there are the ongoing horrors of Israel against Palestinians.

We have endless interviews with ordinary people in Paris, people who know nothing factual to help our understanding, about their reaction to the terror, but when was the last time you saw personal reactions broadcast from Gaza City or Damascus? It just does not happen, and it does raise the suspicion that the press’s concern with Paris is deliberately out of proportion. After all, Israel killed about twenty times as many people in Gaza not very long ago, and the toll was heavily weighted with children, many hundreds of them. Events in Paris clearly are being exploited for highly emotional leverage.

Leverage against what? Arabs in general and Muslims in particular, just part of the continuing saga of deliberately-channeled hate we have experienced since a group of what proved (after their arrest) to be Israeli spies were reported on top of a truck, snapping pictures and high-fiving each other as the planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. What those spies were doing has never been explained to the public. I’m not saying Israel is responsible for 9/11, but clearly some Israeli government interests were extremely happy about events, and we have been bombarded ever since with hate propaganda about Muslims, serving as a kind of constant noise covering the crimes Israel does commit against Palestinians and other neighbors.

It is impossible to know whether the attack in Paris was actually the work of ISIS or a covert operation by the secret service of an ISIS supporter. The point is a bit like arguing over angels on a pinhead. When you are dealing with this kind of warfare – thugs and lunatics of every description lured into service and given deadly toys and lots of encouragement to use them – things can and do go wrong. But even when nothing goes wrong in the eyes of sponsors for an outfit like ISIS, terrible things are still happening. It’s just that they’re happening where the sponsors want them to happen and in places from which our press carefully excludes itself. Terrible things, for example, have been happening in the beautiful land of Syria for four or five years, violence equivalent to about two hundred Paris attacks, causing immense damage, the entire point of which is to topple a popularly-supported president and turn Syria into the kind of rump states we see now in Iraq.

A covert operation in the name of ISIS is at least as likely as an attack by ISIS. The United States, Israel, Turkey, and France are none of them strangers to violent covert activities, and, yes, there have been instances before when a country’s own citizens were murdered by its secret services to achieve a goal. The CIA pushed Italian secret services into undertaking a series of murderous attacks on their own people during the 1960s in order to shake up Italy’s “threatening” left-wing politics. It was part of something called Operation Gladio. Operation Northwoods, in the early 1960s, was a CIA-planned series of terrorist acts on American civilians to be blamed on Cuba, providing an excuse for another invasion. It was not carried out, but that was not owing to any qualms in the CIA about murdering their own, otherwise no plan would have ever existed. The CIA was involved in many other operations inside the United States, from experiments with drugs to ones with disease, using innocent people as its subject-victims.

There have been no differences worth mentioning between Hollande’s France and America concerning the Middle East. Whatever America wants, America gets, unlike the days when Jacques Chirac opposed the invasion of Iraq, or earlier, when de Gaulle removed France’s armed forces from integration within NATO or bravely faced immense hostility, including a coup attempt undertaken by French military with CIA cooperation, when he abandoned colonialism in Algeria.

If anything, Hollande has been as cloyingly obsequious towards America’s chief interest in the Middle East, Israel, as a group of Republican Party hopefuls at a Texas barbecue fund-raiser sniffing out campaign contributions. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Hollande honored four Jewish victims of the thugs who attacked a neighborhood grocery store with France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor. I don’t recall the mere fact of being murdered by thugs ever before being regarded as a heroic distinction. After all, in the United States more than twenty thousand a year suffer that fate without recognition.

Israel’s Netanyahu at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack actually outdid himself in manic behavior. He barged into France against a specific request that he stay home and pushed himself, uninvited, to the front row of the big parade down the Champs-Élysées which was supposed to honor free speech. He wanted those cameras to be on him for voters back home watching.

Free speech, you might ask, from the leaders of Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, and Israel, who all marched in front?  Well, after the free-speech parody parade, the Madman of Tel Aviv raced around someone else’s country making calls and speeches for Jewish Frenchmen to leave “dangerous” France and migrate “home” to Israel. It would in fact be illegal in Israel for someone to speak that way in Israel to Israelis, but illegality has never bothered Netanyahu. Was he in any way corrected for this world-class asinine behavior? No, Hollande just kept marching around with his head stiffly up. I guess he was trying to prove just how free “free speech” is in France.

