Owen Jones on having empathy for the devil.

In an article in Sunday’s Guardian, Jones writes about why he doesn’t think demonizing Israelis for supporting their governments current onslaught in Gaza is particularly useful.

He says:

‘For those who want peace – including an end to the occupation and the dismantling of every settlement – it is tempting to demonise Israeli supporters of this latest offensive. But it is futile and self-defeating. The occupation will not end until the rationales that sustain it are understood. As Palestinian children are killed, that may seem like a lot to stomach, but it is no less necessary’.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/20/gaza-occupation-occupier-israelis-peace

It’s not an unreasonable point, if you ask me. I don’t think there can ever be too much understanding in the world, as long as that understanding doesn’t tip over into outright apologia (and it obviously doesn’t for Jones here).

It’s an argument that is frequently made whenever the subject of ‘terrorism’ comes up, for example – there’s an acceptance, especially on the left, that we need to understand why people might feel the need to resort to such acts, and why others might support them. That obviously doesn’t equate to supporting the acts themselves.

What a contrast, though, to something Jones wrote in March 2011, when the newspapers were full of stories about Muamar Gadaffi’s crimes (real or imagined), and there were bloodcurdling cries from the professional punditocracy to bomb Libya, and bomb it now.

As the bombs were about to start falling, Jones wrote that:

‘Other than a few nutters, we all want Gaddafi overthrown, dead or alive’.

http://owenjones.org/2011/03/20/the-case-against-bombing-libya/

(There is no suggestion here that Jones was himself in any way supportive of bombing Libya, because he wasn’t)

He then followed that up by saying:

‘I will not caricature supporters of the bombing campaign as frothing-at-the-mouth neo-cons or born-again Paul Wolfowitzs. There are those who otherwise sing from the same hymn sheet as me on the other side of this debate’.

So, don’t demonize or caricature those Israelis who are currently supporting what is essentially a massacre of innocents in Gaza

And don’t demonize or caricature those people in the U.K. who wanted a couple of serially criminal and abusive states – namely, the U.S. and U.K. – to go and drop their humanitarian/freedom bombs on Libya.

But what about those who didn’t in fact want to see Muamar Gadaffi overthrown, ‘dead or alive’, for a variety of reasons?

They could be safely dismissed as ‘a few nutters’, their political opinions pathologised (‘nutter’, by the way, is a horribly ableist term, especially used in this context, and Jones should know better). 

No call for empathy, understanding or context here – just outright demonization of those ‘on the other side of the debate’ to him.

And I wonder if that’s because it’s more acceptable, from the point of view of upholding your reputation in a deeply corrupted corporate media system, to allow empathy and understanding for our Devils, than it is to allow empathy and understanding for Theirs.

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Ex-NYT editor Jill Abramson on how flak and ‘anti-terrorism’ help discipline corporate media.

She didn’t quite put it in those words, but it’s essentially what she’s saying: that the U.S. government would contact the New York Times and tell them that publishing this, that or the other story would ‘help the terrorists’. And that the New York Times would take those threats seriously and bring the story to a halt (even if they did eventually work out that the U.S. government’s intentions may not always have been entirely honourable).

Here’s a quote from an interview Abramson recently gave to Cosmopolitan:

‘Sometimes the CIA or the director of national intelligence or the NSA or the White House will call about a story . . . You hit the brakes, you hear the arguments, and it’s always a balancing act: the importance of the information to the public versus the claim of harming national security . . . Over time, the government too reflexively said to the Times, ‘you’re going to have blood on your hands if you publish X’ and because of the frequency of that, the government lost a little credibility . . . But you do listen and seriously worry . . . Editors are Americans too . . . We don’t want to help terrorists’.

http://www.salon.com/2014/07/16/jill_abramson_government_repeatedly_told_us_wed_have_blood_on_our_hands_for_publishing_stories/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Interesting, as well, that Abramson seems to be suggesting that being ‘against terrorists’ – or at least, people who the U.S. government claim are terrorists –  is somehow an inherent part of being an American, like it’s a national religion or something.

Which for the political and media classes, I suppose it is – except when it comes to the terrorism of the U.S. government and its allies, in which case being ‘against terrorism’ is blasphemous.

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David Cameron spoke to Benyamin Netanyahu today. Here’s what was said.

From the Gov.uk website:

‘The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this evening about the situation in Israel. The Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians. The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from them’.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-call-with-israeli-prime-minister

So then, Israel simply defending itself from Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians.

The actual facts, of course, speak of a somewhat different reality. According to medical sources in the Gaza strip:

  • Number of Israelis killed since the launch of ‘Operation Protective Edge’: 0

  • Number of Palestinians killed since the launch of ‘Operation Protective Edge’: ‘at least 47′, of which 41 were civilians, and 12 children.

Nevermind that the very idea of ‘defending yourself’ against a people you have spent decades occupying, dispossessing, racially oppressing, collectively punishing and generally brutalising is a complete nonsense.

It doesn’t need me to point out that David Cameron’s supposed ‘humanitarianism’ and commitment to ‘freedom’ – which we are told was behind his decision to bomb Libya, and to almost bomb Syria – is a complete sham. He is simply the latest mouthpiece for a British Establishment that has long both committed and supported the perpetration of war crimes and atrocities in the service of colonial domination, while talking the language of human rights and freedom.

But statements like that one help to drive the point home.

And they illuminate where the BBC have been taking their lead from, perhaps:

(BBC News Online front page, circa 01:00 A.M., July 9th 2014)

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Recently published U.N. General Assembly report on ‘Children and armed Conflict’.

The report purports to give an overview of all the ways in which children were adversely affected – to put it mildly – in various conflict zones around the world in 2013.

The section on Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories makes for interesting reading, especially given the current furore around, and widespread condemnation of, the recent kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the Occupied West Bank.

From the report we learn that:

  • In 2013, eight Palestinian children were killed by Israelis, and no Israeli children were killed by Palestinians – p.17/50

  • In 2013, 1265 Palestinian children were injured by Israelis, and eight Israeli children were injured by Palestinians – p.17/50

  • 1004 Palestinian children were arrested by Israeli security forces, with 107 of them (including five children under the age of 12) reporting ‘cruel and degrading ill-treatment by the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli police, including painful restraint, blindfolding, strip-searching, verbal and physical abuse, solitary confinement and threats of violence’ – p.18/50

  • There were 58 education related incidents affecting over 11’000 Palestinian children, with 41 of them involving ‘Israeli security forces operations near or inside schools, forced entry without forewarning, the firing of tear gas canisters and sound bombs into school yards and, in some cases, structural damage to schools. In 15 of the incidents, Israeli security forces fired tear gas canisters into schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), some during class hours, without forewarning – p.19/50

As should be utterly uncontroversial, then – at least to anybody who reads mainstream human rights reports –  the vast majority of violence against children within the context of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands is perpetrated by Israeli security forces and settlers against Palestinian children.

While there were also instances of Palestinian armed groups or protesters targeting Israeli children, these instances are – while still inexcusable – negligible in comparison.

But as the media analysts at Media Lens have suggested in their most recent Media Alert, you’d be forgiven for thinking things were actually the other way around, because of the way Establishment media widely reports Israeli deaths and injuries, while all but ignoring the far greater number of Palestinian ones.

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The New York Times on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Conveniently enough, and just at the moment that the U.S. might be preparing to work with the Revolutionary Guards in Iraq (either openly or tacitly), it seems that there has been a sea change in attitudes towards them in Iran itself.

This from a New York Times article – entitled ‘With War at Doorstep, Iran Sees Its Revolutionary Guards in a Kinder Light’ –  published June 18th 2014:

 . . . the well-documented mass killings by ISIS, which makes a point of producing graphic videos of its fighters executing Iraqi soldiers as they lie, hands bound and face down, in a ditch, have caused ordinary Iranians to rethink their views.

On websites such as the reformist Entekhab news site, where in the past anonymous commentators rarely missed an opportunity to criticize the Guards, the group is now regularly lauded.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/world/middleeast/with-war-at-doorstep-iran-sees-its-revolutionary-guards-in-a-kinder-light.html?ref=world&smid=tw-nytimesworld&_r=0

The article goes on to quote various ‘ordinary Iranians’ singing the praises of the Guards.

