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Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Book Review: Mornings in Jenin

I've just finished reading an unbelievably powerful novel entitled "Mornings in Jenin" by Susan Abulhawa. You can read all the history books and articles that you want, and completely understand the history and plight of the Palestinian people. You can be in complete intellectual support of such things as the "right of return." But nothing will make you understand that history in your bones, make you feel it in your gut, like reading this fictional, but all too real, account of one Palestinian family's history, as it spans the pages of time from 1941 through 2002.

All of the key events in modern history - the Nakba of 1948, the 1967 war, the 1973 Israeli assault on Lebanon and the massacre at Sabra and Shatila, and so on through the massacre of Jenin in 2002, are here. All of them (perhaps improbably, but this is after all a novel) impacting on the lives of this one family. And really, not so improbably, because just like every Iraqi now has a family member or a close friend who was either killed or in some way affected by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, so too is it likely that every Palestinian has a family member or a close friend who was affected by not just one of the key events in Palestinian history, but several of them.

The reader feels deeply, personally, the pain which is inflicted on the characters in the book; one feels deeply, personally, the different possible responses - rage and revenge on the one hand, impotence and drawing inward on the other. No matter how much history you know, no matter how many facts you know, this book will deepen your understanding of that history. And on top of all that, the book is written beautifully, with a lyrical style that makes reading every page a delight.

To sum up: read this book.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


"No military targets" in Homs

Here's how strange the reporting on Syria gets - this reporter was killed yesterday in Homs, evidently by Syrian government shelling. Here's what she said on Anderson Cooper's show last night: "There are no military targets here. There is the Free Syrian Army. Heavily outnumbered and out-gunned." No military targets? What exactly does she think the out-gunned, but still obviously armed, Free Syrian Army is?

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Rebels "hold" areas with picket signs

Or so we can conclude from the latest AP reports from Syria:
...the regime struggled to extinguish major pockets of dissent with intensive shelling.

Activists said at least 26 civilians were killed Friday, many of them in the rebellious central city of Homs, where shells slammed into rebel-held residential areas.
So Syria is trying to crush "dissent" and is killing only "civilians," or so say "activists," by which we mean "people trying to overthrow the current Syrian regime," not exactly an unbiased source. But as I have before, let's take those statements as true. Quite possibly those killed were "civilians," as in "not members of the armed forces." But were they armed? The "activists" and AP don't bother to tell us. But if they weren't, and if they weren't actively using those arms, how exactly were these areas being "held" by the rebels? With picket signs? A long length of yellow caution tape marked "Syrian forces do not enter"? We know better, and so does AP. They're just hoping that the question won't even occur to most of their readers.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


AP Syrian coverage gets even worse

Almost unbelievable (but all too believable). AP not only reports the absurd claim that it was the Syrian government that employed suicide bombers to kill its own security forces, but reports it above and more prominently than the Syrian government claim that it was the rebels who were responsible. They then continue to report on the assault on Homs, where the only hint that there is an actual two-sided battle going on (and not just a "government assault") is the claim that the population there is "restive." Yes, "restive" and well-armed.

Monday, February 06, 2012


The big lie on Iran, yet again

President Obama yesterday:
President Barack Obama said the U.S. has a "very good estimate" of when Iran could complete work on a nuclear weapon.
Technically speaking, there is a "c" there - "could" and not "would." But even with that caveat, the rest of the sentence - "complete work on a nuclear weapon" - conveys a very clear (and completely false) message to the American people - Iran is working on a nuclear weapon, the only question is when will they be finished. After all, you wouldn't talk about "completing" something that you not only haven't started, but aren't even planning on doing.

Friday, February 03, 2012


The big lie on Iran continues

I just listened to Richard Engle on NBC News say that "Iran continues to insist that a decision to make a nuclear bomb has not been taken." But that is a grotesque lie. In actual fact, Iran has repeatedly said that it has made a decision - a decision not to build nuclear weapons. That decision came from both the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, in the form of a fatwa, as well as multiple times from the country's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (here, here, and here). As far as I know, none of these very clear, unambiguous statements have ever been reported by Richard Engle or any other reporter for the Western corporate media.


"200" dead in Syria - but who were they?

Today's news from Syria "informs" (or misinforms, depending on what the actual facts are) us that 200 "people" were killed in the Syrian city of Homs by a government assault using tanks and machine guns. I've written before about the "source" of this "information," which is basically an organization based in London. But let's assume for the moment that this information is completely true and ask a few more questions:

1) Who were these people? If you've been watching the same news as I have for the past few days, you've seen pictures of the rebels armed with all sorts of weapons including RPGs. Were these 200 people armed rebels, or "unarmed innocent civilians"? The article wants us to believe the latter, since there is no hint whatsoever in the article that an armed rebellion in progress. Every reference in the article is simply to "people" who were killed. Far more likely, however, is that is was mostly, or perhaps exclusively, armed rebels who were killed. Now I am completely in support of the right to armed rebellion. However, people who take up arms can expect to be met with force, and whatever reason there is to condemn the government against which they are taking up arms, the fact that that government responded with force can hardly be a reason for additional condemnation.

2)Were there any government forces killed? If a battle of this magnitude took place, chances are high that they did. However, since AP's only source for this story is the anti-government opposition, and since that opposition has every reason to portray the deaths as a one-sided affair, it's not surprising that no such deaths are reported. The opposition does periodically make claims (backed up by the Syrian government) that government forces were killed, although in almost all cases when that happens, it is a separate event, not connected with the deaths of opposition forces. Again, this is a consequence of the source. On the one hand, the opposition wants to make itself look successful, so as to inspire more support from the Syrian people. Hence the stories about killed government troops. On the other hand, they want to make the government look as barbaric as possible, hence the absence of any mention of the deaths of government troops on the days when they want to emphasize their own losses.

3) Did AP make any effort to obtain any sort of comment whatsoever, even a "no comment," from the Syrian government? We know from vast experience that if it were the U.S. government being accused of killing people, AP (or any other corporate media outlet) wouldn't consider running the story until and unless they could obtain some comment from the U.S. government, no matter how unbelievable ("the incident is being investigated," "all the dead were terrorists," etc.).

As with Iran, the drumbeat for war continues, with politicians and the media working hand and hand to prepare the American public.

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