But speech really isn’t all that free in France, and the marching about free speech was a fraud. Not only is Charlie Hebdo, the publication in whose honor all the tramping around was done, not an outlet for free speech, being highly selective in choosing targets for its obscene attacks, but many of the people marching at the head of the parade were hardly representatives of the general principle.

France itself has outlawed many kinds of free speech. Speech and peaceful demonstrations which advocate a boycott of Israel are illegal in France. So a French citizen today cannot advocate peacefully against a repressive state which regularly abuses, arrests, and kills some of the millions it holds in a form of bondage. And Hollande’s France enforces this repressive law with at least as much vigor as Israel does with its own version, in a kind of “Look, me too,” spirit. France also has a law which is the exactly the equivalent of a law against anyone’s saying the earth is flat: a law against denying or questioning the Holocaust. France also is a country, quite disgracefully, which has banned the niqab.

Now, America’s policy in the Mideast is pretty straightforward: subsidize and protect its colony Israel and never criticize it even on the many occasions when it has committed genuine atrocities.  American campaign finance laws being what they, politics back home simply permits no other policy. The invasion of Iraq, which largely was intended to benefit Israel through the elimination of a major and implacable opponent, has like so many dark operations backfired. I call the invasion a dark operation because although the war was as public as could be, all of America’s, and Britain’s, supposed intelligence about Iraq was crudely manufactured and the reasons for undertaking an act which would kill a million people and cripple an entire country were complete lies.

America’s stupid invasion created new room for Iran to exert its influence in the region – hence, the endless noise in Israel and Saudi Arabia about Iran – and it led directly to the growth of armed rabble groups like ISIS. There were no terrorists of any description in Saddam’s Iraq, just as there were no terrorists in Gadhafi’s Libya, a place now so infested with them that even an American ambassador is not safe.

Some Americans assert that ISIS happened almost accidentally, popping out of the dessert when no one was looking, a bit like Athena from the head of Zeus, arising from the bitterness and discontents of a splintered society, but that view is fatuous. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by accident in this part of the world. Israel’s spies keep informed of every shadowy movement, and America always listens closely to what they say.

It is silly to believe ISIS just crept up on America, suddenly a huge and powerful force, because ISIS was easy for any military to stop at its early stages, as when it was a couple of thousand men waving AK-47s from the backs of Japanese pick-up trucks tearing around Iraq. Those pick-up trucks and those AK-47s and the gasoline and the ammunition and the food and the pay required for a bunch of goons came from somewhere, and it wasn’t from Allah.

A corollary to America’s first principle about protecting Israel is that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in Israel’s neighborhood that is not approved, at least tacitly, by the United States. So whether, in any given instance of supply and support for ISIS, it was Israel or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or America – all involved in this ugly business – is almost immaterial. It all had to happen with American approval. Quite simply, there would be hell to pay otherwise.

As usual in the region, Saudi Arabia’s role was to supply money, buying weapons from America and others and transshipping them to ISIS. Ever since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has been an almost pathetically loyal supporter of America, even to the extent now of often cooperating with Israel. That couldn’t happen before an event in which the majority of perpetrators proved to be Saudi citizens and which led to the discovery that large amounts of Saudi “go away” money had been paid to Osama bin Laden for years. But after 9/11, the Saudis feared for the continuation of their regime and now do what they are told.  They are assisted in performing the banking function by Qatar, another wealthy, absolute state aligned with the United States and opposing the rise of any possibly threatening new forces in its region.

Of course, it wasn’t just the discoveries of 9/11 that motivated Saudi Arabia. It intensely dislikes the growing influence of Iran, and Iran’s Shia Muslim identity is regarded by Sunni sects in Saudi Arabia in much the way 17th century Protestantism was viewed by an ultramontane Catholic state like Spain. The mass of genuine jihadists fighting in Syria – those who are not just mercenaries and adventurers or agents of Israel or Turkey or the Saudis – are mentally-unbalanced Sunni who believe they are fighting godlessness. The fact that Assad keeps a secular state with religious freedom for all just adds to their motivation.

