Thursday, July 31, 2014

Democracy Now: "Enough Blood Has Been Spilled": Israel Condemned for Striking U.N. Shelter as Death Toll Tops 1300

Over 13,000 people have been killed by the Israeli assault, the vast majority are civilians, with a third of the victims children, writes The Washington Post. But even more disgusting is the continued attack by Israel upon internationally protected UN schools which are currently housing thousands of displaced Palestinians whose homes are being completely demolished by Israel bombs and shelling. Despite the UN providing Israel with the precise GPS coordinates 17 times, these locations are still being hit – a flagrant violation of international law. Finally, the UN says explicitly that Israel has committed violations of the law (one wonders why the murder of over 1,000 innocent civilians didn't already trigger such statements about Israel violating the law).

Here is today's Democracy Now segment on this horrible and heart breaking attack:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Conversation in the White House Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Keeping in line with my previous post, I have learned of a Twitter account named Presumptuous Insect that has posted the following cartoon about what a typical conversation might be like in the White House during the current crisis in Gaza...

Henry Siegman: “Israel Provoked This War” & My Further Education About the Conflict

Here is a piece published in Politico by Henry Siegman. “From 1978 to 1994, Siegman served as executive director of the American Jewish Congress, long described as one of the nation’s "big three" Jewish organizations along with the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.” (Link) Here is another good piece by Nathan Thrall in The New York Times.

This naturally leads me to my continuing education about the Arab-Israeli conflict. I thought I had learned most of what I needed to know about the conflict, but it appears that there is much more I need to research. With this latest war against the Palestinians by the Israelis I have heard accusations I hadn't come across before. Such as the claim that Hamas is fond of using “human shields”; that Hamas purposefully targets civilians; and that Hamas is to blame for every siege against Gaza by Israel. After reading a few books and researching these claims on the internet there does not appear to be any truth to most of these propagandist claims at all. While in the past Hamas has apparently fired rockets near civilian areas on occasion, this is not a constant occurrence and has not happened during the current conflict. It is also not true that Hamas launches attacks directly from civilian centers as claimed by Israel. (Link)

However, something surprising that I discovered is that Israel is commonly the one who uses “human shields,” purposefully targets civilians, and refuses to negotiate with Hamas. These facts are readily available online. For example, the following piece at The Nation debunks a number of claims from supporters of Israel.

Other than online sources, such as articles and human rights organizations, I've finished reading two books by Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. The second book is a response to various Israeli apologists and is largely a response to Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel, which I have also read prior to reading Finkelstein's books. I must say that Finkelstein really gave Dershowitz a real drubbing. I also purchased Finkelstein's Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict and eminent Israeli historian Benny Morris' Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. After these two, I will have read a total of five books on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Not only is this a catastrophic situation for the Palestinians but it is also horribly complex since there is so much to research because of the heightened emotions on both sides. I just read an article today alleging that Hamas uses human shields. The author writes, "First, there's the notion among some people that Hamas's use of human shields is a myth. The reality is that Amnesty International has already stated [...]” and quotes an Amnesty International report as follows:

In previous conflicts Amnesty International has documented that Palestinian armed groups have stored munitions in and fired indiscriminate rockets from residential areas in the Gaza Strip in violation of international humanitarian law. Reports have also emerged during the current conflict of Hamas urging residents to ignore Israeli warnings to evacuate.

When I looked at the source I was surprised to see that what the report actually said:

Amnesty International is monitoring and investigating such reports, but does not have evidence at this point that Palestinian civilians have been intentionally used by Hamas or Palestinian armed groups during the current hostilities to “shield” specific locations or military personnel or equipment from Israeli attacks. In previous conflicts Amnesty International has documented that Palestinian armed groups have stored munitions in and fired indiscriminate rockets from residential areas in the Gaza Strip in violation of international humanitarian law. Reports have also emerged during the current conflict of Hamas urging residents to ignore Israeli warnings to evacuate. However, these calls may have been motivated by a desire to minimize panic and displacement, in any case, such statements are not the same as directing specific civilians to remain in their homes as “human shields” for fighters, munitions, or military equipment. Under international humanitarian law even if “human shields” are being used Israel’s obligations to protect these civilians would still apply.

The actual quote says something very different doesn't it? In the current conflict, Hamas has not fired near civilian centers, though in occasion it has. But Israel has claimed that Hamas deliberately hides inside of and fires from civilian buildings, which is not true.

There is a lot of bullshit floating out there about this conflict. Be sure to thoroughly investigate each claim the best you can so you can determine the truth for yourself.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pro-Israeli Bias in US Media

I was watching the news the other day (I cannot remember which news outlet, but it was one of the major networks) and I saw a brief clip of a partially damaged Israeli home and an American journalist interviewing the family, who was not injured in the attack. The woman, who I assume was the mother, commented how she wanted all of the Palestinians dead. I thought to myself, “You're getting your wish lady because nearly 650 Palestinians have been killed, a majority of them civilians, and over 4,000 wounded. While she complains about her home, she forgets about the 475 Palestinian homes that have been completely demolished, with over 26 homes being partially damaged.”

While I don't like to see any innocent people attacked, the fact of the matter is that Israel attacked Gaza over the alleged involvement of Hamas in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Hamas denied any knowledge of these events, but the IDF began to arrest a number of the members of Hamas and killed a number of Palestinian civilians, which many noted was a form of “collective punishment.” In response to these unjustified attacks, Hamas sought to defend the Palestinians by firing rockets into Israel, which lead to this brutal invasion by Israel. Those are the facts. This family only has their own fanatical government to blame.

I also learned how ABC New's Diane Sawyer wrongly reported on massive destruction in Gaza, depicting some ghastly images of two people carrying what they can of their belongings surrounded by piles of smoldering rubble, and said these images were of Israel. ABC later retracted the statement.

It is this fact on the ground that the destruction of Palestine is a true war zone with the main group targeted being civilian. Democracy Now reported that Palestine's only power plant was bombed, resulting in massive power outages, Israel also attacked 46 schools, 56 mosques, and 7 hospitals.

Here is MSNBC's Rula Jebreal on Democracy Now on the US media's pro-Israeli bias. I hope this post helps to even out the narrative.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Israeli Terrorism In Gaza

It saddens me more than I can say to watch the horror that is the Israeli invasion upon Gaza - again. Two years later we're seeing the same disgusting attacks on civilians over a bogus justification. And once again Glenn Greenwald sheds much needed light on these catastrophes. These war crimes.

We also cannot forget the innocent American activist Rachel Corrie who was murdered by the Israeli occupation forces. Her parents sought justice for their brave daughter in the Israeli courts but they ruled against them. I have just read that they are trying again to get justice in the Israeli Supreme Court. I hope they do get some compensation, a true apology, and a recognition of wrong-doing on the part of Israeli soldiers.

And this is not the only example of the sadistic mindset of the Israelis towards the Palestinians and anyone who dare stand up for them. Last year an Israeli soldier posted a picture of him placing a Palestinian child in the cross hairs of his rifle.

How much longer until the international community at large puts real pressure on Israel to stop their brutality? It's a long shot but if people in the US pressured their government enough they may stop it from sending Israel their much needed support. Without US aid Israel is useless and they would not be able to be immune from international pressure. Then take Israel to The Hague and jail Neitenhahu and the rest of the war criminals for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Government Propaganda Goes High-Tech

The Intercept has written an excellent article about GCHQ “seeding” the internet with false facts and propaganda via online “tools:”

The “tools” have been assigned boastful code names. They include invasive methods for online surveillance, as well as some of the very techniques that the U.S. and U.K. have harshly prosecuted young online activists for employing, including “distributed denial of service” attacks and “call bombing.” But they also describe previously unknown tactics for manipulating and distorting online political discourse and disseminating state propaganda, as well as the apparent ability to actively monitor Skype users in real-time—raising further questions about the extent of Microsoft’s cooperation with spy agencies or potential vulnerabilities in its Skype’s encryption […]

Makes you wonder if the US govt. has any of the same capabilities or has engaged in the same or similar activities?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

From the Writers of Skeptic Ink Comes 13 Reasons To Doubt: A New E-Book!

Just recently released, this new e-book by the authors of Skeptic Ink offers readers a skeptical look at a variety of subjects. It is titled 13 Reasons To Doubt: Essays from the writers of Skeptic Ink Here is the book's description from

Extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence.

The mainstream and social media feed our minds a diet of fringe science and outright pseudoscience. They relentlessly stream paranormal, supernatural, and otherwise extraordinary claims. Where do all these come from? They’re spread by shysters and charlatans, by corporate propagandists with cynical eyes on the bottom line, by priests and preachers of all kinds, by axe-grinding cranks and ideologues, and frequently by well-meaning dupes.

This may be a scientific age, but all too often, science, well-grounded scholarship, evidence, and logic are ignored—or even denied.

Scientific skepticism offers a corrective: skeptics defend science and reason, while demanding the evidence for extraordinary claims.

In this volume, we offer you thirteen ways to scientific skepticism: thirteen reasons to doubt extraordinary claims. The authors discuss groupthink and cognitive biases, science denialism, weird archeology, claims about religion and free will, and many other topics. Within these pages, there is something for anyone who wants to avoid biases and fallacies, cut through the masses of misinformation, and push back against fakers and propagandists.

All of the essays are excellent and well worth your time. Very thought-provoking reading.

I am told that other formats will become available at a later date (Paperback, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes).