Mother Agnes Mariam: In Her Own Words

Sharmine Narwani

American national security journalist Jeremy Scahill and leftist British columnist Owen Jones announced recently that they would not share a platform with a Palestinian-Lebanese nun at the Stop The War Coalition’s November 30 UK conference.

Neither Scahill nor Jones provided any reason for their harsh “indictment” of Mother Agnes Mariam, who has worked tirelessly for the past few years on reconciliation in war-torn Syria, where she has lived for two decades.

The journalists – neither of whom have produced any notable body of work on Syria – appear to have followed the lead of a breed of Syria “activists” who have given us doozies like “Assad is about to fall,” “Assad has no support,” “the opposition is peaceful,” “the opposition is unarmed,” “this is a popular revolution,” “the revolution is not foreign-backed,” “there is no Al Qaeda in Syria,” “the dead are mostly civilians,” and other such gems.

For some of these activists, anything short of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure is no solution of any kind. Mother Agnes Mariam, whose Mussalaha (Reconciliation) movement inside Syria works specifically on mediation, dialogue and the promotion of non-violence, is unmoved by black-and-white solutions: Reconciliation, after all, is a series of political settlements forged on both local and national levels. There are only compromises there, not absolute gain. She doesn’t actually care who leads Syria and who wins or loses, providing the choice comes from a Syrian majority.

Yet the smear “Assad apologist” persists in following Mother Agnes on her visits to foreign capitals to gain support for Massalaha and its methods. It puts her at risk on the ground in Syria and inhibits her ability to open communications with those who would otherwise welcome the relief she brings.

Real liars go to Tehran

Pepe Escobar

Uncle Marx never thought about this one: history repeating itself as double tragedy after already being a farce in the first place. Let's examine the case in hand. First of all, take a close look at this Wall Street Journal op-ed from September 2002, in the hysterical run-up towards the invasion of Iraq.

Title: The Case for Toppling Saddam. Author: Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu - then out of the Israeli government. It's all here:

[a] "dictator who is rapidly expanding his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons" and "who is feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons"; the Saddam equals Hitler parallel; the portrayal of (de facto nuclear power) Israel as helpless victims of Palestinian "terror"; the claim that Saddam could produce nuclear fuel "in centrifuges the size of washing machines that can be hidden throughout the country - and Iraq is a very big country"; the cheerleading of a unilateral pre-emptive strike; and the inevitable conclusion that "nothing less than dismantling his regime will do''.

Fast-forward over 10 years to this week in Israel. The scene: press conference of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and visiting US President Barack Obama. Anyone watching it live on al-Jazeera, from the Middle East to East Asia, must have thought they were watching a geopolitical Back to the Future - and frankly, Michael J Fox at least oozed charm. No charm here; this was more like an eerie, suit-and-tie Return of the Living Dead. Bibi and Obama were at pains to stress the US-Israel bond was "eternal".

Zionists Are Unhappy With "Pillar of Cloud"

Stephen Lendman

Righteous Condemnation of Israeli Mass Murder

Media scoundrels feature pro-Israeli supporters. Doing so makes them complicit with Israeli crimes. Charles Krauthammer is one of the worst. He's an embarrassment to legitimate journalism. His latest Washington Post op-ed headlines "Why was there war in Gaza?" His commentary shows appalling ignorance, support for Israeli lawlessness, racist hate, and contempt for besieged Gazans.

"Israel wanted nothing more than to live in peace with this independent Palestinian entity," he claimed. "After all, the world had incessantly demanded that Israel give up land for peace." "It gave the land. It got no peace."

In 2005, Israel disengaged from Gaza. It did so to get Jews out of harm's way. Palestinian West Bank land was stolen to accommodate them. War was planned with no timeline. Cast Lead followed. Now Operation Pillar of Cloud. More coming. Stay tuned. Occupation of Gaza doesn't exist, claims Krauthhammer.

Explain it to 1.7 million oppressed Palestinians. They're isolated in the world's largest open-air concentration camp. Its harshness replicates Nazi-enforced Warsaw ghetto conditions. Humanitarian crisis conditions persist. Borders are closed. No one gets in or out without hard to get permit permission. Israel bombs, invades, and commits other atrocities at will. It maintains total control. Palestinians have no say whatever. "Israel has once again succeeded in defending itself," claims Krauthhammer. Irresponsibly he called months-ago planned naked aggression self-defense.

Rabbi Avichai Ronsky calls himself a man of God. He's also a former chief Israeli military rabbi. He's more concerned about militarism than Judaic doctrine. His comments show it. Ending conflict was "a great mistake and a disappointment," he said. Killing and injuring Palestinians should have continued.

