Monday, December 05, 2016

The Right versus the Far Right in the West

Liberals in the West now cheer when the Right wins against the Far Right in Western countries.  

This Yemeni soldier is fully alert

Looted Palmyra relics reached Switzerland via Qatar

"Swiss authorities have seized cultural relics looted from Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra, as well as from Libya and Yemen, which were being stored in Geneva’s free ports." "Most of the items reached Switzerland via Qatar and were taken by looters, Geneva’s public prosecutor said in a statement."

Inside the hotbeds of Israeli settler terror

"Abby Martin goes on-the-ground to the epicenters of state-backed settler terrorism in Palestine’s West Bank, in Part II of her report on illegal Israeli settlements and home demolitions. This installment visits both the rural countryside of Duma—interviewing the surviving members of the Dawabsheh family, victims of a horrific arson attack that left three dead—and the urban center of Hebron, a glaring example of Israeli apartheid under intense military occupation."

Ontario lawmakers vote to smear BDS movement

"With the support of lawmakers from the provincial Liberal government and the right-wing opposition Progressive Conservatives, the motion passed by 49-5. Only the center-left New Democratic Party (NDP) voted against it." “People around the world and here in Canada have a right to dissent and to criticize,” Singh said, drawing an analogy with those criticizing Canada’s own atrocious human rights record, namely its “deplorable treatment of the indigenous community.” “From direct genocides to a cultural genocide based on residential schools, the ongoing systemic discrimination of indigenous people and their deplorable conditions – people would be fully justified to raise a concern about the treatment of indigenous people,” Singh stated."

U.S. Senate passed the anti-BDS act to target Palestine solidarity efforts

"If the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act were to pass, and thereby become legally enforceable, it would join a growing list of US legislation which targets Palestine solidarity efforts, including Senate Bill S6086 and Assembly Bill 8220, both of which have the intent of penalising those boycotting Israel. The advocacy group Palestine Legal reports that anti-BDS legislation has already been enacted in 13 states—the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act compounds the threat against freedom of speech, and, whether it passes or not, it highlights the mounting struggle facing Palestine solidarity activists and organisers." (thanks Amir)

Qatari media ecstatic

They are jubilant that Lindsay Lohan is on their side in Syria.

Aside from his non-credible propaganda tweets: can someone tell him that he is neither funny or witty?

Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth)
French minister claims that Fidel Castro's many political prisoners were just "disinformation." In her dreamworld.

Account of Syrians civilians who fled East Aleppo

Liz Sly and Anne Barnard and other Western correspondents in Beirut often bolster their propaganda on behalf of Syrian rebels by linking to youtube videos posted by Syrian rebels themselves. Yet, there has been videos and interviews with Syrian civilians who fled East Aleppo and who have a story to tell about life and misery and repression and shooting at civilians by Syrian rebels. Not one mainstream US newspaper reported on that to my knowledge.  

The Washington Post is freaking out: that Al-Qa`idah and ISIS in Syria could become...less moderate

Basically, the article is arguing that the Syrian Jihadi groups could become more Jihadi because of lack of Western support.  So the Post wants the West to dump more weapons into the arms of Al-Qa`idah and ISIS in order to avoid them becoming anti-West.

Who cares about accuracy in Western reporting on Syria

As long as the propaganda job is served, no one cares: "Assad, in an interview the week after Trump’s election, called the United States a “natural” counterterrorism ally." Of course, he never said such a thing and his statement had more qualifications than US expression of support for Palestinian rights.  He said that IF the US were to....

The Shelling of West Aleppo civilians by Syrian rebels is ALWAYS mentioned in passing

Ask Anne Barnard: "The advances did not halt the shelling of the government-held western districts. Fares Shehabi, a Parliament member from Aleppo, said that nine people were killed on Saturday and that the military hospital and a hotel had been hit. Dozens of shells fell on Sunday, killing several people, other residents said."

The Syrian toddler on twitter

I don't know whether that is a real account or not but I do know this: Syrian rebels and their supporters and their US-designated PR firms on K street have been unabashed in their crude and vulgar exploitation of Syrian children for propaganda purposes.  By the way, whatever happened to the account of the Syrian lesbian woman in Damascus? Do you remember that one?  The thing is this Syrian toddler writes perfect English in a country known for lousy teaching of foreign languages in school.  But regardless, Western media think that the political exploitation of this little girl for political purposes (assuming that is really a little girl behind that account and not an American PR consultant) is rather cute?