ISIS first achievement was toppling an Iraqi government which had been excessively friendly to Iran in the view of Israel, and thereby the United States. Iraq’s army could have stopped them easily early on but was bribed to run away, leaving weapons such as tanks behind. Just two heavy tanks could have crushed all the loons in pick-up trucks. That’s why there was all the grotesque propaganda about beheadings and extreme cruelty to cover the fact of modern soldiers running from a mob. ISIS gathered weapons, territory, and a fierce reputation in an operation which saw President al-Maliki – a man disliked by the United States for his associations with Iran and his criticism of American atrocities – hurriedly leave office.

From that base, ISIS was able to gain sufficient foothold to begin financing itself through, for example, stolen crude sold at a discount or stolen antiquities. The effective splitting up of Iraq meant that its Kurdish population in the north could sell, as it does today, large volumes of oil to Israel, an unheard of arrangement in Iraq’s past. ISIS then crossed into Syria in some force to go after Assad. The reasons for this attack were several: Assad runs a secular state and defends religious minorities but mainly because the paymasters of ISIS wanted Assad destroyed and Syria reduced in the fashion of Iraq.

Few people in the press seem to have noted that ISIS never attacks Israel or Israeli interests. Neither does it attack the wheezingly-corrupt rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic equivalent of ancient Rome’s Emperor Nero. Yet those are the very targets a group of genuine, independent warrior-fundamentalists would attack. But ISIS is not genuine, being supplied and bankrolled by people who do not want to see attacks on Israel or Saudi Arabia, including, notably, Israel and Saudi Arabia. ISIS also is assisted, and in some cases led, by foreign covert operators and special forces.

There does seem to be a good deal of news around the idea of France becoming serious in fighting ISIS, but I think we must be cautious about accepting it at face value. Putin is reported as telling ship commanders in the Mediterranean to cooperate and help cover the French aircraft carrier approaching. Hollande keeps calling for American cooperation too, as Putin has done for a very long time, but America’s position remains deliberately ambiguous. A new American announcement of cooperation with Turkey in creating a “safe zone” across the border with northern Syria is a development with unclear intentions. Is this to stop the Kurds Erdogan so despises fighting in the north of Syria from establishing themselves and controlling the border or is it a method for continued support of ISIS along the that border? Only time will tell.

I do think it at least possible Hollande may have come around to Putin’s view of ISIS, but America has not, and the situation only grows more fraught with dangerous possibilities. I’ve long believed that likely America, in its typically cynical fashion, planned to destroy ISIS, along with others like al-Nusra, once they had finished the dirty work of destroying Syria’s government and Balkanizing the country. In any event, Israel – and therefore, automatically, America – wants Assad destroyed, so it would be surprising to see America at this point join honestly with Putin and Hollande.

America has until now refused Russia any real support, including such basic stuff as sharing intelligence. It cooperates only in the most essential matters such avoiding attacks on each other’s planes. It also has made some very belligerent statements about what Russia has been doing, some from the America’s Secretary of Defense sounding a lot like threats. Just the American establishment’s bully-boy attitude about doing anything which resembles joining a Russian initiative does not bode well.

After all, Putin has been portrayed as a kind of Slavic Satan by American propaganda cranking stuff out overtime in support of Ukraine’s incompetent coup-government and with the aim of terrifying Eastern Europe into accepting more American weapons and troops near Russia’s border, this last having nothing to do with any Russian threat and everything to do with America’s aggressive desire to shift the balance of power. How do you turn on a dime and admit Putin is right about Syria and follow his lead?

And there are still the daily unpleasant telephone calls from Israel about Assad. How do you manoeuvre around that when most independent observers today recognize Assad as the best alternative to any other possible government. He has the army’s trust, and in the end it is the Syrian army which is going to destroy ISIS and the other psychopaths. Air strikes alone can never do that. The same great difficulty for Hollande leaves much ambiguity around what he truly means by “going to war against ISIS.”

It is an extremely complicated world in which we live with great powers putting vast resources towards destroying the lives of others, almost killing thousands on a whim, while pretending not to be doing so. We live in an era shaped by former CIA Director Allen Dulles, a quiet psychopath who never saw an opportunity for chaos he did not embrace.

The only way to end terror is to stop playing with the lives of tens of millions in the Middle East, as America has done for so long, and stop supporting the behaviors of a repressive state which has killed far greater numbers than the madmen of ISIS could dream of doing, demanding instead that that state make peace and live within its borders. But, at least at this stage, that is all the stuff of dreams.

 

JOHN CHUCKMAN ESSAY: WAS EINSTEIN RIGHT?   1 comment

WAS EINSTEIN RIGHT?

John Chuckman

“My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state.” Albert Einstein

Einstein is one of my favorite twentieth-century characters. He was remarkable, and I don’t mean only for his profound contributions to our understanding of the physical world. He was someone who drove authoritarians like J. Edgar Hoover mad. He was one of those rare souls, like George Orwell, who despite mistakes and flaws, consciously worked to direct his actions, and redirect them after missteps, by principles of decency, humanity, and rational thought. He never subscribed to menacing slogans like “My country, right or wrong” or “You’re either with us or against us.” Quite the opposite, he knew any country was capable of being wrong at times and did not deserve blind allegiance when it was.

Einstein’s was one of the most important names lent to the cause of Zionism. His name and visits and letters raised a great deal of money towards establishing universities and resettling European Jews suffering under violent anti-Semitism long before the founding of Israel.

But even in a cause so dear to his heart, Einstein never stopped thinking for himself. He not only opposed the establishment of a formal Israeli state – he was after all a great internationalist – but he always advocated treating the Arabic people of Palestine with generosity and understanding.

Clearly Einstein’s Zionist path was not the one followed. The actual path chosen by Israel has been pretty much that of “the iron wall,” a phrase put forward by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s as the appropriate posture for Zionists to adopt towards Arabs in Palestine.

Charles de Gaulle, up until the Six Day War, demonstrated great understanding and support for Israel. This thoughtful and highly individualistic statesman felt an instinctive sympathy for the struggle of the Jews, but the Six Day War caused him to alter France’s policies towards the Jewish state.

The Six Day War was a much darker and more complex affair than it is portrayed in official Israeli myths. The war was not simply an attack by a gang of Arab states against Israel – a description which suggests not just Goliath, but the entire tribe of Philistines, attacking little David with his slingshot. While this is an appealing image, naturally arousing great sympathy in American Puritans raised on the Old Testament, it is not an accurate one. A fine Jewish scholar like Avi Shlaim, a specialist in the first half century of Israeli policy, recognizing that not all important documents bearing on the matter have been released, agrees there are doubts and ambiguities here rather than light and darkness.

Before the Six Day War, David Ben Gurion made it clear to de Gaulle and other western leaders that Israel wanted more land to absorb migrants. Before the war, Israel also high-handedly diverted water from the Jordan river, a hostile act in a water-short region and the kind of thing that caused more than one “range war” in America’s Southwest.

A very tense situation arose with a surge in Soviet armaments to Arab states, although any knowledgeable observer understood that Israel continued to hold the upper hand in any potential conflict. A major diplomatic mission was undertaken by Abba Eban to gather support for Israel’s intended violent response to Egypt’s blockade of the Straits of Tiran. Just as we now have Bush’s obdurate, hasty demand for war with Iraq, Eban made it clear that Israel had no stomach for diplomacy to end the blockade. The blockade meant war.

De Gaulle made a remarkably prescient observation to the Israeli government: “If Israel is attacked, we shall not let her be destroyed, but if you attack, we shall condemn your initiative. Of course, I have no doubt that you will have military successes in the event of war, but afterwards, you would find yourself committed on the terrain, and from the international point of view, in increasing difficulties, especially as war in the East cannot fail to increase a deplorable tension in the world, so that it will be you, having become the conquerors, who will gradually be blamed for the inconveniences.”