At daggers drawn with 'demonized flesh' (3)

Alan Ireland

Murray Dixon and the specter of Christian Zionism

PART THREE - Twisting the history of the Middle East

In view of the deep-seated contempt for Islam, it is not surprising that someone like Murray Dixon invariably comes up with the worst possible interpretation of Arab / Muslim actions. For instance, in the Page 1 article in the Manawatu Standard on July 26, 2006, on the reaction of Lebanese people to the Israeli leaflets telling them to flee their homes, he said: "And we've seen on television — you may have too — they have these leaflets and have just torn them up and laughed (emphasis added)."

Where others, myself included, saw the actions as gestures of contempt or defiance — perfectly understandable feelings in the circumstances — Dixon professed to see only inappropriate levity. Elsewhere in the article, he drew a distinction between Hezb Allah and the Lebanese by saying that when Israel pulled out of the south of Lebanon a "few years ago", Hezb Allah moved into the "vacuum" and then proceeded "to [push] Lebanese out of their homes". In reality, the members of Hezb Allah are Lebanese, and were in south Lebanon throughout the Israeli occupation of 1982-2000. It is also highly ironic that Dixon leveled the charge of evicting civilians against Hezb Allah at a time when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese were being driven from their homes by the Israelis. He claims that Israel launched its assault partly because — in the words of the article — it "has had rockets being fired over the border for a long time and has had enough". But only four of the 19 border incidents listed by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs between May 2000 and July 2006 involved the (localized) use of rockets by guerrillas in Lebanon; and as Nazareth-based British journalist Jonathan Cook pointed out in his article in Al-Ahram Weekly, August 3-9, 2006, Hezb Allah "paused five days, while Israel wrecked Lebanon with aerial bombardment, fulfilling its promise to 'turn the clock back 20 years', before raining down its rockets on Haifa".

Obama v. Netanyahu

Stephen Lendman

Sparring between the two leaders has reached a point of no return

Much has been made about an Obama/Netanyahu rift. At times, it's hard separating rhetoric from reality. Nonetheless, neither leader, it appears, particularly likes the other. Disagreement between them is palpable. It's over Iranian red lines and deadlines.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said he doesn't believe in "red line policies." He responded to Netanyahu saying:

"The world tells Israel 'wait, there's still time.' And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."

"Now if Iran knows that there is no red line. If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it's doing. It's continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs."

A previous article called Netanyahu the mouth that roars for good reason. He repeatedly puts both feet in his mouth and risks swallowing them.

He's arrogant, offensive, duplicitous, thuggish, and dangerous. He's an embarrassment to legitimate governance. It's hard imagining why any Israelis put up with him. If ever a bum deserved to be thrown out it's Netanyahu.

Israel obstructs the peace, and is paid handsomely for it

Jonathan Cook

The real obstacles to peace [are] Israel, its occupation and western complicity

Israel has barely put a foot right with the international community since its attack on Gaza more than three years ago provoked global revulsion.

The right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu has serially defied and insulted foreign leaders, including US President Barack Obama; given the settlers virtual free rein; blocked peace talks with the Palestinians; intimidated and marginalised human rights groups, UN agencies and even the Israeli courts; and fuelled a popular wave of Jewish ethnic and religious chauvinism against the country's Palestinian minority, foreign workers and asylum seekers.

No wonder, then, that in poll after poll Israel ranks as one of the countries with the most negative influence on international affairs.

And yet, the lower Israel sinks in public estimation, the more generous western leaders are in handing out aid and special favours to their wayward ally. The past few days have been particularly shameless.

It was revealed last week that the European Union had approved a massive upgrade in Israel's special trading status, strengthening economic ties in dozens of different fields. The decision was a reversal of a freeze imposed in the wake of the Gaza attack of winter 2008.

Amnesty International pointed out that the EU was violating its own commitments in the European Neighbourhood Policy, which requires that, as a preferred trading partner, Israel respect international human rights, democratic values and its humanitarian obligations.

Netanyahu crowns himself King of Israel

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook argues that the newly announced coalition in Israel between the Likud and Kadima parties will give Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu time to entrench moves towards authoritarianism – weakening the media, human rights groups and the courts – and allow him to further undermine rival centres of power and overturn even the most sacrosanct of Israel’s basic laws.

Israelis barely had time to absorb the news that they were heading into a summer election when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on 8 May pulled the rug from underneath the charade. Rancourous early electioneering had provided cover for a secret agreement between Netanyahu and the main opposition party, Kadima, to form a new, expanded coalition government.