Lack of Arab public support for Syrian rebels

I have written about this before; that there is a luck of any public demonstration of support for Syrian rebels in any Arab city or capital.  There is considerable support on social media but not at the street level.  In Lebanon, for example, there was a call for a demonstration, and look how small it is.  As I said before, Arabs are probably fed up with all sides in Syria and with their lies.

Another win for America: "More Americans support torture than Afghans, Iraqis and South Sudanese"

"The United States has a higher tolerance for torture than any other country on the U.N. Security Council, and Americans are more comfortable with torture than citizens of war-ravaged countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine."

I have to agree with Trump

That SNL is very unfunny.

Haim Saban and his bigotry

Who but the Clinton gave this Israeli man his political clout in Washington, DC? Who but the Clintons?  And purely for his wealth.  

Syrian civilians complain about how Syrian rebels shot at them

And CNN puts this banner to the story: "Syrians caught in a crossfire".  This is exactly how US media report shooting at civilians by Israeli occupation terrorists.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Amos Oz

I defy you to find me one negative unfavorable review of any of the books by Amos Oz EVER in an American publication. 

Using children as propaganda props

I know of no group or regime or movement which used children (as corpses or alive) as propaganda props like the Syrian rebels.  It is pretty nauseating.  

I bet he will profusely apologize: Syrian opposition figure, Michel Kilu, insults and mocks House of Saud

He insults and mocks Saudi king and princes in this audio tape.  I bet you that he will issue a statement in which he will apologize and claim that he was misunderstood.  

This is a conservative estimate of the victims of some recent US wars

Read the full report from Watson Institute at Brown University.  

On why Oxford University Press would publish Lister's book on ISIS

My college, Fred Lawson, sent me this (I cite with his permission):  "Just for the record, As'ad (if anyone still cares about facts these days), the Lister book was published originally by Hurst in London, which is not really an academic press.  It was then picked up by Oxford New York, which seems to have separate editorial policies and standards from those of the head office.  For years, Oxford New York has put out  titles that I'm sure would not pass muster with the staff and referees of the former Clarendon Press."

Iraqi poet Ma`ruf Al-Rasafi on the universe (from early 20th century)

وهل بكِ مثل هذه الارض ارض وفيها مثلنا متخالفونا
وهل هم مثلنا خُلقاً وَخَلقاً هناك فيأكلون ويشربونا
وهل هم في الديانة من خلاف نصارى أو يهود ومسلمونا

My translation: "And do you have an earth like this one, and does it contain people like us in conflict
And are they like us in creation and manners, and do they there eat and drink
And are they in religion in dispute, between Christians, Jews, and Muslims"

The movie, Arrival.

The movie, Arrival:  The premise of the movie (the visit of space ships from outer space to earth) is interesting but was typically ruined by Hollywood. But you only expect from Hollywood to ruin a good premise. The cast is excellent: I like Forest Whitaker and Amy Adams, but I don't like that actor who Michele keeps telling me proudly that he was born and grew up in Modesto (Jeremy Renner?).  Now without giving away the ending (Amy kills everyone at the end), here are my comments.  1) Why do space visitors always show more interest in US and Americans than other residents of earth?  2) Look.  The notion that only an American linguist would be able to communicate with them is silly, and she did not even devise a mechanism. She would write her name on a board in English and she kept repeating her name, Louise, to them. Why would they understand?  So if she wrote Louise in Arabic they also would get it? If people travel from one planet to another it is more likely that the travelers have a superior civilization than the residents of the destination planet.  Once they make that journey, they would not rely on hand gestures from Amy Adams to communicate with them (although the ships landed in other countries, but only Amy Adams was worthy of their attention).  3) space travel between people of different planets is quite difficult. Distances are quite prohibitive. Which means that you need to figure a way of traveling millions of light years without having to carry cumbersome gigantic tanks of highly inflammable fuels.  4) this is not to rule out life on other planets. Not at all.  But we need to think about life on other planets differently from the stupid Hollywood presentations.  At least the movie portrayed the visiting creatures differently.  And we need to think about different life forms.  The conventional view has been that for life to occur on a planet, we need to apply the standards of earth to humans: that you need plenty of water, and being not too close to the sun but not too far from the sun. But the discovery of Tardigrades (which can adjust to extremes in temperature) changed all that. It is most likely that there are forms of life on other planet: there is a trillion planet in this galaxy alone, and there are 2 trillion (not 200 billion as previously thought) galaxies out there.  And if you apply the Drake’s equation, there are many factors which enter into the calculations of number of civilizations in the Milky Way which could be communicating by radio signals.  5) the discussion of UFOs as in US popular culture, should be ruled out as too stupid.  It is not a coincidence as one astronomer once observed that all those who report UFO sightings are people who are extremely uneducated about science, and thus can be easily deluded and deceived.  Also, why do they always report that the visiting creatures of outer space interacted with earthy humans though anal probing? Is that the limit of their understanding of scientific research? Anal probing? The movie begins with a good premise and then got interested more in linguistics but not with too many interesting elements.  It failed, I think. 