De Gaulle also understood that Israel’s behavior was nourishing nationalistic aspirations on the part of the Palestinians, a development Israel either greatly underestimated or chose to ignore, perhaps reflecting the arrogance of those supported by great power towards those without power. De Gaulle’s advice was, of course, ignored. Israel managed easily to overwhelm the Arab states, as its leaders had known it would, and it has occupied a good portion of the territories seized ever since. It has ignored many quiet diplomatic voices on this matter. It has stood in contempt of UN resolutions for years. It has suffered innumerable guerilla attacks and launched innumerable reprisals, even starting a bloody war in Lebanon complete with atrocities. Israel finally came to toy with the notion of a Palestinian state but never made the genuine effort or concessions necessary to see this become a reality. It has, in short, fulfilled de Gaulle’s warning of trouble more than thirty years ago.

The 9/11 attack on America, coming under the administration of perhaps the most aimless, blundering, and least informed president in American history, was a godsend for Israel’s belligerent policy. The people Israel has occupied and mistreated for a third of a century are regarded by this American president as something akin to al Qaeda. We have even had trial balloons released by Republican figures like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Armey concerning Israel’s right to hold the land and drive out its people, although it is possible these represent pre-assault softening-up by Washington to make Palestinians grateful for a second pathetic offer of statehood now in the works, pathetic because it is impossible to imagine anything else being blessed by both Bush and Sharon.

Perhaps most revealing of the moral state to which Israel has been reduced since the Six Day War were preparations for Mr. Bush’s war on Iraq. All Israeli citizens were issued gas masks. A debate and legal moves centered around whether foreign workers, of which there are large numbers, should also receive gas masks. If they wanted gas masks, they must rent or buy them, and the masks available for rental were those considered as expired and unsuitable for Israelis. In families of mixed marriages, apparently spouses who remain unregistered under Israel’s now more restrictive registration requirements, do not receive gas masks. Most Palestinians under Israeli occupation are not issued gas masks, it being considered the responsibility of the broken Palestinian Authority, almost without resources, to look after this.

There is something especially repugnant in establishing a hierarchy of people whose safety should be the responsibility of the state, and the various adjustments made to this hierarchy in the face of criticism hardly reflect humane policies.

In recent months, not a week passes in which Israel’s army does not kill fifteen or twenty Palestinians. Often, this many are killed in a day or two. These killings are generally reported as the deaths of “militants,” although we have no way of determining the legitimacy of that term. We do know that quite a number of people who cannot possibly be characterized as militants, including women and children and peaceful foreign observers, have been killed by Israeli soldiers. Of course, even those who might justifiably be called militants are in their view only putting up a pathetic defense of their homes against Merkava tanks and Apache helicopters.

The assassination of suspected terrorists is now an accepted, ordinary event in Palestine, and Mr. Bush has granted Israel the right to extend this violence to America territory. Mr. Sharon’s secret services have conducted scores of assassinations. Perhaps assassination is the wrong word since it is generally used to describe the killing of a high-level political opponent. Mr. Sharon’s bloody work is precisely that of a police force murdering, instead of arresting, criminal suspects by the score.

At this writing, as America bombs and burns its way through Iraq, Israel has again rolled out its bulldozers and tanks into Gaza – killing, wrecking, and making many improper arrests. Most horrifying is what Israel is doing to Bedouin farmers in the Negev desert. Israel has used crop dusters spraying poisonous chemicals to destroy the Bedouin crops. The charge is that they are illegal squatters – a remarkable accusation coming from those who still hold lands seized in 1967 and regularly build new settlements on them for brand-new, heavily-armed immigrants.

Defenders of Israel’s excesses in the United States have been driven to advocate policies as chilling as creating a legal framework for torturing terrorist suspects in the United States and Israel’s undertaking the cold-blooded reprisal killing of the families of desperate suicide bombers. These are powerful measures of the corrupting long-term effects of the Six Day War and Israel’s determination to retain control over much or all of the seized land.

Regrettably, Einstein appears to have been right about what Israel had the potential for becoming. No person of principle can support Israel’s present policies, and I believe there is little doubt that would include Einstein had he lived. Perhaps it is just as well he did not.