Society's Child


Norman Finkelstein: On the origins of Israel's modern propaganda (and Alan Dershowitz's legal troubles)

Joan Peters, the author of the book From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict over Palestine, died on January 5th, at 78. As David Samel wrote following her death,"The bizarre chapter of Joan Peters's contribution to the Middle East debate does not end with her death. Her arguments, both those she adopted from others and those she formulated herself, still constitute a huge portion of the go-to hasbara repertoire." I interviewed Norman Finkelstein and asked him to reflect on her work and legacy, as he played a central role in debunking much of her work as described in his book Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

Adam Horowitz: Could you start by saying a bit about how From Time Immemorial was received?

Norman Finkelstein: First of all the important primary factor is the context. Israel in 1982 took its first major public relations hit since the 1967 war. It was a public relations disaster for Israel. One of the reasons being I think, as Robert Fisk pointed out in Pity the Nation he said unlike all other Arab states Lebanon did not control the press and so mainstream reporters were able at that time to roam freely throughout Lebanon. Mainstream reporters, I should say who had credibility, were able to roam freely through Lebanon during the Israeli attack, and what they were reporting was quiet horrifying. It's forgotten now but even against the Israeli attacks in recent years on Lebanon, on Gaza, they all pale in comparison to what Israel did in Lebanon in 1982. The usual figures are between sixteen and twenty thousand Lebanese and Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, were killed during the Israeli attack. All the Lebanese killed in 2006 plus the three massacres in Gaza that doesn't even come to half of the figure that happened in Lebanon.

So now you had credible reportage of what Israel was doing and it was a major public relations setback for Israel. You could say the first layer of Jewish support for Israel, the first layer, peeled away and that was the layer of what you would call the Old Left, mainly those were identified with the Soviet Union and therefore identified with Israel because the Soviets supported the creation of the state of Israel in '48 and also because a lot of the signature institutions of Israel in that era were of a socialist leftist orientation, most famously the kibbutzim.

And so before 1982 the pro-Soviet, pro-Communist Old Left even those who were disaffected from the Soviet Union which still fell within the umbrella of the Old Left, they were still pretty much pro-Israel, there were just really a tiny handful of exceptions. The best known being of course Professor Chomsky. There was also Maxime Robinson in France, but in general the support was totally for Israel, overwhelmingly for Israel.

Comment: And the dynamic plays on: Israel continues to manufacture justifications to attack Palestinians (and other groups) and defends itself with hasbara manual talking points based on books like From Time Immemorial - that are designed to obscure, twist and mangle the truth for those less suspecting consumers of news.

See also:

Piggy Bank

Euroskeptics: Polls reveal forty percent of Italians no longer want Euro

© Flickr/ Mario Mancuso
Four out of every ten Italians no longer want the euro, according to a survey released on Friday by the Institute of Political, Economic and Social Studies, Eurispes.

The percent of Italians who want Italy to leave the Eurozone has risen from 26% at the start of 2014 to 40.1% now, the polling agency says.

More than half of the Euroskeptics think the single currency is the chief cause of Italy's economic woes, as it has deprived the country of the possibility of devaluating its currency at will.

Comment: Of course the countries ("Club Med") that hurt the most joining the EU will be looking for an exit but will require careful leadership to accomplish. The next elections for Italy are still a long way out in 2018.


GOP 'middle class' politics: 'If Sarah Palin suffers a stroke, how will we know?' - Bill Maher

Bill Maher
© YouTube
Bill Maher on 'Real Time' on Jan. 30, 2015
Bill Maher closed Real Time on Friday by ripping Republicans' embrace of the phrase "middle-class economics."

"It's the new bullsh*t, and it's what's for dinner," he said, noting that both Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney had started decrying income inequality. (At least, before Romney eliminated himself as a presidential candidate on Friday.)

Even former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) tried to get into the act, Maher noted, before showing footage of her mangling the term "status quo" during her infamous speech in Iowa last week.

Comment: Bill Maher explains it very nicely (in this instance).


US support for satirizing religion breaks along racial lines, Pew survey finds

Charlie Behdo
Bref, Charlie Behdo a fait du Charlie Hebdo.
To the issues dividing Americans by race, add the publication of satirical cartoons about religion.

