Archive for November, 2004

This melody has to be stopped

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

by Yossi Sarid
According to a report by Yossi Yehoshua last week in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the chief education officer of the Israel Defense Forces, Brigadier General Ilan Harari, has embarked on a quest to find the representative “song of the intifada” - “something like `Jerusalem of Gold’ in the Six-Day War or like `If Only’ in the Yom Kippur War.”

The report added that Harari “is distressed by the fact that precisely a war that has claimed more than 1,000 Israeli victims doesn’t have so much as one song to set it apart.” The officer invited writers and composers from the army or from the civilian sphere to write the desired song. “I am looking for the next Naomi Shemer,” Harari is quoted as saying, referring to the late songwriter, who wrote both of the songs mentioned above.

There is no doubt whatsoever that this exclusive report reflects a chief education officer worthy of the name, the rank and the important mission he has been assigned. He barely took up his new post and immediately noticed the vacuum - a four-year war without a song of its own. How could it have happened that the muses have been silent for so long when the cannons have not stopped roaring? How can it be that to date not one scribbler has been found to proclaim: Our step beats out the message - we are here. By virtue of his post, a chief education officer cannot and perhaps should not accept this kind of defeatist state of affairs. If there is any trembling muse left in these parts, let it appear at once.

As though by an act of the devil, only three days later another report appeared, this one by Akiva Eldar in Haaretz: “Soldiers force Palestinian to play violin at West Bank checkpoint.” The event was photographed by Horit Herman-Peled, a volunteer from the women’s human rights organization Machsom Watch. The story (November 25, Page 1) was accompanied by the photograph, which shows an officer at the checkpoint speaking on his cell phone and a soldier perusing a newspaper or a document, while a long line of Palestinians waits and the Palestinian, like the psalmist of old, plays sweet tunes for Israel, with downcast features. Not one uniformed person at the scene could be found to declare: This melody has to be stopped.

The IDF response, which as usual was given following a rigorous and exhaustive check, was: “The officer responsible for the checkpoint acted insensitively, but not maliciously, and not with any intent to humiliate the violinist.” Regrettably, the IDF responses are generally no less faulty than the faulty acts themselves, and sometimes even more so. If there was no “intent to humiliate,” then the following possibilities remain for our consideration:

1. The officer and the soldiers decided to let the young Palestinian demonstrate publicly his violin skills and get a standing ovation on the spot.

2. Those in charge of the checkpoint decided to make the time of the people waiting in line go by pleasantly so that they would not get upset while waiting forever in a line that didn’t move.

3. The soldiers are fond of classical music and especially of violin solo pieces.

4. The fourth possibility is that they, too, read the report about the desire of the chief education officer for a “song of the intifada” and therefore decided let the Palestinian have an impromptu try and considered recommending him and his song.

Admittedly, the last possibility is pushing it a bit, because the testimony of the volunteer Herman-Peled was that the playing by the violinist was sad, whereas the “song of the intifada,” which has yet to be written, will certainly not set out to foist gloom on us - that’s all we need.

If I had not taken a vow never to compare what is happening here with what happened there, in those terrible times and places, this time I might have made the comparison. It’s hard to be silent, so I will quote from Akiva Eldar’s report: “As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, [Herman-Peled] was bothered more than anything else by the demand that a Palestinian play music for a Jewish soldier.”

The IDF will continue, as is its wont, to talk about “anomalies” and the philosopher Asa Kasher will continue, as is his wont, to defend the IDF in his capacity as an “expert on ethics.” And under this ethical umbrella, music will be played for us at checkpoints, and for the sake of our security an officer will carry out a confirmation of the killing of a 13-year-old Palestinian girl. Everyone is now talking about this “confirmation of killing” and no one is talking about the killing itself, as though it’s clear that the death of Iman Alhams was inevitable and unavoidable, the only questions being why it came at such short range and needed so many bullets.
Full Article: haaretz.com
Well okay, but when was there EVER a humane and moral occupation? It’s hopeful I suppose that Israelis are questioning the tactics of the IDF, shattering as they do the image Israel needs to have of itself, but if the self-critique goes no further, all the liberal humanist soul-searching is worthless.

Rwandan troops ‘enter eastern Congo’

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

Africa’s most deadly war today moved a step closer to reigniting when Congo confirmed it was sending troops to confront Rwandan soldiers who may already have crossed into its eastern region.

In the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, the president, Joseph Kabila, told international diplomats he would send troops towards the border with Rwanda to “assure the security of the civilian population and to contain the Rwandan aggression,” according to a presidential spokesman.

The spokesman said Congo intended to send up to 10,000 reinforcements to the mineral-rich east after reports that thousands of Rwandan troops had crossed into its territory.

Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, today repeated his warning that his forces would invade Congo to deal with rebel Hutu militias that Rwanda claims have recently begun cross-border attacks on his citizens.

Speaking at the swearing-in of a senator, Mr Kagame again complained that the UN and Congolese forces had not done enough to disarm Hutu rebels sheltering in eastern Congo.

He hinted that his forces may already have crossed into Congo. The UN has called on Rwanda to keep its troops out of the fragile region.

“Any time the United Nations ignores or fails to deal with the problem, we shall do it ourselves - and this will not take long, or we might even be doing it now,” Mr Kagame said.

Rwandan officials have refused to confirm or deny that troops had entered Congo, but Mr Kagame’s statement was the closest yet to an admission of an incursion.
Full Article: guardian.co.uk

Charity blames invaders for Iraq ‘health disaster’

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

The US-led war in Iraq has created a healthcare disaster in a country where 20 years of war, mismanagement and sanctions had already left public health in a fragile state, a UK-based medical charity said today.

Medact reported that the health of Iraq’s people had deteriorated since the 2003 invasion, both as a direct result of violence and through the collapse of medical facilities, public health provision and essential infrastructure such as water supplies. The report specifically blamed the tactics of the US-led occupying forces for exacerbating the country’s health problems, particularly the decision to sideline the UN, which has traditionally handled humanitarian relief efforts.

Medact cited a nationwide survey of nearly 1,000 Iraqi households, published in the Lancet, as evidence that the war had caused around 100,000 deaths since the US and British invasion in April 2003.

“Violence accounted for most of these deaths, particularly air strikes by coalition forces. More than half of those reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children,” the Medact report said.

It called for a re-evaluation of the weaponry used by coalition forces in populated areas, given the high rate of civilian casualties.

The risk of death from violence in the 18 months after the invasion was 58 times higher than in the 15 months before it, the report said, while the risk of death from all causes was 2.5 times higher after the invasion than before. The effects of the war left Iraqi society less able to respond to the public health crisis created by the 2003 invasion.

Medact said Iraq had also experienced an alarming recurrence of previously well-controlled communicable diseases, including acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and typhoid, particularly among children, the report said.

One in four people in Iraq were now dependent on food aid, and there were more children underweight or chronically malnourished than in 2000, the report found. The near disappearance of immunisation programmes had contributed to the recurrence of death and illness from preventable disease, and infant mortality rose due to a lack of access to skilled help in childbirth, as well as to violence.
Full Article: guardian.co.uk

Wal-Mart’s China inventory to hit US$18b this year*

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, says its inventory of stock produced in China is expected to hit US$18 billion this year, keeping the annual growth rate of over 20 per cent consistent over two years.

The trend is expected to continue, company officials revealed.

“We expect our procurement stock from China to continue to grow at a similar rate in line with Wal-Mart’s growth worldwide, if not faster,” said Lee Scott, the president and CEO (chief executive officer) of Wal-Mart.
Full Article: chinadaily.com

Israel shocked by image of soldiers forcing violinist to play at roadblock *

Monday, November 29th, 2004

Of all the revelations that have rocked the Israeli army over the past week, perhaps none disturbed the public so much as the video footage of soldiers forcing a Palestinian man to play his violin.

The incident was not as shocking as the recording of an Israeli officer pumping the body of a 13-year-old girl full of bullets and then saying he would have shot her even if she had been three years old.

Nor was it as nauseating as the pictures in an Israeli newspaper of ultra-orthodox soldiers mocking Palestinian corpses by impaling a man’s head on a pole and sticking a cigarette in his mouth.

But the matter of the violin touched on something deeper about the way Israelis see themselves, and their conflict with the Palestinians.

The violinist, Wissam Tayem, was on his way to a music lesson near Nablus when he said an Israeli officer ordered him to “play something sad” while soldiers made fun of him. After several minutes, he was told he could pass.

It may be that the soldiers wanted Mr Tayem to prove he was indeed a musician walking to a lesson because, as a man under 30, he would not normally have been permitted through the checkpoint.

But after the incident was videotaped by Jewish women peace activists, it prompted revulsion among Israelis not normally perturbed about the treatment of Arabs.

The rightwing Army Radio commentator Uri Orbach found the incident disturbingly reminiscent of Jewish musicians forced to provide background music to mass murder. “What about Majdanek?” he asked, referring to the Nazi extermination camp.

The critics were not drawing a parallel between an Israeli roadblock and a Nazi camp. Their concern was that Jewish suffering had been diminished by the humiliation of Mr Tayem.

Yoram Kaniuk, author of a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the soldiers responsible should be put on trial “not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust”.

“Of all the terrible things done at the roadblocks, this story is one which negates the very possibility of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. If [the military] does not put these soldiers on trial we will have no moral right to speak of ourselves as a state that rose from the Holocaust,” he wrote.

“If we allow Jewish soldiers to put an Arab violinist at a roadblock and laugh at him, we have succeeded in arriving at the lowest moral point possible. Our entire existence in this Arab region was justified, and is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps.”

Others took a broader view by drawing a link between the routine dehumanising treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the desecration of dead bodies and what looks very much like the murder of a terrified 13-year-old Palestinian girl by an army officer in Gaza.

Israelis put great store in a belief that their army is “the most moral in the world” because it says it adheres to a code of “the purity of arms”. There is rarely much public questioning of the army’s routine explanation that Palestinian civilians who have been killed had been “caught in crossfire”, or that children are shot because they are used as cover by fighters.
Full Article: guardian.co.uk

This story is profoundly disturbing. …’the soldiers responsible should be put on trial “not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust”‘. So these right-wing Israelis are saying that because of their holocaust they deserve a state, and that any abuse of Arabs is irrelevant except when one of the army’s myriad atrocities is evocative of the Jewish holocaust? How nuts is this? Where has the right-wing been all these years through all of the immorality? Well, if Israeli sensibilities are finally offended, good then, but why are they just noticing what so many of us have been pointing out for so long? Why don’t their Wall and bulldozers remind them of the Warsaw Ghetto? They are worried that their historical suffering will ‘be diminished’ by the actions of their army? Where have they been? Must they assume that their wounds trump everybody else’s, and thus justify their actions in Palestine? A million people were slaughtered in 8 weeks in Rwanda. 50 million died in the Middle Passage. 8,000,000 in just a few years in Leopold’s Congo, and 3 million in the past three years in DR Congo. 8,000,000 native people died in the silver mines of Bolivia, and on and on. How about instead of comparing scars everybody cease and desist with the crappy behavior? The ‘most moral army in the world’?? This is the idea they have been comforting themselves with through these years of bloody occupation? Accusing anyone who disagrees of anti-Semitism? I believe that Zionism has to go the way of every other discredited ideology, and Jews that have not already have to figure out that their suffering does not entitle them to spill oceans of Palestinian blood.
And by the way, they should get smart about the fawning devotion of the US-Israel serves a purpose, no more no less. Otherwise it would not be there. 100 years ago the racist discourse of the West lumped them right in with the Arabs as ‘Orientals,’ fit only for subjugation and extermination. It is really a shame that they have been instructed not at all by their own history. See how quickly they themselves become the racist tyrants and colonizers.

The Murder of Venezuela’s Top Prosecutor: Danilo Anderson and Condoleeza Rice

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

by Toni Solo
On Tuesday November 16th, George Bush put forward Condoleeza Rice as his proposed Secretary of State to take over the diplomacy of US warmongering from the outgoing fraud, Colin Powell. Two days later on November 18th leading Venezuelan judicial prosecutor Danilo Anderson was killed in a car bomb attack eerily reminiscent of the murder of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit in Washington in 1976 by Cuban terrorists working for Augusto Pinochet and protected by the CIA. The Venezuelan authorities believe Anderson was killed by two charges of C4 plastic explosive fixed to his car and detonated remotely, apparently by cell phone. The timing of Rice’s nomination and Anderson’s murder are unlikely to be fortuitous.

With Rice’s appointment, George Bush sustains the incestuous link between his regime and earlier, still extant, plutocrat state terror Godfathers like George Bush Sr., James Baker and George Schultz. Rice, a protege of Schultz, the former Bechtel president, could hardly be a more emblematic representative of the nexus between state terror and big business. Chevron may have renamed the former “Condoleeza Rice” oil tanker “Altair Voyager”, but that all-too-recent link to an outfit boasting it “… now ranks among the most important international petroleum producers in Venezuela and Colombia, is one of the largest private integrated oil companies in Brazil and is the third-leading producer in Argentina” bodes ill for people in Latin America. (1)

Why was Anderson murdered?

Danilo Anderson was an investigating magistrate in charge of several prominent and politically sensitive cases. His work proceeded in the context of recent elections confirming overwhelming popular support for President Hugo Chavez. Among the cases within Anderson’s brief were those against the leader of a mob that attacked the Cuban Embassy in Caracas during the failed coup d’etat of April 12th (2002) and against members of the Caracas Metropolitan Police accused of unlawful attacks under opposition ex-mayor Alfredo Pena. Anderson was also processing cases against owners of Venezuelan TV and Press media implicated in the April coup of 2002 as well as the signatories of the coup declaration overthrowing the elected government.

