Friday, August 31, 2012

David E. Sanger, William J. Broad and Jodi Rudoren once again distort IAEA Report on Iran's nuclear activities

Once again, we have the New York Times reporters David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, now joined by Jodi Rudoren spinning and edtitorializing on the latest IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program.

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad's reportage on Iran's nuclear is deeply misleading. These New York Times commentators have essentially editorialized about Iran's nuclear program, adding their own interpretations to the IAEA Report. They write: "[the report] left open the question of . . . whether by racing ahead with construction [Iranian leaders] were seeking negotiating advantage or trying to gain the ability to build a bomb before sanctions, sabotage or military action could stop them." Today Jodi Rudoren and David Sanger talk about Iran "crossing the red line" toward the construction of nuclear weapons.

The IAEA report says nothing about about building a bomb. That is Messers Sanger and Broad's own conjecture. In fact the IAEA report, as every other IAEA report since 2003 verifies that Iran has not diverted any fissile material for military purposes. The IAEA and every other intelligence agency in the world inspecting the Iranian program verifies that Iran has no detectable nuclear weapons program. In any case the IAEA carefully monitors every speck of nuclear material currently in development in Iran. Sanger and Broad in their own reportage toward the end of their piece contradict their own speculations, reporting  that Iran does not have enough fissile material to construct a "complete nuclear weapon."

Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei in his address to the Non Alligned Movement (barely reported in the U.S. Press) once again renounced any intent to construct nuclear weapons, and denounced nations who had them. How Messers Sanger and Broad can now imply that Iran is on the road to weapons construction can only be explained as reportorial bias. The media should be extremely careful in fan the flames of war in this fashion.

One needs only to see the public commentary to this and every other IAEA report. Despite the complete lack of evidence for any Iranian nuclear military program, vast numbers of the public have come to believe that such a program exists. This was the aim of the neoconservatives under George W. Bush--to gin up a plausible justification for an attack on Iran with the purpose of effecting regime change.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nima Shirazi--Some Notes on Ahmadinejad's "Insult to Humanity" Comment (Wide Asleep in America)

Some Notes on Ahmadinejad's "Insult to Humanity" Comment

by NIMA SHIRAZI--Wide Asleep in America

Commentary by William O. Beeman: Nima Shirazi has dissected the overwrought critiques of President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric in a particularly sober manner. One should understand that President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is frequently mistranslated. It also has absolutely no connection to official state policy on foreign affairs, military affairs or the nuclear energy program. When speaking about Zionism or the Israeli situation he is speaking entirely for himself, and usually to his own constituency. His words are frequently at odds with the Iranian state. Still, those who favor attacking Iran take his words to be the policy of Iran, and they frequently say "Iran says . . . " plugging Ahmadinejad's words inaccurately into this statement. For U.S. readers, this is like taking the hateful anti-Islamic words of Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN) or Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) as U.S. government policy. That said, Ms. Shirazi points out that the same critics of Ahmadinejad's rhetoric have no objections when his same words are seen in other contexts to condemn states like S. Africa during the apartheid years. This is not to excuse President Ahmadinejad, but rather to put his remarks in Iranian social and political context, and to point out the hypocrisy of those who talk about his unprecedented rhetoric, which is not unprecedented at all in the West.

As tends to happen whenever Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech, especially one in commemoration of Al-Quds Day that explicitly rejects the ideology of Zionism and condemns the Israeli government for its inherently discriminatory, exclusivist, and ethnocentric policies and actions, all hell broke lose after the Iranian President addressed a large crowd at Tehran University on Friday.

"The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity," Ahmadinejad said, adding that "confronting the existence of the fabricated Zionist regime is in fact protecting the rights and dignity of all human beings."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to the remarks as "offensive and inflammatory."  The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading nuclear negotiations with Iran, also denounced Ahmadinejad's speech as "outrageous and hateful."

Naturally, Ahmadinejad's words also sparked the usual shock and horror from the usual people, the same people who still insist that (1) Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and (2) believe that such a comment constituted a direct threat of military action against the superpower-backed, nuclear-armed state of Israel.