A survey released by the Pew Research Center this week found that Americans, by more than 2-to-1, believe it's OK to publish cartoons poking fun of religion, such as those printed by the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. But that seemingly overwhelming support for the right to make fun came largely from white respondents to the survey, the organization reported. A plurality of non-whites, just shy of a majority, said they were opposed to such satire.

Why that divide exists has much to do with the way the country's dominant culture has treated minority groups over the years, say experts on race and religion. No one likes being the butt of jokes - and if that's been your role in society, you're more sensitive to the offense, they said.

"Non-white Americans might be more sensitive than whites to negative media images of Islam (and religious diversity in general) because they understand how it feels to believe, rightly or wrongly, that one's community is under attack by the media and mainstream society," said Henry Goldschmidt, director of education programs at Interfaith Center of New York, a nonprofit organization that promotes communications among different faith, ethnic and cultural traditions.

The Police State is upon us

Anyone paying attention knows that 9/11 has been used to create a police/warfare state. Years ago NSA official William Binney warned Americans about the universal spying by the National Security Agency, to little effect. Recently Edward Snowden proved the all-inclusive NSA spying by releasing spy documents, enough of which have been made available by Glenn Greenwald to establish the fact of NSA illegal and unconstitutional spying, spying that has no legal, constitutional, or "national security" reasons. Yet Americans are not up in arms. Americans have accepted the government's offenses against them as necessary protection against "terrorists."

Neither Congress, the White House, or the Judiciary has done anything about the wrongful spying, because the spying serves the government. Law and the Constitution are expendable when the few who control the government have their "more important agendas."

Bradley Manning warned us of the militarization of US foreign policy and the murderous consequences, and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks posted leaked documents proving it.

Were these whistleblowers and honest journalists, who alerted us to the determined attack on our civil liberty, rewarded with invitations to the White House and given medals of honor in recognition of their service to American liberty?

Comment: Well said Dr. Roberts. It's truly a despicable state the Americans are in. History repeats until we learn our lessons.


Thousands attend anti-government, anti-austerity rally in Spain

© AP Photo/ Andres Kudacki
Thousands of people gathered in Madrid on Saturday in an anti-governmental rally organized by the Spanish anti-austerity left-wing party Podemos, following the recent victory of the eurosceptic Syriza party in Greece's parliamentary elections.

"Thousands of people have already filled up Cibeles [a square in Madrid], have come to tell the government of Rajoy [Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain] that they will not continue tolerating the plundering to which we are subjected to, that we will chuck them out," Podemos wrote on its Facebook page.

More than 260 buses with more than 10,000 people from all over the country came to Madrid ahead of the rally, local media reported. Around 100 people have volunteered to carpool, a Podemos spokesperson told Sputnik.

Comment: This will make Spain's upcoming elections this year very interesting.


Huge gas truck explosion destroys Mexican maternity hospital: Seven killed and dozens injured

fuel tank explosion in Mexico City
© Reuters
At least seven people have been killed and dozens more are injured after a powerful fuel tank explosion outside a maternity and children's hospital in Mexico
At least seven people have been killed and dozens more are injured after a powerful fuel tank explosion outside a maternity and children's hospital in Mexico.

Four babies and three adults were killed in the blast in Mexico City today, according to the latest tally. Some are still feared trapped under the rubble of the collapsed building.

Rescue workers have been scouring through ruined sections of concrete and twisted metal for survivors. 'For the moment there are seven people dead, four of them babies, two women and a man,' an official in the Mexico City mayor's office told AFP.

Passers-by rushed into the building after the blast and made their way to the nursery section, rescuing eight babies, it has been reported.

Dozens were evacuated after the truck exploded outside the hospital with many of the injuries caused by broken glass.

The city's mayor Angel Mancera had told Milenio television earlier that a woman and two men were among the dead.

He told the Televisa network that at least 54 people were injured, 22 of them children.

Most of the injuries were relatively minor, he said, many caused by flying glass.


Russian library housing unique documents, ancient texts devastated by fire

One of Russia's largest academic libraries, which contains millions of unique historic documents, has gone up in flames in Moscow. A part of the building's roof collapsed before dozens of fire fighters managed to contain the blaze.
russian library fire
© RIA Novosti / Vladimir Ostapkovich
The blaze at the Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION)
The fire erupted at around 10 pm local time (7 pm GMT) on the third floor of the Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow. According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, some 2,000 square meters were engulfed in flames, prompting the roof to cave in.