Perhaps the most internationally sensitive case he was working on was that against the Sumate organization, a supposedly impartial NGO funded by the CIA’s companion organization the National Endowment for Democracy. In fact, Sumate actively campaigned with US government money to defeat President Chavez throughout the long process ending in last August’s recall referendum. Such activity contravened Sumate’s neutral non-profit status, breaking Venezuelan law in the process.

Writer and academic Heinz Dieterich has written cogently about Anderson’s murder, “The menace of Danilo for Washington’s terrorist project was two-fold: he threatened one of its main instruments of power, Venezuela’s corrupt class justice system and too he was becoming a symbol of the honest patriot and servant of the majority of the new Bolivarian nation….Danilo Anderson’s murder shows that the subversion has made a qualitative leap to a generalised offensive. From now on, people emblematic of the process whose death may have a high propaganda value for Washington will be in danger. Likewise, the subversion will begin attacks against energy and transport infrastructure and carry out more murders and incursions along the Colombian border…Looking back in history, we can say that the Bolivarian revolution has entered the phase of the Cuban revolution of 1960 when the US-Cuban counter-revolution launched attacks, sabotage and murders from nuclei in the Sierra Escambrey or, too, Nicaragua from 1983 onwards.” (rebellion.org)

Full Article: counterpunch.org

Elections and Death Squads: The Mysterious Murders of the ASM Clerics

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

by Ron Jacobs
Is it a coincidence that US puppet Allawi is calling for the death penalty to be administered to the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) Sunni clerics who oppose elections, while, at the same time two of these clerics have been gunned down by unknown forces? This coincidence seems to be more intentional than coincidental. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it turns out that these two men were killed by death squads employed by the US and its client government in Baghdad. John Negroponte, the current US ambassador to Iraq, organized such death squads while he was the ambassador to Honduras during the US wars in Central America and was quite successful at the endeavor. It is not a real stretch of the imagination to assume that he and his employer are up to the same thing in Iraq.
Full Article: countrpunch.org

U.S. Holiday Shopping Starts with $8 Billion Day

Sunday, November 28th, 2004

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans spent more in stores at the start of holiday shopping than a year ago, according to figures released on Saturday, but retailers’ hopes for the key season were curbed as titan Wal-Mart cut its November sales forecast.

Consumers lined up to grab early-bird specials as stores opened from 5 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is one of the year’s biggest shopping days, known as Black Friday as it used to be the day retailers got into profit. Retailers now report profits throughout the year.

Black Friday used to be the biggest shopping day of the year, but now it competes with the Saturday before Christmas for top sales. Black Friday was the biggest shopping day in 2003.

Early sales data from analyst ShopperTrak showed Black Friday sales rose 10.8 percent from a year ago to $8 billion, while Visa USA said spending on its cards rose 15.5 percent to $4.1 billion with sales up but plastic also more widely used.

“We are cautiously optimistic this will be a good holiday season, but it is too early to tell if it will be a great holiday,” said Visa USA spokesman Paul Cohen.
Full Article: reuters.myway.com

Ah, the inspiring self-sacrifice of wartime. Push that plastic, folks. It helps the boys at the front.

US campaign behind the turmoil in Kiev

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

With their websites and stickers, their pranks and slogans aimed at banishing widespread fear of a corrupt regime, the democracy guerrillas of the Ukrainian Pora youth movement have already notched up a famous victory - whatever the outcome of the dangerous stand-off in Kiev.

Ukraine, traditionally passive in its politics, has been mobilised by the young democracy activists and will never be the same again.

But while the gains of the orange-bedecked “chestnut revolution” are Ukraine’s, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.
Full Article: guardian.co.uk

Nigeria Oil Delta Polls Delayed Amid Violence Fear

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria postponed local government elections set for Saturday in the Niger Delta oil city of Warri for “logistical reasons” amid fears vote rigging in favor of one ethnic group could provoke violence.

The poll in three Warri local government areas was first postponed in March because of fears of violence by members of the Ijaw ethnic group, who complain they have been deprived of political power by their rivals, the Itsekiri.

“The election has been postponed until next Thursday. They will definitely take place at this later stage,” said James Omo-Agege, chairman of the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission late on Friday.

An uprising by the Ijaw last year temporarily forced multinationals to shut down 40 percent of the OPEC nation’s 2.5 million barrel-per-day oil output and prompted the deployment of thousands of troops to the wetlands around Warri.

Election officials said the ruling People’s Democratic Party, which has been accused by independent observers of widespread rigging in previous polls, had not yet published any candidate lists a day before the election was due to be held.

The Ijaw are in a majority in the Niger Delta, and outnumber the Itsekiri even in the three Warri areas, but Ijaw leaders say the PDP intends to field only Itsekiri candidates as chairmen of the Warri local governments.
Full Article: nytimes.com/reutersl