Category Archives: Mideast

Headline of the day II: Netanyahu trumps Trump

Not-so-great minds think alike, via the Guardian:

Netanyahu plans fence around Israel to protect it from ‘wild beasts’

Israeli PM says proposed barrier would also solve problem of Hamas tunnels from Gaza, but plan already has critics in his own cabinet

Chomsky on Bernie: New Dealer, not a socialist

From Al Jazeera English, Chomsky makes a point we’ve been making, then looks at the rest of the candidates and some New Atheist idiocy:

UpFront – Noam Chomsky on Clinton vs Sanders

Program notes:

Renowned political theorist Noam Chomsky is often cited for his criticism of the US political system.

In the second of a special two-part interview, Chomsky sits down with Mehdi Hasan to discuss the US presidential election and the rise of Islamophobia.

The US academic says Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has the “best policies”, but little chance of winning in a “mainly bought” election.

When asked if he would vote for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton if he lived in a swing state, Chomsky says: “Oh absolutely… my vote would be against the Republican candidate.”

Quote of the day: In Israel, Talmud, not Sharia

From an interview of Israel’s hardline Likkud Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked by Der Spiegel’s Nicola Abé and Ronen Bergman:

SPIEGEL: A member of parliament belonging to your party demanded a few months ago that the Supreme Court be demolished. You yourself are planning a bill that would enable the Knesset to overrule decisions made by the judges — thereby enabling it to implement laws that have been declared unlawful. It sounds like you want to strip the judiciary of its power.

Shaked: At issue here is a basic law which enables the Supreme Court to quash laws in extreme cases. Up until now, this right of the Supreme Court was not mentioned anywhere, but was just taken. At the same time, we want to enable the Knesset to overrule decisions of the Supreme Court. At the moment, we are discussing the necessary majority — I support a majority of 61.

SPIEGEL: But that would enable the current government to reverse any decision made by the high court. The outcome is already obvious: You are seeking the greater influence of halakha (Jewish law) in lawmaking. But isn’t this a renunciation of the secular state?

Shaked: I expect from our judges that their verdicts are also inspired by Talmudic law — and not only by common law or European justice systems.

Headline of the day: Hacking away in the skies

From the Guardian [with more details at The Intercept, including some of the hacked images]:

Snowden files reveal US and UK spied on feeds from Israeli drones and jets

Feeds including from cockpit cameras reportedly hacked using freely available software under programme run from GCHQ

Viggo Mortensen on American militarism, art

Viggo Mortensen is one of Hollywood’s most interesting actors, a commanding and often sympathetic screen presence.

But he’s much more than a screen presence. Born in New York, he was raised in Latin America, and holds citizenship in both the U.S. and Denmark. Among his other talents are gifts for painting, photography, writing, and poetry. Oh, he speaks four languages fluently and can converse in several others. And he’s also a recording artist and founded his own book publishing house, Perceval Press.

Give his credentials as a talented polymath, it should come as no surprise that he’s also a man of considered political opinions, and it is these that are the focus of the latest edition of TeleSUR English’s The Laura Flanders Show:

Viggo Mortensen: Empires and Justice in the Middle East

Program notes:

This week Laura and Viggo Mortensen discuss heroes, outlaws, empires and justice in the Middle East. Academy Award-nominated actor Viggo Mortensen has appeared in scores of movies, including The Lord of The Rings, one of the highest grossing film series of all time. What you may not know is he’s also a poet, photographer, musician and painter. He speaks four languages, and he is the founder and publisher of an independent publishing house, Perceval Press. The twelfth anniversary edition of Perceval’s collection of essays in response to the Iraq occupation: Twilight of Empire — was released this winter with essays by Mike Davis, Amy Goodman, Jodie Evans and Dennis Kucinich among others – and a forward by Howard Zinn. This episode also features a few words from Laura on Hillary Clinton – her warmth and her wars.

His Twitter feed is here, and his Facebook arts page is here.

German far-Right party racks up new gains

First, some telling numbers from Deutsche Welle:

The German daily “Bild am Sonntag” reported on Sunday that the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has reached 10 percent for the first time in a recent poll.

According to the article, 17 percent of men would vote for AfD while only 2 percent of women would do so.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, saw its support fall by 2 percentage points to 36 percent. The Social Democrats (SPD), the CDU’s coalition partner, came in at 25 percent.

That ten percent figure is twice the percentage points needed to win seats is the national and state legislatures.

The AfD began as a party of Merkel’s more conservative opponents who sought to distance the country from the European currency and loans to indebted nations of the common currency zone.

But the founders were ousted in an internal coup by those on the party’s far Right extreme, who then added a hefty dose of xenophobia to the party’s financially conservative agenda.

The party’s rise in the polls is linked to the increase in violence and sexual abuse associated with nation’s rising number of refugee immigrants from war torn nations of the Mideast and North Africa.

More from

Katja Kipping, chairwoman of Die Linke [Germany’s major Left party — esnl], told The Local that the Christian Social Union (CSU), a junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, was to blame for the rise of the AfD, accusing their leadership of making “xenophobic slogans socially acceptable.”

The CSU, which are the single largest party in Bavaria, Germany’s wealthiest and southern most state, have in recent weeks called for the erection of border fences to stem the flow of refugees arriving in Germany.

“The AfD is also profiting from the impression that people in need could overwhelm a rich country like Germany – but this is a fictitious emergency: the relevant authorities at the federal level didn’t react quickly enough to the predictable rise in refugee numbers,” Kipping added.

And still more from the European edition of Politico:

Since World War II it was taken for granted that Germany’s conservative Christian Democrats and their Bavarian partners, the Christian Social Union, would not allow a democratic party to permanently exist further to their right. For decades, they lived up to that principle. But in early 2013, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was founded as a home for conservative critics of Angela Merkel’s policies for saving the euro. The AfD narrowly failed to enter the Bundestag that same year by only 0.3 percentage points, then the party suffered a split one year later — but it came back.

As of today the AfD is a nationalistic, anti-establishment party which capitalizes on xenophobia and the ongoing refugee crisis. Opinion polls put its support at an amazing 10 percent, and it is on its way to entering the regional assemblies of the three Bundesländer scheduled to hold elections in March 2016.

That should be enough to send shivers down Merkel’s spine. But it will not. Instead, in the short term it promises to be a tactical win for the chancellor and her party. And in the long run, the AfD will either vanish as a political threat by splitting one more time, or it will turn into a potential partner to secure what would be a structural majority right of center — something entirely new to Germany’s political system.

The conclusion reached in that last paragraph betrays an astonishing ignorance of German history. Adolf Hitler assumed the chancellorship as part of a coalition government with the conservative and monarchist Deutschnationale Volkspartei [DNVP]. In other words, a government with “a structural majority right of center.”

Hitler came to power under the 1919 Weimar Constitution, which forms much of the basis of the current constitutional document, the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany.

While the new post-World War II document contains provisions designed to enhance civil rights and block a would-be dictator, Germany remains, as before, a parliamentary system.

Regrets from a man who ignited Arab Spring

Two self-immolations by Tunisian peddlers, angry and frustrated by abused and beatings by police, sparked the series of events that became known as the Arab Spring of 2011.

Lauded by Western media and facilitated by the actions of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have been transformed into bloody, ongoing civil wars, in which forces of religious fanaticism are opposed by military forces, often equipped by the state Western powers that originally aided and abetted in the initial violence.

Of the two Tunisians who set themselves ablaze, one died and the other, Hosni Kalaya, know regrets all that followed his act of desperation.

He tells his story in this video, produced by Mediadante for the Guardian.

Via Journeyman Pictures:

‘I changed Tunisia’s history. I regret it all now’

Program notes:

Five Years After The Revolution: A look at Tunisia five years after the revolution, and one of the men who started it

Five years ago, in a desperate act of protest against the oppression he faced in Tunisia, fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi killed himself by setting himself on fire. His death prompted protests in his home town of Sidi Bouzid. Hosni Kalaya tells how he set himself on fire to further fuel the anger, triggering a revolution in Tunisia and the Arab Spring in the wider region.