Rather than facing the electorate in September, Netanyahu and his hardline right-wing government are expected to comfortably see out the remaining 18 months of his term of office. Not only that, but he will now have the backing of more than three-quarters of the 120-seat Israeli parliament, leading one commentator to crown him the “King of Israel”.

Israel's back-room deal strengthens an authoritarian trend

Jonathan Cook

Israeli ID card with emblems of Kach and Nazi party superimposed

Mr Netanyahu has created a national unity government that more precisely reflects the majority mood: an unalloyed, aggressive and xenophobic rightwing consensus.

Israelis barely had time to absorb the news that they were heading into a summer election when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday pulled the rug from underneath the charade. Rancourous early electioneering had provided cover for a secret agreement between Mr Netanyahu and the main opposition party, Kadima, to form a new, expanded coalition government.

Rather than facing the electorate in September, Mr Netanyahu is expected to comfortably see out the remaining 18 months of his term of office. Not only that, but he will now have the backing of more than three quarters of the 120-seat Israeli parliament, leading one commentator to crown him yesterday the "king of Israel".

The announcement may have taken Israelis by surprise, but it fully accorded with the logic of an increasingly dysfunctional Israeli political culture.

Netanyahu Tries to Hide the Occupation

Jonathan Cook

Sham or shame? Israel's policy on aid groups is both

As protests raged again across the Middle East, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, offered his assessment of the Arab Spring last week. It was, he said, an "Islamic, anti-western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, undemocratic wave," adding that Israel’s Arab neighbors were "moving not forwards, but backwards."

It takes some chutzpah – or, at least, epic self-delusion – for Israel’s prime minister to be lecturing the Arab world on liberalism and democracy at this moment.

In recent weeks, a spate of anti-democratic measures have won support from Netanyahu’s right wing government, justified by a new security doctrine: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil of Israel. If the legislative proposals pass, the Israeli courts, Israel’s human rights groups and media, and the international community will be transformed into the proverbial three monkeys.

Israel’s vigilant human rights community has been the chief target of this assault. Yesterday Netanyahu’s Likud faction and the Yisrael Beiteinu party of his far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, proposed a new law that would snuff out much of the human rights community in Israel.

The bill effectively divides non-governmental organizations (NGOs) into two kinds: those defined by the right as pro-Israel and those seen as "political," or anti-Israel. The favored ones, such as ambulance services and universities, will continue to be lavishly funded from foreign sources, chiefly wealthy private Jewish donors from the United States and Europe.

The "political" ones – meaning those that criticize government policies, especially relating to the occupation – will be banned from receiving funds from foreign governments, their main source of income. Donations from private sources, whether Israeli or foreign, will be subject to a crippling 45 per cent tax.

Thank God for the Jewish Chronicle!

Gilad Atzmon

An editorial in the London Jewish Chronicle in 1896 anti-
cipates little hope for the scheme to create a Jewish State.

As always, the London Jewish Chronicle (JC) is providing us with an accurate insight into Jewish influence within the media and beyond. The JC is desperate to stop my book, The Wandering Who? -- and it is also foolish enough to disclose its tactics, openly revealing to us the pressure which some elements within the Jewish community are willing to mount on Britain’s leading newspapers and other outlets.

This weekend The JC seems to be particularly frustrated, explaining to their concerned readers that “Britain's largest book distribution database company has said it cannot withdraw The Wandering Who unless the title is found to have breached race hate legislation”

And yet, it seems that no one in the Jewish Chronicle has read the book, or any of my writing -- otherwise it is hard to explain why the JC keep labeling me as an ‘anti-Semite’ or a ‘racist’. Had the JC actually bothered to read my writing or taken the time to follow my speeches and debates, they would have realised that there is no trace of ‘racism’ or ‘anti-Semitism’ in my work: yes, I am critical of Jewish politics; yes I am an opponent of Jewish political power, and yes, I follow my duties as a humanist to expose Jewish identity politics for what it really is. This fact alone may explain why my book is supported by respected humanists and some of the most distinguished academics, all of whom are held in high regard in their fields and beyond.

The JC complains that “in the book Atzmon discusses his belief that ‘the Holocaust religion was well-established’ before the Nazis carried out aspects of the Shoah including the Final Solution and Kristallnacht.”

The JC is absolutely correct here. That is exactly what I am discussing. And yet, the question is, what is wrong with doing so? Is it racist or anti-Semitic? And indeed, I also insist that trauma is inherent to Jewish Culture.

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