Sally Field?

Oh, please. Don't cite Sally Field against Donald Trump. Sally Field's movie, Not Without my Daughter has more bigotry and racism than all the speeches of Donald Trump.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The two dangerous academic and media consensuses on the Middle East in the West

There is the known Zionist consensus, and now we have the Syria consensus.  And the first consensus is responsible for the promotion and propagation of the second consensus.  

Bassam Haddad at AUB

For friends in Lebanon, Bassam was my student at Georgetown before he became a colleague and a dear friend. Go watch him--and don't throw shoes if you disagree--temptations of Arab culture notwithstanding.

This is the chief Syrian opposition negotiator: I am not making this up

He says: "Look, o Arabs, o Muslims at the Muslims sons of Arab Syria.  Being killed by the descendants of apes and pigs from Russia and Iran." With such Western supported opposition, you can rest assured Syria will be heading toward a secularism that we have never seen since the days of Salah Jadid or Anver Hoxa.  

Did the Syrian regime "create" Salafite Jihadism? Did the Jordanian regime "create" Salafite Jihadism?

Of course the answer is complicated and is certainly beyond the comprehension of the Daily Beast but this can be said: of course they were not created by regime but were used and manipulated by the Syrian regime (especially after 2003 US invasion of Iraq, although the manipulation fluctuated between repression of those groups and facilitation of their move into Iraq).  But this is what curious about Western media propaganda talking point about the subject: there is no regime in the region which has used and manipulated Islamists and particularly Salafite Jihads more than the Jordanian regime and yet: let me know if you can find ONE article in any Western media about Jordanian regime manipulation and sponsorship of those groups.  As you know, King Khusayn (as Shimon Peres called his dear friend) personally appeared on television and talked about his role in sponsoring Syrian Islamists during the 70s and 80s.  Today, the key ideologues of the ISIS and Al-Qa`idah are safe and sound in Jordan and the regime in fact facilitates their political activities when it suits its interests. But that is never ever in Western media. When it comes to the Middle East (and ever since the Syrian war) this is propaganda time.  No sober or rational analysis is welcome in Western media and to some degree in Western academia.  Read here about the recent activities of the chief of ideologue of Jihadi terrorism, Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi.  So those groups were not created by any regime per se as they rose in a context in which the left and Arab nationalists failed, and Sadat was the first to sponsor, along with Israel and US, conservative Islamists to use against their foes.  So there are underlying causes for their rise.  Those groups, however, have been used and manipulated by the Syrian regime and Jordanian regime and by GCC regimes but the notion that Syrian regime went as far as bombing itself to convince the West that it faces Jihadi terrorism is a story best suited for either Instabul cafes or for...The Daily Beast.

Castro and his victims: Let me count the ways

My weekly article in Al-Akhbar: "Castro and the Regurgitation of US Propaganda: Calculating the Victims".

Matt Taibbi reviews Thomas Friedman: quite delicious

"We will remember Friedman for interviewing 76 percent of the world's taxi drivers, for predicting "the next six months will be critical" on 14 occasions over two and a half years (birthing the neologism, "the Friedman unit"), and for his unmatched, God-given ability to write nonsensical metaphors, like his classic "rule of holes": "When you're in one, stop digging. When you're in three, bring a lot of shovels.""