Compare this to how The New York Times was portraying them in 2009, when the U.S. Political Establishment was trying to delegitimize the Iranian elections.

From  an article published on July 20th 2009, and entitled ‘Hard Line Force Extends Grip Over A Splintered Iran’:

. . . the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps . . . has emerged as a driving force behind efforts to crush a still-defiant opposition movement.

From its origin 30 years ago as an ideologically driven militia force serving Islamic revolutionary leaders, the corps has grown to assume an increasingly assertive role in virtually every aspect of Iranian society.

And its aggressive drive to silence dissenting views has led many political analysts to describe the events surrounding the June 12 presidential election as a military coup.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/21/world/middleeast/21guards.html

And I don’t think you need to be a cynic to wonder whether it’s really attitudes towards the Guards in Iran that have changed, or whether it’s attitudes towards them in Washington D.C..

They might be useful as an ally for the time being, so they’ll get a nice corporate media makeover until such time as they need to be demonized again.

Hence: Oh, they used to be a hated force of political repression in Iran, but now ordinary Iranians love them, because of those evil ISIS guys we have to go bomb. Honest, guv’!

(The point here, incidentally, isn’t about whether Iranians do or don’t like the Guards. It’s about how they are portrayed based on U.S. political expediency)

 

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Ex-UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi: Khan al-Assal CW attacks likely carried out by opposition.

The Assad regime have long alleged that their soldiers were attacked with chemical weapons by a rebel group in Khan al-Assal on March 19th, 2013.

A U.N. report into the alleged attack, released in December 2013, had then said that there was:

credible information that corroborates the allegations that chemical weapons were used in Khan Al Asal on 19 March 2013 against soldiers and civilians  - p.19.

This alleged attack was also almost certainly one of the ones Carla Del Ponte, an overseer of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, had in mind when she said in May 2013 that there were ‘strong, concrete’ suspicions that rebel forces had used Sarin.

And Seymour Hersh, in his April 2014 article ‘The Red Line and the Rat Line’, quoted an anonymous U.N. official as saying in reference to the alleged attack that:

It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

Now Lakhdar Brahimi, who was the U.N.s Special Envoy to Syria for two years, has said in an interview with Der Spiegel, published June 7th, that:

  . . .  from the little I know, it does seem that in Khan al-Assal, in the north, the first time chemical weapons were used, there is a likelihood that it was used by the opposition.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-former-un-peace-envoy-to-syria-lakhdar-brahimi-a-974036.html

Given that Brahimi says he is basing his suspicion on ‘what little he knows’, this is hardly incontrovertible proof of rebel guilt.

But it is yet more evidence, from a credible and senior U.N. figure, that certain Syrian rebel groups have potentially had access to, and used, chemical weapons in their campaign against the regime.

And so that to say this does not constitute ‘lies’ or ‘pro-fascist propaganda’.

Interestingly, the BBC have run an article about Brahimi’s Der Spiegel interview.

They focus on his claim that Syria may become a ‘failed state’, and that Assad ‘knows a hell of a lot’ about the atrocities being carried out there by regime forces.

But there’s not a single mention of him fingering the rebels for the alleged Khan al-Assal chemical attack, even though, if you ask me, it should be big news given the magnitude of the claim, and the stature of the person making it.

Funny, that.

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Dozens killed and injured, ambulances and hospitals targeted, in fighting in Benghazi.

According to The International Committee of the Red Cross.

‘The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Libyan Red Crescent are concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the armed violence in Benghazi.

“Dozens of people have died or been injured since the violence broke out,” said Dr Osama Azzam, the head of the health and first-aid department of the Libyan Red Crescent. “An ambulance was destroyed and its driver killed in a targeted attack. One of our hospitals came under attack and was badly damaged, which resulted in its closure. It is increasingly dangerous to take wounded or sick people to hospital for treatment. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, first-aid volunteers and health staff must be protected.’

http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/news-release/2014/06-03-libya-tripoli-benghazi-health-care-danger.htm

Meanwhile, ‘renegade general’ and former CIA man Khalifa Haftar continues to bomb the city from the air, hitting a university, among other things.

‘This can’t keep happening. The U.N. need to implement a no-fly zone to protect these people, and now’, said not a single ‘humanitarian interventionist’.

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