Monthly Archives: June 2010

Israel and its influence on world politics

An interview with Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon is a world renowned saxophonist and musician with a deep political passion for humanist issues and concern for the fate of the Palestinian people.  He has written extensively about the issue and been published widely.  As a self-exiled, former Jewish Israeli and IDF soldier, Atzmon’s perspective within the raging public discourse on Palestine is relatively unique.  His views are bitterly opposed by some among anti-Zionist Jewish groups, who accuse him of anti-Semitism and of being a ‘self-hater’.

Atzmon fiercely resists the charge of anti-Semitism and insists that he is concerned with a proper and thorough examination of the ideology of what it is to be Jewish – in particular about how the notion of the Jews as ‘a chosen people’ has led, as he sees it, inexorably to the rise of Zionism and its present disproportionate influence on world affairs.

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HARDtalk – Defending Israel’s right to terrorise

via MLMB

A related video shows O’Keeffe battling it out on HARDtalk in January 2003, just months before the invasion of Iraq, where the interviewer asserts that Saddam has “built up his arms again” and demands O’Keeffe prove otherwise:

Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYPJoj1bAJU&feature=related

Part 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFTcxzMxXhE&feature=related

“Afghan strategy needs review”

Today’s musing by the Irish Times Editor on the US government’s grand intervention in Afghanistan is a quick lesson in subservience to power.

The entire context of the editorial is fixed within the conceptual frame prescribed by the Pentagon, the war is a “counter-insurgency”, where Afghans are the insurgents and the invading foreign troops are the counter-insurgents.

The current military approach is opposed by European and US critics, not because “the Afghan people do not want us there,” but on the grounds that it is believed to be “unachievable” or, according to the more optimistic Editor, just “difficult to achieve.”

In much the same way “Soviet leaders and commentators criticised and debated, not the fundamental +illegality+ of the invasion, but the merit of the +strategies+ for achieving its goals” during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan:

“Soviet Chief of General Staff Ogarkov argued in 1979 (before the invasion), that the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was “inexpedient” because the initial invasion force of 75,000 was insufficient to the task, which was to “stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.” It was “impossible to achieve this goal with such a [small] force”, he claimed. (Quoted, Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, 1991, p.59). General Gareev, a top Soviet advisor to the Afghan armed forces, argued in his memoirs that “from the military point of view, it was perhaps more advisable to conduct a more massive and powerful invasion of Afghanistan”. (Gareev, 1996, pp.45-46)” [Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens,
INVASION - A COMPARISON OF SOVIET AND WESTERN MEDIA PERFORMANCE]

The US plan, we are told, “combin[es] aggressive forward engagement with a campaign to win civilian support through social and community programmes and trying to limit civilian casualties.”

So we are to believe US objectives amount to subduing the resistance (simply branded ‘the Taliban’) and attempting to ‘win the hearts and minds’ of the locals, as if there were no great US strategic and economic interests in Afghanistan other than undermining the Taliban (who will eventually be bargained with) and building a few schools.

Which is funnily enough exactly what the Soviets were up to too, as Pravda explained:

Military personnel constantly echoed government claims that intervention was required “to help the hapless Afghan people to defend their freedom, their future”. (Krasnaya Zvezda, January 5, 1988)

[Image via Wiki]

The ‘Rock Star’ Economist

An interview with David McWilliams

David McWilliams rock star

An edited version of this interview appears in the June – July issue of Village magazine.

I recently met up with David McWilliams in his Volvo Estate in a church car park in Dalkey. In case that sounds more intriguing than it actually was, the purpose of our meeting was to conduct an interview on recording equipment that does not cope with background noise in public spaces like restaurants or coffee-shops. So, somewhat surreally, in his car it had to be.

McWilliams has a strong personal presence and is possibly one of the most cheerful people you are likely to meet.  He is greeted warmly in his locality where he appears to know many people in person, if the sample of people we saw while having a cup of coffee is anything to go by.  His work rate is extraordinary – during the last year alone he has traveled the world on a punishing schedule while making the documentary ‘Addicted to Money’, chaired a series of the comedy show ‘The Panel’, finished writing his book ‘Follow the Money’ and organized the controversial Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh, among many other things.

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Outsiders by David McWilliams – This is not a review

Since I haven’t seen a review anywhere (well to be honest I haven’t looked, but in not looking I haven’t found one) I thought it would only be fair to put pen to paper and give my thoughts on the “part stand up, part discussion, part social observation” performance. This is not intended to be a review, because I simply wouldn’t know how to go about one, just some incoherent thoughts tied loosely together with full stops and capital letters.

Outsiders is probably best described as economics stand-up, the discussion part is nonexistent and the social observation part is at best selective. It’s an attempt to put McWilliams’ writing over the last number of years into a fully formed narrative – in this sense it is thoroughly engaging.

As you might guess the story comprises all the characters McWilliams has created to explain economics to the unfortunate readers of the Irish Independent, so breakfast roll man and whoever else all play their part in the Irish history of financial meltdown.

While these collective caricatures are a pretty irritating form of satire, admittedly, McWilliams is funny, in an uncompromisingly upper middle class way. He can also wield compassion, in an uncompromisingly upper middle class way. Which is pretty handy considering the audience he is likely to be playing to. McWilliams intersperses his economic analysis with personal stories of gay Australian surfers and his fathers’ humiliating period of unemployment, in a sense, it felt as if to try and convince the Abbey’s patronage that there is actually a recession going on.

In Outsiders McWilliams brings little new information to an audience familiar with his work, but it should come as a rude awakening to those who aren’t. Outsiders builds to a crescendo of damning criticism against NAMA and Fianna Fáil’s bank bailouts. However McWilliams does offer some reprieve, he argues that Ireland is well positioned to recover and gives one possible solution – suggesting that the funds of those corporations availing of Ireland’s tax haven (amounting to billions apparently) should be temporarily appropriated to stimulate indigenous business.

Outsiders is a call to arms, only time will tell whether Dalkey will rise up and take on the challenge.

Outsiders by David McWilliams
Abbey Theatre
On the Peacock stage
Wednesday 16 June – 3 July
Previews Wednesday 9, Thursday 10, Friday 11, Saturday 12, Monday 14, Tuesday 15 June
Tickets: €14 – €22

War Materials

via…MLMB

Dear BBC Complaints Department, (cc Tim Franks)

With reference to the BBC report ‘Israel cabinet votes to ease Gaza Strip blockade’ featured on the front page of the News section of the BBC website today, I would like to make the following complaint.

The journalist makes no attempt to highlight the inherent contradiction in the following sentences, which are reported without qualification:

“The new Israeli-approved product list includes all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels” [1]

“Israel says the blockade – which aims to put pressure on Hamas and secure the release of Sergeant Shalit – prevents war material entering Gaza while allowing the entry of humanitarian aid.” [1]

A similar sentence is used in other BBC reports on the issue, for example:

“Israel says the aim of the blockade is to prevent war material entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid.” [2]

Clearly if the blockade were intended simply to prevent “war material entering Gaza”, the list of banned items would not include “food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels.”

It is therefore highly misleading for the BBC to repeatedly report this Israeli government statement.

The inaccurate framing is reinforced by the BBC correspondent Tim Franks in the Analysis section of the report, where he writes:

“How fast, in particular, will potentially dual-use items – in other words, construction materials – be waved across the border, for UN building projects?” [1]

Franks again supports the Israeli government contention that the blockade is directed against “war materials”, when clearly the blockade covers numerous items that would prove entirely ineffective when used as weapons – for example “food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels.”

An Israeli government spokesperson, speaking to McClatchy Newspapers, explained the blockade as follows:

“A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare’.” [3]

This explanation makes far more sense; perhaps it could be used instead of the misleading statement the BBC has so far used to frame reports on this issue?

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

David Manning

1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10338199.stm

2. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10326569.stm

3. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/06/09/95621/israeli-document-gaza-blockade.html

David McWilliams ‘Outsiders’ at the Abbey from 16th June

Below is a short excerpt from our recent interview with David McWilliams, published in the current issue of Village, but some of which necessarily got left on the Village cutting room floor for reasons of space .  McWilliams explains the inspiration for his unusual foray into the world of theatre.  The show promises to be interesting at the very least.  See what you think.

MC:  What is the Abbey production going to be about? 

DMcW:  It’s very simple really.  The idea is that in the crisis Ireland splits not so much between rich and poor, or urban and rural or young and old – but between insiders and outsiders.  For instance just looking around here [Dalkey] – my father used to tell me about this church.  My grandparents were Scottish and they were very much outsiders.  There were lots of them – the Nicholsons and others for example.  

MC: They weren’t Catholic when they came?

DMcW: No they weren’t.  There used to be this incessant Fianna Fail propaganda against the Brits and yet a lot of the money collected on the plates at mass would be earned by lads working for the RAF in Wolverhampton.  So we had the Dagenham Yanks thing!

The people who caused the mess in the 50s got stronger.  And the 1980s the people who caused the mess got stronger and the outsiders emigrated.  It’s the same thing happening again now.  But the show is more humorous than it might seem from this!

MC: Is it a characterization of these people?

DMcW:  It’s a combination of things – hopefully it’s humorous.  It’s gentle – I suppose a bit like a stand-up economist – it’s never been done!

MC: Or a ‘rock star economist’ as one Canadian TV chat show host called you!  It sounds very interesting – appropriate for a time when we all have to be our own amateur economists to have some chance of following the plot.  You make economics a bit more accessible than other economists who could be mentioned!

‘OUTSIDERS’ will be showing from the 16th of June on the Peacock Stage at the The Abbey Theatre in Dublin.  Further information at DavidMcWilliams.ie. Bookings on 01 8787222

Israeli Port Authority uncover smoking gun

According to Wikipedia:

"[Pikachu] are said to store electricity in their cheeks, and by simply squeezing them they can discharge sparks, lightning bolts, or other forms of electricity. Discharging sparks and thunderbolts may be a sign of wariness from the Pokémon. An inability to discharge electricity, as occurs in the presence of a strong magnetic field, causes an illness with flu-like symptoms. Pikachu tend to gather in areas with high amounts of thunderstorm activity. When threatened, a group of Pikachu can generate an intense electrical output, and the electro-magnetic forces exerted by the resulting field can even produce short-lived, localized thunder and lightning storms. They occasionally use an electric shock to recharge a fellow Pikachu that is in a weakened state."

via Luke at MLMB

Propaganda Fail

In it’s ongoing drip feed of information the IDF have released pictures of various tools and equipment you might find on a large boat, which they have described as weapons. “The photos detail the way in which the Mavi Marmara rioters had prepared themselves to ambush IDF forces “ say the IDF.

In it’s latest batch of photos they include a picture of a stack of what appear to be bullet proof vests.

What they neglect to mention is that the vests bear the emblem of the Red Crescent, "the world’s largest humanitarian organization." The vests are no doubt intended to be used by aid workers in Gaza, due to the high risk of being shot by Israeli troops.