Without delving into the persistent myths and deliberate falsehoods surrounding that particular talking point (one that has been sufficiently debunked countless times though obviously never seems to cut through the hasbara) or seeking to justify anything said by Ahmadinejad, a few things should be noted:

First: While Associated Press described Ahmadinejad's comment as "one of his sharpest attacks yet against the Jewish state," which seemed to indicate that this is the first time such language has been used, they failed to point out that Ahmadinejad has used this exact same phrase before.

After Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a "National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine" conference in February 2010, Ha'aretz reported he had said that "the existence of 'the Zionist regime' is an insult to humanity, according to Iranian news agency IRNA."

Later that year, he said the very same thing. 

Second (and more important): The "insult to humanity" phrase was not coined by the Iranian President to describe a political power structure defined by demographic engineering, colonialism, racism, and violence.

For example, a December 11, 1979 editorial in California's Lodi News-Sentinel stated clearly, "Apartheid is an insult to humanity" and "must be ended."

But the phrase has far deeper roots - roots with which the UN Secretary-General himself should be well acquainted.

A joint declaration by 20 Asian and African countries issued to the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on October 1, 1963 called upon the agency to reject the membership of South Africa due to its racist and discriminatory regime of Apartheid.  It noted "with grave concern that the South African Government continues stubbornly to disregard all United Nations and Security Council resolutions and to maintain its apartheid policies in defiance of the United Nations General Assembly, of the Security, and consequently of the IAEA Statute."

The declaration stated:
1. We condemn categorically the apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa, based on racial superiority, as immoral and inhuman;

2. We deprecate most strongly the South African Government's irresponsible flouting of world opinion by its persistent refusal to put an end to its racial policies;

3. The apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa are a flagrant violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as being an insult to humanity.
The very first International Conference on Human Rights, held by the UN in (get this) Tehran from April 22 to May 13, 1968, "condemned the brutal and inhuman practice of apartheid," "deplore[d] the Government of South Africa's continuous insult to humanity," and "declare[d] that the policy of apartheid or other similar evils are a crime against humanity."

On February 15, 1995, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adopted a resolution praising the end of "the era of apartheid in South Africa" which also reaffirmed that "apartheid and apartheid-like practices are an insult to humanity..."

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed "that the conclusion of an internal convention on the suppression and punishment of the crime of apartheid would be an important contribution to the struggle against apartheid, racism, economic exploitation, colonial domination and foreign occupation" and, more specifically, the UN has affirmed time and again that "the inalienable rights of all peoples, and in particular...the Palestinian people, to freedom, equality and self-determination, and the legitimacy of their struggles to restore those rights."

No one can accuse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having any affinity whatsoever for Zionism or the government of Israel.  Clearly he believes that Israel practices its own form of Apartheid against the Palestinian people.  And he is not alone.

Back in 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa's notoriously racist Prime Minister said, "The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state."

In April 1976, just two months before the Soweto Uprising, South African Prime Minister (and known former Nazi sympathizer) John Vorster took an official state visit to Israel, where he was hosted by Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin.  A number of friendship pacts and bilateral economic, military and nuclear agreements were signed.  At a banquet held in Vorster's honor, Rabin hailed "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence" and praised Vorster as a champion of freedom.  Both Israel and South Africa, Rabin said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness."

Vorster lamented that both South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of Western civilization.  Only a few months later, an official South African Government's document reinforced this shared predicament: "Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."

Both Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and as well as many other South Africa anti-Apartheid activists, have consistently called Israel an Apartheid state. 

Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, has written that following the Six Day War in June 1967,
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one ‑ progressive, liberal ‑ in Israel; and the other ‑ cruel, injurious ‑ in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.

That oppressive regime exists to this day.

In 2002, Yigal Bronner, then a professor at Tel Aviv University, wrote in Ha'aretz of the true purpose of the Israeli separation wall: "Ours will be a brutal land of pens stretching between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean that will make South African apartheid pale. The outcome is too terrible to even imagine."

Avraham Burg, Israel's Knesset Speaker from 1999 to 2003 and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has long determined that "Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy," insisting the only way to maintain total Jewish control over all of historic Palestine would be to "abandon democracy" and "institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages." He has also called Israel "the last colonial occupier in the Western world."

Yossi Sarid, who served as a member of the Knesset between 1974 and 2006, has written of Israel's "segregation policy" that "what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid."

Yossi Paritzky, former Knesset and Cabinet minister, writing about the systematic institutionalization and legalization of racial and religious discrimination in Israel, stated that Israel does not act like a democracy in which "all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality."  Rather, by implementing more and more discriminatory laws that treat Palestinians as second-class citizens, "Israel decided to be like apartheid‑era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist."

Shulamit Aloni, another former Knesset and Cabinet member, has written that "the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population."

In 2008, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel released its annual human rights report which found that the dynamic between settlers, soldiers and native Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was "reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa."

Ehud Olmert, when he was Prime Minister, told a Knesset committee meeting, "For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deep‑seated and intolerable" and repeatedly warned that if "we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished."

Ehud Barak has admitted that "[a]s long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic.  If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Shlomo Gazit, former member of Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, wrote in Ha'aretz that "in the present situation, unfortunately, there is no equal treatment for Jews and Arabs when it comes to law enforcement. The legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime."

Last summer, Knesset minister Ahmed Tibi told the Jerusalem Post that "keeping the status quo will deepen apartheid in Israel as it did in South Africa," while Gabriela Shalev, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told The Los Angeles Times last year that, in terms of public opinion of Israel, "I have the feeling that we are seen more like South Africa once was."

Council on Foreign Relations member Stephen Roberts, after returning from a trip to Israel and the West Bank, wrote in The Nation that "Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids, a horrifying prison with concrete walls as high as twenty-six feet, topped with body-ravaging coils of razor wire."

In April 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu's own nephew, Jonathan Ben Artzi wrote that Israel's "policies of segregation and discrimination that ravaged (and still ravage) my country and the occupied Palestinian territories" undoubtedly fit the definition of Apartheid.

Linguist, cultural anthropologist, and Hebrew University professor David Shulman wrote in May 2012 in The New York Review of Books that there already exists "a single state between the Jordan River and the sea" controlled by Israel and which fits the definition of an "ethnocracy."  He continues,
Those who recoil at the term "apartheid" are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as "Bantustans."

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they're anything remotely like a "solution" to Israel's Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down.
Whether those who get hysterical over Ahmadinejad's rhetoric agree with the above assessments - many of which were made by prominent Israeli and Jewish politicians, officials, and academics - is irrelevant.  It's clear that Ahmadinejad himself would agree.

Consequently, his reference to Israel (which he sees as an Apartheid state) as an "insult to humanity" (which repeats the same verbiage used repeatedly by the United Nations itself) appears to be far less inflammatory then the outrage that followed would suggest.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Israel's Iran Itch--Roger Cohen NYT (commentary by William O. Beeman)


Israel's Iran Itch

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NEW YORK — Hmm, it’s August, things are quiet, time for another wave of hysteria over an imminent Israeli attack on Iran. We’ve seen this movie for a decade — Israel’s “red line” on the Iranian nuclear program has proved of spandex-like elasticity.
Damon Winter/The New York Times
Roger Cohen
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(I sometimes imagine the size of the explosion if all the words devoted to the Iranian nuclear program since 2000 were placed in a large container and detonated.)
Israeli newspapers are full of reports that home-front preparedness is inadequate. Only 53 percent of Israelis, they say, have gas masks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just appointed Avi Dichter, a former head of Shin Bet — the Israeli equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — as the new home-front minister to address these concerns.
Dichter, by the way, has joined a host of former security and intelligence chiefs in saying that for Israel to lead an offensive against Iran would be a “total mistake.”
Wise words; but they have done nothing to dampen the attack-looming chatter of these summer doldrums, with the U.S. election less than 100 days away. One theory in Jerusalem is that the run-up to Nov. 6 is a good moment to attack because President Obama, despite his misgivings, would have no choice but to get behind the Jewish state or lose votes.
Netanyahu is doing nothing to dispel the rumors. Why should he? They provide leverage for tougher Iran sanctions and have no downside for Israel other than creating an impression that, on Iran, it has cried wolf.
Consider this recent post on the International Herald Tribune’s Latitude blog from Shmuel Rosner, the political editor of the Jewish Journal: “I got home Monday evening to find in my mailbox an official reminder: Did we have enough gas masks for the whole family?”
Rosner continues: “These days, Israeli media outlets are competing with one another to run scare stories: Are there enough shelters in Jerusalem for all residents? Does the new text-message missile alert system work properly?”
The Netanyahu government is happy enough with this state of fear: It seeks uncertainty. It takes a rightly skeptical view of the talks on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. These have gone over familiar ground — Iranian offers to stop enrichment to 20 percent and eliminate its stockpile of such uranium against a lifting of sanctions and recognition of its right to enrich to a much lower level — without moving the ball.
Let’s get real: A deal in a U.S. election year is out of the question. Obama will not do it. He is not going to hand the Republicans ammunition on a plate.
Moreover, the Iran led by the Brezhnevian Ayatollah Khamenei is incapable of clear decision-making. It is a nation in the image of its noisy president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?): a lot of bluster over not much. It is given to what James Buchan has called “lachrymose intransigence.” Khamenei is a septuagenarian supposedly standing in for the Prophet. The average age of his wired population is 27. Try getting that system to function.
As Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told me, a deal is unthinkable because “the possibility of ever aligning Israeli psychology, Iranian ideology and the American political calendar is infinitely remote.”
So what should Israel do? Israeli security is incompatible with an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon that says it is bent on the destruction of the Jewish state: That, given history and psychology, is the reality of the situation.
But a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran today would be disastrous. It unites Iran in fury; locks in the Islamic Republic for a generation; gives a substantial boost to the wobbling Assad regime in Syria; radicalizes the Arab world at a moment of delicate transition; ignites Hezbollah on the Lebanese border; boosts Hamas; endangers U.S. troops in the region; sparks terrorism; propels oil skyward; rocks a vulnerable global economy; triggers a possible regional war; offers a lifeline to Iran just as sanctions are biting; adds a never-to-be-forgotten Persian vendetta to the Arab vendetta against Israel; and may at best set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions a couple of years or at worst accelerate its program by prompting it to rush for a bomb and throw out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
Such damage may not amount to an existential threat to Israel — the phrase is overused. It would be a devastating strategic error.
Don’t do it, Bibi.
I do not say this lightly. All the talk of gas masks reflects real Israeli fears, even if they are artfully stoked. Israel must keep in mind that no U.S. president can accept the current Iranian regime going nuclear: Obama has been explicit about this.
Iran is not enriching uranium, as it claims, for a power plant of epic dysfunction. But nor has it yet united the various elements needed to make a bomb. If it ever makes the decision to do so, I expect the U.S. military response to be swift and devastating. The wise choice for Israel is therefore patience.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Tea Party Economic Madness and the Romney/Ryan Ticket

To listen to the Tea Party supporters of the Ryan/Romney ticket we might as well be electing Gordon Gekko as President. Greed is good, they pontificate and have the most naive idea of economics ever promulgated on the American public. Their idea seems to be that every dollar should only be taxed once, as if it got a little stamp on it when first earned (whenever that is) and thereafter would never be taxed again. You pay it to someone for a good or service, and bingo! no tax on that dollar, because it was already taxed when the buyer first received it. A fourth grader can see that this is idiotic if there is to be a functioning economy, but I have heard this again and again on the talk shows this past weekend applied to the capital gains tax (which Ryan would reduce to zero) and the the inheritance tax (which he would also reduce to zero). 

The anti-tax crazy Grover Norquist simplistically defended this by saying "most Americans agree with this principle." Well Duhh. If you ask Americans whether their inheritance or investments should be taxed, what do you think they will answer? Economic policy is not a popularity contest. If it were no one would pay any taxes ever. 

It is already the case that the rich reduce their capital gains income to near zero through legal legerdemain. Now they want it made simple and explicit. No paying accountants and lawyers to game the system, just don't charge them anything at all. "Only the little people pay taxes!" -Leona Helmsley

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan is a liar

When Paul Ryan expresses concern for the deficit and for our national economy, he is belied by his own actions. Below, thanks to Chris Hayes of Up with Chris Hayes is a list of his votes in Congress over the past few years. Apparently Ryan's "Budget Plan" and his concern over financial matters only matters when he needs Tea Party support or wants to get President Obama out of office. How can we believe that he would ever follow his own precepts based on his past record?