How Charles Lister documented the Syrian regime's role in the creation of ISIS and Al-Qa`idah

This is not a joke.  And shame on Oxford University Press (one of my favorite publishers with whom I have had good relations as a teacher) for publishing this less than journalistic book.   But since the release of the trashy Daily Beast "investigation" about Syria (which should have been titled: Series about Chatter in Istanbul cafes), Charles Lister has been promoting on Twitter his book about ISIS and his chapter about the role of the Syrian regime in the creation of ISIS.  This is how exactly Lister documents his theory that Abu Al-Qa`qa` (of course, he screws up the name consistently in the book) was created by the Syrian regime, he says: "Certainly, in the days and weeks following his death, commentary across the Middle East was obsessed with the issue of the ISI being a creation of a hidden, mysterious and all-powerful intelligence bodies, including Syria's". (p. 43, of Lister, Charles, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State And the Evolution of An Insurgency).  But what is the source of Lister's "all over the Middle East commentaries?  Here it is: Endnote 35: Abdul-Rahman Al-Rashed, "The Killing of Abu Al-Qaqaa` (sic), Ash-Shraq Al-Awsat, 3 October 2007, p. 398 of the book. Kid you not.  

Diaa Hadid of the New York Times is allowed by the Times to show sorrow for children---I am serious

Diaa Hadid has blocked me from Twitter but I am told that she has been allowed to express sorrow for Syrian children.  This is a correspondent who covers Palestine but would never dare to express sorrow for Palestinian children killed by Israeli occupiers.  

Clear tyranny: A Saudi regime writer says that "we" don't need democracy: that "clear tyranny" is better

الانتخابات عند العرب كقصور الرمال لأساس لها من حقوق وحريات يضمنها دستور وقانون. نحن في غنى عنها..استبداد واضح خير من ديموقراطية ناقصة..

Hizbollah article in Jacobin

The article on Hizbollah in Jacobin (which basically says that Hariri and March 14 were leading Lebanon toward a socialist republic but Hizbollah prevented them from doing so) offers a most original theory of what happened on May 7, 2008: "As explained by trade unionist Ahmad Dirani, Hizbullah’s military intervention was “aimed against the possibility of a large trade union and workers mobilization taking the lead against the government in a democratic way. Hizbullah did not favor this option.” Dirani argued that such a mobilization would not only have achieved social gains around economic issues but also could have addressed the threat to Hizbullah’s telecommunication system."  So the evidence is this one person. Can we know who this person is? What is his politics? And what is his evidence? Or evidence when it used in an argument against Hizbollah is not really important? "Reassessing Hizbullah’s Socioeconomic Policies in Lebanon," Joseph Daher, Middle East Journal, Summer 216., p. 412.  This is rather comical: so his entire (highly original theory which not even hard-core foes of Hizbullah in Lebanon have peddled) is based entirely on the opinion of ONE person, who just happens to be a political operative active in the political camp of Hizbullah's enemies of Lebanon.  The best part is this: this guy's dissertation on Hizbullah has been published (or will be published) by the University of Chicago Press, and one of the blurbs of the books says, to the effect that this is a good book because it is politically hostile to the agenda of the party.  I kid you not.  Look: there are legitimate and credible leftist critiques of Hizbullah but in Lebanon and Syria: there is a political propaganda effort to criticize Hizbullah for not being a leftist but from supporters of the Saudi regime. This is like whose in Lebanon and Syria who say: that they don't like Hizbullah because it is sectarian and not secular but they themselves are part of the Saudi coalition.  But politics aside, one expects scholarly documentation and substantiation and not accusations what are commonly leveled in Qatari regime and Saudi regime media. 

Friday, December 02, 2016

The richest administration in history

Daily Beast: your first source on foreign affairs now tackles Syria

"It should be noted that Awad al Ali’s judgment, while widely endorsed by top-level defectors from the Assad regime, is not shared by the U.S. government, which holds that Al Qaeda terrorists were behind the string of bombings. The CIA declined to comment."  Who cares. Keep telling us your stories from the cafes of Istanbul. We are riveted, man.  "The interview in an Istanbul cafe, his first, lasted six hours."  Did you drink coffee or tea? Please tell us more. You seem to have obtained deep knowledge of the Middle East in those cafe meetings.  And i don't know about you, but Youtube evidence has always impressed me: "One element in the evidence al Ali cited was a YouTube video shown at the time in which a military defector, identified as Lt. Abdulkader al Khatib, claimed that Syrian state security had requisitioned seven corpses to be brought to the scene of the first explosion."  Look: how many evidence do you need? One is enough for me but he produces more than one: "Another piece of evidence arguing that the bombings were staged, rebel supporters say, was the speed with which state television aired a report blaming al Qaeda for the attack." And there is more: "According to the two former officials, the bombings were timed in almost every instance to impress visiting diplomats."  But Amb Robert Ford has this to add to make the plot thicker: "Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria, said the bombing remains a mystery. “I don’t think we know how it was done,” he said."   Let me tell you this:  if someone deserve a Pulitzer for spending hours in Istanbul cafes, it is this writer of the series.  Cafe life is his calling.  Please encourage him not to quit.

How the DailyBeast (known for its sophisticated foreign policy knowledge) proved that Islamists were created by regime

What is hilarious about those accounts about how those Islamists did not really exist and that the regime created them is that: they never really explain why those organizations (the same ones or their ilk) exist also in every single Arab or even Muslim country.  They never tell us that. Did the Syrian regime like the Jordanian regime exploit those militant Islamists in the past? Of course, they have, just as the US did in the long years of the Cold war. But look at this investigation:  It even proves that the regime bombs itself as well: "the regime likely staged bombings of its own security facilities in 2011 and 2012 to foster the impression that al Qaeda had an armed presence in Syria long before it did. "  It also proves that Bashshar tried to assassinate himself many times as well.  But there is more: "Syrian intelligence has penetrated the leadership of extremist jihadist groups and at critical moments can influence their operations." So basically, ISIS and Nusrah really wanted to engage in peaceful struggle but that the Syrian regime forced them to behead and kill and maim. They never wanted to do that really.  But don't think that the account of the first rate professional journalism website, Daily Beast, is not substantiated or documented: it is very well-documented. You want evidence? Here is one: "That view is widely held in the region." But the writer really did his best to rely on neutral observers to bolster his case: "The regime said it was a response to activists’ demands to free political prisoners. U.S. intelligence officials, who spoke on background, offer a similar explanation. "  Did I not tell you that we are dealing with high journalism here?  And there are hard estimates involved: "Interviewed in a café in Istanbul’s popular Fatih district, which is now packed with Syrian refugees, he estimated that half the commanders in ISIS are working with the regime today".  You read this and want to scream: so ISIS and Nusrah are really misunderstood peaceniks who are manipulated by the sinister regime.  Oh, and the Jihadis like peaceful protesters: "One jihadist thanked Hakawati for helping organize the popular uprising. “It’s due to your demonstrations that we are all comfortable now,” he said."  This has been widely circulating in the last two days. I am not kidding you.  

Economist obituary of Castro: certainly not crazy like US newspapers

This is a fair assessment which is missing from ALL US accounts: "In the early days, at least 550 (and perhaps 2,000 or more) opponents of the revolution were executed. Many of them were Batista henchmen whose demise was popular. Once the revolution was secure, Mr Castro’s rule was repressive though not especially bloody. "

Mouin Rabbani on Syria: Trump's praise of Bashshar Al-Asad

Mouin says: "Yet his successor has heaped more praise on Damascus than any US president since the Ba’thists seized power in 1963."  Of course this is not true.  It is hardly true that Trump "praised" Bashshar as such.  In fact, Mouin would not have written this sweeping statement had he read the statements about Hafidh Al-Asad by Gerald Ford, or Bill Clinton, or George H.W. Bush, or Jimmy Carter in his retirement years..  They were certainly stronger in their praise.

What the language of Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch about Syria tells you about the biases of the organization

I noticed this yesterday.  When Human Rights Watch produces reports about human rights violations by US forces or by Israeli forces or by Saudi forces in Yemen, they always use the expression: "possible war crimes".  But notice that when it comes to Syria, they use a different more certain language.  Even in the case of rebels, they always say: "possible war crimes."

Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth)
Satellite imagery--950 bomb sites in a month--illustrates the extent of Russian-Syrian war crimes in eastern Aleppo.

When Western correspondents cover an event in the Middle East

Do you notice that they all sound alike and write the same stories and with the same terms of references and biases? I remember that in 2005, when Rafiq Hariri was killed and many Western correspondents gathered in Beirut: they all wrote the same narrative.  But at least there were Tony Shadid and Megan Stack who were free and independent.  I can't think of one today in Beirut writing about Syria. Not one.

Economist on Syria

Notice that it does not mention how the rebels have (in many cases) prevented civilians from leaving. There were scores of cases of protests by civilians against rebels and none were reported by the...Western correspondents of Beirut.  

Reviewing Amos Oz in the Washington Post

I have told you before: you will never read a negative review of any Israeli novel, or movie, or play, or restaurant, or even a potato in the US media.  I never ever have read a negative review of anything coming out of Israel.  This reviewer admits that the novel by Oz has no plot but then almost adds: but this is an Israeli author so I have to praise it and say how wonderful it is.