According to preliminary data, the cause of the fire could be a malfunction of the electrical system, a law-enforcement source told RIA Novosti news agency. "A short circuit in the electrical system is currently being regarded as a primary lead," he said Saturday.
На юго-западе Москвы сгорела библиотека ИНИОН РАН.

- Петр Петров (@VolschebnikNNT4) January 31, 2015
A total of 147 rescue workers and 38 pieces of fire-fighting equipment were used to contain the fire shortly after midnight, the ministry said.

Comment: What a tragic loss to researchers everywhere. It can only be hoped INION will be able to salvage some of the collection.


New Mexico district attorney refuses to indict cops after grand jury calls shooting 'unjustified'

© Roswell Police Department
Police shooting victim Roberto Mendez
A special prosecutor says she won't pursue charges against two Santa Fe police officers who shot a 26-year-old man in the cheek in August 2013 as he tried to flee in an SUV that his mother had reported stolen.

A Santa Fe County grand jury, in a rare finding in an officer-involved shooting, determined last year after reviewing evidence in the case that the shooting was not justified.

But Roswell District Attorney Janetta Hicks announced Thursday in a letter to New Mexico State Police that she will not prosecute Officers John DeBaca and Stephen Fonte. First District Attorney Angela "Spence" Pacheco had asked Hicks to serve as a special prosecutor in the case after the local grand jury's October finding.

Comment: So, what's the point of a grand jury?

Tom Clark, who represents the injured man, Roberto Mendez, said he was in shock when he learned that Hicks had declined to prosecute the case. "This means that the grand jury doesn't mean anything," Clark said. "I would have liked to see justice out of the criminal justice system," he said, adding that he plans to file a lawsuit against the city. In September, Clark filed a tort claim notice informing the city of his client's intention to sue.

Hicks' announcement comes at a time when police use of force is under heightened scrutiny around the country. Earlier this month, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg of Albuquerque filed murder charges against two Albuquerque officers who had fatally shot James Boyd, a 38-year-old mentally ill homeless man who had been camping illegally on a mountainside in March 2014. Brandenburg said she was deviating from her past practice of presenting evidence in officer-involved shooting cases in secret grand jury proceedings because she wanted transparency in how the widely publicized incident is handled by the criminal justice system.

Comment: The timing is quite interesting. God forbid that the idea that police are held accountable for their excessive use of force should become a new social theme. See:

Hicks' letter says that after she reviewed evidence of the Santa Fe officers' actions, she determined that "a reasonable person in the same circumstances would be in fear of death or great bodily harm to himself or others and might use deadly force."

Comment: Police have been militarized and set out in class all to themselves, above reproach and superior to the values of community and a sense of justice. There is no recognition of duty to the citizens anymore. It is eerily similar to the breakdown of law via the SS in Nazi Germany well documented in Sebastian Haffner's memoir, Defying Hitler.

See also:
Chaos and Consent: The Logistics of the One World Government


Protesters at planned anti-Islam event "welcome to come in for a cup of tea"

© Unknown
Clonskeagh Mosque in Dublin
Protesters who attend a planned anti-Islam event outside Clonskeagh Mosque on Sunday are welcome to come in for a cup of tea, the Islamic Cultural Centre has said.

Speaking to today, Summayah Kenna, spokesperson for the centre, said they had been informed by members of their community about plans for a protest. "Like any protest we can't and we will not object," she said. "Everybody has a right to protest. All we can ask is that it goes off peacefully."

Plans for the protest have been circulating online, and it is said the event has been organised by an Irish anti-Islam group. A counter-event has also been organised by Anti-Imperialist Front Ireland.

Comment: This is reminiscent of what a mosque in York, England, did in May 2013 during an English Defence League (EDL) protest. The mosque countered the protest with tea, biscuits and football:
A York mosque dealt with a potentially volatile situation after reports that it was going to be the focus of a demonstration organised by a far-right street protest movement - by inviting those taking part in the protest in for tea and biscuits. ...

...after members of the group accepted an invitation into the mosque, tensions were rapidly defused over tea and plates of custard creams, followed by an impromptu game of football.

Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, said: "There is the possibility of having dialogue. Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong."